CRAWLING WITH TARTS INTERVIEW RESPONSES 9.9.94 for Popwatch magazine
These answers were recorded on a tape recorder during a walk. KEY: 'Suz', Mic.
1. In February, 1983, I answered a note scrawled rather chaotically on a bulletin board posted outside my JC music theory class, for an "underground punk" band I think it was. They needed a drummer. When I called, it was Suzanne, and she was so enthusiastic it was as if I was already in the band, before they heard me or knew anything about me. I was in, the band was called Youth Camp, and they had mostly original tunes written by Suz and by one of the guitarists, and some cover songs (Johnny Thunders, etc.)
Suz and I, kind of on the side, started making a magazine, related to the band and not, called Youths Go Camping. Suz had a boyfriend but he was a night cook, so she and I drank lots of coffee and worked on this magazine and other projects until dawn many nights. At this point our relationship was still entirely on a creative level (I thought she was happy with her boyfriend). This went on. In December (still 1983), I took her to a concert in LA (Glen Branca), and afterwards we walked around the city and had our pictures taken in a photo booth.
Something else was happening between us, we felt a kind of irrational sadness which we later knew was due to our partial separation, and it shows in the photo booth pictures. The next day we (Youth Camp) were back in LA, sneaking into a recording studio that a friend worked at (we saw Black Flag and David Bowie master tapes upstairs in their storage room.) Suz and I were in agony. Then, again the following day, December 9, we ran away together, just decided to leave town without telling anyone. Suz had to wear my clothes because we couldn't go back to her house. 'I took what I was wearing, and my camera...In San Diego Michael took me to thrift stores and bought be moo moos.'
At first we tried to go to Paris, but we found out we couldn't without passports. So we went to Mexico...'we had a fabulous time.' We drove a truck and slept on beaches. We forgot to call anyone for 3 weeks. When we finally did, on the solstice, we found that certain things were in chaos back home. Suz' apartment, where her ex-boyfriend still lived with all of their possessions and Suz' artwork, was a disaster. Suz' mother threatened to take her cat and three kittens to the pound.
Ex-band members threatened me with a beating. We immediately started back from central Mexico, taking three days to cover area previous traversed in 20, to save Suz' (our) cats and artwork. Without hesitation, we packed and moved a few hundred miles away from everyone, to be alone and start Crawling With Tarts. 'I guess that's a romantic story.' We still have Feferone; the others have since run away.
2. 'Most of our recording is done after pieces are already composed. Not unless we are working on a...a piece of music, and then we record what we do and then go back and, kind of sift through and...reedit things we like...and move things around.' So really the only ideas we have are when we're mixing? 'Right, so the only ideas come when we're mixing.' And we add things then...'No but we have ideas when we begin'...we knew we had ideas before. 'Yes. We have ideas all of the time.'
So what are the ideas? 'When recording?' What are the ideas. 'Things to create? Things that don't sound...[resigned] I don't know'...[Mic reads the question for the first time]...Suz, the question is Ideals! 'What are "ideals"?' Ideals are like, what is it that you are trying to achieve and, is it really an ideal? A thing that's not quite achievable but just approachable. What are those ideals...that you...in other words, what is the essential element that you are trying to reproduce in music. And is there an overall essential element, or are there different elements...I mean is there one, sort of grand element that you would say is an ideal for all of the music.
First that question: Is there a grand ideal? 'Grand ideal. You know, I don't really think about much when I'm creating the music...I just go in there and, deal with the instruments and, get inspired by what I see and the sounds I'm making.' So you're saying that there is an inadequacy in the speech and conscious thought process, in other words, it's an illogical ideal. 'Yes, it's an illogical ideal
...mixing is different, though. Once I get all the little parts...after I get all the textures, and all the shapes and forms and stuff I want, and all the...then I go in and extract and add to, then I work with what I have. I kind of create a palette-type thing and then I go in...it's like painting, you know you paint out parts you don't like then you put in other parts.'
OK. And then maybe she wants to know some of the sub-ideals. Ideals that might come into play in a particular piece. OK, we have an idea that there is a grand ideal that deals with illogic...'Right'...that's not easily explainable. And we accept that, we think that is fine. But are there any sub-ideals? There are some various classes of music that we could say that there are...I'll just, for example, define 3 or 4 classes even though there are many more.
And one of the classes might be...the turntable performance pieces. 'OK, so what are your ideals when creating the turntable pieces?' Well...some of the sub-ideals?...'Those are all about narratives, those are all about building stories'...Stories, that's excellent: that's why they are called "operas". 'Right. That's why the record pieces are that way.' So the ideal then is to communicate a linear story. 'Yes.' A story with a theme and plot. 'Right.'
Well, I think that's true sometimes but other times I think we have nonlinear stories that are ...'branches...they deal with religion and politics and social...they are branches of whole...they are cohesive but they have offshoots so that you can go off in different directions...which makes it open-ended, it makes it so you have to...everyone gets something else out of it...they understand it differently.' Right. 'That's what the operas remind me of.' OK. I can't think of any other subgenres that I want to talk about right now; let's go on to the next question.
3. Well first of all, it is much easier for us to create our music at home because there is much more of an element of control. In fact with some of those live performances, quite often, we were disappointed because of elements that we had to let out of our hands; sometimes they go wrong...sometimes they don't...sometimes it's great. And there are a few musicians we can work with that have very much the same ideals as we do about completion of a live performance...but sometimes we get into a situation where the sound engineer is...'inept?'...they've got no clue...levels go up and down...we've had some untoward experiences.
This is one of the reasons we started working with turntables so that we could, the two of us, perform live more ideas, simultaneously, than two people normally can. Some of the recorded music is translatable to performance. Some of the recent pieces were made specifically for performance. Just about all of the operas were made that way, with a performance in mind...and then later, recorded. The performance and recording of these are similar. Things are balanced better on the recordings, but the live shows include audience interaction.
'And they also...they're faster and more alive...more hooked into the nervous system, rather than into the creative'...The visual part was important...'But you play differently when you play live, compared to when you play for recording'...So it's very complicated for us to perform, it takes a long time to set up for one thing...we usually don't perform the same piece more than once in a particular city...so, for that reason we don't perform a lot.
'Oh, she wanted to know about the set-up'...the set-up, maybe she means...what does she mean? 'Like maybe hooking in...wiring...maybe she means setting up drums'...we've had to get some special gear for performing live...'Some of our tables are really beautiful, remember that table, we set up this beautiful table'...yeah...'but I don't know, let's move to the next question.'
4. ASP is actually the union of Suz and I, it started even before CWT, and...it's just for our work together, sort of a group name...so we haven't released anyone else's work on it...and I guess we probably won't because we barely have time to manage our own part of this...
'and finance our own stuff.' Financing our stuff...its financed by day jobs, but...'No, financing our stuff'...yeah, now they are starting to finance themselves...income from Operas is paying for Mayten's Throw, which is almost ready to pay for a new one. It just takes more time than we would like.
5. Oh this is an interesting question, well, because some of these things did come from our folks, in the sense that, we grew up hearing a lot of this music subliminally, and regarding some of these researches, it originally was not so much the idea of putting out music using these sources, but an exploration looking for...trying to understand some of this stuff that we had heard...recordings, but also advertising, things like that. My parents set me down in front of the television a lot when I was little, and I know I soaked up a lot of advertising...I've always been curious about what it was, of what it was made, and what effect it had.
As to the rest of the question...those recordings come from everywhere, not just one cach‚. 'I think our beginning started with the record player we first bought...a 78 player bought in England, and we had that one record'...that's right...'and then from there we started collecting 78s, and then through 78s we discovered the one-of-a-kind's...and through one-of-a-kind's we started'...those being the amateur disc recordings...'those started inspiring us to make the operas.
The Bee Opera was the first opera in which we used the record player...and that's where we used the first form of the bee static'...we actually used a turntable first on Voccianna...'that was the very first time we used a record player'...and it was used in Sarajevo Center Metal Doors; I can't remember if that was before the Bee Opera...
Oh, but this is about the material, though, about what's on the disks. It ends up that these records contain a lot of interesting cultural artifacts. I guess about the most important thing about them is that they weren't made for aesthetic reasons. They were made for someone's personal documentation, or they were singing a song, or speaking a letter to somebody else...so they are personal and...completely divorced from the idea of creation, as an insulated, separate world (such the worlds of art or music). Their world was just their real lives...and that's one of the most attractive things about them and why we like to use them. That aspect...that's the content...but there is also the surface noise, which is really quite beautiful...it's not overdone, overstated...it's simple but complicated, simple in sound but complicated in information. 'Right.'
6. 'We've always used found sounds, even in the songs.' She is wondering...did we all of a sudden start, writing songs...let me see...'On the very first CWT release'...yes, there were some songs on there...Kingbird...but there were more cut-up things...I guess it's a combination of our two worlds...'It's the same as it's always been'...yes, it is. 'Except that the new release on Silent is just going to be songs, but the songs are not just guitar, vocals, bass'...but the fact is, we haven't written a song in several years...'No we don't make songs anymore'...
All of the songs are old, in fact, Mayten's Throw was recorded a while back...'well I guess we should explain that about 8 years ago we had this huge amount of songs and we were going to release them, and then we never got them on to anything, remember? It was the Poolside project-thing'...and so we wrote a lot of songs with the intention of making a record of all songs, which never happened...'which never happened.' So some of the songs ended up on the Portuguese release New Caldonia, some of them came out on the Lavender Bobby 7",...'some are out on Candy Tooth Ceylon'...yes, yes, some of them filtered out onto various cassettes, and some ended up on Mayten's Throw...and then I guess the final part of that story will be the Silent CD, compendium of songs. So the song era is sort of over...'The song era is over'...maybe it will come back.
7. The Squeaky Hinge...it's a giant squeaky hinge. We have an instrument that we made that was modeled on a folk instrument that we saw in Lisbon. We have a cutting machine, a disc cutting machine, that we use.
[Suz and Mic digress, inventing sections for Particularly Noisy Opera, to be written for an upcoming concert, using the cutting machine.] The reason it's particularly noisy is because the disc recorder has a very dull needle, so anything it cuts right now is particularly noisy.
'Many drums'...lots of drums. 'Oh! Motors!' Oh yes, motors...we have both AC and DC versions of small, hand-held motors...a piece on Mayten's Throw is done with those...AC electric motors shoved in between the strings of a grand piano...And Bee Opera also has them on it, and the ones that are used in the Bee Opera are tiny DC motors powered with 9 volt batteries. We have quite a few of those...they are like bees...they have tiny fans built into them and...we turn them on and set them on drums and...'right'...they sound like bees.
'Suitcases of found metals. And contact mics and that sort of stuff.' There are many things...strapping metal...it's just endless, really. We have pieces in which each sound is from a different instrument. Let us go on...
8. Pop acts? Oh, like Charles Aznavour? People like that, huh? 'Nancy and Lee. Brazil '66!'...Perez Prado, he's great. 'Is he pop music?' Yeah, it's music that is made to be consumed by masses. Oh! Burt Bacharach. 'Burt Bacharach'...he's one of the greatest, ever. Arthur Lyman. That's some of the music that was in our subconscious. Lots of soundtracks, too. 'I really like soundtracks, to movies.' Yeah, John Barry, and Nino Rota, of course. How about other foreign pop stars? 'The French woman we like.' Oh, Edith Piaf? 'No, no. The one who cut the little records and was in Masculin, Feminine.' Oh, Sandi Shaw. Gosh, there are so many that I just can't think of them...'It's too hard to think when there are so many.'