* Dead Angel's interview with Mason Jones, Leader of Trance and head poo-bah of Charnel Music. * Unit Circle #4, featuring an interview with Mason Jones.
[Excerpt from Dead Angel #1. Dead Angel is written by/can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org]
Many of you out there may already be acquainted with Charnel House Music, the label primarily responsible for bringing such exotic noise heavies as K. K. Null, Zeni Geva, Crash Worship, Trance, and so forth to the safe haven of your CD player. Located in San Francisco, Charnel has been releasing all sorts of goodies for the past six years, with more still to come. Recent releases include albums from Masonna (with another on the way), K. K. Null, Crash Worship, and the various-artist compilation of fine Japanese bands, LAND OF THE RISING NOISE.
Mason was kind enough to take time out from his busy schedule to answer a few questions about the label, the Japanoise scene, and indie labels in general. If you'd like more information about the label, contact Mason at the appropriate address listed in the section and be prepared to open a door into a new and noisy world....
DEAD ANGEL ASKS A BUNCH OF QUESTIONS:
DA: How did Charnel House get started and when?
MASON: I started it as a hobby in 1988 right after moving to California, just to have a name to put on my Trance cassettes. It became a so-called "real" label a little while later when I released the first "Arrhythmia" CD; only after releasing something other than cassettes did people actually come to consider it an actual label...
DA: How did you come to specialize in such exotic stuff?
MASON: I just release what I like, and it happens that my tastes have developed in an unusual direction, I suppose. I've found a huge number of cool people doing interesting music in Japan, so I've just naturally made that one aspect of the label. The overriding concern is just whether I happen to like something.
DA: Where did you find out about it in the first place?
MASON: Find out about the music I release? It's just a matter of being fairly obsessive about it! For a while (before starting the label) I had a real job, and my roommate did as well, so we both bought tons of music -- a great deal of it by mail-order from various outfits. I would go ahead and order obscure things that sounded interesting, just to see what they were like. You've really got to make some effort if you want to learn about anything that's truly outside the normal.
I do organize San Francisco performances for the Japanese bands when they come over, so I've helped arrange shows for C.C.C.C., Zeni Geva, Masonna, Hijokaidan, Omoide Hatoba, Space Streakings and others.
DA: Do you think the label has been successful so far? What is your idea of "success" in terms of the label?
MASON: These two questions are really two parts of the same question. I feel that the label has been mostly successful so far, and I have some hope that it will reach the fully successful level in the near future. At present I'm able to do the label full-time and pay the bills, which is a major success in my mind; even two years ago I didn't dream that I would be able to reach this point.
DA: Any advice for difficult/experimental bands seeking an appropriate label to sign with?
MASON: Good luck. There aren't that many labels out there who are good to work with; the best labels usually have their hands full, so it's just a matter of keeping at it. Keep recording, put out your own cassettes and send them around, and don't give up. Don't just record one tape, send it around, and stop because nobody makes you an offer. Record another one, and another one. It's a matter of reaching the point where someone happens to get your tape and like it at the same time that they're deciding what their upcoming releases will be. In the meantime you'll be making friends and contacts, which is great.
Unit Circle Number 4: with Mason Jones and Neil Herzinge
Unit Circle Number 4 INTRODUCTION
On July 17th, 1994, I met up with Neil Hertzinger of Grae Com and Mason Jones of Charnel Music and Trance. We were going to have just a couple hour chat about experimental music for The Unit Circle Zine. We ended up talking for almost 7 hours. What follows are some brief excerpts of our conversations (well, at least the first two hours of our conversations, after which I ran out of tape). [excerpts of Mason Jones only jh]
Mason: Well, I'm recording four different kinds of music right now: basically, I use the name Trance for the percussion and the soundtrack work and the guitar noise, I just go under my own name. And then, I'm also working on this project called Taxidermy, which is like tribal Skullflower: drums and guitar noise.
Kevin: Is that all solo?
Mason: Yeah, I'll probably put some people together as part of Taxidermy.
Kevin: That will be your project with some guests?
Kevin: You've done a lot of stuff with other people, especially live.
Mason: Oh, completely live. I've never worked in the studio with anyone else.
Mason: When I started recording, I actually was recording with friends, doing stuff. Most of that was never really released.
Kevin: When you write, do you improv and whatever comes out is the finished product, or do you plan things out?
Mason: It's mostly improvs. The first part of a piece will usually be improvised. I sit down, think about what I want to do and do it and see what happens. And then for adding on top of that, I'll sometimes pick a sound and improvise with it. Some of the stuff I've been doing lately are like fictional soundtracks. So I'll lay down some instruments and actually add in some sound effects, but those are planned. So the sound effects will tell some kind of a story.
Mason: I've done string quartet-type pieces. Laying stuff to tape piece by piece.
Kevin: With the soundtracks, what do you think about when you write them? Do you have a plan?
Mason: When I write them, I'm creating a picture. Someone who listens to it might see a different picture, I'm interested in seeing what the differences are.
Kevin: Do you have a story?
Mason: Calling it a story is a bit to far, it's more like a sequence of sounds which make someone think of a story. Some of the stuff on the Audiography CD is like that, and the writing that is in the booklet is my pictures.
Unit Circle Number 4: Trance Discography
Fatal Blow 1988, Cassette, Charnel Music
Abyss 1989, Cassette, Charnel Music The Beaten Track 1989, Cassette, Charnel Music
Purity 1990, Cassette, Charnel Music Mesmerism 1990, Cassette, Charnel Music
Automatism 1991, CD, Charnel Music
Guitar Noise EP 1993, 7" single, Charnel Music Unyielding Firmament 1993, Cassette, Sounds for Consciousness Rape, France Audiography 1993, CD, Staalplaat, Netherlands Emergence of Buried Truths 1993, Cassette, Obuh Tapes, Poland
Notre-Dame de L'oubli 1994, 7" single, Fourth Dimension Records, U.K. Contents Under Pressure 1994, CD, Flying Esophagus Productions Augury forthcoming, CD
Compilation Appearances and Collaborations
Illusions of Shameless Abundance 1990, Cassette, Charnel Music - soundtrack for performance by Survival Research Laboratories "Without Provocation" Complication Compilation, 1990 (Suitcase Recordings; cassette) "Film at Eleven" Arrhythmia, 1990 (Charnel Music; CD)
"Under Construction" Auricular Cassette Magazine No. 3, 1991 (Auricular Records; cassette) "Delerium" Altered States of Consciousness, 1991 (U.P.D. Org, Japan; CD) "Yearning Like a God in Pain" 4x4, 1991 (Ladd-Frith; CD) "A Celebrated Occasion" Wakened by Silence, 1991 (Charnel Music; cassette)
Live at the Starlight Furniture Co. 1992, 7" single, Charnel Music - with Hijokaidan and Allegory Chapel Ltd "Siege" Must Be Musique I, 1992 (Dark Vinyl; LP/CD) "Evidence of Danger" Must Be Musique I, 1992 (Dark Vinyl; only on CD edition) "All the Myriad Ways" Dry Lungs 5, 1992 (Subterranean Records; CD) "Reversal of Fortune" Drudge 2, 1992 (Drudge Magazine; cassette) "Monk on Fire" Drudge 2, 1992 (Drudge Magazine; cassette) "All thy Bones With Beauty Clad" Dust Claims Dust, 1992 (Hyde Recordings; cassette)
"Ennui" Must Be Musique 2, 1993 (Dark Vinyl; CD) "The Other Side of Silence" Of Sound Mind, 1993 (Godsend Productions; cassette) "Rain in Hind" Of Sound Mind, 1993 (Godsend Productions; cassette) Audio Image Assault 1993, Cassette, G.R.O.S.S. Tapes (Japan) - with Macronympha
"Seismic Disturbance" Noise War, 1994 (Mother Savage, cassette) "Lowell is Alive and Dead" accidents have no holidays, 1994 (Povertech Industries, cassette) "Vicious Circle" USENET mind/body, 1994 (Atomic Novelties, CD) "Oh See Can You Say" 1-800-AMERICA, 1994 (RRRecords, cassette) In the Land of Lullabye 1994, CD, Charnel Music/Vanilla (Japan) - by Torture Chorus with Trance and Allegory Chapel Ltd providing music