I am giving away THREE COPIES of THIS CD. PLEASE SEND YOUR NAME and ADDRESS TO ME at portinfinite (AT) AOL.com Before December 15th, 2006, and I will pick three Winners and you will get this before Xmas!


1976! To most, punk's year zero. Think about it for a split
second, however, and you realise that, for all the 'No Elvis,
No Beatles, No Stones' sloganeering and the revisionism of
some of punk's leading manipulators, the '76 revolution was
actually part of a greater musical continuum.

This 15 track collection is proof of that, gathering together
numerous different musical strands, most of wich pre-date
those that made up the Class of '76, influencing them both in
sound and spirit.

Mojo, april 2006.

01. New York Dolls - Personality Crisis
02. T. REX - Calling All Destroyers
03. Hollywood Brats - Sick On You
04. Jook - Watch Your Step
05. Count Bishops - Teenage Letter
06. The Hammersmith Gorillas - Gatecrasher
07. Kilburn & The Hugh Roads - Rough Kid
08. Dr Feelgood - Riot In Cell Block No. 9
09. Eddie & The Hot Rods - 96 Tears
10. Mott The Hoople - Thunderbuck Ram
11. Hawkwind - Motorhead
12. Can - Mushroom
13. Be-Bop Deluxe - Sound Track
14. The Groundhogs - Cherry Red
15. Iggy & The Sttoges - Search And Destroy
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Mary Gaitskill interview

Interview with Mary Gaitskill

by Alexander Laurence
(c) 1994
How long have you lived in San Francisco?
Mary Gaitskill
I've only been here for five months. I went back and forth between Marin County and New York City for a while. Then I ran out of money, so I don't have my place in New York anymore. I moved to San Francisco because I started to go nuts in Marin. I realize that Marin County repels many people, but I didn't feel that way because I wanted to live somewhere that was very quiet and didn't demand anything of me. It's been hard for me to get connected to San Francisco. I'm not sure why. A lot of my life here has been very internal, but that's always been true of me.
You sound like you don't drive?
No, I don't. Which is one of the reasons that I liked being in Marin, because without a car, everything had to slow down to one mile an hour. You wouldn't think from my demeanor that I would require that, but I can be very amped up, even though I don't show it. Everything was slow like silly putty. That was good for me at the time. My internal state was so chaotic that I needed to be somewhere that wasn't going to reflect that back to me. Two Girls, Fat and Thin came out a while ago.
Have you been working on a novel or short stories in the past couple of years?
I did a draft of a novel which is real short. I don't know how long it will take me to finish it. I've been working on stories. It takes a long time to finish a story. Sometimes it takes years, which is ridiculous. It used to be like I'd write something in a month, and then I would put it aside for a few months, then go back to it and finis h it up in a month or two. Maybe sometimes I would go over it again. Now, I'll put it aside for a year and come back to it. So it ends up taking four years. The new novel is tentatively titled Veronica. It's about two women and their friendship. One of them becomes sick with AIDS. It's not just about that but that's a central motif.
What is your opinion of creative writing workshops? Can writing be taught?
It was OK. I don't think that I'm really a teacher by inclination. It was hard for me to get over the idea that the teacher is supposed to be dispensing wisdom. That's not how it is. That's just an idea that I had in my head. But I enjoyed SF State because there was a lot of exchange. Some of the students had read my books, but most of them hadn't. I'm kind of indifferent to creative writing schools. Some writers will harangue how horrible they are, then they go teach at them. I didn't learn writing that way because when I was in school they didn't have programs like that. I think that Iowa just started when I was getting out of school. So I wasn't ever presented with that as an option. I didn't like creative writing classes all that much. It was a way of getting credit for something I would have done anyway. Why I'm not against them is because I do notice that some people really get energized by it. It's a way to be around other people who will discuss things. If you're a good writer, you're going to write whether you're in a writing program or not. I think that it would be better if you could have that arrangement in a non-scholastic situation. If you could find a congenial group of people.
Do you show your work in its preliminary stages to other writers or friends?
It's not something that I do very often. I'm more likely to do it if I'm working with a form that I'm not used to. I just wrote an essay recently, and I showed it to people I know who write essays. I show fiction less frequently, but I do sometimes. The essay was about all this talk on "victimism." How everyone wants to be a victim. And the date rape thing.
What is your view on victimism?
I think a lot of people, especially middle class people, were kind of brought up not to think for themselves. They were told what to think. So when they are put in a situation where they are required to think for themselves, they're in trouble. So they feel victimized without knowing why. They might respond by becoming very passive just going with whatever the other person wants or by becoming aggressive and thinking they have the right to take over the situation, regardless of what the other person wants. Which Is a recipe for date rape. It's weird how people are saying "How could this be happening?" It's always been present in the culture. It's just that before there was an illusion that everybody was doing the same thing, living the same way. Since that illusion has been lost, many people don't know what to do.
Could you explain what you call "the fetishization of romance?" That was a concept that you wrote about in an essay for MS. Magazine.
I don't think that I remember the essay well enough to give you a clear idea of what I meant at the time. But what I think I meant that when people get obsessed by something -- women are encouraged culturally to do this more than men -- they have an idea about someone or something that has nothing to do with the alleged object. People often describe it as romance, but that sounds nicer than it actually is. Romance can be rather hideous. I mean you can romanticize something to a point where it's a grotesque distortion. It can be so distorted that it's kind of gross, but on the other hand it can have some pretty aspects for the person who is doing the romanticizing. There's usually an underpinning that's nasty. At the expense of what are you elevating them? When you idealize something, you strip out all the good parts and magnify them, but the other stuff doesn't go away. You're just blocking it out and at some point it'll bite you on the ass.
Sadomasochism is mentioned in your stories and about your stories. Is that just a buzz word or is that a judgment of the reality of most relationships? Is every relationship between victim and abuser?
It's certainly a buzzword, but it also refers to something real. It's also a term I think has many different meanings for people. In one way I haven't liked it that people have talked about my books like that because to me that's not what they're all about. On the other hand, I've repeatedly used S/M as a motif, so I don't blame people for reacting that way. In "Romantic Weekend," the second story from Bad Behavior, part of the problem, when this girl says "I'm a masochist," is that she doesn't mean what he thinks she means. It could be anything from very theatrical playing to heavy, violent physical stuff. A lot of my characters are actually too incompetent to be properly called S/M practitioners.
In Two Girls, the character Justine Shade likes sadomasochism. She wants it, up to a point.
That's a more negative version of sadomasochism as opposed to Bad Behavior which was more playful. In that book, in her case, I was describing a more negative aspect of S/M sex where it's unconscious. She conscious of it in a way, but in another way she's not. It's involved with a lot of feelings that she hasn't fully dealt with or allowed herself to experience even. You asked me earlier if S/M is a part of all relationships. I think it's always there in the spectrum whether people choose to act on it or not. Justine is a special case in some ways because as a child, she was the torturer. I saw her switching roles.
Was she reliving what had happened to her? Being tortured in the same way she tortured others.
If humiliation and betrayal and emotional pain are central themes in your life, you can respond to that fact in many diiferent ways. I didn't see Justine as consciously trying to redress the situation of childhood. In her case, and I think this is true of a lot of people, the victim role which a masochist chooses to play may look really passive, but in some sense it's a very aggressive stance. When I say aggressive, I mean in an internal level, because she's putting herself in a passive position; dangerously so in the case of Bryan, the character opposite.
How is Justine's position different from a standard S/M situation like the one that is elaborated in The Story of O? O gives herself totally to this man, becomes a slave, submits to him, and through that process feels freer than before.
In Justine's case, it's not like that. It's more like a ferocity, but it's convoluted. It's a kind of inward aggression. It seems like self-contempt, but it's really an inverted contempt for everything. That's what I was trying to describe in her. I would say it had to do with her childhood, not because she was sexually abused, but because the world that she was presented with was so inadequate in terms of giving her a full-spirited sense of herself. That inadequacy can make you implode with a lot of disgust. It can become the gestalt of who you are. So the masochism is like "I'm going to make myself into a debased object because that is what I think of you. This is what I think of your love. I don't want your love. Your love is shit. Your love is nothing." Justine's attitude toward Bryan is very contemptuous. I've been puzzled when some people have described my women characters as these passive victims. On the surface I see what they mean, but ultimately I don't see Justine as being passive. She's just too angry, and she tells Bryan what to do at almost every point.
The name Justine Shade suggests both Sade and Nabokov: what is your interest in these writers? Who are you favorite writers?
I may be totally embarrassed about all those wacky character names at some point. Well, I like Nabokov a lot. I don't think much of Sade as a writer, although I enjoyed beating off to him as a child. His books can be good beat- off material. I haven't read him for a long time. Some other writers that I like are Marguerite Yourcenar, Deborah Eisenberg, Flannery O'Conner, Jean Genet, and Maxine Hong Kingston.
Realism is a mode of writing based on 19th century models. Post-Joycean experimentation has been an interesting activity over the past 25 years. What is your impression of the term "post-modernism?" Your writing seems to be free of theoretical implications.
I'm not interested in that discussion. I don't usually look at things in terms of whether they're experimental or not. It's more like, does the form suit what they're going after. I see form as being a by-product. I say that even though style and form is very important to me. What I mean is that the style will be the inevitable result of what the writer is pursuing and how she's pursuing it. Some people use non-realistic forms very well, but I don't have an allegiance one way or another. And as far as theory goes: I'm not that conversant in it. I'm not a very theoretical person.
I ask those questions because your two books were written in the 1980s in the midst of what in the art world we generally call "post-modernism." I was suggesting that it was a theoretical period. You have any interest in that?
It's funny, in writing I really don't. I realize I don't have anything against it in principle because I've seen it done in film, in music, and in artwork where I've liked it. So it's not like I have a statement against it, but I've never been tempted to do it. I suppose that you can argue that I've done it by the suggestion of the name Justine, because it evokes things--other people's work-- even though I don't literally use it. I'm not interested in doing it myself.
Can you talk about your writing process generally? How has your writing process changed since moving here? How do you begin to write anything?
I don't get ideas fully formed. I usually start with just an image, or a conversation that haunts me, or an experience I had that's really striking to me. I work with superficial detail first. If you notice, there is a lot of detail in my work, and physical detail. It's because that's how I get into the story. If I try to think in terms of who is this character, or things thematically, or things psychologically, I get lost. I just start with some small thing and dig into it that way. I write longhand first. I have to do it that way. Then, I put it on the word processor.
Your work has been described as "queer literature." I was wondering what you thought about that label? Two Girls has lesbian overtones, Justine and Dorothy sleep together at the end. Are they excluding the men in their lives, and feeling free being with each other?
I wouldn't say that, but for those particular women, freedom for a while might be good. I wouldn't see those two as a couple. The reason I see it having gay overtones is that I see Dorothy as being gay. I don't say that in the book. Most of her feelings toward Justine have erotic undertones. I don't know if they would act it out together, but at some point Dorothy might.
What about their interest in S/M and sexual marginality?
I may be alone, but it's always been my feeling that people who are into S/M tend to be bisexual because their sexuality is not oriented around the genitals. It's more oriented around fantasy than people not into S/M. So there's more inclination to go either way.
You have mentioned before in an article that you worked as a stripper in Toronto. Was that a good or bad experience?
I did it for two years. Actually it wasn't lap dancing. It was more like old-fashioned stripping. The last vestiges of the burlesque world were still in place in Toronto at the time. It was a culture clash because the go-go dancing was starting to happen, and the older strippers really hated it. It really disgusted them. They really despised these young girls who would dance with a nightie and then throw it off. The older burlesque dancers were in the posture of defending themselves because stripping wasn't a respectable thing. So when they saw people coming in making it more funky, it threatened their self-esteem. I saw some lap dancing recently, and I was like "God," it's totally different. It's not ego gratifying, I would imagine, but I haven't done it yet. Maybe it's in my future? When I was doing stripping, you weren't a piece of meat. There was nudity but there wasn't fisting. When I grew up, I didn't have experiences of adolescent femaleness because I left and didn't do the normal thing with dating and all that. So, in a strange way, I got to act that out in a burlesque way. So I could make fun of it and yet have the experience. It was like taking on various personas and throwing them off right away. I felt that I was in control and I didn't feel demeaned by it. I don't want to seem negative about lap dancing, but it seems that you have less opportunity to that now, at least from what I saw. I've never been to the theaters here, but in the bars that I saw lap dancing, it didn't seem that the women were able to play with that, because they're right in the guy's face, and he's telling her what to do. I want to make it clear because I don't want to put down lap dancers.
Have you used your experiences as a stripper for a story? There was one story in Bad Behavior about a prostitute. I was wondering have you ever turned a trick?
Yes. Have you?
No. Not really. Maybe I should. I've paid a prostitute for sex before.
I definitely would if I was a guy.
Do you think that a purpose of writing is to communicate something and to overcome alienation?
That's something that I feel complicated about too, because it is sort of a bond with the reader. When I had my first book published, I was really touched by the way people responded to it. I'm sure some people hated it. But just the fact that some people were emotionally affected by it, affected me. It was a really intense feeling. However it's also true that they saw the book in totally different ways than I meant it. Not in a bad way. For example, some people saw the story "Secretary" as a social statement about the evil of jobs and the horror of sexual harassment. Other people thought it as a story about a young girl being liberated from her tightness by a beneficent old guy. Those are two opposite extremes. Definitely it is partly communication because you're wanting people to read it, but it's also something that just happens internally for you. I didn't think that some of the stories in Bad Behavior were going to get published, but it was still important for me to write them.
Are public readings something that you look forward to or like to avoid? I am thinking of a reading you did last September at SF State. Is writing for you a way to be direct by indirectness?
Actually I like giving readings. Why did you think that I didn't like it? Because I seemed uncomfortable? I'm shy, so I was particularly nervous at that reading partly because I thought someone I knew would be there. Someone that I had a weird situation. Plus I find that story difficult to read because it has a bunch of different emotional tones. It's hard to get it right. I am shy, so in a way, it's hard to read. But when I get into it, I really like it. Shy people are always hams secretly. It's a way of totally being in my world, and yet coming out in the world and talking to people. It's my world because it's my story. But at the same time other people are sitting there listening, and I can often feel the audience responding, or at least I think I can. Although it's difficult if I feel the audience not responding.
You wrote in both novels: "Somebody opened me up in a way that I had no control over." What is it about losing control in a relationship that is so attractive for your characters?
There can be something innately erotic about it because there's a sense of limitlessness to losing control especially if you're a person with a lot of limits. And if you're used to being like that, the idea of having the limits just totally ripped off, anything can happen. It can be arousing, not just sexually, but in every way. It can be frightening to some, but fear can be exciting as well.

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new and old photos BJM 1990-2018

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The Natural History

The Natural History
by Alexander Laurence



The Natural History are a Williamsburg, Brooklyn-based trio featuring Max Tepper (guitar/vocals), Julian Tepper (bass), and Derek Vockins. Max and Julian are brothers. Max and Derek previously played in math-rock bands before their mutual interests began to change. Remembering the influences from their youth, including Elvis Costello, the Kinks, the Beatles, Wire, and XTC, they were ready to do something different. In need of a bass player, Max's brother Julian joined the band a week after he graduated from college.
A few short weeks later, they recorded a 3-song EP. This record amazed and thrilled most who heard it and soon people were lining up to see this unique band. The Natural History performed to packed audiences, even touring the Midwest, before they ultimately signed with the Brooklyn-based StarTime International. This strong and ruthless indie label had also signed the Walkmen, Brendan Benson and French Kicks. They began recording with Greg Talenfeld at his Stonehouse studio in Nyack, NY. The result was a five song, self-titled EP, which was released by StarTime in July 2002. Shows with Enon and Spoon consumed the band for the rest of the year, and they blew away audiences and challenged the headliners. The Natural History found time to record their proper studio full-length, Beat Beat Heartbeat, came out in
May 2003.
AL: You've been in a few bands. Do lots of girls show up to see you?
Derek: I guess compared to our other bands more girls show up to see The Natural History.
AL: Was your dad a good influence growing up? Did he support your interest in doing music?
Max: He's a musician. He has friends who keep him in touch with what is going on. He goes to a lot of shows. We had a lot of instruments around the house. We had a lot of records. All of us grew up with that.
Derek: My dad played in a bunch of rock and roll bands in the early 1960s. There were a bunch of guitars around the house. They were very supportive if I brought me shitty hardcore band around home for practice. They would let us practice till ten at night.
AL: What did your parents think when you first started taking music lessons?
Julian: At first it was an obligation to help us. Max took violin lessons. We had to listen to him practice every day. I took piano lessons.
AL: Were any of you in the school band?
Derek: I did school band thing. I was all about the drumline. I haven't seen the movie yet. But it's probably mirrors my life.
AL: What other bands were you in?
Max: Derek and I were in another band from 1997 to 2001. It was an on and off thing. We both moved away from New York City for a while. It wasn't as intensive as what we are doing now. We didn't really tour. We played shows once a month. We took it seriously but compared to now, music was more like a hobby.
AL: I think that there were not a lot of places to play in New York back then. In 1997, the only place in Williamsburg was The Charleston.
Derek: There are certainly more places to play now, which is good. That could be more.
Max: Derek and I played The Charleston (a dive in Brooklyn) with our old band. It was fun.
AL: What is it like being in a band with your brother? There is a history of bands like Jesus and Mary Chain and Oasis, and their relationship seems volatile.
Julian: No. I think that us being in a band was unexpected. It was a last minute decision right after I graduated from college. I guess that Max and Derek had been playing together for a long time. They told me: "It's only the bass. You can handle it." Max and I have a relationship that goes back to birth. But it's very important that Derek is the biggest one in the band.
Derek: It's very rare that we have a conflict. Maybe it happens once a tour that I have to say something. But it's never really that bad.
Max: Fighting helps a relationship grow.
Julian: Most bands don't fight enough. That's the problem.
AL: Did you have a bunch of songs before Julian joined the band?
Max: We had nine songs written, none of which we still play today. Back then, Derek and I would get together. I would come up with an idea. We would work it out. Most bands get it backwards. They usually play for a real long time and then record. Now I think the best thing to do is record first and get shows. It's important to get things rolling. We recorded about four months after we had been playing with each other. It came down to the wire. I was going to play the bass parts. But Julian played with us about eight days before we recorded the three song EP.
Derek: We don't play any of those songs anymore but it got the ball rolling. I don't think we would be here talking to you now if we didn't go ahead and do it. It isn't Exile On Main Street but who gives a shit? We had something to sell at our first shows.
AL: What did you do by the time you got to do Beat Beat. Heartbeat?
Max: This record is a combination of us bringing ideas and jamming stuff. It's a process of taking things apart and putting things back together. It takes a really long time for us to write songs. It's never as simple as here's the song: put your parts together. Most of the songs I bring in don't work in that way.
AL: When I heard the first album by Gang of Four, they made it so each song had a different beat. They weren't great musicians either.
Derek: Right. It sounds snobby but for me I like to have something else going on. I wouldn't want to hear ten songs done ten different ways on an album. At the same time I wouldn't want to dazzle people with my technical wizardry. I wouldn't want to pull off some bullshit that just isn't going to work. As far as drums you try to think what is going to work in here and be interesting. What if I make things sound insanely simple? There are two songs on the album that sound fantastic where I am barely playing. It's just hi-hat and snare.
AL: Did you try to pursue difficult playing and technique?
Julian: It's not so much as trying as where our sensibilities lie.
Max: It's not like we never go there. We go to those points. We will look around at each other and it's thumbs up or thumbs down. If there's something interesting going on, that enough to make us go on.
AL: Some people have limited talent. But what they have is interesting or they make their own.
Derek: I was reading about Eddie Van Halen and how he got his guitar style. He was trying to rip off Eric Clapton but he couldn't play that way. He started to play another way and he got what is the Van Halen sound. What you can do is sometimes better what someone else can do.
Max: Derek is the most proficient musician out of the three of us. I have plans to become a better guitar player. The music will definitely change, the better we all become as musicians.
AL: Do you want your influences to show in your music?
Derek: Maybe if we had ten records out, maybe we should try this. We are still trying to feel our way into what we are doing. The sound of The Natural History is still a mystery to us.
Max: We have a sound that we want. It's instinctual. It's not we are trying to be funky or hardcore. We don't want to be a mix tape.
AL: Your voice sounds like Paul Weller.
Max: People say that. I don't hear it at all.
AL: Maybe people compare you two because there a certain raspy quality in the voice. Also Weller was really into soul music. Do you listen to that?
Max: Yeah. I listen to soul music. I don't buy it as much as I used to. Now I listen to more rock and roll music from all decades. But I love soul music and rhythm and blues. I listen to Talking Heads. They are really soulful.
AL: What are your songs about?
Max: They are about relationships. They are about stuff that I deal with every day. There are scenarios that I seem to run into a lot. Some of the early songs are about things that happened to me. I had stories that I turned into songs. With the new songs, I am trying to make the lyrics less abstract. I want to have a balance between being clear and having the listener have something to hold on. It's doesn't have to be "oh baby baby."
AL: I like this song "Run de Run." What is that about?
Max: That is about a couple I know. It's about their relationship. It's my observation.
AL: What do you think about living in Williamsburg?
Derek: People make fun of it. At the same time it's great that people are doing their own thing and trading off each other. I don't think there is a Williamsburg sound. I think that there is a lot of different bands there doing different things. I enjoy them. It's inspiring to be there.
Max: I have lived in Williamsburg since February 2002. I used to live in Carroll Gardens and Park Slope before that. We have been practicing in the same spot for four years now. I don't like living there. It's very loud and there are rats on my block. When I lived in Carroll Gardens it was this brownstone in an Italian neighborhood. It was quiet and beautiful. The one good thing about Williamsburg is that my rent is cheap. It enables me not to have to work as much.
Julian: One thing that Williamsburg is not, is pretty. It's rare that there is any place to sit down that isn't overflowing with garbage or birdshit. A place like Chelsea is very pretty.
AL: What is the set like now?
Max: We have been touring with Idlewild. We have doing an opening set that is about 45 minutes long. It's half songs from our EP and half the new album. For an audience who hasn't heard us before we want to keep it pretty rocking. When we play our own shows, we play longer and we play some of the mid-tempo songs.
AL: What other bands have you played with?
Derek: The Walkmen, French Kicks, Brendan Benson, and The Capitol Years.
Julian: We are friends with The Oranges Band. They are on Lookout Records.
Max: I remember that I used to think that bands who are friends with other bands sound like each other. When I heard that bands who were friends with each other and they didn't sound like each other, it blew my mind.
AL: Are you going to play again soon?
Max: We are going to do a headlining tour from the middle of May to the middle of June. After that we are going to go back in the studio and record another EP. After that we will play again in the fall. By then our plans may have change and something might come up unexpected.
AL: How should people come prepared for the next tour?
Julian: Wasted with their pants up.
AL: Why did you call yourself The Natural History?
Max: It was two words that sounded nice together. It's supposed to be about being a progression.
Derek: We have to invent a story. I feel like I am letting people down. We play a lot harder and are a lot more aggressive as a band in the live show than people anticipate. We don't sound like Hatebreed or Slayer. People might think we are just another StarTime band. But we work for the money. We get up there and brake shit.

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Dot Allison @ Irving Plaza 2002

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DJ Andrea Parker

AL: Has the record come out in England?

AP: Yes it has. It came out in Japan first, then Europe, and now it is coming out in the States. It's been a long process really. Not so much in the making, but because Mo Wax was owned by A&M, and they were bought by Polygram. It was part of the Seagram’s merger. It was caught up in the politics and held up. There's many labels it's released under but I think of it as a Mo Wax record because I deal mainly with James Lavelle. He was doing a lot of hip-hop records years ago with DJ Shadow and DJ Krush, so when I went to see him, it was at a point where he was looking for something slightly different, maybe weirder, something to branch out the label. James is very young so he's not from the old school, men in suits, way of thinking. James Lavelle is just more daring. He let me just go off and do the album and he accepted at the end. There's no way around it for an artist like me.
AL: You felt like you had a lot of freedom to work, then? I noticed that Kiss My Arp covered a lot of areas and was diverse and wasn't limited to one type of sound.
AP: Well, I love gangster rap. I have this thing where I love a lot of the scenes of America, where we all like scenes that are not from our own territory. For me, I love NWA and all the old school beats. The beats are hard. Then it got a bit light and fluffy at one point. You have Mix Master Mike, and Cut Chemist from LA, and DJ Kraze from Miami. I don't like to segregate. If I'm playing in one place, I don't like to think "Oh, I can't play this record because I'm on the East Coast or West Coast." And it's very like that out here. I love Detroit techno, Chicago house, and I like all sorts of music. I know what I like. I want to play what I really believe as opposed to what I should be politically playing whatever the place is.
AL: Your influences and interests are very diverse. I thought a few songs sounded like Warp stuff, like Autechre....
AP: A lot of people think that it has the Warp sound. Warp is one of my favorite British labels. I love Autechre, Plaid, and Aphex Twin. Those records are all timeless and you can still play them. But the real reasons I like that style of music is because they are not sampling big loops of other people's music. For myself, I only use analog synths and analog decks. People like Steve Reich, Ryguchi Sakakmoto, Jean-Michel Jarre, and Art of Noise, all of these people, even Phillip Glass from way back, have this thing where you make your own sounds. You're creating all the time. You're not just relying on other things that people do nowadays. As technology has moved forward in the last twenty years, it's made people really lazy and slightly uncreative. I'm not disrespecting those people because you need all types of music but it's a bit recycled. I love electro and the 808 drum machine. There's not many pioneers now pushing boundaries.
AL: What about Kraftwerk? They were doing a lot with the technology then. And they influence much of the Warp records.
AP: Kraftwerk has always been one of my biggest influences, but again the equipment in which they were making tracks with were the maddest bits of gear. They started electro for me, and they did an incredible new style of music. They made their own synths and they are the only people with those certain pieces of equipment. Germany is a good place for electronic music. All the beats are stiff. You can play more ominous, more menacing, stiff, nasty beats in Germany and they don't find it offensive like they do where it's more house and disco based like France and America. Things like Autechre seem much more ominous than some of that other dance stuff.
AL: How much sampling do you do on the new record?
AP: I sample a lot of organic sounds from outdoors. Metal hits and wooden hits. Also I make about sixty sounds from arps and serges and moogs, make the tracks and program the sounds. That's the fun part for me. Some of the gear I'm using is the first synths that were made. You have to turn them on with a key and wait for them to heat up for an hour. I'm always listening for sounds and rhythms. I like the organic and heaviness of analog that you don't get with digital sound. In keyboards now you get like a hundred presets. There's not that much choice for me, but I love the fact that with an analog synthesizer you can make one kick sound, but you'll never be able to make that sound again. Therefore every time I'm creating something, I'm creating something new. My boredom and attention span in the studio is really bad.
AL: When you DJ now, what sort of stuff do you play?
AP: The problem for me is that I do like so many different types of music, that I find it hard to narrow it down. I don't just play house or techno. I like it to go on a bit of a journey. So I'll probably start off with hiphop, then go on to electro, then go upbeat, and then go into some Carl Craig and Detroit techno. I just can't narrow it down. That's what I'm really about. I still do a lot of experimental chill out rooms. When I play with Phillip Glass and Steve Reich, I don't play so much NWA, I will play Autechre, a Phillip Glass record, some experimental stuff with some sound effect on top of it. That's the confusing thing with me. Sometimes I'll write a vocal ballad with a forty piece orchestra, and other times I'll write a track like "Ballbreaker" which is just a nasty distorted club tune. I like having an open mind. It's great seeing different scenes where you expose yourself to so many different sounds instead of limiting yourself to one small scene.
AL: Are there any observations you have made on this tour about clubs and DJ's?
AP: Everybody really wants to be a DJ. It's really sad to me. You have to love what you’re doing and be passionate about it and not just follow the trends. It's not an easy thing to do. And it's not about being a pop star at the end of the day. The great thing about being a DJ is that music is the one thing that connects people all over the world without a doubt. You pick up little details from every little scene. The global things and the collaborative aspects are really interesting.

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Add N to X

ADD N TO (X) is a UK trio comprised of Ann Shenton, Stephen Clayton, and Barry Smith. They produce a disconcerting fusion of electronica and lo-fi rock often dubbed as being avant hard (a term grabbed from the title of one of their records). Smith's background includes work as a DJ on pirate station Radio Stalin in Prague. He met Shenton in 1993, adopting the Add N To (X) moniker (taken from a mathematical formula) in 1994 when they added Theremin expert Clayton to the line-up.

The trio released a low-key debut, Vero Electronics, in 1996, and played live shows with Stereolab drummer Andy Ramsay and High Llamas' bass player Rob Hallam. They released the acclaimed On The Wires Of Our Nerves on the Satellite label in 1998. The album's cover illustrated the trio's fascination with an interplay between man and machine, while the contents demonstrated their mastery of a diverse range of pioneering electronic music forms ranging from Varese, Robert A. Moog and Wendy Carlos, through experimental German rock (Can) and English art rock ( Roxy Music ).

Their use of vocoders and vintage analogue synths also earned comparisons to American pioneers Suicide. Tracks such as 'Sound Of Accelerating Concrete' and 'The Orgy Of Bubastis' were as willfully difficult as the latter's work, but the album also included the highly accessible single 'King Wasp'. The trio signed to Mute Records shortly afterwards, neatly balancing their experimental tendencies a more pop-orientated approach on Avant Hard and Add Insult To Injury. They played in Williamsburg recently on their first headlining tour in America. They were one of the first bands to play at the new club North 6th. I talked to members Stephen Clayton and Ann Shenton. They have a drummer named Joe who has played with Stereolab in the past. I spoke to them in the L Café on Bedford Avenue.

AL: How did you all meet?
STEPHEN: We were living in South London, in a place called Camberwell. Barry was still a DJ in clubs. There were several incarnations of the band. We had several different names. Then we got signed to Mute Records. We got known through our live shows in London.
AL: Did you collect a lot of music gear early on?
ANN: We did it all by accident really. We would just find things. In those days it was a lot cheaper. We would find stuff in flea markets and second hand shops. Now, I saw a MS-10 in Notting Hill, right before we came on tour, and it was really battered, and it was 800 pounds. It was a knackered thing. We could get them cheaper a few years ago.
STEPHEN: Did you see the LA show with Atari Teenage Riot? We had an MS-10 and we smashed it to bits that night.
AL: That was Barry. He threw it around. I remember that. Five or six years ago, people were still using the sampler a lot. They would sample the records when they wanted a sound. Now, they have their laptops and Pro Tools. So when they want a certain sound they go buy the gear and play a few notes of a Moog or an Arp, find a sample on a record, and they make the vibe themselves.
STEPHEN: We are the total opposite. We are interested in experimenting in sound. We have no interest in sampling. We hardly use samples. If we do it's only a minor part of the production.
JOE: The last album we did, Add Insult to Injury, was recorded live and there wasn't so much fucking about afterwards. Obviously we produced it ourselves in studio. To me, it was important to actually play some of the stuff live and not have to worry about banks of backing samples. Not to play them exactly like the record because that would be futile. A live show is more about where you are and how little sleep you have had, and what accidents you have had on the road. All those things culminate in your live show every day. Trying to replicate an album when you are traveling across America and sleeping on a piece of carpet….
AL: The last record, Add Insult To Injury, seemed a little schizophrenic. Was that because you recorded it in different places?
STEPHEN: We worked in Sheffield and France. Some of us worked more in France than in Sheffield. I don't think it's any more schizophrenic than the other records. Each track has it's own set of criteria. It has a way of working which is appropriate to that individual. It's a piece of music. It suggests the way you interact with it.
ANN: I don't take the fact that you said schizophrenic as a criticism. It's encouraging. We don't want it to be torture when we go into a studio. If someone wants to go off to France, or Sheffield, and use other people, then that's fine. That's healthy for the whole group. We are not a bunch of swingers. But we do whatever needs to be done to finish a record.
AL: What is attraction to Sheffield?
ANN: I am never going back again. It's always pissing rain. The guy from Pulp owns a bar there. It's a dirty old men's bar. It stinks of piss. I am doing some recording in Idaho. Then we will come back to London. We are going to play with Hawkwind at the Royal Festival Hall in October.
AL: I saw Hawkwind once with Genesis P-Orridge.
ANN: Barry lives in Genesis' old flat.
AL: In Hackney?
ANN: On Beck Road. There was an unexploded grenade under the stairs. It was there for ages probably. There is a great book about Throbbing Gristle that came out recently called Wreckers of Civilization. I think that we are going to do some articles about this tour. It will be like a brief synopsis of life on the road and the terrible things that happen. I might do some articles for The Observer. You will have to buy the book. I can't really go into great detail with the tape running.
JOE: It will be better than the Motley Crue diaries.
ANN: If I look at all my diaries and I sat down and read about the last three or four years of touring, there's a lot of dirt. And here's Joe, who is a professional photographer and drummer and every day he has his camera out. He's on the road with us and it's like "Oh shit!" You have to send me a double copy of everything. When you are on the road, you don't have a chance to party as much, because once the gig is over you are on the bus, falling asleep during a twelve-hour drive. Some terrible things have happened.
AL: Were the tours with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Atari Teenage Riot any different from tours in the past?
ANN: We were flying everywhere and it was a bit more glamorous. It was good.
JOE: See, I've never done a tour like that.
JOE: He's so hardcore. He's good.
AL: Are you the indie element of the band now, Joe?
JOE: I get stuck with the indie element. Any tour I do is the hardest one.
ANN: You are stuck in an indie time warp You are.
AL: Mute is Daniel Miller, right? Since Moby had such a big record, why doesn't he fly you everywhere?
ANN: Exactly. I am going to call up Daniel Miller and tell him we need money for food. We had a bad show in Portland. It was at the children's day care center. It was an all ages show. There wasn't a bar. We weren't allowed to smoke in the dressing room. It was the worst audience. The toilet flooded over. The people were telling us to behave. I was just sitting in the dressing room, sorry. I am putting on nail varnish. Tell me what am I doing wrong? It was terrible. The audience was a bunch of stiffs. I am never playing at Miao Miao again. I was disappointed. I thought it was going to be sexy and evil. It was just a kid's home. I was standing in diapers and powder. There was Playdo everywhere. It hardens you up a little. So when you play next and it's halfway decent, it's like totally brilliant. It seems far better than you ever expected. You can never have preconceptions.
AL: People are interested in new music in America, but now a bunch of English bands don't even bother to come over anymore.
ANN: What do you mean? Because they are scared or because they can't waste the money?
AL: Blur played three shows here in America two years ago; one in New York, one in LA, and one in Toronto, I think….
JOE: What? They just got despondent and went back to England where they are worshipped?
AL: Suede hasn't played here in America for five years.
ANN: Well, they are all cocksuckers. They play where it is safe.
STEPHEN: They grow too big over there in Europe they don't want to come here and play the little places. Sometimes the operation is really huge and you have all these people working for you. It must be difficult for a band that big to start doing things in a smaller budget.
ANN: If you want to do music and you want to get around and meet people and see the fucking world, you can't allow your stupid ego to get in the way. You come out and play. It's an ego bashing exercise. People should be forced to do it.
AL: It's like Dido call fill a huge hall here, while people like Robbie Williams play and maybe a hundred people have heard of him. (laughter)
ANN: Isn't Dido Eminem's bitch?
JOE: The thing is it takes so long in America. If a band like Blur spent two years trying to get recognition in America, they will be all forgotten about in England by then. It's a gamble. They stay where they are getting money.
STEPHEN: We were going to do a stadium tour with Stone Temple Pilots.
JOE: Why didn't we do that? We should have done that.
STEPHEN: Our best support spot was with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. It felt really right to be on tour with them. They are a touring unit. They are a master class. They had the crowd in the palm of their hands every night.
JOE: He said "Jon Spencer Blues Explosion" thirty-one times in one song. We counted. He is a nice bloke.
AL: What do you think of Mercury Rev?
ANN: Mercury Rev, ohhhhh! I was sitting next to Jarvis Cocker at the NME awards. The were showing the video. Jarvis said: "It's an odd phenomena or something. It's exotic. They are all ex-junkies. Is it because his voice is all Oh, Oh?" (does imitation of Mercury Rev).
STEPHEN: Jarvis said that?
ANN: He said that there's something sickly about him. You just want to hit him. Or make him a cup of tea. There's something lascivious and horrible and begging. I agreed with Jarvis.
STEPHEN: There are a lot of bands that are appreciated and respected in England from over here like Royal Trux. Another difference is there's no college radio in England. People are more likely to hear a record and buy it in America, whereas in England the press mediates everything. You would never hear it unless you buy it.
(Barry Smith walks in)
AL: Do you enjoy playing in the festivals and the larger venues?
STEPHEN: It's difficult because of our set-up. You are not allowed a big soundcheck. You just go out there and play.
ANN: It's good because the stages are so big.
STEPHEN: It's better for us to have a more intimate and rock punky vibe. People have to be properly plugged in. They have to be ready for it. They have to be drunk. As up for it as we are. We are not playing to people who just want to set back and listen and chat with their friends.
ANN: The all ages thing is a concept. But ultimately you are playing to a bunch of people who have gone home to school, had dinner with their parents, and they come out and they just stand there. They can't drink or anything. I like the whole punk esthetic of going to see a live band and going mental, which is what I used to do. We all used to do that. In England, even if you are fourteen, you can manage to get a fucking pint of beer. It's not that strict where we come from.
AL: The bars close early there.
JOE: You can get pissed before you come out. It's weird for us to go somewhere where everyone is sober. They are so self-conscious.
STEPHEN: The other night the guy jumped on stage and try to pull my gear offstage with him. I had to fight him. They always grab my stuff because it's the tallest. We always get those trainspotters and thieves. All of it is valuable.
AL: Any advice for young people out there?
STEPHEN: Send us some money in an envelope, and we'll send you a pack.
AL: So, Ann, any advice for people who want to follow in your footsteps?
ANN: Don't follow in our footsteps, by all means. Just get stuff and do things.
STEPHEN: Get stuff and do things, and turn it up.

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All photos by Alexander Laurence
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