Better Than… staring into the Nietzschean abyss.
Chelsea Wolfe embraces darkness, seems to live by it, even. “Dark” is the best way to describe last year’s Apokalypsis, an album that won accolades for melding black metal and American roots music, among other things.
In support of her recently released Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs, Wolfe played an acoustic set at the First Unitarian Church on Friday. Because of her influences (black metal is known for its aggressively anti-christian theology) and the less-than-pious image she has cultivated, there was perhaps some incongruity between the artist and the venue. Nonetheless, Wolfe demonstrated that her music is certainly not devoid of spirituality.
See the first part of the interview: Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Is a Real Bastard
The mastermind behind The Mars Volta and At the Drive-In tries to tell us he’s not a musician, for all kinds of deep and philosophical reasons. He might start out talking about how many hours of sleep he gets nightly, and end up describing the principles of some ancient religious text. In other words, he’s one deep human being. Below are excerpts from our meandering interview.
On doing interviews:
People get bummed out or consider it arrogant when they ask me what are my influences and they want me to talk about records. I could care less about records. I’d rather talk about how my influences were my mother, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, Roberto Clemente’s life. Those are the real things. Because that’s music.
On his own “music theory”
People who go and they buy the same amp Jimi Hendrix had or they play the guitar upside down — you ain’t never gonna sound like him because that’s not his music. His music was the fact that had a tumultuous relationship with his father that he never got figured out. His music was the fact that had a brother that he absolutely loved and wanted to be with all the time but he was in and out of jail. His music was the fact that he wanted to be accepted by the black community but he wasn’t until the very end of his life. That’s his music. The other stuff is just a vehicle.
Passion’s the only thing that’s going to make you good at anything. You can learn the technical aspects of anything but that ain’t going to make you necessarily good or tasteful. Look at how many awful musicians come out of Berklee and all these music schools — just faceless, mindless musicians that are being churned out under the concept of, like, ‘Well, you know all the theory so there you go, you’re good to go. You excel at theory.’ Like, big deal.
On why he doesn’t think of himself as a musician:
Musicians definitely get stuck in this pitfall of having to think about things in terms of theory and how theory fits together and why that can work or why it doesn’t work. I have absolutely no interest in any of that. I’m only interested in the simple element of does it move me or not. Because at the end of the day all I’m here to do is to express myself. I have to stay true to that. Any deviation from that path is treated like a dagger pointed at my heart.
I’m basically in most peoples’ eyes just a product, they know me as the At the Drive-In guitarist, The Mars Volta whatever. It’s funny to be diminished to just a guitarist, which I don’t even consider myself. It’s just one of many vehicles.
I had very informal music training. I had true music training, which is the fact that I come from a culture that is enveloped and surrounded by music. Everyone in my family plays music, none of them are musicians. When my ancestors were slaves, when they were conquered by the Spanish — I’m Puerto Rican, a lot of people think I’m Mexican — in any culture music and laughter is what gets you through any kind of trauma, you know?
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez wears the same thing every day: teal-colored jeans and a fitted canvas jacket. His eyes are intent behind his glasses; his focus is acute. For the bulk of his 35 years he’s been consumed with expressing his creative vision. Relentless in the pursuit of his own voice, he has alienated friends and collaborators. By his own admission, he’s behaved like a dictator.
The brain behind Grammy-winning progressive rock group The Mars Volta, Rodriguez-Lopez has written all the band’s music, mixed the recordings by himself and fired musicians at will — sometimes without so much as an email to let them know.
"I’ve been a real bastard over the years," he admits, perched on a couch in the top-floor sun room of his Echo Park production offices, looking out over L.A.’s sun-soaked Eastside hills. "All in the name of following my vision."
Wiry thin, he has an Einstein-style wild mess of dark hair and big, round, smudgy spectacles. He’s the kind of guy who forgets to eat, shower or brush his teeth when he gets on a roll writing music.
He certainly has his admirers; devoted Mars Volta fans liken the band’s members to gods. They obsess over their innovative, genre-shattering, long-winded compositions, full of changing time signatures, singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s high-pitched howling vocals and Rodriguez-Lopez’s experimental guitar riffs.
Six years after the members of Big Sir were forced to confront their mortality head-on, singer-composer Lisa Papineau and bassist Juan Alderete are back with their third album of jazz-prog-electronic jams, Before Gardens, After Gardens.
Right around the time they were finishing their last album Und Die Scheiße Ändert Sich Immer, they both fell ill and were diagnosed with serious diseases. Alderete discovered he had polycythemia vera, a rare bone marrow disease where the body produces too many blood cells, while Papineau was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. “The bottom fell out,” says Papineau. “In the midst of this juncture, Juan dreamed a song, woke up, recorded it and emailed it to me in Paris. He said, ‘I know it may be corny to say this, but from now on everything we do really has to make a difference … even if only to us … there’s no point any more to do less.’”
Papineau and Alderete were introduced to each other in 1996 through her band Pet, which she co-founded with composer Tyler Bates (Watchmen, 300). Three years later, their mutual love of ’80s tunes, West Coast hip-hop, and bass led to the formation of Big Sir.
The two were sitting around with their friend, producer Mickey Petralia, trying to think of a proper name. “I think we said something like it should be a name that could be equally used by a 13-year-old’s punk rock grrrl group or a hardcore gay activist group, something tough and fierce-sounding to contradict the ‘94.7 The Wave’ band names the music might invoke,” she says.
Big Sir released its self-titled debut album in 2000 and an album of remixes the following year. Around this time, Alderete created another project, Vato Negro, and later joined The Mars Volta. Meanwhile, Papineau continued working on her solo career and released her debut album, Night Moves, in 2006. She’s since worked with Air, M83, Matt Embree of (Rx Bandits), Jun Miyake, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and many others.
3. Iggy and the Stooges, Le Bucherettes
Hollywood Palladium, December 1st
"A Stooges show is unlike any other," wrote Henry Rollins after their recent performance. “It’s like the chase scene in an action film. It’s like watching a boxing match that goes the distance. It is not just another night out — it is a chapter of your life.” Indeed, a Stooges show is not to be missed — and not this one in particular At age 64, Iggy can still bring it as strongly as ever.
Also intriguing was the guest billing of up-and-coming noise rock trio Le Butcherettes. Showcasing the theatrics and blood-stained clothing of frontwoman Teri Gender Bender, the in-your-face group had no trouble in pumping up an older crowd, providing a well-received segue into Iggy’s performance.
Russian Circles, Deafheaven, Marriages
However interesting its instrumentation, rock & roll traditionally achieves its most intimate connection through vocals, which makes sans-singing rockers like this Chicago group brave indeed. Like all effective mouthless outfits, this adventurous trio sees their dearth of words as more gift than curse, allowing them to explore places too dense and detailed for the frailties of the human voice, and structures too oblique to support repeated melody. On new album Empros, gauzy guitars step aside (or perhaps above) to let the bass flex and fuzz in the foreground, while drums batter with earnest bluster. The effect is that of a mute Secret Machines (whose Brandon Curtis produced the record), until closer “Praise Be Man” allows some blurry singing in and reminds that Russian Circles are largely instrumental wholly by choice.
By Paul Rogers
This week’s feature story is about Teri Gender Bender — neé Teri Suarez — of Le Butcherettes. Let’s just say she has no intentions of going quietly. She drenches herself in blood, she screams, she thrashes her guitar, and, oh yeah, she pees onstage. Meanwhile, the wild, melodic rock from her band’s bristling album Sin Sin Sin won the attention of critics at Lollapalooza and South By Southwest. On Thursday, Dec. 1, the trio opens for the Stooges at the Hollywood Palladium; there’s no telling what to expect. In any case, it goes without saying that Teri Gender Bender is a fantastic interview, and here are some quotes from our interview that didn’t make the story.
The meaning of her song “Dress Off”:
People at school always wanted to see legs. I went to a private school in Mexico, and you had to wear a uniform, and the uniform was a very short skirt - I hated that - and a nice little sweater. I made a petition trying to get girls the option of wearing pants, like the guys did. Even girls didn’t want to sign it, because they thought if they were sign it they’d be less sexy. So I was like, uh, fuck it, take everything off, take my uniform off and go to school naked. That’s what you want, right? You want to see skin, I’ll give you skin.
Before punk rock, she was a teen poet:
It was great for me, but when I opened myself up to friends or to frenemies, they’d read it and they wouldn’t understand it, so there was another sense of frustration of not being understood. It’s the same thing in music - people are not going to understand your music all the time. You basically fall into the same things over and over again. I keep telling myself, “Your problems aren’t special. Just embrace what’s around you. Focus on the good things of life.
"You love me, you love me and now you wanna kill me!" wails Teri Gender Bender of the band Le Butcherettes, as her long hair rocks violently back and forth. She leans back, farther and farther, until she falls over, still slashing at her electric guitar.
To the violent beat of the next song, “Dress Off,” she tumbles backward off the Troubadour stage and into the crowd for a few moments of surfing before she’s tossed back up. She sings a torrid and crazed vocal. Then Teri Gender Bender lifts her skirt to pee right on the stage, stomping and splashing the puddle in her fishnet stockings.
This show, which happened over the summer, wasn’t the first time Teri Gender Bender (born Teri Suarez) has peed on stage. She urinated out of rage, she says, last year in Mexico City, when Le Butcherettes shared a bill with “this French-Chilean singer” who was “treating me like I was just an opening band.” And then she did it again in June at an outdoor show in Arizona, apparently out of boredom. “The Troubadour was more an act of love,” she insists, and promises it will be the last time. “Pee doesn’t have to be bad. It can be graceful. I wanted the last time I peed onstage to be a positive feeling.”
Trust that no two Le Butcherettes shows are quite the same. (The group is basically made up of the 22-year-old Suarez, who writes the songs, and an oft-changing rhythm section.) At the trio’s record-release party for its debut album, Sin Sin Sin, at the Bootleg Theater in May, Suarez picked up scissors during the set and maniacally clipped her hair into severe bangs. In Seattle, for a club audience of maybe 20 people, she banged her head against a cymbal, causing blood to drip down her face. She continued to play. “In the moment, I tell myself you can’t stop,” she says, “because it’s your life that depends on it.”
Boris plays the El Rey Theatre tomorrow night, Saturday, November 12. The Japanese experimental rock group has carved out a dedicated fan base by constantly switching things up. Stoner rock, lurching doom metal, psychedelic pop, and noise-drone are just a few genres they’ve explored since forming in the mid-’90s. As with The Melvins, it’s very hard to recommend one of their albums to a new listener as a good starting point. In fact, the band is obsessed with keeping fans on their toes, and here are five of the most delightful ways they’ve done exactly that.
We love seeing our bands on Henry Rollins’ KCRW playlists! This week loving on Tera Melos & Boris. Seeing our bands alongside the bands he chooses each week makes us happy. Seeing him tweet about them is so kind. Thanks Henry. Who knows maybe Tera Melos & Boris should tour together soon…..
If you Missed the original Broadcast #120 stream it ONLINE HERE
In honor of your support Nathan from Tera Melos will continue to wear this shirt everyday.
"I feel like I already proved a point to myself. I did it too long," she told us of her faux-gory stage performances.
That’s not to say the tour-de-force behind punk outfit Le Butcherettes is hanging up her trademark blood-spattered apron. It just explains why, mid-song at last night’s Bootleg Theater gig, she took out a pair of scissors and began furiously hacking away at her bangs in time with the drum beat.
Maybe new stage antics and a new haircut are just the right way to celebrate their new album, Sin Sin Sin. Released Tuesday, Sin Sin Sin is only the first LP from the band since they formed in Guadalajara in 2007. Despite this, founding member Gender Bender’s bold lyrics and firecracker performances have earned them a devoted following, as evidenced by the night’s solid turnout.
Marnie Stern, Tera Melos, Power Axe
at The Echo - Fri., February 18, 7:00pmWe Can Be Guitar Heroes
Tera Melos is a wondrously strange trio from Sacramento whose complex math-rock rambles are distinguished by unusual sonic juxtapositions and flurries of wacked-out guitar squiggles on their third album, Patagonian Rats. Bassist Nathan Latona and drummer John Clardy shift tempos from free-jazz noise to psychedelic dreaminess, as guitarist-programmer-vocalist Nick Reinhart unreels elaborate, intricate whorls of notes. Early songs like the eight-minute epic “40 Rods to the Hog’s Head" alternate between dense prog-rock tangles and more open-ended passages that float away into space. Tera Melos is well matched with Co-headliner Marnie Stern, who, like Reinhart, also employs finger-tapping trickery to conjure febrile riffs from her ax. Far more than just a flashy guitarist, the New York singer combines art-rock melodies and banshee wailing with bizarre, cryptic lyrics on her recent self-titled album on Kill Rock Stars. Producer Zach Hill (who also drums with Hella) anchors frantically busy tracks like “For Ash” and “Female Guitar Players Are the New Black” with a heavy sound that still finds room for shards of Stern’s subversive wit and playfulness. And check out her crazy version of the theme from Hawaii Five-0, which is the weirdest remake of that TV jingle since Radio Birdman recast the melody as “Aloha Steve & Danno” back in the late 1970s. - By Falling James