Listening to Video Nasties is a lot like watching early John Waters films, reading a William Burroughs short story, or coming across an old Maxell videotape with 4 hours of dubbed cable access children’s shows from the early 80s. It leaves you incredibly intrigued and feeling slightly queasy. Brendan Evans and Christopher Livengood, aka B. Nasty and C. Nasty, savor the old and forgotten. Their music is noisy and disjointed at times, but also steeped in melody. Dusty and fractured, but melody nonetheless. At times their Feeding Tube Records self-titled debut sounds like early Cure run through a broken Radio Shack sound mixer, or Joy Division being pulled into a black hole. They love gadgets and noise makers, and each song is affected in some way or another by tape delay, modulation from Hell, and vintage-sounding synthesizers. If Suicide and Can ever did a bunch of whippets together in the studio and hit play, then that recording would sound a lot like Video Nasties. Maybe throw in a less emotionally stable Devo, too.
Evans runs and curates Strange Maine, one of the few multimedia shops left in New England, while Christopher Livengood is part of the heavy synth duo Victims. Both of these guys have a love for horror, vintage media, and skronky noisemakers, which is what makes Video Nasties such a unique band. Together, these two lifelong friends have a lifetime of late night movie viewings and music excursions to pull from. Video Nasties compiles a few of Brendan and Christopher’s cassette releases onto one LP. Anyone familiar with early Ariel Pink and Mac Demarco’s Rock And Roll Night Club, as well as early 80s alternative and bizarro Euro pop will have an idea of what they’re getting into here. For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, enter at your own risk. The rest of you, let’s have some fun.
Brendan and Christopher sat down with me to talk about everything nasty. Enjoy.
J. Hubner: With a name like Video Nasties, I can only assume that you two are horror fans. What’s one of your favorite horror films?
C. Nasty: Very difficult question. In some ways I feel I haven’t found that film yet and maybe that’s why I’ve watched so many over the course of my life. I guess Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now and Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession have both at one time or another occupied that spot. They create a palpable sense of dread. Despite having wildly different tones they make you feel under the threat of an unknown, inevitable horror lurking around the corner…and then when that horror is revealed, it’s simultaneously absurd and genuinely frightening. But I also love the Italians and like B, every once and a while find myself daydreaming about The Church, by Michele Soavi. I remember thinking I’d found the perfect movie when I rented that one back in 94…
B. Nasty: How’d you know i was gonna say Demons 3?! Probably because it’s loaded with sleaze, gore, and Asia Argento, plus it’s a 90 minute long satanic music video for Keith Emerson covering Philip Glass. There’s some really brutal and beautiful imagery, some absurd characters and implausible deaths. I’ve loved that movie for twenty years and i’ll never get tired of it. You can have my VHS copy when you pry it from my cold dead dick.
J. Hubner: Being friends since middle school there must be a musical symbiosis happening between you two. When did you realize you wanted to make music together? Did you bond over a band or a movie?
C. Nasty: I think we bonded over our love of bad movies first.
B. Nasty: There’s no such thing as bad movies, just bad people.
C. Nasty: I automatically felt a kinship with B when I discovered he had co-opted his parents camcorder and was making un-self conscious, totally weird videos that were equal parts sincere self-expression and semi-arch tribute to the movies he loved…just as I was doing. It wasn’t until we were in our twenties that we first played music together. We started an improvisational band. Although at times we made abstract music, we mostly improvised “songs”. A number of the Video Nasties songs were composed in this manner. When “jamming” with B I’ve always had the feeling that anything can happen and that whether or not the end product is something anyone would want to listen to, we both had a great time playing. Whenever it’s not fun we usually just stop and watch a movie or something.
B. Nasty: Our average ‘band practice’ consists of watching whatever new VHS we scrounged at a thrift store, drinking top shelf whiskey, jamming out some rhythms, watching some fucked up Youtube, and cramming in a few minutes worth of actual ‘practicing’ at the last minute. But back in (junior?)high school, i walked to C’s house with my backpack stuffed with tapes and paintings and I distinctly remember asking him “do you like horror art?” before showing him some weird H.P.Lovecraft inspired art i’d been doing. C proved to me that he could play Sabbath’s ‘paranoid’ on the guitar. We had a five minute debate on how you pronounce Dario Argento’s last name, i stubbornly insisted that it was ‘Argentine’. He introduced me to ‘the internet’ by showing me a nude picture of paula abdul. He played me a Pigface cd. I played him “21st Century Schizoid Man” by King Crimson. He lent me a dubbed copy of ‘Evil Dead’. It was the greatest day of my life and i fell in love with him, but it wasn’t until about 12 years later that we finally created the band that we should have started way back in 1994. We’ve been exposing each other to weird shit for a long time though. I can honestly say C introduced me to more bands and movies than anyone else in my life, but he’d still be listening to Boards of Canada if it wasn’t for me.
J. Hubner: Listening to your new self-titled album via Feeding Tube Records I hear so many different things. Lo fi, diy noise, no-wave, post-punk, and experimental all come to mind. What was the idea behind the band for you two? Were you trying to go for a certain aesthetic, or were you two just following the muse? Who or what is influencing the sound of Video Nasties?
C. Nasty: B and I, independently of one another, have been home recording stuff that fits all those descriptors since we were kids. I think we were consciously striving to combine all those elements, acknowledge the influence of all those genres in this record. Perhaps not deliberately Lo-Fi, though…I think that if there’s a homemade, messy quality to our recordings it wasn’t intentional…we were trying hard to make it sound good. It just so happens that we’re not the most technically proficient musicians and we might have lower standards on what sounds ‘good enough’ to be the final take.
B. Nasty: I honesty worried that the record sounded too polished but everyone keeps calling it lo-fi or ‘casio keyboard’ or whatever. We spared no expense, that record has $10,000.00 with of gear on it.
J. Hubner: How did you guys get hooked up with Feeding Tube?
C. Nasty: In previous projects, we used to play out in Western Mass. with some regularity. We’ve both been fans of the label and the whole music scene out there. Many of our friends have worked with Feeding Tube, including artists like Id M Theftable, Big Blood, MV & EE, all of whom we’ve collaborated with previously. I can’t overstate how impressed I am with what Ted and Byron are doing. Most small independent labels I know of have some specific ‘thing’ they’re selling…they package their stuff uniformly, try to release music that has a preexisting audience…not those guys. In my opinion they’re the riskiest, most exciting label working right now. We felt that we had complete and total freedom to do exactly what we wanted with our record.
B. Nasty: Our buddy Caleb (from Big Blood/Cerberus Shoal) who recorded and mixed 90% of our songs is almost completely responsible for the record coming out on feeding tube. He thought Ted Lee would dig the songs and basically kept hounding him until he put it out. Byron Coley did the write up for the record. We thought he would dig it, but it’s hard to tell from his description. I mean to talk to Byron about that, maybe he’s been reviewing too many records. When you think about it, he’s probably reviewed more records than any other person in human history, so maybe his opinion can’t be trusted the way it used to.
C. Nasty: C’mon, you shouldn’t say that!
B. Nasty: Coley is an ass.
C. Nasty: He doesn’t mean it.
J. Hubner: Should I reach out to Byron for comment? Maybe later, for now how does the recording process go for you guys? Digital or analog recording? Is the songwriting a complete collaboration?
C. Nasty: I think each song was recorded differently. It’s hard to keep track. Some of the songs started as sketches in my home studio with no real goal in mind. I record basic tracks to 1/4 tape, cassette, straight onto a computer, or all of the above. If B and I like something and think it would be right for the Nasties, we use it. Sometimes we add elements in my studio, sometimes we take parts of songs to Tank 28 and build on them with Caleb Mulkerin (our producer/engineer/collaborator/etc….truly a member of the band, at least behind the scenes). There are some songs that we built from scratch in his studio. I know that at least one of them was composed spontaneously there. Sometimes we write that way too…just making stuff up on the spot. But there’s definitely no methodology or strategy. Even after we’ve recorded something and it sounds done we spend a good deal of time adding things, chopping parts up, basically messing with them. I think we were going for the sonic equivalent of an old VHS tape that has lots of different things recorded on it over a great deal of time…some things innocuous, like a home movie of a wedding or birthday party; some things exciting, like a half-recorded slasher movie; but then maybe something you weren’t intended to see…something horrible.
B. Nasty: There isn’t a single song on the record that isn’t a collaboration to some degree… we’ve always egged each other on to make everything more profoundly perverted.
J. Hubner: What’s a Video Nasties show like? Is it as chaotic as you guys on record?
C. Nasty: B and I have large VHS collections and we spend a good deal of time hanging around watching stuff. I like to pick out scenes from our video binges, then, using an old analog video editor/FX mixer, make ‘greatest hits’ tapes that are dubbed/psyched out. We project those over us as we play. I think we both feel like live music can be kind of a drag sometimes…that’s why we recruited a dancer/tambourine player, Cal the Kisser.
B. Nasty: Cal is an old friend of ours who came to all of our shows, he always danced even when no one else was. I started to worry that he’d miss a show so I invited him to join the band. Now he plays tambourine and does back up vocals. He’s fucking amazing. One night he wore nothing but a gimp mask, fairy wings, and a g-string that he accidentally had on backwards. That night we played for two hours, I shit you not. Subsequently we were blacklisted from that venue, it’s a source of some pride for us.
J. Hubner: Are you guys an anomaly in regards to the music scene in Maine? Explain to me what the “Strange Maine scene” is?
C. Nasty: I used to know how to answer that question but now I’m not sure. I don’t go out too much and I’m sure that there are lots of young bands doing cool things that I don’t know about. I do know that we play with lots of bands that don’t sound like us, yet the shows still make sense, so maybe there is a scene. I like Big Blood, Taboo, Altered Gee, Caethua, SS Cretins, Tom Kovacevic, Herbcraft, Colby Nathan, Synthetiv Vision, Glade Swope, Id M Theft-able, just to name a few bands or artists that we’ve played with at least once (and are, coincidentally, friends)…I don’t think Video Nasties sounds anything like any of them. Maybe all of the above are a little (or a lot) too weird to play the bar or straight-indie scene, which is what my perception of most of Portland’s music is like.
B. Nasty: But we have played nearly every venue in Portland, somehow. There’s really not as strong of a ‘weird music’ scene in Maine as i’d like. Seems like Boston has had a lot more fucked up bands the last few years. I really like New England Patriots, those guys are weird but groovy in a way that nobody in the Maine scene is, other than Taboo or Caethua. Those bands are the vanguard as far as New England weird rock goes. It’s just not common to find bands that are weird, rockin’, and unpredictable. That’s who we want to play with- whether it’s dance pop or noise rock, it needs to be catchy.
I opened “Strange Maine” in 2003, and there have been hundreds of shows there. The last decade or so Skot (Id M Theftable) has been doing most of the booking. If there’s a Strange Maine scene it’s his doing, but I think he and I have both been pretty conscious about using the store as a venue for music/noise/performance that we LIKE but that’s the only criteria. So it stays weird and/or good but it’s never of a specific style of genre. Video Nasties haven’t played at the shop in a long time, though our first couple of shows were there. We used to play at The Oak And The Ax in Biddeford, Maine constantly, that was the perfect venue for us: it felt like a cozy coffee shop/hipster bar but they gave us carte blanche for what we wanted to do, and they just kept inviting us back. Every rock band needs a club that lets them do whatever; that’s what that place was for us.
J. Hubner: If you had to pick just one, who would you prefer to spend your Friday night with: Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, or Mario Bava?
C. Nasty: The one who’s still alive seems like the most fun. I hope he’d bring along members of the family as well; Asia, Fiore, and Daria Nicolodi could round out my dream party. Mario would be interesting, but I’d hope his son Lamberto would tag along. Lucio was notoriously unpleasant and apparently had questionable hygiene.
B. Nasty: Can we choose from Fabio Frizzi, Goblin, and Ennio Morricone? And Asia Argento is the greatest living Italian director, as far as I can tell. Chris and I have both been OBSESSED with her since she/we were teens.
J. Hubner: Anything new coming from Video Nasties in the near future?
C. Nasty: We have lots of material that we’d like to edit and release at some point before either 2017 or the entire world ends…whichever comes first.
B. Nasty: Caleb has been putting together an amazing analogue recording studio in South Portland. He’s invited us to use it to create our magnum opus, i think we’ll deliver. I think that by the end of 2018 we’ll have written, recorded, and released the angriest and most perverted pop record in the history of the human race. Unfortunately, we’ll all be using crank victrolas to listen to it because society will have totally broken down. That or maybe we’ll just fuck around and put out another cassingle limited to 50 copies, I dunno.