Psychotronic Love : The Neon Sounds of Laserblast

The 80s were a perplexing time, man. The 70s really screwed us up with its indifference, key parties, and Hal Ashby films that by the time we hit 1980 we wanted to somehow get to the future as quickly as we could. We plastered fake smiles on our faces, wore neon colors, sweetened our sitcoms with mountains of saccharine, and we began the process of taming electronic music. Those heady synths that were being used to melt minds and transcend how we view the world in albums by Tangerine Dream and Popol Vuh were being used to create more mainstream sounds.

Electronic music became a little more light-hearted and welcoming. It could be grating when laid on too thick, but when there was just the right amount of romantic sway and minor key melancholy the music was quite amazing. The synthwave scene is a musical planet where the synth is using its powers for good, not evil. These aren’t horror soundtrack nods, but a tip of the shiny hat to Mad Max b-movie rip offs and exploitation space flicks. Bright and colorful Saturday morning cartoons and video games.

Danish band Laserblast are giving props to the decade of Reagan and Thatcher by honing their own sequenced 80s soundtrack with lots of hardware and space age vibes. Their music puts me in mind of Le Matos and Com Truise, but with more of a softer edge. Not so heavy on the deep bass and more concentrating on the whimsical aspect of 80s synth. There’s a sci-fi vibe that is more along the lines of adventure and thrill seeking than those darker tones a lot of synth music as of late wants to capture.

I spoke to band members Kristoffer Ovesen and Mie Jakobsen about how the Danish band got started, their influences, and what direction they want to take the band.

J. Hubner: So who is in the band?

Kristoffer Ovesen: We started out as Mie Jakobsen, EmileLouise Nielsen and myself, but after finishing the tape Emilie unfortunately had to leave us, due to lack of time. Emilie and I have been playing together in various projects for more than ten years, and she has taught me almost anything I know about sound synthesis. I first saw Mie play at an art gallery where she and Jannik Juhl, (who produces under the name Giedo Primo, as well as runs the record-label Hamarplazt) were doing a couple of impro live shows.

J. Hubner: What other band s and projects are you two involved in? How did you get started in music?

Mie Jakobsen: For me everything started when I joined musician Ras Bolding on stage. Through him I met great friends including Kristoffer and Emilie. Emilie wrote me and asked if I wanted to be a part of an Italo Disco/synthwave/80’s music project, and since I’m a big fan of these genres, I couldn’t resist.

Kristoffer Ovesen: Besides Videodrones and Laserblast I’ve done two tapes of quite repetitive techno under the moniker Metis, as well as worked with Danish performance artist Tine Louise Kortermand on several projects and done chaotic industrial-acid-techno as a part of the duo Selvmordsskolen (The name being another movie reference, it’s the title of a weird Danish comedy from the 60’s and translates School of Suicide.)

J. Hubner:  Being quite familiar with Videodrones, Laserblast seems on a completely different music spectrum. Very 80s vibe. Has a synthwave feel, as opposed to the darker tones of your other work. Who are some of the influences on the new cassette release? At times I’m reminded a bit of contemporary artists like Com Truise, Nightsatan, and even Le Matos.

Kristoffer Ovesen: Yes, we definitely strived for a more romantic and uplifting feel, than what I’ve done earlier. For us to find some sort of common ground, I had to move into a (to me) new territory, a handful of early sketches I did for the project was actually turned down by Mie, as “sounding to much like a horror soundtrack” Ha! For me Tangerine Dreams 80’s soundtracks was a big influence while working on the tracks. Risky Business, Near Dark, Miracle Mile etc.

I really like a lot of new synthwave, the combination of modern software and production techniques together with the 80’s synth sound is very inspiring. When we got together for this project 6 months ago my initial plan was to tap into the more clubby sound of Kavinsky and Lifelike, inspired also by the italo-disco of Claudio Simonetti and likes (especially a lot of the soundtracks for Italian post-apocalypse and Mad max rip-offs. Great stuff!) Quite early the projected drifted into a dreamier territory, though. Probably due to the way I produce, more hardware, less software, a lot of the techniques to achieve the more modern aspect of the harder, pumping sound of Kavinsky for example acquires a lot of software use. Listening to the completed tape, French act College might be our closest reference on the contemporary synthwave scene.

Most importantly I think the artist mentioned helped pave the way for both Videodrones and Laserblast, in the sense, that had it not been for them (and Stranger Things and Refns Drive, of course), I’m not sure many would care about what we do. Right now, it seems like people have been “conditioned” to this sound, but I’ve got a chilling feeling, that 5-10 years from now, people will want some sort of glitched out digitally shit or uk-garagy chip-munk hell again. I’m just gonna jump the wagon while it lasts and exploit the fact that 20+ years of collecting and watching 70′ and 80’s exploitation/sci-fi/horror movies, finally has some sort of relevance outside of geeky collector circles and xeroxed fanzines (even though I love both!)

Mie Jakobsen: I’m probably the one who’s been dragging Kristoffer in a more funky direction. Besides the earlier mentioned bands an important influence for me is music I would enjoy listening to in an airplane, looking down at the clouds, or the great tunes that makes my bike ride just that more awesome.

J. Hubner: What’s the songwriting process like in Laserblast?

Kristoffer Ovesen: Most tracks started out as a very minimal sketch bye me. A beat, bass-line and maybe and arp or some chords. Mie and Emile would either make alterations or just play on top of that.

J. Hubner: Let’s talk gear. What hardware are you using in Laserblast?

Kristoffer Ovesen: We sequenced the synths from my PC in Reaper and recorded back and mixed in Reaper. All beats are sequenced and played from a Korg Electribe sampler. It’s kind of outdated, but it has been with me for a long time, and I sequence beats relatively fast using it. Most drum sounds were samples from the Akai XR10. Everything else is either the Roland HS-60 or my modular. I’m not into soft-synths, really. I dig the concept and the sounds, but the work process bores me. I like knobs, cables and sliders. Both Mie and Emilie used soft-synths while composing some of their parts, but those tracks were all re-recorded later using the before mentioned gear. I mixed the EP using a minimal of plugins. Just EQ, reverb and some delay. We were running a tight deadline, as Mie left for Australia in October, there was only 6 months between our first meeting and the finished tape, so things has been moving quite smoothly.

The guitar part on the last track of the tape, Videovold, was played and recorded by Jens Hollesen, guitarist of Danish heavy metal band Death Rides a Horse (yet another film reference) and was also the final track added to the mix. Jens knows his film history and is well into Jan Hammer and 80’s Tangerine Dream as well.

J. Hubner: I really dig the artwork on your new album. Was there a concept behind it? Who created it?

Mie Jakobsen: While Emilie and Kristoffer are the masterminds behind most of the sweet bass-lines and spacey leads, I’m the one who made the cover art. Using 80’s sci-fi cartoons, Blade Runner and of course the music vibe as inspiration, Kristoffer thought a robot/laser girl would do well on the cover. The original idea was to match the color of the tape and the cover, but since we couldn’t find a pink paper good enough, we tried out a few different other colors – which is also the reason why the tape comes with two covers (the lucky owner gets to choose for himself whatever is preferred.)

Kristoffer Ovesen: I’ve been into comics since I was a kid, especially what you would call “graphic novels”. Will Eisner, Richard Corben, Moebius, Milo Manara etc. Especially the more psychedelic, weird ones caught my attention from a very young age. We were well into recording the first tracks, when I first saw Mies drawings, but from that moment it was pretty clear to me, that she had to work out some sort of visual concept for the band. The girl on the cover, I imagine as some sort of intergalactic agent. She started out as a sketch, and since the completion of the tape Mie has been sending me more drawings of her, so we might end up developing some sort of concept/story around the character. It’s a great inspiration and I like to work with some sort of concept when producing, whether it be aesthetically, thematic or technical to give you some sort of direction or framework.

J. Hubner: Can you tell me about Interzone Tapes, the label you released the cassette on?

Kristoffer Ovesen: Interzone tapes is my own label. I started it in 2013, mainly as a vehicle for my techno stuff, but since then I’ve released a handful of other artists as well. It’s very DIY, I enjoy making everything myself, including xeroxing covers late at night at my girlfriend’s workplace or recording all the tapes myself on a Tascam double-deck. I do very limited runs (20-50 tapes) and have no professional distribution, as this was never intended to grow into a bigger label. I’d rather keep it small, and release whatever I want, whenever I want. I’m definitely not “label-boss material”, but running Interzone Tapes gives me a perpetual motivation for moving forward creatively.

J. Hubner: So do you record your albums to tape? Or do you record digitally then transfer to tape?

Kristoffer Ovesen: We record digitally. Working with a hardware only set-up for the sounds, the further addition of an analog stage didn’t seem necessary. I do drive the tape recorder into the red to add a bit of tape saturation/compression during the recording of the tapes on some releases. Mainly techno and harder material. The Laserblast tapes was recorded quite conservatively to preserve the dreamy qualities. I’m no tape expert, so all of this is also a bit of a trial and error process and might not all be according to the books….

J. Hubner:  I think the cassette is great. Much like listening to the darker synth stuff puts me back to watching late night horror as a kid, the Laserblast cassette is another nostalgic trip, albeit a much different one. More like Saturday morning cartoons and getting lost in the local arcade for hours. What is it about the neon 80s and synthwave that attracts you? Were either of you an 80s kids?

Mie Jakobsen: Actually, I wasn’t even born in the 80’s. To be honest I don’t know where my fascination of everything made before 2000 came from. Sometimes I believe I was born in the wrong time.

Kristoffer Ovesen: I was born in 78′, so I grew up on Robocop, Burton’s Batman, Terminator, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Beverly Hills Cop etc. To me the music of Laserblast is very much about the future I was promised through eighties pop-culture. A very escapist trip, to be honest. My childhood in the 80’s were filled with fear of environmental disaster and nuclear war on one side, while there was also a very optimistic, futuristic vibe in pop-culture on the other side. I remember the eighties as a time were looking like an android were something to strive for, a time were Grace Jones, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Brigitte Nielsen were perceived as aesthetic role models for looking like machines. Things were cool in the eighties. It was cool to be cool. I was not a cool kid, though, I just liked cool stuff….

J. Hubner: How do you think the age difference helps the working relationship between you two?

Kristoffer Ovesen: I think the big age difference between Mie and I has been very important for the outcome of the project. Not having experienced 80’s pop-culture in the same way as I, gives her a different, fresh perspective. Emilie is a bit younger than me and is very much inspired by videogame music and the fact that she was a part of the Danish demo-scene, when she was younger, but we also share a love for 80’s synth-pop and EBM.

J. Hubner: Do you two want to take Laserblast on the road?

Kristoffer Ovesen: No, live shows yet, but when Mie returns from down under we’ll get right on it. Playing live was on our minds from the beginning.

J. Hubner: You’ve put out a great debut cassette which is also available digitally. Any plans for a full-length LP?

Kristoffer Ovesen: Most definitely. We aimed for an album length, but at some point, we realized, that if we were to release anything before Mie left for Australia, it had to be EP length. That also means, that we had to leave a handful of tracks unfinished, tracks that should hopefully be the foundation of a full-length vinyl, but probably not on Interzone Tapes, I want to keep that as a tape-only label, as vinyl would require bigger runs and thereby the need for professional distribution, and I’m afraid the extra amount of work going into running a vinyl-label would have a negative impact on the amount of time I spend producing music. I admire people like Jonas Munk (of El Paraiso/Causa Sui) who can keep it all together, while remaining chill as fuck…..

Mie Jakobsen: The plan is to get some lyrics and vocals recorded as well. I will be more musically active on our future releases. Our badass little front-cover character has just made her debut. Great adventure is awaiting her..

J. Hubner: What’s lined up for the rest of 2017?

Kristoffer Ovesen: Videodrones are getting ready for our first live show in December and I’ve got a release with Danish synth/space/kraut collective Mentat coming out on Interzone tapes. Otherwise I’ll be working on some of our leftovers and unfinished tracks from the tape, and see what might fit a coming full-length Laserblast release.

Head over to Laserblast’s Bandcamp page and pick this one up right away. I’ve been filling my head with it all week and it gets better each time. You should also check out Kristoffer’s Interzone Tapes. He’s putting out some really great music, and in a very DIY way. Go see what he’s got for you over at their Discogs page and take a listen at the heady tones right here.

Witches Brew : Water Witches Return To Fort Wayne September 29th

by EA Poorman

Cover Photo by Michelle Waters

So what are you supposed to do after something like Middle Waves? How can you go back to a normal existence when all of your senses have been electrified and your heart and mind filled with so much musical goodness? How can you go back to punching the clock, sitting at a desk, and staring blankly at a computer screen when memories of Headwaters Park linger in your brain? Well, you just keep moving. There will shows to see my friends. New rock and roll freak happenings to expand your psyche a bit. In fact, on September 29th there’s going to be one hell of a mind melter going down at CS3. This ones going to be a doozy.

Athens, Ohio’s Water Witches are making their way across the Indiana/Ohio line and are invading CS3 for what will surely be a full on rock and roll experience. They’re bringing along Columbus’ Bummers and are meeting up with the always delightfully freaky Heaven’s Gateway Drugs and post-punk titans Streetlamps For Spotlights. I feel like I don’t need to say you should go to this show, but you should go to this show. Like, get tickets right after you’re done reading this.

So you’re not familiar with our Ohio brethren? Well let me fill you in.

Bummers is a four-piece from Columbus, Ohio. The band consists of Chris Steris, Steven Sikes-Gilbert, Cody Smith and Jeff Pearl. On first listen to their newest release, 2017s Dolores, you’re treated to a fuzzy, psychedelic shot of noise and melody. Imagine Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Jesus and Mary Chain, and late 80s/early 90s indie bands like Dino Jr, Pixies, and Sebadoh. Opening track “Black Halo” comes out screaming with squealing guitars and lots of angst. Then “The One You Love” has an almost Elephant 6 vibe. Very Neutral Milk Hotel-ish. Basically, if you were into college radio in the 90s or Ty Segall’s garage rock renaissance then Bummers are gonna be your jam.

Water Witches are no strangers to Fort Wayne. There’s a good chance you caught them on one of their jaunts through the Fort already, but if you haven’t CS3 is a great place to catch ’em. Asked last year about how the band got together the Water Witches, which consist of Ethan Bartman, Charlie Touvell, and Matt Clouston, had this to say, “Our first Nelsonville Music Fest 2014. That summer we all continued to jam because we like to hang out together. We formed two bands that were different sides of the same coin. One was a freak folk project called Feathers, the other, a psych rock band by the name of Halcyon. We decided to fuse the two to make everything simpler. We felt  this new direction needed a new name, so we held a séance during a set we played at a house show. The spirits gave us the name Water Witches.” Their sound is a mix of psych folk, late 60s garage rock, and a whole lot of Midwest weird that makes it all the more special. When describing the band’s sound, the guys listed influences running the gamut from musicians to writers and the otherworldly, as the band pointed out last year, “Tarot Cards, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Wooden Indian Burial Ground (amazing psych surf from Portland), Robert Anton Wilson, David Lynch, the Source Family, Henry Miller, Dr. Dog, the D-Rays, Velvet Underground, Aphrodite’s Child, John Waters.”

The band are currently touring in support of their newest release, Halcyon, which was released this past July. Dropping the needle on this record you’re treated to fuzzed-out psych rock(“cut”), Ty Segall-like acid freakouts(“Totality”), Philly soul grooves(“Soul BDSM”), and Athens weird that only Water Witches can give(“devil”). Halcyon has a nice bit of grit on it, giving it an aged feel. Like some strange vinyl artifact you found at the bottom of some grizzled cedar chest that was located in an abandoned house in the middle of a desolate forest. It’s music that feels timeless, yet definitely has some ghostly vibes that you can only get when your music’s been blessed by spirits from the other side. Water Witches put on a great show, so you don’t want to miss them this time around.

So we’ve got Athens and Columbus, Ohio represented on the 29th. What about the Fort? Well we’ve got our home turf covered as well. Our resident freaks Heaven’s Gateway Drugs will be blowing minds that night, just coming off a pretty stellar set at the  Kaleidoscope Eye Festival in Chicago a couple weeks ago. These guys have come a hell of a long way in 4 years. They were one of my highlights last year at Middle Waves. If you haven’t seen them lately then you should get out and check ’em out.

Streetlamps For Spotlights will also be hitting the CS3 stage. Another staple of the Fort Wayne rock scene, Jason Davis’ flagship band are one of the best in town. I was able to see them a few years ago at NNN Records on RSD and they blew me away. A little post-punk, a little classic indie, and all three-piece magic, this band will blow you away live.

So you may be suffering from post-Middle Waves blues two weeks from now, so the best way to cure those blues is to get out there and see some more shows. CS3 has you covered for September 29th. Water Witches, Bummers, Heaven’s Gateway Drugs, and Streetlamps For Spotlights will be blowing minds promptly at 9pm. Don’t be late.



Sonic Terror : Inside The Heady Sounds of Videodrones

Videodrones is a synth duo from Denmark. What they create are the sounds of dread, doom, darkness, and those things that go bump in the night. They summon the spirits of Popol Vuh, Fabio Frizzi, Bobby Beausoleil; as well as countless soundtracks to late night horror films you watched growing up(especially if you grew up in the 80s and with local late night television at your disposal.) There’s a sickly sweet and queasy vibe to Videodrones. There’s the horror and Gothic vibe for sure, but they aren’t creating “spooky” sounds for the hell of it. There’s a purpose to their pulsating, modular madness. There’s also a serious improvisational spirit with the sound band members Jakob Skott and Kristoffer Ovesen create. It’s just the nature of synthesizers to make weird, “far out” sounds. But what these two do is take it to a new level. Obviously inspired by both synth artists and old VHS tapes filled with schlock horror films and exploitation trash(the best kind of trash), these two are taking Komisch and Berlin School noisemaking to new heights here.

For me personally, I listen to both last year’s excellent Mondo Ferox and their brand new(and equally excellent) record Nattens Hævn and I’m pulled into another place and time. I’m reminded of late night viewings with the lights off and everyone else sound asleep. But it’s not what I saw that stayed with me when I finally laid my head down to sleep, but what I heard. The music that accompanied the horror on screen. The synth-driven scores would echo in my head; square wave’s bashing on the walls of my skull as syncopated rhythms became in sync with my own bewildered heartbeat. Videodrones capture that spirit of music for me. They capture those childhood memories and add to them. They create their own sonic world of musical introspection and let you walk into these bubbly landscapes(at your own peril, of course.)

I sat down and talked with Jakob and Kristoffer about Videodrones, their influences, and their love of sonic mayhem.

J. Hubner: So tell me about the idea behind Videodrones. How did this project get started? Have you and Kristoffer Ovesen worked together prior to Videodrones?

Jakob Skott: We started simply by having a long overdue jam-session. Just a fun day of noodling with our synths. That’s where about 90% of the first album was recorded. The day we were working on it, the ideas just got better and better, and we recorded hours and hours, and it became more and more cinematic – which is probably no coincidence, because when we were younger we’d watch movies for hours from Ovesen’s vast VHS-collection. So we edited it in that style sort of reimagining the jams into something more cohesive – but it wasn’t something we’d really talked about ahead of it: “hey, let’s do a tribute album to all the movies we love” – it was way looser than that, without any real starting point and we didn’t figure out the name until we worked on the cover and titles. So the whole thing kind of just fell into place.

Kristoffer Ovesen: We’ve always had very similar film taste, so our friendship was always more about movies, than music. Although we had one or two jam-sessions about ten years ago, the day we got together to record the first album was the first time we ever got serious about making something coherent together. We’ve discussed films, and film-scores so many times before, that we didn’t really need to plan which direction to go. I think we both knew what kind of sound was common ground for us. I could elaborate some kind of grand idea, but it would all be something cooked up afterwards. It just kind of happened, really, without us ever discussing a greater concept. I think we might have discussed a bit more doing the second album, talking about which direction to go, referencing both the first album and other artists. But to say we had a plan beyond jamming might be stretching it….

J. Hubner: You two capture a very unique musical sound on both the debut album ‘Mondo Ferox’ and the newest record Nattens Hævn. Who or what are some key inspirations and influences going into the writing for Videodrones?

Jakob Skott: Like Ovesen says, I think we’ve pondered over these things for so many years that it’s embedded deeply into both of us – so to untangle it seems impossible. However I really do feel that the fascination of genre-movies from the 70s and 80s gets stronger and stronger. Directors like Jess Franco, Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci & John Carpenter – the sheer WILL needed to create their works – under B-movie exploitation standards, they managed to make their movies soar. Furthermore they were all directors working in unison with a composer in a small cluttered home-studio – like Abel Ferrara & Joe Delia or John Carpenter & Alan Howarth. It was one of the things we talked about: Not killing the music in post-production, but rather letting it breathe – as some dude who’s been painstakingly arranging his music to the cues would: just leaving a single stringer note there for suspense…

Kristoffer Ovesen: I was always more into electronic, jazz or rock scores, than orchestral soundtracks. Goblin, Tangerine Dream, Fabio Frizzi, John Carpenter etc. The major influence of film-scores was allowing us to make small mood-pieces, instead of just full blown traditional compositions. The freedom to explore a single idea or mood, without the need of letting it go further. I enjoy listening to soundtracks because of those small pieces of psychedelic suspense-inducing freakouts, as much as the more elaborated “theme tracks”.

J. Hubner: Did you grow up gorging your brain on 70s and 80s horror movies? What was a trip to the video store like in Denmark growing up?

Kristoffer Ovesen: I grew up in small town where the local supermarket had a video rental section, just next to the newspapers and cigarettes. My mom used to drop me off in front of the shelves, and I would contemplate what was behind the strange artwork and punchline on the boxes while she was shopping. We never had a TV set during my childhood, so the rental stores were mostly just some weird display of inaccessible wonders for me. I became obsessed with videotapes during my childhood and i bought a television and a VCR and began collecting horror movies as soon as I could afford it. A lot of the classic Eurotrash and exploitation were available on Danish rental tapes in the 80’s and tapes could be rented not only in rental stores, but gas stations and supermarkets often had a small rental section too. You could find stuff like Cannibal Holocaust, Tenebre, City of the Living Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre etc. I guess it was the same as in the US or UK, but we did never have censorship like in UK or Germany. Although I did spend some time at university reading about more conventional stuff, I consider fanzine-reading and watching Dutch bootlegs of Jess Franco and Lucio Fulci movies as my real film-education….

J. Hubner: Can you tell me a little about how you two write in Videodrones? Do you get together and just start making sounds, or do you have motifs you work off of?

Jakob Skott: I have one secret weapon, which is a special way of doing live sequencing – I use the same figure at different speeds and in different variations for each voice in the track. So basically every figure is very similar to, say, the bass. It can be reversed or permuted, but it’s the same scale and basic figure that creates all the sounds. It also turns out very massive, and you can jam with 4 different polyphonic voices changing keys at the same time. It allows for vivid improvisation, but also creates a lot of great variation and motifs popping in and out of nowhere – as opposed to most other synth-jams where you usually just run an arpeggiator through chords. That’s one essential thing about this project: it’s born through improvisation – even when it doesn’t sound like it.

Kristoffer Ovesen: I used a two voice modular systems for both albums. Jakob would feed us different sequences, as described above, and the actual “writing” didn’t go much further on my behalf than “could you make that sequence faster” or “could you reverse/transpose that sequence”. I would have three or four sequences that I would feed to different voices, sometimes using a polyphonic sequence that I would split up into two or more monophonic voices. The approach was very minimalistic, allowing a maximum of freedom to improvise, without losing too much structure. The modular system also allows me to split gate and pitch signal, hence use the rhythm of one sequence together with the pitch of another sequence to create a third variation.

J. Hubner: How long does it take usually to build up enough material for an album? Is there an extensive editing process that goes with these records? The albums are so well sequenced, and everything seems to bleed perfectly into the next piece. I imagine the mixing/editing/sequencing is just as big a part of each record as creating the sounds.

Kristoffer Ovesen: Both albums were basically cut from a one-day jam, but on Nattens Hævn we recorded more tracks afterwards, than on the first album. The editing and mixing, all done by Jakob, is essential to the sound. He sends me tracks while he mixes and I sometimes record extra sequences, but all the hard work of listening through hours of endless noodling around is done by him. Both albums were actually completed quite fast, as we talked about not overdoing the post-production.

Jakob Skott: Yeah, I try to keep it fresh. The first one I think I spent no more than a few hours mixing each track. Just really cropping out huge parts and reassembling hours worth of jams – folding the layers on top of each other and immediately sending the highlights to Ovesen – trying to decipher whenever something interesting was happening. For the latest one, I spent a bit more time – and it has more depth simply because it’s mixed better – adding stuff and automating a lot of effects, pitching and tweaking as well. But still with a sketch-like mood in mind. I try to empathise the weird coincidences, sudden shifts and dropouts, rather than edit them out.

J. Hubner: With the albums, from the titles to the names given to the songs, it feels like there’s a definite theme on these albums. Do you go into these with a direction? Are you writing as if you’re composing for a film? Do you go so far as to come up with an idea for an imagined film and write around that idea?

Kristoffer Ovesen: Not really. There was never a real concept behind it, it was more an extension of watching and discussing movies. We did joke around with different fictive titles during coffee-breaks between jams, though. Some too offensive to mention…. Some track titles might be referencing a certain movie, some just a feeling, but as said before, there’s not much of a finished story  going on. It’s all just a product of our shared memory bank of psychotronic cinema, I guess.

Jakob Skott: I’m very happy that we didn’t settle on the “lost movie” theme – it’s just everywhere – it’s weird. I remembered we did the first album in May last year, and in June when Stranger Things popped up on Netflix, I watched it and thought “holy shit, this synthwave soundtrack-thing is going to explode – I need to hurry up and finish this album”. Well then it kind of happened ten-fold. But I think our inclination towards more weirded out stuff sets it apart enough to keep it fresh – at least I hope that’s how it works to the listener – maintaining a rougher edge through that whole improv-aspect. I’m as inspired by modern electronic music as by the grand synth-maestros – stuff like Autechre still sounds almost as fresh as when I first heard them 20 years ago, and I try to channel that ethos as well.

J. Hubner: Can you tell me what’s some of the go-to instruments Videodrones uses to make albums? It all has a bubbly analog warmth to it. Do you record to tape or is that aesthetic created in the engineering and mastering side of things?

Kristoffer Ovesen: I use a Eurorack modular system and a Roland HS-60, and some effect pedals. While jamming we record onto separate tracks on Jakobs computer, allowing him to mix and edit the tracks afterwards. I think the “warmth” is partly a result of Jakob not overdoing it in the mixing process, but the mastering Jonas did for us was definitely the final touch. Just like The Dude’s rug, it really ties it all together.

Jakob Skott: We use all kinds of stuff – there’s tons of digital stuff in there as well – we’re not purists, but use the best of all ages. Ovesen’s modular has a lot of really noisy and weird filters – for the stuff he puts out on Interzone Tapes – I used wavetable-synthesizer, as well as the analogues – there’s even an Ipad in there. But usually with some sort of analogue pre-amp or drive boost at the end of the chain to warm things up. I actually tend to make my mixes too dark, so Jonas actually adds some sizzle (which tape will absolutely not do) as well as ties the low-ends together – by using some hardware compressors, etc. So he adds definition to our blurriness – I’m always really happy with that, because in the end it has tons of murky vibe, but still packs a good punch.

J. Hubner: If you could only choose one, who’s a director that had the most influence on you growing up? Was there a film that affected you more than others?

Kristoffer Ovesen: That’s a tough question, different directors through the years, of course, but i think George Romero, David Lynch and Tim Burton were some of the first directors I were into in my early teens. I guess the film(s) that kicked of my interest in horror movies was the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. I watched most of them one summer night when I was 13 and it had a profound impact on me. I think being a horror-buff grew into some kind of identity for me, and to this day I like to see myself as a horror/exploitation collector/expert more than a musician, actually. The first time I remember noticing how different a film score could be done must have been watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Argento’s Profondo Rosso. Especially the pounding prog/synth scores of Goblin still resonates in my brain whenever I turn on my synths.

Jakob Skott: Right now, finishing Twin Peaks: The Return I feel inclined to say Lynch as well. I watched the first Twin Peaks series when I was about 11 or 12 – needless to say, Killer Bob has caused a fair share of night terrors for me. I also remember watching Lost Highway when I was about 17 – yet another crucial turning point: watching a world of cinema you thought you knew and understood just literally go up in smoke in front of your eyes. And of course the outer-worldly role of music in his films. The way they’re not bound to regular structures, but invents their own deeper and more emotional logic – that’s very inspiring. And this new 18 hour opus is just as heavy. I’m blown away – the old weathered faces – and also that he’s not keeping it very clean stylistically – just messing up with poor video-effects, style changes in every scene. Zero fucks given to his own legacy – that’s awesome!

J. Hubner: Can we count on more from Videodrones? If there was a once-a-year release I’d be perfectly happy with that.

Jakob Skott: The first session we had at my apartment – the 2nd was at the Studio where Causa Sui records, so I played all of Jonas Munk’s synth gear. We had a third session a few months ago, but I actually haven’t listened to it yet – that was at Ovesens place in the country side. So sure, we have to finish the trilogy just like any good movie-franchise…

Kristoffer Ovesen: What he said….

J. Hubner: So what’s on the horizon for El Paraiso Records? What musical tricks do you guys have up your sleeve for us? I’m asking so I know just how much money I need to start putting back.

Jakob Skott: Ha, sure – there’s a lot of stuff in the pipeline. I’ll give you the first 3: New Causa Sui studio album, New Mythic Sunship – and Nicklas from Papir is doing a follow-up to his first solo album. All moving up to a new level and all currently being printed. The X-mas LPs are already causing really long delays at the printers, so we’ll probably have to wait til next year. But will be worth the wait! Our best stuff yet to come!

A trilogy of Videodrones, new Causa Sui, Mythic Sunship, and Nicklas Sorensen. The future’s so bright I’ve gotta wear shades. You should wear shades, too. And grab Videodrones’ Nattens Hævn over at El Paraiso Records.

Spectral Electronica : The Ghostly Sounds of worriedaboutsatan

Somewhere over in Yorkshire, England you’ll find Gavin Miller and Thomas Ragsdale summoning electronic spirits in order to hypnotize you into a blissful state of musical euphoria. Miller and Ragsdale are the sole members of the electronic musical outfit known as worriedaboutsatan, and the sound they create is a mixture of ambient techno and atmospheric soundscapes. When I first heard them I instantly felt at ease. There’s a dramatic sweep in their music, and especially on their newest release, Blank Tape. It’s all very cinematic. Like, these guys seriously need to score something for Denis Villeneuve at some point. But besides that cinematic feel, worriedaboutsatan create moody soundscapes you can easily get lost in(with or without chemical help.) I was reminded of Boards of Canada, but there’s a lot going on.

Once I heard a few of their albums I knew I had to reach out and see if Gavin and Thomas would be up to the jhubner73 treatment. They were. We talked about fan forums, 70s string machines, harassing Spencer Hickman, and what “spectral eletronica” is. Enjoy.

J. Hubner: So tell me the story of worriedaboutsatan. How did you guys get together?

Tom:  We were both in a band called Johnny Poindexter around 2002-2003, which was kind of a post-rock/big riff/Tool/Sigur Ros kind of band! We were into extremely loud soundscapes and that kind of thing. It was Gavin’s band and they needed another guitarist, so I gladly accepted the challenge of an audition. We played a few gigs, but ultimately due to ‘drummer issues’ the band broke up (like most bands with drummers do!) and we ended up a duo making electronica.

J. Hubner: How did you end up with the name worriedaboutsatan? I like it. The whole “satanic panic” thing is a hobby of mine.

Gavin: Ah, this one! It was basically me trying to show off on an internet forum in the mid 00s. I was a massive fan of the Belgian band dEUS, and when I joined their forum I decided to be really pretentious and thought I needed a name that screamed ‘I know more about this band than you’, so raided my CD collection of theirs and found a really obscure b-side from 1996 or so called ‘Worried About Satan’. So just put it all as one word and called myself that. The forum were working on a covers CD at one point, and so I decided to submit a cover of one of their songs, and just kept on recording stuff, and the name stuck!

J. Hubner: If you had to narrow the list of bands and artists that had the biggest impact on your sound to just three, what would that list look like?

Tom: Tough one! I’d have to say Underworld, Boards Of Canada and Trentemoller. We stole quite a lot from these guys in the early stages of the band, and they taught us how to be a band in an electronic way.

J. Hubner: For the uninitiated, what is “spectral electronica”? 

Gavin: Ha! Ah, that was initially a nice sounding phrase to use on our biog, but I guess it evokes the ghostly kind of atmospheres we like, and the eerie sounds we tend to use a lot.

J. Hubner: Are you horror/sci fi fans as well? Does cinema help mold the sound and aesthetic of the band?

Gavin: Yeah, we certainly watch our fair share of horror and sci-fi, and our sound is fairly cinematic I guess too. We also tend to take a fair bit of inspiration from Philip K Dick books and stuff like that – I think we’re basically big geeks and love anything a bit weird!

J. Hubner: What’s one of the most influential films for you guys? And why?

Tom: ‘The Thing’ would be no. 1 for us in that respect. We love building tension and a minimal approach to writing to music, which is the highpoint of the film’s score. We seem to pick up on the creepy side of films and soundtracks, and this one’s been with us for a long time.

J. Hubner: Listening to your newest album ‘Blank Tape’, there’s both an atmospheric quality and a heavy dance vibe. What is the writing process like for worriedaboutsatan? Do you have a practice space where you can hash things out, or is it more of a file sharing thing?

Gavin: We kind of work both ways really – sometimes one of us will have a little idea that we’ll flesh out when we get together in the studio, or sometimes we’ll just get together and have a bit of a jam and see where it takes us – I suppose it keeps things pretty interesting when putting stuff together!

J. Hubner: Do you guys use much in the way of analog gear? If so, what are some of your go-to instruments?

Tom: Yes, we’re big fans. We like to use a lot of instruments in our music. Our go to instruments are definitely guitar and piano. Most people who hear our music probably don’t hear these instruments, but most of the textures we make are from loops drenched in reverb that we’ve played in live. We also have a decent collection of vintage kit from 70s string machines to Russian guitar pedals.

J. Hubner: Do you guys self-produce? Do you have your own studio where you can record?

Gavin: We do! it’s just easier (and cheaper!) for us to work like that. Tom has the main studio, and I have a little setup at mine too, but that’s mainly for little ideas or sketches.

J. Hubner: There seems to be an almost ambient vibe throughout your full-lengths and EPs. From Arrivals to Even Temper to Blank Tape there’s been this spatial feel throughout. How do you guys see your sound changing and evolving from 10 years ago to now? How has the creative process changed for you?

Tom: I think it’s mostly due to what we’re into musically and what we’re listening to. We take a lot of inspiration from our music collections and this obviously changes through the years! I think our style changes, but our ‘vibe’ definitely stays the same! There’s always an underlying element that instantly recognisable as ‘worriedaboutsatan’, whether that’s certain sounds or how the music is put together. We used to be quite focused on making ‘dance music’, but since we’ve mellowed out in our 30s we’re more interested in writing music you can light a blunt to.

Photo by Magda Wrzeszcz

J. Hubner: Can you tell me about your upcoming release with Death Waltz Originals? How did you get hooked up with Spencer Hickman? 

Tom: Basically, I’ve been harassing Spencer for about 4 years! I did a film score a while ago and sent it to him for a listen and he seemed to quite like it, so I kept sending him bits and pieces. Over the course of a few years we talked a little bit and eventually met up. We had some tracks finished with no home and I dropped them his way for a listen!

J. Hubner: Besides the EP, what else is in store for worriedaboutsatan?

Gavin: As always, it’s as much touring as possible, and as much recording as possible too. We never really sit still for more than 5 seconds, so we’re always working on something. We also run a little label called This Is It Forever, where we realise small runs of solo stuff alongside the satan stuff, and this keeps us pretty busy as well.

Okay, now that you’re done reading go over to worriedaboutsatan’s Bandcamp page and listen to their impressive body of work. And be on the lookout for their release with the excellent Death Waltz Originals. If you like their Facebook page you might get that info sooner rather than later.

Table Scraps Unleash “My Obsession”, 7″ Split w/Black Mekon

Way back in the year 2015 the Birmingham garage/psych wizards Table Scraps dropped their excellent masterpiece More Time For Strangers. It was a blitzkrieg of guitar squall, hyperactive drumming, and banshee howls that could resurrect the dead and make those zombified ghouls bang their heads and pump their skeletal fists. It was a raucous example of how rock and roll can still be fun and a little dangerous.

Well lo and behold our Table Scraps have returned, hungrier and gnarlier than ever with one of their best songs yet. “My Obsession” is a dark and doomy jangle that sounds like a cross between Alice Cooper, The Misfits, and The Kills on a bourbon bender. Their sound is more precise and deadly this time around. The vocal swirl of Scott Vincent Abbot and Poppy Twist is spot-on, bringing to mind New York City’s White Hills and in spirit X. Seriously folks, this thing rocks. Just listen:

The track is being released on a 7″ split with Black Mekon as part of a 7″ series Black Mekon is releasing with various artists. According to the band’s Bandcamp page:

The 45 Consortium is a series of split 7” releases, founded by Black Mekon, and sees Table Scraps join an esteemed lineup of worldwide garage heavyweights (previous participants include White Mystery, Bob Log III and King Brothers)

Includes digital pre-order of My Obsession (Split 7″ w/ Black Mekon). The moment the album is released you’ll get unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus a high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

If you get moving you can order the limited edition 7″ via the band’s Bandcamp page and see that cover in glorious 3D. And yes, you get 3D glasses. Hurry. There’s only 9 copies left. Get to it!

Hit up the Bandcamp page for all the details. Until then, play this LOUD!!!

Nasty Boyz : The Late Night Sounds Of Video Nasties

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.

Fabio Frizzi, Goblin, Ennio Morricone, and Asia Argento. I’m good with all of those. And I’m good with the Nasty Boyz, B. Nasty and C. Nasty. Master curators of the strange. Kings of weirdo rock and keeping Maine weird since 2003.

“A snapshot of where we were”: C. Ray Harvey Takes Us To Omaha, Alaska

photo by Adam Meyer

I think the purpose of being a great artist is to both create the art and evolve it as well. If you’re lucky, the artist evolves in the process. You want to keep moving forward in the creative process. You never want to devolve. In that process of evolving one needs to be able to process and create from the good and bad that happens in ones life. Process the everyday and make something of it. Hopefully it’s something others can relate to and say “Hey, I get that. I feel that way too.” If you can connect with others through your happiness or sadness or anger or despair, then great. But ultimately art is for the creator. It’s a process by which the artist works out some s**t of his or her own. You take hits and misses, the loves found and lost, and the triumphs and tragedies of your life and put them through this existential meat grinder and hope something digestible comes out the other end. The ultimate goal is to figure it out on a personal level, then you can move on to the next crisis of the moment.

C. Ray Harvey has been making music in the Fort for years. I saw him play for the first time when he was fronting Wooden Satellites on Record Store Day way back in 2010.  He fronted that band like a guy who’d been performing a lifetime(at that time he was probably only in his early 20s.) From Wooden Satellites he joined the ranks of Heaven’s Gateway Drugs and made two albums with those freaky Fort Wayne staples before bidding Fort Wayne a fond adieu and moved to Nashville for a year for work.

C. Ray has returned to Fort Wayne and to music with the band Omaha, Alaska. It’s a fictitious place with very real emotions and existential dilemmas. On the band’s debut Harvey is indeed working out some s**t, but also working on his songwriting skills and crafting some catchy pop songs. I talked to C. Ray about the band, the album, and where he goes from here.

J. Hubner: So tell me about Omaha, Alaska. How long has this been a project of yours?

C. Ray Harvey: Omaha, Alaska is just a container for songs I’ve written. After leaving Heaven’s Gateway Drugs in 2014 and living in Nashville for a year, then moving back to Fort Wayne, I decided to come up with a name and gather some of the bits and pieces of songs I’d been writing and give it a name. I threw post-it notes up around my office for how I thought the songs should sound, and what the first record should be like, what the first show would sound like, all before I had band members or had decided on the instrument make-up. Some of the songs were mostly written already, one or two even dating back to days in a band I used to lead called Wooden Satellites, but they didn’t sound quite like they do now.

J. Hubner: Stylistically it’s nothing like HGD, but you seem to be a songwriter that has many a muse to follow. Can you tell me which artists influenced the more intimate, sparse sound?

C. Ray Harvey: The vision for Heaven’s Gateway Drugs was primarily Derek Mauger’s vision. We all added to it, but he was the source. The parts I composed, the production I did for HGD, all of it was meant to catch a specific vibe. Everything I wrote for that, even the lines that were very personal, were crafted to fit that vision the best that I could. Start with an aesthetic, write to match it. Omaha, Alaska starts with more personal songs, and then I add an aesthetic to try and tie them together, cutting songs that aren’t fitting the aesthetic after the fact. In HGD, we had this massive playlist of psychedelic music from the past 50 years and we were pulling from that to craft songs. I’m less about the sound I’m going for in Omaha, Alaska and more focused on songcraft, so from an influence standpoint I’ve listened to a lot of classic songwriters and focused on what it is about their distinct personalities that makes their songs stand out, even as they transition styles or dynamics or crossover genres.

J. Hubner: Which artists influenced the more intimate, sparse sound?

C. Ray Harvey:  I could name names, but they’d be the hallmarks of “great songwriters” that you see in every list. Instead I’ll call out Jason Molina, David Bazan, Damien Jurado, J Tillman, Timothy Showalter and Conor Oberst as my kindreds, although I’d only make them look better if we stood in a family portrait together.

J. Hubner: I have to admit that I did look to see if there was an Omaha, Alaska and I alas didn’t find one. So this is a “place” of your own making. Sort of a metaphorical destination where one feels as lonely as they ever have. Can you tell a little about the concept of Omaha, Alaska? 

C. Ray Harvey: When I looked at fragments of songs I had at the end of 2015 and thought about my move back to Fort Wayne, I started to imagine a place where that music came from and I named it Omaha, Alaska. It’s a place with pride in small accomplishment, real or imagined, and just about as remote a place as you’ll ever find. At one point I had an idea for creating a fake city government page with an active message board of characters that I would write for, but decided that might severely hamper the productivity of the actual songwriting.

J. Hubner: The songs themselves feel as fragile as the fragile state that Omaha Alaska represents. Despite the emotional state these songs possess though, musically it’s downright catchy. Beautifully ornamented, yet sparse piano-driven tracks. What was the songwriting process like?

C. Ray Harvey: The songs in Omaha, Alaska are usually penned by me on guitar or piano without a lot of attention to musical flourishes. As opposed to the group writing that some bands do, jamming until they get a groove going, then arranging that into parts, and then writing lyrics to fit the vibe… I usually just sit down with a melody and the start of a lyric and then work out the harmony and try to pen it in one sitting. Then I go back and try to add the flourishes, which are fairly few in my songwriting. Given that I do this outside of practice with a band, it usually just happens a handful of times a year. It used to come faster with some bands, where I could write an album of music in a day. It used to be a bit more utilitarian, like in Heaven’t Gateway Drugs, where I had lines to color in and had immediate feedback on whether I was in the lines. Nowadays it’s a slow, pondering process of capturing those one-liners in my phone and then waiting for a day that I feel like or can practically sit down for a few hours and work out a song.

J. Hubner: Are these songs autobiographical or more just storytelling? Maybe a bit  of both?

C. Ray Harvey: Some of it, like “Read at 10:00 PM” is directly autobiographical. Others are embellished. I guess it all comes from in me, but a lot of it is congealed experience that I piece together from the lives of friends and add my own interpretation of how they feel, or merge it with my own similar experience. Given that in the 18 months before I formed the band, I left a previous band, lost a lot of friendships, went through a divorce, and lived in a new place where I felt very isolated for a year… I think a lot of that comes through in the music.

J. Hubner: Can you tell me about the recording process? Where was the album recorded? Who else is in Omaha Alaska that helped play a part in the creative process? You took a large role in the back end(engineering, mixing, mastering.) Do you like that aspect of creating as well as just the tortured artist aspect? 

C. Ray Harvey: The album was recorded on my PC in our practice space and in my garage. Our guitar player, Andy Plank, lent a few mics to the process, and everyone played the parts we recorded. Then I embellished, mixed, and mastered on my computer. Honestly, recording and arranging during the recording process is as much, if not more fun for me than performing live. I love having artifacts of creativity, and I love composing and layering sounds. I had to hold back in a major way not to get overly polished in fixing performances and severely limited myself in what I added to the songs after recording the “live” instruments. It was a new challenge. I’m happy that it’s a snapshot of where we were, even if I furrow my brow to think of all that could’ve been added.

J. Hubner:  You’ve taken Omaha Alaska out and played some shows. How has the feedback been to the new songs and project? Do you have any shows booked in the immediate future?

C. Ray Harvey: We performed our first show as a three piece in February, 2016, with no microphones. That was my design. I wanted the music to be so quiet, drumsalbum-cover-1500x1500-300dpi included, that I could sing over it and people in the bar would have to shut up and get close to hear it. I’m not interested in performing as the background music for somebody’s blackout; I wanted to perform something that people could choose to engage with fully or not at all. And that made people really uncomfortable. Since then, we’ve added another member, we play at normal volume, and we mesh a bit better with other acts on a bill, but I still try to get the venue dead silent at least once in a set. I’m not sure how that will change in 2017, or what the instrument makeup of the new songs I’m writing will be, but I think I’ll back down from the performance art aspect a bit and maybe start trying to have a good time on stage again. We are playing with Ryley Walker in February.

J. Hubner: I know you became a father in 2016. How do you like being a dad?

C. Ray Harvey: I like being a dad. I think it connects me to the human experience in a way I didn’t realize it could. That said, I don’t believe any role, even one so intrinsic or familial should be the limiting factor in one’s identity. That’s a complicated way of saying, I don’t see myself as a dad, or a songwriter, or a business analyst (my job)… I’m working to see myself as just C. Ray, a guy that enjoys doing those things.

J. Hubner: So what’s in store for Omaha Alaska in 2017. Is it still a lonely place? 

C. Ray Harvey: I’m done writing songs that focus on loss and loneliness without resolution. Those will always be touch points in my music, but I’m more interested in a narrative that builds up solidarity for the human experience. I’ve always admired Will Oldham for having a somewhat playful, acknowledging, and almost uplifting perspective on humanity. Suffering with a twist of smile in the corner of its lip. I want to create that feeling, a sort of grinning commiseration rather than the gloomy, self-focused exposure art that I could accuse myself of in the past. 

Keep up with Omaha, Alaska at and at The debut album can be streamed over at Apple Music, Tidal Music, and Spotify. So you have no excuses. Put that album in your ears.