Some questions for Ray Creature!

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Ray Creature is a band that I thoroughly admire since hearing their first release “Don’t Stop Talking EP” which was recently put out on NO! Record Label. Both of them are Americans and I first thought they were a band, but they’re actually a duo. This duo is compromised of Jon Erich Booth and Natascha Buehnerkemper, having been Jon’s solo-project at first it transformed into a duo. Which is both surprising, since most of their sound is so underrated and explicitly great that I actually wouldn’t have thought that it would’ve not been a band, but hey, here they are. Right after their first release they actually had another one which is getting put out by Sister Cylinder, a full-length S/T debut album. I wanted to clear out some things that I wanted to have answered, so I put out a series of questions which they answered. JEB stands for Jon Erich Booth and NB stands for Natascha Buehnerkemper. Enjoy it. You might also enjoy the freely downloadable track “White Suits” – taken from their S/T debut.

It’s interesting to note that you’re a duo. I would’ve expected it to be a whole band, considering the variety in your sound. Why are you a duo and not a whole band?

JEB: – That’s an effect of layering instrumentation. We take ideas from No Wave and other minimal aesthetics, but our music is in no way minimal. If a song calls for more instrumentation, we add it. Natascha and I have similar ideas about music, and we’ve found ways to reproduce the songs live, so adding more musicians seems unnecessary at this point. Anyway, it’s hard to find people who won’t dilute ideas with compromises or conflicting theories about how the music should work.

NB: – Ray Creature actually started out as Jon’s solo project, and I joined in August of last year. My addition brought along with it the possibility to add even more dimension, both live and recorded. When we play live, there’s so much going on in the backing tracks, having just two of us brings a minimal element to the live shows that is counter to the complexity of the music, which I think makes it more exciting. On another note, being a duo as opposed to a whole band gives us a lot more flexibility regarding touring and shows. Less scheduling bullshit to deal with.

You started out with three demo-tracks and later on you were picked up by NO! Record Label, or how did it go by? What went into recording “Don’t Stop Talking”?

JEB: – When we played a show with Dry Socket, Dylan Ettinger couldn’t make it so Joseph McGlone, the founder of NO!, filled in on synth. After the show he expressed interest in putting out a cassette tape. We had already been producing the self-titled LP with Scott Ferguson of Sister Cylinder Records, so we took an extended version of the opening track, “Don’t Stop Talking,” and three other tracks that didn’t make it on the record and packaged them together as the “Don’t Stop Talking” EP.

“Don’t Stop Talking” is our modest attempt at an austere funk track. Like most of our songs it started with drum machine and bass. The interplay of the guitar, my and Natascha’s vocals, and the lead synth followed from an attempt to keep an unvarying bass line interesting over the course of several minutes.

NB: – I view the “Don’t Stop Talking” EP as a companion release to our LP. It seems that it might be confusing to have two separate releases coming out at the same time on different formats, but in my mind the cassette release was perfectly timed. Even though some of the songs didn’t make it onto the LP, I think they’re really great, and they fit well with the LP aesthetically. It’s possible that we could end up going in a slightly different direction with our future releases, so it’s exciting that all the songs from this songwriting phase were able to make it onto some physical format at once.

Why did you decide to go with such a varied sound, was it the result of experimentation during a long period?

JEB: – I try not to over-determine the music with genre requirements or restrictions. Each song points in its own direction and writes itself to some degree. That’s to say, a set of elements in a song will suggest further styles of instrumentation, which lead to unexpected sounds and song structures. This can create weird stylistic juxtapositions, but it also sets up dramatic transitions within songs, which I think is one of our strengths. For better or worse, that’s the only way I’ve been successful at songwriting while keeping myself interested. There are enough people writing minimal, genre consistent electronic music —I don’t see myself contributing much of interest to that.

NB: – It actually opens us up to being flexible for different shows. Depending on the bands with which we’re playing, we might decide to play our more poppy, dancy tunes. Or we might decide that it’s more appropriate to go a more abrasive, dark route. Since our songs tend to go in a few different directions, it really opens us up to being able to play with lots of different types of bands.

You’re going to have a self-titled debut album out in June with another label called Sister Cylinder. I also noted that you’ve gotten mastering help from Mahern Audio. Have you been mastering your releases on your own before this, or what? How did it feel to have your debut mastered there?

JEB: – I recorded the self-titled LP and recorded and mastered the “Don’t Stop Talking” EP, but I’m an amateur engineer and a dilettante mastering engineer. Since I’m untrained I end up trying too hard in that area. I was exhausted with recording by the time we had the LP mastered by Mahern. I felt relieved to have songs taken out of my hands and began trying desperately and unsuccessfully to forget about them forever. I’m proud of them, but I’ve grown to hate them in some ways. They’re like time-sucking kids I was ready to kick out of the house. Any opinion I have about them is by now irrelevant.

Since you’re going to play a lot of shows in the near future, what are your experiences when playing live? In what way are you stoked for your future performances?

JEB: – We now know the songs well enough to occasionally forget we’re playing them, which is ideal. I like presenting the music at shows, but from the perspective of live performance, the idea is to let the songs go and be inside them rather than exert control over them. We’re touring with Bad Psychic, another electronic act from Bloomington, which is a pleasure because the music is great and the style works with ours. So I’ve been looking forward to every show.

NB: – We’re writing to you right now from Nashville, TN on our third day of a two-week tour. I think this is true of most bands, but people get the best idea of what we’re like from our live performances. We play pretty loudly with a lot of speakers and the live, often repetitive drum parts add an element of intensity that I think people find entertaining, even if they may not be digging what we’re actually playing. It’s always hugely rewarding to see people in the crowd looking pumped about what we’re doing, and it’s a huge payoff for all the hard work we put into this.

It’s nice to be having a freely downloadable track from you. Could you tell me something about it and also what’s in store for you in the coming months?

JEB: – “White Suits” is what passes for another Ray Creature dance track. There was some debate over whether or not to include it on the LP because of its length and atmosphere, but I think it ultimately worked. I tend to think of it as an alternate approach to ideas we were trying to get at with “Don’t Stop Talking.”

In the coming months we hope to start recording our second LP. The plan is to write more relentlessly aggressive songs and incorporate more of Natascha’s vocals alongside my own. Beyond that, we hope it will inspire some confused sexual feelings in people who thought they weren’t confused to begin with—the noblest ambition of rock music.

Down below you can find the track “White Suits” which is freely downloadable as a part of this questionnaire. Hope you enjoy it and do listen to their sound from their own Bandcamp, too, as a complement. If you want to buy it, you should check out Sister Cylinder.

Some questions for JohnXMcClane!

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JohnXMcClane is a band that i stumbled upon on the (almost) legendary Vinod Karki-channel on YouTube. Needless to say, they play powerviolence, with a hint of hardcore thrown in. One of the more surprising things is that they’re from England. Kent, to be more precise. Since I haven’t heard, or at least haven’t noticed bands in this genre from England at all, it’s a shocker. The band itself consists of Ryan Thompson (guitar), Josh Jordan (bass), Joe Stokes (drums) and Tom Boughton (vocals). They’ve just released their first EP, which contained eighth track of hardcore meets powerviolence, in a totally shredding hysteria. One thing that is noticeable, is their sound, which is a little bit unique. Like a special little snowflake. All kidding aside, they’ve got some originality, which goes along well with the traditional elements of powerviolence. Anyway, I got a hold of Tom Broughton, the vocalist of the band – and asked him a couple of questions about the band, powerviolence and much more. Like Spazz shouted in one of their songs; “Sluta!“, which means “Stop!“, but we’ll never stop!

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Some questions for Xiu!

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Xiu is the Russian-born Estonian, but now Milan-based minimal synth artist, whose real name is Oksana Rodinova. Whilst harkening to her dark landscapes and magnificent voice, it gives you a palette of emotions to experience. Hearing her luminescent voice clash within a dark sound-scape of minimalism, is probably one of the most enjoyable things to hear. Since she started her solo-project back in 2010, with the self-released “Dancing Voodoo“, she’s been gaining momentum. Appearing on the German visionary label aufnahme + wiedergabe in 2012, with the self-titled cassette “Xiu“, which sold out very fast. To her collaboration with the interesting act Cold Colors, and their joint release “Loneliness“, where she lent her voice to four unimaginably solid tracks, in 2013. A little bit earlier, she also released the cassette “Possessions” on the increasingly larger (Swedish) Beläten etiquette. Since she’s been interviewed by different outlets, I decided to ask her a bunch of new questions. Mostly about the coming release, but also what her music means to herself, rather than the audience. Therefore, this will be a short Q&A-like “interview”, if you’d like. Hope you enjoy it.

Right now, you’re occupied in making your own debut-album become a reality. You’re also busy filming your first music-video for that particular release. What label have you teamed up with and where does the story begin?

– I would keep the label name in the secret for now.

Since you’ve released a lot of different songs here and there, how does it feel to work with your first “real” release?

– I don’t feel any difference. I mean, its always my own produced songs, it’s just a next step that comes naturally after two EP tapes, different compilations and collaborations.

You’ve also got two demo-tracks which you put up on your own bandcamp. Are these coming to good use in your forthcoming release?

– Well, yes. These tracks will be released but not on the LP. it will be as bonus tracks + some others on forthcoming CD release. Russian label Other Voices Records will release my two tapes (s/t by aufnahme and Possesion by Belaten) and bonus tracks this fall.

Is this album going to be any different from your earlier material in any way? What kind of theme will it have?

– It will be a kind of different but in the same time it will always be an analogue sound. I keep using the same gear that I used before, including some new synths and effects. I can say that debut LP will be more mature and confident.

Your latest release was together with Cold Colors, which was a  collaboration between the two of you. How did it came to be and what could you say about the making of “Loneliness”?

– This might sound weird, but I’ve never met Fred (Cold Colors) in real life. All our collaboration have been “online” through chat on Facebook and Skype. I’m very happy about this work, I’m really in love with that what Fred is doing. Nobody before this have produced music especially for my voice, specifically for me.

What do you think about aufnahme + wiedergabe and Beläten? Since you’ve released stuff on both those labels, how did that came to be in the first place, since your first release “Dancing Voodoo”?

– I tenderly love both labels! I’m proud to be their artist and thankful, especially because I was taking my first steps into the musical “scene” and they’re helped me a lot. Working with them was very enjoyable.

There seems to be a lot of hype surrounding you, and have been since you began to be noticed, it seems. What kind of response have  you gotten through the years?

– Really? I haven’t noticed any hype. I started to produce music two years ago, and less than year ago my debut tape came out, so I don’t think it’s time to speak about any “hype”. Everything have been flowing smoothly.

You’re also going to be featured on a split together with Spatial Relation, which is coming out pretty soon. What can you tell us about this?

– It will be a new song I produced specifically for this release. It will be coming out in September on Peripheral Minimal Records, I’m very excited about it and can’t wait, really! It will be the first Xiu 7” vinyl release.

How would you describe your own music?

– Looking for harmony inside of yourself.

When it comes to the general aesthetics of your own albums, they seem to revolve around yourself. Is there any thought behind – and if there is – then why is that so?

– Do you mean the visual part? Well, that might be because my music is autobiographical. I don’t speak about global problems, politic things, social troubles. I don’t want to change or save a planet, I try to save and understand myself, in my own world. I’m interested in creating something beautiful, fragile, delicate, something about feelings, sensations, sensuality.

Alright, seems like the time’s up. What kind of artists/groups/bands would you recommend here in the end and when will your full-length be out?

– I highly recommend you to pay attention to the small new label based in Italy named Minimal Trend Records. They’re soon releasing their first album on vinyl, a compilation with only Milan-based contemporary electronic artists. So, stay tuned!

Also, the one-woman-project Froe Char going to release her 3rd album, she’s awesome. Again, an Italian project which is unfairly underrated is Spettro Family. They’re soon going to release a new  album. As well, records from Beläten and aufnahme + wiedergabe are always brilliant. Don’t miss out on new releases!

You can find Xiu over at Facebook, Soundcloud, Bandcamp and YouTube. Do also check out her music-video for the track “Possessions” from the Beläten-release. You can also play two demo-tracks from her bandcamp down below. Her much anticipated full-length album will be released in the beginning of 2014. Do also listen to her latest remix of TSTI’s track “Pull The Animal’s Teeth Out“.

Some questions for Michael Thiel from Weyrd Son Records!

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Michael Thiel is the son of the man that was Snowy Red, whose name was Marcel Thiel. With the first release coming out from his newly started label, Weyrd Son Records, which was a tribute to Snowy Red by a multitude of synth-artists – his label became a part of what might be a future legacy. This son of Belgium is the sole proprietor of the label, and he makes everything work. Since he shaped the idea for the label back in 2012, it started to become a real label when the compilation “_ever Alive – a tribute to Snowy Red” was released in May, 2013. Which had the catalog-number WyS-001. I’m all about this label, so I sent Michael some questions about it, hinting on future releases, the symbolic nature of the first compilation, the artists featured on his label – and much more. Tune in for another questionnaire, that is simply too great to be overlooked. At least if you ask me, but I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.

Your label is pretty new, since it’s only been around since the late December of 2012, from what I’ve noticed. The first release, the tribute to Snowy Red, seems to have been a huge success. What was it like in the process of starting your label?

– Indeed. I officially announced the creation of Weyrd Son Records around late December 2012. A full tribute album to Snowy Red already crossed into my mind a while ago, but it was in the morning of a day in April that I clearly stated; that from that day on, I would work seriously on that first release. I had a few band names in mind, but for some reason I thought it would be quite hard to find a record label that might be interested to release a records with so many “new bands”. I didn’t want anyone to impose any bands or artists I wouldn’t work with, so I immediately thought I would do everything by myself and create my own brand to have a full control of that project.

How hard was it to gather all these artists for this huge compilation?

– I would be lying to say it was a piece of cake doing this. The most difficult part was to be sure I would receive all the tracks on time, which didn’t happen. It takes a lot of energy to give everyone the same motivation that you have yourself. They were of course motivated, but as long as the project is not 100% theirs, you can’t really expect for them to be involved in it – as much as you are. I mean, from that morning of April 2012, I decided to dedicate the biggest part of my time to everything related to the compilation. All those great artists have their own life, their own music and duty, it’s a normal thing – that they would put me on hold for some days. Plus, I didn’t want to push them too much, because I wanted them to take the time they would need to do what they do, in the best of ways. I guess I was just too confident about the deadline. Now I know what it’s like, for the forthcoming releases.

I’m just guessing that you are the brother of Marcel Thiel, so it seems pretty obvious why a tribute to Snowy Red was the first release. Was this a symbolic act for you in honor of his memory?

– Micky Mike was my dad.

It’s true, I didn’t want anything else to come out first on the label. It was at first pretty symbolic, indeed. I had already experienced such a workload three years ago when I was in charge with the art direction of the 5 LP boxset of Snowy Red that got released on Onderstroom. I insisted to do the artwork, and write the text for the whole booklet, so what I did was to get in touch with everyone who was close to my dad and worked with him; photographers, musicians, make-up artists, film makers, sound engineers, friends, etc. I then started to interview them all and my whole work was based on what I’ve learned about him. It was my way to get closer to my dad and to his music, I guess. I was only 4 when the first Snowy Red record came out. Of course I knew all the records by heart already, but I needed to have another approach towards the music and the artist himself. I used to listen to the whole discography while working on the designs and texts. It was pretty inspiring and I did exactly the same thing this time, with the tribute album. Every time I discovered a new facet of Snowy Red, and even more now when other people are playing it.

You’ve got a lot of artists featured on your “roster”, which is pretty weird since the label is very new. Since you aim on giving them total artistic freedom, would that be why they’ve joined up with Weyrd Son Records?

– I can’t really speak for them, but it’s true that I to give the artists 100% control of what they work on for Weyrd Son Records. I really think giving everyone the space they need is the best way to get great things in return. I would never tell anyone “hey, you should sound more like this or that”, or: “that voice part should better be done this way instead”. Who am I to pretend that I know better than themselves, in what their true musical personality is?

Are you the only guy working with the label, and how much time does it consume from your everyday life?

– I’m officially the only person involved, as I’m the only one making the decisions in the end. But there are a few people around me like friends, my sister and my girlfriend, who are giving their opinion – or simply giving me advice. But there’s always one person that is constantly around that I speak a lot with. I would say that it helps me to understand what people are waiting for, what kind of things they would expect from a label. I don’t really buy everything he’s saying, but at least it’s really interesting to hear someone else’s point of view.

Since you’ve already revealed what you’re going to release on your label, both for me and Radio Campus, I was wondering if there’s something you’d like to cover about these releases that haven’t already been said?

– So far, I haven’t really been talking about the fifth release, which I know is some kind of event. It’s about a fresh new band out of the LA-scene. Their name is High-Functioning Flesh, consisting of the duo Susan Subtract (Branes), and Gregory Fronczak. They released a four-tracked tape four months ago and the whole synth-scene in LA went into a mini-blast. I immediately fell in love with them, and I’m counting them in amongst my future projects, which is truly my biggest pride.

Have there been any other labels that you’ve taken influence from, when you decided to start up your label?

– I guess that every single label that has a true and strong personality has or had an influence on me. They are most of the time pretty different, musically speaking, to what I tend to work on – but things like visual communication or artistic coherence are always good lessons to get influenced by. Sometimes I listen to every single artist or record that the label is showing to the world. My interest for a label is sometimes as strong as for music itself. To speak more about the ones that impacted me greatly, I would say that the following three, were those responsible of influencing me: Ideologic Organ (a sublabel of Mego), Sacred Bones Records and Sige. I truly love their artists, but I’d say that it’s pretty far from what I’m working with, musically. But I admire how coherent they are, and the quality of their products, design and inventiveness.

What kind of artists and bands have gotten in contact with you, besides those that are already confirmed?

– Actually, Marburg, the Polish band that is on the tribute to Snowy Red, have gotten in contact with me. There have been a few, mostly doing synth music, of course. But the one I got the biggest interest for was a band doing some true rock’n’roll music. It kinda reminded me of POP 1280, which I ‘m quite a big fan of. I hope I won’t sound like an asshole, but I don’t really like the exercise of being contacted by bands. The reason is that most of the time people aren’t really fitting my vision of what I want to work on. But if I like their stuff, I’m always ready to help.

As a celebratory gesture, you also released the mixtape “The Weyrd Dig Nasty” – celebrating the release of your label. Did it live up to your objective of the label?

– That mixtape was a way for me to put something out that was related to the label, with almost all the artists involved in the tribute, being featured on it. I wanted to give an overview of what Weyrd Son Records was all about, at least for the next few months of action.

When thinking about the label itself, how much response have you gotten from people since the start?

– I got lots of great response so far. Both from the artists I’m working with and people who have heard about Weyrd Son Records, that purchased the first release. Those great comments are making me thinking this was definitely the right move, and certainly the best thing I’ve ever started.

If you got to pick for yourself, what kind of artists or bands would you like to have on your label as a complement?

– Oh, wow. There are so many. There are awesome new bands that I really love, like BOAN, Ssleeperhold and Keluar..They’re all releasing their first record this year on great labels. But if I had to pick some names among confirmed artists, I would say Mushy, Lebanon Hanover and Scorpion Violente. Also, if we were to speak of other music that can’t be fitted into what kind of genres I deal with, I’d say that Chelsea Wolfe, who’s become my biggest musical crush since a decade ago. Or, if we move in the periphery, Eyvind Kang, if we’re going to speak of someone who blew my mind for the last two years.

Since your label is an independent one, are you going to expand in any direction or keep it smaller?

– I’m really not thinking about the possibility to expand. Plus, I think that it would be a mistake. I don’t want to loose a dimension that works, which makes me so happy right now. What I like here is that I have a privileged relationship with everyone, and with the bands. I also try to have a great contact with the customers by replying to every single request or remark. It takes time, but it gives me a really strong feeling to read that someone’s happy, from having a nice reply in the mail. I guess that only I will do for now. As long as I can do everything by myself, I will.

When you package things, they seem luxurious. Do you devote a lot of time to make it unique?

– I don’t think they’re so luxurious right now. But I guess what you could say is that I want them to be more and more luxurious. I’d like to make even more beautiful packages. But that takes so much time, because mostly I have to ship forty copies in a day.

The general aesthetics of Weyrd Son Records seem to be somewhat  industrially influenced, but also minimalistic. Where do you seek your inspiration for that?

– Graphic design is one of my biggest passions. I studied fine arts at school and I used to be really inspired by ancient Japanese art and paintings. Mostly because they use space and “visual silence” as a dialogue with forms and colors. The purity of a line, and of a shape is important to me, as they’re much like a signature. It’s also true that there’s something “industrial” about it, like the logo I created, and the colors I use. I want it to be something in between old fashioned and contemporary – but always classy.

Alright, it’s time to wrap up. What’s going to happen in the coming months?

– The next six months will be pretty busy, filled with lots of surprises. I just sent the artwork and mastering for the second release to the pressing plant, which is the Mushy/Meddicine split EP. It is a re-release on vinyl of the split tape that got released a year ago on Meddicine’s own label Sixsixsixties Records. Then there will be another reissue that will see the light of day around September. Which is the Linea Aspera 3-tracked EP. They released the amazing tape “II” right before they split up. It got sold out almost immediately and I was so pissed off that I missed it. The artwork of that one will be pretty special, but I won’t say too much about it now. The fourth release, that will actually have the catalog number WyS-003 is a three-EP boxset of White Horse. It’s the solo project of Ben Chisholm, who’s a full time member of Chelsea Wolfe’s band. He recently changed the name of White Horse into Revelator, but since he created all that music under the name of White Horse, we both agreed it was better to keep it under that name. This masterpiece in three volumes is titled “The Revenant Gospels”. Haunting and haunted.

I’ve know this music for two years now. I’ve been waiting for someone to release it, and for me to have the chance to hold a copy of it in my hands. But for some reasons that puzzles me, regarding the so outstanding quality of it, it never happened. But I’m ultimately happy that no-one did, because I’m so proud being part of this. And the fifth release will be a six-tracked EP from High-Functioning Flesh. The band that I was talking about earlier.

Listen to the tribute compilation for Snowy Red, that was released by Weyrd Son Records some time ago, down below.