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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Interview - Locrian's André Foisy

If you're into underground experimental music, it's pretty likely that you've encountered Chicago's own Locrian. The trio has been pushing boundries for extreme music since their inception back in 2005 mixing drone, noise, ambient, krautrock, black and doom metal, and other genres into their own unique sound.

Ian: I know a lot of people ask the "how did your band form" question, so I'd like to ask what the starting point was when Locrian first started? Was the main intent to always do something as varied and non-genre specific when you started or was it stemmed from a more black metal, drone, noise realm?

André: Locrian really didn’t have a conscious intent when we started in late 2005. I wanted to experiment and push my playing to different places. I’ve succeeded. We have lots of interests in different styles of music. We’ve never tried to fit into any scenes. The way you describe our music makes me think that Locrian might be a prog rock band or something.

Ian: You guys release a lot of limited tapes, CDs, and vinyl, what do you see as the line between these more limited pressing albums and your full-lengths that are made, at least to my knowledge, more readily available?

André: Limited releases are a lot more personal. I think that they make the listener less alienated from the artist and I like that.
Our full-lengths are all albums that we intended to be more widely distributed.
Our intent on each release can be different though. The medium is part of the message. They are meant to be individually interpreted and felt.

Ian: Since Steven Hess joined the band, how do you think the dynamic in the band has changed? What do you think the biggest contribution he's made to the band so far has been?

André: Drummers have a tendency to play too directly. We’ve never intended our stuff, our music, lyrics, or artwork, to be straight forward. Steven’s a really unique drummer who gets what we do and helps us to do new things.

Ian: When you go into record a record, how prepared do you go into it? Do you usually go in with ideas and sort of work them out in the studio, are songs fully fleshed out, or do you often improvise off of a couple of ideas? How much does a concept for an album or song play into how it's arranged, if at all?

André: It’s always different. When we recorded “The Clearing” we had one song prepared for the session that made it onto the album and we had some ideas that we went for in the studio. We were prepared, but just not the same way that a band that has a bunch of songs that they try to play the same way every time would be prepared in the studio.
On each of our full-length studio albums, we’ve tried to make each one a distinct statement, but there are ties between them. For instance, we took the theme of Coprolite on “The Clearing” from the concluding melody of Obsidian Facades from our last album. There are little themes throughout out our releases that pop up in different ways on other releases.
So we typically go into the studio with a lot of ideas and not necessarily “songs.”
Ian: What was it about the Popol Vuh track, Dort Ist Der Weg, that made you want to cover it?

André: We are Popul Vuh fans and the “Letzte Tage – Letzte Nacht” album is one of the less well known ones. It’s also more rock oriented album which stands out in their catalog. Bruce at Flingco Sound System asked us to do a release for him so we decided that doing a Popul Vuh cover might be an interesting challenge for us.

Ian: For "The Clearing", what made you decide to work with Brian Ulrich?

André: Brian’s work has really inspired us. We’ve wanted to use one of his images for a long time so we finally contacted him and got his permission. Dead malls have been a theme on our releases, a theme that we strayed from in the aesthetic for the last album. Brian’s photos of dead malls and his dark stores series of photos really capture this feeling of alienation that’s rampant in our world. The themes in his work dovetail really nicely with the themes in our material.
Ian: You've said in the past the literature has been highly influential on your creative process, with JG Ballard's novel The Crystal Worlds obviously being a point of inspiration for your last album, were there any books that provided a similar source of inspiration for The Clearing?

André: I would defer any questions about the lyrics to Terence. Personally, I think that there’s a catalog of dystopian literature and films that have been really inspiring. Dystopian literature often embodies prevailing cultural fears, like the fear of nuclear fall-out, Cold War fears. To me, this album fits into that catalog. We’re releasing this album in the context of an environmental crisis. The planet is heating up! The world’s population is about to hit seven billion, or already has, and it’s increasing rapidly, but our patterns of consumption aren’t. There’s no simple answer to that problem, but I hope that listeners might contemplate such problems when they listen to our work.

Ian: For me personally, I found "The Clearing" to have some of your most uplifting, or brighter, sounding moments. How do you view "The Clearing" in relation to your past full-lengths? Would you say it was the logical next step after “The Crystal World”?

André: Yes, it could be the next logical step after our last album. We recorded some of this at the same time that we were working on “The Crystal World.” It was a really productive few months for us.
We really wanted “The Clearing” to be a very concise statement, on one LP. It’s really meant to be experienced on record with a side A and side B. On “The Crystal World” we started playing with these acoustic and heavy electronics kind of aesthetics and we continued that approach on this album. Augury in an Evaporating Tower is the only track on the album that doesn’t have some acoustic instrument. We took a very different approach to recording “The Clearing” than we did on our last album.

Ian: To me, and I mean this as a compliment, I can often hear Locrian as almost music to film. For myself, when I listen to certain pieces, like the title-track off the new one, The Clearing, or a song like Epicedium or Obsidian Facades, I could definitely picture films in the liking of David Lynch or stuff that David Cronenberg did in the 80s and 90s to accompany your soundscapes. Has film or film music influenced your approach to writing any of the music in Locrian or are there any film scores/composers that have influenced you?

André: Yes, we’ve been influenced by film composers, e.g., Popul Vuh, but I don’t think they’ve influenced our sound any more than music that’s very difference from typical music in films. I think we sound the way we do because we want to elicit some sort of feeling. Film soundtracks are there in order to help to capture your mood and perhaps that’s what our music does as well.

Ian: Locrian's music and artwork, more often than not, bring landscapes and portraits of vast portraits of the world, whether it be through nature or dismantled civilizations/broken cities. First of all, how much does the artwork of an album effect the overall listening experience for yourself? How much of a role does it have in Locrian? How much of an influence does your environment, the world around you in terms of nature and cities, impact how you write and perform?

André: An album is an artistic statement and the artwork is part of that statement. Why put your album in physical format if you can’t add to the audio statement with artwork.
Our environment influences my writing and performing a lot. If anything, it influences how I feel. We live in serious times and we’re in an environmental crisis. I love living in Chicago, a big part of me also hates the city. It’s great that I’m around a lot of great musicians, but on the other hand, Chicago has very little unspoiled nature around it. Illinois was once covered in prairie, but now there’s very little prairie left. The prairie that’s present in the city was put there by man, which means that it lacks the biodiversity of the native prairie. The nature around Chicago is manicured like a Victorian garden. The suburbs go on seemingly forever and once you get out of the suburbs you get into corn country, which isn’t the kind of corn that’s typically fed to humans, but to animals.

Ian: Since you run Land of Decay records, could you tell us about some of your past and upcoming releases? What do you look for in bands/artists in order for you to want to release them?

André: We started out the label to release some of our more private Locrian releases, e.g., a VHS tape and some and some loop tapes. We’re currently becoming more active with the label. I think the first release we did for someone else was a reissue of a very limited Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words cassette which we heard and loved. We later did tapes for Neil Jendon, Velnias, Ash Borer, and some others. We are keeping our tapes limited. We have a bunch of great releases coming up for artists like Number None, Wraiths, Detrivore, Servile Sect, and some others. We’re busy! We look for artist that we like and that are interested in a one-time edition. We’ll be doing limited edition vinyl soon.

You've collaborated with some really interesting, and very good bands/artists, how does your approach to writing differ when you're collaborating with others instead of when it's just the three of you in Locrian?

André: Yes, we’ve been able to collaborate with some great people. Unfortunately, whenever we record by ourselves or with others, we’re doing it quickly! We have very busy lives and it’s difficult for us to get together at all. Working with limited time has some perks, it also means that we can’t overthink things. We wrote and recorded the Locrian & Mamiffer album that we recently finished entirely in the studio. It meant that we tried out a lot of things on the spot; some of the things worked well and some ideas worked less well. It’s a very similar approach that we’d take to working on album that was just the three of us.

Ian: Do you think the collaborative work you did with other artists on Territories have an impact on how Locrian has developed since that/those recording(s)?
André: Oh yeah, I think we learned a lot from those musicians. One thing that we learned from that album was probably how to work on the spur of the moment. We had very few things written before we recorded “Territories.” We put those ideas together in about two-three days. There was absolutely no chance for us to overthink what we did on that album. I like how that contributed to the raw sound on that one. The ability to work intuitively and with little resources has been essential to everything that we’ve done.

Ian: What can fans expect from the upcoming collaboration with Mamiffer?

André: I think people can expect another record that a unique stand-alone statement. It’s a really strong record and I’m really happy with how it came out. We were able to record with more resources than are typically allotted to us which helped us out immensely. We got a great recording and there are many great layers. I think it’s the type of album that you can listen to repeatedly and always notice new things. One thing that we did was to create a juxtaposition between heavy electronic instruments and acoustics instruments. Like most of our albums, it’s very dynamic.

Ian: There's was a mention of maybe doing a collaborative release with Velnias, has there been any fruition of that? Is it something that could still happen down the road?

André: A collaboration with Velnias would be great in my opinion, but we don’t have any plans or resources for that at the moment. Terence lives in another city now so we haven’t played together since we recorded our album with Mamiffer over the summer.
Ian: I know you play a pretty wide array of instruments, does Locrian allow you to make use of most, if not all, of them? When you're playing live I assume you're making use of an electric guitar almost exclusively correct?

André: We don’t really put any limits on what we can bring to the table for Locrian. Lately, I’ve been playing electric guitar exclusively live. I like to bring new textures to the table for our music. For instance, the first track on the Locrian & Mamiffer album, I finger pick an acoustic guitar for the theme of the song. That’s the first time that I’ve used that technique for Locrian and I think it adds a new texture for us. On Coprolite on “The Clearing,” I play my guitar through a rotating Leslie speaker, which adds this great unique texture to the track. There’s no way that I would ever be able to use that speaker live since it’s so big and heavy.

Ian: I've only heard a couple of your solo releases, but I'm curious how the split with High Aura'd came about? Do you have any plans for other releases under your name?

André: John (High Aura’d) and I had been in contact a while before that. He heard some of my other solo releases and liked them and asked me if I wanted to do a split for Stunned Records. I think it came our nicely. At the moment, I don’t have any plans for solo releases though I do have some projects that I’m working on with some other people. The next solo release that I do will be a bigger statement, an album. I’m not sure when that will be though.

Ian: What's on the horizon for Locrian? I know that Terrance is moving so are you guys gonna go on a hiatus for a while?

André: We are currently finishing up another collaborative LP with Christoph Heemann for Handmade Birds. I expect that we’ll finish that in early 2012. Terence now lives in Baltimore. We won’t be able to play again until later in 2012. We don’t have any plans after we finish this collaborative LP.

Ian: Well, I think that's about it, thanks for the interview. The last words are yours.

André: Thanks so much for the great questions!
Locrian are obviously great and I have yet to find a release (of the one's that I've heard) that I don't think is absolutely amazing. Definitely check them out if you haven't already, if you like, or claim to like, experimental music, these guys should be at the top of your list.


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