Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On Horror - Andrew Nolan

A quick introduction: I'd been working on a print version of Destroyed Human on and off for the last year and a half, which has been through various permutations and still is nowhere finished, so over the coming weeks the content will be uploaded here. Long story short one of the initial ideas was to have friends involved in music write about their favourite horror films. Andrew Nolan was one of the first to reply, and wrote this piece, which hits several nails on the head for me too, as it will many of you reading this I'm sure. For those unfamiliar with him, Andrew is an old friend who has been involved in DIY music and culture for about two decades now, having played in the likes of Ebola, Joshua Norton Cabal, Shank, Slaughter Strike, Endless Blockade and most recently Column of Heaven and Pick Your Side to name but a few. I'd like to thank him again for both his patience and his contribution here, and point you towards his blog for further reading. - J

“There is always some limit which the individual accepts. He identifies this limit with himself. Horror seizes him at the thought that this limit may cease to be. But we are wrong to take this limit and the individual’s acceptance of it seriously. The limit is only there to be overreached. Fear and horror are not the real and final reaction; on the contrary, they are a temptation to overstep the bounds.” – Georges Battaille

I hate going to the cinema, luckily for me few films I’m genuinely interested in seeing make it to the big screen anyway. When I do venture out it’s always the same bullshit; the snickering during a rape scene, the self-conscious tittering that displays to the rest of the theatre patrons that said titterer really gets what’s going in this  high brow Spanish film, the text messaging idiot, the drunk guy with his weekly grocery shopping. The list of things that angry up Old Man Nolan’s blood is constantly expanding.

I’m actually not this angry in reality. In music and any time I write I deliberately put myself in this frame of mind because it generally gives me the creative push I need.

The art I seek out (visually and to a lesser extent aurally) generally displays what I would describe as an aesthetic of cruelty; an intentional disregard of the consumer. Some people like light romantic comedies, Harry Potter and Barry White; I tend to be drawn more towards gut wrenching misanthropic gore films, the art of  Suehiro Maruo, the literature of Dennis Cooper and Matthew Stokoe, and the music of Slogun, IRM, and Revenge. But I’m hardly unique; you’re probably cut from exactly the same cloth. 

One of my favourite films is Ruggero Deodata’s Cannibal Holocaust. I don’t particularly care for Umberto Lenzi’s similarly gory cannibal splatter films as none of them contain the meditations on the utter hopelessness of the human condition that drive Deodata’s masterpiece. 

The central conceit of Cannibal Holocaust is that by now time-worn cliché that civilised people actually aren’t that civilised after all (maybe some film and occult fascist scholar could draw the links between the misanthropic Traditionalism of Julius Evola and 1970s Italian Cannibal exploitation films?). If I were to be flippant or self deprecating I’d channel the spirit of Richard Matheson era Twilight Zone and announce “wait a minute; you mean we’re the monsters?” here.

About five years ago I jumped at the opportunity to see Cannibal Holocaust at The Bloor Cinema in Toronto as part of the monthly Rue Morgue Presents nights. Some people predictably left before the end, looking equally queasy and morally offended, some people laughed at certain key violent episodes of the film; neither of these things were particularly irritating on any important level.

And the part I’m taking my sweet time to get to is that on the way out I was behind two “My Dad Totally Owns a Dealership” dudes. Both were engaged in high five-ing each other and loudly announcing with mirthful disdain that the film wasn’t shocking, that the gore wasn’t a big deal and how funny and cheesy they found the whole thing. 

What I was witnessing first hand was the one-upmanship that permeates almost every aspect of our various mainstream and underground cultures. You can see this in monologues on how much alcohol someone drank/ drugs someone smoked/pills someone popped and how “totally fucking wasted” they got at one end of the spectrum, and how much harsher the harsh noise they listen to is, how much faster/slower/ louder their music of choice is or how fucking terrifyingly real-deal evil the black metal bands they favour are at the other end. Our grandparents bragged about how big the fish they caught were and our annoying former school friends we see on Facebook brag about many women they’ve pulled. And god bless someone inventing Facebook and capitalising on both Schadenfreude and nostalgia; modern life’s two biggest motivators.

As a side-note, to me the shocking aspects of Cannibal Holocaust are not the scenes of women being raped to death with stones, women impaled on spikes or a guy getting his eyeball pulled out. It isn’t even the scenes of gratuitous animal cruelty that pretty much make or break (well, more like break) most horror enthusiasts’ admiration for the film. No, what’s shocking is the above mentioned indictment on how depressingly fucked the human race is.

Two films that effectively throw down the gauntlet and laugh at other gore films puniness are Maskhead and Srpski Film. Maskhead isn’t bad I guess, while it’s nothing much to write home about as a whole its money shot scene is certainly an effective “now beat that!” in terms of envelope pushing ugliness.

Srpski Film is probably one of the crassest pieces of garbage I’ve had the misfortune of sitting through. I’d like to think I’m not dismissing it in the same way that Kappa Delta Phi at Cannibal Holocaust was but I can’t say I was shocked by it. Unfortunately the whole film had the feel of if a Hollywood studio optioned a screenplay about child rape and snuff films. Actually, make that, a Hollywood studio optioned a remake/ reimagining of Paul Schrader’s 1979 film Hardcore and demanded explicit gore, paedophilia and rape.

It’s essentially bland, artless crap with a cynical eye more on its potential place in history than any real sense of drive to it. Martyrs was clearly (I’d like to think so anyway) Pascal Laugier’s angry at the world film, Srpski Film doesn’t give me any of that; oh wait it’s a metaphor for all the terrible things that have happened in Serbia in the directors life time. Sure it is.

To me the bottom line is that with Srpski Film Srdjan Spasojevic has created a film that will be used largely in terms of “you think Murder Set Pieces was brutal? Check this out (Brah)!” Of course Murder Set Pieces was mostly brutal for reasons Nick Palumbo wasn’t aiming for (i.e. bar Toe Tag’s effects and Zombi’s score it’s a load of old shit).

And speaking of Toe Tag (and Maskhead earlier) I’d actually intended to write about August Underground; a series of films that will unfortunately be forever used in revolving “hey, if you think that’s sick then check this shit out” conversations the world over.

Not all art is supposed to be entertainment; that doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining on some level, but its reason for existing is not necessarily just to be pretty and give the consumer some kind of spiritual happy boner when experiencing it.

The Viennese Actionists were not entertainment, the art of Austin Osman Spare was not entertainment, and Samuel Beckett’s writings were not entertainment. And guess where this is going, yes, that’s right; the August Underground trilogy is not entertainment either.

And like I said a paragraph ago, just because it’s not entertainment, doesn’t mean it can’t still be entertaining (for example, I will never get bored of tales of stupid people causing themselves great personal injury by acting like idiots).

In the same way that you can meet countless dimwits that will exclaim that they thought Cannibal Holocaust was totally tame (dude) you can meet their kissing cousin, the guy that thinks Peter Sotos is "hella awesome” and August Underground is “TOTALLY SICK!”

These people suffer from the same lack of ability and desire to process information that the kind of people that wanted to ban A Life of Brian suffered from. If your only reaction to difficult to process stimulus is “AWESOME!” then it’s quite possibly more disingenuous than rejecting it outright. It's called a knee jerk reaction and it cuts both ways.

August Underground is a disjointed narrative with amateurish visuals, poor pacing and it doesn’t really live up to repeated viewings, but it’s one of the best films about murder that I’m aware of. To my mind it’s as important a dissertation on violence as Hitchcock’s greatest film (to me) Rope is, for totally different reasons on every single level, but that doesn’t change anything; it’s one of the ‘best’ films about murder and violence out there.

Everyone undergoes short flashes of illumination throughout their lives, they receive these sudden flashes of wisdom that either give their lives a little more sense, or they see precisely why something makes no sense despite being accepted as valid by everyone else.  

In 1992 I had one of those brief moments when the film Stop or My Mom Will Shoot was released. Here was a film that's central premise was the apparent humour of a fragile little old lady being a threat to the physical well being of whoever the fuck it was. Maybe it was some mad cap burglars breaking into the nursing home Sylvester Stallone forced her into over Christmas or something? I was already a disaffected 18 year old and when I realised that completely untrue depictions of death and violence were being sold as somehow suitable for anyone (let alone children). This set me down the path of teenage alienation more than any other corrupting influence my parents could have pointed a finger at a few years prior (mostly Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, HP Lovecraft and Deicide's first album).

And nine years later in 2001 we had August Underground, in which director Fred Vogel takes a swift hammer to the head of the idea that killers are somehow dignified geniuses.

Gone are doctors gone off the rails engaging in a-deadly-game-of-cat-and-mouse-with-a-brilliant-FBI-agent. Gone are chess playing serial killers (such beautiful and deep symbolism...) announcing that “it appears the hunter has become the hunted” *villain cackles and rubs hands together menacingly*. And thankfully absent is the wretched tale of Dexter fucking Morgan. Raise your hand if you openly cheered when he found his risible and permanently nagging wife dead in a bathtub at the end of season four. /spoiler.

Replacing all of that noble, romantic and quite frankly insulting crap is the tale of two low life pieces of shit that harass hitch hikers, kill old ladies, kidnap and mercilessly torture people that don’t deserve it, and generally act like the reprehensible degenerates that murders usually are (I’ve met several convicted killers and they were almost all intensely dislikeable cretins). The two protagonists of August Underground are not intelligent, totally impulsive, and completely unsympathetic. There is nothing idealistic about them or their actions whatsoever.
As an aside, my personal favourite scene of the film (and the only note of humour I can find) is a seemingly guerrilla shot fist fight at a bad mosh hardcore show.

Fred Vogel has made a film that should be commended rather than censored and derided. Fred Vogel has given society one of the few films that depicts violence as what it actually is; ugly, erratic, callous. In an era when society is searching for reasons why someone would be compelled to shoot up a cinema, school, or first responders to a fire, violence in art should be depicted as the ugly, hateful, un-entertaining act that it is.

Originally written August 2010, edited slightly and ending modified December 2012.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Destroyed Human: WOLFBAIT

Had Suburban Mayhem continued I'd have released this  recording, but such is life. Excellent noise rock from Dublin with members of a couple of other bands (this is better than those other bands by a country mile). Very similar to early Swans/Godflesh to these ears,or a more metallic Brainbombs perhaps. They call it "krautviolence" which is both horifically pretentious and wholly accurate. Available on tape soon from the Art For Blind label, which is some English dude who lives in Cork.

I have no hesitation saying this is my favourite current Irish band. No competition whatsoever.

I hope to get around to some kind of interview with them for something shortly.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Destroyed Human vs Darragh Invictus in: "So These Two Old Death Metal Guys Walk Into A Bar.." Pt.1

This was recorded in a pub almost a year ago now. The idea was simple: myself and Dar being old mates from back in our teens sit in a pub, drink pints, and reminisce about the magic of our early days in the death metal tape trading scene of the early/mid 90s, talk about some overlooked bands, and play some tunes. The reason it took so olng to put together? Well, the conversation was about 3 hours long. This is merely part 1. Be warned, the conversation is a little rough soundwise in places (note to self: never record in a pub again) so listening on headphones is advised. As with yesterday's post, full details/tracklisting is on the Mixcloud page Expect part 2 next month

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Berberian Sound Studio

I've never really fully embraced the Giallo genre to be honest. There's a few I've seen and enjoyed ; "The Strange Vice of Jennifer Wardh", "Lizard in a Woman's Skin", the Argento stuff, and for the sheer novelty of it having been filmed in Ireland I went to see and throughly enjoyed the utter nonsense that was "Iguana With A Tongue of Fire" a couple of years back. I like the idea of it - and the film titles most definitely - but the majority of stuff I've seen in the style over the years has left me cold. There are, however, always a couple of great visual or atmospheric moments in the better Giallo films that make even the most tedious ones I've seen bearable.

So there is part of me that keeps trying, keeps watching them in the hope another one will click. And a couple of years back when I began hearing about the movie "Amer" and how it was "a loving homage to the Giallo film" I was sold enough to drag along an utter baffled friend and fellow horror buddy to what was ultimately a visually stunning bit of cinematic fluff*.

I went to see "Beberian Sound Studio" tonight because a couple of similar "homage to the Giallo" style write ups had attracted my interest, the trailer looked intriguing enough, and was a week night and I was at a loose end. I didn't expect much. I was rewarded for my low expectations with one of the best movies I've seen this year.

A quick synopsis: It's the 70s, and Gilderoy is a quiet, unassuming Englishman who is a foley artist working on sound effects from a home studio in his shed, usually for nature documentaries, children's tv, etc. He is summoned to Italy to work on the sound design for an upcoming sleazy horror movie by an infamous Italian director called Santini entitled "The Equestrian Vortex". The film traces his gradual unravelling working on a film he's clearly repulsed by in a claustrophobic recording studio he works in sleeps in, under the direction of the films sketchy producers who clearly couldn't give a shit about his wellbeing. Here's the trailer:

The atmosphere and look of the film is incredible: it's visually a very dark film centred mostly in the workplace of the beleagured, timid Gilderoy - a workplace which regularly suffers from powercuts that leave his colleagues and himself relying on candlelight. The cast seems primarily to be attractive dark haired women dressed in witchy black clothes. The lighting in the film is usually either the aforementioned candlelight, or the light of the projector in the studio. They absolutely fucking nailed the style of the giallo cinematography with the lingering close ups, fades and pullbacks. This genuinely looks like it could have been made at the time. The projectionist wearing black leather gloves, the organ and female vocal soundtrack, and the dimly lit apartment Gilderoy stays in all bring the classics of the style to mind.

The sound in the movie obviously is just as pivotal a character as any of the actors, the way it is played with, its omnipresence - in much the same way, say, the soundtrack to "Eraserhead" is a huge part of that film for me and I can't seperate the audial from the visual. The point of this film is that the two are inextricably linked obviously, the very premise of the movie should should pretty much make it clear to you that the film is going to function that way.

I'm purposely avoiding going into the plot to much in the hope my vagueness will drive you to see this yourself, but I will say that while there is a darkness in atmosphere, visuals and sounds, there is a fantastic strain of well placed black comedy that runs throughout. Watch out for the projectionist's descriptions of each scene in the "Equestrian Vortex" (you hear what's happening but never see it, which works brilliantly), which become more over the top with each scene. The Goblin (you'll encounter him in the trailer) is also hilarious.

Things get a little surreal to the point where the last 20 minutes or so initially catch you off guard, and the ending is a little more vague and unresolved than I'd like, but I guess if nothing else as disappointing this last section is compared to the greatness of the rest of the film, it leaves you as disorientated as the main character in a way. It's frustrating,and a little too "Mulholland Drive" for my liking, a little too nonsensical, but it puts you in his disturbed footsteps. You want to know what becomes of him however and I don't think the vagueness of the ending does the film as a whole any justice.

These flaws aside,I just wanted to watch the movie straight away as soon as I left the IFI.

Amazing soundtrack too - Nurse With Wound and Broadcast feature. And the guy who runs the superb Ghost Box record label contributed the titles too, which are excellently done. Read this fascinating interview with the Director Peter Strickland here.

*Fluff which I must admit, I later bought on DVD and have enjoyed a couple of times since. Still looks amazing, still makes fuck all sense.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A luddite recommends..

For someone who has been playing in bands for over half their life, it's amazing how little I know about musical equipment.

I started playing guitar when I was approximately 8 years old. Partially by fluke now I realise, as my grandparents found an old guitar they'd bought my mother as a child which she'd never learned to play, and which I took an instant shine to. I took about 4 lessons and worked the rest out myself, usually from either trying to play along with music I liked or by studying pictures of other guitar players' fingers in magazines to see what they were doing with them. I'm a competent enough guitarist I guess, I'm not amazing, but I'm not awful. I feel comfortable with a guitar basically.

I'm not and never have been comfortable with amps, effects, or any of that other shite - largely because I could never afford anything beyond a cheap shitty combo amp until recently*.

Seriously, I was about 29 or 30 before I actually owned a head of my own, a second hand Sound City which gave up the ghost shortly after and which I've only gotten round to replacing this year with another knackered old second hand head - a delightfully garish 80s Peavy Butcher which the previous owner (my friend Eric from the mighty Putrefaction) was getting rid of at a stupidly cheap price. I've kind of gotten the effects pedal buzz over the last couple of years, possibly as having a decent job means I have a little more disposable income, but to be honest I normally use them more for noise making than guitar playing. I still can't for the life of me understand what a compressor does, or what I'd need an envelope filter for.

I spend a lot of (work) time browsing for cheap gadgets and gizmos on . I picked up a pedal board for €30 yesterday, a handy if slightly bulky one that comes in a carrying case, and comes complete with a bit of velcro to keep stuff on. It was one of those "wow, why didn't I do this years ago" moments..until I realised the concept of pedals having to be set up in a particular order. Really?You mean I should stick my distortion pedal in first and it won't sound as hissy? Why did no one tell me that before.

Anyhow.. all this talk of pedals and guitar nerdery and all that kinda thing reminds me: two of my favourite guitar nerds, not to mention two of my favourite human beings generally, are Chris and Dave from the Belfast band Slomatics. They know all kinds of crazy shit about equipment, how to use it, and how to make things sound huge - I'm pretty sure to the extent where they have custom made Matamps and stompboxes**.

Coincindentally, Slomatics have a new album that's just come out this week called "A Hocht" (Irish for "8" if you're wondering).

They've been plugging away for years and it's great to see them getting a bit more notice and being picked up by a decent, bigger indie label (Burning World, which I think is the label run by the guys who do Roadburn Festival). They're off on tour with Conan soon and are hitting Incubate Festival in Holland too, so go see them if you can - I can't recommend them enough. Check out a track from the album here and order it here on cd or here on vinyl if you're so inclined.

*partially also because I have an irrational fear of being electrocuted: I was on the recieving end of an electric shock that shut down the power in my house and knocked me unconcious when I was 17 while unplugging a badly wired Marshall combo amp.

**actually I have one too that my friend Moose made me. It's a Rat clone called "Das Grouch" that I use for Prison stuff. Moose can make you stuff to, go here

Friday, February 3, 2012

Burrows interview

I haven't posted in an interview here in quite a while, but I kind of felt like I had to find out more about Burrows after stumbling across a stream of the utterly spellbnding "In Winter" album towards the end of last year. Primarily it's the work of a lady by the name of Kate Glavey, who's based in Waterfrd where she also runs the freshly minted Deise branch of the WINGNUT records empire, which we talked a little about as well. Kate kindly answered a few questions for me. The album is out and I strongly suggest you order a copy as soon as possible.

1) Kate, let's get the obvious out of the way first - how did Burrows come
into being?

The name came from me just liking the word......I got nice imagery from it and liked the idea of something know.

I don’t really know when I started singing , my father was a violin maker, so instruments were about the house... but the first time I ever remember taking music personally was when my older cousin Siobhan showed me The Carpenters - Calling Occupants ... I was around 8.

2) The "In Winter" album is just about to come out this month, you must be
excited about it finally coming out? What made you decide to do it on vinyl
rather than on cd? Do you the think the format is integral to the album as
a whole?

Yes my records are almost here...I got the second test pressings last week and for me it fits so good. Sounds old and rich and deep and I am happy to send it on its way like that.

I do actually have it on CD also....I only done a few copies in chipboard covers that I printed and sell when I play live.

3) I know the album was recorded over a period of time - you started in October 2010 right? How long did it take in all? How did you approach the writing for it, was it written over an extended period as well or did you have all the songs together from the start?

That summer I had done a house swap in Barcelona and came home with many of the songs. In October I went into the studio with 11 [song] skeletons and the album was reordered over the next eight months. My geographical location wasn’t ideal...I was living in Galway, recording in Waterford and doing a masters in Dublin. Seemed like a constant state of liminality...always on a bus...with a hundred bags.
The songs were developed over time.....there was a stage where it was going to be instrumental...but that changed. The only thing I was sure about the whole way through was that I wanted it to have space.

4) Does Burrows actually have a full band line up or is it primarily just
yourself? I know the album has a bunch of different people playing on it but
would it be fair to say it's essentially your "baby" if you know what I

Burrows is essentially just me. I say ‘essentially’ because I have gotten so much help. Lots is done in isolation but lots isn’t. All the people that featured on the album added something quite vital to the finished piece. The same with the live gigs I have gotten loads of help....loaned equipment, transport, peoples time and energy. It never fails to amaze me how much work people do for no payment and over the last while I’ve gotten lots of favours.

5) I haven't seen you live yet but I know Burrows gigs have taken place - I saw you played a church in Waterford towards the end of last year, which sounds like an amazing setting - how do the songs on the LP translate live?Is there much difference between the recorded versions and the live

So far the sets I’ve played have been based on the LP arrangement ... Declan (Declan Q Kelly), Aaron (Yawing Chasm) and Sarah (September Girls) have been the core band of my past gigs and are real empathetic players. They kept what was needed and then added their own to it.

6) So the music on the album definitely has the kind of wintery feel that the title suggests, and there's a very definite soundtrack kind of thing going on as well - are soundtracks a big influence on Burrows?

Yes soundtracks are... but film more so. I adore films where little happens in a plot. I love intense flatness. It’s not that I find not having a start, middle and end and a climax entertaining, just that it seems more realistic to be other than that. In general terms I don’t really see that things begin happen and end...and I have intrigue for that space of what’s not been said creates.

In the end the ideas for the songs or the experiences the songs are based on are tiny experiences and glimpses more so than anything. Maybe that allows them to trail each other and give a feeling of continuity, which may root a cinematic quality.

7) On that note, is there any kind of touring planned for the album?
The album has had a quite release...but there are some gigs planned. ..scattered in the next few months. I’ll play at Deaf Joes album launch in Waterford in February.... an album I am very much looking forward to.

8) I believe you're behind the new Wingnut records shop in Waterford too -can you tell me a bit about that? And kind of related, is there much of a scene in Waterford at the moment?

Two days before Christmas Wingnut Waterford began. Ciaron from Hard Times books shop allowed me stock one of his end walls with Irish Independent music. Waterford Wingnut is a franchise of the marvellous Wingnut /Bell Book and Candle operation Ray Cuddihy and Paul Deacy run in Galway. And it’s going good....plan to have a somewhat official launch in April on record store day.

Yes there are thing happening in Waterford...lots more than I know about I am sure as I am only home a couple of months. Some amazing work comes from here...tonight I was just watching some new stuff directed by film maker Neil O stunning. Lots of people hard at work down here for sure.

9) Last question - the first album is done now, are you thinking about the
next one already?

I finished recording in winter in May since then I have been collecting know the kind of ground work before the real hard graft...making lots of noisy recordings.