Monday, March 21, 2011
Interview with Jay Schleidt by Eric Andre
Jay Schleidt is a prolific creative force. Constantly engaged in experimentation and manipulation of various mediums including, but not limited to: Sound, video, painting, zines, web design and clothing. He started performing experimental and noise shows in Murfreesboro Tennessee at the very end of the 90's and the beginning of the aughts. He has self released numerous tapes and compilations of his own work as well as other peoples work. Here is a recent interview with the artist that gives a lot of history and information about his creative processes. If you'd like to hear some of his music and that of the other artists on his new label Darbolistic Rex please visit www.noisearchive.org Here he is in his own words.
You are a relatively prolific creative force. You make music, art, and zines. Can you tell
us when you began to come interested in being creative and experimenting with music?
May 9th, 1985 - for my fifth birthday I received a cassette recorder as a gift. Over the years I would play around with all sorts of sounds, ranging from field recordings of my brother and I fighting to completely improvisational one-man radio plays in which I performed as multiple characters and did all the foley art. When a tape would fill, I'd re-record over it with newer material. Listening repeatedly ingrained the sounds in my head much like a pop song. In highschool I was really truly experimenting with life and sound. I'd take apart tapes and tape decks and other electronics to see how they worked and capture recordings of them working in ways unintended by the manufacturers. Tape manipulation was pretty high on my charts as a preferred method of manipulating reality. Something I enjoyed doing was to manipulate the reels while a tape is recording, a sort of drastic stretching of time, logged on magnetic ribbon. These experiments eventually led to more experiments and new ideas on impromptu performance and the appreciation of methods and the sounds generated from such acts.
Are there any specific moments, objects, events or places that have helped shape and define
your aesthetic tastes? Also, would you care to share with us your own take on your specific tastes as it
pertains to your music and art?
Nothing specific, but more of a collected realization that compared to everyone I knew I was alone in my appreciation for complete and utter randomness.
You tend to create very unique,unusual music. At times handsomely organic and at times hopelessly mechanical. Some of it really abrasive and some of it very subtle.
Can you let us know about your general philosophies about the music, the process of making music/being creative and the importance of experimentation in your art?
The ability to improvise and experiment is the most important instrument I possess. It is not limited to note and chord knowledge, specific sound makers and the technical prowess to engage them, or conceptual constrictions which I think most people feel obligated (convinced, brainwashed) to follow during their own creative endeavors. 98% of what I do is completely improvisational, made at once with no pre-thought and caught on tape, then either deemed finished or mixed with something else (randomly or consciously). I tend to listen to my music many times over to give me a good idea of where to cut and what to cut out. My primary goal is to illicit brain growth.
You've had a great deal of musical projects including Yana, snma, branf, and Big SADS.
Can you tell us a little about these projects? Your processes and intentions? Any specific
high points or low points?
My first band was called the Big Bads. It was 1993 and I was twelve years old. I lived in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, which is an "8-Mile City" in the Detroit Metro area. My best and only friend was a fellow named Jason Arnold, who was simply phenomenal at beatboxing. We started the Big Bads because we were heavily influenced by a local rap group who came to our school with a message to stay in school and don't do drugs. I played keyboard beats and Big Bad A simultaneously did all the rapping, beatboxing, mouth guitar sounds, female backup singers, and hype-man shout-outs. We both wrote the lyrics and spent a lot of time practicing our songs. Our "newest the best biggest hit song" was called "Gangs" : You don't need gangs to have a good time, you can have a good time without gangs. Gangs do nothin' but fight - but before you fight let me tell you what's right, so you don't see the terrible sight of of of… GANGS! Here's some videos http://www.lation.org/jayschleidt/?p=952 (you don't actually see me playing keyboard in the Gangs video because I had to hold the camera.)
My very first performance was in a duo I had with Yobleart, called beatfag. It was at the Redrose coffee shop in Murfreesboro, Tennessee c.2000. I hid behind some kind of podium on the side of the stage. People sipping lattes were suddenly interrupted by my piercing shrieks alternated with shaking a large tin can around the microphone like a maraca (it sounds like old school cartoon running). Yobleart taped down a single key on his keyboard and had the note going through some pedals while he played a tape of found sounds and his 1983 drum machine. Then I came out from my hiding spot and rolled around on the floor while making vocal intonations and garbled nonsense. Yobleart lit some firecrackers in a bucketed mic. We played for two minutes.
My girlfriend in the early 2000s was Carrie Sullivan (Fslux, Rigormortis Clitaurus). We seemed to have a tape in the recorder every day. Sometimes the fourtrack would just record the room, only to be flipped and layered with the previous recording multiple times over. We realized that at different times we wanted to make different types of sounds, so we put names on the different "bands" to help us distinguish. Forpermance http://www.lation.org/jayschleidt/?p=851 was layers of homade samples. Buttercream was harsh power-electronics. Our main duo was branf, which was full of variety in sound and spirit. We performed as braannnf in Nashville, playing with New Faggot Cunts, Hair Police, and other cool acts. Our friend Josh joined us as Rygar for a Redrose show, and as Vee opening for Cock ESP and also for Reynols.
snma was my primary solo project for about a decade. It could be anything I wanted it to be. Screeching blasts of percolated rupture spasms, or dead silence for five minutes, or the recordings of home made instruments literally cut up and taped back together at random and swiped along a tape head, or a synthy dance beat, or a found sound collage, or or or … I never thought about genres or making things to fit a certain mood. My key interest was variety and spontaneity. In 2009 I realized I was making things which as a whole would be heard as somewhat musical in nature. To distinguish it from the more noisy and avant-garde recordings of snma, I called it Yana. (another reason I needed a new name was because people were constantly getting snma wrong; they'd type it SNMA or s.n.m.a. or smna.) With snma I generally shied away from beats and rythms unless they came out in the recording process. Under Yana I felt freer to utilize these aspects in creating some pretty interesting situations. It is still mostly unplanned on-the-spot recordings, but I think I've gotten better at using equipment to my will instead of "what does this do?" Now, it could be argued that since I am more familiar with the way things work it might be considered less experimental, however I am approaching it with the same sense of random aesthetic as always, so I would say my work is just less naive.
In 2006 I was a member of a multi-piece improv unit called Shelf Life. The other key members were Bryan Day, Alex Boardman, and Joseph Jaros, with various combinations of sit-in artists. We performed at all sorts of locations: a public park in the middle of the day for the Dog Days of Summer Fest, smoky bars, a wine and cheese superbowl afterparty, an art gallery performance space where they had us play for over three hours, and other art-spots and basements.
Summer of 2008 Brock Muench and I decided to combine our childhoods with the things we love about music experimentation and mind expansion. He had made these teleporting dinosaur comics called "Super Armored Dinosaurs" (S.A.D.s), and I was in the Big Bads. The result was the Big Sads. Our approach was to hit record and make some sound. We'd extract portions of the recordings and develop them into somewhat structured songs on top of which we put lyrics, usually about dinos and goofiness. As the project evolved, sometimes it would be Brock using a few samples from my recordings to make a new track, or I would take our improvising tapes and smoosh em together, or we'd go back and forth, each changing it a little or a lot before giving it to the other to work on.
Here's a quick list of some of my different projects which have had releases put out, both from different people on their labels, or by me on mine. snma, Yana, Pink Blatch, Oni Oba, F, Clitflick & Dillroy, beatfag, branf, Forpermance, Vee, Butler, Brote, Sexplanation and Scheiße!, buttercream, BigSad, The Big Bads, In A Built-In Band, gammarave, Mysticosm, Talonescu, Gill Cosby, Hi-5 for Bliss Boys, Action Phantom, Aisle of Few, Isle of Few, Q'mir, sloo undus fur vestahol, Dander, Concepticons, Sass A Frass Whole, A Ton of Veins, Obl. Obsc., Count Prudence, Morning Foam.
You mentioned that your music may be less "naive" now because you are more familiar with your tools. I myself often wonder about art that seems naive. Is it genuinely naive or is it just a desired aesthetic? Are the people creating this naive art academic students or true folk artists? It's generally hard to tell what is intentional and what is more.. I guess pure. How do you feel about naive art (music, painting, video, etc.)? Or I guess the comparison of truly pure naivete and intentional naivete. Do you feel intentional naivete is as legitimate or is it more of a deception? And if it is deceptive is that a part of the quality that makes it interesting? Is it more "important" either way?
Some things you can't fake. Intense focus of intentions combined with a shift in the level of experience gradually propels artists out of the membrane of naivete and into a realm populated with comfort and procedure. After time takes a punch
I've played with many musicians who say they wish they could go back and unlearn the knowledge of how to play their instruments because it impeded their improvising skills. On the flipside I've played with many excellent improvisers who knew exactly what they were doing when creating something unique and new. The level of naivete seems to be dependent upon the person performing and the audience listening. At countless live shows I see people bobbing their heads and cheering someone who they perceive to be a master of their equipment, but from my perspective it looks like they are often confused at every new sound, just twiddling knobs and experimenting in front of people, hoping something cool comes out. Is it the appreciation for the concept which drives the
Can you tell us a little bit more about your video art? I know you had a video piece on a touring exhibit last year and you've always done really interesting videos. If I'm not mistaken you used to make VHS video comps and pass them around. Sort of like VHS albums. Can you tell us about that?
I had a videocamera at my disposal in adolescence with which I filmed claymation and stop-motion time-based experiments, murder-mystery theatre involving my family as characters, visual feedback loops, "Homegrown Inbred Goat Fighters," and really just plain wackiness playing with light and electronics. One day years later, I pulled out the old VHS camera to make some videos with my new project snma as an overlay. Something was wrong, and the camera was dying, making these gorgeous impressionistic blossoms of color and grainy white blobs instead of clear images. I hit record and filmed the optical destruction, adding sound to it both from the new recordings and live to tape. The result was a VHS comp I dubbed snma "hurrrrruah.” http://www.lation.org/jayschleidt/?p=172 The very first snma tracks ever are the first two videos on the tape, "XCGHIH" and "nun," although "XCGHIH" was recorded to the camera at a different speed, resulting in a drastically stretched and enjoyable soundtrack to the convoluted vision on screen. So that camera died and I turned to the VCR and the free cable we were getting at the time. While watching t.v. I would record a few seconds here, a few seconds there. Really random stuff that would be on. When the tape ended I would rewind to a random spot and record a few seconds, and repeat the process as before, but going backwards to the beginning of the tape, inserting snips into the mix nonsensically. At the start of the tape, repeat, but by fast-forwarding to a random spot. When watched as a completed film, crazy coincidences would pop out of the montage, and it would have a definite swing to the cuts and motion. I think I gave away some of these crazy tapes to be used as brainfood for friends. Carrie got me a new 8mm camera and I would apply this same method to my video recording, finding all sorts of interesting combinations and switches exploding using solely home made visuals. In college I studied computer graphics, and was in a 3D graphics program for two years, learning the software and techniques used in making movies like we see nowadays. For the final video project I teamed up with a friend and a girl who offered us the use of the character she was working on for the whole semester if we'd include her in with our project. This made the required length of the video 3 minutes, one for each person involved. I made some scenes to put the figure in and used camera motion and lots of cuts to different shots to give it variety. This worked well for me since a shorter shot takes less rendering time, so I was able to piece together the whole 3 minute video from smaller portions while my classmates stayed up for days waiting for their one minute videos to render, some never even finished. http://www.lation.org/jayschleidt/?p=28 I was asked to provide some videos for a couple of group exhibits which showed in Chicago, Nashville, Atlanta, and the DC area. Although unable to attend, I found a review online which remarked favorably on my video -yet the description given had nothing to do with the events in my film -something about people playing Lynrd Skynrd covers?? -so I assume the reviewer confused my work with someone else's. Lately I've had the honor to have my videos used as projections for friends' performances in Oakland, Detroit, and here in Iowa City. My dream is to someday do live projection mixing, instead of merely pressing play. Upcoming video I'm working on (which might be done by the time this interview is published) is for a track by a hip-hop artist, Asiatic, who has an album coming out on I Had An Accident Records.
I heard you were just recently contacted by some folks in Oxford to sell some of your tapes to them for a gallery exhibit and then inclusion in the permanent collection of the Popular Music Research Unit. That sounds great. Can you tell us a little bit more about this project?
Yes, it is very exciting for me. Oxford Brookes University along with Oxford Contemporary Music is hosting an exhibition / zine fair / live performances / lecture / situation Saturday 26th March – Sunday 24th April. http://ah.brookes.ac.uk/event/editions_of_you_at_the_o3_gallery_2011/ "Editions of You" will focus on self-released handmade editions of music and print media. They showed interest in my work, so I sent some examples. Wish I could attend!
I seem to recall you also used to DJ on MTSU's college radio station. Can you tell us more about that. Any supremely interesting things that may have happened during that period?
Had a few slots on WMTS, mainly we'd go in Friday nights at midnight and get crazy for a few hours. The shows would go something like this: a pretty song by a female artist begins, and within a few minutes we'd start up a record by Merzbow or Angst Hase Pfeffer Nase, add a CD of train sounds, put on another record, and then yell. At times two cd players, two record players, and a tape player would all be playing simultaneously, and getting mixed in and out, creating new interesting compositions. Oh, and we would perform on-air, and have guests call in and perform. You must realize that at this time, c.2000, there was absolutely no sort of appreciation for noise and experimental music in the general population, or at least not like there is now. We were considered weirdos and were shoved to the side as an artsy-fartsy untalented novelty. Don't get me wrong, there were a few supporters and like-minded artists, and over the years the kinds of things we were doing have gradually become more accepted and culturally relevant, but back then we were mainly doing these things for our own enjoyment, and that of the intoxicated people staying up late tuning in. Currently I am the host of a show on http://viva-radio.com/ called the Acid Living Room, airing Tuesday nights at 10, with archived shows available to stream. I only play things that are sent to me by the artist who made it or the label which released it. I am constantly in need of more material, and I encourage anyone who makes or puts out their own soundworks to send me mp3s (each track less than 10 minutes). DE.LINQO@YAHOO.COM Viva-Radio has a physical base in Brooklyn, and it is the in-store music system for American Apparel stores worldwide, so your music has a built-in audience.
If you had a chance to be a real fine lady would anyone ever know?
If I was anybody else it might go unnoticed, however my main job for the past few years has been as a nude artists' model for the local college and university. Honestly, it would probably get me more gigs.
Are you more of a beer or water person?
Water. I drink lots of water. It makes beer.
Assuming subjectivity is the cause for bad taste. What do you think about that?
The mind being involved precipitates the taste's state in the first place. Assuming no one is listening to it is inherently good in taste sans any dilution within conscious interaction, a chance of being met good taste.
Assuming objectivity is the cause for good taste. What do you think about that?
When there is no self to not be encapsulated in the sound, the music happens upon a blank stage and cannot be therefore judged by any intellectual or aesthetic concerns other than the sole act of its presence existing.
Can you tell us a little about your past, present and future labels? More specifically
Grel and the newly housed noisearchive.org?
The decision to begin a recordings label happened in 2000. The idea was formed from a series of logical steps. I was meeting a lot of people (like you, Eric) who were interested in art and music that stimulate the mind, which is my primary goal in recording. I wanted to be able to say "check out my new stuff" and then give someone a tape to make their tongues dry out. Experimentation was rife, and many hours were captured on an army of cassettes. The kind of sounds that were being made were so different from regular music that the concept of putting the recordings in the same old type of standard plastic case which surrounds most other media was obtuse. Packaging should reflect the recording it contains: handmade; abstract; difficult to get into; not made for mass consumption; mind expanding; style defying. http://noisearchive.org/grel/ grel was started with my first ever release, a snma tape called "hkhhr" (snma and hkhhr are onomatopoeia, please read as such). The cassette's case was a drawn-on photocopy of a picture i took of what looked like an imploded bird. A different insect was taped next to the hand-written track-listing on each sheet; my copy has a rhinoceros beetle; I remember one of them had a flea. Through grel I put out about 35 tapes, cdrs, and floppy disks by myself and people who contacted me after finding the website. In 2005, I graduated from college in Oklahoma and thought I was embarking on a life-long vision-quest in the Tennessee wilderness, but before it could happen it was over, and so was grel. I lived with my dad in Iowa for a few years and during this time I hinted to myself that I was going to start a new label called De Linqo Donkeyhut, but I could never get up the gumption to make it happen. With a hint from Yobleart, a new label was started to focus on 3.5" floppy-disks and micro-cassettes, called atlatl. http://lation.org/jayschleidt/?p=160 On most floppies was a .html file. Once opened, the music would start playing on a loop, and there's pictures and words to accompany it, provided by the sound artist. At this point I think the coding is outdated and the sound might not play as it used to, but all the files are at the link if you care to check them out. The first release was by Dereck Higgins, and this one had three play buttons under three flashy .gifs, which could be played simultaneously and scrubbed back and forth, like DJing with his sound samples. The second floppy held simply a flash .swf file. A large, red, slashy swoosh rests on a green background, nestling a continuously bulging circle, with an indeterminate shape morphing in a loop in the bottom corner. When hovered over, the red slash turns blue and twitches around like a tar-monster trapped in a net while some sound fades in. It's Jerserf Wheet, a.k.a. Joseph Whitt, AMANDA's documentarian brother. Upon clicking and holding the now blue shape, it turns yellow and bulges while a computer voice starts spewing poetry. The circle in the middle reveals Jerserf's bio, and the morphing corner shape has contact info. Six floppies total came out during this time, c.2006. The next year I moved to Iowa City and tried making friends but failed miserably due to some kind of social awkwardness which puppets my body to it's whims. 2008: Zine A Day. At some point, Andrew Werth, the Lation conveyer, came to me with a few websites he bought for the fun of it, just to see what could happen. One of the domains was noisearchive.org. I installed Wordpress on it, and established an FTP entrance so users could upload their recordings and share with the world. After a while something happened to the page and I had to scrap the whole concept. At the end of 2008 came a new label, Darbolistic Rex, which I placed on http://noisearchive.org/ mainly for something to be there. It began in a similar manner as grel, but the point was to be more collaborative with the packaging and design. Sometimes the sound artist to be released would send all the tapes or cds dubbed and packaged, just needing Darbolistic Rex to act like a distributor. In the midst of all this, during the summer of 2009, I realized I had a lot of recordings from years gone by that would probably not ever get released in any normal sense, so I started Burd Turd Tapes to get them out into the world. http://www.lation.org/jayschleidt/?p=151 The thing about Burd Turd is that it was tapes of unheard music made by me, but I made up new anonymous names and put the recordings on recycled tapes, no album art whatsoever, and all as single-copies. Then I would place the tape in the Strange Tractor box, which is a newsbox in downtown Iowa City that can be thought of as an anonymous art/music/clothing/etc. trade drop-off site. Three of the Burd Turd Tapes were created by Rob Beckham as MEGAMIX (each in their own cases), and one tape was by Brock Muench as DPRVTY. I continued to release things on Darbolistic Rex, including "A Pairing In Disorder" a 60 artist compilation on dual cassettes, with 5-color screenprinting in a handmade paper case I designed myself. With one sheet of cardstock paper I figured out how to make two 2-tape holders using just a few simple cuts and folds. End of summer 2010 Yobleart became my roommate, and we started a new collaborative label, Ears to Iowa, to put our new recordings on. http://www.lation.org/jayschleidt/?cat=20 In January of this year for one week I did the Gilden God Tape Label. http://www.lation.org/jayschleidt/?page_id=811 The sound is almost all me, but it is even more accessible and "music-like" than my previous efforts, so I decided to release the tapes in traditional plastic cases on short cassettes (1 minute and 10 minutes). Except for the CATMARE / Mysticosm split, all the album art is made of pieces I recovered from Ally's scrap pile; printing tests, misprints, extras. I might continue with Gilden God, we'll see. Darbolistic Rex is still the main thing for me nowadays. Upcoming releases include a VHS compendium of my videos from 1993 (Big Bads) to 2010 (Fslux "four") featuring a letterpress print of a cat wearing a hat, a Luminous 5CD pentagon shaped accordion box set I've been working on for a while, and a split tape between Problems That Fix Themselves and Microdepression.
If you had $1,000 and you were a werewolf, what do you think you would do?
Are werewolves immortal? If so, I would invest the money and in a few hundred years spend the interest on a cure for my werewolfism. Oh, and chickens, I love chicken.
What are some of the bigger influences on your music?
Cooper Whittlesey is a human being and also a higher astral self who lives in my neighborhood and communicates with me through dreams.
What are some the newer things you've heard that you really liked? Things that were different
or more unique?
The first thing that springs into mind is this stellar compilation from the French label, la station radar. All about variety; there's such a fine assortment of styles and truly cool catchy jams that I feel it must be heard to be believed. On the noisier side I must recommend keeping an ear out for upcoming Point From Rooftops releases, Kevin's been making some really cool things that excite my senses.
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