This is by no means a comprehensive photo documentation of the weekend. Simply a few snaps of one of the most inspiring and insane weekends I have ever enjoyed in semi-chronological order. Shout out to all who made it possible, to smoke machines for looking really cool but making it really hard to take pictures and, of course, to astroglide.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Secret Boyfriend for Noisey:
On November 9, 2013 I met up with lo-fi experimental solo artist Secret Boyfriend to see My Bloody Valentine and they kind of sucked. Despite hearing that MBV retained their dizzying phenomenal live show, something was totally off that night. For a band whose reputation is hinged on being so loud and intense that they can allegedly make you throw up or shit yourself, MBV were underwhelming. That may have been the venue’s fault but they also trainwrecked several songs so badly that they would just stop playing them. Kevin Shields even apologized to the audience “for all the fuck ups” which validated my disappointment. People began to heckle the band, which came as quite a surprise and when the show was over there was no attempt from the audience to persuade MBV to play an encore. The set had its redeeming moments but the whole thing was a pretty big let down.
It was a strange experience to share with the Carrboro, NC-based Ryan Martin, who has been performing as Secret Boyfriend since 2005. Until now, Martin’s brutally tender back catalog has only been made available in very limited runs. Finally, Blackest Ever Black is pressing Secret Boyfriend’s first full-length LP This Is Always Where You’ve Lived on December 9. I had a chance to debrief our disappointments with MBV, talk a little about death dreams, and discuss the pleasure in drawing blood during a good live show.
Listen to “Beyond the Darkness,” a cut from This Is Always Where You’ve Lived below.
Noisey:You must be a pretty big My Bloody Valentine fan to drive to Philadelphia from North Carolina to see them.
Secret Boyfriend: I love their music. I just wanted a physical experience with them. I first heard them when I was seventeen and wasn’t quite into it but they kept sounding better to my ears as the years went on, which is strange, because usually the opposite happens. I really like the androgynous, sensualstyle that they have. Kind of like a too-lazy-to-get-out-of-bed erotic vibe.
I suppose you did not get the intense physical experience you expected.
Alene [Lambskin] made it sound like ‘it’s so loud that you will puke if you don’t have ear plugs’ and you just feel your whole body vibrate and it’s totally awesome. I didn’t even need earplugs. We were probably in what was the shittiest place to stand, which we didn’t realize but also I think it was just a bad show. I don’t think they were firing on all cylinders. It sounded like they couldn’t hear each other well a lot of the time.
There certainly were a lot of misfires…
Lots of misfires, puttering about, confusion. It was a lackluster experience, but you roll the dice at a live show. I don’t regret going.
You have been playing as Secret Boyfriend for almost a decade now and have definitely gone through different incarnations with the project. Tell me a little bit about how you got started.
Secret Boyfriend started off as kind of a weird joke. I started booking shows at a venue, where you can’t just solely book shows you’re interested in.I had to book all kinds of shows. Every once in a while there would be a singer/songwriter night and no one would come. I thought that those shows would give me a really good opportunity to play solo. I created a persona, Secret Boyfriend.
At the first show I made a leather mask from a friend’s leather and fur vest. The joke of the performance that was that it was built to fail. I wanted to make this really awkward experience for people, playing bass and singing, having a lot of space between notes and a lot of uncomfortable pauses. One thing that I didn’t count on was that while I was breathing and talking, I would breathe in the fur lining of the leather mask I had madeand start having coughing fits. The first set was really weird and sparse and then there would be longer periods of me just coughing.
Secret Boyfriend kept changing. I think around 2008 the project began to become what it is and means to me today.
What would you say that Secret Boyfriend means to you today? How did this tongue-in-cheek project become something more serious?
Well when I would play shows around 2006, the sets would just be harsh noise. It definitely was not all tongue in cheek. I think that since 2009 I started to approach the project in a more cohesive way, and that happened to coincide with starting to give my music to people I didn’t know very well, and actuallygetting positive feedback from them. I was mostly playing harsh noise shows and I thought that the songs might be too cheesy. I think getting feedback from people sort of encouraged me to make more and more things but I was initially shy about showing people my real songs.
It must be strange to have Blackest Ever Black releasing your album when you have been putting out all your music yourself for years and have your own record label, Hot Releases.
It’s exciting. I usually just dub my own tapes and very sheepishly give music to people. It has been easier for me to put out someone else’s stuff. It’s easy to put support behind someone that you believe in but it feels hard to put that sort of attention behind your own project. You don’t even know if you suck. It‘s hard to tell what is appealing to other people. It’s flattering that someone would take their time and money to listen to or release your music.
Blackest Ever Black is a really interesting label. I first heard Tropic Of Cancer and liked it but then dug in deeper. I really like Black Rain and the Flaming Tunes record that they reissued. I like Raspberry Bulbs.
In regards to your own label, do you have anything in the works?
There is a split between Horsebladder and Farewell My Concubine that is coming out along with a record that will be a retrospective of Brigid Ochshorn’s recordings.
Well, your new album is great. I found it really interesting that the titular song “This is Always Where You’ve Lived” sounds completely different than the rest of the record. Can you tell me what that song was about?
There is no real reason why it is different. The record was originally a tape that I put out for tour last summer. I almost don’t want to get into the meaning of the song because it is alreadyevocative. Have you read the Shirley Jackson book The Haunting of Hill House? It’s really scary; it just gives me the creeps. The film adaptation is more of an examination of the deteriorating psychological state of the main character. It was an inspiration. When I think of “This is Always Where you’ve Lived” I think of the heroine of The Haunting.The main characters’ mood fits my mood when I am recording.
I fall into a weird dream state when I record. It is apocalyptic and scary. It feels empty, the landscape lonely. It is like a dream where you go outside and it is 3 AM but it’s broad daylight and no one around. You know something is wrong. It’s a dream where, for example, your mouth is coming apart and you don’t know why, and eventually you join a horde ofdead souls on a march towards the woods.
That’s pretty specific.
That was a death dream that I had. It was one of the dreams that I have had that emotionally resonated with me and I have never forgotten about it. Anyway, when I record it is that sort of a vibe. To me, it feels very explicit but I’m not saying anything explicitly.
Every time that I have seen you play live you play an effected cymbal through a contact mic…
I like having a piece of metal near me. It’s comforting. I like to do vocals into a cymbal or a piece of metal or a bowl of water. I like that you are struggling with an object and sometimes it is hurting you. You can start choking or your face is getting cut and you are putting yourself through some sort of ordeal. I like the process of making things uncomfortable for myself. One of the things that I like most about playing the cymbal is that I can lay it across my face and punch myself in the face and get a nice dull thud.
Do you normally like to put yourself though unnecessary torture?
In private I am probably more of an emotional masochist but publicly, for performance, I am willing to torture myself. I am almost proud if there is some sort of injury involved in performing because I feel like I have shed some blood and put some effort into it. I also like playing the acoustic songs because of their weird fragility. It feels uncomfortable. Ideally I just want to rip my guts out when I play and expose myself completely. I can’t really do a killer guitar solo or rock out alone so I might as well try to do something that is intimate.
It is cool because I have seen you play all these harsher noise fests and your sets always stick out. I think that Secret Boyfriend catches people’s attention because you are so intimate.
I like fucking up the vibe a little bit. I wonder if I would like my project if I was outside of myself. I kind of can’t tell. When you are by yourself you have no idea what to do. You can’t tell if something is even good or not. You can just do whatever you want. You can just decide that you are going to do a harsh noise set instead of whatever you had planned. It’s hard to have self-discipline. I could just play acoustic guitar for a whole set if I felt like it. But would that kind of suck? I don’t know. You have to find a way to keep yourself interested.
I know that recorded the new record some time ago and that you are looking forward to recording some new stuff. What sort of things are you working on for your next record?
I already have a ton of stuff recorded. In September and October I played about six shows and played different sets each time. I feel like I have so much material that it is overwhelming. I just work with whatever I am feeling on a particular day, but I really need to wrap some things up.
Chapel Hill’s noise scene has been thriving for a couple of years now artists like Profligate, Lambskin and Outmode have recently migrated there from bigger cities. What is the Chapel Hill scene like these days?
I think it changes up a lot. There are a lot of shows for a small scene of people. A lot of interesting music comes through and a lot of people are doing interesting stuff. In the past year there have been so many shows that it almost feels exhausting. People are active but not jaded. Friends leave though, and when someone leaves you feel their absence.
Generally, I would say it is good and I am happy that people come through and play as much as they do. I hope people feel welcomed that, even if there are only fifteen people there, they are being appreciated.
Well, we have established that My Bloody Valentine didn’t quite kill it last night. If you could say one thing to Kevin Shields right now, what would it be?
That is very classy.
Bad shows happen.
You can listen to more clips from This Is Always Where You’ve Lived below:
Profligate is Noah Anthony’s Philadelphia based solo project. He makes beat driven electronic music that may have some roots in early techno but certainly can not be described as ‘minimal’. His music is ethereal and layered, calculated and unexpected. I had a chance to chat with Noah before his impressive performance at Wierd record’s weekly party at Home Sweet Home. I learned everything from how to correctly pronounce the project’s name (whoops) to his plans to robo trip with Lazy Magnet.
You played sort of similar music under the moniker Night Burger for a while. What inspired the name change, especially when Profligate doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue?
[Noah laughs at me]
I had to question myself before I pronounced it…
Yeah. It’s pronounced prof-la-git. GIT. Not Gate. I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal, haha. For Night Burger, I had never really played solo before and I really wanted to explore that zone. And it was really just a pile of garbage equipment strung together so it was a challenge trying to come up with these really minimal compositions with the most bullshit gear I could get. That fucking organ that I always used was something that the band Pedestrian Deposit found on the street when they were staying at our spot. We didn’t even see if it worked. We used it as a table for the grill for the entire summer before we even checked it out. Total garbage gear. I dunno, I’m mainly just interested in writing songs, so sure enough after a year or so of playing weird minimal dubbed out garbage, some vocals and straightforward tunes started to emerge from the Burger rig and that was when I sort of knew it was time to switch it up. Also all my gear died on me.
Guess that meant it was a time for a whole new sound.
Yeah, none of that shit works anymore. So, it was a clear indication that it was time to rethink some things. Social Junk had split up a while back also, and that was at one point my main vehicle for songwriting, so I needed another outlet. There is a solid line between the two projects in my view but the mood is sort of still the same, just more vocalized. “Videotape” was sort of where it started, with a heavy beat and a synth line. Actually, I played a lot of the songs from the Profligate records as Night Burger but they were always kind of fucked up and never sounded right.
The other day you posted “Not a Noise guy. Not a techno guy either.” What were you speaking to?
Just a basic statement of intent. No labels. No politics. No bullshit. I just don’t get why people make such a stink about using a drum machine. Please spare me your labels and politics. I just don’t care about it. Social Junk wasn’t a noise band and Profligate isn’t a techno band. The first instrument I ever bought was an Alesis drum machine back in 1997 anyways, so like I said who cares.
Sometimes I find myself wondering what the next big “wave” in music may be. Could you argue that anything important is happening right now in music with your Not Not Fun label mates like Father Finger and Maria Minerva? There almost seems to be a push toward “outsider-esque” electronic music…
I’m not really up on Maria Minerva’s music honestly so I can’t really say if there’s any connection there but Father Finger is really great. I guess there has been a “push” for a while now and it’s nice to see killer underground acts getting some much deserved recognition.
I was going to ask how your tour went with Father Finger last summer. I don’t know either of you especially well but it is my impression that you have pretty opposite personalities…
Yeah, we’re pretty similar in a lot of ways also though. We sort of acted like divas a bit, mainly at ourselves. She is fun and kind of wild but also has a real professional attitude toward music which I dig. She taught me how to wrap a cable correctly, HA. We had a great time. What can I say? We did a lot of drugs.
Did she get you into any trouble?
I wouldn’t say we got into any trouble. We didn’t get caught. It was a sick tour, I have to say. I can’t elaborate. Sorry.
Some buddies of yours released Come Follow Me joking that it was a “shared burden” between More Records and Hot Releases. Thought that was funny. Do you feel support from the noise community? What is it like living in Philly these days and making music…
That’s just a little Plotkin humor. Do I feel support from the noise community? Umm…
You might not be a “noise guy” but I feel like you might “fall into that crowd”. And a lot of people who follow noise music are seemingly the majority of your following. I am not sure if that is true…
I’m not sure either, but I’m down with it. To me, it makes more sense to refer to it as the underground community, rather than ‘noise community.’ I mean yeah, I have gone to most of the INC’s [International Noise Conference in Miami] but… It’s different. It’s all these maniacs losing their shit and just doing their own thing. It’s about total freedom. People doing whatever they want to do. I’ve never really felt like a part of the noise scene but I’ve definitely been inspired by the general attitude behind it.
What about Philly? I lived there for a while but by the time I moved back to New York I was feeling so lonely.
It is a quiet time for Philly. I’m mainly just trying to help my friends who come through with cool shows. I don’t feel like I am very active right now or really able to be. There are some sweet new venues though. Heaven’s Gate is one. It rules. There’s some new blood, and that helps.
Do you think that the people who are doing Heaven’s Gate have the power to rejuvenate the citiy’ scene?
Anything is possible, it is a new year, baby.
2013 is the year of Philadelphia.
But not for me.
Shifting a bit, it seems like you have adopted a pretty uniform saturated, distorted VHS aesthetic. Your latest record is called Videotape. Additionally, your girlfriend is a visual artist and has done some artwork/video work for you. How much of this was collaboration? Or were you giving her a lot of direction? Do you plan on continuing to work with her for album art and music videos? She makes really cool videos…
Yeah, she just got into it recently. For Videotape the artwork was her idea. She just sent me a weird cell phone picture at one point that I thought would make a great cover. We tried to recreate that cell phone picture by filming in our apartment and then grabbing stills from it. The original source footage was then used in the music video for the song.
Come Follow Me was made in the same style. Filming, processing and taking stills. I gave her some vague idea of what I wanted and she made it happen by just tossing some fabric up in the air to 2 seconds. I think it’s really fitting for the record. It was exactly how I wanted it to look. It just clicked.
Do you think you are going to stick to this style? Or do you just like the way it looks and are not particularly dedicated to it?
Yeah, I think I will stick to what works. You’ll probably see more of that. We did something similar for the Form a Log LP that is coming out soon.
The video she made for the Form a Log video is so fucking insane.
Yeah, it’s so fucked up and creepy. I love how well it goes with the music. There’s a part where she stabs a strawberry and there’s a ‘squish’ sound that we thought was from filming, but it’s actually in the music! It’s perfect.
You included the lyrics to the record which I feel like is becoming increasingly rare. Is there any significance to that? How much do you think about your lyrics?
I definitely wanted to include them. They’re important to me. It makes me feel a little exposed also, and I’m into that. I did that for both of the records, even though on Videotape there’s only one line so it was easy. Personally I just like staring at a lyric sheet while listening to a record. I wish Russian Tsarlag LPs came with the lyrics.
Musically and otherwise do you think about where you want to be and where you want to take yourself with the project? Any frontiers you have considered exploring with the project? New approaches to song writing? Gear you’d love to obtain? Collaboration?
I like to limit myself with gear. I don’t want to go crazy. I don’t want too many options with my gear, I like to try to get the most out of what little I have. I tinker around enough as it is and have a very backward way of recording that I like to stick to, at least until I can get inside a real studio. I recently bought my first synthesizer, but I really haven’t even touched it. It’s just sitting in the corner. It’s a beast that I’m not ready to tackle yet. The most I’ve done with it is record some pan flute for Form a Log. My goal for the winter was to get it set up, but “lazy boy winter mode” is sort of hitting me hard.
There are a couple more shitty cold months ahead of you to get that done.
Yeah, there’s plenty of time, so I’m just taking it slow. I have a lot of ideas that I’m excited to try out for the new songs I’m working on. Hopefully I’ll walk away with something. The challenge of integrating rock guitar into dance music is one for example, does it ever work? I want to find out. Also, in terms of collaborating with other people, the door is open. Especially with vocalists. I have been trying to do that for a while at this point. I’ve asked different people… It never ends up happening, haha.
Who are some of these people?
I had better not name names. They know who they are. I definitely want to get more people involved. But that one song would’ve been so much better! [shaking fists] Ha Ha. Just kidding.
I thought it was really cool that you included re-mixes that your friends did of your songs with the last record. It’s also a cool way to interact with other musicians without compromising yourself/songs as a solo act.
I have some really talented friends! These songs are just sitting there. And I am just sitting here. And maybe they are just sitting there. We should just jam each others shit, come up with some new stuff. Some new old stuff. Haha. What am I saying? It is really refreshing and rewarding to play solo but I definitely love getting other people involved. Maybe even turn this into a full band at some point, it’s possible.
Besides Outmode and Toe Ring and some of the people you have worked on remixes with, who else are you really into right now?
Well, everybody knows Human Beast is the best fucking band around. Everybody knows that. So, there you go. Human Beast. The best. Moth Cock, from Ohio makes some of the strangest music I’ve ever heard. And also, Daryl from Meager Sunlight’s new solo project Samantha Vacation is really fantastic.
I’ve never seen her solo; I have only seen her with Meager Sunlight.
Really? She is out of control. So good. Honestly, I have to say that the East Coast is filled with some real freaks who are blowing my mind constantly and there’s probably a lot I’m not even aware of. It’s great to be a part of it.
Yeah I feel like for the first time in a long time, I want to be where I am.
Totally. I lived in Oakland very briefly and didn’t have a lot of time to dig deep into the scene which was unfortunate. I feel like I’m pretty out of touch with the West Coast in general, and hope to fix that soon. I’ll bet there is some crazy shit happening over there.
Speaking of working with others, you are about to go on a tour with Lazy Magnet and I read that Jeremy is enlisting a lot of help. What are you anticipating with this tour?