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?
Probably a lot of cough syrup.
Music video for “Videotape (excerpt)”