In Praise Of 'The Girl In The Mask'...... [2012-03-01]Ritual Stance is a Richmond, Virginia based HNW project that creates hypnotic, atmospheric, creative and often memorable walled noise. The man behind the project is Evan Craig who also runs HNW / Power Electronics label Void Séance- Evan kindly agreed to give me an interview via email.
m[m]:What first got you interested in noise, & in particular HNW? And is there any one release or track that inspired you to start making your own walled noise?
Evan I first got into noise indirectly. I started out listening to traditional hardcore in middle school, but was exposed to black metal and grindcore pretty early on in high school. I think it was just a quest to find more and more extreme music. I got bored of hardcore fairly quickly after I found black metal and grindcore, it was something about the adrenaline behind both of the later genres.
Evan I've been a reader of metal zines for a long time, and I remember when Sunn O)))'s Black One came out and was reviewed by something like Decibel or another metal mag, it intrigued me because of how off-putting they made it sound. I visited New York City not too long after that, and remember shopping at a record store and seeing some Sunn O))) records, but for whatever reason I didn't buy any of them. This was before I did any shopping online or did any listening online before buying stuff. It took me a while to find a Sunn O))) record in stores physically, but I remember my first record was Black One and it blew me away. I got obsessed with Sunn O))) for quite a while, and they really opened the doors for me as far as experimental music. After Black One, I bought Flight of the Behemoth, which features Merzbow, and is in my eyes on of their best mixed records, hands down.
Evan I started hording Merzbow records like most dudes in noise do at first, collecting as much as I could before I got bored with it. By that time I'd gotten into acts like John Wiese and the like. It was around this time that I made contact with a dude named Benjamin Rossignol, or Ophibre, a Boston sound artist. I was really intrigued with his work, and after many talks with him, decided to form my own project, REACHING TOWARD THE LIGHT aka 'Reaching.' It was a hybrid of digital and analog noise, which a carried on throughout high school and my first year of college. It started with roots in tape manipulation and general harsh noise, but towards the end of it I really focused on sound density, and as I look back on the project the last few recordings really had some HNW tendencies to them, without really knowing what HNW was.
Evan I don't really know how I got into HNW to be honest with you, I think the concept of HNW was imbedded in my head long before I was aware of the 'principles' or 'notions' associated. The first acts I found were Vomir and The Rita, with Werewolf Jerusalem coming in a close third. I obsessed and still obsess over the asethetic and motives of Sam and the Rita.... He's always had a firm concept in his head which has intrigued me to no end.
m[m]:Tell us a bit about how & when the Ritual Stance project first came about? And where did the name come from?
Evan Ritual Stance started around the time I started Void Seance, which was October 2010. I had had my project Frailty of Angels for some time before this project, but I wanted something a little different and less personal that I could experiment with static textures, thus Ritual Stance started. I could bullshit you and post-rationalize all day as to where 'Ritual Stance' came from, but the combination of the two words along with the stagnant nature of the sounds, and what I get into with your next question is really where the name came from.
m[m]:Your releases thus far seemed to be themed around a mixture of ritual themed perversion, murder, and giallo movies- what intrigues you about these subjects & do you see any others themes running through your work?
Evan I will say that there is a lot of 'Ritual' in Ritual Stance, but no murder or giallo content what-so-ever. I've never watched a giallo movie and to be honest they really don't intrigue me that much. The main theme of the project is 'the girl in the mask' or this character that I've been drawing since before the project's inception. About 4 years ago I first started drawing this girl, or being, rather. She doesn't have hands, is usually bare, and is always, always wearing a mask. I cannot tell you what motivated me to draw her, but I can tell you that it didn't stop for a long time. Nothing really changes about 'her'. The project is directly 'dedicated' to 'her', and is really an objectification of 'her'. I think it's something about the anonymous nature of her presence is something that intrigues me. Masks, and ski masks in general have been a focus of mine for some time. I think it's their aesthetic quality more-so then their fetish qualities that have drawn me in above all else, although the content of Ritual Stance is very fetish-themed. It's not really personal. I try not to think of it as a personal thing. I'm not into masks in my every day life or practices, it's merely contained in this project.
Evan The other underlying theme behind Ritual Stance has always been gear worship. I think that's a more personal thing, but I've always been intrigued by the sources of wall and how different artists create their pieces. The absolute first piece I created with Ritual Stance was for a Datahex Comp, 'FOR VOMIT' and it was actually entirely digital. But that was really impersonal to me, so I began experimenting with pedals and hand-held noise generators for a long while.
m[m]:Does 'the girl in the mask' have a name? or a back story? and what do you think you’ll do with the character next?
Evan 'She' has no name. No backstory. I choose not to think about 'her' in that aspect. It keeps it more interesting not knowing anything about 'her' other than 'she' exists. It also allows me to be somewhat disconnected from her as to not bring personal experience into anything suggested by the track titles
Evan That isn't to say that I would completely rule out a visual piece with Ritual Stance. I think that the content could be more about the 'worship' or 'obsession' than of 'her'. It would honestly depend on the content of the sound source, the dynamics of that wall, and the structure laid out with the track titles.
m[m]: Do you think you’d ever want to release a audio visual release from Ritual Stance? Say using animation of the girl in the mask or fetish based visuals for the visual part.
Evan I'm not sure about a visual piece relating to her. I think it would be crossing the line if I was to personify her out of the 2D realm. Again, 'she' is more of a thought that an actual being, and I don't think I would be comfortable putting someone in the position of 'her' role.
m[m]: You say your not influenced by giallo movies at tall, but I often feel your ‘walls’ have a murderous & tension filled cinematic edge to them. Are you a fan of any type horror or thriller type movies?
Evan Not really to be honest with you. I actually don't watch a whole lot of movies or television, and when I do I often retain the plot of said movie or show for quite a while. I've watched a fair share of horror movies over the years, but they haven't had a direct influence on any Ritual Stance material. The project is almost entirely focused on 'her'
m[m]:What equipment do you use for creating your ‘walls’? and has this changed since you started the project?
Evan As I kind of explained in one of the previous questions, the project's inception was digital, but after the first track, immediately went analog. The first pedal that directly shaped the project was a DOD Thrash Master that I bought for really cheap. I combined it with a DOD Death Metal, DOD Meat Box, other octave fuzzes, and a Flower Electronics BPNG for the first several recordings. It was then around this time that I got my first Big Muff, a Green Sovtek clone. I experimented heavily with only the BPNG, Thrash Master, and Big Muff on many recordings.
Evan I sadly came across some money issues and stupidly sold my first DOD Thrash Master, which made me experiment with other pedals. I've since used a Black Sovtek Big Muff, Boss ODB-3 Bass Overdrive, Tall-Font Sovtek Muff, MXR Blue Box, DOD Death Metal, pitch-shifters, EHX POGs, circuit bent delays, and envelope generators. I've been trying to push myself away from fuzz and find other outlets for manipulation. I have since gotten another DOD Thrash Master, although I think it sounds a little different then the first.
Evan I built a Music From Outer Space Weird Sound Generator a few months ago now, which has become my main focus in really all of my projects. But I'm really trying to make wall with it. It's a challenge since it is intended to be a drone machine. I'm not sure if I have released any RS with the machine yet, but I've really been trying to get some chunk out of it. I'm also trying to do a super minimal setup as well, so the combination of those two things is what I have been focusing on in my spare time.
m[m]:How often do you make HNW?, and how much of what you make do you put out?
Evan I used to record Ritual Stance every single night, or at least zone out to it for a good hour the first few months of the project. But I've been really busy with school and personal things that I haven't gotten to record with the project or really focus on it in some time. I don't put out everything I record. I put about about maybe 1/3-1/2 of what I record. I'm sitting on a lot of tracks that I feel need work or beefing up.
m[m]:One thing I’ve notice about quite a few of the releases I’ve heard from Ritual Stance is there are often semi harmonic & memorable elements in many of your ‘walls’- is this deliberate or do they just come out that way?
Evan Some are deliberate and some are not. Most are deliberate. I think recording in stereo is something that sets me apart from a lot of wall artists, but I just feel that it gives a more rich and fuller sound. As I stated before in a previous question, I use wall to zone out and as a semi-meditative tool. I focus really well to dense wall. So I create walls that I can focus to. Whether that means they are more harmonic than other projects walls, or not, I'm not sure. I've not really focused on 'static' more-so then really dense, chunky wall. Don't get me wrong, I think static wall is really great and ghastly, I just think that chunky, decaying wall is something that I could never get tired of. I've made it a point to focus on the mids and lows of the project more than the high's. I also feel that the lower textures in stereo convey to the listener the sense of confinement that I'm kind of trying to get across. To place yourself in the situation that this 'girl' finds herself in with the semi-narrative qualities of the track titles.
Evan I really really hate mixers. Which is kind of ironic considering my first piece of equipment was a mixer. But honestly, I just feel like it's a lot more freeing to not concern myself with a mixer. I've never used one in Ritual Stance and I really don't plan on it. I got a passive mixer a while back with the intention of running multiple sources at once, but fuck it, why have an intense setup if I'm getting the sounds I want out of three pedals and a sound source?
m[m]:The track “Shielding Bosom with Dagger” from your Bare Before The Altar release utilizes a drum machine fed through a series of pedals as it's source material. Do any of your other track utilized more conventional instruments? And are there any source materials you’d like to experiment with in the future?
Evan That has been really the only track to utilize 'conventional' instruments. I've also done a bit of contact mic'ing, rubbing it on cement.
Evan One source that I would like to try would be plastic wheels being dragged across concrete, that texture has always sounded really dense to me. As far as other sources go, I'd really like to make something as a source and use it. I think the more hands on anything is, the more rewarding. I admire Chop Shop and his speaker devices.
m[m]:I believe you’ve played live a few times now, what’s your set-up like live?, & do you have any backdrop or wear a mask or a disguise live?
Evan I've done two Ritual Stance sets. The first set was kind of unplanned, on a Sunday in some guys basement in front of 10 people. It was just weird. No mask, no real plan, no focus, and it wasn't as successful as I would have liked it to be.
Evan The second set was very intentional. It was in Northern Virginia, again in a basement, but for about 30 people this time. The setup was the MFOS WSG into a Sirkut WNG, the WNG went into a Thrash Master, Sovtek Tall Font, and Meatbox. I went into a 200 watt bass cab, as well as a 120 watt Roland Chorus and ran in stereo. I wasn't expecting to be able to run in stereo, so at first all my settings were a bit off, but once I tweaked it to the low rumble I was looking for, I stood there and absorbed it for the next 10 minutes, and the rest of the set.
m[m]:What’s due out next for the project & where do you see the projects sound going next?
Evan I'm pretty sure the only two concrete things that are up next for Ritual Stance are a double CDr out on Sweet Solitude, intended to be played simultaneously, panned on both sides of the listener, as well as a split CDr with Å which will be a dedication to GRIZ-LOR, using only Big Muffs. Ironically when I conceptualized the split I had a pretty large amount of Big Muffs I had either made or collected. Now I only have the Tall Font. So I'm going to horde a few more muffs for the recording before I concrete my side to audio.
Evan I'm also putting out a 3 way collaboration between Ritual Stance, Sex Complex (Fairfax, VA), and Gluttoness (NOVA). It's heavy, an hour long, and will be out with the next batch of VS shit. Its a CDr. I really just need to make artwork for it.
Evan I'm also probably going to be putting out a new Ritual Stance c20 in the next few weeks to get back into things and Raise money to buy more tapes for the batch after next of Void Seance material.
m[m]:What’s the HNW scene like in Richmond , Virginia ?
Evan Non-existant other than me. Fairfax has Sex Complex and Gluttoness, and that's about 2 hours away. I played a Frailty of Angels set a few weeks ago that had some wall tendencies to it and was pretty well received to a pretty decent audience, so I'm going to do a full on Ritual Stance set next time and see how that goes. The place in Richmond that I play, Strange Matter, has a nice, and super-loud PA. Along with my guitar cab, its plenty enough to sound confined and claustrophobic.
m[m]:Tell us a little bit about how your label Void Séance came about?
Evan Void Seance was formed in October of 2010. I had started a 'label' before with my project REACHING. called Dirgehead Distribution Company, but it was very limited as far as the audience. I put together a compilation in 2008 which had artists from around the world contribute original content. Cock ESP, Torturing Nurse, as well as about 30 others. I'm pretty sure only 3 copies sold, and I made 50.
Evan Anyways, I stopped doing Dirgehead Distro and releasing other people's music shortly after I stopped doing the Reaching. project. I went a year or so without doing any releases, kind of feeling burnt out after the compilation, but then I couldn't help but want to start a label again. Physical releases hold a certain importance to me, I guess being a graphic designer they are almost as important as the sounds themselves.
Evan I formed Void Seance with the intent to release HNW by well known, as well as up and coming acts, while making sure that the releases themselves are of the best possible design quality and hold a unified yet diverse aesthetic. I try to take great care in making each release a statement both for the artist and for the label.
m[m]:Alot of your CDR releases put on Void Séance utilize a brown chipboard sleeves- what made decided on this house style?
Evan Void Seance started with White Digipaks. The Vomir, Lungwash, Churner, A.R.GH, and first Ritual Stance release were all in these white sleeves. I had bought a large case of them to use for my other project, Frailty of Angels first full length CDr, and had quite a few left.
Evan Once I ran out of the white sleeves, I did a run of cassettes with red shells, before moving to the chipboard. I had seen the chipboard sleeves before, but I actually did some research on them and found that they come shipped to you disassembled, which is a great opportunity for screen printing, which I try to include with every release.
Evan Each run or 'phase' of packaging is entirely up to how many discs I put out and how much is left over of the packaging after each disc. If I have enough supplies to make another full release, I do. If I only have 10-15 of whatever supply is left, I put out Ritual Stance releases, since those are usually put out in smaller numbers anyways. It's all about efficiency and using the materials at hand.
Evan The next batch of Void Seance releases will be in black digipaks.
m[m]:you’ve recently put out the first issue of your printed HNW zine Void Sacrifice- how did this come about & can you tell us your plans for future issues?
Evan Yes, Void Sacrifice is now out. It took a while, but it was worth it in my eyes. As a designer I've always been drawn to the physical and print based medium. I think this mp3 and digital era is a plague. I've always wanted to put out a zine, I think they are a great alternative to blogs, and have a lot more control as far as aesthetic goes.
Evan The first issue was an experiment. I'd never interviewed anyone before to know what questions to ask. I kind of put it on the back-burner for a while, but started to assemble copies of it in December, and finally finished a few weeks ago.
Evan For the next issue I'd like to feature a CDr, as well as more interviews, more content, and possibly artwork from other HNW artists. Each artist has their own aesthetic which they embrace, I think it would be very interesting to compile these aesthetics into printed matter.
Thanks to Evan for his time & effort with the interview. Ritual Stance's bandcamp is here, and you can listen to or download over 15 out of print RS relea.ses there. Void Séance webstore can be found here for all the in-print RS releases.