Where Is This & Bored Bear Recordings Interview [2012-01-10]
Dublin based Mark Ward is the mind behind quirky mixed noise genre project Where is This, he also runs the excellent and varied irish noise label Bored Bear, and he also is in a collaborative project with Texas noise legend Richard Ramirez entitled Fuck Patrol. Mark kindly agreed to give M[m] an email interview from his Irish base in Dublin
m[m]What was the first noise track or album you heard? And is there any particular album or release that trigged you wanting to start your own
Mark I suppose the earliest noise track I remember hearing was through my friend Aidan. He introduced me and a couple of others to Alec Empire VS Merzbow at CBGB's. From there, things spiralled. There was lots of Merzbow, but it was when I listened to Masonna properly that my fate was sealed. There's no particular record that made me say "I want to do WiT" but as my listening tastes changed, so did my recording habits. I've always been drawn to the weird, esoteric and the unusual, so I think it was inevitable that noise would suck me in.
m[m]Tell us a bit about how Where is This came about? What’s the
meaning behind the title & was this your first sonic project?
Mark Where is This was something I wrote down on a piece of paper in the middle of the night. It seemed quite profound to me at the time but isn't really. I like the fact that it abbreviates to WiT (However, I irrationally hate when people punctuate the name with a question mark at the end though). There is an unused long form version of the name that dates back to it's early days when it wasn't just a noise project which is Where is This Music You Speak of, Fucker? which has since been used up in the titles for three early eps of mine (WiT, MYSO, Fucker) which are very different from each other, but together form a patchwork of the noise I was doing at the time (2008/9).
Mark As mentioned WiT, initially, wasn't just a noise project. I did electronica with vocals for a long time as well, and have three or four albums worth of material recorded (I used to gig as Where is This doing that sort of stuff, the gigs used to frequently involve me dressing up insanely and being all performance-y, sandwiched in between three or four guitar bands). I liked the idea of releasing lots of different types of music under one name, however, it came to a point, where it was just impractical, and I decide to seperate all of the electronica stuff to another project (dubbed, by my friend, Where You Last Left It - which, in her words, answers the question of where it is, heh). None of WYLLI has been released though, and I'm not sure if it will (maybe, someday, but most likely not on Bored Bear)
Mark WiT wasn't my first project, no, although it was my first noise project. Previously, I had been in bands. My first band, and first love, was Faded Motorway Cronies which was formed with three of my best friends, which lasted about a year and a half, and was just a lovely, lovely thing. I was the lyricist/singer. After that year and a half, one of the guitarists moved abroad, and that pretty much ended it. After that finished, I started another band with the remnants of FMC, but that didn't last long. With the guitarist who moved abroad, I had a number of "private" projects of which we never released anything, or played live, but we did a lot of work on them. My favourite of these was insane dance electronica called Chinesewarballoon. Others included Medallions of Martha, And This is My Sister, Antihausfrau.
Mark As for how WiT came about, I just kept recording and doing stuff, until it came to a point where I had this massive backlog of a couple of years worth of records, and I decided I should release it. I sent off demos to people and they were rejected, so I thought I'd set up my own label.
m[m]Your first released Where is This appeared in 2009 in the form of the In The Privacy Of Your Own Home. The release was decidedly quirky and jump all over the place sound wise taking in: retro synth sound tracking, Harsh noise, easy listening to industrial rhythms, and slight electroinca after traces. Was it intentional to be all over the place or did it just come out that way? And how long did it take you
put together the tape?
Mark Well, it was culled from a lot of different sessions, and a long period of time, which is much different from now. When I'm working on a record now, I generally have an idea of what I'm doing and what type of sound I'm going for, and I'll work on that until it's finished, or if I do stuff in the interim, I'll know what's for the record, and what's to be used for other things.
Mark In a lot of ways, I think Privacy was my transitional record. I was very happy with it at the time. All the tracks are quite different from each other, but I thought they flowed well together. I suppose as well, in terms of the variation in the record, I was trying things out. First albums rarely sound like the rest of a musician's catalogue, I suppose. I always, described it myself as noisepop. Also, issuing it in an edition of 33 copies was my homage to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's first, and impossible to find first album, All Lights Fucked on the Hairy Amp Drooling.
Mark The reason why it wasn't released until 2009 was because, although finished, I just went on making all kinds of noise and music, essentially for myself I suppose, as I wasn't having much luck in getting it out there, until I hit upon setting up my own label (thanks in large to my growing involvement in noise forums and stuff, where I could see lots of people doing it) and since it was my inaugural noise album, I thought that was the one to release!
Mark Previous to this, I was writing songs, so I think that had a lot of influence on how this album was formed. There are other, as-yet unreleased records that bridge the gap between Privacy and, for example, it's closest counterpart, chronology-wise, the Where is This ep on Deadline, which is harsh noise and feedback. Of those unreleased records, there's two that spring to mind offhand; one, a full-length called You Dream About Work, which was more coherent, and varied, but not as all over the place as Privacy. It was influenced by COIL, minimalism, and some post-rock. Not terribly noisy, but moving in the right direction, and secondly there was one of the titular ep's (the only one that hasn't been released) Music You Speak of which was noiserock? (I've a hard time describing it). Entirely done with my trusty keyboard, it was two 10 minute or so tracks of noisy synths (but not like Carlos Giffoni or anything like that, very lo-fi). Following those came Where is This and the digitally done Fucker which opened up a new way of working for me.
m[m]Your later work has seemed to see you focus down on one or two noise genres at a time, do you think you’ll ever go back to the more
crazed all over the place stuff?
Mark I don't know really. Most of my stuff is done on computer now, as opposed to working with amps, mic's and pedals. I think it depends a lot on my mood, and the time I'm recording it. As WiT, I tend to move through a lot of different styles of noise. Each release tends to be different from the rest, which I enjoy. Even in the HNW releases, of which I've probably released the most of, genre-wise, there's a lot of variation between them. Last year and early this year for example, there are two records that I've completed that I would consider HNW but many others might not. Rue Des Lombards is reverb heavy HNW, with some HN dwells (due to be released soon on BBR) and Infinite Hum is more drone based, but it's far too loud and wall-ish to be classed as drone. The new term that's been floating around a lot, Ambient Noise Wall, that would probably describe both of those records too.
m[m]Can you tell us a little bit about your set-up & how often do you make noise?
Mark Previously, I used to use my keyboard (infrequently) or a nice mic/amp/distortion pedal feedback-based setup. I've next to no pedals, only what's been generously donated by friends who are done with them (one of these days, I'll have the wherewithal to actually go buy some pedals for myself) such as a bashed and battered Boss DS-1 that I love dearly, as well as a Boss GT-6 guitar effects processor. I haven't done a lot of that setup recently, in fact, the most recent analog setup was for the first Fuck Patrol (my project with Richard Ramirez) record, for which I did the base recordings, where I had some sexy contact mics that a fellow Irish noiser, Bipolar Joe, had made for me in trade for some of my releases.
Mark As for how often, whenever I can. I've slowed down a bit, mainly because I've been quite busy with some other projects, but involvement in other noise projects, and the deadlines they bring, help. I recently recorded a 66 minute track for the 20th Infinity Series release on Sweet Solitude, which, along with a number of other tracks are going to be mixed together as the ANW answer to Total Slitting of Throats. Once the run of that has been exhausted, I hope to re-release that record, called Paunch, on BBR, with a bonus 3". As for when I make noise, it's usually late at night, when the house is quiet, and I've a few hours to myself.
m[m]one of the pictures you sent over shows you playing live- how many times
have you done this now? and what have the shows been like?
Mark I've played twice. Both of which were HN sets, one at a festival, and the second at a noise house party kind of thing. I loved the festival set-up: it was a half noise, half doom festival set in a health and wellbeing spa (the organiser's family owned it) full of good vibes that we entirely destroyed :D. I'd love to play live more, but I imagine the next time I play live it will be more HNW-based as well as computer based (I can achieve a much broader range of sounds and control there than I can with my limited equipment). Although there have been a couple of noise gigs over here (we've had Merzbow in Dublin recently, and Vomir in Cork too - a gig I still regret missing!), there's not many outlets for live noise at the moment.
m[m]Tell us a bit about how & why you formed Bored Bear records? & where does the name come from?
Mark Well, as discussed earlier, and like a lot of labels, I was seeking for somewhere and someone to put out my stuff. Initially, I was going to do the label with a friend of mine, and release other types of music, but as WiT became more and more, and then eventually totally, noise-based, simultaneously his interest in being involved waned, and I decided that I wanted to do it on my own.
Mark As for the label, I suppose it wasn't really a label until May 2010 when I properly started putting releases out, including many others that weren't WiT. During the interim, I had made contact with lots of different people, and had gotten some brilliant demos and I thought, "I really want to be the one to put this out" and it spiralled from there. The label keeps me busy, and BBR has recently celebrated it's 2nd birthday. I've nearly put out 30 releases - something I'm really proud of. As soon as I started doing it, I realised that running the label, whilst a bit of scramble at times, is great fun, and something I love to do, and something I will be doing (barring major illness, financial ruin or death) for a long, long time.
Mark As for the name, like WiT, rather boringly, I imagine it was something I wrote down in one of my many notebooks. I'm always writing down scraps of phrases and sentences that come to me, many of which I go back to and use later. Truth be told, I can't remember the exact circumstances of its origin, but I love it now, especially the double meaning, if you factor in the number of queer noise releases that I've put out (I really must get on putting together a logo for BBR at some point!)
m[m]What have been you top ten favourite releases on the label so far &
explain why they are? Mark Ohh, favourtism! You evil man! It's hard to make a list, but I'll try my best!
Okay - in no particular order
1. Kylie Minoise - To Practice Death is to Practice Freedom
This record sonically is absolutely gorgeous, and having been one of the acts that I had listened to myself (particularly the KM record Spank Magic Lodge) during the formation of Bored Bear, I was delighted that Lea agreed to do a release for me!
2. The Girl in the Wooden Horse Torture - Riding Geisha
The second disc in the Richard Ramirez subscription series. I had great fun working with Richard putting out this series, and I recall that this was one of my favourites of the first few months.
3. Various Artists - SILENCE=DEATH
This is a very special release to me. Myself and Thomas Boettner (aka fire island, AK) are good mates, and we both stumbled into a thread about queer noise on Troniks. As a result of that, we ended up co-curating and putting out on our respective labels. Taking the name of the comp from queer activism, we ended up with 18 contributors from all over, including Xiu Xiu whom I was delighted to have on this comp, having been a fan of his (Jamie Stewart's) for quite some time.
4. Sleep of Ages - Sword and Sandals
Elias from Brazil has become a firm favourite of Bored Bear, what with this release, the recent Carrion Black Pit album MYTHOS and the forthcoming split with myself, History is Written by the Handsome. This album in particular though was stunning in terms of construction and the range of noise on there. I particularly loved the last track, the coda-esque Requiem For Cottafavi.
5. Nundata - Cold War
This is just beautiful. The artwork (done by Srdjan of Nundata) is vibrant and wonderfully complements the gorgeous noise, full of samples from the 40's and 50's buried in the mix. The first time I listened to it, when the record ended, I remember involuntarily going "awwww" because it was over, and I pressed play again knowing that I had to put this out. A perfect noise symphony.
6. Where is This - Narcissus at the Gym
My third full-length on Bored Bear, and a long time in planning, I was delighted to get this out. As well as the gorgeous, pervy art by an artist friend, it has a 12 page booklet to accompany the fucked power electronics that are on the cassette (my first venture into that kind of noise. Not like, say, Whitehouse, more like Ramleh, or some Prurient)
7. AxemRangers - How Do I Get Out of This Place?
The first non-WiT release organised for Bored Bear. Having gobbled up the Fuck, The Retarded Girl/AxemRangers split, and having heard a number of AR albums before, I was delighted that he put together a b/card (well in fact, two - the same track was on the discs, but half of the run had a different mix, to the other half) for me. Released in a scant 10 copies (because that was all I had), with a track named after a Nirvana lyric, it's a perfect five minute listen.
8. Where is This / Werewolf Jerusalem - Split
Everything just came together for this one. I'd been hanging onto the track I used for my side for quite a while as I wanted to use it on something good, and Richard provided a wonderful wall on other side. Comes with sexy artwork by American photographer, Michael Alago, I was really delighted how this tape came out. Also, this was the start of myself and Richard working together - this led to me asking him to do the subscription series, and him asking me to start a project together which became Fuck Patrol.
9. Last Rape - Nightmare Rendezvous
I put this and December's RR disc, Vastgebonden by Black Leather Jesus on a disc and listened to them over and over when I got them. They're my two favourite records of the latter half of the sub series, and alongside the WJ that precedes them, I felt it made for a kick-ass way of ending the series!
10. Where is This / Zebra Mu - Split
I love good artwork, and Mike Ridge makes some amazing collages. A short b/card release, but I've never had a split mesh so well together, the tracks just all flow into one another, which I was really happy with. That and the Infinite Jest inspired semi-secret insert (it's inside the inlay, in case you haven't found it).
m[m]I believe you also write & perform your own plays- can you tell us a bit about these & do you ever mix in the noise work with your plays? Mark About four years ago, I fulfilled a life-long dream to study acting, which I did for a year part-time. Having written from a young age, the acting got me into playwriting and I've never looked back. Occasionally I miss acting, but I much prefer writing.
Mark I've got three plays under my belt so far. In 2008, I wrote my first play A Stint in Your Spotlight which was a comedy about a washed-up actor, and was performed as a full-cast rehearsed reading in the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. I returned to the GTF in 2010 with a one-act play set in a sauna called The Middle Distance, which in 2011 went on tour to Cork where it was performed as part of the Solstice Festival. My most recent play is called Saliva and is about greek myth, the tarot and secrets, and was presented as a one-act play in 2011's GTF, and I am currently just finishing off the full-length version with a view to staging it in 2012. For more information about my plays, please visit this website (link: http://astintinyourspotlight.wordpress.com/)
Mark As for mixing noise and plays, no, that's not something I've ever done. They tend to be very seperate areas, and my plays tend to be completly devoid of any music.
m[m]2011 saw you start up a project with Texas Noise legend Richard Ramirez. Tell us a bit about how this happened & how do you go about working on tracks when your in Ireland & he’s in Texas?
Mark Well, as previously mentioned, he asked me to start a project with him. We'd been chatting back and forth, and done a few releases and I was delighted when he put forward the idea. After I sent him a list of possible project names, he selected Fuck Patrol and we were born (interestingly, that name does actually have a story behind it. When my director was working with me on my first play, she told me that I'd have to go back through the script, and go on Fuck Patrol, as there was too many swearwords in it. Somehow, I managed to note down the phrase, despite laughing my head off).
Mark As for working on the tracks, we sent each other stuff back and forth, which we both work on one at a time, until we decide a track or an album was done. The source material for Contact were my recordings and the source for Courtship Disorder was his, so I suppose it's my turn next! I'm really delighted about this project, and I like the notion of paring the explicit name with the much gentler homoerotic artworks that grace the covers. I hope to record more material for FP soon, and I would love to play live with Richard as Fuck Patrol one day.
m[m]What’s lined up for where is This & Bored Bear Recordings in the
next 6 months or so?
Mark The next big thing is my fourth full length WiT record on Bored Bear, Rue Des Lombards. It should be out sometime soon (no exact date yet, there’s been some delays with the duping, unfortuneatly).
This will be the largest run I've ever done on my own (100 copies). It's going to be pro-cdr, with gorgeous artwork by Sven Klippel (of Horsing/Panic, runs Hoarse Records)
Mark I've a rake of things coming out of the first few months of 2012:
A full length record by British experimental trio, Baraclough, who if you haven't heard them, you really, really should. I'm a huge fan of theirs, and delighted to be putting this out.
Clive Henry - III (one of my favourite traders, I think Mr CH is a musical genius, and I'm delighted to be putting this out. HNW, with some musique concrète in between, gorgeous. Make sure to track down his other records, in particular IV if you can!)
Faggot Front - Faggot Front (A gorgeous HNW album from Dom Colluci)
Alois Richter - Ondes Pures (A beautiful, beautiful album of "pure waves" as the album title translates. 80 minutes of transcendant drones)
Where is This / Sleep of Ages - History is Written by the Handsome
Aqua Dentata (A solo album from Eddie Nuttall, who is one-third of Baraclough. Wonderful drone music)
There's more in the works, but nothing else that's finalised.
Mark As for Where is This, and apart from Rue Des Lombards, I haven't got a huge amount on at the moment (apart from what's listed above) as I put out quite a few releases in the past while but:
I'll be part of Sweet Solitude's Infinity Series #20 compilation.
I'm working on some tracks for various comp and split releases, and nurturing an idea for a new record at the moment.
Another full-length, Infinite Hum, should be out sometime later next year.
Thanks to Mark for his time & efforts with the interview questions & for the great pictures. Where is This facebook page is here: here. And Bored Bears blog is here: here