Thoughtful Wall-Making [2014-05-08]Southampton based Clive Henry is with out doubt one of the most rewarding & original HNW/ANW artists working in todays world wide wall scene. He only started releasing walled noise work in 2010, but he has so far created a creative & thought provoking back catalogue. Clive kindly agreed to give M[m] an email interview.
m[m]:What was your first introduction to the HNW form, and is there any one particular track or release that made you want to start creating your own walled noise?
Clive My first introduction to HNW, as is, was probably “music for mass radio” by Werewolf Jerusalem. I had come across mentions of HNW on the Troniks forum, but frankly it sounded boring, extremity for extremity’s sake and a fad. Then a few things collided in late 2010: I spent a month making no music, and wrote introspectively instead; correspondence with Dave Phillips really made me re-evalute what I was doing, musically and as Loud As Possible magazine came out. My re-evaluating fed into my introspective writing, and I found I needed a suitable, non-distracting soundtrack - which is where ALAP comes in. I read Sam Mckinlay’s (The Rita) piece on HNW with great interest, and perused the recommended playlist; some of the names I’d had tapes of for years (Incapacitants, Monde Bruits), but most were new to me and I dived in. I quickly fell in love with Werewolf Jerusalem and Hum Of The Druid in particular - and more importantly, they were excellent writing soundtracks! (since you ask, “Music For Mass Radio” and Arabstrap’s “The Last Romance” were bizarrely conducive to my word count...) I decided to change direction from previous recordings, which had been more akin to (e.g.) the chocolate monk label; starting afresh and pursuing HNW. I had done very minimal things before this, and had always been a big fan of Culver/Matching Head; but this was a definite abrupt change in direction.
m[m]:Unlike many HNW artists you come from a formal musical background, as you’ve played bass/guitar/ percussion in many projects such as Boduf Songs( sombre folk/ electronica project), Four Man Ghost( dark indie folk collective), Pistol At Dawn With An Afterglow( ambient project built around guitar ‘n’ cello drones)- do you think this has help or hindered you in the creation of walled noise?
Clive In as far as I’m very clear that I’m making “music”, its helped, I suppose. I don’t have any actual formal training, though - I taught myself guitar when I was about sixteen, and I’ve been in various bands, playing various instruments, ever since. I actually started my first tape label in about 1995, before I became very active band-wise; so its not simply a case of moving towards the “experimental” from a more “conventional” background: its always been more blurred than that. my first band was essentially an indie band (in the good, “old” definition of indie: Jacobs Mouse, Silverfish, Pavement - as opposed to the post-Oasis drivel), but even in that I’d be trying to find the trebliest distortion I could - its that great period where you think you’re destroying all of music’s boundaries, only to find out later that people did similar and better years before you... both Dawn With An Afterglow and the earlier History Of Electricity were overtly concerned with lengthy, real-time, minimal, textural playing; they were drone-based, but the similarities with HNW practices are obvious.
(for the record, Four Man Ghost probably began as Aerial M Worship; but ended up at the altar of King Crimson. I say this purely because “dark indie folk collective” sounds... bad. I also feel compelled to point out that I’ve been in lots of non-folk/drone bands too...!)
m[m]:Tell us a little bit about your set-up?, and do you use the same equipment each time you create HNW?
Clive My wall set-up is honestly nothing exciting: white noise generator, pedals, radio, more pedals, ridiculous amount of pedals... in fact, last night, I finally acquired the last pedal on my “realistically acquirable” list; so I look forward to playing around with that soon. the set-up always varies, I choose the tools I think I’ll need to achieve the desired results. once things are recorded, they may or may not get further processed on computer.
m[m]:Your sound is mostly focused on detailed & often progressive HNW/ ANW, which is mixed with elements of weird sound craft, & unsettling ambience. Tell us a little bit about how you go about composing & laying out a release? And how long does it normally take for you to create a work?
Clive I’ll start by stating that whilst I’m aware of what HNW/ANW can mean, I’m not remotely concerned with it as a “genre” - fascinating, as it is. by that I mean, that I’m not interested in being progressive or what-have-you - I’m merely interested in doing what I find interesting to do. a lot of what I record has clear ties to HNW, but I haven’t signed up to any pledge of HNW allegiance: I just do what I do and if people call it “HNW”, that’s great; and if they call it “not-HNW”, that’s great.
I have a difficult relationship with that particular acronym... I use it often enough, but always as a simple shorthand to designate a vague area of interest. I feel like there’s always speech-marks around it, whenever I say or type it.
I don’t see myself as an “HNW artist” - I do various things and whilst wall stuff has certainly dominated my activities for a while, its never been my sole venture.
Anyway, to return to the question you actually asked me about composing...
where do I start? if I’m responding to a request for a recording, then a theme might be given or suggest itself; which might in turn generate an idea for composition. otherwise, it might stem from an idea I had; or I might simply record something “blind” and then find the material takes itself somewhere.
Beyond that, its hard to say. if I have a definite concept or narrative in mind, I’ll plan that out; but often things acquire a life of their own and dictate their own direction - those are the good ones. throughout all of this, I’m just using my ears and brain to try and make something I find interesting.
Clive How long? pre-recording planning/thought might take a fortnight, might take a few months gestating in my brain. Actual recording might take three or four hours, might take several days in total. any further construction or processing might take weeks or months. But these estimations rely on any amount of variables.
artwork and texts can come easily, or be subject to similar periods as above.
I don’t ever rush things, and some projects are now years old, waiting for the finishing touch.
m[m]:Most of your releases have quite an deep/thought provoking themes to them, for example 2012’s(one of my favourite of yr releases on Vagary Records)- covered finding the perfect partner,love, desire, sex, and male/ female relationship. Could you tell us a little bit about how you go about selecting your themes?
Clive I'll digress by telling you one of my favourite stories.
when I was at school, we had a talk from a poet called David Orme (i think); I grew to like poetry later, but at that point I don't think the talk meant too much to me. One
part, however, stuck. he described how one of his poems had been used in an Australian exam paper; the poem had addressed environmental concerns and one of the questions was: “why do you think the poet was inspired to write this poem?”.
Orme said how he imagined lots of answers were along the lines of him being worried about the earth's destruction and future. The real answer, however, was that he had been invited to contribute to an anthology (of environmental poems) and totally forgotten about it. He remembered on the deadline day, and ended up quickly scribbling something down whilst travelling somewhere on a train. He went on from this, to say how people too often thought of poets: sat at a desk in a dark room, with a shaft of light on their blank page; waiting for the lightning of inspiration to strike.
I liked this dispelling of myth, this debating of the “sanctity” of art. The point being… things just come together in my head through a variety of, often
everyday and “nuts & bolts”, means.
The vagary release is a case in point. while running his previous label, Sweet Solitude, James Vagary asked me if I'd like to submit something for the “Infinity” series - his distinctly non-conventional/ANW sub-label. I had started recording for it, when he announced he would be ending Sweet Solitude and starting the Vagary label. So where I once had twenty mins of music, guided by notions of
“unconventional/ANW”; I now had twenty minutes somewhat adrift of any direction. I wanted to do something that would acknowledge Vagary's concerns and aesthetic
(Katy Perry, The Clangers, You know…!) but also truly resonate with me. at the time I had been rinsing Nicola Roberts' “lucky day” to death and… it seemed a perfect
marriage! I'm a sucker for finding “darker” themes in “throwaway” pop songs (Kylie Minogue's “I Should Be So Lucky” is still one of the most beautifully sad songs you'll
ever hear. Pop perfection.) and the lyrics to “Lucky Day” are full of wonderful,
“innocent” love-song tropes. They seemed a perfect starting point from which to delve into things that interested or concerned me.
This is a key point as far as “themes” go - they have to resonate with me. I need to be able to stand behind anything I put out. If someone really wanted me to
contribute to a compilation about “Game Of Thrones”, I would have to think my way into it, and some angle that had meaning for me (I got nothing. ha). otherwise, I'm
just churning out crap.
Maybe I’m just over-thinking things that are self-evident to everyone.
Welcome to my life.
So, more often not, things will just bounce around in my head; until one day, dots
are joined and the picture is formed. its a less dramatic form of the dark room/quill/
shaft of light inspiration. ha. I never rush anything, things come when they come.
The London HNW fest performance came about, as was, because a good friend asked me to dispose of a large mirror and a tub of sharp, broken mirror shards;
after he had used them in an excellent performance himself. (Seth Cooke - “City Of London mirror displacement” http://www.bangthebore.org/archives/5050)
In fact, having just checked, his performance was exactly a week before the HNW fest. so, he gave them to me to throw away, I kept them (being a terrible hoarder -
currently collecting locks of my own hair) and stared at them for a few days before I
everything is an open process.
Not sure that all that rambling answers your question, but hopefully its worth reading. once.nutshell: I start something in motion, its open to being acted upon by any amount of things and at some point its “finished”.
m[m]:Pretty much all of your releases(and in particular your self released album) have quite an arty feel to them, with lots of texts, pictures etc. What made you want to stand out from the often minimal & lo-fi look of many
Clive Well, when I started, I had essentially no idea about any HNW aesthetics. I'm pretty sure I released “I” without too much involvement in HNW circles - so it certainly
wasn't any kind of reaction to how i perceived things.
From a formal point of view, I think I was inspired by the quasi-scientific ideas utilised by some of the Schimpfuch artists. So I decided on a very stark, black and white presentation; with photos and text on a theme for each release. (I've always liked the back-cover texts on some of my dads old records)
This was also meant to be rejected in the content too. My previous non-wall stuff, before switching to using my birth name as a moniker, had become increasingly personal, whilst also massively obscured. during the period of writing and introversion I described in my answer to your first question, I decided that this obscuration was a mask I should lose. again, this was a reaction to what I saw as
Dave Phillips' honesty and lack of “bullshit”.
I think I thought it was time I grew up.
I had written personal zines in the past, openly discussing my thoughts; much inspired by hardcore and Emo. (before “Emo” became a dirty word, it was one of the best things that happened in hardcore. although I have a UK perspective on this and I’m told that (for instance) American bands were often a bit more “college rock” -
whereas mid/late 90s UK bands like Imbiss, Polaris, month of birthdays and so on were all about intensity.) Anyway, I was massively inspired by zines like: Chimps,
Passivity = Compliance and DDD (the last being neither Hardcore, Punk or Emo - but totally vital) and would write long pieces in their spirit.
so I decided that I should continue this self-refection, analysis; adopt an “openness”- but in a more detached, less “selfish” way. basically, I should attempt a more
In this, I have to admit that I have failed. certainly, I seem to have slipped back into old ways with some recent releases. “XII” had a lot of texts that would have been
rejected at the beginning, but, well, they cut deep (to the extent that I debated
releasing it at all) and…
“you're human like the rest of them.”
deal with it.
m[m]:Away from your normal thought provoking & arty releases you’ve released a few film themed release, and these come in the form of 2013’s XVIII - Der Siebente Kontinent(which was themed around Michael Haneke's stark & chilling anti- consumerism 1989 movie The Seventh Continent), and more recently Day Of The Women( based on the notorious 1980’s rape/revenge movie I spit On
your Grave). What attracted your to theme releases around these movies? And are there any other movies you’d like to theme releases around?
Clive Well, as I said above, I often arrive at an end result via a wandering route and both these releases are examples of this. Cory (Altar Of Waste) asked me if I'd like to submit something to him and i started work on some tracks for it, with no plan whatsoever. I was maybe three-quarters done, and starting to worry a little about
the lack of overall form, when I suddenly realised that Haneke's film just fit perfectly.
So I Finished the tracks with the film in mind, and there we are. Given that Cory releases a lot of film-related work, I was pleased to do something that reflected a
“Day Of The Woman” came about in a much straighter way. Basically, there was a open call for submissions for a “video nasties” comp and I grabbed “I Spit On Your Grave” and started working on something. Due to an “administrative error”, my name got lost and so I didn't end up on the final line-up. However, I kept going with the track and it ended up growing into a full release.
So, as you can see, neither of these releases came about because I decided: “I MUST do a release about ?'…”.
Der Siebente Kontinent - simply a beautiful film. whilst it IS thought-provoking, the whole affair is so brutal and harrowing that it stamps all over any intellectual
response and just leaves you neck-deep in the bleakest void. The entire, drawn-out climax is very hard to watch. It resonates very powerfully with a lot of the more negative thoughts I have about the world we find ourselves in - and from a “traditional/stereotypical” HNW point of view, its a film with real relevance.
Day Of The Woman - very simply, I came to this film assuming it was a trashy, exploitative piece of hack work that would bore me solid. Instead, I ended up being
captivated from beginning to end and mulled over it for weeks after. it is a difficult film - thoroughly unpleasant, actually - and its not something that I’ve come to any
conclusion over; but I was surprised to see that away from the garishness of the culture surrounding it, it was actually a good film. I feel like I’m 95% “decided” over
it, but that remaining 5% is very troubling… but its these grey areas that generate thought and movement.
On a lighter note, I loved the soundtrack: there isn’t one. so, those few moments of musical sound in the film gain real resonance. I also really liked the presence of
“nature” in the film. It was probably a simple budget decision to film so much in the woods, but the greenery almost became a character in its own right.
I didn’t want to press “obvious” buttons with the release, hence it was important to me to use the films original title and have “non-garish” artwork.
There are quite a few films and directors that really inspire me, but I must admit that doing a release dedicated to one of them is not something that springs to my mind.
but its not unthinkable, at all.
m[m]:Another recent release that has seen you depart from your normal themes is The Police Station, which is themed around the 2nd Resident Evil play station game. What attra cted you to this theme? And are you a fan of the whole Resident Evil franchise? And our you a fan of other horror themed
video/ pc games?
CliveFrankly, it sounded fun! plus its a homage to a series which gave me much pleasure as a teen. I’m not an evangelist for computer games, in any way; but at their best they can be incredibly immersive experiences. In my mid-teens, my dad bought a spectrum 48k which gave us years of blocky fun (though I still spent most of my
leisure running about in the street); later on he graduated to the Playstation, and that was when I played games the most. (he now has a Playstation 3, and I bought
him a shoot ’em-up for his 70th. ha)
Anyhoo, I loved the Resident Evil series. The first three games were all great, but the second and third were fantastic. They’re a really perfect blend of slow-burning
tension and sudden, jolting shocks and set-pieces. That music from the police station is hard-wired into my brain. The games were pitched and paced beautifully, and the way that they effortlessly shifted location and atmosphere was exemplary. I haven’t followed the series since the fourth game, but its been impressive to watch the films start off badly and then actually get progressively worse…
The silent hill series was pretty much flawless up to the fourth game (which I gave up on). If i had to choose one game (“one game that isn’t called ico”) to justify the
existence of video games, Silent Hill would be it. Brilliant storylines, nauseating atmospheres and intelligent and creative game mechanics. very often, works of
pure hellish dementedness. nasty stuff.
I really enjoyed playing the first two Project Zero (fatal frame) games - very creepy. despite their premise being more obviously fantasy then Resident Evil or Silent Hill
(you have some kind of “magic camera” in project zero, whereas Resident Evil and Silent Hill can arguably be rooted in genetic engineering and psychology respectively), Project Zero is one of the few games to make me walk about scared in daylight. This is the genuinely worrying aspect of immersing yourself in one of these games - if you properly “lock” into them, it can take a while to reclaim the
“unlocked” state. So, after playing project zero during a lunch-break, I returned to the shop and spent a very uncomfortable time alone; fretting over every creak and
rustle I heard. Though I actually find it more bizarre that during a period where I was playing Tony Hawks skateboarding a lot, I would walk down a street thinking “hmm, I could nose-grind along that, kick-flip onto the fence and then 720 off…”…
Nothing else really springs to mind in this vein of games. I played one of the ClockTower series and “it was kind of fun, I suppose”. I really enjoyed the basic idea of
Forbidden Siren, and it was a very tense game; but again, not one I saw through to the end. In Forbidden Siren, you have no real combat abilities, and if you’re spotted by one of the possessed villagers (or whatever they are) you’ve had it. This was one of the refreshing things about Silent Hill/etc: where most other games involved gigantic guns, muscles, explosions, the superhuman; Silent Hill was more a case of “grab that brick and run like hell and hide”. Instead of offering escapism, it delivered something I’ll call trapped-ism. its tempting to draw a parallel there with drones and
HNW - they also deliver an “isolating” experience (in my opinion) - but at least drones and HNW can be intoxicating and ecstatic…
I don’t play these games anymore – I don’t own a TV, for one thing - but I do feel the urge to, sometimes! I would recommend that people check out a game called Limbo,
though. Beautiful, simple game-play and aesthetics; with a really unsettling undercurrent. I appreciate that computer games are “dumb”, but what isn’t?
m[m]:One of your more intense, brutal & mainly fixed HNW releases was your February 2013 release “XX- Dark & Dread, the Second Cyclone”- this came in the form of six C90 box set. Could you tell us a little bit about the themes behind this release, and why you decided to mainly focus on a more unchanging & fixed walled noise sound?
Clive Not much to say, really. the start of 2013 wasn’t a whole lot of fun and i spent most of it in my head. as I’ve said elsewhere, i was trying to clear clutter from my brain, as well as my shithole of a room; resulting in a dustbin bag full of used tapes and a wealth of introspection. pour one into t’other, and... there are various reasons for the more static aesthetic (some abstract, some practical), but possibly the main would be a simple notion of cleansing.
m[m]:I was lucky enough to see you perform live at the London HNW fest, which took place on the 22nd of 2013 at the Windmill Brixton. I think it’s fair to say it was one of the most disturbing, at times fighting & intense performance I’ve ever seen.( check here for my full review of the fest). Could you tell us a little bit about how you prepare mentally for such a performance? And can you give us any hints about the themes behind this particular performance?
Clive I’m glad it stimulated a reaction! how do I prepare mentally...? hmmm....
I suppose rehearsing should be the obvious answer, but to be honest, i practice less and less for most gigs: as long as I know that the tech side of it will work, then I’ll have a plan in my head and away we go. I don’t really make a conscious effort to prepare mentally. I worry a lot and get ridiculously nervous for some gigs, while with others I don’t bat an eyelid – I get nervous enough (part and parcel of the process), but it doesn’t affect me. once I cross the line and start my set, though, I’m fine.
as for my ideas in that performance, it could be interpreted various ways; but “identity” is in there...
m[m]:The Uk HNW scene still remains rather small with only a few projects constantly releasing stuff- why do you think that is & would you like to see the scene grow more?
Clive Obviously it’d be great to see more people doing stuff - if only to make gigs more doable. but, well, its a niche thing. I think everyone actively involved in noise/etc
recognises that same issue, and those actively involved in HNW recognise that they’re a niche within that niche. My view of things is pretty much governed by the Maniacs Only, Special interests and HNW forums - there may well be a wealth of people doing things outside of that, but our circles don’t cross.
so, I don’t know.
Its not something that keeps me awake at night. I’d welcome any number of committed people and projects, but, as ever, quality over quantity. Whilst I realise that there is a wider amount of activity going on, its interesting to see things through the HNW forum: a small group of reasonably isolated individuals, across various countries. (it genuinely warns my heart that people will sometimes
converse in their native tongue on the forum!)
There have been a few new UK projects popping up, so the fresh blood is there - and I would expect that to continue. But from the opposite side of things, people like Kafkex Rex and Iwn are missing in action…
m[m]:Since you started creating walled noise you’ve often put out split releases, with respected HNW artists such as Vomir & Dead Body Collection- do you have a favourite of the splits you’ve put out so far? And is there anyone you’d like to do a split with in the future?
Clive The boring answer is that each has something special for me. the Vomir split was where my recordings seemed to properly emerge. the split with Dead Body Collection just seemed somehow “perfect”, at the time. the split with where is this, which I must admit I do have an odd soft spot for, was wonderfully subtle and colourful to my ears. my recent split with Small Hours feels like its one of the best things I’ve done so far and for the Ataraxy split, I revisited my first ever wall attempt and re-worked it with 2014 ears, which feels somehow “momentous”. to digress slightly, I recently also did a collaboration with Charlotte and Julian Skrobek (who lie behind the fantastic ink runs recordings), and that was a joy from start to finish.
There are any amount of people I’d love to do a split with, so rather than play favourites I’ll simply say that as far as “wall” stuff goes, Lungwash, Richard Ramirez and Gluttoness/Titanica have always been massive inspirations to me.
m[m]:What’s next for the project, and how do you see the projects sound progressing & changing in the future?
Clive I have a few recordings I’d like to do, but otherwise, no idea really. I try and keep things moving. I’ve been clearing a backlog of things for a while, but I finally started something new the other day - which felt good! I have wanted to explore more vocal-related territory for a while now, so hopefully I’ll be able to get my head into that soon.
Thanks to Clive for his time & effort with the interview. Clive’s web presence can be found here