Weasel on weasel worm-holes! A scud-missile of the underground/alt/huh? – multiple genres, multi instrumentalist & multiple-personality basket-case in the first degree unt No Wave royalty with heaps of history trailing back over three states (Chicago, California & now New York) wit’ nare-near three decades dirt-doing & plenty douching all over the temple interior! louts & scouts – it’s tha Weasel to tha ferkin’ Walter:
hiya Weasel! so what on earths going on? come on! lets have the full multiplicitude-force-feed! swish the dirt! bean spillage!
WW: Wellllll . . . not so much drumming. At the moment, I’ve been doing tons of production (mixing and mastering) for a bunch of people like Peter Evans, Chris Pitsiokos, Matt Nelson, Elder Ones and Michael Foster, as well as assembling masters for releases for 2 trios I played with – Vinny Golia/Max Johnson and Damon Smith/Sandy Ewen. I just sent off a new solo release to be manufactured. It’s a 78 minute long electroacoustic piece with percussion and electronics which I think is a bit of a departure from what most people expect of me. It’s very timbral and not so much about playing or technique. I am getting ready to play a couple of gigs as a guitar player with Lydia Lunch Retrovirus. I will tour Europe this October with Lydia, in our vocal vs. drums duo format. We might record something before the tour for release and promo. Another band I play guitar in, Cellular Chaos, has our second album coming out in a few days. I love it. I hope people check it out. I’m very proud of it. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of improvised music gigs lately and I don’t really play drums in a band right now, so I only play drums a few times a month, and that’s usually at a gig. It sucks, but that’s life. For me, drums are just a tool of expression. I like them and I’m pretty good at them, but they’re just really not figuring into my life much currently for various reasons.
talk to us about ugExplode! this is really where i am coming in & the discovery starts. there is a huge lineage of activity & releases over a range of genres. tell us about this collision or melding of genres & why you opted for them in particular. you also liquidated the label in 2013 after over twenty years of production. what was the reason for this & what was the reason for the labels inception?
WW: ugEXPLODE started as a logo of an imaginary record label before it became a reality in 1992 with the first Flying Luttenbachers cassette release. When I was a kid I was totally into music and basically fantasized about what i would do pretty much down to a tee as an adult, including playing with many people who influenced me through their records. I was always into weird, aggressive music. During the late Eighties, I was equally into punk, no wave, free jazz, modern classical, etcetera, but I was coming at it from a starting point of FM radio “classic rock”. Those roots probably have something to do with the visceral, no-bullshit nature of my own music. By the early Nineties, extreme metal joined the party, and the rest is history. I suppose the range of music I released on ugEX reflected this wide, but not so random sensibility. At one point, I felt confident enough that I could try and promote bands other than my own. I’m proud of all 64 releases on the imprint. It was more hard work than profit, of course, but the label didn’t lose money. By 2013, a had a lot of major changes in my life and the market was really terrible. Basically it seemed really futile to do all the work necessary to keep the label running, so I gave up. I still release stuff, but I think the concept of “labels” is obsolete. In this age, everything is on an equal keel, and I feel like it’s a waste of time currently to attempt to curate culture. Essentially I am just trying to keep my own enterprise afloat and I don’t really have the time, finances or energy to really promote anybody else. Maybe someday I will be in a position to do it again.
You have made some extremely interesting observations/statements here – can you elaborate further? How has the “market” degenerated? When did this occur & what’s contributing to this & where are it’s origins? Also, you mentioned obsolescence concerning the concept of music labels, could you expand on this proclamation?
WW: Well, I’m not sure I have much to say about it. Society is incredibly tedious to me . . . as class schisms increase in America, the establishment has created less and less space for non-commercial art on a serious level. Basically, as a career, it is slowly becoming just a hobby and privilege for the rich, i.e. back to what it previously was. There was a period in the 20th Century where the economy and music business created a ferment where art was sustainable for a lot more artists. In particular, the internet destroyed all filters and hierarchy, so now everybody is on the same tier, rolling around in the mud. Every jerk shits out bad laptop bullshit on the internet. Blah blah blah. I don’t know. I’m just trying to keep doing what I’ve been doing for the last 30 years. Music is really important to my life, but sometimes it’s really hard to keep going. Honestly, art is no less a futile act than anything else in this reality, so I pursue it because it gives my life meaning. I used to think hard work and persistence would pay off somehow, but that seems to be a lie. I’m glad for the opportunities I have, but the whole thing is an endless struggle.
Record labels don’t mean anything anymore to me. They exist, and, you know, if they want to release my stuff, great, but I just don’t have any need for the concept, personally. I’m not sure what else to say about that. They exist, but they don’t really matter to me. I mean, I still make cds or whatever, but there’s no need for “a label”. I’m not really curating anymore, so I don’t have to call it anything. If you want a Weasel Walter cd, my name is on the cover.
Honestly, all the external bullshit about music is so incredibly tiresome and omnipresent to me, I don’t really want to talk about it. Recognition is just a popularity contest. It’s boring. My music is against society, so it’s not accepted by it. I’d rather talk about actual music rather than failing systems in a society I despise. I’m really glad I have music because it’s the main way I can deal with people at all. If I didn’t have it, I probably wouldn’t talk to anybody at all. I’m just trying to articulate and document my own insanity. It gives me something to do.
I am interested in your statement of a musical career becoming a “privilege for the rich”. You also mentioned that you can no longer practice your drums regularly. Every drummer I know personally in London cannot play/practice on their own kit…ALL OF THEM! The idea of even the most basic studio space has been reduced to fiction, rents & availability are absolutely off limits unless you are a rich fucker (seriously, no exaggeration) or incredibly fortunate/lucky with some kind of exceptional resource regarding a permitting part-time space from some sympathetic party. However, would you endorse the theory that it’s become cheaper to record at a decent studio level now with the advance of recording software, allowing greater artistic independence?
You speak also with disdain for the internet. Some present the internet as the emancipation from industry/record company/multinational monopoly & others have a much more negative judgement on it’s effects & reality. I agree that there is a gigantic mass of non-evolving low-level garbage on-line (& in-stores), so much of it in-fact that it becomes obstructive or obfuscating to practitioners (& their audiences) that take it more seriously or wield genuine potency or desire for greater qualities. It becomes a deterrent & a major obstacle. Everybody having equal access is one thing, but entities that clearly distinguish themselves or have more quality or potency through that process should naturally progress or garner greater attention or platform… in theory. But this generally does not happen & there is massive artificial manipulation, major misinformation & targeted ostracization. Actually, being “good/formidable” is often a serious disadvantage as it creates a marked threat/contesting to the poor substandard or mediocrity that dominates the more institutionized & market-driven elements (which of course have tremendous influence & control). Poor-quality inferior craft with heavy subsidy, promotion & exposure becomes an investment. The “investors” then exercise considerable effort in the exclusion & denial of their opposition/nemesis groups or artists that perform/adhere-to or represent a higher or truer ideal. Sometimes I think these fucks expend more efforts on suppression than they do production/promulgating their own agents/agenda. Shit is rigged beyond belief, but I can’t believe how badly people fall for it.
WW: My comment mostly has to do with the sort of class war that is going down in the United States. The middle class is being destroyed by the upper classes here. USA is not “number one” any more, but it still says it is. I’m not really here to try and convince anybody of this – if they even remotely follow politics, they will know it. Personally, I feel it. I am not upwardly mobile at this point in history, nor are many of the US musicians I know. It has a lot to do with the economy, and with what culture is resulting through politics and the economy. It’s not really on the side of creative music at this point, so . . . it will have to be endured. i don’t hate anybody because they are “rich”. That’s not the point. It’s just tough to see things continue to erode.
On one hand, recording has become easier and cheaper, but on the other hand, the world is oversaturated with endless recordings, making it a lot more difficult for people to navigate through the morass. I think this is just progress. I release stuff when I think it is significant, and i stand behind all the recordings I personally issued. I have a consistent, small audience, and that’s the best I can hope for. I’m grateful to people who listen to my stuff. I’m not trying to be popular or appeal to anybody in particular, so I’m not really all that concerned with these numbers so much anymore. As long as I can figure out how to continue, that’s all I can care about.
I don’t hate the internet. I hate the laziness and complacency it seems to have created. I hate it because it leaves people like me in the dust in many ways. But, that’s just called change and progress. There isn’t really anything I can do about it. I guess popular (and unpopular music) has always been a popularity contest, so the people will like what they like for whatever reasons they do. My reasons aren’t their reasons, so . . . I can’t really lose sleep over it. Regardless, doing what I do hasn’t gotten much easier, but that’s life. It happens. I just try to make the best work I can, try to document it, try to get it to the people who want it. That’s all I can do!
I think people in Europe and the United States are more into conformity than ever. I am less into it than ever, which means, a lot of people don’t really want or need my point of view on this stuff. That’s fine. My work is just an articulation of my contrariness/insanity/opinion/lifestyle/beliefs, etc. Some people do have things in common with me, so I work with those people, and I suppose those are the ones who listen to my stuff. Although right now I am not really doing a ton of improvised music (no gigs or whatever, don’t know why, scene seems really stale and dead in New York currently), that format has allowed me to have spontaneous connections with a large body of musicians who have at least aesthetics in common. I’m not alone, it’s just that voices like mine have been driven back to the deep underground. That’s just the way it is right now. Maybe it will get better or worse – I have no clue. I just do what I do. I can do more when there’s less pressure to survive. Sometimes I have had that (cheap rent, relationships, opportunities, good economy, more people like weird music).