An Interview with PC Worship’s Filthiest Tapehead, Justin Frye

An Interview with PC Worship’s Filthiest Tapehead, Justin Frye

Justin Frye's studio is in the basement of a Bushwick warehouse, and it's filled with broken shit. There’s a slide guitar with only two strings that's covered in loose tobacco. The reel-to-reel is spooled with broken tape and tied together in a square knot. The drum set in the corner is a Frankenstein, built out of maybe thirty different kits. The PC Worship frontman hunches in a hard-back school cafeteria chair in the corner, messing with a glowing Mac. It's the only piece of modern equipment in the room.

PC Worship’s superb fourth LP, Social Rustis set to drop September 9th on Brooklyn-based experimental jazz and rock label Northern Spy. The band consists of a number of movers and shakers in the free gazz/no wave/nu-composition scene that’s centered in the Myrtle-Broadway area of Bushwick, and more specifically, DIY space The Wallet: Jordan Bernstein of The Dreebs, Pat Spadine of Ashcan Orchestra. This live/work/recital hall has housed a range of talent over the years, from Frye and Mac Demarco to members of Tonstartssbandht and more. The thread that unites all of these musicians is an adherence to a so-called lo-fi “paesthetic," which is a cross between "pathetic” and “aesthetic." Coined by G. Lucas Crane of Nonhorse and The Silent Barn fame, it refers to an art of necessity, or a sort of post-capitalist folk art. Tools are built in the living room from rubbish rather than bought at Sam Ash. Music gets recorded on tape because tapes are cheap.

The new PC Worship record epitomizes this approach, smarting up grunge dirges with sloppy tape feedback, buried gnarled piano, John Cale drone violin, and deathly sinister horns. His songwriting reveres Melvins-sized hooks and harsh psychedelia and comes out sounding kind of like a stoned Swans. Fucked up guitar lines in no-key twitch around like heat lightning, and it also helps that Frye sings as if he’s about to puke. 

AdHoc: You seem to involve a lot of people in your recordings. It's almost like PC Worship is a collective.

Justin Frye: I don’t think it’s a collective; "collective" indicates that there’s a group mentality in terms of the way it’s created.

AdHoc: So are you the president or the speaker of the house?

JF: Neither. PC Worship is definitely my project, but I think there’s a collective mentality in terms of our community of people. Weirdly enough, a lot of these people have lived at The Wallet, and I think it sort of stemmed from having a million friends that played music. It’s like… there’s no real reason to limit yourself when you have a lot of people around.

AdHoc: How many musicians are on this record?

JF: So there’s me, Michael Etten played guitar, Shannon Sigley and Jordan Berstein played drums and bass. My friend Billy Brett from Virginia played some synth, ‘cause his band Buck Gooter was in town when I was working on a lot of the songs. Pat Spadine does stuff with photo transistors, light resistors, and he kind of circuit bends a lot of tape machines and adds speed or tone controls. My girlfriend Jess Papitto sang some stuff. My friend Mario Maggio who’s upstate did all the horn parts. Nathan Whipple played some piano and organ.

AdHoc: You also make your own instruments, or play broken instruments, right?

JF: We usually write music in an environment where there’s a lot of shit going on, and you kind of pick up something that’s lying around. Sometimes it sticks, sometimes it doesn’t. We made an instrument called the “shitar” a while ago. 

AdHoc: What was the shitar?

JF: It was basically a broken guitar, a piece of cherry wood kind of strung up with a Nalgene bottle as the bridge. You used a slide on it. It didn’t have any sort of fixed tonality. You could play some weird quarter tones on it.

AdHoc: Do you think the eclecticism of your music is something that grew out of necessity?

JF: Not entirely. A lot of us came up from an interest in free jazz and new classical music, where the bounds of instrumentation are limitless and one of the least contrived parts of the music.

AdHoc: But the music you make is still rock music. There’s elements of no-wave and grunge, and definite song structures. 

JF: PC Worship, for me, started after I played in a lot of my friends' bands and spent a lot of time playing other people's music. It was an excuse to start a project that wasn’t detailed by instrumentation or the same people getting pissed at each other in a room. I've been in bands where it’s your five best friends in the world, and I love that shit, but then it kind of started feeling like I was always the guy in the room who had ideas and people were like, “I don’t know about that, man.” The thing that kind of changed my mindset was when I was in school, and me and a couple of the guys who play in PC Worship had a band that was centered around composition. Someone would bring something in, and they’d be at the forefront, and everyone else would be their assistants to help them see their vision through. That kind of vibe is cool because… maybe not so much in PC Worship, but in our community we all kind of do that for each other. We all play in Ashcan Orchestra, and that’s a little more definite in terms of its composition than PC Worship. 

AdHoc: What was the first record you ever bought?

JF: I’m not sure what the first one was, but a story that sticks out in my mind is going to Planet Music with my mom in Virginia Beach and buying Nine Inch Nails' Downward Spiral and bringing it to the front. The guy wouldn’t let me buy it, and my mom was like “What's the problem? I gave him ten bucks so he could pick out a CD,” and the guy said, “It's got a parental advisory on it. Do you know what it says on this album?” And my mom looked at me and was like, “Do you know what it says?” And I was like, “Yeah,” and she was like, “Alright.” That was in fifth grade.

AdHoc: Where did title Social Rust come from?

JF: For the past year, my job involved salvaging pieces of metal that had a lot of rust. And that’s how the art world works-- the sanctity of the object. Social Rust was kind of a comment on... like, a stagnant feeling in society. Maybe it’s a personal thing. Who knows? Maybe it just felt right.

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