This piece appears in AdHoc Issue 24.
In 2018, artists face an unspoken mandate to “connect” with their fans, feverishly reminding us of their existence via social media and near-constant press coverage. With non-stop access, the distance between us, the consumers, and them, the artist, narrows. But the closer we get to the artist, the less focus we seem to put on the art itself. It’s the disavowal of these games that makes a band like Royal Trux so refreshing.
Royal Trux began as a creative and romantic partnership between Jennifer Herrema and Neil Hagerty in Washington, D.C. in 1987. From the get-go, sonic accessibility was never a Truxian priority. Their earliest records, like their self-titled debut or ambitious sophomore double-LP, Twin Infinitives, can make for a challenging listen, mostly due to Royal Trux’s penchant for atonal noise rock and extended, lo-fi jams. Later records would expose the band’s deconstructionist tendencies as they toyed with ’60s rock on Thank You, ’70s rock on Sweet Sixteen, and ’80s rock on Accelerator. These records add up to a body of work defined not just by Hagerty’s guitar fuzz and Herrema’s snarling lead vocals, but by a guarantee of unpredictability.
You won’t get to know and love Royal Trux by subscribing to their email newsletter or syncing their songs on Spotify—they don’t have a newsletter, and their music is conspicuously absent from the streaming giant. And judging from their behavior onstage and in interviews, they don’t seem particularly interested in being understood.
In advance of Royal Trux’s upcoming appearances at Market Hotel in Brooklyn on January 19 and January 20, we spoke to Herrema about the band’s preference for letting the art speak for itself. They’re not going to micromanage the listener’s experiences with superfluous context and direction. To get a sense of what they’re about, you have to commit yourself to digging. But even if you do, Royal Trux doesn’t really give a fuck.
This piece appears in AdHoc Issue 24.
Hether Fortune is drawn to the darker things in life. It’s a fascination you can trace to her teenage years as a self-described “angry punk,” or her work with her lovably gloomy rock band Wax Idols. Recently, she’s ventured into painting portraits, rendering friends, historical figures, and her fellow artists in pale and deep hues. Her paintings grapple with the moments of grief and joy in life, as well as the notion that the ghosts that haunt you can also provide inspiration. Ahead of her book release party on January 11 at Union Pool, where Fortune will read from her first collection of poetry, Waiting in Various Lines (2013-2017), she spoke to us about her portrait of Anaïs Nin, which appears on the cover of this month’s zine, and the therapeutic possibilities of painting. Fortune and her band Wax Idols will also perform with Future Punx and Desert Sharks on January 12 at Elsewhere.
In 2012, Londoner Patrick O'Neill founded Liberation Technologies, an experimental electronic imprint of legendary British label Mute. From its very first release-- the exceptional Spring EP by Laurel Halo under her King Felix moniker-- to its more recent triumphs, Liberation Technologies has distinguished itself as a home for forward-thinking, inventive electronic music. We caught up with Patrick while he was briefly staying in Brooklyn to talk about the founding of Liberation Technologies, the label's future, the fundamental differences between New York and London, and more.
Ad Hoc: What exactly have you been doing in New York for the time that you’ve been here?
Patrick O’Neill: I’ve been doing pretty much the same that I do in London. My job covers two bases: running the label and doing A&R for Mute. It seemed like it was quite an exciting time in New York, a good time to come over and spend a few months and get to grips with it a little bit.
AH: So were you working at Mute before Liberation Technologies actually officially started?
PO: No, I was working for Columbia records. And I had been talking to Daniel [Miller, founder of Mute] for quite a while just out of my love for Mute, and eventually our conversation went to me working at Mute, and part of the conversation was that Daniel had wanted to start something up again. It was in a similar vein to Novamute, which was a label that was by a few people from Mute quite a few years ago but was closed down because Mute was entering into a relationship with EMI. And when I was talking to Daniel it was just as they had just left that and Mute had just become independent again. So I think that Daniel had a desire to get back into that world, just electronic music at its early stages. So the conversation just developed after that really.
AH: So now both of you run the label and work together?
PO: Yeah, Daniel is the head of the whole company. What Daniel’s biggest strength I find-- as a boss and as a music person-- is the amount of freedom that he gives people, and most importantly artists. And that manifests itself in a million different ways. Mainly creative support, just letting people develop at their own pace, so I think that’s what he provides with the label. He gives me the freedom to navigate the path, and he’s always there if I need to ask a question and he’s very interested. He’s incredibly inspiring and the relationships he has with the artists he’s worked with for the past thirty years are very unique to music, I think. He doesn’t waver from the task at hand, which is putting out great music.
AH: Is that something that’s important to you, building relationships with the artists that you’re working with?
PO: Yeah, definitely, I think it’s hugely important. It’s the most important. I like to have a very personal relationship with whomever I work with in that respect, with any music we put out. I guess I’m lucky because this has never felt too much like a job. I like to be friends with the people that I work with. That doesn’t always work out, but the majority of the time I’d say it does.
In August, Ensemble Economique-- aka California songwriter and producer Brian Pyle-- released a new album, Fever Logic, on Not Not Fun. Before the record dropped, we wrote about its stunning first single, "We Come Spinning Out Of Control," a song that serves as a wonderful entry point into the cavernous, emotionally gripping abyss that Fever Logic exists within. We communicated with Brian via email, discussing his writing process and influences.
Ad Hoc: Your songs are inherently rather abstract and amorphous, so I'm interested as to how you develop your initial ideas into their final recorded versions. Can you describe your compositional process?
Ensemble Economique: The compositional process varies. It's mysterious. It all starts with one idea, some sort of rough sketch. And from there, depending on how I'm feeling, what I'm trying to express, I'll start building on the initial idea, adding elements, experimenting with layers, letting the composition develop, come to life. As of late, the starting point is usually a beat or a processed sample looped and from there I'll start playing with synth lines and vocal ideas, adding perhaps some non-musical sounds and seeing how that shapes the feeling of the track.
Some songs come to life very quickly, a day or two. Others take sometimes months before I reach something I'm totally satisfied with. Using a MIDI keyboard has definitely influenced the process, working on ideas in a more 'live' context and then building the finished piece from that starting point. MIDI has been wildly useful in helping me craft a track, especially in regards to Fever Logic and its more song-based vibes. There's this immediacy that I really like. My previous records were largely done internally on my PC, so this has been a shift.
Ad Hoc: The songs on Fever Logic certainly seem to engage with experimental and noise music, but a lot of these tracks also seem to be processing some rather different influences. Were there any specific artists or records that you drew influence from while crafting Fever Logic?
Ensemble Economique: Not so much. Of course the music I love is gonna inspire certain choices I make, but the influence is indirect, not premeditated. I'm never like, "I want the track to sound like this record," or "You know that sound on that one record? "I wanna try to go for that." I don't really listen to music like that. Usually when I hear something great Ii'll just be stoked on it and it'll get shuffled into my subconscious. I suppose I was listening to a fair amount of synth-pop while making Fever Logic, and I was definitely trying to make a dark-pop sorta record. I guess the main influence on Fever Logic was just like pure emotion and catharsis. And when I hear other artists/bands really going for it, that gets me really inspired in regards to my own music.
As for the style, totally varies. Early Vashti Bunyan or Velvet Underground and other classics are as much of an influence as lots of contemporary music (too many great new bands to list!). I'm drawing inspiration from all over the music map and lots of non-musical, life sorta things. Just sitting and staring at the ocean or walking through the woods, experiencing the poetry of the world, these are massively inspiring to me.
Ad Hoc: In the past year you have traveled extensively around the world, backpacking across Europe and Russia. Did these journeys inform the music that now comprises Fever Logic?
Ensemble Economique: No, not so much with Fever Logic. My personal experiences here at home really informed the music on Fever Logic. Love, love-lost, classic stuff like that. I think my travels did have an influence in regards to adding finishing touches on some of the songs, bits of nuance I added after the track was nearly there. And this I think was just by virtue of playing so many shows and getting a better idea of how I wanted something to sound on a compositional level. But the core ideas/emotions on Fever Logic were pretty much in place before I really started traveling extensively.
A healthy number of people will hear Oneohtrix Point Never for the first time when they grab Warp's latest release, R Plus 7. They will listen, feeling awestruck when awe is induced and relieved when the music allows it. I was drinking beer with a friend the other night and she asked if she should put on the new Oneohtrix Point Never album, if it was any good. I said, "Sure, it's good. It's probably great." Greatness was Dan Lopatin's intent it seems, or at least grandiosity, spectacle, and psychological subsumption. You'll find the same intent driving Apocalypse Now and Der Ring des Nibelungen and Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark. To be frank, I used to jam Betrayed In The Octagon while getting roasted as a butterball freshman year, but then Games came along, and I very loudly said, "Snooze." Figured his stuff was no longer for me, at least until the rad/radical Replica came along. By the time I hopped back aboard his chromium monorail, he was gaining strong command of a vision which was irresistable to many, running pop culture through the same "new aesthetic" rigors as many concurrently rising internet artists. Apparently, his retro-pop work with Joel Ford sprouted from the same consumer culture infatuation that inspired his Youtube channel. R Plus 7 sees Lopatin shedding his more overt futurism while still crafting a distinct and unrelenting album experience with no small amount of artistic flexing. What follows is the man's own take the hows and whys of the R Plus 7 ride.
Ad Hoc: Warp is home to some of the boldest, most unique statements in elecronic music. How did you end up on the label for R Plus 7?
Dan Lopatin: Well, I’ve been working with them for a while. They look over my publishing account, my back catalog. So it was just kind of hooking up at the right time. I know those guys really well, and we go back a bunch of years now at this point. I think we were both looking for the right record and the right opportunity to hook up. Pretty natural.
Ad Hoc: Was there a conceptual underpinning for R Plus 7 in the same way that there was for Replica?
DL: I think it’s more open. I usually try to deploy some kind of procedural stuff to generate work for a record, to cull from. But that wasn’t really central to this at all. I think the record is pretty ambivialent in terms of concept or anything like that. I just wanted to keep it as open as possible.
Each year ends and we make lists, recount the winter chillers, summer jammers, favorite shows, crazy publicity stunts, and whatever else. Unfortunately, also always walk away with some losses. Bill Doss of revered ‘90s psych-rock act Olivia Tremor Control passed away on July 30th of 2012, having left behind a heavy legacy with OTC and the larger Elephant 6 Collective as well. OTC’s Dusk at Cubist Castle and Black Foliage are essential listening for any fan of independent, psychedelically inclined pop music, and have been inspiring DIY musicians and movements for decades. I had a chance to speak with Bill on April 2nd of last year as part of an interview slated for an Austin Psych Fest mini-zine that sadly never made it to print. I found it among some unpublished conversations in my voice recorder, and decided it should be shared in remembrance of one of our heroes.