This article originally appeared in AdHoc Issue 19.
There are many kinds of fear, but few as fathomless as the one that can sneak up on you when you’re lying in bed at night, thinking about nothing in particular. Suddenly it dawns on you: you are just a collection of atoms, puttering around on a larger mass of atoms that people call Earth, floating around inside a dark expanse of atoms and dead air that just goes on and on forever. Hopefully—for the sake of a good night’s sleep—you’re able to blot out the terror that comes from the recognition of your own smallness, but it’ll probably completely overpower you the next time Pharmakon, aka Margaret Chardiet, walks up to you at a show and screams in your face.
You don’t really need to understand the lyrics to catch her drift, but in the below interview, our medium was words, and the Brooklyn-based power electronics artist had a lot of them when describing the theories of humanity and community underpinning her bracing new album, Contact. The one caveat being that, as Margaret reminded me repeatedly during our chat, an interview was unlikely to do her ideas justice: “I really want people to read the freaking lyrics for this record,” she said. “I laid them out like really blatantly in the liner notes, because they’re the most important thing about it.”
AdHoc: What was on your mind when you went in to record the new album?
Margaret Chardiet: I guess what was on my mind was the fact that the project was 10 years old—feeling like I needed to grow and move in a new direction, and thinking about what that was going to be. The last two records—[2013’s Abandon and 2014’s Bestial Burden]—were immediate, short-term responses to specific events [in my life], whereas with this one, I had a couple years to think about what I wanted to say and do.
What are some ways you’d say the project has changed over the years?
I think I’ve found myself focusing more on experimental thinking and philosophical ideas, as opposed to personal ones. I’m still exploring the concepts of duality and human nature, but I think I’ve allowed myself to get broader, which is a really scary thing to do. If something is very acute and small, it’s easier to explain and converse about with other people.
AdHoc Issue 19 is here! Download a PDF of the zine at this link, and look out for physical copies both at our shows and at record stores, bookstores, coffee shops, and community centers throughout the city. (Those of you outside New York City can order a copy as well.)
In this issue, we explore music as a social act. Speaking to Emilie Friedlander, Pharmakon’s Margaret Chardiet explains the importance of audience engagement in her live shows, and how that sensibility informed her new record, Contact. Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad of Girlpool—who also have a new record, Powerplant, in the works—unpack the role of person-to-person connectivity in their music. In conversation with Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy, they discuss their closeness as an artistic and social unit, and how introducing new people into the Girlpool live band was almost as tricky as opening up a romantic relationship. Both Pharmakon and Girlpool articulate reasons for making art that move beyond personal expression or gratification, and into something more inclusive.
AdHoc Issue 19's contributors:
Girlpool is a Los Angeles-based band whose founding members, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad, made the collage that appears on this issue’s cover.
Meg Duffy is a Los Angeles-based musician who performs under the name Hand Habits; her album, Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void), is out now via Woodsist. Meg interviewed Cleo and Harmony for this issue.
Leesh Adamerovich is a Brooklyn-based illustrator who enjoys collaborating with musicians. Her work is influenced by ’70s music, animation, and quiet moments, and she made the illustrations for this issue.
On her third album as Pharmakon, Brooklyn artist Margaret Chardiet explores the relationships between humans and their bodies and the bodies of others, and how our self-conceptions mediate these relationships. On “No Natural Order,” the second single from Contact, Chardiet takes aim at a pervasive assumption underlying our understanding of the self—that we are ordained, either by nature or by divinity, to be stewards of the world around us. The track is built around a throbbing synth pattern and a slamming drum hit which demarcates every other bar; a seemingly logical pattern that that is progressively undermined by clattering sounds and shivering electronic buzzes. Chardiet’s vocals, delivered with all the contempt merited by the violence endemic to a belief that the mastery over our world is our birthright, affirm that humanity is not, in fact exceptional. We are merely, she argues, “animals, lost in a confused dream / where Mankind is real, / and at the center of everything.”
Listen to the new track below. Contact is due out March 31 via Sacred Bones Records. Pharmakon will tour in support of the record throughout April and May, celebrating the record’s release at Brooklyn Bazaar on April 14.
Hearing Cheena for the first time without any sort of preface is a bizarre experience for anyone familiar with the members’ other bands. When you catch wind that a project is a hydra of heads from the NYHC scene, including members of Crazy Spirit, Anasazi, and Pharmakon herself, it can be a bit disorienting to hear slide guitar and organ when you press play. Rather than diving deep into the harsh extremities of hardcore’s palette, they’ve gone back to the past, to something more like early psych rock and proto-punk— their ancestors called, and they’re enjoying heeding it. You can stream “Did I Tell You Last Night?” below via Soundcloud.
Cheena’s first 7” will be out April 14th on Sacred Bones.
“To shock the audience is the ideal way to involve an audience.” - Joe D'Amato, Filmmaker
“I started cutting myself while making music, at first alone because it felt right. I wanted to experience some pain to really bring out what I had to say, how I wanted the music to sound. Feeling the blood flow heavy encouraged me to intensify crashing sounds and prepare for the next slice. The music is extreme, so bring the self-harm to the stage, as it’s part of the writing process.”
With his face painted black and ash smeared across his bare skin, Daniel Suffering, of Whorid, slices himself with razor blades over and over again, often staining his equipment with his own blood. This is not without consequence, as past performances have required visits to the emergency room.
Having begun performing in earnest just within the past few years, Whorid follows in the footsteps of such artists as Death Squad and Deathpile, finding not only influences within their works, but common ground in their shared interest in the Viennese Aktionists. “There is an internal pain, mainly stemming from a form of punishing myself,” tells Daniel Suffering. “It’s a rush when you’re performing live and your adrenaline is in overdrive because you’re bleeding from a gaping wound, almost severing an artery, but I do it to make the performance real.”
“If someone turns away or leaves because they see or hear something they don’t like, then my negativity has caused some disgust that they don’t want to experience; but they take that home with them.”
After teasing her upcoming Bestial Burden LP last week with a properly unsettling and short-but-dense video, New York noise musician Pharmakon gives us the first extended sonic glimpse at the album via the five-minute hellscape, "Body Betrays Itself." Between evenly-spaced, gut-rattling bass drum hits, Pharmakon (a.k.a. Margaret Chardiet) alternately yells and screams with a manic urgency, her wails buried, distant, struggling to rise above the sweltering mix of staticized noises. When the drum beats and vocals die out in the piece's second half and give way to an impenetrable mess of swirling, fucked-up organ-like sounds, it's genuinely worrying, like she's fallen into whatever hole in the earth her own track opened up. This piece is, as its title insinuates, corporeal music-- and it's sort of hard to stand up straight after listening to it.
Bestial Burden is out October 14 on Sacred Bones.
There have been lots of all-star events in Queens this summer. And while Red Bull Music Academy's Drone Activity In Progress (in Maspeth) may not have gotten quite as much press as the recent all-star events at Citi Field, for those of us who care more about Stephen O'Malley than Bryce Harper it was probably the most star-studded night of the summer. Fortunately, we can now relive it thanks to these high-quality live recordings that the RBMA posted to their site. Featuring amazing collaborations from Oren Ambarchi and Prurient, Noveller and Mick Barr, and many more, these recordings showcase some of the absolute best in the game wreaking beautiful auditory havoc. Check them out-- it's certainly better than re-watching the Home Run Derby again.