Freak Scene #5

July 23, 2007

Freak Scene changes it up this week by skipping new releases and talking to musician and No Fun Fester Carlos Giffoni about his own music, his many collaborators and who he'd recommend to the curious.

Between the day-job and the nightlife its hard for me to listen to all the stacks of LP’s and whatnot assaulting my desk. When am I supposed to listen to my Velvet Underground bootlegs? So in the interest of my sanity as well as hearing voices other than my own sweet falsetto, Freak Scene would like to showcase the thoughts of important people within our freaky universe. To kick things off we have a chat here with electronics guru Carlos Giffoni. In both solo settings and with his long-standing trio Monotract, Giffoni is one of the most relevant and prolific artists in the weirdo world. He’s collaborated with everyone from Thurston Moore to Merzbow and has the discography to prove it. Giffoni also curates the annual No Fun Fest which takes place in Brooklyn every year. Having been to all four editions of the fest, I can only say it’s the best time you’ll ever have being assaulted by music. Recently Giffoni has started a label, aptly named No Fun, releasing heavy tunes from folks like Jim O’Rourke, Prurient, Aaron Dilloway, Religious Knives, Burning Star Core and many others. If that ain’t enough dude makes a SERIOUS margarita.


With your work with No Fun many people see you as an ambassador to the "noise" scene to a certain extent. What are some entry points for those that are unfamiliar but curious to the world of noise in your opinion?

For me its always been just me doing what makes me happy and doing what I feel is meant for me to do. I have an honest obsession for sound that is personal and free and that can communicate something or touch you in some way. The whole fest has kinda just been an accident, really just me trying to do what I enjoy and pushing forward this obsession turning into something that has been meaningful for others as well.

For those that are beginning into noise I suggest to try to get a few releases from the whole available spectrum, try the jazzy stuff, try the 'American' stuff try the academic stuff, try the harsh stuff, the computer stuff, noise comes in many varied flavors, find the one you really like or try to enjoy them all!

If you want a list of bands that I recommend just take a look at my label or try checking out the bands that I’ve invited to play the fest, they all reflect some of my taste and what I think is good in noise in a way or another, therefore they are all good starting points.

This year hardcore legends Negative Approach closed out the No Fun festival. What parallels do you see between punk and noise?

They are similar in that they both started sort of very underground and that they were an alternative community that setup their own shows, made their own venues when there wasn’t one, figure a way to put out their music out independently from record labels, communicated with each other and found ways to get things done in their own way. So I think noise has very much inherited that spirit which is really great. What separates them however is that hard core very quickly turned into making political and ethical statements 'doing something meaningful' you know, (what you should eat, what and who you should
like, what you should do or not do) and for me that automatically made it uninteresting, it was no longer about something personal but prepackaged opinions and ideas that had to be followed or you weren't allowed 'in' anymore. Noise is still for the most part, free of all
that, is still very much about the individuals and what they want and need (or not!) to communicate...

Lately you've been using more analog set ups than laptops. How has this affected your work, in what ways?

Yes, the strange thing about it is that I kind of did things backwards, where I learned basic synthesis concepts to build on them and do more interesting stuff in the computer by applying them to software I made myself and combining by off the shelves stuff. I
already owned analog equipment before of course as I started as a guitar player and was doing all kinds of experiments with pedal effects/mixer and custom things but I didn’t understand the basic blocks of sound synthesis until I got really deep into computer music.
Once I did I slowly got more interested into using the real thing instead of computer, I guess part of it was because I missed the physicality of it so it started with just adding a small synth to my live setup and slowly I became more interested in using exclusively synths and other analog equipment, as I was very satisfied with the
sounds I could get out of them and control I had once I knew exactly what I was doing. Also once I had a job where I had to sit in front of a computer for 7/8 hours a day I started to want to be away from them as much as possible. keeping work and truly creative processes separate has always been important for me.

How is playing in Monotract different than your solo or improv work? What do you bring differently to that project?

Monotract was the first serious experimental project I was in so at first there was a lot of exploration of as many areas as we could (started as a Miami style noise freakout, moved into more electronic territory, from improv to song format,etc) but I think we have settled into a format we all enjoy doing together now, at least for the moment. In Monotract I play guitar and electronics and sometimes sing. We play songs which are all really a collaboration between the 3 of us where we all bring something in to shape it up, so even though I approach it similarly that I approach my other work there is the opinion and ideas of two other people who I think have tastes and approach sound different than me so the results are always very interesting, and also
it is good for me to have the challenge to try to add something in the short(er) song format, to try to say something in just a few minutes with my playing as opposed to the complete freedom I usually have on my own work and in collaborations.

You've collaborated with so many different musicians. Can you tell me about some of your most memorable collaborations and what made them unique. Also is there anyone you've wanted to work with that you have yet to?

They are all really special and meaningful to me, I can vividly recollect things about every single live collaboration I've done, getting up there on stage with someone and sharing ideas and trying to communicate them to other people is a very personal experience that can deeply change the way you approach your own work, your personal life, even when they go wrong you can learn something from them. Being to able to play with people that I’ve admired for a long time has always been special, as well as doing things with my contemporaries
and I look forward to continue doing both, but the one thing I think about quite a lot actually that I haven't done is not to collaborate with a musician but to do a soundtrack for film. It would have to be something very psychedelic and bizarre but yet with a straight structure. I am a big fan of Takeshi Miike for example, so working on sound for film in something in that vein is what I am really itching to do.

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Posted: July 23, 2007
Freak Scene #5