I was reading a lovely blog post by Emma, Joe Germlin's squeeze, entitled This Must Be The Place. Accompanied by a picture of someone looking happy in a toilet, it's about what the Japanese call ganbaranai -- not going for it (slogan, by the way, of the eco-friendly Slow Life movement). It's about coming to the realisation -- the decision -- that you don't need any more money, that this place and these people and this standard of living is all you need. "Going for it" would involve too much compromise and ultimately just bring us into contact with people (in the words of Tao Lin) "talking about jet-skis and expensive handbags or something and we would feel alienated".
I think this is an incredibly important realisation to have, and statement to make. It underpins a lot of life in Berlin, for a start, and it's what distinguishes Berlin from cities like New York and London, and it's what people inevitably talk about when they arrive here from those cities (it's what Michael Portnoy and various Piratebay Swedes were talking about last night at Forgotten Bar Project, for instance). But it's also an aesthetic decision, a decision that shapes sound if you're a musician and form if you're a plastic artist. As an aesthetic decision -- the decision to go your own way, make your own sound -- it's a hugely liberating moment too.
"When Aids Wolf came to Glasgow a few weeks ago," Emma continues, "we took them for brunch and I asked Chloe what she did before she did Seripop full time. She did a shitty Admin job and Yannick was a video technician at an art school. I was happy to get to ask someone who in my mind is doing incredible things, what it is they did to get themselves going. I need that reassurance when I look at my bank balance and try to work out if I have enough £££ in there not to cave in to temping or other equally awful things."
I didn't know about AIDS Wolf, and set about educating myself about them. The first thing I discovered was the video my friend Eric Mast (E*Rock) made for Spit Tastes Like Metal:
I like the signifiers, musical and visual, here. First musical thing I thought about -- it's that guitar sound -- was Captain Beefheart (another person who decided pretty early on not to go for money, that "this was the place" -- in his case, the Mojave Desert). Then, perhaps, Yximalloo, who also seems to exist outside commercial structures. Visually the references were to "the colour movement", a term I use to describe people who squeeze the maximum amount of colour, often jarring colour, into what they do, and to The Boredoms.
These references are basically hippy ones, and AIDS Wolf have touched on a hippy archetype in their promo pictures, which feature them leading an idyllic life, naked in the forest. The Beefheart connection is confirmed in their Wikipedia page, which sees them quoting the Captain's description of his music as the sound of "a squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag".
I guess I also thought of Deerhoof, listening to AIDS Wolf, and maybe of Mu, although Mu are more housey. What I didn't think of, because I'm not really a noise aficionado, was people like The Locust, apparently a big influence on them, and a bit too cartoony and Superhero-ey for my taste, like a noise version of Devo. I suppose I identify more readily with naked Canadians (AIDS Wolf are Montrealers with French accents) than Americans (The Locust are from San Diego) in Marvel costumes, which always seem a bit fascist and puritan.
AIDS Wolf (who blog here, and who yield zero results in a Pitchfork search) took their name from a piece of graffiti in an Ohio backyard. Apparently it referred to an urban legend about AIDS-infected wolves coming to the city and biting housepets, which could then infect their owners by licking them. The band had a ferret stuck in their wall at one point, and when they heard it scratching, they'd say "Oh no, there's the AIDS wolf!"
The way AIDS Wolf's music achieves its results with structure and dynamics and colour rather than tonality, melody or harmony made me think that this is pop music coming up against / coming up with what serialism came up against / with in 1912 or so. And just as many conservatives to this day hate serialists like Webern and Berg and Schoenberg, so they'll hate AIDS Wolf and Yximalloo and others who compose with dynamics and structure, but not harmony and melody.
Something else AIDS Wolf remind me of is the Stiff Records Akron Ohio compilation, from 1978, and the squirt of basic, essential weirdness it injected into the indie charts that year. And I guess outsider bands like Half Japanese and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. This is music you only tend to make when you decide "this must be the place". It's also arty music, music that loves art, made by people who love art. AIDS Wolf's singer, Chloe Lum, loves Fassbinder and Eric Rohmer (who also happen to be pretty much my favourite directors). She even named this song after Fassbinder's "Chinese Roulette":
Chloe and Yannick Desranleau describe themselves as self-flagellating Catholics, and during the day run Seripop, a Montreal art unit and print shop known for colourful, scrawly posters, books, record sleeves and screen prints. It's a world I can see fitting with the Staalplaat / Le Petit Mignon culture here in Berlin, a world where post-materialist values and the true spirit of indie meet, a happily inventive state of mind, a fusion of colour and sound. I guess this -- and that -- must be the place.
As I remember, Beefheart was constantly irritated - almost to the point of paranoia - about the small amounts of money he was making out of music. Obviously going to live in the Mojave indicates a a certain amount of opting-out, but I think it's notable that he stopped making music when he realised he could make a hell of a lot more money out of painting.
Rhodri, I'm haunted by how haunted you look in that picture! Harrowingly hollow-cheeked, as if you aren't getting enough to eat! Is post-materialism taking its toll on you, too? Is Green Gartside hogging all the cash?
C'mon man, AIDS Wolf's music is so boring and passe. That whole no-wave thing is so 2001... I remember playing Teenage Jesus and the Jerks on my crappy college radio show back in October of that year. I think most people stopped making the AIDS Wolf style music back in 2003 when these guys formed (which is like someone hopping on the 80s retro fashion -now-, and then having someone call them fashion forward). What's next, a blog post praising the Stroke's bringing power pop back?
If you like the color, design, and hippy dippy thing, there are bands who actually make current music who have similar or better aesthetics.
But you're right, that nature, hippy beardo naked in the woods aesthetic has been everywhere the past few years... I wonder where it even came from. I've always been into that nature thing, so I never really noticed it happening.
I didn't know about these guys, but I like them. But that's not why I'm writing:
"I suppose I identify more readily with naked Canadians (AIDS Wolf are Montrealers with French accents) than Americans (The Locust are from San Diego) in Marvel costumes, which always seem a bit fascist and puritan."
I was very surprised to read this from you, since I thought you'd be sympathetic to the theatrical and admittedly phoney posture of The Locust (here's one of them at the Jerry Springer show, in case anyone hasn't seen it yet, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uqdw8wXqpA4 ). It goes in the vein of taking hyper-realism and the absence of meaning in modern life as their cultural legacy and build from it. As one of the japanese super-heroes in Grant Morrison's comic book Final Crisis says: "All my life I've waited to be a gimmick. The transformation of Man into Merchandising! Spirit into toy!" It's more honest to just admit it, than to pose as modern hippies like MV & EE, who are actually just fetichists posing as something they couldn't be, because that time has passed.
That's the problem with post-materialism -- it defines when someone starts to think "ethics are at the forefront of my mind", but it doesn't mention anything about how rich someone has to become first before they stop caring about money.
Richard Layard tried to quantify the precise point at which that occurred. It's a difficult thing to put a figure on, because happiness is relative, but Layard quotes John Helliwell, who "has estimated that increases in average income only raise average happiness in countries below around $15,000 per head". If you're earning more than that per annum, then, more money will not make you significantly happier.
I was reading Iain McNay's account of the history of Cherry Red records (my label in the UK) last night, and I think he describes pretty well the moment it all changed. It happens to have been during his own "post-materialist moment", when he joined a religious community and followed an Indian spiritual master:
"In 1987 I decided to leave my own business, and for four years I didn't come into the office. I travelled from country to country on an extended adventure exploring the world and myself. I would make the occasional phone call to the office to see how things were going and eventually returned to London in May 1991.
"When I returned, both the music and the structure of the music industry was rapidly changing. It seemed that the huge multi-national corporations had decided that the way to now break new acts in the UK was through the 'indie' network. The independent charts, which I had helped initiate way back in 1980, had become invaded by records released by labels that were either financed by, or even worse, owned by the multi-national corporations. The word 'indie' had become a marketing word that was banded around and had absolutely nothing to do with either the original intention of the chart, or even the meaning of the word."
"The attitude of the acts was also fast changing. No longer were they willing to build their career over time, over two or three albums; success, both creative and financial was wanted fast."
well, pitchfork didn't love the lovvers. (the search function on their site doesn't work). i like those promo photos, but i'd like them much more if they'd show that posing session turn into a cute little orgy.
i think, kites (christopher forgues/c.f.) does pretty great neohippie noise music that sounds contemporary enough for me, while angus maclise had to be re-discovered, so he's "young" to me, too. and both make me want to hear more charlemagne palestine for some reason, who's not hippy, but timeless. as is beefheart. whose paintings are ok, but i wished he'd do music again (the same way i hope a certain "momus" won't stop doing what he's best at); the wire etc. loved his olde "magic band" reuniting, with john french doing a scarily close pastiche of the captains voice, but hearing that gave me very uncomfortable chills, like looking at a lovely prepared meal that emanates a foul smell ...
It's The Blimp! It's The Big Hit! The Mothership , The Mothership!
no wave is passe? because you played a band from the 70's on your radio show in '01? man , it must be sad to have one's tastes dictated by current fashions and not by one's heart/mind.
how about albert ayler or black flag? are they still ok to be inspired from?
if i was playing teenage jesus and the jerks on MY radio show in 96 does this make me cooler than you?
'cause it's all about us against them , right? the rich against the poor , the cool against the less/uncool and the shallow hipsters against the smug grownups who think they know better.
and for what it's worth (probably not a lot!) , out of the 5 members of aw (i'm counting both our ex guitarist who moved away and our current guitarist who's not in those photos) 3 of us grew up in rural areas , 1 in the 'burbs , one in a small town where half the population was the army training center.
i held an angler's liscence until i went vegetarian ( now vegan , is that passe too? please i need to know!). we all moved to "the city" for school.
yeah , guillaume's dreads are a berlin landmark. we met him via bongout , whom we've worked with pretty consistantly over the years. ________________________________________________________________________ in the times i've spent in berlin , it seems that there is a similar attitude of "not going for it " as there is in montreal. this makes both cities vibrant but sometimes frustrating.
while i don't believe in the get a 9-5 job , get married , buy a house , a dog and a baby (sounds like my personal hell) , i still think that there needs to be a certain amount of work ethic and ambition placed towards personal projects ( be they athletic , artistic , culinary ect) for them to be fully worthwhile. i see tons of friends wasting talent by frittering away their nights in the bars and never getting their brilliant drawings/music/ideas out into the world at large and that alienates me as much at the talk of jet skis and handbags.
me and my partner yannick share a credo of total aesthetic immersion where we believe that the only way for our art to ever be worthwhile is if we spend each waking minute on it and disregard pretty much everything that doesn't involve creating or recharging our batteries. 'cause why should anyone else care about it if we don't?
we life on minimal ca$h and barter design work or copies of our prints for a lot of the lil' luxuries we enjoy.
Love your posters. I have one of the ones you did for that McGill 'crime and popular culture' seminar last year...Do you have any work in the Quebec Trienniale? I thought I saw something Seripop-esque, but I might have been mistaken.
you might be amused (or disturbed) to know that you recently appeared in a dream of mine, leading a sort of arty flagellant procession down Chauseestrasse. behind an initial cluster of naked hairy dancing hippie types you were at the head of the ironic faithful, clothed in a burgundy robe and carrying a large staff. While you and your cohort were headed south i was riding my bike northward and thought "oh there is Momus again doing his faux religion thing..."
i suspect this was at least partly inspired by a recent viewing of Carl von Marr's "The Flagellants" at the Haus der Kunst in Munich....