Excepter - Interviews - Soundblab


by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

Industrial Renaissance: Soundblab interviews Excepter

Excepter are a six-strong experimental noise group from Brooklyn. Renowned for their long improvised live performances and for the hundreds of hours of free music via their podcasts at http://excepter.podomatic.com/, the band released Presidence last month on Paw Tracks. More like a constantly shifting musical collage than a traditional album, it has an intense, expansive and otherworldly feel, making use of everything from industrial scraps and clangs, distorted vocals and beautifully ethereal flute melodies. Excepter certainly take their cues from the original wave of industrial bands such as Throbbing Gristle and Nurse With Wound but use that as a starting point to create something all their own. Richard Morris caught up with member John Fell Ryan to talk about the concept behind Presidence and why Excepter are an anti-social band.

The new album Presidence is a collection of live improvised recordings. Was this a concept you decided on before you started work on the album or does the album function for as a convenient 'scrapbook' for these recordings?

The original concept for the album was a double record with beat-oriented stuff on one side and more ambient stuff on the other side. There were a lot more studio multi-track recordings on the early demos of the record, but eventually these were jettisoned to make way for more live stereo recordings which we felt had the stronger performances. Still, half the album is live-in-the-studio as opposed to live-on-stage and there's editing tricks all over the place, so I wouldn't really call Presidence a live record. We treat live stereo recordings as raw material to shape and mould, so it's not a document, not a scrapbook-even if I do think there is something scrappy about it, with errors and inconsistencies left in, etc. A good double record should have those dog-eared qualities.

For some time you've been putting out a lot of material via your podcasts as well as regular album releases. Do you view an album release as a special thing or are they part of the same package as the podcasts for you?

So much more work and attention goes into the albums: editing, production, song titles, not to mention the artwork and packaging, marketing, videos, etc. The albums are like goals we focus on. The streams are much more spontaneous. If we record a show and it sounds alright, chances are we'll throw a little artwork together and put it up on the website. It's meant as a way for anybody interested to track our progress as a live band. Of course, we've always raided the streams for album material too. It's a like a sketchbook for us.

You specialise in long, improvised performances. Do you ever self-edit? Is there a stack of Excepter recordings which will never see the light of day?

Ironically, editing is my main thing. Our first record was forty minutes cut down from twelve hours of recordings. Presidence is like two hours and twenty cut down from thirty plus hours of raw recording.
Even the super-long tracks on the record were much, much longer in their raw format. We had all this material from our marathon performances which were like six hours, 17 hours, etc. We didn't want to do another five-hour stream, so the marathon recordings just piled up. But these marathons were special exceptions; most of our shows are just about an hour. We even enjoy doing thirty-minute sets. And we'll even delete the odd show … bad recording, bad vibes, saving it for later, whatever. Most of our first European and US tours have gone unstreamed, for example.

Do you ever worry that the podcasts might devalue the albums? If someone can get that much Excepter music for free, why pay for an album's worth?

If you track the popularity of Excepter releases on websites like Last.fm, you'll see the albums are far more popular than the streams. You'll also see an individual album of ours will have like 28,000 listeners. Our records haven't sold more than two-thousand copies each, so I would reckon the vast majority of our audience listens to us on pirated mp3s. Why get for free what you can steal for nothing?

You once said "In many ways, we're fundamentally an anti-social band." What did you mean by that?

At your next party, throw some Excepter into the mix and you'll see what I mean.

When you improvise, do you have any idea where it will go? Do you have a framework or a suggested idea like Throbbing Gristle would do with a song like 'Discipline'?

Those of us with drum machines and sequencers will usually have something programmed and ready to go by show time. We might have a quick huddle and decide on an order for the sequences, but we've been playing together long enough to know that plans have a way of going out the window once the music starts. Things were a little more mapped-out a few years ago when we were playing more recognisable 'songs' but things have shifted since more towards an all-improvisation format. Lyrics are almost always right off the top of our heads.

Are you checking out any new music right now?

Interesting things seem to be happening in the US Midwest when we did a short tour there last September. We played with some heavy acts like Salem, Dead Luke, Stacian and Lord Scrummage; Rust Belt antidotes to the 'fussy goth' style plaguing NYC. There's this scrappy underground club called 13 Thames a few blocks from my place - lots of noise/electronics stuff going on there. Telecult Powers, Grasshopper, Opponents, Towering Heroic Dudes all put on great shows there.

Do you have any plans to play the UK?

We'd love to come over, but there are six of us, we all work and we have a kid to take care of. Maybe we should become a ska band

What's next for Excepter?

We have a spilt 3" with Pseudo Code coming out in Japan on 777 was 666. We have our man in California working on streams 02, a new volume of live cuts. Believe or not, I'd like to focus on song writing and more of a rehearsed, stripped-down live playing, Led Zeppelin III meets early Cure or something. Or there's always the ska band.

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