August 2000

The Silt
Jim Bravo & The Beethoven Frieze




Early last year a "drummer wanted" ad caught my eye - the influences cited by the band were Stereolab, Spiritualized and The Orb. Fast forward to 2000:

Interstellar have released their debut CD, Late Night Tea (Mother Superior Records) and are preparing for an appearance at Wavelength on August 6th. Rob sat down with me over beer and tunes to provide me with a few launching points.

The band is the creation of Rob Boak and Denis Dufour, friends that have been creating music together since October '98. Interstellar make music that instantly registers with the listener, uncovering a vast, diverse palette of influences. Though they're not shy about revealing their immediate sources of inspiration, they see no reason to limit themselves in the exploration of uncharted spatial territory.
"I've been lying on your bed, Pavement in my head..." - "The Ocean Room" "The Ocean Room" is a lazy, swirly jam reminiscent of early Mercury Rev. Denis' sweet, spaced-out vocals lend soul to the pop element of Interstellar's music. '60s psychedelia like The Beach Boys and The 13th Floor Elevators figure in this particular part of their sound equation. Both Denis and Rob play guitar, bass and keyboards, allowing them to interchange elements of the mix with ease. The Interstellar approach to songwriting evolves out of their rehearsals, which are often nothing more than extended, improvised jams. They construct songs from a single sound idea, continually layering and modifying the mix towards a fully-realized composition.
For the Late Night Tea sessions with engineer Jeff McMurrich, some 35 song ideas were on the table prior to recording, but only eight eventually found their way onto the album. Interstellar's music is minimalist at its core, but it's the juxtaposition of the song's elements, and the way the various styles morph into one another that make their music so engaging. The result is a pleasing head trip; a track called "The Casting Couch" begins in an ambient-like setting but soon plunges itself into an excursion that channels a high-speed voyage from France's countryside to the German autobahn. Each song on Late Night Tea subtly reveals different aspects of the band's character. Tracks like "Goa" and "Andromeda Galaxy Hotel" give a nod to more modern influences while preserving classic sound structures. Elements of jazz, dub, hip-hop and Eno-style ambience all subtly weave their way into the songs. As 2001 approaches, Interstellar are ascending towards their own unique, romantic vision of space and all its wonder.

'Ol Dirty Rose



You may know Nilan Perera from his work with the Excalceolators and such jazz groups as N.O.M.A.

At Wavelength, Nilan the solo artist will be playing his guitar with an additive/sampling pedal called the Boomerang. This is what he has to say about his place in the music world:

My name is Nilan. I play guitar, ghembri and bass and sometimes I sing. It takes a bit of habit combined with ordinary nastiness to look outside a TV and think that you have something to say. Habit coming from being in "new jazz/new music" ensembles since '84 and not watching TV for over two years. Prepared guitar means that you stick foreign objects into the sound reproduction characteristics of a guitar in order to create sounds that are not normally associated with the guitar. I do this as well as regular guitar technique in order to let you into my musical processes and ideas through the act of improvisation. Improvisation can be defined as spontaneous composition. Everybody has done this, from Bach to Thurston Moore, from ancient Afro/Asian cultures to Ellington/Parker/Ornette/AACM and beyond. You can do it too. Listen to cool/clever/ consistent/solid music, get an instrument, learn how to play it, be humble/rigorous, associate with like-minded individuals and play with no fear. Joy will occur. This is how I did it. Come and see if it all worked out. Peace.



A couple of solar cycles back, an odd name would pop up in the local listings: n'door-fin. Then it stopped popping up. And then in 1999, the name reappeared as the title of the debut CD by a band named Tetrezene. The same band, playing the same songs. One of the few Toronto bands that explores the interzone between the electro/DJ realm and the electric guitar domain, Tetrezene makes music aimed straight for your pleasure centres. P.M.
Toronto, here we come! No really, here's some questions posed by Jonny Dovercourt and answered by Shannon du Hasky:

What is the chemical formula for bliss?
Sugar & Salt
Tartrazine Lake #5
Heapin' Spoonfuls of Sugar
Little Fluffy Clouds

Where is Tartrazine Lake?
It's in your mouth. Tartrazine is a yellow-orange food additive - it gives Kraft Dinner it's unappatizing colour. It's what our name is derived from, a bastardized spelling. I was eating some Misty Mints and discovered I was eating Tartazine Lake number something or other. I was horrified that this ingredient had the word Lake tagged on to it - to make people think it was natural and OK to eat. I've never eaten Misty mints again.

Tell us about the funniest/nastiest Tetrezene band fight. Come on, we want the dirt.
We've never had a band fight until this question started one! (Way to go, Dovercourt - foot-munching ed.)

If memory serves, you guys used to have a DJ in your midst. What happened to him/her?
Quick, look behind you - he's in the soundbooth! Yes, Greg Bolton, a.k.a. DJ Shrimp Tibs, was in our band for about a year and plays on two tracks on the album. When he left Ben came into our midst. Ryder was our soundguy until quite recently. We really like Ryder on stage and we really miss having a sound person. Greg has offered to come out and deal with sound for our next show. We really think that's grand.

Have any of you tried those new Arizona - Energy/Health/Memory drinks?
No, we're all tripped out on REV - a crazy new boozy drink that tastes and looks like lighter fluid. A lot of alcohol and a lot of "gutu nut". (I'm spelling this wrong - it's a health thing. I'll look at the bottle again.) Apparently it's going to be taken off the market. It makes you drunk and speedy and aggressive. Coke in a bottle? My roommate had some. Tasted like hell.

Songs are like children. You give birth to them, feed them, nurture them, teach 'em how to conduct themselves in the world. Does it hurt when they grow up and start coming home late, staying up all hours and sassing back at you?
No, we enjoy giving them free rein for all.



While sifting through the hundreds of megabytes of data transmitted daily through the Wavelength mainframe, we began to notice many repeated references to a place called "New York". Upon further inspection, it seemed that discussion of this so-called "New York" centered around its status as a world-famous metropolis - which was strange since we'd never heard it - and apparently, how much "cooler" it was than our own beloved city of Toronto.

Could it be possible? Could another place be more interesting and exciting than our own centre of operations?

One thing was clear: we had to send operatives immediately to investigate and neutralize this potential threat. And only Agent Muth would find out the truth. Yes, Wavelength put our most skilled and feared undercover saboteur, Julia Muth, on the assignment.

It was only later, and with great sadness, that we realized the timing of Julia's mission would prevent her from answering any of our pertinent questions regarding her own musical band, Celestino.

Julia, with her usual unfathomable stealth, had slipped a cassette into the Wavelength stereophonic unit one evening while we were distracted by the labyrinthine plot of one particular episode of Sliders. The song was entitled "Football Romance", and once we had scraped ourselves up from off the rug, we sheepishly informed her, "Uh, Julia - that was really good!" I already knew what a voice Julia possessed; I asked her to sing on the Kid Sniper record after I heard her sing some Guided By Voices songs on a friend's porch late one night.

It turns out Celestino is the perfect vehicle for Julia's sweet soul/country pipes. She formed the group two years ago with drummer Yvan MacKinnon when they were both cultural studies students at Trent University in Peterborough - it now also includes bassist and "enigmatic sideman" Craig Dunsmuir. That one song (the only one the band has recorded to date) conveys lifetimes' worth of rural loneliness, urban alienation and other lovely, terrible things.

Yes, it's awesome, and after hearing it, we had no choice but to book them in for August 13th's Wavelength with Tetrezene. Enjoy! or you may not even live to regret it

. - Jonny Dovercourt


Dovercourt enlisted the aid of noise disciple Buddy Dovercourt for a schooling in the louder spheres. Buddy took Jonny to the man himself - Knurl.

This Noise is a scary thing for the uninitiated. One evening in July, Jonny is what Jonny came away with after his hearing and balance came back:

Knurl: I'm liking Beethoven lately - shock, quiet, shock - I listen to a lot of classical where it hits you like that.
Buddy: I know - noise is just a part of classical music's progression.
Knurl: Trying to strip music of all things you expect from it. When I started, I was trying to strip away over-production, vocalization, everything that's been happening in music since jazz and blues. Music got noisier and noisier through rock'n'roll, the Stooges and punk, so I was thinking "Fuck it! Just get to the point!"
Buddy: So noise is something to listen to, not just a performance...
Knurl: Well it just happens that way. I was putting bits of steel on my bass guitar, and then I discovered contact mics, using speakers from Sony Walkman headphones. I put them on a fan and scraped the edges and got the sound I wanted from punk. I put it directly to tape and boosted the input levels so that was distorted as well. I used to love it, walking around in a drugstore listening to those sounds in your headphones, it puts you in a weird state. Around '93-'94 in Montreal, my wife and I went to see a dance performance where this guy was testing music, and I gave him my tape, and he said to send some out. He gave me the names of some labels: Extreme, Dark Vinyl. I sent them out, packaging them somewhat, without knowing what major players these labels were. Someone from Extreme said send it to these guys: one guy in Pittsburgh, one in California, and the Pittsburgh guy said he'd put it out if I traded for his stuff. So that's how I heard Aube and the like. I never had time to listen though, I was too busy making my own stuff. Besides, you can't wash dishes while listening to noise. It's like you're watching a movie, and you have to devote all your attention to it. So I started getting letters from Japan and Taiwan...
Buddy: Was this before or after meeting Ph?cus?
Knurl: Before, but yeah, they helped me a lot. Brian Damage came to my first show and took some cassettes down to his radio show. We did this show where Brian was chained to a wheelchair with a contact mic on the bottom of the seat. He thrashed around, even fell over at one point, while I manipulated the noise. It was cool. So the act just happens to come out like that. For the sound you want, sometimes you have to use a toaster and two pieces of steel.
Buddy: I love that. Do you ever use the toaster anymore?
Knurl: No, I can't be bothered to go through the motions.
Buddy: The best thing about the toaster was the way you had complete control over the audience with a household appliance - some of them would be just pinned to their seats.
Knurl: I don't have control over the audience, I have control over what I'm doing - the pinning is a bonus. I think it takes control over me. I get lost in it and forget everything around me unless people are shouting, "Turn it off!" That's why I have my own amp, so I can crank it up. Sometimes people say, "Finally it was loud enough, I could hear what you were doing". You find yourself in this noisesphere...
Buddy: There's one level where you feel it.
Knurl: Because it's a constant. You're not just cringing all the time. Sometimes when it's a band and they're just loud, not just a constantly developing thing, it's too much.
Buddy: It's like your eyes adjusting to the dark.
Knurl: Yeah, then the shock wears off.
Buddy: And it invents its own melody.
Knurl: I don't mind starting with a harsh element though - when it continues too long, the shock wears off. I'm trying to develop sound where I don't get too used to it, and the shock element can happen again and again.
Buddy: Anything really shocking ever happen?
Knurl: I almost blew out my ear! I was playing, and the sound stopped, it was silent. I noticed a cord had come out. I bent over and plugged it back in and everything went GRRRRRRRR! I couldn't hear for three days and one of my ears is still not as good as the other one.


A discusion between Wavelength's Craig Fraid and improv enigma Ryan Driver, regarding his "quiet music" trio, The Silt:

Who all else comprises The Silt? Are there any instruments used in this group that
people might not be accustomed to seeing you play?

The Silt is Doug Tielli and Marcus Quin and I. Yes, each of us plays several instruments. Sometimes any one of us sings and plays the guitar, drums or bass, but Doug also likes to play the trombone, Marcus may play the clarinet and erhu, and Ryan might like to play the flute now and again, or his Realistic Concertmateo. But mostly we just play guitars and stuff.

How does The Silt differ, if at all, from the typical activities of the free improv/"20th century" composition circles that its members (well, you for one) seem to run with?
Sometimes we like verses and, more rarely, chori, and we very much like bridges but we don't use them much yet. Mostly it seems The Silt plays songs that we have written and they really sound like songs. These circles that we run with tend to seem to make music that does not resemble songs. We have however played a number of shows opening for Michelle McAdorey's band (with Eric Chenaux and Martin Arnold) recently. They are playing music so much like songs and we love it.

Judging by some of the instruments you use (thumb reeds/duck calls, analog synthesizers), it seems as though you tend to enjoy working with instruments which surprise even you as you're playing them. Is this a fair assessment?
Surprises can be quite wonderful. There are one million kinds of surprises and they are what might make music or anything exciting. I am not often unable to expect what the instruments I play will sound like, but it is true that the synthesizer and the thumb reeds which I tend to play when I am improvising have the capacity to make large timbral shifts very abruptly. What is surprising is what some people choose to play at the same time as others, and that's why I like improvised music. The Silt is not too much like that because if we play "A Song About A Red Whistle" it's always going to be "A Song About A Red Whistle" with fixed words, tune, chords, etc. Some songs are more "open concept" than others but there is always at least a tune in a Silt song. We think we know almost exactly what some of our songs sound like.

How, if in any way, have the somewhat concurrent recent dissolutions of both the Ulterior series and The Music Gallery's Richmond St. location changed the way you (and your improvising ilk, if they can be spoken for, that is) practice your craft?
I think these dissolutions have only changed the frequency with which the ilk has been publicly crafty and I am certain that soon there will be new regularly occurring series and different venues to welcome the sweet sounds. As I understand it Eric Chenaux is starting a series of improvised music this month and Martin Arnold is curating a series featuring improvised and composed music, sound installation, etc., to be held at the Mercer Union Gallery starting in September. Also Martin is trying to open up the rehearsal space of an existing music company for bi-weekly events.

The inherently paradoxical nature of what could be deemed "silly" sounds in yr non-idiomatic idiom vs. the sombre capital-A Ahhhht-ness of it all; discuss.
Silliness is not something I care much for personally but I do very much like it when something seems silly. For instance, some of Olivier Messiaen's pieces seem wacky or ridiculous at first hearing but they are always about God and you can always feel the underlying seriousness. We have to laugh at things when they amuse us. However it is a little upsetting to me when music is definitively silly or humourous. I think the Silt's music is rarely silly and rarely has the Aaaaht-ness. Sometimes we have haunting vocal harmonies.


Jim Bravo (let's clear this up once and for all - it's his real name) is a Toronto artist who's been performing his music for almost four years. His supporting band has varied from a single guitar to a seven-piece revolving circus. His most dynamic and cohesive band to date is The Beethoven Frieze (named after a painting by Austrian symbolist Gustav Klimt), featuring Mandy Mintz and Rocco Signorile. The group will have a new release in October. Jim and I congregated in the basement to discuss "the creative process".

I have a friend who's a painter and a musician - his work reflects his base minimalism. It's got a minimalist construction with spurts of colour - so does his bass playing- With me, musically, I've got a couple of tornados flying around in my head. My paintings used to be about colourful freakouts with saturated primaries - no mixing. Now they're becoming tighter - pick a theme and work on it. If there's any correlation, it's that both are becoming clearer· and it's a conscious effort. Once I find something I'm comfortable with in music I'll stay there for a long time. I won't notice that I should be moving on because I've turned to painting, but then the music's growing mouldy. I dropped "serious" painting for a while and started expanding my music collection - just getting back into some older stuff that's always been in my subconscious.

Lyrically, my imagery is less abstract than it was before. Early on as a songwriter there was a lot of anxious energy; it (lyrics) used to just be whatever rhymed and now I'm making a conscious effort to tell a story. It's confusing when someone listens to you playing on your own and tells you, "you should check these bands out," so you go and buy those albums, take them home and listen to them and you think, "this person's on my wavelength" (you'll be hearing from our lawyers - copyright infringement ed.) and you're supposed to be influenced by it. It's a good thing that there's someone else out there, but it can make you paranoid - "If I write this song, they'll just say it's a spin-off of/sounds just like (whatever)". You get self-conscious as a writer. With Syd Barrett I was in Octopus-land forever! Now, in a good way this experience can move you in other directions - get you away from that.


When I was at O.C.A., a group of us would be painting and listening to music on the fifth floor of the Stewart building. It was a good cesspool of music and I mean "cesspool" in the dirtiest, best sense! It's music that's not supposed to collide at all but collides in your brain and melts - like that album cover by Guided By Voices (Do the Collapse); just a whole bunch of different cars, compressed into one.

Ol' Dirty Rosen


The mighty Mason Hornet were unable to play this gig with Jim Bravo and the Beethoven Frieze, so Doc Pickles' alter ego, "Doc Pickles", offered up the services of Tigerbomb. As penance for screwing up the schedule, Doc and "Doc" got together for drinks in the alley behind the El Mocambo to share a bottle of screech.

Doc: How long have you been here in this alley, Doc?
Doc: Mmph?
Doc: You've got to take better care of yourself.
Screech? Are you serious?
What happened to your Lysol habit?
Doc: Habits come and go. Besides, all the stores in the neighbourhood won't sell me no more of that tasty Lysol. Want some screech?
Doc: Is that all you have?
Doc: I have some St. Ives in my shopping cart if you want me to go get it.
Doc: Screech is fine. So how have you been keeping? What's new with Tigerbomb? Heard you were opening for Kittie at the Rivoli last year.
Doc: That was last year? I thought that show was still coming up.
Doc: No, I'm pretty sure you've already played it.
Doc: Oh yeah, now I remember. Sorry for getting Mason Hornet banned.
Doc: That's why they won't return my phone calls? What happened? Did you make an ass of yourself again?
Doc: Shut the fuck up you fucking fuck.
Doc: Come on buddy, we're losing you, get back on the radar screen. Tell me what happened at the Kittie show.
Doc: I don't know. Something about me wearing a nightie.
Doc: That's not enough to get banned from the Rivoli.
Doc: Sure it was. You're not playing there are you?
Doc: But that was the Tigerbomb Doc, Doc.
Doc: A Doc is a Doc is a Doc.
Doc: That's enough.
Doc: Hickory Dickory Dock.
Doc: Let's get back on topic.
Doc: A mouse ran up my cock.
Doc: Come on buddy.
Doc: Hickory dickory - uh who are you? Why are you talking to me?
Doc: I'm you buddy. So what do you say, Doc Pickles opening for Jim Bravo?
Doc: We can't both open for Jim Bravo.
Doc: Mason Hornet aren't able to play that gig. I have to go back to the Cayman Islands to renew my license to prescribe medication.
Doc: So what you're saying is that you want Tigerbomb to open for Jim Bravo.
Doc: If it's okay with you, it would be an honour.
Doc: You and Jim Bravo can go suck a dick.
Doc: Oh come on, it's just for one night.
Doc: No way dude. I don't hang out with that indie-rock crowd. You guys suck. You've all got your heads up your assholes.
Doc: Well at least we're not living in an alley.
Doc: Fucking apologist proctologists.
Doc: One show. You can play one show.
Doc: Nope. Can't do it. Too busy. Dave Newfeld is recording me a brand new album.
Doc: You're making an album?
Doc: I think so. What's it to you?
Doc: Newfeld is awesome! What's he doing hanging out with a loser like you?
Doc: Go eat shit.
Doc: One show. That's all I ask.
Doc: Not on your life.
Doc: Can't you do me just this one favour? The Wavelength scene doesn't go to Kittie shows, and aside from myself none of them go to the open mic at the Gladstone either. This is the only chance they'll get to see you. Maybe they'll even like you.
Doc: Fucking losers hanging out on a Sunday night. Don't they have anything better to do on a Sunday night? There's never a lineup to get into strip clubs on Sunday.
Doc: I'll buy you a case of St. Ives malt liquor if you play the show.
Doc: A whole case?
Doc: A big shiny new case, all for you.
Doc: Do I have to wear any clothes?
Doc: Well that's up to you. For 30 minutes, the stage is yours.
Doc: Well. I dunno. What do you say Emmit?
(Emmit gets out of the shopping cart)
Emmit : What did he say about malt liquor?