I've been fascinated by Kenneth Anger's work since I first read Ed Sander's sensationalistic bullshit The Family as a teenager (it took me a few years to actually see one of his movies tho. Thanks Ralf Haussmann for being Cleveland's greatest collector and exposer of all thing weird.) A couple of years ago I was contacted by Anger's manager and bandmate Brian Butler to see if I could track down a theremin for them to use during a performance to benefit the Anthology Film Archives. I did, it was a success.
The Anthology Film Archive benefit was really cool, I drank expensive cocktails all night on my friend Jen's employer's tab. Lou Reed did a noise guitar soundtrack to Maya Deren's Meditation on Violence. Seriously, fuck the Lulu haters. Pop bands played, people lectured, etc, but the highlight for me was Technicolor Skull, Kenneth Anger on theremin and Mr. Butler on guitar. They have just put out a record, a one sided monster in blood red vinyl. I asked Brian about it:
Its spontaneous, improvised during the performance… however the frequencies generated are specifically designed to work with the space or location… for instance the MOCA building on Grand Street is a concrete structure covered in sandstone. We performed outdoors on the courtyard so some of the lower frequencies were designed to pass through the structure so that attendees could have an experience within the galleries that are located under the courtyard below ground level. So it created an interesting dialogue with the work of the architect Arata Isozaki. We generated higher mid range frequencies which would bounce off of the glass buildings all over downtown Los Angeles. Also there were binaural beats generated which could induce an out of body experience.
Is there any influence on the music that you can pinpoint?
One reference would be the Poème électronique collaboration between Le Corbusier, Varese and Xenakis at the Brussels World’s Fair –the combination of sound, visuals and architecture. Kenneth Anger actually attended this event on the personal invitation of Le Corbusier. Also the kraut rock experiments in the 70s’s and, in a metaphysical way, Aleister Crowley.
What made you guys want to capture it on vinyl?
The package which includes blood red vinyl and a limited edition number that is significant to us (666) is a further extension of ritual – a talisman so to speak… if you possess the physical item it has an effect that is harmonious with the performance yet more permanent … a different form of manifestation but just as powerful in a subtle way.
You worked on the short for Missoni last year, directed by Mr. Anger, anything else coming up you can tell us about? Anything you can't tell us about?
What does working as a producer for Mr. Anger entail?
Its an all-inclusive role – the tasks vary according to the project at hand –it’s always interesting though.
I heard rumors that the two of you were working on sound cloud busters? Is this just theory or have you put it into practice?
Some of the frequencies that we work with could create that effect… a sort of sound cannon … the rain begin as we were walking off the stage at the MoCA...
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Dig some of Brian's solo music, video filmed at Bolskine House, Aleister Crowley's former haunt and recently owned by Jimmy Page:
Oh, and dig Lou's set at the benefit. But only at maximum volume. Snarky comment alert, but I'm really glad the guy filming didn't catch Lou's assistant soloing on the mixing board.
For more on Brian Butler, check out his personal website here.
Carl Abrahamsson republished an entertaining interview with Kenneth Anger from 1989 at Groundmagnet.com recently.