Let me count the ways I love Drew McDowall, half of Compound Eye (with Psychic Ill Tres Warren), member of CSD with Kara Bohnenstiel, and recent collaborator with Emeralds' John Elliott in Outer Space. All cool and great things, sure, but I first heard about Mr. McDowall from his days as a member of Coil. Hell, he played on perhaps my favorite record of all time, Astral Disaster. He's playing on Wednesday at Death By Audio at the Modular Solstice show*, I would totally go to that if I didn't live 1305 miles away.
What was the first truly strange record you ever heard?
Apart from the countless strange children's records with forgotten names and multicolour vinyl, the first record that I remember thinking "what is this? I really don't understand this" was The Faust Tapes. I was 12 when it came out and I bought it because it was cheap (49 pence) and because I liked the cover art. I can't say that I liked it initially but I was obsessed by it, playing it endlessly, trying to understand it, trying to figure out why some one would do such a thing. A couple of years later it would become a litmus test that I used frequently: I would ask people what the thought of it (it seemed like everyone had bought it) and try and come to some conclusion about them from their answer. Most of them hated it.
A couple of questions about your time in Coil. You were on my personal favorite - Astral Disaster. Anything you can share about the making of that record, an interesting anecdote?
That record was the culmination of auspicious currents. We recorded on Samhain in Southwark the oldest part of the city. London is a living being (that is not a metaphor) and we were on the bank of the Thames below the level of the river, under the her main aquatic artery. The record is a distillation of all those influences. Unusually for Coil it was recorded quickly and more or less live.
As a resident of New Orleans I'm curious about the Coil recording sessions here for Backwards. Any long lasting impressions of the city, favorite haunts and hangouts?
New Orleans is one of my favorite cities. It's another place that when you are recording you cannot help but be influenced by the terrain. That doesn't quite come across as much on Backwards as it was recorded in so many locations and in a very fragmented fashion.
The first couple of day there I felt very uncomfortable and found it difficult to breath. I felt very physically the topographic reality of the situation: that we were below sea level. I told Jhonn Balance about this and he advised me that it was the Appollonian side of me that was emerging in reaction to it.
Seems like taking quite a few years off you're starting to get busy again, with the Compound Eye and working on the new Outer Space record (The Akashic Record (Events: 1986-1990)). How did you hook up with John Elliott?
Prior to the recent projects with Compound Eye and Outer Space, I was releasing very limited run 7" records with Kara Bohnenstiel under the name CSD ( formerly Captain Sons and Daughters but we changed the name to avoid confusion with the Sottish band).
John got in touch through Tres Warren from Psychic ills. He knew that Tres and I were working together on the Compound Eye project. We started emailing each other and met up a few times and I think we shared common ground.
Your solo on the track "October 27th, 1989 - Bay Village, Ohio" is truly blistering, and really evokes the psychic turmoil that was created by the events of that day. Did John explain to you what the significance was before hand?
I'm glad that you like it, the good thing about working with John is that he will suggest something in an oblique way, he avoids the literal approach. He reminds me of Jhonn Balance in that respect. I like that as I can get bogged down by specifics.
Your playing the Modular Solstice Synthesizer show on Wednesday at Death By Audio in Brooklyn, what can you tell me about the instrument you will be playing? Lots of gear fetishists want to know, I'm sure.
As this is the first solo show that I've done I wanted to to make it even more exposed and solitary so it's going to be modular synthesizer. No other instruments. You'll have to come to see what it is.
Putting the finishing touches to the next Compound Eye and CSD records. I've started collaborating with a few other people and doing remixes too. I'm doing something with Nicky Mao from Hiro Kone, i'm excited about that.
* With Nathan Cearly of Long Distance Poison, Jesse DeRosa of Grasshopper, Mr. Matthews, and Mark Dwinell of Forma.