So I gather you’ve been active in this realm of noise/avant-garde music for some time, and yet I think most folks in my area haven’t yet heard of you — I myself didn’t really know of you until reading a review of 333 somewhere. When and how did you get started down this path?
I very much appreciate this opportunity. I did an interview on ChainDLK so you know. I think it’s on the side bar of www.nopartofit.com.
I’ve been active since 2000 or so. My idea of making music has always been eschewed and it came to be that most people think noise is a more appropriate term for it, not to mention that I learned about noise in 2003 and became very enthusiastic about it since then. I have tried my damnedest to make real music and I just can’t do it. It bores me, there needs to be some kind of madness and fire to it. I took a piano class a few years ago. Still don’t feel like I’ve written a real song that actually wasn’t knocked up by rabid jackals.
I have a free form radio show that’s been active for over 5 years and I’ve been writing/doing interviews with people for over 5 years. I was doing zines in my late teens and that continued and evolved into hiding small run xerox zines in the middle of books at bookstores and the regular/occasional print/publication/blog/run-on sentences. I spent several years booking weekly noise/freeform events and throwing odd parties. Now I am focusing on finishing so many things that still don’t feel finished. And warding off many a distraction.
I’ve never played in Iowa, although I did like Iowa City when I was there. I liked their zine shop, cobblestone streets, and a number of other things. I felt like a terrible, vulgar person for thinking the thoughts that I did in this climate, where everyone was very nice and seemingly free from bitterness and cynicism, etc. I’d gone a long time without sleep. We were supposed to sleep in a tent in my friend’s back yard (with the chickens), but I think it was too hot or something. We were walking around and I think we spent a long time skipping rocks across a lake somewhere. Some very nice woman let us sleep at her house, because she saw me lying on the sidewalk talking gibberish. I told her I would marry her. We ended up drinking a lot with college kids, I guess we were there for almost a week, and I feel like we had some of our instruments with us, so we were trying to play a show, but couldn’t find a place. I think this was 2001 or so. I think my friends and I initially went to collaborate with our friend Isaac who’d been living with his uncle on a ranch in the outskirts. My memory is not so good.
I haven’t been able to get a tour date in Iowa when I’ve tried up to this point, but I think Public Space One carried some of my cassettes at one point?
You reside in or around Chicago generally?
Yep, never lived in any other state.
I have some things you’ve recorded as Arvo Zylo. Are you also part of any groups?
Blood Rhythms is generally a collaborative umbrella, but I’ve done sets solo under that moniker as well. I used to put together ensembles. It started out as just getting as many people to play brass/wind instruments at the same time in a kind of drone, even if they didn’t know how to play, no notes, just blowing drones. I particularly like the sound of people who don’t know how to play brass. Taken out of context, it sometimes sounds like a wind tunnel or a speeding train. That evolved into more tribal/industrial live performances with appliances and multiple percussionists, tape loops, modified guitar, scrap metal, etc. I was very happy where it went. It’s not ruled out to do something like that again, but I had specific ideas and wasn’t into just jamming so it’s tough to get people on board for that on a regular basis, unless I can put my money where my mouth is.
As I said before, 333 was the first of your recordings that I remember getting into. I gather that there are some particularly interesting methods and circumstances involved in the composition and recording of that, could you tell us a bit about it?
I’ve seen 3:33 on clocks on an extremely regular basis for over ten years. The first track was used (originally it was 17 minutes) for my second show ever. I spent 27 hours writing that piece in an abandoned house in candlelight. It was infested with rats and roaches, and there was no gas or electricity, except for one outlet in the (flooded) basement. I was in a 2nd floor closet, and I ran extension cords all the way up from the basement to program it on my sequencer. This is where I decided to do tracks for several hours straight, then show up to a show and just sit there and hit play. For this piece I sat on stage and read “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, completely exhausted. I don’t think anyone knew how long I’d been awake, and probably thought I was just jamming some of my greatest hits or something. But I was probably somewhat inspired by what I’d read about Chris Burden in Bizarre magazine in 1999. He would enclose himself underneath the floors of art galleries. So people would walk around an empty gallery, but the art was starving himself underneath their feet. “333” is written entirely with a single sequencer. I started with pieces I’d done during fits of extreme insomnia. I used to go 3-4 days before I could even sleep 2 hours sometimes. I’d sit with cranberry juice, vodka, water, coffee, beer, and/or sometimes absinthe. Usually at least 4 different drinks, and I’d just keep going on my sequencer until I had to go to work or the show was beginning. I eventually got it to a point where it was a finished album after 6 or so years. Clayton Counts sat with me every day for about a week mastering it to my specifications. I still think it’s perfect as it is. A lot of it was destroying presets and using malfunctions, so some noise reviewers will say that it’s not industrial enough or that it goes nowhere, but I think it goes somewhere. Each concept leads into the next.
Insomnia seems to be a recurring theme here. Besides your mentions of it in this conversation so far, your radio show is called The Delirious Insomniac, and I think it airs pretty late at night. Is it something you’ve dealt with most of your life, and are you still currently? Do you give it a role in your creative process itself or as inspiration?
I started practicing Vedic meditation in 2011, and my sleep troubles have been considerably diminished, although I never say that I’m “cured” yet, because then I will go 3 days without sleep. Many people say that they have insomnia, I say now that I’m a recovering insomniac, but people who sleep 2-4 hours a day are not that much of an insomniac by comparison. I used to go 3 days before I could sleep 2-4 hours, and then another 3 days, and so forth, sometimes worse. I used to sleep 10 hours a week at best for long stretches. All my life I have been keen to go to sleep at 5AM or so. In high school I would catch up on weekends. When I got out of high school, I stopped mentally being able to catch up on weekends, and it became a very dangerous kind of insomnia.
I had a soul radio show with a friend of mine, Eric Lab Rat, and there was an open shift after us, it had been open for some time, and sometimes, I’d play whatever I wanted after our show was over. Apparently one night I was at a bar, and there was an internet cafe around the corner. I guess I got drunk and emailed the station manager at the time, and proposed to her that I do a show called “The Delirious Insomniac Freeform Radio Show”, with a specific emphasis on traversing several different genres in one episode. I saw the email saying “sure” and I was very surprised because I didn’t remember writing the email. Right now “Delirious Insomniac” has taken on a new life with me being there once a month and my friends filling in the reigns the rest of the time. Most of the time, they are depriving themselves of sleep, so I guess I don’t really need to change the name of the show, although I have a lot of ideas for other names.
The inspiration can be as if it is god given sometimes when you’ve been awake for a very long time, but you can’t really call upon it on purpose. Occult people have talked about it as a form of “transcendence” or what have you. Sometimes, I’d say that’s definitely the case. More often though, it’s about fighting the feelings of unfocused thoughts, grogginess, and anxiety. I think I’ve done some of my best work in a bizarre moment of clarity after days of being manic and unproductive.
Check out Arvo’s doings at www.nopartofit.com