Thu 16 Sep 2010
Artists In Residence
It’s loud, obnoxious and a disease to some people’s ears, but it’s also artistic, melodic and highly structured. I asked Chloe Lum to explain her attraction to noise rock; about being the ultimate teenage fangirl and about AIDS Wolf‘s latest decision to tour their new album and not play a single song from it.
In most major cities across the world there’s a small community of noise rock enthusiasts, exploring the avant-garde, rebellious, boundless extremes of performance art. Even in a city the size of Montreal the scene is still very niche, but like all good communities everyone supports, respects and applauds each other’s artistic differences. Now seven years old, AIDS Wolf are among the older, wiser and well travelled members of the Montreal noise scene, and their involvement with an emerging younger group of musicians is helping to keep them inspired.
“Most of the people who are playing music in Montreal who are around our age are doing more pop orientated stuff, or like, post-Godspeed kind of things. We tend to hang out with the younger kids who are more scrappy, noisy and loud.”
For Chloe the formula is simple, it’s not about resisting adulthood or trying to maintain some rebellious teenage sensitivity, simply put, she describes AIDS Wolf’s music as “the kind of music that I’ve been listening to for over half my life now… for the three of us it’s the genre of music that we like.” Her partner Yannick Desranleau is also in the band, playing drums, and like Chloe is an avid noise rock fan. “Yannick and I are usually listening to noise rock all day long. We drive around in our van listening to Harry Pussy and US Maple.”
“we’re all kind of misanthropes and we don’t really like most people”
As well as being in a band, Chloe and Yannick also work together, under the name Seripop. For the past few months they have been artists in residence in a small town north-east of Montreal called Baie-St-Paul, which she says quite seriously “smells like shit. Like literal shit.” While the town may have been quite isolating, it did have some benefits, one being the sale of art to wealthy foreigners. “There’s kind of a constant stream of tourists coming through and we bought a big display of all our posters and for some reason all these grandmas are buying our fucked up posters.”
The venue for the residency happened to be at an old hockey rink and their band mate/guitarist Alex Moskos joined them towards the end of their time there to rehearse and prepare for their current North American tour. “We’re going to be rehearsing in the hockey rink after hours, it’s going to be really weird.”
The tour is in support of their latest album March To The Sea, but an unusual twist is going to greet fans because AIDS Wolf will not be playing any songs from the album live. “Most people would probably consider that as some kind of career suicide,” laughs Chloe, but there’s a very good reason. March To The Sea was recorded when AIDS Wolf was a four-piece band, right before guitarist Miles Broscoe moved to England. The three remaining members chose not to replace him, Chloe’s reasoning being that “we’re all kind of misanthropes and we don’t really like most people.” “It just seemed like a more practical solution to spend a year in a practice space writing a new set. It meant changing a lot of equipment and adding analogue synths on to my voice and on to the guitar, and basically building our own PA. It was kind of like a science experiment in sound that took several months to figure out how we wanted it to work. We test drove it for a few gigs in February… then we rebuilt it some more, reworked out our rig so that we would be totally brutalising everyone on tour.”
So if you’re a fan expecting to see some of AIDS Wolf’s newest record played live you’ll be disappointed. However Chloe’s hoping that fans will understand the band’s reasoning. “We’re kind of hoping that people who are into our band are going to be adventurous enough to come along with us and hear the new shit and hopefully be into it. Our audience base is so small that a lot of our friends who are in more popular bands think that we’re totally insane to take this risk to alienate everybody, but you know, we just didn’t want to be playing our material half-way, that was really really important to us. We didn’t want to compromise on how it was written and recorded and then play what could potentially be a shittier version live.”
“Contrary to what people who may be a little bit less initiated with noise rock may think, we actually really do care about how our music sounds. Performing songs is like presenting a body of work artistically and it just feels wrong doing it without all the elements there. Getting another guitarist just was not an option.”
“he totally remembered me being this dorky teenager mailing him fanzines and homemade comics”
Turning a page back to the recording of March To The Sea, it now seems like a different chapter in the life of AIDS Wolf, and one that was particularly frustrating to conclude. On hearing the first single from the album, ‘Teaching To Suffer’, many fans and critics noted a difference in production, referring to the new album as having a much cleaner, more defined sound. The production of the record is something that has also bugged Chloe, only now is she “starting to feel happy with it.” March To The Sea was recorded with a different engineer who had never worked with the band before, and to some degree Chloe feels his lack of knowledge regarding AIDS Wolf’s music had an effect on the end result.
“We recorded in Montreal at The Pines with this guy Dave Bryant, who is most well known for being the guitarist in the band Godspeed You! Black Emperor, who are not exactly a super gnarly sounding band. It was a cool experience but we were doing everything analogue so we couldn’t put stuff into the red the way we usually do. Like when we did Cities of Glass we were just fucking jamming stuff as loud as it could go, and like, really relying on a lot of feedback to add this intense crunchy sound. At first I was like, it doesn’t sound heavy enough, but now I’m kind of getting into a bit more of the subtleties. There’s definitely a different production style, we worked with someone who had never even heard our band before we went into the studio.”
Since 2005 AIDS Wolf has been working closely with Skin Graft Records, a label who has long been an influence on Chloe’s own musical tastes. As a teenager she was the ultimate label fangirl, and consequently when label owner Mark Fischer offered to release one of AIDS Wolf’s early demos she thought her friends were playing a prank on her. “It’s funny because when I was sixteen/seventeen years old and bands like US Maple and Lake of Dracula were kind of coming out I would send fan letters to the label, and then when Mark contacted me, like thirteen or fourteen years later he totally remembered me being this dorky teenager mailing him fanzines and homemade comics. I would end up getting all these free posters and shit from Skin Graft because I was such an obsessive mail order fan. So when he initially contacted us about distributing our demo and putting out our album I thought it was one of my friends playing a prank on me, I didn’t think it was real, because why would they care about us.”
And it seems now like the influence has gone full-circle. A number of bands that Chloe has become personal friends with have ended up on the label. “It was a label that had such a big influence on the music that I was into and ended up playing. Since then we’ve turned Skin Graft onto bands we’re friends with like PRE and Gay Beast.” In 2007 AIDS Wolf and PRE released a split 7″ via Skin Graft, but it’s somewhat clouded in legal rhetoric making it a bit of a mysterious release. The 7″ is a live recording of a show the two bands played together in Brighton, England, that was supposedly bootlegged by a Russian man named Kostya Drobik and distributed under the name SINRAFT Records. Chloe declined to comment on the release saying only “our lawyers have told me I’m not allowed to talk about that until the issue is settled.” She did however talk about the show and the naked photos shot for the cover of the 7″.
“We were on the last show of our UK tour, I think we were in Brighton. It was the worst show ever, there was no one there, it fucking sucked, the promoter didn’t pay us, it was just a total shit situation. So basically we were like, well, everything sucks here so lets just party amongst ourselves and have a good time, even though there’s like ten people in the room. It kind of degenerated into people taking their shirts off and there being a sing-a-long to, I think ‘Free Bird’. It was basically just us and PRE having some fun on our last night together on tour and trying to bring some wackiness into a pretty lame gig.”
March To The Sea is officially released today on Skin Graft Records. Click here to purchase the new album on either coloured vinyl or CD.