Thursday, July 14, 2016

NEW ICONS OF A VILE FAITH: A Tastefully "Aggressive" Conversation with Echo Beds' Vocalist, Tape Loop & Bass Player Keith Curts (The Witzard Interview)

Denver-bred genre-defying Echo Beds are the inagural signees to politically-charged emcee and former Anticon founder Tim "sole" Holland's latest label venture, Black Box Tapes. I would likely describe Echo Beds' rather long-winded "overdriventapehissnoisewalllandscapemetaldrumpummelpain- facevolumetherapy" sound of something strangely evocative of what an imagined missing link between late 80's-1990's Industrial Rock forefathers Nine Inch Nails and their critically-acclaimed modern day counterparts, Noise/Aggro-Rap group Death Grips; an obtuse indefinable sound, better yet, self-described by vocalist/bass player Keith Curts and beat-maker Tom Nelson as "a caterwaul of contact-mic'd oil drums, broken cymbals, battered basses, unrecognizable tape loops, and dilapidated voices with the expressed intention of volume as therapy and put it through the grinder of self-practiced D.I.Y. ethos;" with all that said, I'm proud to finally be able to present an interview conducted via email with Echo Beds co-founder and spokesman, Keith Curts. It's been a heavily enjoyable, yet temporarily stalled, process conducted in spurts over the course of the past 2-3 months, all the while, Keith & Tom plotted a frantic 21-city West Coast tour co-aligning with NEW ICONS OF A VILE FAITH's multi-tiered release. So, sit back, thoroughly enjoy, crack open a soda pop or cold beer, and headbang along with this highly "aggressive" Echo Beds interview (while actively trying not to get an aneurysm)!!!


The Witzard Founder & Namesake,
Matt Horowitz

I. While you've been a band since 2010, what finally made you guys feel ready or made the circumstances feel right to unleash your proper "debut" album, NEW ICONS OF A VILE FAITH?

Well, to be completely honest, we had a couple false starts with beginning the recording process of this record a couple years ago. We had recorded a couple tracks and just weren't happy with our performances of them. We both felt like it could have been done better and that perhaps we needed more time to "road test" things before committing them to tape. Once we had the songs together it really took on a life of its own—we went into a great local studio called Black In Bluhm with our good buddy Chris Fogal at the helm. He got great takes for us to work with and we enlisted the help of some amazing local musicians from Shroud, Church Fire, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, and Pythian Whispers, as well as our dear poet/artist friend Giles Cassels to help us fill it out and add to the process. It turned out to be a great experience—everyone brought their A-game! So, at this point, we [had] great sounding stems, but it wasn't telling the "story" we wanted it to. It wasn't a linear experience yet. That's where the brilliance of Charles Ballas and Jeremy Averitt came in. See, Charles had just gotten back from Detroit, where he was working on the most recent Wolf Eyes album and we ran into one another and he started telling us about all these new ideas he had and how we could apply them to our album. So he, [my bandmate] Tom, and I teamed up with Jeremy Averitt, who is a local multi-instrumentalist and incredible audio engineer/sound guy—and we sat around for a few months going back and forth with ideas. This record has just as much of them in it as it does of us and the timing couldn't have been better. They have sorta become our Martin Hannett [Editor’s note: Hannett was the icon 1970-80’s producer behind Joy Division’s genre-shaping Unknown Pleasures, Closer, and Still.]

II. While I personally sense notes evocative of both Nine Inch Nails and their modern day Aggro-Rap counterparts Death Grips, as well as one-time Kanye West collaborators SALEM, what particular artists or bands would you likely cite as your greatest sources of influence?

Pretty much everything on Gravity Records—a lot of the Wax Trax back catalog—experimental Dub Reggae—and things like Missing Foundation, Killing Joke, Public Enemy, Coil, [Public Image Ltd], [Throbbing Gristle], Christian Death, Bauhaus, and the like, as well as a lot of Classical composers. Also, it must be said that, in our opinion, Death Grips live is f**king untouchable. They are incredible. Kanye? Not so much.

III. What exactly is Echo Beds' connection to sole; did I read that Keith was once roommates with sole & Skyrider Band emcee Tim Holland? How did you guys come to get back in touch with Tim and ultimately, end up signing to his newly-formed label imprint, Black Box Tapes?

Yeah—so, Keith and Tim were housemates at the legendary 923 Post Street house in San Francisco back in the mid-90's, when Anticon was just an idea coming into fruition. The video for “Bottle of Humans” was shot in front of the house... it even features some of the other roommates—fast forward about 12 years, and we both ended up landing in Denver and ran into one another on the street. Then, we just kept in touch and kept one another in the loop through the years—so, when the album was done, we sent it to him and he was way into it and wanted to release it on his new imprint! Tim has always had a ton of integrity and fought against all the bullsh*t this world scoops up and feeds us all daily—so, [Black Box Tapes] was a perfect fit for our own social commentary. He's the most solid dude!

IV. How would you say Echo Beds have grown as a band since 2010 and how has your sound, style, overall aesthetic, etc. changed over the past six years?

Sometimes, it feels like an eon has passed—we seem to continually change/evolve—whether it's our ideas or the ways in which we come to them, we keep pushing ourselves harder and harder. When we first started we were literally on the ground. Soon after, we began to play standing. We also used to build a lot of our own gear, pedals, APC's, oscillators, contact mics, etc. and it was always a goal to keep everything organic and not rely on electronics, such as drum machines, samplers, sequencers, synths, etc. for sounds… we decided to do everything the absolute hardest way possible and we proved to ourselves that we could do it in the process. There was also a point where we had a third member and it was pretty open as to who was playing what or singing or whatever. It was more abstract and haphazard. Since then, we have whittled it back down to a duo and everything works much more smoothly this way. The songs have become more linear and "song like"—it feels more efficient and solid now. We have also begun to break our own rules and employ the usefulness of a sampler and an electronic drum pad, while keeping the organic component very much an integral part of our performances.

V. Do you have any immediate plans to record any material with Black Box Tapes founder and renown politically-charged emcee, sole? I would even go as far as to say that NEW ICONS OF A VILE FAITH track "Obvious Signs of Forced Entry" has an underlying Hip-Hop feel.

We will DEFINITELY be doing a collaboration with sole in the near future. It's a perfect pairing. We are big fans of one another's work!

VI. What are each of your respective roles in the band, Keith & Tom (ie: instruments, programming, etc.)? How does the typical Echo Beds writing and recording process normally play out?

Tom and I both have equal say as far as song-writing goes. It's democratic in that sense. We both have things we excel at and things we aren't so good at, so we help to balance one another out in that way. Both of us are full of ideas constantly, so there has to be a level of quality-control put into practice. We have a lot of respect for one another and talk most things through pretty well, in order to reach a shared decision; of course, sometimes we both have to suspend disbelief to see what lies on the other side. We call it trust.

VII. Your unique sound has been described as genre-less or "overdriventapehissnoisewalllandscapemetaldrumpummelpainfacevolumetherapy;" how did you happen upon this nearly unclassifiable sound pallet?

Keith made that up as a mash-up of things the music brings to mind. It's always just been about therapy and less about fitting [into] a box. It's an exorcism every time.

VIII. Now, I've seen at least three alternate covers to seemingly accompany NEW ICONS OF A VILE FAITH's various formats, as well as Sailor Records' self-described "gloss black ink matte black jacket" LP cover; what can you tell me about the record's various cover images (or lack there of)?

Good point—so, the vinyl version was lagging and we were about to hit the road for three weeks of shows, so we took a photo Keith took a few years ago and made it [into] a simple cover for the test press version of the LP (a hand-stamped run of 30) that we took with us. The actual record was finally released this month and it has the artwork that we worked on with James Livingston/Black Horizons. The tape was the same artwork, just not a gloss print on matte like the jacket of the actual LP.

IX. I know it's a little late (or too early) to assemble a year-end list, but what might you cite as a few of your favorite albums, EP's, singles, mixtapes, etc. of let's say, the past 12-18 months?

- Soft Kill: Heresy
- All Your Sisters: Uncomfortable Skin
- Esses: No Light In This Fire
- Alaric: End of Mirrors
- Muslimgauze re-issues on VOD
- Burning: Silver After Death
- Gnod: Mirror
- Bestial Mouths: Heartless
- Youth Code: Commitment to Complications
- The new Voight album, [Shadow//Excision] is a banger
- Renne Ruin's mixtapes always rule hard

X. What can you tell me about your seemingly self-constructed 50 gallon "steel drums," contact mics, and hand-made effects pedals utilized throughout NEW ICONS OF A VILE FAITH, as well as your recent West Coast US Tour?

It took us a long, LONG time to dial it in. Too many failed attempts. It's pretty streamlined now—we decided to go through our buddy Crank Sturgeon and we use his "plug ugly" contact mics exclusively. Dude's a wizard!

As far as the oil drum—it's affectionately referred to as a part of our "mobile meth lab" and we carry that thing all around the country. It's part of the family, at this point. No, neither of us are into meth.

XI. It would appear as though the concept of a so-called "super-group" is as alive and well today, as it was back in 1966-68 when Eric Clapton unknowingly formed and soon disbanded Cream, with everyone from members of Mastodon and Deftones to Iggy Pop & Josh Homme having recently formed super-groups; with that said, if you could form a super-group with any musicians dead or alive, who would you likely choose and why?

We want Keith Moon around age 19—pure force. We want John Carpenter—genius mood creator. We want Jhonn [Balance] and [Peter] "Sleazy" [Christopherson]—one last time. We want [David] Bowie—period; that would be some seriously mental and unsettling sh*t!

XII. Let's just say, for argument's sake that nearly everyone in the world has at least one favorite Prince song, whether they would openly like to admit it or not... what would you choose as your personal favorite Prince-related singles, tracks, or albums, Keith & Tom?

Prince's genius cannot ever be understated. He was beyond brilliant. That being said—the one he did with The Muppets, ["Starfish and Coffee"] is a total favorite.

1 comment:

  1. This haughty prick has never watched Kanye West perform live, I'll tell you that much.