E.T. Habit interview with Alex Nova

September 17, 2013

E.T. Habit interview with Alex Nova

Echoing through the tubes of a maddening howl is the
psychedelic screech of E.T. Habit.  You
could use a million adjectives to describe them but one thing’s for sure, they
don’t fit in any predefined little boxes or labels these guys are way to buys
blazing their own trails and making their own music.  Disjointed but cohesive enough not to be
avant-garde or degrade into utter noise haunting vocals drifting up from the back
of the din before disappearing into another burst of sound and energy.  E.T. Habit doesn’t play by anyone’s rules but
their own and after releases on Skrot Up and Hozac they’ve self-release their
debut album Panthers On The Roof proving that they aren’t going anywhere and
will continue to push the bounds of traditional and psychedelic songwriting for
some time to come.  I had the pleasure of
catching up with seminal member Alex Nova and talking about where E.T. Habit
has been and where they’re hoping to go from here…
What’s the band’s
lineup?  Is this your original lineup or
have you gone through some changes since the band started? 
Right now the
band lineup is William Hafer, myself, Drew Ryan and Jason Ogawa.  William and I have been constants since E.T.
Habit’s inception and Drew has been on board as our bassist for awhile as
well.  He replaced Jason Sublette who
replaced Troy Canady.  Also, the album
you are set to review featured another founding member in Christmas Woods who
sang, played percussion and concocted some keyboard motifs for us.  It really feels like a big family at this
Are any of you in
any other bands?  Have you released any
material with any other bands?  If so can
you tell us a little bit about it?

Yes, our days
seem ever surrounded with music, music at every turn and you’ll have to excuse
any comparisons I draw to answer your question. 
Right now, William plays in a band called New Rose Alliance and works on
a solo project.  William is a pretty
notable and progressive cat and before working in E.T. Habit, built quite the
reputation as the drummer for Detroit’s Human Eye.  Drew Ryan also sits in on bass for J.
Fernandez and they have a sort of early Floyd meets a Beach Boys thing from
what I can tell.  Jason Ogawa has a group
called Tarnation and they have a sort of Throbbing Gristle meets Sun Ra meets
Swans thing happening.  I just saw them
play to a bunch of real young kids and their parents, out there moments.  As for myself, I’ve set up a kind of dogleg
path with a lot of bleed and side projects. 
I’m compelled to not really go into it actually.  Recently, I released a couple albums that are
in production with Onyx System that will be coming out on Batshit records
sister label.  That group is on a hiatus
of sorts so that I can lend some more energy to a solo album I’m working on
called Alex Nova’s Le Bizzarerrie.
When and how were
you first exposed to music? 
Probably in the
womb somewhere, humming, whistling, and singing, kinesthetic vibrations of the
flesh.  Before that, who knows?
When did you first
decide that you wanted to start writing and making your own music?

Probably shortly
after taking up cigarettes…  No, really,
I have no idea.
How did you all
meet and when was that?

Ha, to answer
this question requires too much demystification.  There’s lots of branch.  If I were to say it quickly, I met William
through Christmas, Drew through the net initially, and Jason, well, I’m still
not sure how I met Jason…
Where is the band
currently located?

Currently we all
reside here in Chicago.  I live in
Humboldt Park, Drew and Jason live in Logan Square at the cusp of Humboldt Park
and William lives on the South Side near Hyde Park somewhere.
How would you
describe the local music scene where you’re at now?

Interesting and
not so interesting.  Busy.  A lot of creativity and a lot of inspiration
floating around for those open to receiving it.
Are you very
involved with the local scene?

I’d say my
involvement is mostly through musical contribution, psychic fatigue and
intuition about a time and a place to put the outsider.  I’m not one to get lost in a scene really,
there’s too much music to make.
Has it played a
large role in the sound, history or evolution of E.T. Habit?

Trends in music
really have no role in the sound of our music. 
We really do play for ourselves in a truthful way.  Musically I think we sound like no one else
right now and we are doing our own thing, an inspired pursuit.
What led you to
start E.T. Habit?  When was that?

First of all, the
will to get weird, to make challenging music. 
I wouldn’t go so far as to say I started E.T. Habit, in a lot of ways it
started itself in a natural and mischievous sort of way.
What does the name
E.T. Habit mean or refer to?

Extra Terrestrial
Habit.  I love how it has evolved into
the name it is today, I love how space towers from without and within.  It refers to our place in the universe.  It refers to our relationship with the
mysteries of nature.
I absolutely hate
to label or classify music.  How would
you describe E.T. Habit’s sound to our readers who haven’t heard you yet?

understand.  It’s hard to classify music
but nothing is more delightful than talking about or experiencing music with
those you feel a good connection with. 
That said, I cut myself some slack and even have fun classifying and
re-classifying even if it feels a little odd at times.  The most I could say to answer that though is
that E.T. Habit likes to confound expectations, will use distance and likes to
keep it snake, for ourselves and for others.
There are some
extremely interesting influences that I can hear in your music and a lot of
them I think you only pick up once you’ve listened to the music a few times and
really absorb it so I’m curious to hear who some of your major musical
influences are?  What about as the band
as a whole rather than individually?

Hard to answer
without knowing what song or album you are referring to.  I will say this; while we are musicians our
influences go well beyond music.
Do you all enjoy
recording?  Some people can get over the
pressures of being in a studio and as a musician I think we all love the end
result, but being the in the studio can be extremely nerve wracking.  How is it in the studio for you all?

Each time is a
little different.  We’re working on an
album now.  We just converted our
practice space into a studio and did it ourselves.  We went in at midnight and just went crazy
till 7:30 A.M.  We laid down a strong
spine, a live picture of our true playing to fill in with minimal rub
later.  In a lot of ways recording can be
unforgiving, so I think we all are into going at it with patient
steadiness.  Take time, take in the
Do you do a lot of
preparatory work before you go into the studio and get everything sounding the
way you want beforehand or do you go into the studio and play things more
organically and off the cuff letting things evolve and change where they need

Both.  We prepare but stay loose.  In so far as we would record songs, there is
preparation leading up to the moment of capture.  Extracts are more spontaneous.  Literally us trying to extract or improvise a
moment to dilly dally in or reckon with.
In 2011 you had
your debut release, the self-titled cassette tape.  Can you tell us what it was like recording
your first album?  What are your memories
of those session(s)?  Where was it
recorded?  When was it recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?

Actually, our
first recording was our first show which was a recorded for a radio show on
WFMU.  It was gutsy and turned out
great!  The tape you are mentioning was
on the Skrot Up label I believe and is more of a compilation of various
recordings both from the radio show I just mentioned and from us just hitting
record in the practice space with a little post-production.
Who put that
out?  Was it limited?  Is that still in print?

Yeah, it was
limited to fifty copies.  It was an
independent tape release by Skrot Up out of Denmark.  You can download it online from Skrot Up’s
website but the tapes are long out of print.
You followed up
the self-titled tape with the Venomous single on Hozac records last year
(2012).  There aren’t a lot of labels out
there that I pay close attention to every band they choose to release; Hozac is
one of those labels.  How did you get
hooked up with them?  How was it working
with Hozac?

Christmas was in
talks with Todd Novak over at Hozac for that single.  Seemed pretty effortless.  Hozac is hip and busy with some good writers
and a long history with shows and what not. 
They’ve been real supportive to us.
Can you talk about
the recording of the material for that Venomous single?  What it much different than the recording
done for the self-titled cassette release?

That was Drew
Ryan’s recording debut with us.  He’s
really the muscle behind much of our recordings in so far as he engineers and
has a shared intuitive vision with the group. 
I think it’s a nice reflection of that moment in time with the band.
Now I know that
Venomous: Tongue’s Descent single is limited as pretty much all of Hozac’s 7”s
are limited edition affairs.  How many
copies is Venomous: Tongue’s Descent limited to?  Is it still in print?

There should be
some copies floating around, not sure how many total.  We have a handful left.
On the heels of
the Hozac single in November of 2012 you choose to form your own record label,
E.T. Habit Records and self-release your debut album, Panthers On The Roof in
an edition of 300 hand-numbered copies. 
How was the recording of Panthers On The Roof handled?  When was it recorded?  Where was it recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?

We recorded
Panthers On The Roof with the William Hafer, Alex Nova, Christmas Woods and
Drew Ryan lineup.  This was Drew’s second
big recording pursuit with us.  Drew
likes to record to 8-track tape.  Again,
we recorded this one at our practice space.
What does the
title Panthers On The Roof mean?

Christmas and I
were trying to creep each other out during a night of partying.  I told him there were panthers on the
roof…  What would that sound like?  It must have stuck because he proposed it as
the album title midway through recording.  
Since this was
your first full-length album on vinyl did you approach the recording or
songwriting in any special way?  Was
recording this album much different than the single or earlier cassette?

Nope, Drew Ryan
really stepped up.
What brought about
the decision to start your own label as opposed to trying to work with someone

Our band was in
transition.  We we’re setting out to sea
with a different lineup, I think that was part of it.  It felt like it might be hard or too time
consuming to get someone to put it out with that sort of uncertainty looming
over our heads.  I’m glad we
self-released it.  There’s something
special and individual about a private press. 
Downfall is the lack of circulation, and it feels like an archival
piece, albeit a very special one. 
Do you plan to
release your own music exclusively through your own record label from this
point on or do you plan on working with labels as well as releasing your own
material in the future?

Probably a combination
of both.
Has E.T. Habit
released any music that we haven’t talked about yet?

We are wrapping
up a second LP that I am very excited about and can’t wait to unleash.  If Panthers On The Roof was book one, this is
its accompaniment as book two.
Are there any
plans for any other releases this year? 
Maybe a single or any plans for a follow-up full-length?

We are real close
to mastering our second long player.
Where’s the best
place for our US readers to get copies of E.T. Habit’s music?
This link, E.T.
Habit Records: http://www.tapedeco.com/ethabit/
With the insane
international postage rate increases this past year what about our
international and overseas readers?

I know you had
your first release from a band that wasn’t your own on the label not too long
ago, what was that release?  How has E.T.
Habit Records been working out for you all?

I actually was in
that group.  I think your referring to
Onyx System.  So far the label is good
and modest.  Because we all partake in
music outside this group it’s a nice way to self-release semi-related
projects.  We’re going to do a limited
run of one time bass player Jason Sublette’s solo project Xunholm in the near
Does E.T. Habit
have any plans or goals that they are trying to accomplish in 2013?

Right now they
are to release our second LP and continue to create and explore music.  It would be nice to tour the album once it is
Where’s the best
place for our readers to keep up with the latest news like album releases and
upcoming shows from E.T. Habit?

Somewhere on the
computer probably, type in E.T. Habit.
What do you have
planned as far as touring goes for the rest of the year?

No plans as of
yet, but plans to plan if that makes sense.
You have played
with some really amazing bands including some of my favorites.  Who are some of your personal favorites that
you’ve had a chance to share a bill with?

Recently we
played with a group called Chatoyant. 
They were great, very talented musicians.  Who else? 
I always enjoyed sharing a bill with Jamie Easter’s incarnations.  E.T. Habit did a slew of shows with the now
defunct Druid Perfume.  Hmmm, there are a
lot, too many to name at this point. 
Do you have any
funny or interesting stories from live shows that you’d like to share with our
Yes, but not for
sharing in mass.  Maybe at a campfire in
the stars for the curious hearts somewhere someday.
In your dreams who
are you on tour with?

Gong, Gram
Parsons and the Fallen Angels, maybe a wine tour in the sky with Kevin Ayers.

I am a nut when
it comes to physical music.  Having
something to hold in your hands, artwork to look at, liner notes to read.  It all makes for a more complete listening
experience and gives me a small glimpse in to the mind of the artists who made
it in my opinion.  Do you have any such
connection with physically released music?

Indeed, it can be
a beautiful thing. 
Do you have a
music collection at all?  If so can you
tell us about it?

I have a tasteful
little collection of records.  I learn a
lot from them.  They get my whiskers
With all of the
different options available to artists these days I’m always curious why
musicians choose the mediums that they do and which mediums artists
prefer.  Do you have a preferred medium
of release for your material?  What about
when you are buying music?

I like vinyl,
CDs, tapes…  Vinyl is probably the most
Like I said
before, I love my records, tapes, CDs and even some reels. I still haven’t been
sold on 8-tracks ha-ha!  But the
convenience of digital music is undeniable. 
It’s amazing to be able to take my entire music collection on the go
with me wherever I want.  It also seems
like digital music is leveling the playing field and giving independent bands
that are willing to work hard and promote themselves, a much greater chance of
being heard by people all over the world. 
At the same time it’s gutting the infrastructure of the music industry
as we know it.  As an artist during the
reign of the digital era what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?

I think it’s
personal.  I’ve recorded digitally, with
tape, with a bleak little microphone in an invisible mouse hole, you name
it.  I think it’s a great time to explore
and find what style and medium you are comfortable with.  The strength of a recording for me is in the
song itself and ideas therein.  It’s far
more subtle for me.
I try to keep up
with as much music and I can.  I spend
enough of my time looking for new and good music at this point I shudder to
think about it, so I always make sure to ask musicians this questions when I
talk to them; who I should be listening to from your local scene or area that I
might not have heard of before?

I would dig up
some Druid Perfume records.  I got a Gary
Wrong album recently and that’s fresh and dangerous.  Human Eye is passionate and creative.  Mac Blackout is the same.  Locals and Moonrises have kind of been
haunting my skull.  Ilth Zongz, Spinning
Clocks, Odd Clouds, Moonhairy, Chatoyant, Paradise Hoax.
What about
nationally and internationally?
Hard to say here
in frogtown.  I know Richard Pinhas of
Heldon is staying busy and Eric of ADN’ Ckrystall is gigging and circulating
his work.  I’d love to get E.T. Habit to
Thanks so much for
doing the interview, is there anything that I missed or that you’d just like to
talk about? 
Nope, thanks for
reaching out.
(2011)  E.T. Habit –
E.T. Habit – digital, Cassette Tape – Skrot Up Records (Limited to ??? copies)
(2012)  E.T. Habit –
Venomous b/w Starside Devastation – 7” – Hozac Records (Limited to 475 copies
on black wax and a Gold Edition with alternate cover Limited to 200 copies)
(2012)  E.T. Habit – Panthers
On The Roof – digital, 12” – Self-Released (Limited to 300 hand-numbered
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2013
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2013
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