There are a lot of labels that I could attach to lutheran, a lot of confusing adjectives I could use to describe their music, but that would only begin to graze the surface of the intricacies and brilliant compositions and wouldn’t really be doing anyone any favors in the long-run. Instead, I’ll talk just a little bit about how lutheran’s music straddles the lines between a ton of different genres while pledging allegiance to none, being at once wholly psychedelic and yet having a foot still firmly planted in the minimalist synthesizer, avant-garde and electronic worlds as well. I’ll speak a small amount about how when you hit play on their albums you’re instantly transported away, suddenly alone and travelling through the labyrinthine corridors of your own memories, emotions bottled in jars along the walls. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll hit on the overwhelming flood of euphoria and serenity that wash over you like a cleansing wave as you experience the music. The brainchild of a single man and evolving out of a would-be band that went sideways, lutheran is like a force of nature, both beautiful and furious – serene and bestial at the same time, the intricate compositions and complex illusive musical structures taking form like ghostly silhouettes on the horizon of some desolate post-apocalyptic landscape devoid of life or motion. Vapor and mist convalesce to create a seemingly solid form of sorts, a powerful gust of nearly unperceivable sounds and ideas that envelope you in their hypnotic power of mesmerism beckoning to you to take your place amongst the darkness and endlessness of eternity. Perhaps the greatest thing about lutheran, at least to me, is the fact that while completely earning the avant-garde label, there’s a greater sense of purpose to the music that elevates it beyond random noise or sprawling aimless compositions without question. The albums are journeys unto themselves, journeys undertaken by both the listener and the creator every time the needle hits the wax. After two full-length albums and with several more releases on the way I highly recommend you read the article as a primer, pick up already out and begin eagerly awaiting the next spate of releases because “Birthday” pt. 1 and the self-titled lutheran both earn places on any self-respecting avant-garde or soundtrack junky, synth freak, or psychedelic seeker’s record shelf; this is the real deal stuff right here and you don’t come across it too often so don’t sleep. Click the link below for some music, make sure you score yourself a copy and I’ll see you on the other side folks, things will never be the same I can assure you of that.
- Listen while you read: https://lutheran.bandcamp.com/
I know that Lutheran’s a solo project for the most part, but I didn’t know if anyone else was ever involved in playing on the recordings or performing the music out? If other people are involved is that a kind of revolving cast of characters if so, or do you have a go-to group of people you draw from?
Lutheran started out under a different name with my brother-in-law and his girlfriend. That imploded. So I finished up a couple of songs we were working on, started going off on my own, and that’s a lot of what ended up on the first LP. Side one sounds a little more like a band trying to find its way, side two I think finds the sound I more or less settled on through Birthday. Side two of the self-titled album might be my favorite cohesive side of an album I’ve recorded. In terms of live, bro-in-law and I were still playing shows for a while, then the last year-ish has been solo with the aid of my looping setup. The idea of solo shows seemed weird at first, but now it’s like, well, I know I can swing it on my own, so I don’t have to be too reliant on anybody else. I like group dynamics, but I’m not so into the pressure of trying to make others conform to a certain musical vision, or even scheduling logistics. So it’s kind of open right now.
Are you in any other bands or do you have any side projects going on right now besides Lutheran?
Nope. Music is my expensive hobby, writing fiction’s the cheap one, though it takes a hell of a lot longer. Between those two my time’s pretty much full up.
Have you released any music with anyone else in the past besides Lutheran? If so, can you tell us a little bit about that here?
No releases, but there’s some other progenitor music that led indirectly to Lutheran with some other dudes when we first got into 4-track recording. Some junk, some good bits that I’d still stand by, maybe it will see the light of day sometime...
How old are you and where are you originally from?
I’m from suburbs west of Chicago. Still there. Turned thirty this summer.
What was your home like when you were growing up? Was there a lot of music around or anything Were either your parents or any of your close relatives musicians or maybe just extremely interested/involved in music when you were growing up?
My dad was definitely the most into music, played a little guitar; for the first few years of my existence he kept his cassette choices pretty tame, nothing too crazy/that you wouldn’t hear on the radio usually. Then around middle school or just before, he started throwing around his prog roots; Gentle Giant are still one of the strangest goddamn bands I’ve ever listened too. Definitely ‘turn this down when you drop me off' music at the time. Super complex, lot of time signature shifts, with occasional catchy riffs among the bizarre. For all their weird over-the-top-ness though they always seemed less serious about themselves than most of the other prog groups, where pretentiousness is a given. Once I started forming my own left-field tastes he tried to make fun of the odd sounds coming from the bedroom, but it was like, “Sorry dude, you let the cat out of the bag on that one”. My younger sister is also pretty obsessed with music, but on the complete opposite end, she’s a soprano and studied opera singing in Manhattan. She’s got the kind of discipline to sing scales for three hours at a time; I’ve always been more interested in texture and never had the patience for that degree of disciplined practice. Our tastes rarely overlap, Philip Glass, Bjork, Joanna Newsom, some classical, but there’s definitely a blood-born mutual appreciation.
What about the local music scene where you were at? Do you feel like it played a large role in shaping your musical tastes or the way you perform at this point? Did you get very involved in the local scene or see a lot of shows when you were younger?
I was super into the local Chicago scene like seven, or eight years ago, where things were going in a more damaged psych direction. Hunt Like Devil era Cave and some of the other sounds of the time period; Permanent Records was getting established and seemed to deliver a lot in those terms. So I do feel like some of what was happening then shaped what I wanted to do. Now the scene is very much in the garage-pop vein which is fine and all, but very different to where I thought things were going.
What do you consider your first real exposure to music to be?
Distinct memories of blasting Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time” as loud as my mom’s kitchen stereo could go. It never got loud enough. The intro to that song is still killer.
If you were to pick a moment, or a small series of moments, that seemed to change everything for you musically and opened your mind up to the infinite possibilities that music presents, what would it/they be?
Little bits here and there. Peter Gabriel in the car when I was a kid. My dad had his third album on cassette where he’s got the melted face in an awesome Hipgnosis design; that image, “Intruder” as the leadoff track with its gated stalker drums that perfectly match the subject matter of a nighttime B&E and perverse hints of ill intent made a deep impression on my boyish five-year-old mind. He also does a lot of cool delay double tracking with his vocals on that album. I remember being in the backseat visualizing at three people singing, and arguing with my dad about there being more than just one singer. That got me interested in how recordings were made from the get-go, I guess early on Peter Gabriel was my snake charmer… It sounds quaint now, but getting into the Pixies in my teens felt like hidden brilliance that no one else seemed to know about, which is funny now that they’re pretty ubiquitous, but this was before they’d re-formed and even with the Internet they seemed a bit lost to time and shrouded in mystery. That was when I was just learning guitar and it was a jolt of, okay I can actually physically play music like this… I’m a lefty that plays right-handed which has limited my technique somewhat, which isn’t really a valid excuse since Fripp is in the same boat and he’s gotten along just fine; suffice it to say that I’d be a pretty frustrated metalhead. My krautrock obsession started maybe ten years ago. That sound also seems so natural now, but at the time it was kind of a mind-fuck. I try and listen to Can’s Tago Mago with virginal ears to try and remember how it first felt to listen to. Now it just seems like, yeah absolutely, this is how all 70s guitar music should sound; way better than some Supertramp bullshit. I write a lot, so I listen to a lot of lyric-less instrumental stuff that doesn’t interrupt the process too much; Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works vol. II and Stars of the Lid’s And Their Refinement of the Decline are things I listen to pretty much daily, both albums of the sort that definitely expand possibilities in that they’re not really part of any quantifiable genre, they’re their own self-existing ecosystems.
(*Editor’s Note: B&E is American slang for breaking and entering)
What was your first instrument? When and how did you get that?
Trumpet, 4th grade; band teacher walked in and said “Who wants to play an instrument?” and I went for something brassy. Life would’ve been a lot different if my eight-year-old self didn’t raise his hand. I didn’t pick up drums/guitar till almost a decade later. Playing a monophonic instrument like the trumpet I thought that guitarists just played one note at a time. When my first guitar playing friend showed me how a power chord worked it absolutely blew my mind.
When did you decide to start writing and performing your own music? What brought that decision about for you, or was that more of just a natural reaction to being given a new way to create something of your own and express yourself in a new way?
It was definitely gradual. I was getting past that honeymoon period of seeing shows all the time and feeling satisfied just by being in the audience; I got the hunger to participate in music as more than just a spectator. Appreciation is great, but eventually I got tired of that ‘entertain me’ mindset and wanted to fuse some of my favorite sounds and try my hand at actually making something; which is definitely a humbling experience. Even though I get very opinionated on what music I think is great versus what I’d deem as total shit, it makes you realize that even then a ton of effort went into making that shit a reality. So much of our culture is based on watching other people act the way we want to, be it sports, music, movies—trying to create on any level is a necessary combat to the consumer culture we’ve all been nursed on into thinking is normal, so we’re not just living vicariously through other people who get up and try.
What led to the ‘formation’ or beginnings of Lutheran and when would that have been?
I little by little started gathering equipment, shitty amps, a four track, trying to play with whoever was willing. Not that many people incidentally. Most people who play music want to play with someone a little more pedigreed, and I was not about much in the verse chorus verse scheme of things. My brother-in-law was definitely the first time I connected with someone on a musical level, just jamming and stumbling onto sounds that start to feel awesome and right. Pete Swanson said something in an interview to the effect of “you know when you’re killing it”, which is totally true. Sometimes it takes a little awkward warming up playing with someone else, but you feel the energy when it’s developing beyond the notes you’re playing in a way that forces you to take notice. Looking back at those early days of playing it sometimes feels like, yeah that was probably the most fun I have, and will ever, have making music, those first times it started to click; even if the rush was way overcompensating for the quality.
What does the name Lutheran mean or refer to in the context of your band name? Who came up with it and how did you go about choosing it?
I came up with Lutheran after toying around with lots of other stupid names. I wanted something that was a standalone word like a lot of my favorite bands, Minutemen, Wire, Earth, Prince, etcetera. I like the way Lutheran rolls off the tongue and how it looks in print. That said, I still feel like a dumbass when I have to say 'lutheran' out loud, it's a pretty ludicrous name. I feel pretty bold when I'm working independently, writing/doing music, but when I have to get face to face and be like, “Hi my band name is lutheran please carry my record...” I have a hard time taking myself seriously. But I stand by it. Coming up with band names is a weird thing though, I can come up with album/song titles all day, but an actual band name is such a definite thing... Reminds me of a Trent Reznor interview where he was recalling people giving him crap for the name Nine Inch Nails and he said something to the effect of, “Have you ever had to create a band name that you knew would be distinctive and that you could live with long-term?”
Where are you currently located at? How would you describe the local music scene where you’re at?
Suburbs of Chicago. There is no scene. Since this has mainly been a recording project thus far, having space from the city mania has been a useful catalyst. When there’s no good music nearby to check out, it kind of forces you to be creative in a way which was more easily gratified when I lived in Chicago by just walking down the street and picking up The Reader to see who’d be playing all week.
Has the local scene played an integral role in the sound, history or evolution of Lutheran in your opinion or do you feel like you would be doing basically what you are and sound basically like you do regardless of where you were at?
The way music was going in Chicago five to ten years ago hit me at a formative time. When we were first starting to record, we anticipated the scene developing in a different direction; in some ways this project fills the void of what we expected to be happening.
Are you involved in recording or releasing any music besides your own/Lutheran’s? Do you help run or operate a record label or anything like that? If so, can you tell us about that here?
I record a lot with whoever is willing to play and is open to seeing where the sound takes us. Some of what I’ve been recording lately, I don’t will end up fitting with the Lutheran project, or if they’ll find their way developing into something else. For a while I had a steady set of collaborators, and then I’ve just been recording on my own for basically the last year and a half. There’s been some new blood lately, helps you to re-examine the recording process and pushes things in different directions, keeps you from repeating yourself. As for the record label, the guys at Exotic Prism are really easygoing and very conventionally attractive. If anyone has exceptional means and doesn’t know what to do with their fortune I would highly recommend to tithe a chunk of their salary to help them keep up operations.
I love doing these interviews for Psychedelic Baby and getting the chance to expose people to all this amazing music, but there’s one thing that I still haven’t gotten used to, describing how a band sounds to our readers who haven’t heard them yet. It can be an extremely daunting and at times difficult task to accomplish. How would you describe Lutheran’s sound to our readers who might not have heard you before?
I have a hard time explaining how my music sounds to other people, so I wrote up a description so I wouldn’t have to think too hard about it. Here’re some snippets from that: Atmospheric meditations on a diet of krautrock and psych, tossed with reverse tape effects and disembodied vocals. Swirls of guitars and keys into part kraut-flecked jam and chilled, foreboding minimalism. Disarmingly calming, mildly unsettling, haunting and mesmerizing. Ambient vocal textures complete the ambien haze… So there you have it.
It seems like Lutheran pulls from a lot of places as far as your sound’s concerned. While you obviously have one foot planted as far as influences go, like I mentioned, it seems like there’s a lot of different stuff coming from a bunch of different places. Who are some of your major musical influences? What about influences on Lutheran as a whole rather than just individually?
Lotta Kraut, Spacemen 3, Aphex Twin, Talk Talk, Stars of the Lid.
What’s the songwriting process usually like for Lutheran? Do you usually come up with a riff or idea for a song and then work from there fleshing things out or do you just kind of start building from random points depending on the song?
Some songs are more thought out and pre-planned than others, while others are very much a patchwork of live improvisations, so it varies widely. You gotta play to get that riff, and sometimes you can’t beat the first take as far as inspiration is concerned, so I keep the tapes running. I’d rather build up a song from a messy inspired take than rehearse a song to death and remove the original impulse.
What about recording? I mean, I think that most musicians can appreciate all the time and effort that goes into recording when they’re finally holding that finished product in their hands. But getting to that point though, getting stuff to sound the way you want it to, and even seemingly small things once that’s done, stuff like getting the music properly mixed and mastered can prove to be extremely annoying and difficult. What’s it like recording for Lutheran?
It takes a lot of patience. Everything recorded so far has been on a Tascam 488 8-track cassette recorder, which is a beautiful device. I’m only now getting to the point where I’m hitting its limits and am thinking about upgrading to something with more XLRs and capabilities, but I really like the tape saturation. It also keeps the sound distinct when so much is just recorded straight into DAW. I like to be able to manipulate things digitally though, so after recording I import the raw tracks into my Mac, and then build up the songs over time. Any overdubs I do will still be on tape though, so I’ll bounce a version of a song back to cassette, record overdubs, and then back to the computer to layer it. It’s fun trying to match up recordings that weren’t intended to be patched together, but then somehow making that work, sort of like Burroughs’ cut-up technique. You end up with a sound that you would never have thought to make ahead of time, that’s virtually impossible to pre-plan. It’s time intensive and certainly not the most efficient way to make music, but I like the results.
Do you prefer to take a DIY approach to recording where you handle most of the technical aspects of stuff on your own so that you don’t have to work with or compromise on the sound with anyone else? Or do you like to head into a studio and let someone else worry about that headache so that you can concentrate on the music and getting things to sound the way you want them to from the very start?
I’ve always operated on a DIY level. I could see using studio time someday just to try something different, but so far the recording approach has been idiosyncratic to the point where I don’t know how it could translate to a studio setting. That and I like the portability of recording with the 488. Every room you record in has a different sound. You have to play to the acoustics of each space, and work within the limits of the available gear – usually what I can carry.
Is there a lot of time and effort that goes into working out exactly what something’s going to sound like before it’s recorded, with the arrangement and composition all worked out beforehand? Or do you like to get a good skeletal idea of what a song’s going to sound like while allowing for some change and evolution during the recording process where you feel is prudent or necessary?
Kind of as mentioned before, usually there’s an idea, but it usually ends up in a completely different place when all is said and done. I record more like a writer than a musician; lots of revision time, reconsidering individual elements. What I might think needs to be the main riff initially, I might end up disliking, or using as a background texture as just a snippet of the original idea; in reverse.
I don’t think a lot of people know how to take this question, but I swear I don’t ask out of any kind of base or demeaning sense. People have been tapping into the altered states that drugs and alcohol produce for the purposes of creating art for thousands of years and I’m simply always curious about their relationship, usage and application when it comes to the art that I personally enjoy and ‘consume’. Do psychoactive or hallucinogenic drugs play a large or important role in the songwriting, recording or performance processes for Lutheran?
If I’m trying to create something I need to be in a state where I’m not thinking about the everyday ills and errands and all that, but I can generally get there with some coffee, a jog, some stretching. I like a few drinks to sever some of the other things that might clog the mind, you need something to separate yourself from everyday occupations, but that can be, you know, a nice walk, some meditation; a few pages of reading to ready the ground for performance. I definitely need to be in control enough to perform though. Anything else and I cease to be productive. Appreciating creativity on substances is one thing, but trying to actually function creatively is another… It’s not bad for an experiment, but there are better ways. Alcohol good, coffee better, jog/stretch best.
Let’s take two seconds and talk about the recording of your back catalog here for a minute. In 2012 you self-released the Lutheran 12-inch on the Exotic Prism Recordings label in a limited edition of only 250 copies. Can you tell us a little bit about the recording of that first material? When and where would that have been at? Was that a fun, pleasurable experience, or more of a difficult and nerve-racking proposition for you at that time? Who recorded that material? What kind of equipment was used?
Material for the Self-Titled record started getting recorded in the summer 0f 2010, which seems a lifetime ago; some of the most ecstatic moments of my life to that point for sure, especially the guitar parts of “Lullaby” and “America in Love”. It was the first time what we wanted to record was really translating, and there was a lot of experimenting with new amps and pedals, so it was really fucking fun. Everything was recorded on my 8-track by me in various basements. Nothing nerve-racking when it came to recording, mixing became a bit tedious but I try to treat that just like performance and let inspiration take you where it leads. I could never run an effective recording studio because I follow my muse too much at the mixing stage, but then again that’s kind of how I want music to be – an art instead of a job.
Last year in 2014 you followed up the self-titled 2012 release with your sophomore album, “Birthday” pt. 1 again for Exotic Prism and again in an edition of 250 copies. Did you try anything radically new or different when it came to the songwriting or recording of the material for “Birthday” pt. 1? What can our listeners expect from the new album? When was that recorded and where would that have been at? What kind of equipment was used? Who recorded that material?
Birthday is kind of a continuation of where the first record first was going, same recording methods and equipment, some new pedals, but much more stretched out. In a way it was pursuing the extremes of the first record, how long can certain parts be and still sound cohesive? How stripped down and repetitive can we make the core of this song? Most of the beats were weird fuck-ups of my drums through samplers and pedals which gave some different textures. It’s probably a little more consistent all-told. So far only part one of a three LP set is out on vinyl which sounds good by itself but not complete; each record is a little more deranged than the one before it. I’m eager to get the rest out as soon as funds allow…
Does Lutheran have any music that we haven’t talked about yet, maybe a demo or a song on a single that I don’t know about?
Nothing else official, though there’s a lot with the potential to eventually see the light of day.
With the release of “Birthday” pt. 1 a while back in 2014 at this point, are there any other releases in the works or on the horizon for Lutheran right now?
The latter two records in the “Birthday” series are totally done; I’m sitting on them until funds are ripe, hoping to get that together by this summer. Working on a lot of new material right now that’ll probably be a double record, with a one-off 10” that I’d like to put out in between if the price is right – so no shortage. I’m in need of an eccentric benefactor for sure.
Where’s the best place for our US readers to pick up copies of your music at?
In Chicago you can pick up both records at Reckless Records, Logan Hardware, and Permanent Records – Permanent Records has also shipped several out via mail-order, and I’ve got some stocked at Permanent Records L.A. Beyond that, they’re best ordered directly through me at my Bandcamp page.
With the completely insane international shipping rates that have kept skyrocketing over the past few years I try and provide our readers with as many possible options for picking up imports as I can. Where’s the best place for our international and overseas readers to pick up your stuff?
Insane indeed! Bandcamp again, I charge twenty three dollars US for international shipping on a single record or both can be bundled for a few dollars more, which sounds outlandish, but I lose shipping money for every record sent overseas. I’m okay with that. I’d rather get it out there. No one’s really in music for the money anymore anyway, *amirite? I’ve had some orders from Germany and the Netherlands and if SoundCloud is any indicator, the vast majority of my listener base is in Finland, so order away fellas! If I’m ever to fund an international tour a few more oughta do it…
[*Editor’s Note: read “am I right?”]
And where would the best place for our interested readers be to keep up with the latest news from Lutheran like upcoming shows and album releases be at?
Check out www.lutheranmusik.com. Aside from general musi[k] info it’s a window into whatever I’m thinking or feeling that week. Random written bits, you know? I should probably spruce it up. Self-promotion’s always a little bizarre to me, to thrust yourself onto the public after years of working in the shadows – the creative trade-off.
Are there any major plans or goals that Lutheran is looking to accomplish in 2015?
Time to tour, time to record, time to do. I want to take it forward as a live prospect, not an arena-sized coup, but a decent amount of shows. My job affords time in the summer so I’d like to seize the opportunity.
What, if anything, do you have planned as far as touring goes right now?
I’m mainly looking for shows around the Midwest this summer (2015), I can expand beyond that as the situation requires. Anyone who wants a lutheran show this summer be it at a bar or a barn, inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org, and thanks in advance…
Do you spend a lot of time out on the road? Do you enjoy touring? What’s life like out on the road for Lutheran?
So far I’ve only played locally, in the process of setting up a mini-tour now, which should be pretty great. But if I could change anything about shows in general it’d be the time of day. I’m kind of obsessed with the creative energy early in the morning when I can be alert and not yet bogged down by other commitments of the day; I get a lot of work done while the world sleeps. Anywhere at 5 a.m. feels like a remote wilderness. So I’d be all about seeing shows between like 5 to 8 p.m. I don’t care about staying up super late, and I’ve missed some really good shows just because they’re on weekdays and I’m like, “Do I want to call in tomorrow or deal with being super-exhausted?”, and unless it’s Faust playing at the Empty Bottle the answer is no. That kind of gets at my credo in a way; I want to pry music out of the hands of single twenty somethings and give 9 to 5 working stiffs everywhere a chance to see something interesting. I want to bring back the matinee show in a big way. In other words I’m a total curmudgeon.
What was the first song that Lutheran ever played live? When and where would that have been at?
House show in Pilsen/Chicago. Song called “River Sharks” which has been disowned. “America in Love” was the second song though, and “Lullaby” the fourth.
Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the past few years?
Given limited live stuff there’s been some good ones. We’ve played with Valis, the side project of The-Drum, piss piss piss moan moan moan, c. batteries, and others; probably my fave was Bitchin’ Bajas, aka Coop from Cave back when he was only performing solo, which was pretty fucking transcendent. Played with some of the dudes from The Lemons in a previous project, which is interesting because at the time the sound they were going for was not prevalent and they felt a bit on the outside at that show, and also with Bitchin’ Bajas, and now their sound is such a thing in Chicago.
Do you give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band to a large extent? Stuff like flyers, posters, shirt designs, cover artwork and that kind of thing? Is there any kind of meaning or message you’re attempting to convey with the visual side of Lutheran? Do you have anyone that you usually turn to in your times of need when it comes to that sort of thing? If so, who is that and how did you get hooked up with them originally?
I spent a lot of time with the cover design. There’s no overt meaning I guess, though I did want to convey a feeling with the cover art that somehow correlates to the music inside. The first record had more of a warmer summer vibe, like when the heat gets oppressive and slightly claustrophobic, so I like the color-saturated lake shot. Birthday always sounded a bit icier to me though, so a snowy backdrop seemed fitting.
I grew up around this massive collection of music and I was not only encouraged to listen to anything that I want to growing up, but my dad would take me out to the local shops and pick me up random stuff I was interested in on the weekends. I developed this whole ritual for listening to music during that period of my life that I’ve never fully outgrown and which has led to either a lifelong love, or obsession, with physically released music – depending on who you talk to, ha-ha! There’s just something about having a physical object to hold in my hands, something to experience along with what I’m hearing that seems like it provides a rare glimpse inside of the mind’s of the artists who created it and has always made for a much more complete listening experience for me. Do you have any such connection with physically released music?
Yeah we’re agreed on this. As mentioned earlier, I went off on my own taste-wise, not really encouraged or discouraged, but growing up around my dad’s record collection, it was like, “These are fucking cool!” A square foot of art you can do a whole lot more with. CD booklets never got me off in the same way.
With all of the various methods of release that are available to musicians today I’m always curious why they choose and prefer the methods that they do. Do you have a preferred medium of release for your own music? What about when you’re listening to or purchasing music? If you do have a preference, what is it and can you tell us a little bit about why?
If I could I’d release everything on vinyl, and maybe a few of the older demo-type stuff on cassette. With vinyl it always sounds like the band is playing in your fucking living room. CDs/higher quality digital may boast a clarity that vinyl can’t repeat, but who wants that? When I have an amp blaring in my face it doesn’t sound clear, it sounds saturated and overdriven as fuck. If you listen to early CD remasters especially, they sacrifice a lot for the clarity. I like comparing CD and LP copies of Led Zeppelin II. On the LP, “Whole Lotta Love” opens with this amazingly thick stereo reverb on the guitar, and then the vocals come in at just the right level in the mix, nice and warm; the bass, and drums the same. If you put the CD on right after the first thing you notice is that guitar reverb is just fucking gone, they left it on the cutting floor when they transferred to digital ‘cause that was so en vogue at the time, and then Robert Plant’s vocals come in waaaaaay higher than before, and they’re cleaned and stripped of all the analog grit, so it’s just his vocals clear and nasally and louder than you ever wanted. Who wants that clarity? And of course that’s the radio version that everybody has been familiar with for the past twenty five years. The new Led Zeppelin remasters are better and not that revisionist, I actually picked up new copies of I and III and they sound pretty damn good, but it does in general show some of the weird trends that come and go with the re-packaging of classics, and why you’re probably better off getting an original copy, even if it’s got some hiss. I also feel that vinyl changes your relationship with music though. It’s not just some stuff you throw on in the car for a driving pulse or Spotify on earbuds to pass the time on the train. When you put on a record in your living room or bedroom, that’s the event, so you give it the same attention as a good movie, you don’t skip songs that aren’t instantly gratifying after twenty seconds, you take your time to get into the music and let it settle over you. That’s one of the biggest factors besides sound quality or art – vinyl teaches you to treat your music with respect and patience.
Like it or not, digital music is here in a big way right now. I think that most situations just depend on how you look at them, I mean, there are always going to be upsides and downsides to any given situation, it just depends on where and how you look at it. Digital music is just the tip of the iceberg anyway though, when you combine it with the internet that’s when things get really interesting. What’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?
I’m okay with digital and don’t mean to sound like a total Luddite with my vinyl worship. Records with a download card are pretty much the ultimate. I’d prefer that over a record/CD combo pretty much always. And yeah, dudes like me in particular wouldn’t get heard much without the Internet. I don't have time to make music a full-time gig, definitely plan on pursuing live shows more, but it’ll never be my bread and butter. So being able to post songs online and get feedback instantaneously certainly helps motivate you to keep creating, when twenty years ago I don’t know how long I would’ve pursued a basement project with little to no chance of exposure. That said, the profitability of streaming is something I see as a huge problem in years to come. I don’t think musicians necessarily need Guns ’N Roses era salaries, but the royalty rate through Spotify and Pandora is laughable. Damon Krukowski of Galaxie 500/Damon and Naomi had a column on this issue two-ish years ago here and it’s still completely spot-on, don’t see that changing anytime soon. I don’t expect much compensation for my creativity but I’d like to get to the point where my music can at least pay for itself, then there’s turning a profit, which at this point is still a very distant future.
I try to keep up with as many good bands as I possibly can but there just not enough time to check out all the amazing stuff that’s out there right now. Is there anyone from the local scene or area that I should be listening to I might not have heard of before?
I wish I knew all of what was out there. As I’ve said, I’m not exactly king of the local scene, but there’s a lot of good stuff going on. The recordings of Bitchin Bajas are always great, they had a live setup last time I saw them with a kind of homemade P.A. that sounded killer. Running is good for some hard-hitting guitar energy. Toupee’s got some pretty good damaged weirdness happening. Finally picked up ONO’s first LP from the early 80s and they’re back on the Chicago scene pretty hard in a mythic way right now, weirdly preachy fried vocals, gotta love it… I haven’t heard any of their new stuff yet, but I want to check it out along with the new reissue of their second record Ennui which was the last one they released until they reformed.
What about nationally and internationally?
Been meaning to get my hands on the new Actress 3xLP for a while, I’m pretty into those sorts of demented electronic reductions; Ghettoville seems about his most extreme. Something in me is really attracted to anyone who can pull off a triple LP without a bunch of filler. It’s like some sort of marathon equivalent, both to the musician and the listener for having the endurance to actually sit through and listen to the whole thing; looking to grab the new Levon Vincent for that too. If I’m going for current music I veer a lot toward damaged electronic, where there are a lot of untapped sounds and structures, I love me a good guitar-bass-drums setup but old formulas sometimes just yield the same results. I’ve been very smitten with Demdike Stare and Andy Stott the last couple years, a lot of that dark ambient sound, and pretty much anything on the UK label Modern Love, and even Death Waltz for some spooky horror reissues; definitely informed a lot of the second and third discs in my Birthday trilogy. I guess… I need to put them out so the sounds can do more than circle around in my own head…
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me. I really appreciate you making it this far and sharing so much about yourself and the band with us. Since you’ve been so generous with your time and I don’t have anything else to throw at you at this point, I’d like to open the floor up to you for a moment. Is there anything that I could have possibly missed or that you’d just like to take this opportunity to talk to me or the readers about?
Just a ‘thanks for listening’. Creating music is about my favorite way to spend my time, knowing that people get enjoyment of it is rad. Anyone in the Chicago area, I’ll be playing at the Whistler on 4/29, more forthcoming… Anyone who wants insight to random/cryptic writing thoughts, those are available from time to time here. And anybody who wants a Lutheran show over the summer, backyards basements, etcetera, especially but not limited to the Midwest, hit me up at email@example.com. Cordially,
(2012) Lutheran – Lutheran – Digital, 12” – Exotic Prism Recordings (Limited to 250 copies)
(2014) Lutheran – “Birthday” pt. 1 – Digital, 12” – Exotic Prism Recordings (Limited to 250 copies)
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2015
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