Painted Faces interview

January 7, 2020

Painted Faces interview

Painted Faces is the long (strange/trip) running voyage of weirdo David Drucker, began in Florida in 2009 and decamped to NYC in 2011. It has sometimes been a loose band in the past with a revolving lineup of outsiders and interlopers (known as The Freak Band), but is usually a solo endeavor, and the bulk of the recordings have been done as such. PF has always been a home recording solo project, one-man-band style heavy on psychOdelic/outsider folk/noise/experimental vibes.

Would you like to talk a bit about your background?

David Drucker: I’m writing this while listening to Hot Rats by Zappa (in case anyone is wondering).

I played in some (generic) bands in high school and thought of myself as a serious bass player. Late in college after getting deep into psychedelics/outsider culture/various “avant” isms, and such I started thinking of myself as a songwriter and composer, and I started making songs and strange sounds. Painted Faces was “born” in 2009 during a summer home in Miami before my last year of college. The backbone of the sound is Florida. I came up out of the North American noise/weirdo scenes and now I’m an elder statesman. But I’m forever a student. Life is a trip man.

“Life is a trip man.”

When did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music? What brought that about for you?

There wasn’t an exact moment but after playing in bands throughout high school and early college (as a bass player), it just started to make sense. I had a lot of ideas kicking on my own and I wasn’t getting my fix being a side guy in various bands. I caught the bug to do things MY WAY….again this was solidified after a few ego shattering psychedelic experiences…. I embraced the voices in my head and let the freak flag fly. It was very messy for a long time and it still is but I’ve learned to trust the inner sounds.

I basically learned to really play guitar, keys, electronics, sing, record and write songs all pretty much simultaneously and that has grown over the last decade into this “thing” that has taken me on some strange trips. I moved to NYC summer of 2011 and got caught up in the north east noise/head culture freak scene and worked steadily to carve out my own little island in that sea.

When I was little kid I wanted to be a writer, as a young teen I wanted to be a film maker and then in the later teens, music became the “thing”. I’ve always been a storyteller though I suppose and that is what it is all about.

What does the name “Painted Faces” refer to in the context of the band name?

It has multiple meanings. On one level, it is just a cool name. I’m not into making solo music under my own name (yet)…. I always dig the fictional band names for a solo project approach. I just thought it sounded like a cool forgotten psych band from the 60’s or something (ironically, later I found it there is in fact a Painted Faces BAND from Florida, active in the 60’s and I think they also moved to NYC…everything comes in cycles/all the ideas are out there…)…it also refers to my love of spooky/macabre/Halloween vibes in general, nostalgia in youth, costumes, dual nature of personalities, philosophical mumbo jumbo nonsense as well as shamanistic and ritualistic approaches to rock and roll…what is performance if not an act of spiritual liberation/shamanism? Lately I brought back an early gimmick of wearing a creepy mask during performances.

“I let the music “make” me these days.”

How do you usually approach music making?

I don’t really “approach” it anymore. It it just part of the routine, like eating, shitting, fucking, going to work, writing emails, watching movies, traveling, hanging out…. I’m constantly culling ideas in my notebooks, phone, email drafts, etc…words and musical ideas take shape “organically” and mystically…. I’m open to it all. I play in a few other bands as well and all of that stuff is all improvised. I let the music “make” me these days. With that said, I of course set aside necessary time to jam and record but usually the best stuff hits when I’m not prepared and I just have to roll with it. I smoke a lot of weed and I’m not ashamed of it! That always gets me in the “zone” (which is all around us all the time too)….tap in!

“My recordings are documents of my life and imagination.”

You have two new releases. Return To Vault Of Fear is on Already Dead Tapes & Records and Tales From The Skinny Apartment are on legendary ESP Disk’. What’s the story behind these two releases?

I’m always 12 steps ahead. Return To Vault Of Fear was a co release on Already Dead Tapes & Records (best “underground label” in America, Josh and the gang are my FAMILY) and Almost Halloween Time in Italy. MAJOR SHUTOUTS to Josh Tabbia and Luigi Falagario. It was finished years ago, recorded mostly in the fall/winter of 2016 after I moved to my apartment in Ridgewood (Queens), which would come to be known as The Skinny Apartment after I started throwing LEGENDARY shows there in the summer of 16’.

Tales From The Skinny Apartment was recorded throughout the bulk of 2017 or something…. I lose track. It was done long before it came out as is always the case. The ESP Disk connection is wild and I’m stoked to be part of that lineage which was and is HUGELY influential to me…again life is a trip man!

In between those two LP’s, I recorded a slew of other tapes, a number have come out and one is coming out on Null Zone, out of Athens, GA very soon.

I also finished a new LP that I am shopping around now…if any heads read this and are interested, please hit me up, I am SHAMELESS.

To really get back to the question of what the “story” is behind the releases, everything I do is part of the ongoing story, the journal I am sharing with others. It is all there in the words and sounds. My recordings are documents of my life and imagination. Return To Vault Of Fear is a pseudo imagined soundtrack to an 80’s horror film that doesn’t exist (or something)…. These two LPs tell a story of me moving to Ridgewood, Queens I suppose and starting anew/embracing a new RIPPER PHILOSOPHY after previous rough life patches, heavily detailed on a tape I did with Already Dead called Hermit Of Bushwick, which details the fallout of a rough breakup situation. Pretty cliche stuff but what isn’t!? I encourage folks to drop in wherever…. I love The Dead but I ain’t listening to EVERYTHING, I can’t be expected to be part of the whole trip…. I invite you to engage with my music the same way…drop in wherever and enjoy that part of the ride.

Can you share some further details how your latest album Tales From The Skinny Apartment was recorded?

The record was completely recorded in my bedroom as I’ve always done Painted Faces stuff since the beginning (sometimes in the living room of previous domiciles). I spent about a year on it and brought on a number of special guests which was a first for me to record various parts on the fly. Those rippers include Mike Green of Video Daughters/Mezzanine Swimmers and countless other collabs (some pop trivia, he now lives with me at The Skinny Apartment and we recently ripped a duo set together as Bong Haus, I hope it happens again), Josh Tabbia aka Cop Funeral, also rips in Problems That Fix Themselves, one of the best ZONERS, also runs Already Dead label, then we have Eva Louise Goodman aka Nighttime, also rips in Glossolalias, Mutual Benefit, etc….and of course the incomparable Chris Shields aka Mr.Transylvania, also rips in Alien Trilogy, United Waters and with me in Canyon River Blues/Shecky…who can keep up with all of this, I’m telling you and I can’t even remember this all! Painted Faces Freak Band is open to all of my friends/surrounding heads/ripper families. Their essence took this LP to the NEXT LEVEL!

For the gear heads (I’m not one although I’m starting to get into that stuff), everything was recorded directly into a Zoom R8 into my desktop computer, set up solely for recording/jamming tunes (no internet folks!)…. I spent more time mixing everything than recording (I assume this is what everyone does)…next to the computer is my turntable and behind that on some shelves is the bong. Gear is strewn about everywhere. It is a pretty humble/small setup. Truly “bedroom pop”.

“Truly “bedroom pop”.”

How would you describe your sound?

It has changed greatly since the beginning but the core remains the same. It is ramshackle, fragile, barely held together vibe wise…very personal/insular/loner…psychedelic (in the true sense of the word not like “Jefferson Airplane” although I love Jefferson Airplane and that vibe)….haunted/spooky…the sound encompasses a lot…some shit rocks and some shit is total DOWNER vibe, more so lately on downer tip…it is introspective kind of headphones zoner jams…

There are songs and there are sound worlds and the two meet and mix together often…. I’m aiming for something high but it often ends up muddy and silly…. I incorporate a lot of hazy field recordings…. Tales From The Skinny Apartment features some cool bong rip sounds as well as barking dogs and folks hanging out at a skinny apartment show (you can hear Frank Hurricane shouting Shreck…..I think?)…

The sound is the true extension of me, live it is total immersion therapy. The records are “soundtracks”…the sound/genre is “folk” perhaps also in the “true sense”….folk like jazz is a folk music or noise is a folk music…also folk as a folk music… I sing and play songs on a guitar…it is pretty primitive stuff….the music part is happening all the time, I have to just bottle up moments when the bug hits and then that gets preserved as a recording…. I keep my antennae to what is flowing around eternally (I’m cool being pegged a hippy or whatever…all the genres/tags/labels are meaningless, the jams will hit different folks in different ways)…some people dig the humor aspect of it, others dig on the lyrics in general, others may just dig the groovy riffs and whatnot…the sound is the trip is the sound is the trip man!

What are some bands/musicians that have a big influence on you?

There are honestly way too many to list here but I will do a bit anyway…. I’m better at listing labels and “scenes” ie. Krautrock (obviously HUGE for all heads) or No Wave or “Lo Fi Home Recorders” (ala R.Stevie Moore, Guided By Voices, Sebadoh) or like “IDM” (Boards Of Canada, Aphex Twin, etc…)…. I’m a major MUSIC NERD so I could spend the whole interview on this question alone, somebody help me!!! Help!!!

I am really into the concept of world building which all of my favorite artists do. Folks that just sound like themselves…

Obviously that includes stuff like Sun City Girls, Caroliner and The Residents where they just sound like themselves and build up their own mythologies. Also stuff like The Grateful Dead or Wu Tang Clan on that tip…you don’t just dig the music but the overall atmosphere and world that they dredge up…Wolf Eyes, total masters of that in the meme age…this is what I’m trying to do with Painted Faces live and on record…bring you into my private world/my head space and make it about much more than just the music, it is a world to inhabit!

I recently made a bunch of playlists of faves for my girlfriend and included was everything from Fleetwood Mac to Frank Hurricane….I’ll list more though surely now! This might illustrate how my brain works (in regards to this question):

Sonic Youth, Sunburned Hand Of The Man, Pearls Before Swine, Black Dice, Psychic TV/Throbbing Gristle, Steely Dan, Russian Tsarlag, Outkast, MF Doom, Bjork, Swell Maps, This Kind Of Punishment, The Spookfish, The Godz, Sunny Day Real Estate, Excepter, Alien Trilogy, The Velvet Underground, Slowdive (LOADS OF “Dream Pop” or what we deem “shoegaze”), Cleaners From Venus, Sam Rivers (been digging deep), John AND Alice COLTRANE, Kate Bush, Throwing Muses, Left Banke, Teenage Jesus, Daniel Johnston, Rites Of Spring, Chrome, Sun Ra, Bauhaus, Period Bomb, Raincoats, Red House Painters, Magik Markers, Sugarcubes, Flying Saucer Attack, Roy Montgomery/Dadamah, Butthole Surfers, Todd Rundgren, Sonny Sharrock, WEEN, Celtic Frost, Terry Riley, Amon Düül, Faust, Can, Kraftwerk, Savage Young Taterbug, Scott Walker, Royal Trux, The Bachs, The Shaggs, Chris Weisman, Peter Jefferies, Smog, Duster, Vashti Bunyan, His Name Is Alive, The Incredible String Band, Grouper, Supreme Dicks, COCTEAU TWINS, Big Star, Mercury Rev, Thinking Fellers, NEIL YOUNG (the GOAT), Suburban Lawns, Tall Dwarfs, Lovesliescrushing, REPLACEMENTS, SILVER JEWS, Simon Finn, Happy Jawbone Family Band……

This ain’t all of it and I can go on and on and on, again folks HELP!!! I love black/death metal, “PUNK” (especially 80’s hardcore, can go deep on that in a separate interview), FREE JAZZ, NOISE, all these other “worlds”….it goes way too deep man. I love “out sounds”….

I’m most influenced these days by my peers, stuff that ain’t on Spotify….the most “private press”/“outsider” sounds….my homie Andrew’s Tall Tapes imprint recently put out a tape by friend/collaborator Ryan Kayhart that RIPS…few will hear it but many ought to…I aim to rectify these injustices….(full disclosure, Ryan and I also rip as Dead River Company and I too put out a tape with Tall Tapes, Klemen check them out and readers check them out)!

Just a few Fave private press/outsider weirdos for folks into this shit (I very much am and comb the internet for this stuff often):

Caroliner Rainbow
Five Starcle Men
Mark Tucker’s Batstew LP (one of the BEST)
Striborg (outsider/psychedelic BLACK METAL), jam Mysterious Semblance, one of the most HAUNTED albums ever!
Bobb Trimble-all of it
Lewis – L’Amour (recent fave)
Simon Finn – Pass The Distance
ESP Disk Catalogue (still growing, an immense USA treasure)
Dredd Foole – In Quest Of Tense (legendary LP for good reason)
LOADS OF NOISE TAPES (will talk in person about these)

Let’s get real though, I am really influenced by a lot of non music stuff too like HORROR (obviously, films and lit), altered states of consciousness, Italian food (psychedelic chicken parm), my neurotic relationship with my Jewish upbringing, a prolonged adolescence of unrequited love, bong rips, comedy, social media, modern reality, digressions, living in NYC, my friends, healthy pranksterisms….typical American millennialisms….

How important is improvisation for you?

Extremely. Improvisation in one sense is everything. A lot of Painted Faces has that baked in but also everything I do that is NOT PAINTED FACES is improvisation. I love the music and I love making it. I don’t have the chops to be a full on shredder/jazzbo but I identify deeply with that world/community….live music=improvisation=life=jamming. My albums are full of stuff improvised during recording though.

I prefer improvising live to “playing my tunes”…don’t get me wrong, I love playing my tunes and re interpreting/re tweaking stuff over time but improvising with other cats is much more fulfilling in the live zone. I love “jamming” in general. Come to the Skinny Apartment, we will get baked, jam some LP’s and weird tapes and then we will JAM.

What are some future plans?

Right now I’m working on setting up my second European tour (I travelled around in May of 2019 previously to rip sets with Peopling and Harry Cloud), now with Anura (also rips as Hey Exit, another Ridgewood Ripper, check his jams out, he RULES). As of this writing, we really need help with Belgium/Netherlands zones.

Anyway, we will be there for 2-3 weeks in April 2020 (coincidence?).

My next tape (recorded during Tales From The Skinny Apartment sessions), Living And Eating Pizza In NYC is coming out very soon from Null Zone, a next level zoner tape label from Athens, GA run by homie Michael Potter who also runs the Garden Portal label. Dude is on FIRE! The world needs to know.

I’m also shopping around the new Painted Faces LP, as mentioned earlier, called American Basement. I need it to find a proper home.

On Christmas Day 2019, I’ll start recording some new jams (been some months), kicking around ideas for another new tape to be called Life Rules.

Often I come up with titles long before they are attributed to a specific release.

I have endless shows on the horizon too.

Do you often play live? Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the past few years?

I play live too much honestly but I love it. It is a totally different thing than recording alone in my bedroom.

It is difficult to answer as far as my favorite bands I’ve played with over the last several years but I’ll take a stab at it of course!

I played the Already Dead Family Reunion Festival in Kalamazoo, Michigan the last two summers and that is always a great time with tons of great bands, some faves I played with are Period Bomb (who I’ve played with many times in different cities over the last few years, our show in Miami was supremely special, I shared a joint with my dad at that gig!)….just played with Period Bomb and Alien Trilogy in Baltimore and there was a band of 17 year olds on the gig that blew our minds…..The Binary Marketing Show from Portland, Oregon, amazing live and an on record, Alien Trilogy one of the BEST BANDS in NYC, Mezzanine Swimmers (my roommate Mike, seen him a thousand times, always a treat, a sonic “party” always)….Forget The Times (life changing spiritual free jazz psych collective of Kalamazoo, MI)….The Hell Hole Store (legendary Hip Hop FREAKS out of Philly)….

My best friends inspire me with their sounds and performances. Mr. Transylvania is always a treat, especially in basements or at The Skinny Apartment. Huge influence!

Playing X Fest in Western Mass some years back a few times changed my life and I saw some really incredible sets/improvisers…. I’m playing with good friend Matt Robidoux in a few weeks who always blows my mind live (he also has a tape coming out on Null Zone that is BEAUTIFUL).

Nighttime and The Spookfish are always great. There’s the great Joe Bastardo in Worcester Mass, also rips as Bastian Void, runs the amazing Moss Archive Tape Label, get hip to it! Eugene The Jeep (aka Andrew who runs Tall Tapes) and Moth Eggs, more amazing rippers….recently 2uarm aka Sam Hafferty (the whole Gen Z crew, really blowing my mind), Ecstasy Police, Chorty Hartle, etc….the current and NEW SOUNDS OF NYC…Montreal to NYC vet Alden Penner recently BLEW MY MIND, the last few times we played together. Brendan aka Hey Exit/Anura always amazes me. Peopling (Ronnie of Video Daughters) always rules….Harry Cloud in LA (and all of his numerous assorted projects)…..Pat Cole of United Waters rips solo as KHF (one of my fave projects in NYC)…. Wharf Cat Records folks (Sediment Club/Big French surely!)….

The folks in Western Mass/Providence/New England in general always melt my mind.

The Feeding Tube Records collected freak family, Bromp Treb, Jeff Gallagher, Golden Egg (ISA X/Wicked Rot), TVE/Lean (true Outsider “music”), Cruudeuces, FOAM, aforementioned folks like Hurricane and Robidoux, Andrea Pensado (one of the best noise weirdos period), I can go on and on and on….Slime Time from Philly (blew my mind in a basement recently)……Goon Planet of Providence….Mark Johnson (who blew my mind in Hunnie Bunnies soon after I moved to NYC), also of Bang Bros and rips solo currently as Winj, total brain scrambler….Andy Borsz (used to rip in Slasher Risk), another primo RIDGEWOOD RIPPER!

All of the noise fests I’ve done in the last few years like Elm City Noise Fest in CT (with the Human Flourishing zoners) or Noise Rites Of Spring in Western Mass have flipped my wig (Poolboy changed my life)….playing with Frank Hurricane always a treat (my fave live performer)….Dino Felipe in Miami (a true American ORIGINAL)…..

Recently Red Diploma and Deepfake….Widest Smiling Faces ought to play more…G.T. Arpe (another true AMERICAN FREAK, uncomfortable in a great way….totally GOOFY)…..

Ylangylang in Montreal (no longer)….Wendy Eisenberg (now has attained coveted legendary status, have played with her in Boston a few times, a total SHRED MASTER, deserving of the recent oodles of praise)….Ryan Kayhart again, huge influence, always a treat to witness…

Yikes, I don’t want to leave anyone out, this stuff is endless!

Really looking forward to playing with more legit weirdos in Europe.

Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?

Damn, I already answered this one above (in various ways going back to Zappa’s Hot Rats which soundtracked much of this writing) but I’ll jump around as I always do.

New Ryan Kayhart on Tall Tapes rips…, a stunner!

New Video Daughters tape coming out on Already Dead early next year, no link but I’ve heard it and it RULES!

NighttimeHand In The Dark, been ripping this LP a lot lately! It is devastating and gorgeous, this is probably the only one I recommend to my mom (Mom, check this out…and yes my Mom was a Hebrew School Teacher)….

This is achingly beautiful like Judee Sill level devotional.

Always recommending Ween, if you’re on the fence, check out the early “lo fi” stuff like The Pod and Pure Guava, crucial listening!

Don’t be too cool for Coltrane or Miles or Can or whatever, they are in the canon for a reason!

Steely Dan’s Countdown To Ecstasy rules (most SD rules, thanks to my dad for brewing me in the sounds since I was a toddler).

Just started getting into The Index (Black Album RIPS)…..been jamming a lot of Ignatz too (I actually hit him up to rip in Belgium via email for upcoming tour but no response sadly)!

That Bachs LP (Out Of The Bachs) has really “moved me” in the last year or so.

James Ferraro’s Nightdolls With Hairspray is crucial as is Boredoms Super ae.

Big Blood & The Bleedin’ Hearts LP has been huge for me this past year. Big Blood in general, amazing band!

Folks listen to Supreme Dicks.

Been jamming a lot of Brian Jonestown Massacre lately (always great).

Aaron Dilloway’s Gag File, one of my fave LPs of last 5 years or so…..

Too many fave albums….I can (and will go on and on)…..folks definitely check this one out! Five Starcle Men… Total BRAIN MELTER!

This one from ESP Disk is another SCRAMBLER:

Albert Ayler’s New York Eye And Ear Control.

Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual, always a total fave!

Neil Young’s first self titled LP, supremely UNDERRATED AND AMAZING!

Bone Thugz in the car with homies on tour is always a fave moment!

I’m mostly listening to friends’/peers’ tapes, small run records….these daze…new one from Cop Funeral (called Pain) is one of the best “noise” albums of past year.

I’ve read interviews like this since my late teens and I always aim to track down shit that the artists list that might interest me….folks check out Already Dead Tapes & Records for sure (tons of friends/major rippers on there). Everything is worth digging into….

Thank you. Last word is yours.

Dude, thank you so much for having me. I have been a fan/reader of Psych Baby for a long time and this kind of thing is very humbling for me. I am pretty sentimental. I think that comes out in the music. This stuff is a blast!! Keep on rocking in the freak world!

– Klemen Breznikar

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  1. The Triumph of the Thrill

    Nice interview. Interesting music and Drucker's enthusiasm is annoying, charming and amusing.

  2. Paul Angelosanto

    Fun stuff. I dig it!

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