One day I received a CD-R in the mail. It was titled 'Seafoam'. It had a nice hand made cover that someone had obviously invested some time and care into designing. It had three tracks by a band called The Pink Noise. And a note from someone named Mark, referencing Chrome, Suicide, The Ramones, Kraftwerk and Velvet Underground. He said he hoped I thought it was "cutting edge rock and roll". I did. And then some. The songs were bizarrely familiar. As if I'd heard them before. Or had heard them in the future. It was synth-based music, but it had some sort odd...soul to it. Not soul music, but the electronics were possessed of a certain character. Intelligence? Wisdom? They didn't sound cheesy or artifical. The Pink Noise made them sound real. Or perhaps The Pink Noise were the synthetic part...sort of un-nerving. The 'Dream Code' LP is my favorite 'loner'-group record of the year, by far. It reminds me of BBC sci-fi shows, the soundtrack from 'To Live and Die in LA', Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov. Good things. It's a favorite of mine to throw on late night and relax and think to. Great record. Great band. I spoke to Mark via e-mail not too long ago over these questions, and will hopefully be seeing the live show sometime soon. I've used the 'Lars Finberg Method' for the interview, meaning I start off by covering all the tracks on the album and then move on to some other affairs. Please to enjoy.
TB: "The Put On"
Pink Noise: "The Put On" is just about the mind games of love or attraction. I wanted to
make something psych but kiddie pop. Its the first song I used backwards guitar
on. "She stands on the big city row...she looks like they're moving too slow...he came on looking for his own."
TB: "Bubble Over"
PN: "Bubble Over" I wrote about being pushed to the limit by people or
circumstances. It was written on a Friday night, after I went to check out the
Salvation Army store, with drunken vocals. "You're villain entries, smell of
bloodhound clues." This song gave me the gusto to get through some tough days.
TB: "Animals"I hear you animals with the satelitte
PN: Living in crummy neighborhoods means paying cheap rent, so I've spent most of
my time in Toronto wherever I can afford it. I lived in a cluster of high rises
where there were a lot of ghetto thugs who stayed up all night in the courtyards
talking loud shit. It kept me up on more than a few nights. The chorus goes:
I hear you animals fucking in the night
I hear you animals, I see your zebra stripes
I hear you animals, just a multiplying
I hear you animals, you stomp around like giants
The drums were sampled from a cassette I recorded of myself playing a friends drum kit.
Sampling drums gave it more momentum and perfection cause I couldn't have kept
that beat up for more than 20 seconds. There is an alternate recording of "Animals" on the 'Sun King' 7". I still feel that I haven't quite got it right yet, so there might be another version one of these days. I'd like to have cleaner, bigger production on my recordings, but I simply cant afford it.
PN: I was really into no wave when I recorded "Ithaca". Its about not being able to
return to somewhere safe or normal, or about being able to find that space in
the first place. The guitar is mostly scratches, with rotary organ and synth
bass. A keyboard bass line begins on a lower C, where string bass begins on the
E. You can also play a keyboard bass line with two hands, so it offers a lot
more alternate sound possibilities.
TB: "Bone Zoo"
PN: "Bone Zoo" I've never played live because the lyrics are mostly mumbled
non-words that I heard in my head when trying to sing overtop of it. Sometimes
that how the words are gradually formed and I can write them down and sing them.
Sometimes though, its a melody of non-words.
TB: "Jungle Cat"
PN: The title "Jungle Cat" comes from a Woody Allen voiceover in the film
Manhattan."The coiled sexual prowess of a jungle cat," or something like that. A
lot of my songs are inspired by the good looks on certain girls, or by trying to
make peace with the force of male lust.
TB: "Dead Glitter Sun"
PN: "Dead Glitter Sun" is about being scared of the future, of human greed and
arrogance. With more and more people, more and more pollution, more and more
dredging the oceans, less and less trees and unharvested organic life. Who would
think pollution would be such a big factor in the Olympics? "Dead glitter sun
burned up complete, dead glitter sun flushed out to sea."
TB: "Red Heart"
PN: "Red Heart" came from a tabla beat. Its kind of like 'Prince Sign o' the Times'
title track but with the VU in mind. Its the feeling of love, "my red heart
flutters." I think its rare for guys to admit the vulnerability of emotions,
rejection, boyish love. Most of our social conditioning is hard and crude, so I
thought I'd be honest about a lot of my feelings.
PN: "Micro" is a song about my ex-girlfriend. I though I was being taken for
granted, so "you give me more and more of your less and less...for your cheap
TB: "Shock Me Alive"
PN: "Shock Me Alive" was written on my cheapest of keyboards all in about 15
minutes. I just sat down and fooled around with some notes and chords.
TB: "Cobra Snake"
PN: "Cobra Snake" is taken from a sample of some old surf song mangled and slowed
down. Its about making bad or sadistic choices in love. Like girls choosing
insensitive goons to be with because they don't know any better, or because they
think thats all they deserve. Like, it takes a cobra snake for you to feel
anything at all.
PN: "Wunderkinder" is about the feeling of joyous youth. I probably would've
replaced it with another song, as I feel its one of the weaker songs on the LP.
Most of the tracks off 'Dream Code' were from a CDR called 'Odessa' that I sent to
Blank Dogs and Sacred Bones. I kept this one on because it was part of the
backbone of the original album.
PN: With "Eyeball", I was trying to deconstruct melody and drum beat as much as
possible. I was trying to layer melodies also, somewhat like My Bloody Valentine
in an extended tribal psych track. I recorded the vocals on the night before a
long plane ride to New Zealand. I was trying to sound like Iggy Pop vocally, but
there's definitely some weariness there.
PN: "Aircar" was an early song inspired by an episode of Doctor Who where he has
an aircar. "Hop in my aircar baby, to the streets of LA."...maybe somewhere in the
near future. I used to only want to make keyboard pop, and I had outlawed
guitar, but gradually I started introducing guitar more and more until I got
hooked playing it. This is one of the last "only keyboards" instituted songs.
TB: Is The Pink Noise your first musical endeavor? Were you doing anything else before?
PN: I've been playing in bands for about 10 years now, on different instruments. I started out on drums, though "singing" is the newest thing I've tried to learn how to do. My friends and I have been fooling around with our four tracks for years now, releasing cassettes and CDRs of editions of ten and such.
TB: What motivates you to keep making music?
PN: I'm motivated to make music, because it has kept growing, and I wanna try hard to see how far and wide I can take it. I want to tour and travel in Europe and the U.S. and I want to reach more people.
TB: What kind of set up do you use for recording? Do you use a computer, tape, or both? Where do you record generally and what's the process like?
PN: I use a sampler, drum machine, guitar, cassette recorders, synthesizers...I live in a basement now, so I set up my drum kit thats been in storage at my parent's place. I used to live in a high rise apartment, so I couldn't play a kit like I can now. The new songs I'm working on will have mostly live drums, 'cause I've really missed playing them.
TB: Do you have an arsenal of synths at your home? What are your favorites to use?
PN: I have four keyboards that I use. They're all pretty old and broken down. I can only use one of them live, the others being too large, too small, or not having any memory for programmed sounds. The largest is a Korg Workstation from '86 that has lots of sound processing capabilities. I had sold my Moog Rogue to help pay the rent one month, and with the money left over I bought the Korg for $250, which had a sampler, digital delay units and a floppy disk drive. My other favorite is an old Italian synth that sounds so creamy and shimmering.
TB: A lot of the synth sounds you use seem vaguely familiar to me, as if I've heard them before in a different context, like on TV or in a video game or something...Do you go after or try to replicate certain sounds when you hear them in other places/formats? Or am I just imposing my own interpretation on this...
PN: I have sampled from movies and video games. A lot of times my ears will pick up some really interesting sound while watching a movie, so I'll stop it, and try to capture the sample on cassette tape. A lot of it is a mixture between loops and live playing. I'm definately not trying to make cheesy Eighties sounds, but I guess synths are always gonna sound Eighties no matter what.
TB: How long do you take with a song from inception to completion?
PN: All songs take different amounts of time. Some are done in a few hours, over the course of a week, or months. Sometimes I cant get it right, so I'll have multiple recordings and mixes to choose the best from.
TB: You mentioned Doctor Who, are you influenced directly by sci-fi at all? Because I definitely feel it in your music, it's very believably futuristic.
PN: I'm not really as big a fan of sci-fi, though I do see how the Pink Noise sounds spaced-out and spooky. Comedy is my all time favorite cause I'd rather have a laugh than anything else. I think there's something big city and cutting edge about the synthesizer, about electronics, its just lost all its human touch, drama and ability to communicate emotion. Laptop drums are a drag. I'm just trying to sound more futuristic psychedelic if thats any different from sci-fi.
TB: How do the songs translate to the live show? Do you teach people the parts? What instrumentation do you use live?
PN: I would love to have a keyboardist in the band to create a more dynamic sound on stage, but right now its myself on keys, vocals, guitar, and my friend Kevin on bass. We play with a drum machine, cassettes, and a loop pedal. I teach Kevin the parts, which were originally mostly played on keyboard, so some songs dont translate as well to string bass. Kevin also plays live drums in a couple of songs.
TB: How many shows have you played? Are you happy with the shows you've done?
PN: We've played about 15 shows now. They are definately getting better. We've played in Montreal 3 times and I hope to go back soon. I've tried to give my best onstage all the time, but sometimes it's hard to maintain the swagger it takes to really pull it off. The sound mix is going to be different every night, which always throws a curve ball at you. I'm working on getting a visa to play the US. New York first, then maybe a West Coast tour if we can afford it. I think we could do well in Europe also. We played Pop Montreal this year and will be playing SXSW next year.
TB: How did you feel about putting out a cassette release? Are you a proponent of
bringing tape back as a viable medium?
PN: It took a while for me to be swayed by the value of a cassette release. Now that
I have couple of them, I do find them more personable than a CDR, though not as
clean sounding or convenient. I would like to put out more LPs and/or a CD
release for my friends who don't have tape decks or records players.
TB: What's you take on the whole "limited edition" record phenomenon...pro or con
PN: I don't really have a take on it. I'm sure the smaller record companies can only
afford presses of 300 or 500, so they're doing their best to support artists
like me who don't have the means. If people want to pay a lot of money for
limited editions thats their business. I'm sure everything will end up online
for free sooner or later.
TB: I remember you sending me a demo CD long ago, before any of the records were
around...did you send out a lot of discs and is that directly how you got some
attention from labels? Do you think sending demos around is still a good way to do it,
or do you feel Myspace is taking over that aspect?
PN: As soon as I got a myspace I knew it was the perfect way to reach and
communicate with people who would understand what I was trying to do. I found Blank Dogs when I was looking for bands who dug Chrome, and he messaged back and said "Yo, are we in the same band?" or something like that. When I first heard Factums it was the same kinda things, like these guys are doing what I'm trying to do. Also, its funny how we all have similar tastes for imagery, like anything cut from back issues of National Geographic, the older the better. I've
gotten tons of feedback from having a myspace, whereas I think 90% of the CDR's
I sent out are cracked open in various anonymous dumpsters across North America.
I guess I'm still frustrated at the slow pace at which people have to move up to
get their names out there and start getting some respect or recognition for what
they're doing. I don't think its a good idea to send out CDR's. I think the
rules of "how to become a rock star" are obsolete since everything has changed
so much with media, downloading, gas prices, border security, etc. What worked
for Alice Cooper or Nirvana doenst mean anything anymore.
TB: How is living in Toronto? Are you connected with any other bands there really,
or are you sort of apart from any scene?
PN: I love Toronto. I really think there's an energy and synergy of ideas and people
and ambitions here. People are closed off and cold a lot of the time, but I
think something different comes out here than in America. We are still so young
as a country and our culture is still not forged or fleshed out yet. Most of my
friends are in experimental noise bands. For the most part we're too far in
between the experimental bands and the boring indie pop sludge. We are a pop
band and we are a rock and roll band, but its hard to fit in here. I think
Crystal Castles and Slim Twig are two great bands to just come out of Toronto.
I'm working crummy day jobs and playing gigs and recording at night. This is an
expensive city to live in downtown, so you'd better bust your ass.
TB: Are you a Toronto native? I think your songs really reflect the vibe the city has quite well...it has sort of this cramped urban feeling yet underneath the high rises and everything there's such an interesting sprawl of different cultures. I think it's really what you want out out of a big city, both good and bad. I think Pink Noise sound kind of futuristically urban in some way. I really love the photo on the cover of the new Fucked Up LP, I think it might've made a better Pink Noise LP cover.
PN: Toronto is the international zone. I think a lot of us in this city live in a cultural void/vacuum, or maybe don't have this set museum piece identity like in France or England. Its more organic, blending and evolving. I want the music to sound urban and new, the opposite of blues or country. I grew up on a farm with nothing/nobody around but the woods, about an hour north of Toronto. I don't want the backwards looking, white-bread pickup truck rock sound. That said, no-one really comes to see us play in this city, and we've got no press from local magazines. We're potentially a lot more popular outside Toronto.
TB: What releases do you have coming up?
PN: Upcoming releases include: 'Alpha' LP on Almost Ready (me playing live drums and lead
guitar, which I haven't fully explored musically yet), 'Graffiti Youth' CD on Kill Shaman, 'Birdland' LP on Sacred Bones (previously available through a cassette release on a Toronto
label Beniffer Editions), 'Gold Light' 7" on Sacred Bones, and 'Menagerie' cassette on Jerkwave Tapes.