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Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Matthew Jeanes, am: 16.01.2004 ]

Es hat mich schon lange keine Platte mehr so positiv überrascht wie Larvaes "Fashion Victim", das dieser Tage auf dem sympathischen Berliner Ad Noiseam Label herauskommt. Larvae machen Musik, die gleichermaßen Kopf und Bauch anspricht und diese Verbindung ist leider immer seltener in solch gelungener Ausführung zu finden. Immer überwiegt das Eine oder das Andere und selten wird die richtige Balance gefunden. Nun, Larvae haben sie gefunden und eine verdammt gute Platte gemacht. Matthew beantwortete meine Fragen zu den Hintergründen der Platte, seinem Selbstverständnis als Musiker und warum Popkultur oft so frustrierend ist.


Musicscan: How do you feel about "Fashion Victim³ yourself in retrospect? Are you satisfied with it or would you do some things differently now?

Larvae: I think there's always a tendency to look back and be critical about a recording. Songs to me are organic, evolving things so any recording is naturally only going to capture what a song is at a given moment in time. There are a few minor things I would change about a few of the songs maybe, but overall, I'm still very happy with the results. The album was recorded and mixed in a combination of three different studios, but I feel like it sounds surprisingly cohesive. As a document of those songs and ideas at that moment in time, I feel like it's the best we had to offer and that's satisfying.

Musicscan: How did you get in touch with Ad Noiseam and how has the relationship been so far?

Larvae: The story of getting in touch with Ad Noiseam is really quite normal: I mailed a demo, we exchanged some emails, and that was that. It's been great working with Ad Noiseam so far. Since I ran my own label for a while, I understand both sides of the artist/label situation and I'm very glad to be working with someone who is as artist-focused and open to ideas as Nicolas.

Musicscan: Please tell me a little bit about how you create your tracks and how you approach them? Do you already have certain ideas on your mind or do you just start experimenting with things?

Larvae: Most of the songs start with an idea or feeling--there has to be some impetus to start writing. I tend not to fire up all my gear unless I feel like I have something to say, so the writing is always motivated at first by some vague idea. I experiment from there and just come up with sounds or melodies or loops that tend to align themselves with whatever I'm thinking about at the time, and then I get together and share sounds with Chris via FTP and he adds beats and textures and effects so that by the time the song is ready to come together, I've gotten a chance to really clarify what it is I want the track to be about. Again, it's an organic process... I don't approach each song like a composer with a very detailed story in mind, but I do have some guiding ideas that need some exploration and refinement to really be manifested in music.

Musicscan: On your website you comment quite frequently and elaborately on certain political, social and cultural issues. How important is it to you to also express political issues with your music? In how far do you think that is even possible?

Larvae: It's quite important to me that the music carries some social commentary because that is often the impetus for the songs themselves. When you're working with abstract, instrumental music, it's obviously difficult to get specific ideas across, but I do try to craft the songs in such a way that the thought behind them isn't just lost in a lot of effects and manipulation. I'm not sure to what extent the ideas are effectively communicated by the music alone, but hopefully when you take the song titles, the sounds, the artwork, the website, and responses to questions into account, you can get a good picture of what the Larvae material is about. There will always be people who are not interested in the music to the extent that they would dig that deeply, and that's okay, but for those who do want to know why a song is called "Fashion Victim", well, it's out there.

Musicscan: According to you, ³Fashion Victim² is about your frustration with fashion, image, and superficiality taking precedent over substance? How do you attempt to counteract these notions?

Larvae: For the album, there was a very deliberate attempt not to cater to any one sound or style of music or music listener. We purposefully stayed away from certain sounds and cues that would have put the music in a particular context. Really, the music for me is just like an extension of my voice, so hopefully it can reach more people than I can reach just by standing on a street corner and yelling. The idea is to get the music to open up a dialogue so that ideas can be swapped around a bit, so if someone hears the album and thinks for a moment about the themes, it's done its job. I live my life in a way that's very antithetical to the notions of fashion and image-consciousness, and I'm happy to share the ideals of a simple, meaningful and productive lifestyle with anyone who wants to listen. I don't expect the album to affect great social change, but this interview is already evidence that the album is doing it's job-- it's gotten someone to ask some questions, and that's all I can hope for.

Musicscan: How much do you feel yourself rooted in the DIY movement? Where do you come from musically and ideologically as far as art is concerned?

Larvae: Well, there's a funny contradiction in there in that the DIY ethic shouldn't necessarily lead to a unified movement, so I'm not sure I feel a part of anything at all. I'm certainly a self-taught musician and artist, having never had any formal training in music theory or art technique or design or any of it. I'm not opposed to learning about the creative process the 'proper' way, but it just isn't in my background. I think when people are motivated to do something, be it starting a business, playing a sport, creating art, or whatever, if that motivation is strong enough, there's not really a need for a structured system of encouragement. Things like that can certainly help, but they aren't necessary. When the world of creative ideas mixes with the worlds of business/money-making or education, it can often be very tricky. Expression shouldn't be a slave to any master other than inspiration, so if music and art are intersecting with commerce and academics, to me it's quite difficult to keep that expression pure.

Musicscan: What kind of audiences do you mostly attract? Do you change your sets depending on where and with whom you play?

Larvae: We have played live quite a lot over the years in various incarnations and with various approaches. I don't necessarily cater the live set to a particular audience, but I do think about communication and how I can best communicate what Larvae songs are about to any given audience. In other words, there's a time to yell and scream and beat people over the head with sound, and there's a time to be more subversive, understated, and veiled. Normally, any live set is going to have a mixture of different approaches so that it stays interesting, but from experience I know that playing a lot of up-tempo, aggressive songs in an art gallery with a lot of people sitting and staring at you is not the most effective method of communicating with the audience.

Musicscan: What was one of the most intense and driving emotions for you while creating ³Fashion Victim²?

Larvae: Frustration was probably what I was feeling more than anything else. There's a certain sense of hopelessness that seeps into life when you go about your day and you can't escape certain things. I was driving to work this morning and was behind someone with a "Representative" licence plate, so I was likely driving right behind a congressman. Unfortunately, that licence plate was affixed to a decked out, brand new Cadillac Escalade so there was an immediate disconnect--why is a public servant driving around in a $50,000+ luxury SUV? That kind of thing seems to happen just about every day, and if you encounter the mass media at all, it's unavoidable. Why do so many people watch sensational news broadcasts? Why does a film like "2 Fast, 2 Furious" get made and become so popular? Why do so many cultural artefacts of our time perpetuate patriarchal bias against women? Why do so many people know more about Ben and J.Lo than they do about their local political representatives? There's something that raises one of those questions at least every day, and after a while, the frustration mounts to a point where there has to be some release. "Fashion Victim" was written at the height of the electroclash fad, and at a time when "Celebrities Uncovered" types of private-life expose programs were the big thing on TV--it seemed like the morbid fascination with image, fashion, celebrity and gossip was invading every aspect of my life no matter how much I tried to avoid it... so there was a palpable frustration there.

Musicscan: What inspires you, not necessarily limited to music or art?

Larvae: I'm quite fond of films and cinema as an art form, so I take a lot of inspiration from watching a well-crafted movie. There are also small success stories--people talking about issues, taking action against hypocrisy, people creating something personal and meaningful in the face of a culture that promotes only that which is consumable... I like very much the idea of things that are beautiful because they are intrinsically value-less in a consumer-driven culture. I'm not sure how much of the positive vibe from witnessing things like that rubs off on the music, but it certainly helps to remind me that there is an alternative worth fighting for.

Musicscan: What do you do when you are not involved with music? What are some other passions in your life?

Larvae: Between a paying 9-5 job and an attempt at a meaningful existence producing music, I find that any time not spent doing one of those two things is really time that I like to enjoy spending in lazy, unproductive ways. I'm a great fan of comic books and film so I take in a lot of movies and do a lot of comic-reading when I can. Somehow, all of that usually comes back into play in the musical realm too, whether it's creating videos for live shows or working on design or art installations--I think there's an important balance to strike between always working and trying to produce something and always spending time in a way that is ultimately idle. We all need downtime, but my impression is that most people just have too much of it.

Musicscan: Where do you see yourself 20 years down the road?

Larvae: I'd like to think I would be in a similar position in 20 years, although perhaps without the dependence on a 'day job' to pay bills. I have far more ideas for things I'd like to create than I have time and energy to accomplish right now, so hopefully in the next 20 years I'll be able to get to some of those things. I would like to write comic books, create music for films, design video games, and produce a few more confrontational art installations before I'm done, so I've got a busy schedule I guess you could say.

Musicscan: 3 current favorite records, books and movies?

Larvae: My list for 2003 would have to include:
Records: Villain Accelerate - Maid of Gold; Low - Murderer; The Bug - Pressure.
Books: No Logo (I got to see Naomi Klein speak this year); Alias (a comic book); Sculpting In Time (Andrei Tarkovsky's essays)
Movies: Lord Of The Rings: Return of the King; Lost In Translation; X2 (I can't deny it)

Musicscan: What are the plans with Larvae in the near future? Releases, tours, collaborations?

Larvae: Well, there should be some live dates in the near future, and we are currently working on a collaboration with Horchata, some remixes for Miles Tilmann, and some new material on top of that so 2004 should be a busy year.

Musicscan: Any comments or final words?

Larvae: Thanks so much for the questions!

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