Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Bugskull Interview

Sean Byrne (photo: Dan Cohoon) Posted by Hello
Sean Byrne interviewed @ Laurelhurst Park
Portland, Oregon (Fall of 1999) by Dan Cohoon
DC: What is the history of Bugskull?
SB: It started out in 1991 with me just recording stuff on a cassette four track. I put together a tape that Shrimper put out. James played a little on that. I got a drum set for James and Brendan joined the band.

DC: Was that the tape with the long piano piece on one side? What was the name of that?
SB: Subversives in the Midst. We had another name for that called Musk Grove Complex.

DKC: Who is in the band?
SB: When we were a band unit that performed and practiced it was me and James and Brendan.
DKC: What do you think of Lo-Fi as an aesthetic choice as opposed to something you do out of necessity?
SB: (pause) I think that is a good question. (laughs) I think a lot of people misinterpret what lo-fi was all about. Everyone thought that it was about people deciding to make things sound a certain way. I think people were using the only resources they had. I think it was more of an economic movement then an artistic movement. (pause) What do you think of that?

DC: I always loved lo-fi. I love the sound of lo-fi. I kind of miss it when bands get more resources and are able to record at a higher sound quality. The new Sebadoh record is just not the same.
SB: It creates a different way of working. This changes what the way you create. In one circumstance you can create at home when ever you want. When you go into a studio you all ready have to be prepared. You are not allowed to be as spontaneous.

DC: You write both songs and do a sound piece is there a difference between the two or how you go about making them?
SB: No, it depends on the situation. The sound pieces all come out of recording. Some times I write songs before I record. Sometimes I will be recording a sound piece, after I got the ambiance there, I then write a song over the top of that. Creating a space first then putting a song in.

DKC: What kind of music did you grow up listening to or what did your parents listen to.
SB: My parents didn't listen to music that much they used to have Kingston Trio records and Joan Biaez. But they really didn't listen to them all that much, thankfully. My Mom would always have KEX which would play seventies easy listening music like the Rose and Neil Diamond. That is what I heard most. Then I got into Heavy Metal (because of my older brother). Van Halen pretty big, Ozzy Osborne, Judas Priest, and Pink Floyd. I got really into Pink Floyd... Then I got into Classic Rock, Jimmy Hendrix, when I heard him he was my hero. I got into the Meat Puppets when I was 14. That was a pretty big influence on me. His guitar playing is incredible. Its been evolving, It seems like its constantly changing. Now I get mostly Jazz records and weird ambient stuff. I have gotten into Gil Evans. He did the Miles Davis record Sketches of Spain He arranged the whole thing. He does real cool stuff like real spacey totally different than most jazz.

DC: When you're creating music are you thinking about a particular response of the listener?
SB: I guess so mean when I am creating it, I am the listener. So I guess I am looking for a response from myself. Hopefully that will translate to other people. I try to make something that I will want to listen to later. After I make something I cannot really step away from the creation of it and to be able to listen to it as a completely separate thing.

Phantasies & Senseitions (cover art) Posted by Picasa
DC: Is there a reason why you don't play out that often?
SB: Well we used to but that was back in ninety-six. At that time we went on tour around the states. I think we were all moving in different directions, we wanted to do other things, not necessarily musically. We had been living together for awhile. The band had been the main focus. I think there were certain limitations to that and everyone wanted to find different things to do. There is something about playing out live that I find a little stifling to the creative process. If you always got shows lined up then you end up being forced to write something new. Not necessarily because there is something new coming out but because you have a performance. For me that is not really a good way to try and write. I'm slow. Allot of the songs when I am recording the basic Idea, then it will be maybe a year where I will basically sit on it before I'll try to finish it up. Sometimes more than that. I like the Ideas to sit for awhile.

DC: What kind of work do you do? Is it related in anyway to music?
SB: It is in a way, at my job I sing a lot. The last two years I was doing early intervention. Which is pre-school special education. I have been working in pre-school for a long time. This year I am in a behavioral kindergarten. It is mostly kids who have been kicked out of several pre-schools and the parents don't know what to do. The kids who really couldn't make it in a regular classroom, they need a lot of one on one, need a lot of structure. It is pretty challenging. I bring my saxophone into the school and play. We have a piano in the room and the kids like to play percussion instruments. We sing songs and stuff.

DC: Do you ever record them and use them in your sound pieces?
SB: AH no. That seems maybe that might be a little exploitative. (pause) It seems like a good idea. It would feel weird to the other teachers. When I am there I just want to be there involved in the moment.

DC: How do you feel about the post-rock & techno thing? Electronica to me seems so impersonal where as lo-fi is much more human.
SB: I think electronic music can be human. Some of my favorite music now. I don't hear that much new music just because it is not on the radio much out here and I don't have the money to go out and explore. The stuff that I do hear that I really like is To Rorcoco Rot from Belgium. Kreidler from Germany that use electronics and real instruments. They have a real drummer and a real bass player and stuff. Although it is all instrumental it is not robotic at all.
DC: Is lo-fi a genre in the past? Sort of like punk rock 1977 it happened then it is gone. Or is it something that is on going?
SB: I think it is something that is on going. There are people who are still doing it, like Azalea Snail, I jammed out with her last summer. She is still doing it. Sebadoh still plays but they are a big rock band now. I think refrigerator still plays. Lo-fi will always sort of... There will always be bands that the only way that they can put stuff out is recording it themselves and releasing it them selves. That will always have that sort of low fidelity thing except for now the digital stuff is becoming so inexpensive it won’t be that way. Although you can still make it lo-fi. What is it that you like about lo-fi? Is it the noise?

DC: I like the noise an that its homemade. Its like living with in ones means. Just making due with what you have.
SB: I don't really consider my self lo-fi any more, compared to the first tape I made. I get better and better at doing it. I always want to get more stuff. To be able to do more things.

DC: How do you like Portland are you from here originally?
SB: Yeah I grew up in the suburbs. I moved away for a few years and came back. I love it here. I have been around the country a couple of times and have not seen a place I like as much as this. Allot of people can't take the weather but I grew up with it so I am used to it. In a way it is good. I am a home body. That sort of winter where you are forced to stay inside, it is a creative kind of time for me. It forces you to have some sort of project or just stew.

DC: What do you think is the difference between the east coast and the west coast music scenes?
SB: Well it is hard to say because when I think about I think about it in terms of different cities. On the east coast Chapel Hill has a very different scene then say New York or Philadelphia has a very different scene than Boston. And Portland has a very different scene than Seattle. So it would be pretty hard to compare the two. In general when people talk about the east coast they talk about the northern east coast. There is a definitely different pace of life that happens there. If you are talking about big cities compared to Portland which is not a big city. If you have a band in San Francisco you have to be a working band because you have to rent out a rehearsal space. Where here someone will be living in a house where you can practice in the basement as part of the rent. Once again its economics changing the way people make music. It is a lot easier to do it for fun here. There are people who want to be in a 'BAND' and there are other people who want to be in a band because...I guess to be in a band.

DC: Who do you think yr influenced by musically?
SB: (pause) Who do you think I am influenced by?

DC: There are people like Alistair Gailbraith who do something similar both writing songs and doing sound pieces but is a totally different feel.
SB: He always reminds me of Syd Barrett, if Syd Barrett kept going and got really dark. I suppose it is pretty varied.......
Wow look at this ( a bride and groom stroll along the side walk at the edge of the pond followed by a photographer) Congratulations (to the bride in groom).
Bride: Thank you we didn't take pictures so we came here to take pictures.
SB: Nice choice.
(pause for the bride and groom to finish taking their photos)
SB: I cant think of specific times, Snow Flake One & Snow Flake Two. The last couple of records were made in a year when I did not work that much. At that time I was listening to Lee Scratch Perry called "Double 7" That was a pretty big influence. You can definitely here it on the song "Ice Cream Daydream." There is a high organ part and the bass is really DOOM DOOM DOOOOM. Really simply. I try and listen to lots of different kinds of music. It is really hard to say what would be more influencing than anything else.

Distracted Snowflake Vol. II (cover art) Posted by Picasa
DC: Did you take any musical lessons?
SB: I started playing the saxophone when I was ten. I played in the school band up till I was a freshman in high school. Then I started learning to play guitar. I took lessons for a while. We Had a high school rock band. I would write these little three chord songs. The lessons I was taking were mostly classical or we would learn a Led Zeppelin songs. When I got out of that I pretty much learned on my own. I am not very technical person. I don't like to get complicated with anything. I like to layer simple parts over on another. In the end it makes a complex whole. Right now I am trying to learn to play the drums. I'm playing bass allot. I like to mess around allot. I don't want to get to technical about anything.

DC: How do you pronounce the name of your band? Is it Boogskooll?
SB: No it is just bugskull the umlauts are there to make smiley faces..