swingset

Cold Cave interview

Last year, I went to see a screening of ‘Breaking Glass’, a film made in the U.K. in the early eighties that examined the fictional rise and fall of a female vocalist from punk rock nobody to new wave uber star. I initially saw the film in a weird act of coincidence when I was nine or ten and turned on the TV on a Saturday morning around 5 a.m. As an impressionable and anglophilic child, the sight of National Front skinheads, posters for Siouxsie and the Banshees gigs and general U.K. coolness blew my tiny little mind. As years went by, I would always reference the movie in my head from the grainy memories I had of watching it that fateful morn. I would sometimes wonder who the film was based on. Sometimes I would think it was a veiled, gender-changed-to-protect-the-innocent account of Jimmy Pursey, famed vocalist for what some consider the first true British punk band, Sham 69. It built up a legendary status in my mind and pretty much nowhere else. When I saw it last year, the elation of seeing it again faded quickly and I felt embarrassed I thought something of it; even as a child. Not only was the flick completely cornball in this day and time, but the print was lousy and the only person in the theatre was an older woman who sat directly in front of us and smelled like an old washcloth. In this case, the memory was certainly better than the actual artifact. It’s not like I’m going to jump out a window in an upset state or anything, but I would be twenty something dollars richer if me and my lady never went. It was that day I decided to sorta stop trying to catch the invisible rabbit and go on with the present.

But today, even though my lunch of duck was tasty enough – if a bit fatty – my eyes gazed into the rising dust in the air by the kitchen table. My focus went off the meal and spiraled through to a funnel filled with grey smut akin to the lint collected from a clothes dryer. It’s sort of amazing how quickly you can be taken back in time by your own mind. A thousand moments can hit you all at once out of nowhere for no reason whatsoever. The terrifying though alluring thing about being hit so abruptly by so many memories of various quality is they’ll never be something you can fully grasp again. You can sort of dance around them and almost peer in as if it was enclosed, but to actually experience it again; no dice. Sometimes a smell will take you back, but you’ll never get there. Even if you try to live in the present, you are more than likely unconsciously trying to trump those memories with fatty ducks and seven inch singles pressed in a limited edition by people who will be forgotten as soon as the people from last year who put seven inch singles in a limited edition. It’s a cycle that will repeat until you realize it‘s pointless. At least that’s what I think.

But as the years roll on and my paunch sways in the chilly offshore breeze, I think of both the past and present quite often; no matter what I wrote above. I think of how I’d like to continue living; as melodramatic as that might sound. And right after typing that sentence, I’m going to outdo it by writing that I can’t help but think where I am right now is the only place I wanna exist. Surrounded by deafening silence, a cat cleaning himself at my feet and the stirring hope in knowing someone will be arriving home to me. The thought of spending anymore time in some darkened club with loud music being blasted at me is the equivalent of having a backside examination by a circa 1980’s MX missile. No, I’ll just stay here in the cottage shrouded by pines. You can be in the same stinky room as all the bloodsuckers and clueless fools who inhabit such areas. But thanks for asking!

So, I do listen to Cold Cave quite a bit when I’m around here. I will be the first to admit I wasn’t buyin’ what they were sellin’ at first listen. I threw around a lot of easy words. Contrived…studied…blah blue blah blue blue. But in all my bitterness, there was still an inkling of intrigue regarding them. Upon my first listen to the title cut of ‘Love Comes Close’, their allure hit me in all it’s simplicity and sorta captured the train of thought I’ve been chasing for quite some time now. Their intent to both capture and release the many musical memories that clog the universal brain from here to now is a spark I find stimulating. Their sound is almost that Camus quote on the back of ‘Scott 4’ spurted into sound. They certainly will never capture the past in its’ entirety, but they will grasp it in their own vision. Once they get access to that crazy time machine and bring it back in itself, I more than likely will lose interest in their band tho‘.

Since Cold Cave interest me, I sent their ‘leader’ Wes Eisold some questions and he was kind enough to answer them. Here they are —

Tony Rettman: From studying your previous musical projects, they all seem to be intensely centered on projecting a certain vibe right down the line. It’s almost as if you were putting them in compartments to define a time and place in your life. Is this a conscious effort on your part? Is this influenced from an intense digestion of certain music and/or art at the time of the projects’ formation?

Wes Eisold: Well, essentially what music is IS a documentation of time, who you were, what you felt and your struggle to understand the world around you. This is why we love records that we relate to, that document and explain outside of words the way we discern the flurry of insane situations and confusing emotions we are thrown into. Its of the highest importance for me that the artwork encapsulates the feel of the piece as a whole. We do judge books by their covers because it’s the first thing we see that indicates what is going on in the inside, so I want the artwork to be as perfect of a representation that it can.

TR: What was the deal with the limited editions in which the Cold Cave records have been released prior to the Matador signing. Was it a conscious effort to do this to make people more interested? A reverse marketing idea? An anti-image concept?

WE: No, no. I don’t really feel the music itself is limited as its been made available on ‘Cremations’ (a CD compilation of Cold Cave releases) Initially the records were released in smaller numbers because there was no audience. For the releases I put out, it was simply that I don’t want to live in a bedroom with a pile of the past. And for the records that friends released, I wouldn’t want them to have something of mine cluttering their space either.

TR: I guess from all the way back in the 80’s, dudes who were in hardcore bands had to put up with people telling them they ‘sold out’ when they decide to move along musically. Black Flag got it, John Brannon got it when he started the Laughing Hyenas and all the way down the line. I read something somewhere on the internet the other day that read something like ‘Wes Eisold should get back to playing hardcore’. Does it surprise you at all that these sort of attitudes still exist with underground culture? Do you get a lot of flack for Cold Cave from hardcore people? Do you care?

WE: I can’t care because its such a small part of the world and time is running out. There are seven billion people here with different opinions and I think that is beautiful. All anyone can do is what they want to do with their limited time and I’m really happy for the first time in forever with what I’m doing. I’m not surprised by this viewpoint because I don’t expect to see eye to eye with anyone. Anyways, American Nightmare got a lot of flack from hardcore people for similar reasons. Then of course, the people you mentioned have had more of an impact on me than the people who criticized them.

TR: So, did you have an interest in electronic music prior to forming Cold Cave? Were you listening to things like Fad Gadget or Human League while in American Nightmare and Some Girls?

WE: Yes, always. You know, the first photo of American Nightmare that was in the world had me in a Sisters of Mercy shirt. I’m not trying to justify the present. I’m just saying this music has always been influential for me. I love guitar music but I also am inspired by using soulless machines to portray human emotion since this is the type of world we are living in, coupled with me not being able to play guitar or typical instruments and wanting to write and perform it myself.

TR: So was doing something like Cold Cave always in the back of your head while you were in American Nightmare or Some Girls? Why did Cold Cave manifest in the past few years rather than eight years ago?

WE: l don’t know.. I never considered making music myself because I found it frightening. Its like doing a reading or something, the same self-conscious nerves of performing by yourself with people watching. Its so nude. Otherwise, I think Cold Cave could only have begun when it did because it was a result of everything that had happened up until that point. It feels tedious to talk about. I had collected menial equipment and had actually been living somewhere and not crashing at people’s places, with a lot of time to try. It couldn’t have happened eight years ago. I think also, coming from hardcore, there is a mental mold to be broken on what has been discouraged by your peers forever, like you touched on- the criticisms that come with trying something else, even though to me it always seemed very natural what the next step should be. I think growing up as a military brat with little allegiance to anything for more than a couple years has been a blessing in a sense.

TR: I know this might be something of a trite question, but to have Dominick from Prurient and a member of Xiu Xiu backing you up playing Factory Records style music must be a sort of bizarre scene. Have you stepped back at all thus far and said ‘What the hell is this?’ ‘How did this happen?’

WE: Yea, for sure. Not so much about who I’m playing with because they are people I admire and feel fortunate to be making music with. But I know what you mean. I saw a photo of us and thought, “Why am I standing behind a synthesizer? Where am I?” So I find it a bit humorous but there is humor in everything. Then again, I’ve found little success in attempting to understand why or how anything happens. Its better to just go where you’re going.

TR: You have to admit the sound on ‘Love Comes Close’ owes a lot to the early 80’s electronic rock sound. Some people have just come out and called some of the tracks direct rip-offs. Are these songs supposed to be direct nods and homages to certain bands?

WE: Of course. I don’t even think its necessary to say because it is there in the sound. You know, for the song “Love Comes Close”- it is very New Order sounding, though I was initially thinking it sounded too much like “Emma’s House” (by early 90’s UK indie pop band The Field Mice). I wanted the record to be drastically different than the older songs and an ode to the music that has been there for me. As a listener I’m not offended by music that sounds similar to other music as long as it has the writer’s complexion in it somewhere. I don’t find music itself all that interesting, but rather what humans do with it.

TR: What do you mean by that?

WE: I’m saying that as someone who’s ability with a relatively small amount of accessible instruments is very limited. I have to find ways to work with the means, you know? I try to do as much as I can with this and realized that limitations are all we really need to go forth. I’m not attracted to technical musicians by default alone. I recognize when someone is talented but in listening and obsessing I want to know the story of the person creating something, either before or after hearing or seeing something new. There’s just too much to sift through without being concerned with the fallible trait of people. It’s the connection and heart and damaged contradiction. There is only one of you, so as long as you put yourself into what you do, regardless if your inspiration is on your sleeve, or your art is horrid, amateurish, or virtuosic… it doesn’t matter, so much that it is true to the creator.

TR: As far as the songs go on ‘Love Comes Close’, were there any tracks where you sat down and said, ‘I’m going to write a song that sounds like this or that’?

WE: Its just timing and mood and circumstance. Everything is really. Then all of this material you take in and process and live with comes out in different ways. I never found much luck in trying to do something specific.

TR: Are there any conscious goals you have for CC?

WE: Well yes, we want to give and get love.

by TONY RETTMAN on 11/16/2009 in Interviews | Tags: , , , , , ,