Sound artist Derek Piotr is releasing a new record coming out in late September on the DSPR imprint, titled “Grunt”, so we decided to have a short conversation about Piotr’s work as “Grunt”, specifically on their new record.
“A grunt. That most primal and animalistic of utterances. The new project by Derek Piotr, his eighth solo record and a set of short-form brutalist shards of human-digital noise, is
named for this sound. Had Xenakis bought a laptop in 1999, he may have produced something comparable to Grunt and its post-human #voicenoise aesthetic. Yet this is a wholly unique piece of work. As with Xenakis, Piotr takes recognisably analogue sounds – particularly the voice, but also drawing on acoustic instrumentation and found-sounds from nature – and reconstructs them into 21 intricate ‘electroacoustic’ miniatures. Yet
Piotr is less interested in dissolving these boundaries between electric and acoustic than he is in hybridising the organic and the digital. Grunt is subversively queer in its post-human composition”
Dr. Decaycast: “A grunt. That most primal and animalistic of utterances” would you say that this quote sums up the Ethos of the Grunt project perfectly?
Derek Piotr: Grunt has a separate meaning in Polish which is “earth” or “ground”. In general this project is trying to remind people of awareness of the physical body and reconnecting with nature in a really direct, almost clumsy way. I feel society has totally gone ethereal with apps and phones and I wanted to hit listeners lightly over the head with this project.
DD: Can you talk a little bit about the strategies of creating the sounds on this new record?
Piotr: Granular synthesis and heavy edits. In my earlier work i did a lot of very klobig cut and pastes, just lines and lines of small repeated glitches, then got further and further away from that idea as I moved on in my work. I wanted to return to some of the earliest ideas I had about sound, but in a way that is closer to my own vision than it was before…it always takes many tries circling around something before you reach the center.
DD: Would you consider yourself a concept based artist? If so, How does this record differ in concept from your previous seven full length albums, if at all?
Piotr: I think every record does fit into a concept. Drono was about drone music, Forest People Pop was of course more of a Pop record. I think I need a fence to work in or I would just be utterly lost. It would be interesting to me to create an album with no borders, every track a different flavour or feeling, but I feel ultimately that may result in a very uneven album. Something close to this happened with my fourth record Tempatempat. I tried many different sonic environments and, to me, that effort is my weakest. Consistency is important. I think grunt may be my most thematically consistent record. Most of the tracks are within the same parameters of length, and very similar processing is applied to the sounds across the entirety.
DD: Xenakis was mentioned in reference to this album. Can you talk a little bit about the impact his work has had on your process and aesthetics, if any?
Piotr: Xenakis is amazing, the press release was not written by me, but I definitely suggested that visual “if Xenakis had a laptop” to the PhD who wrote the liner notes. I think a lot of Xenakis’ work is very rough and direct in a way I tried to be on this album. I was not thinking of Xenakis when writing, more after I had the record done I tried to tie touchstones to it. Some of the work on this record sounds like Xenakis chamber music. Some of it sounds like Stockhausen. Some of it sounds like Pita. Some of it sounds like Kit Clayton. But I only drew those threads together after.
DD: The last track on this record is a reworking of a Kevin Drumm track. Can you talk a little bit about that collaboration and how that came about?
Piotr: I’ve known Kevin for years and we’ve emailed back and forth. We’re on the same label with some of our stuff. As I did with Drono (where I collaborated with Thomas Brinkmann for the last track), I invited Kevin to edit some of the material I was working on for this noise album. I sent him a bunch of demos and he chose Redirect to work with.
DD: Any collaborations planned for the future? Did you learn anything from that particular collaboration with Drumm?
Piotr: Didn’t really learn anything from Kevin, we work pretty similarly…that said I do have more collaborations coming in the next few months…
DD: What is some of the best new music (noise or other that you have heard)
Piotr: AGF – Dissidentova
Dirty Projectors – Lamp-Lit Prose
anything from Don’t DJ
but i am bad to talk about “new” music, I mostly lately listen to Jean Ritchie and old Thai music on youtube.
DD: Do you think queerness plays a big enough role in noise?
Piotr: No. It’s very much a boys club still. I wanna wag my finger a bit: many successful noise artists feed into boys club energy; use guitar and have kind of a postrock shoegaze situation going on. I think it pulls in people and feels like stretched out major power chord business, just made slightly weirder or dilute. Then you have harsh noise which is almost mosh-state sometimes. Definitely macho-ness going on, at least with some of the noise scene figureheads. I wish for more alertness sonically, use of differing tonal systems, general freakiness, softness and sensuality.
This interview was conducted as the first official interview by Decaycast aka NERFBAU jsun Adrian McCarty and Michael Daddona interview experimental music underground stalworts M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniels of Matmos, in their then SF Mission District Studio/apartment.
We did this a long time ago, but i think many of the questions and content holds up really well and also it’s nice to hear Jsun’s voice as a distant snarky beckoning to the past and future Matmos was a rather big influence and Jsun and my early work as Nerfbau and later as Styrofoam Sanchxz and Coral Remains and were without a doubt monumental in the formation of Ratskin so I thought it would be nice and fitting to re present this. We stayed up all night the night before, myself on speed and dope and Jsun chain smoking cigarettes to prepare for this, arguing over
questions, prepping cassette decks withpre recorded hidden questions on time travel and the sound of dreams, we ended up hiding several cassette recorders throughout Martin and Drew’s studio oinged with questions which interrupted the normal interview. In our early morning franticness and nervousness (we approached the interview more like a performance / collaboration than a traditional interview ) we even managed to spill coffee into a tape machine which housed some really important master audio tapes containing interviews with Drew’s mother before she had passed We told that story for years, how if it was our studio and some high kids came in to interview us and nearly ruined a priceless historical document we would’ve kicked them out and dragged to no end, but they didn’t do that, we were welcomed, as peers, collaborators and family. One of the most fun interviews I’ve ever done. Enjoy.
-MD for Nerfbau, 2018
For one of her newest releases on Bedlam Tapes, Angel has offered a nearly forty minute offering titled, “Interbeing” which was released this November and today we are beyond excited to be premiering a video for the track, “Passageways To Meeting Areas “, which is a masterful work of aural and visual assemblage, oscillating between dense electronics, noise, industrial, smooth jazz and other more esoteric, less definable physical, visual, and aural points of reference and strategy. We are very proud to be debuting this video here and honored that Angel took time to talk to us more in depth about her processes as an artist, influences, and scoring weed on the internet. Here’s the video, and interview below! Please support Angel and buy her music, looks like the cassette version is sold out but you can cop the CD Version and a free digital download of “Interbeing”HERE!
Hello Angel. Thanks for chatting with us over the panopticon that is Facebook messenger for Decaycast, first off how is your day going today and second, how deep does the internet go? Is it a weird portal? Just data? Productive? Evil?
My day has been pretty good. I was at work for a while, which was a good time. (No sarcasm, I swear.) Then I came home, fed the bears, scooped their shit into a bag, and started making the final tweaks to an LP slated for release next year.
About the internet’s depth…all I can say is that if you go deep enough, you can get fantastic weed for good prices. As a self-proclaimed hermit, ordering anything online is a blessing.
I remember we used to have to wait in the dumpster behind McDonald’s, now you can order weed online. What a trip? It’s a rare case when someone has a good day at work, so this is off to an odd but wonderful start already. Do you want to talk a bit about the LP you’re recording?
It’s a Fire-Toolz record, and it’s called Skinless X-1. Only about 30% of the music has vocals in it this time. I wanted the melodies and textures to have a little more space to breathe and say their piece. There is an even heavier 80s/90s new age & jazz fusion influence on this album. I still can’t seem to get away from heavy four-on-the-floor beats, though. With the exception of one eccojam, the occasional sample is only used as a brief brushstroke. I tried to write music that sounded the way my dreams did when I was young, living at home, in a peaceful part of town, surrounded by trees, grass, swamps, and various wildlife. This isn’t to say the album doesn’t have plenty of abrasive moments. I will say that there is no anger on this album. I’m still exploring personal challenges, but they’ve been a little neutralized.
This album’s message is more observational, more curious about things, and frankly more empathetic and compassionate toward a lot of the things I’ve expressed mind-numbing rage for on previous releases. This album expresses a deep appreciation for things, and an outlook that is a little more neutralized. The album is floaty. And the few times it lands, it really pummels into the ground. The mess it leaves is intricate and colorful. Am I doing your job now? I’m starting to say some weird shit.
I love the idea of it smashing into the ground and leaving this colorful mess. Can you talk a little bit about some of your previous releases or projects that stood out to you or hold a certain place in your scope as an artist/ person
Most of the releases in my backlog that stand out to me are ones I didn’t think were going to stand out the way they do. A lot of times my favorite releases aren’t favorites of others. Which is fine, but interesting in it’s own way.
I had a CDr/6″ lathe/cs release called “Solar Activity & Civil Unrest.” It was massively conceptual. There was a pretty wide variety of experimental electronics, tape manipulation, found objects, voice, etc.
There was another release called “Journey To 0.004”that had several editions. It included an hour long sound collage. Also a concept release. I think these types of long releases can be exciting for the artist and overwhelming for the listener.
Both of those releases are available for free download and were released under my old birth name, “Justin Marc Lloyd” on my old label Rainbow Bridge.
Lastly, my music as Power Windoze didn’t really get much attention compared to some of my other work, but I believe it to be very special. It was my first attempt at making electronic music entirely on the computer. I released a few albums and an EP. The second album may come out on vinyl. I just started talking to a label about it. It’s about 3 years old now and needs a remaster, but I’m excited that the album might reach a wider audience soon!
I need to dig into that PW stuff. You also run a Netlabel, Swamp Circle? Care to talk a bit about that and the benefits / limitations you’ve experienced as owning both physical and digital imprints?
I started Swamp Circle for two reasons. I wanted to release my music and other people’s music without financial limitations (on my part or theirs). I also wanted an outlet for my own digital artwork (Rainbow Bridge was mainly a xerox-on-colored-card stock label). At first I wanted to release 5 albums at a time. Now I just sort of release them when I can. Most of the albums in the queue right now are other people’s music. We are waiting on me to finish the artwork. And since my priorities have shifted, it’s been challenging to find time to do this artwork. I made a rule for myself that all art on Swamp Circle would be done by me. This was cool at first, but now I’m mega behind because I gave myself another hefty job to do. I’ve been thinking about changing the format but I’m not sure yet. It’s rare a donation is made so it’s not financially lucrative, but it was never really supposed to be. I wanted these releases to be free.
Well we hope you keep Swamp Circle and Rainbow Bridge going, they are both fantastic labels. Care to talk a bit about your influences as an artist; bands, songs, routines, strategies, etc?
This past year I’ve been infatuated with jazz fusion-tinged new age music from the 80s and 90s. Shadowfax, Jonn Serrie, Patrick O’ Hearn, Dan Siegel, Elements, Richard Souther, Interior. You can hear some of that influence on Interbeing, and it will be even more apparent on Skinless X-1. Orange Milk releases are always in regular rotation. Euglossine, Nico Niquo, Seth Graham, Giant Claw, and Loto Retina are all especially inspiring artists to me. BT’s “This Binary Universe” was a recent rediscovery that kind of knocked me off my feet and provided a huge boost of creative juju at one point in the Skinless X-1 writing process. When composing sound collages, I’m reminded of my roots in Sickness, Gastric Female Reflex, Jason Lescallet and other noisers that are incredible at keeping you confused and overwhelmed. Fear Factory, Nine Inch Nails, and KMFDM have been there for me since I was a child, perpetuating my tendency to make heavy electronic music even when I don’t want to. John Wiese and mid 2000’s Prurient, although vastly different artists, taught me a lot about harsh textures and their unique aural impact. Also, tinnitus. Tinnitus influences me as an artist.
My routine usually starts with an isolated idea. Never an idea for a whole song. That idea is usually recorded or assembled, and then blindly built upon by living in the moment and just doing whatever comes to mind naturally, or sounds good when I do it. But, I also have to go to work sometimes. So, I transfer works in progress to my phone, listen to them on decent headphones at work, and brainstorm. A lot of times I take notes. Then I go home and make changes, or re-record stuff, and it just kinda goes on like that. I am very grateful to have a job that facilitates zoning out completely while still performing effectively.
My strategy is to take extra care of my ears because I didn’t used to and now I’m sorry.
Can you talk a little bit about this video we’re premiering? How different is your process for creating video works than your audio practice mentioned above? Do you see them as one piece or separate pieces complimenting, or perhaps being at odds with each other?
This video is for the song “Passageways To Meeting Areas”. It deals with the concept of ’emptiness’ from a Buddhist perspective, and the concept of Interbeing, which is a term coined by Thich Nhat Hanh that describes the inherent interconnectedness of humanity, or the universe. In this song I’m sort of projecting a desperate plea to other humans, specifically those hateful and oppressive, to find common ground with me. In doing so we find that we are all generally good at our core, underneath our illnesses and compulsions. We all want to be happy, and we all want to be treated with love. It was difficult to come up with ideas for this subject that would go along with this message and still look like a Fire-Toolz video. It took a really long time, and I had this video sitting unfinished for months while I sped through four other videos. It wasn’t until Interbeing was days from being released that I finally finished it.
On one hand my videos are much more complementary to my first album and what I was making before I changed the name to Fire-Toolz. My latest material, and my sloppy, pixelated, shitty green screen footage and heavily processed VHS rips of ancient CGI demos, can seem at odds with each other. I strive for a complex precision in the composition and sound design of the music, but that approach doesn’t show itself very often in the videos. I haven’t much training in animation, 3D rendering, or illustration. However there is an overwhelming amount of similarities that transcend that dissonance. The juxtaposition of genres and textures, glitching, processing, re-contextualizing, absurdism, conceptualism, surrealism, nostalgia triggers, representations of modern technology. There is even the occasional humor that erupts from perceived absurdity. Such as black metal style vocals over a sample of a sensual jazz fusion track from 1986, or heavily glitched animations of a broken ATM machine over generic HD stock footage of a beautiful sunset on the water. I see the potential for humor, yet in my mind, all of these things are made for each other.
I usually keep the imagery consistent with lyrical themes. Literally, metaphorically, or analogically. I also sync the activity in the video to the dynamics and changes in the music. The videos are a lot of work. Lots and lots of processing and editing, rendering, re-importing, processing and editing, rendering, re-importing, etc. The music style demands many visual elements and layers. Many of my songs shift moods drastically within them so I think the work needs to be done.
I create the music as something that can stand alone. I create the videos so that they can complement the music very closely as well as act as a live performance enhancement. I don’t move around much live. Part of the reason is because the equipment I use isn’t mobile. But I have little to no stage presence. I never look out toward the crowd and I rarely talk to the audience while I’m “on stage.” If I have my videos projected for everyone to see, I think it makes coming out to the show more worth it for everyone. I feel like I’m much more effectively expressing myself through a video projection than whatever dances and antics I can come up with using my body.
Do you consider yourself a plunderphonics or sample-based artist? How do you choose your samples/why do you sample other artists?
I don’t consider Fire-Toolz to be plunderphonics or sample-based. Having the vaporwave tag in the string of associated genres is partially to blame for this confusion, because most vaporwave is sample-based. I’m just incorporating a sample-based genre into some parts of my songs. Fire-Toolz is no more vaporwave than it is harsh noise. I think sometimes when an artist samples another artist, some listeners then tend to wonder what is a sample and what isn’t when listening. People have asked me what metal vocalists I’m sampling and are surprised to hear that I’m recording them myself.
Interbeing (and Skinless X-1) incorporate far less sampling than my earlier work. It’s not that I’ve tried to get away from sampling as if it’s a bad thing. Sampling is sick. I have several on-going projects that are religiously sample-based, and I will never break those rules. It’s just that I’ve been less interested in finding the perfect sax pop verse to layer in or build upon, and more interested in composing all these melodies and progressions from the bottom up. Fire-Toolz was always original composition and instrumentation-based, but samples were sprinkled all around as part of the process and theme. At this point, the rare sample is even more intentional, and thus a more special moment.
If I’ve taken a little chunk of someone else’s music and integrated it into my own song, then I adore that artist and listen to them on the regular. If it were safer to be more open about the samples, I’d be listing their names in the credits. There has been one exception to this, and it happens to be on the song of mine that’s gotten the most attention so far. It’s the Billy Idol sample on “All Deth Is U” from the Drip Mental album. I’m not a huge Idol fan! He was good in The Wedding Singer, but I was typically turned off by his music as a kid. I do love the song the sample came from, though. It’s probably because it sounds like other bands I like who were big at the time. I’ve always figured Billy was pissed about that. I bet he thought Depeche Mode and Duran Duran were a bunch of posers. The thing is, I kept hearing that fucking line “Eyes without a face…” in my head whenever I worked on that song, so I just did it.
Ever since Drip Mental my sample palette has been primarily jazz that’s come out sometime between 1984-1994. A few snippets of early 2000s metalcore and second wave emo can be spotted throughout the discography as well. My sample usage is meant to be a juxtaposition and re-contextualization, so I don’t sample “experimental” or techno or industrial or anything like that.
I would really love to just contact the great artists that I’ve sampled and show them what I’ve done. That could quite possibly yield unfavorable results. See, if it were me, even if the song was really bad, I would be like “OMG that’s really cool, thanks, I’m glad my jams have touched your young soul in such a way that you found the inspiration to re-contextualize them in your own way!” But these are old people now, you know? They may be more old fashioned. They may get angry and think I’m trying to profit off of their labor. They might even call me a bad word, and I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to cuss or feel anger if you’re on Windham Hill Records. I think my dream would be for one of these artists to contact me and ask me to collaborate on some music!
I did email Zenju Earthlyn Manuel’s camp about my sampling her guided meditation in the track [CODENAME_BONKERS]. I didn’t expect a reply but I’m sure someone has read it by now and decided to leave me alone. The sample is from a public YouTube video, but I chopped up her phrases a little and still credited her, so that made/makes me nervous. shrugs.
Hello and thanks for keeping up with decaycast . 2015 will bring a lot more reviews , interviews , podcasts and even our own bandcamp for easier streaming / downloading of all of our past and future episodes . If you’d like to submit PHYSICAL material
For review please email
Decaycast(at)gmail.com and we’ll go from there . We’re also happy to announce that we have two new writers so we’ll be able to crank out more lengthy reviews quicker and with more love and precision! The band camp will be up by the end of the week and expect interviews with PCRV , Crank Sturgeon , Jason Wade and tons more !!!