Thursday, November 20, 2008

AIDS Wolf

AIDS Wolf needs little introduction after the two hundred plus comment thread they partially inspired in their show preview last week. I was honored to get a chance to speak with lead vocalist, Chloe Lum, by telephone ahead of the group's show in San Diego yesterday, and as far as intimidating and confrontational lead singers go, Chloe gives one of the most chilling live performances you'll witness by anyone in a currently active band. She gave me some insight into the group's feelings on their critics (complimentary and otherwise), the special relationship with their record label(s), people getting your art confused with your music, Texas, Weasel Walter, and other oddities and concerns of life in a touring noise rock band from Montreal...

I'm going to start off with some questions about lineup changes and live performances...


Alright.

So, your live performances are almost frightening and are extremely convincing. It seems like a lot of people I've known have been converted especially after seeing you live, and you had a significant lineup change after releasing your new record. In what ways do you think this change affected the live show, or do you feel it affected it at all?

I've got to say, at this point; Alex (Moskos) joined the band in the summer, and we pretty much spent a couple of months woodshedding with him, and before we left for tour we only played three shows with him. We've played maybe a total of twenty shows so far with him. When we're playing, I'm just in the moment. I haven't seen any footage or heard any recordings of us playing with him, so I can't even tell how much is different. But, I will say that because he comes from more of a new music background, I guess, he's really confident and adept at improvising. So that's been really cool, because we do chunks of improv in our sets. I don't know, I mean, to us, being in a band, such a big part of it is about playing shows. You know?


Yeah.

I mean, we, I know it sounds totally cheesy; put a lot of our souls into it, I guess? (Laughter)

That's not necessarily cheesy.

As a band, we want to be the kind of band we'd be excited about seeing.

Exactly. I wanted to ask you about some of your coverage. It seems like even though blogs have the potential to provide diverse, individual viewpoints on what type of artists to cover, there has really grown to be a glut of similar sounding acts that are regularly featured. Even though your band has been discussed on a lot of blogs, and blog-sympathetic websites, you don't sound anything like most of the homogenized music you find on most blogs. So, to what do you attribute the coverage? And, for the record, I'm really glad you get covered a lot.

I always thought any of the coverage we got on blogs was super-negative! (Laughter)

You think it's usually negative?

I don't really look at music blogs, usually. The ones that I have seen that have written about us, it seems like it was always not only dissing our music, but dissing us on a personal level, too. So, I don't really know. I haven't really seen any stuff on blogs talking about our band in any kind of objective way. But then again, I don't really go looking for it either. I think at this point, we all try to kind of avoid looking at what's written about us. Because, otherwise, it would probably be hard to find the druthers to carry on. Personally, I'm pretty out-of-touch with a lot of what's going on in music outside of the very specific realms of interest that I have. I wouldn't even know what the blogs to check are, or even if there are any that write about the kind of music that we play.

It seems like the new record got a lot of good reviews, compared to what I've seen in the past.

Yeah, I've been told that people are more into it than the other stuff we've done. Which, I guess that's...good? We worked really hard on this, on the new record. It's more of an "album," I guess, than the first one.

It's seems like a lot of the reviews, and I'm sorry that the follow-up question is about reviews and you say don't really read them, but it seems like a lot of them...

I have to avoid reading [reviews], because I take shit like that personally. If somebody doesn't like my band and my art, it's like they're fucking stabbing me in the heart! (Mutual Laughter)

Yeah, that's understandable.

I put so much of myself into it, and I think my band-mates are pretty much all the same way. We have our people who we work with who tell us what's going on.


Does the label monitor all that?

Yeah, yeah. Sometimes our publicist will send me the links and I'll just post them on MySpace without even looking at any of them!

A friend of ours that writes reviews posted a review, and she said that you were upset maybe, at the mention of the art activity, and it not reflecting the whole band?

What review was that?

It was "Megzeazez," and then she rewrote it I think, because she felt bad.

Oh, that was basically a misunderstanding, because she wrote that AIDS Wolf was this Seripop band, and I guess in a way it is, because Yannick (Desranleau) and I are... but there are two other people that contributed an equal part. We think that it's important that everyone gets their due.

Definitely.

I don't really want it to be the "Chloe and Yannick Show."

Do you feel people focus on that too much, on the Seripop stuff?

Um...maybe. I don't know. It seems now that our band has gotten a bit more established, it seems like it's the other way around: We'll do Seriopop stuff and it will get credited to "AIDS Wolf." I guess it goes both ways. It's not something that I lose sleep over, but I do think it's important that people know we are...a band. It's a democratic thing. There are four of us, writing the songs together, putting the guitar together, and fucking hitting the road together. So, that's basically my only concern there.

You worked with Weasel Walter on "Cities Of Glass," who is a legendary and sometimes polarizing figure. What was it like working with him? What about his style was different from your past recording experiences?

Well, past recording experiences with this band have been pretty limited, pretty bare-bones. You know, when we did "The Lovvers," it wasn't even intended to actually be an album. We were just recording with our buddy at our practice space. Then we did other recordings in the same way, where we just had friends that would record us at our jam-space on Pro Tools. I mean, the first studio thing that we ever had come out was the split we did with Night Wounds, which came out this summer, which we did at Hotel2Tango. So, when we went to record with Weasel, it was basically only the second time that this band had ever set foot inside a studio. So, we're in a studio for two days instead of five hours, and we have a producer, and an engineer, and an assistant engineer, and we had been on tour for five weeks. So for us to be able to get stuff done, it was definitely in a perfect situation. Working with Weasel, the guy definitely knows how our band wants to sound, and understands what we're trying to do, so his directions were pretty crucial. We spent months working on the mixing with him, getting it to sound the way we wanted to, and he was a pretty good sport about it. It's kind of a little overwhelming to work with someone you respect so much, and hold in such high regard. He definitely made the process as painless as possible for all of us. I feel that it helped us sound like we always wanted to sound. I feel like "Cities of Glass" sounds how we sound, in a good live show, at a place that has a good system. I feel like it's really representative of what this band is. We would definitely work with him again, if we can.

Was that also on Pro Tools or did you record to tape?

It was on Pro Tools.

I really enjoyed, not to mention really agree with, the "Nine Principles Of Aids Wolf" that I've seen floating around recently. You seem very committed to the struggle of touring and maintaining a lifestyle that revolves mainly around art and music. You also mentioned "Get In The Van." Do you think that kind of will and dedication is something that a lot of groups lack today? The way the principles are worded, it sounds really authoritative.

I would say that most of the bands that WE know are pretty fucking intensely dedicated people. When I think of bands that we've played with, you know like Sightings or The USAisaMONSTER, people who play intensely difficult music to small audiences, and they are just total dynamos taking it out there, and recording, and have such a positive outlook with a lack of tangible gain. I think are a lot of bands in the underground today that have a really inspiring outlook and attitude about things, just a really good work ethic. Those are the people who we are attracted to doing stuff with, to be around like-minded people in that regard. It almost becomes like a game where you're challenging each other, "You did THAT! Well, we're gonna do THIS!" Just friendly oneupmanship. When we toured with Old Time Relijun last Fall, we would always race each other to the venues. I don't really know about other bands, but most of the bands we associate with seem to be super-hardworking, and hardworking even without having any potential reward in mind, since most of them are pretty aware that their music is difficult and non-commercial. It just something that they're compelled to do, which is something that I've got to say, I relate to pretty well.

Are you influenced more by the classic Hardcore Punk touring philosophy, or the music, if at all?

I would say, both. I got into it from the music, and all these years later, at the age of thirty, I still find it relevant, in large part because of the philosophy. And in turn, the philosophy makes me reevaluate the music and analyze my own appreciation for it. We do listen to a lot of punk and hardcore together when we're in the van. At the same time, it's a scene that we all definitely feel like outsiders to. It's more like an anthropological thing. Then again, I feel like an outsider to everything. (Laughter)

Yeah. (Long awkward pause from DL) I understand that. You also mention willfully bumming the crowd out and bringing "failure and misery with you in the wider world." How important are these negative concepts to your overall philosophy and aesthetic? I often wonder about concepts like these and am fascinated by them. Do you in any way feel that negative energy can often be applied to life in positive ways that are simply misunderstood?

I do think that negative energy can be applied in positive ways. I actually see our outlook as very positive. It's more about realizing your limitations, and then celebrating them. You know?

When we started this band, we didn't expect that people were going to love it, and we didn't expect that we were going to be wonderfully popular or anything. But we also didn't expect to be a bone of contention, we actually thought, if anything, we would just be ignored; we would do our thing, play in people's basements, the five people who liked us would come out, and no one else would care. Um, that didn't happen. It seemed like there were always a lot of people who hassled us, and had a lot of loud opinions about not liking us. And we kind of take that and laugh with it, because, what else are you going to do? Are you going to stop playing music? Are you going to change what you're doing? Basically our whole idea of negativity and bumming people out, it's about turning it on its head and being like, "OK, yeah. Some people don't like what we do, and maybe what we do is never going to be popular, but this is what fucking lives inside of us that needs to come out and this is what we need to do and we're just going to keep doing it no matter what." It's basically like us against the world, we're like a gang. It's celebrating that we're not going to be deterred from what we're trying to achieve aesthetically and we are not going to be driven off-course by anybody else's feedback or opinions.

You have released records through Love Pump United and the venerable Skin Graft Records. What are the similarities and differences between the two labels?

Well, I see that they have similarities, in that they're labels that treat their rosters like family. They're both labels that are committed to a certain vision of uncompromising music. They're both labels that are very small, and run with a lot of personal touch. They're very hands on, they're there for their bands in as many ways as possible. As for as differences go, I don't really see too many. You know Mark (Fischer)'s older than Jake (Freedman) and Mookie (Singerman) at Lovepump, he's been around for longer, but we basically got a really similar vibe from both of the labels we work with. That's why we work with them, we feel they're people who are our friends, we feel like they are people that are our peers, and we can talk to them, and we can use their judgment and look it as a sounding board sometimes. It's really cool. I guess the only big difference is that Skin Graft is based in Europe, and Lovepump is based in New York. So we hangout with Skin Graft when we're in Europe, and Lovepump when we're in the US. They tend to run things in a very similar way, very hands-on.

That's the end of the "official questioning." How did you feel about your Texas shows?

They were OK, they were OK. I mean, Texas is not the coast. I think we need to go there more. Not a ton of people know about us there yet. We're going to do South By Southwest for the first time this Spring, and that gives us a bit more time in Texas, so maybe after that it's going to make things perk up a bit for us.

We had a lot of fun in Austin and Dallas, those were cool shows. Even Lubbock seemed pretty cool.


You played at Riprocks, is that right?

Yeah, that's a weird place!

Yeah, it is kind of weird.

The soundguy there was awesome, though. He was really fucking cooperative with what we wanted to do. There were some good bands there too. We played with good bands at all the Texas shows. Like Magic Jewels in Austin, those guys were fucking awesome. That Orange Coax band, they were really good too. That's what makes it cool for us, to get to play with good bands. That's a big part of it.

Photo by Matt Burgess.

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23 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, i thought that was a pretty great interview~

11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Riprocks? Like, the bar in Denton? For real?

12:11 PM  
Anonymous defensive listening said...

"Bash Riprocks" is actually the full name of that particular venue.

12:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that makes a lot more sense

12:31 PM  
Anonymous brent best said...

I think the 200+ post was because of orange cocks more so than aids wolf, and also just a lot of sarcasm being sprayed around.

1:21 PM  
Anonymous The Real Best said...

Organe Cocks!?! Someone Call A Doctor.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous defensive listening said...

Hence the word, "partially."

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like only 10% partially. Big difference

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Derek said...

I think it was more like 11.38594058876% idiot..

1:52 PM  
Anonymous shane said...

nice interview.

2:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

look at derek play w/negativity like a xmas present..

good to have brent's opinion also. sheah not.

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey don't fuck with shane or old fuckers like me will eat you for bestfast. trust.

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was an awesome interview. I still don't care much for AIDS Wolf, but the depth of the questions is pretty awesome.

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the interview. I'm not digging their stuff on myspace, but I'll check 'em live next time they roll through. Thanks, DL!

5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey don't fuck with shane or old fuckers like me will eat you for bestfast. trust.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They sound like a watered down Arab on Radar...awesome!

6:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you cant eat me for shit.

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yow wow! photo by matt burgesssssss

9:40 PM  
Anonymous burgers said...

LUBBOCK LOVES AIDS WOLF!!!!!!!!

2:28 PM  
Anonymous mark said...

ahhhhhhhhhh.

2:29 PM  
Anonymous Rick said...

I liked Bash Riprocks. They have Monster Bash pinball.
This one drunk band played and the chorus to one of their songs was "Take my ashes to Bash's".

3:55 PM  
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