It finally happened. I was going to finally see one of my all-time favourite groups perform live. To my knowledge, Nocturnal Emissions had never toured the Midwest before, so I was happy as a clam to hear they had included Detroit in their schedule. Everything went smoothly, including setting up an interview, which can be a real bitch sometimes.
Nocturnal Emissions was set to play in "The Bank"; an old bank converted into living quarters/concert hall. The Bank is well-known for the incredible acts that they manage to book, and also for its lack of decent plumbing facilities. In fact, when we recorded the interview, it was in the basement (that being the quietest place) near the vault.
| Also near the "pissing trough". It certainly made for an unusual interview hearing countless zippers being un/done and gallons of urine being deposited only a few feet away (No partition to block off the trough, y'see).
Any kind of intro to the band would be redundant as frontman Nigel Ayers tells the band's history clearly and concisely. So let's get on with it.
* What albums have you done lately? The last thing we able to find out here was the Spiritflesh LP.
We've done a couple of things since then. Two albums and two CDs. One CD was a reissue of our first album Tissue of Lies. We've revised it for CD. It's a limited edition CD. And there's another CD called Invocation of the Beast Gods, which is following ideas we've first done on Spiritflesh. That's done using field recordings of owls, bats, frogs, toads; creatures of the night basically. Then we've done another album called Mouth of Babes, which is all made from processed babies' voices - all under the age of eighteen months. Quite a whole lot of babies. WE researched it, and did scientific writings. There's research papers about babies' vocalizations, pre-vocal babblings really. It's (the album) all wrapped in a diaper.
* Where did you get you babies from?
Just stole them from outside of supermarkets. No, a whole lot of friends all had babies at once. Johnny's come come a large family, and four of their sisters and brothers all had babies at the same time. So there was quite a few.
* Who's in your current lineup?
Meself. And Jonathon Whitfield. Also Anthea Mills has been playing on this tour, but she's ill tonight. So we're a two-piece rather than a three-piece. For two years I was a solo band. A lot of people have come and gone over the years
* What bands influenced you when you first started?
A whole range actually. And what was happening at the time. Suicide, Faust, various experimental bands.
* Your sound has become increasingly more esoteric over the years. Has Psychic TV played a part or?
Well, I've been to quite a few of their rallies, yeah.
* Are you affiliated with any animal rights organisations?
Well if I said I was, I'd get my door broken down at four a.m.! So no. No. It's really hard for animal rights organisations in Britain at the moment. A group o' them are in jail right now.
* Do you have any video imagery using like ? the monkey experiments?
Yeah, we used to do that a lot. But what we found was, we were making too much of a brutal point of it. It became, in the end, recycling pictures of animals suffering, became counterproductive.
* Was it leading to misinterpretation?
Uh, I don't know if it's misinterpretation. The trouble with it was, it puts you in sort of an alien space to sort of recycle those images of death. In a short term, I think it can have a positive effect, but on a long term, I think it gets really, really depressing. I just found that I couldn't work anymore with that kind of material.
* You think maybe your fans got jaded by the constant ?
Yeah, well I was jaded meself! The motivation wasn't there ya' know. You can keep pointing things out and pointing them out?
* Were people pigeon-holing you and putting you in a "preachy, above-it-all" category?
Yeah! Well I think it's just sort of being brutal to yourself to keep exposing yourself to images of death. It's all around you anyway y'know. It's not a point that needs emphasising, I think the thing to look into is the aspects of what's going to happen after like - a revolution in consciousness. If it happens - what to do then. To find a space to fit into rather than dashing your head on a brick wall.
* The early SPK, were they kind of influential?
Well, I used to know them socially. Used to share equipment and things. So, I guess so, yeah.
* How about Genesis (P-Orridge, not the lamer-than-lame 70's rock pile) or Coum Transmissions?
Well ? we knew them. Like, we have been to their concerts. And I had a lot of friends in the experimental scene work with them. And I know Chris and Cosey.
* This is weird doing an interview in the middle of these pissing sounds.
Well it kind of adds a subtle atmosphere, doesn't it? Sort of like a rain forest.
* Or a golden shower! Is this part of a whole tour?
Yeah, we're at the end of it. We did four dates in New York City with Poppo and the Go Go Boys, which is a dance group. Poppo is a Japanese Butoh dancer. Butoh is a form of dance which has evolved since Hiroshima. And it's based on ideas from, well, obviously from that event. And it means "Dance of the Tortured Spirits". They did a dance with a burning dummy once. It was a performance based on Spiritflesh, so it was quite a surreal thing. He's Japanese and works with mainly American dancers. Twelve dancers in all.
* Now you seem to be more into subtleties of music and visuals whereas before, you were a lot more aggressive.
Yeah, well then for about five years - we never performed live. Personally I didn't like it. As we got more acceptable, we got more fucked over.
* What, as you got more commercial?
It's not really the commerciality. It's that we were dealing with jerks! I think the band has always been conceptually oriented. Even when we were working with dance music. It was all still coming from a process of ideas rather than doing it 'cause everyone thought it was the thing to do. It was like, bringing in an angle into it, and once we'd introduced the angle, everyone else seemed to be doing it.
* Do you think you've spawned some imitators?
Yeah! Yeah, we did. The whole point of the project was an individual development really.
* And it became that clichéd industrial dance scene?
Yeah.. I mean the point was to work with music that we found useful to ourselves, and when we'd reached the state, where that kind of music was everywhere ? like right now in England, any pub you go into is like, an endless recycling of the type of thing we were involved in. It became pointless to continue.
* So, are you going to go for less and less of a technology-based sound, and go for more of an acoustic or organic thing? Or just play whatever feels right at the time?
For a lot of the live performances, we're using obsolete, toy instruments for our sound. You can get some old little toy that no one makes anymore and put it through a big P.A. and come uou with quite profound results for about $30.00 or $40.00 worth of equipment.
* Yeah, then some lame jerk'll spend $500.00 for a sampled disk of the same sound.
* Have you ever had problems with distributors, 'cause it can be really difficult to find your stuff.
Well, we've had trouble getting paid by distributors. We have a lot of projects that we put a lot of work into and saw no return from it. We just stuck with people we could trust which is very few people. Which explains why it's hard to find our stuff. So we do the live shows to supplement that. We have, in the US, a deal with a company in Portland Oregon to handle the mail order side. Just about everything we do is available through them. And back home, our own Earthly Delights, is a mail order company. We just try to do an efficient mail order.
by David Linabury and T.M. Caldwell in Comikaze #16
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