How would you describe the motivations of your early work, or of the Industrial movement in the early 80s?
I see my own work in two contexts, one is for me to do the work I personally find satisfying and rewarding. The second is to undermine the structures of capitalism. So I have both individual and collective aims in my work. They may seem to be contradictory, but if you think about it, they aren't. Whether I shared these motives with the "industrial movement" is debatable. While many of the early industrialists dealt with "transgressive" material, I think the effect has been that rather than public consciousness being raised, sado-masochism has become far more marketable. I think time has shown that the motivation for most of the so-called "industrial movement" was essentially careerist.
The cultural phenomena that interested me, was a very much an "underground" thing that worked through a number of informal networks of tape exchanges, squats, mail art, zines, etc. Dave Henderson made an attempt to put it into context in his "Wild Planet" articles in Sounds magazine in '83, -which you can find on the Internet linked to EST magazine-.
The "successful" industrial bands had little to do with this phenomena, and instead participated in issuing the kind of "style sheets" of correct listening, reading and thinking that you get in the Industrial Culture Handbook. -I've never really been interested in supplying an off-the-peg identity, but if you want one there's one there!-
Maurizio Bianchi's work has been resurfacing lately, mostly on bootlegs, tell me about your involvement with him.
I hear talk of a MB "Mectpyo" LP which has been dated "1979" - it has to be a later bootleg.
I was in regular correspondence with Maurizio Bianchi -MB- between around 79 and 82. After a two-inch UK write-up by Dave Henderson in Sounds, he reached the pinnacle of his fame, saw the light and joined the Jehovah's Witnesses. I never heard from him since.
I seemed like he produced on average a 60 minute cassette a week, over those years including one I remember called "Mektpyo Blut" which is bad Polish for "menstrual blood". I think this is where the title for this bootleg came from.
I never heard any mention of him doing any LP releases prior to 1981 -tracks on compilations, maybe. From what I recall, he worked in total obscurity at his mother's house on a two-track tape machine and a Korg MS20.
Strange as it may seem to today's hoards of rune-swinging combat-trouser wearers, there was absolutely ZERO interest in his work from ANYONE previous to this.
I very much doubt if he had any other "releases" that weren't cassette-demo-only. These would have been in editions of no more than four or five which were sent to the few hardcore noisemakers there were in that days who might show a modicum of interest -Nocturnal Emissions, SPK, Lustmord, Vittore Baroni, Whitehouse, Throbbing Gristle, and maybe a handful of others-.
Maurizio's tapes weren't exactly eagerly awaited or taken very seriously. Many of us "post-industrialists" enjoyed making noise - especially doing it publicly as part of an overall -anti-capitalist and/or self-promotional- campaign. Sitting at home listening to other people's bedroom doodlings wasn't really our idea of fun. But Maurizio was a great enthusiast for other's work, and he wrote things for the Italian music press, he was a good networker and we were all such desperate media whores...you know how it goes...
Correct me if I'm wrong, but to the best of my information "Symphony For a Genocide" on Sterile Records was his first LP release, in 1981. He gave me most of the money to do it. He was a friend and I was going to the pressing plant anyway -so what the hell?
MB also lined up the "Liebstandart SSMB" release about the same time with William Bennet's Come Org.
William Bennet told me - in 81, the first and last time I met him - that Steve Stapleton drew up a "joke" contract for him giving Maurizio absolutely no rights to the recording in any way whatever ever, which Maurizio happily signed. Bennet added overdubs of Hitler speeches, Nazi martial music etc from one of those tapes they used to sell at the lunatic right wing shops.
Apparently Maurizio used to hang around with Milan Red Brigades, but he didn't really care about the silly Nazi stuff so long as his records came out.
I should also think Maurizio was also very unlikely to complain about any bootlegs - unlike other comrades who may have a more rigid attitude towards such bourgeous concepts as "quality control".
It looks like he made a good career move by giving up the music. Now his work is far more popular than it ever was when he was active.
A good lesson for many of today's noisemakers:
Just terminate the project - you know it makes sense!
Do you see any lineage of early industrialism in modern artists?
Yes, in particular the current "mainstream" of so-called "Young British Artists" such as Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas and Jake and Dinos Chapman etc, who are re-hashing that bad-taste scenario of the early 80s and making a lot of money.
You seem to be very interested in using "found" sounds on your records- what is it that fascinates you about them ?
I use SOUND in my recordings. The "provided" sound that comes in a sound module is also interesting to me, but not interesting enough. I'm interested in qualities of sound that invoke certain specific listening experiences. The location recordings are to do with decoding the personality of the environment - taking some of the ideas of 1950s and adopting them to my own purposes.
There's some strange politics going on in the "Dark Ambient" scene, especially with labels like Cold Meat Industries. I hear that on one occasion, you even had to write "against fascism" on your tour posters. What is it that makes this music so attractive to the extreme right ?
It's a complete mystery to me.
I neither play "Dark Ambient" music or listen to it when I'm out. It's not exactly a big thing in Cornwall. I have got a Cold Meat Industry compilation in a box at home, left over from some years back when I used to sell imports on mail order. I wasn't aware of any political sentiments at the time. I'd just not heard much music from Scandinavia back then. Nobody wanted it, so I didn't sell it. I think I played it once, I didn't like it much. I don't actually know anything else about them. I think they are quite unknown in the UK.
When I performed at the Pagan Music festival in Esterhofen last year, I was surprised to see there were a few idiots in the audience wearing swastikas and white power badges. I asked one of the organisers what nitwits like that were doing at a Nocturnal Emissions concert. He said it was a kind of a joke, but it's not really my sense of humour. I don't understand it.
I think the fear and paranoia manifest in the far right -and fair enough, the far left too- is probably a form of mental illness. It may be this that attracts them to this sad "Dark" form of music, which other people find unattractive and distasteful.
My music is to do with peace and harmony and pleasant sociable things like that, I don't want to exclude people from my music. It's not an exclusive thing, it appeals to a broad range of people. Asek, who organised my last tour, felt they should put the anti-nazi message on the flyers. I wouldn't have thought it necessary myself.
Much of your music reminds me a lot of classical Indian drone music. Has this been an influence ?
Perhaps, but so have the drones of "European" bagpipe music. Music cuts across nationalisms.
What was Japan's scene like at that time? Was it something that sprung up entirely independently or was it influenced by the English scene?
From what I can remember Merzbow was producing drum machine and flute music, the noise obsession came later.
Merzbow was named after a barn that Kurt Schwitters, late of Hannover, decorated with pointy bits of plaster when he lived in the Lake District in the 40s. The stone wall of that barn now resides in an art gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne. Schwitters also recorded some experimental vocal music using nonsense sounds. That may imply a European influence on the Japan scene. But I think that what really happens in music is every bit of music influences every other, and we live in a global community where music has always crossed all sorts of borders.
What would be some reference material for Nigel Ayers at the time?
And published later, but covering a similar period:
Vittore Baroni "Arte Postale" (it's in Italian)
I've listed the above books as they provide -often ridiculous- angles of documentation of cultural resistance to the "mainstream" of the 20th century previous to 1980 and point to a wider range of strategies than those adopted by the "industrial" scene.
The music of:
Would have been on my playlist about this time, along with almost anything else I happened upon. I mostly buy records unheard because I like the cover. It's the best way.
What was some influential music that you were listening to when you were growing up?
I was always immersed in music, I don't think I ever developed an obsession with any particular genre.
In my teens I enjoyed Hendrix , Beefheart, the Velvet Underground, the Lennon/Ono collaborations, Faust, Gong and various reggae singles that had their labels scratched off, as well as rock n roll, glam rock, psychedelia, pop music in general.
How old were you in 1980 when you recorded Tissue of Lies?
Do you still have the Sterile masters? Any chance of reissuing the material?
Some of it has been re-issued by Dark Vinyl in Germany. The sort of contracts I made with other acts on the Sterile label means they retained copyright the Konstrukivits, Lustmord, Controlled Bleeding and Maurizio Bianchi albums have all been re-issued on other labels.
Your music from the start was very sonically rich. There were a lot of complex waveforms or sound events happening. What do you think prepared you to create sounds like that?
I had, and still have. a desire to create sounds which are outside the 'normal' listening experience - sounds that evoke dreamlike states or the exploration of strange realms. I wanted to break from musical cliches, to create a new form of music. What prepared me to create sounds like that is an interest in creating that which doesn't already exist. I enjoy complexity. Magnetic tape and electronics suggested possible ways that idea could be explored.
Was it an attempt at some kind of raising public consciousness, such as the rights of mental patients, or were these topics just put in for aesthetic appeal?
I tend to deal with topics I know about and find interesting. My experiences with mentally ill people -in particular the barmy ways of my grandmother- have been a great inspiration. I find human folly - and belief systems in general Ė interesting. Itís worth looking at what really is a ďsaneĒ response to a social system based on the exploitation of people and natural resources for the benefit of a privileged minority.
Your work gets out of the range of Industrial music where we see lead singers screaming angrily, and in many places seems like it could have a much broader appeal. Have you ever thought of releasing music under the name of Nigel Ayers to help retailers deal with NE's name?
Of the 23 CDs of mine that are available, I donít think you'll find me screaming angrily on any of them! Maybe I shout a bit on one track of the Fruiting Body LP. Thereís a scream on the start of "Drowning in a Sea of Bliss", but thatís not me. Iím not really a screamer. The broadness of the appeal of my music is an attempt to make it function on a variety of levels Ė so it's not just for "initiates". Sometimes I like to play with 'wilful obscurity', sometimes I play with 'pop songs'. I worked on Oedipus Brain Foil Ė which is a triple CD collaboration with Robin Storey and Randy Grief - under the name of "Nigel Ayers" and I will have one or two recordings out later in the year under that name.
Any chance of recent live videos being released?
If the video makers make a good job of it, then Iíll consider releasing it. Stubnitz in Germany made a good one recently. I believe thereís a few videos circulating anyway whether I like it or not.
Do you have more visual art that you may exhibit one day?
Iíve worked consistently on visual art over the years. From time to time I contribute pieces to group shows. I would like to exhibit more, but then the artwork I do is pretty labour-intensive, so I have to balance the practicalities against my music work. Yes, I may exhibit more some day.
What is a NE show like for those of us who havenít seen one. Do you use a lot of tapes in your live shows?
My live performance is constantly evolving, at the moment itís very dance-based - Iíve been re-working the old song-based "greatest hits". I like to give my audience a good feeling and I like my shows to be entertaining. Iíve not used tapes for a while, Iíve found that I can keep a show more fresh and lively working with CDs and samplers. This way I can access sounds faster and have more control than I did using tape. I use two CD players and specially recorded one- off CDs.