Plague Haus trades dialogue with the Chicago drone kings.
First off let me say thanks for agreeing to the interview, I’m obviously a fan of your work. Let’s begin with the basics: who are the band members and when did you guys form?
Terence: Thanks for interviewing us and for all of your kind thoughts on our releases. We are a duo of myself and André. I do the vocal, synth, and tape manipulation and André plays guitars, bass, and amps. We formed over three years ago. We had been playing in our other group Unlucky Atlas. At the time, André was in a metal band called Hexacron that broke up kind of abruptly. They were offered a show, but couldn’t play so André came up with the idea of distilling a lot of our affinity towards metal in an experimental duo. Lately we’ve been playing live with Andrew (from the black metal band Velnias) on drums and sometimes even entire sets with Velnias.
André: I actually got really interested in starting this project after going to a free show in Chicago at a venue near my house and seeing Number None and White/Lichens. I didn’t know who these groups were at the time, but I remember thinking how it would be interesting to start a metal influenced drone group. I remember thinking that I wanted to use my guitar in a way that wouldn’t make it sound like a guitar. Instead of using my guitar in a really minimal way like some other drone groups, I wanted to create drones by playing notes really fast and repetitively in order to create a really harsh and schizophrenic atmosphere.
Not long before we played our first show, Terence played me some of his solo stuff that he made on a 4-track in his studio. I thought that it was really cool, harsh, and aggressive and that we could probably do something interesting together. About a week before our first show, we started playing. We had fun and then started to really work on developing our sound.
I know most musicians hate labels, but for the benefit of the readers, if you had to pinpoint your sound, what would you call it?
Terence: I think we mainly go for a type of atmosphere, and we pull from a lot of our influences to do that, black metal, early industrial, power electronics, psychedelic music, shoegaze and drone. So it is hard to pinpoint, but I am ok with “black drone.” Though I think we are more maximalists than the traditional minimalism of drone; there are a lot of notes in some things we do.
André: “Black drone” is a good term for the type of atmosphere we’ve been trying to capture lately. Lately, we’ve been trying to create music that creates linkages between black metal, power electronics, and noise. Our sound has definitely evolved a lot in the last few years, but I think that a lot of the characteristics that give us our sound have remained consistent, like our wall-of-sound approach.
And what’s your current discography?
Terence: There is quite a bit out there now. Diophantine discs just put out The Greyfield Shrines LP. Bloodlust! released our new Rhetoric of Surfaces CD which combines a lot of our out-of-print tracks that we originally released on CDRs and tapes. Mark Solotrof (Bloodlust!) also released our first 7 inch, Plague Journal, too. Crank Satori put out the Ruins of Morning CDR and Catholic Tapes did the tape version. We’ve released two cassettes on our own, a double cassette compilation of live and radio material and a recent cassette Exhuming/Burying the Carnival, plus about three CDRs. There is also a set of split tapes with Daleth, Colossus, and Continent.
Do you have any new releases on the horizon?
Terence: A split 7-inch with Katchmare will be out really soon. We’re also putting out a loop cassette with a zine in January. Following these releases will be our major statement. It’s also our only studio recording outside of our Bloodlust! 7-inch. It’s going to be a full length titled Drenched Lands. Small-Doses and At War With False Noise will be co-releasing it on CD in early 2009 and Bloodlust! will be releasing it on vinyl.
André: The Katchamare split 7-inch is going to be limited to 100 and our loop cassette and zine is going to be limited to about 40 copies. Even though we’re going to be focusing on Drenched Lands for a while, we’d also like to do some ultra-limited releases later in the year. We’ve done a bunch of split tapes with metal influenced bands and we’d like to do some more of those. A Locrian/Velnias tape is going to be the next installment in that series. We have yet to make any recording of us playing with Andrew so we plan to do that in January, but we don’t plan to release that stuff until much later in 2009.
Scott Treleaven is using our track “Visible/Invisible” from our split tape with Daleth for a video installation piece of Genesis P-Orridge that will be at the Breeder gallery in Greece this February.
You’ve been pretty damn prolific that past year. Do you think this will be the norm or did you have a lot of unreleased stuff hidden away?
Terence: We had a lot of material that we were working through and we wanted a solid year where we were putting out things with people we liked. But 2009 will be a much less prolific year so the record can resonate.
André: We’re really happy with how Drenched Lands came out so that will be our major project for at least the first part of 2009. The CD version is going to be distinct from the LP version in a bunch of ways. At this point though, we’re still deciding how though. The CD version will likely have extra material. The LP version will most likely have some locked grooves and loops. We haven’t talked much about the packaging yet though, but it might be quite a bit different.
Our next big release for us after Drenched Lands is going to be a collaborative release. Until recently, Locrian as a group hasn’t collaborated with anyone. We’re planning to have Andrew be a consistent part of this recording, but we’re also hoping to bring some other people into the studio with us. We’re particularly excited to work with Mark Solotroff on some of this material. Bruce Lamont from Yakuza is planning to collaborate with us too. We might bring some other people in there with us, but we’ll see how things go.
Was there any particular artist or band that influenced you to make this style of music or is it something you just developed on your own?
Terence: I think it has kind of been both. When I was younger I was always fascinated by bands like Einsturzende Neubauten, Sonic Youth or Throbbing Gristle. They made things very visceral for me, but I was into really into metal, like Slayer, Carcass, and Morbid Angel, and when it came time to play in a band I could never really play like the metal bands and no one really wanted to make noise so I gravitated towards punk and hardcore because it felt like I didn’t have to know what key I was in or have amazing gear, thankfully there were groups like Harry Pussy or Rorschach around. But it is this kind of weird background that I think made me think music could do something different and somehow blur the orthodoxies that stifle certain genres.
André: I think that we’ve definitely developed our own sound, but I think that our influences come out, although perhaps in strange ways. We have so many that it’s hard to pinpoint. In our new recording, Drenched Lands, I can pick out influences from really varied places. Listening to it, I can hear parts that are influenced by older Canadian hardcore like OneEyedGod Prophecy, and Uranus. Another song reminds us of Obituary, but I doubt that the Obituary influence would be apparent to most listeners. My guitar parts on another song are influenced by the stuff that Robert Fripp was playing when King Crimson recorded Three of a Perfect Pair, but when the track was completed, it didn’t sound much, to me, like Fripp’s stuff.
Your stuff seems pretty fluid when I listen. Do you guys have a set agenda when you record or is there a lot of improve and playing off of each other?
Terence: We normally talk about a mood or sound, and then look at our time limitation. We’ve been playing together for a while now so I think we know when the other is going to move to a certain part or fade out or build a part up. Nothing is decided before hand except the mood and maybe a movement. We know what we’re doing. Though, like anything if it goes bad it can go bad.
André: When we recorded Drenched Lands, we really only had an idea for one of the tracks on that record. We basically just talked about what kind of mood we wanted to go for with the rest of the tracks and then we adapted some of them so that we could play them live.
We recorded Greyfield Shrines on WHPK at the University of Chicago. We had no idea what we were going to do going into that set, but we decided on an aesthetic that we wanted to create and I think we captured that idea. I don’t think that our earlier stuff was as fluid as what we’ve been doing lately. “Chladni” and “Amps Into Instruments” on Rhetoric of Surfaces were some of our earliest recordings. I really like those tracks, but I don’t think that most of our stuff from that time period was anywhere near as fluid as what we’re doing now.
I imagine that the collaborative record that we’re going to record in January will be pretty well thought out before we record.
Do you do a lot of live shows? That seems like it would be the best way to experience Locrian, not to take anything away from the recordings, but you guys just seem like you’d kill live.
Terence: We really enjoy playing live, I think it is the most direct way for us to communicate. I like creating something in the studio too but the immediacy of a live show is incomparable, you have to deal with the gear and the audience and each other. I think it makes us think more about where we’re going in a piece better. Plus it is loud, and the dynamics can be great to play with. Most of our recordings are live except for the 7-inch and Drenched Lands so that is pretty much us right there – for better or for worse.
Do you have any plans for any major tours or are you content to keep it fairly local?
Terence: I think we’ve had a varied experience getting out on the road, it is always great to play to new people. We’re definitely talking about a summer tour and are open to where that leads; foreign or domestic.
André: We’ve been kicking around the idea of organizing some sort of summer tour with Velnias and Bloodyminded or Mark solo. We’ll see what happens. I know I’d like to get on the road for a while and play in some new places.
How’s the crowd reaction been at your shows? With the hypnotic sounds you guys churn out, they probably have a drugged-out look when you’re done.
Terence: Good, it depends on the context. I think no matter what if we play a metal show we don’t do certain metal things, we don’t stop between or even say anything. At noise shows I think sometimes the guitar can be a polarizing instrument. We played a hardcore type show recently and anticipated no one watching yet it was like we a fairly full room on stun or something. No one freaks out or anything but I think when the audience gets into it and we do what we’re supposed to do we hope that the mood in the room changes and the space feels different. I like the reactions.
From photos I’ve seen (which can be deceiving) you seem to use a very minimal set-up live. What sort of gear do you use live vs. recording or are they about the same?
Terence: Yeah, I mean essentially we have a guitar or bass, two synths, some analog tape, and vocals through some amps. Recently we have added drums when Andrew can play, so it is pretty minimal. I’d like to think we play what we can, however in the studio we use different things, oscillators, more analog synths, an organ, etc. depending on the engineer. But yeah the picture on the back of the Rhetoric of Surfaces CD is what we put to use, our humble nod to Einsturzende Neubauten and Pink Floyd.
André: One of the nice things about this project is that we don’t need a big van in order to play shows. We went on a little tour this summer, and even with gas prices so high we ended up making some money because we only had to take a car. We don’t have any problem being loud though.
You’ve had two releases on Mark Solotroff’s Bloodlust! label and I noticed Jason Soliday mastered the new LP. Is the Chicago experimental music scene pretty tight-knit?
Terence: For the most part it is, or at least amongst those like minded people it can be. But even though it is a city with like an array of sub-groups it can be relatively small amongst the elite. It has its own dramas here and there but there is always this core of people who are super supportive of each other in what ways they can be; going to shows, helping you with a record, putting out a record, booking shows, giving you honest feedback, etc. There is a lot of good energy and I think most people we like have open minds about music.
André: We’re definitely good friends with a lot of people in the experimental scene. Jeremy Lemos who plays in White/Light recorded our Plague Journal 7 inch. We’re really happy with the mastering jobs that Jason has done for us and we’re really happy with working with Bloodlust! Brett Naucke from Druids of Huge did a really nice packaging job on our Ruins of Morning (Plague Journal) tape.
You have a very distinct style of artwork on the release I own, usually some type of urban environment, but the logo you’re using now is also very cool. Do you guys do your own?
Terence: Yes, I think we really want to have the entire presentation be very deliberate. So the occult skull logo and the decrepit greyfield dead-malls is a part of it. I think consistency is important, like in visual art. It is an investigation of space, so we’re going to keep going at it. In a lot of ways our music and artwork is about decay and our preoccupation with an apocalypse. However, they are also real places, real buildings in a state of entropy. So it does kind of carry with it a political aspect about our views on ecology. Lately Kelly Rix, André’s wife, has been taking a lot of the photos for us but for the most part I do the design, art and layout.
Are you involved in any other musical projects outside of Locrian?
Terence: Both of us play with our wives in the gothic folk band Unlucky Atlas, who just finished a new record in the studio. I occasionally play solo and when asked add keyboards to Velnias. André plays solo as well.
André: Recently, we played a Locrian/Velnias set which was really cool. We’re talking about doing a similar collaboration in the future. I’ve played a couple of solo shows recently, but I’ve been going for a very different aesthetic with that than in Locrian.
Does Unlucky Atlas have any releases available or a website where we could hear more?
Terence: We have a self-titled CD we put out two years ago, and just finished our new CD “A Natural History of the Dead” which should be released soon. You can hear more at www.unluckyatlas.com.
What about non musical?
Terence: I am a visual artist and teach art at some Chicago area colleges and am a writer on art and music.
André: I teach courses in anthropology at Columbia College Chicago.
Is there a website available where we could see some of your artworks?
Terence: Sure is, www.terencehannum.com Thanks!
I’ll steal a line from my boss and ask you what’s your Five Year Plan for Locrian? I know it sounds stupid, but are you content being an “underground” band or would you ultimately like to push things further?
Terence: I mean I think that is an interesting question actually because I think there really is no real underground anymore or a mainstream. I just had to write this in an essay actually for an art journal here, that essentially because of the internet there is no more of this binary view of music listening anymore. That idea is kind of anachronistic. Which I think makes noise make sense, because of course we want to hide and deepen our cult with more difficult listening mediums like cassettes or vinyl that take more effort to digitize. It also makes the major labels schizophrenic identity crises come into focus as well, they have no idea what to do. So, not to throw away your question, I think we obviously want to challenge ourselves and create music we would like to hear but also assist others. We’re part of a team trying now to gather black metal and noise artists to play a two day festival in May 2009 here in Chicago where we hope these rhizomes of subcultural production can meet, grow and intensify.
André: Whoa, what’s going to happen to Locrian through 2013. We haven’t really talked about a Locrian 2013 plan, but I think that in the near future we want our next releases to be recorded really well and to be a logical progression from what we’ve done already. I think that our sound has changed a lot. We recorded Greyfield Shrines in late 2007 and our newest recording, Drenched Lands, sounds like a big progression, at least to us. I also think that the stuff that we’ve been playing with Andrew sounds like a big progression from our Drenched Lands recording.
In 2009, we’d like to do some collaborations and see what comes out.
Alright, that about does it for me, I’d like to thank you for taking the time. As always, the last words belong to you.
Terence: Thank you for asking.
André: Yeah, thanks!