Mark Solotroff

Plague Haus interrogates the man behind the Bloodlust! label as well as Intrinsic Action, Bloodyminded, Fortieth Day, Animal Law & Super Eight Loop (to name a few).

Greetings, Mark! For those not familiar with your work, can you give us a brief history lesson beginning with your work with Intrinsic Action until the present?

Mark LiveOkay, here we go… I started Intrinsic Action in 1984, in Chicago, and I ended it in 1995, in New York. The three final I.A. members quickly launched BLOODYMINDED, which I brought back to Chicago in 1997. Surgical Stainless steel was meant to be a grindcore/Industrial-metal band, beginning in 1991, but at least partly due to me moving to NYC a year later, I only ended up using the name for a few solo tracks, here and there. We sort of played one show, in 1991, I believe. Super Eight Loop was launched as a solo synth project in 1993, and I will actually be wrapping S8L up in just a few months. I began recording under my own name in the mid-1990s, and I released a small number of cassettes and compilation tracks in 1995 and 1996. Then, in 2005, I performed for the very first time under my own name. Also in 2005, Isidro Reyes from BLOODYMINDED and I launched The Fortieth Day, with the intent of playing something doomy and psychedelic. The sound ended up far less rock-based than we had originally planned, but our interest in this “psychedelic noise” duo has continued to grow over the last few years. We also somehow managed to let our split personality manifest itself as the minimal synth band, A Vague Disquiet, and Isidro and I record under that name for Wierd Records. Finally, in early 2007, I began doing vocals for Animal Law, a noise-rock/doom-metal/post-punk five-piece, which just split up. Three of us are continuing on with two new band members, but we do not have a band name to report, yet…

Can you tell me what projects you are involved in at the moment and maybe a little description of each?

Well, this will be a continuation of the last question, I guess… BLOODYMINDED continues on, full-force. We are typically described as a power-electronics band but I could argue on and on about why I do not think that is the most accurate term at this point. Heavy electronics works for me. Rock and roll, even. Our live shows consist of two to five band members, and these performances tend to be extremely energetic, with layers of screeching analog synthesizer, aggressive vocals, and tons and tons of feedback. The Fortieth Day is Isidro on bass, drum machine, etc. I play guitar and synth. When we play live, we collaborate with artist Lisa Slodki (AKA Noise Crush), who creates amazing black and white video projections to go with our sound. She mixes/plays video loops, live, as we play. Mesmerizing! As mentioned, Super Eight Loop is nearing the end of its two-phase life. I originally recorded fifty (50) lo-fi, 4-track cassettes between 1993 and 1996. Then in 2006, I began systematically re-mixing/re-mastering the 1-50 cassettes, while simultaneously beginning to record entries 51 and higher. S8L100 will be released in January 2009, I believe, and that will be the end of the project. That release also marks an unusual step in the history of this solo project, in that I recorded the tracks live, in October 2008, at my first, last, and only live performance under the S8L moniker. Super Eight Loop is “MINIMAL SYNTH MUSIC FOR ANALOG OBSESSIVES.” A Vague Disquiet continues on slowly but surely. Thus far, we have released five tracks spread across the two amazing Wierd Records compilations. We have an LP in the works for Wierd, too, but it is moving rather slowly. I began performing under my own name in 2005, and since then, I have done a lot of shows focusing specifically on microphone feedback. I have also collaborated live with diverse musicians, including Jutta Koether (ex-Electrophilia), Bruce Lamont (Yakuza), and Jason Soliday (ex-Behold! The Living Corpse).

What was your musical background before IA? Was there a particular scene that you came up in, punk, metal, etc?

I grew up as a hard-rock and heavy-metal fan (Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, etc.) that also listened to punk, starting in 1976-77 – and through punk I began finding more and more challenging electronic music via new wave, synth pop, minimal synth, post-punk, etc. By about 1980-81, I was beginning to run into the edges of early industrial music, starting with Cabaret Voltaire, and quickly moving to S.P.K., Throbbing Gristle, Whitehouse, M.B., etc. By 1983 I was totally immersed in industrial and power-electronics culture.

Was there a particular artist or release that compelled you to start creating?

It all made me want to start playing, I suppose, from 1970’s rock, forward… but the DIY attitude of punk and early industrial made it clear to me that I could really start a band. Meeting members of Whitehouse early on helped with the encouragement and the contacts necessary to start getting my work out into the world.

What’s your take on “Then vs. Now” in regards to Power Electronics/Noise? Do you see the internet and the whole MySpace culture as a good thing or detrimental to the genres? With an armload of new releases coming out on a daily basis, it seems to me it’s becoming harder and harder to separate the wheat from the chaff.

First off, I am pleased that there is even a “scene” to discuss at this point. It is bigger than ever… maybe not better than ever – to me, at least – but it is still going strong. As for the “Then vs. Now” thing… well, to sound like a cranky old guy, people in the scene have it very easy now, due to the immediacy of the Internet. It used to take a lot of effort to be involved in the scene, prior to the Internet age, and especially before the MySpace/social networking era. Individual releases meant much to me back then because there were far fewer of them and a lot of time passed between each release. And they were a bit harder to get a hold of, too. I feel like I knew every record and every cassette that I acquired far more intimately in the 1980s than I do now. But there are positive points to the post-Internet noise scene. It is easier to communicate with people, touring is easier, and one can reach a much bigger audience… even if the core audience for most noise stuff still maxes-out at 1,000 people worldwide… that magic number… Ha ha!

Is there any one of your projects that you hold closer to your heart, or maybe they are all just different aspects of yourself?

Each band or solo project holds a special appeal to me and they definitely do represent different aspects of me. That said, my work with Animal Law and now with the new, still-unnamed band is extremely gratifying, as it draws together influences from some of my all-time favorite bands, including Joy Division, Swans, and Einsturzende Neubauten.

What’s on the horizon for BLOODYMINDED? Any new releases coming up?

Progress during the second half of 2008 has been slower than expected, but we have three key releases due out in the near future. “Phases : Three” will be a triple-7-inch box set on Rococo Records. “Phases : Four” will be a single-sided 12-inch on Land O’Smiles, as part of their Black Lodge series. Those two releases will effectively end the “Magnetism” era of BLOODYMINDED. We are now trying to wrap up work on our (overdue) next full-length, “Within the Walls,” which has been in the works for some time already…

What about any of the other projects you’re involved in?

I am working on re-masters and re-mixes related to my 1990’s solo recordings, and I hope to get most of those archival releases out in 2009 (finally!). Isidro and I are always working on new The Fortieth Day material and we hope follow our “Syria: 638 AD” LP with a new full-length in 2009. We are continuing the planning for a DVD project with Lisa (Noise Crush) that will hopefully serve as a fair representation of our live presentation. If Isidro and I could get the A Vague Disquiet LP finished next year, I would be really pleased. And since Animal Law split up only weeks before we were scheduled to be in the studio to record our debut album, I can only hope that the new band finds itself in the studio by early 2009.

BLOODYMINDED is known for having some pretty confrontational shows. Are there any moments that stick out in your mind? Any good war stories you can share?

More live...Our shows are generally pretty high energy, so in a way, it is the “duller” shows that tend to stand out because they really catch me off-guard. Pieter Schoolwerth, who has been in the band since 1996, has played a bigger part in our live shows over the past few years and I primarily just try to come out unscathed from live shows with him. While James Moy and Isidro tend to hold down the fort, sound-wise (thank god), I can count on Pieter and Xavier Laradji to keep things interesting on stage. Check the “Live: Street Level at VG Kids” video for just how weird things can get. Or maybe bootleg video from our first No Fun Fest appearance. Sound quality aside, I think that most of the YouTube clips that are out there at least demonstrate our vitality.

Do you like the playing live or just a necessary evil?

I totally love playing live with BLOODYMINDED. It is a must. I thrive on the energy. Animal Law was a very satisfying live band, too. It was nerve-wracking, at first, as I sang – not just screamed – in that band. But some of our shows were incredible for me. My solo shows have been a mixed bag… some are more rewarding than others. Playing live with The Fortieth Day is more about paying attention, especially as I tend to be very distracted by seeing Lisa’s amazing video projected in large format. But I enjoy not having to “go for it” – physically – in that band. Live shows offer such a different type of experience that contrasts with the more focused, deliberate and planned-out studio process, which I also really enjoy.

Have you been involved in any really memorable tours?

Well, last year was great. BLOODYMINDED played shows in Mexico City and in the U.K. I had wanted to go to Mexico City with Isidro for years, so the fact that the opportunity came up to play there was totally amazing. What a tremendous place! James and I had a blast in the U.K. Our two London shows were excellent – especially the first night with Xavier – although the smaller shows in between, with Fecalove and Inseminoid, were enjoyable, too. I did a really fun solo tour with Envenomist (David Reed) in October 2007. It was pretty much the easiest, most low-stress tour, ever. Touring for me is best when it is about traveling with good friends, playing hard every night, seeing/hearing great music each night, meeting interesting people… visiting art museums and galleries during the day…

If you could choose to go on the road with anyone, what would be your “dream tour”?

I feel like I have been able to tour with a number of bands/artists that I truly enjoy seeing and hearing: Envenomist, Hair Police, Hive Mind, Slogun, Demons, Silvum, Climax Denial, Fecalove, Graveyards, Final Solution, etc. I would like to do another BloodLust! “package tour” again… maybe with newer label mates like Locrian and Neil Jendon. Or a BloodLust!-Wierd Records combined tour with Martial Canterel and Sleep Museum. Other bands/artists that are easy for me to see/hear night after night would include Wolf Eyes, Sword Heaven, Aaron Dilloway, Prurient, Redrot, Cadaver in Drag, Twodeadsluts Onegoodfuck… Well, there was talk with both Cadaver in Drag and Twodeadsluts Onegoodfuck about a tour in 2008 with BLOODYMINDED, but the economy, gas prices, work, etc., put that on hold. And now it seems that TDS OGF are done… bummer.

You founded the Bloodlust! label in 1995, correct?

Yes, I started BloodLust! in 1995 with a solo cassette called “Instrumental Demonstration Of Death-Noise” (B!000). BloodLust! was a way for me to move forward from AWB Recording, which I had been (reluctantly) running for the previous few years in New York.

You’re catalog is huge! You’re discography includes some of the best of the best as well as new talent. Is there any artist that stands out as one of your favorites to work with (and you can’t say yourself)?

I would start an Envenomist LP of the month club, if I could afford to do so. I most prefer working with artists over time, really developing a long-term association. That is demonstrated by my enduring relationships with Slogun, of course, with Sshe Retina Stimulants (probably my longest-term collaborator), with Mauthausen Orchestra, and with Jonathan Canady. I have released work by Jonathan as Dead World, Deathpile, and Angel of Decay. I far prefer the expectation of working on numerous releases with an artist, rather than knowing that something is just a one-off.

I’ve just begun my own label and am about to put out my third release. There have been moments already when I thought about quitting. I can’t even imagine doing it for as long as you have, has it been a labor of love or where there moments when you thought, “fuck this”?

I definitely have, and when I feel that way I try to take a little break. But there is something very satisfying about seeing a release through from conception to manufacture – holding a copy in your hands… putting it on the turntable or in the CD player or in the cassette deck – that I am always drawn back into the process. But even on a good day, having a record label strikes me as being a very bad idea, too… Ha ha!

How involved are you in each release or does it vary? Do you do the artwork and layouts, etc?

Bloodyminded Plays BloodymindedAs of recently, I am having certain artists totally do their own artwork and design and the results have been really fantastic. New releases from Culver, Fecalove, and Locrian immediately come to mind. The Sleep Museum “Core” CD also really pleases me. I am generally involved in the design process, though, either doing the whole thing, collaborating with the artists, or in the case of Intrinsic Action and BLOODYMINDED CDs, coming up with the basic concept/thumbnails and then working closely with talented designers like Jonathan Canady (all of the Intrinsic Action CDs) and Megan Emish (most of the BLOODYMINDED CDs). I suppose that it depends upon what seems best for a given release, at this point…

Do you operate the label completely on your own?

For the most part, yes, but over the years, I have had extremely valuable input and/or assistance from Megan, Paolo (Sshe Retina Stimulants), and Isidro.

You’ve been very prolific with the label. There seems to be something new coming out on a weekly basis. Is there anything coming up or out now you’d like to plug?

It is hard to single anything out as I maintain a strong level of passion for the releases on my label. I think that things are slowing down a bit though… But yeah, it was pretty much weekly when you first sent these interview questions… I was trying out something new. Since then, my schedule has become much more demanding, so I am moving at a more leisurely pace now and I am back to the once-monthly release schedule.

What’s been spinning at the Solotroff compound as of late? Genre is unimportant. This is the patented “What have you been listening to?” question.

Most recently, the new Serena-Maneesh double CD compilation… endless repeats of the latest Warlocks, Dead Meadow, Om, and Tindersticks albums. A lot of Killing Joke stuff, as they were just in town. Ridiculous amounts of bootlegs of Joy Division and early The Sisters of Mercy… The Martial Canterel “Cruelty Frames Our Age” tour CD (and the related Chondritic Sound box set)… Einsturzende Neubauten “The Jewels” CD… That is a snapshot of late-October/early-November 2008, I guess.

You’ve been involved in the PE scene for 20+ years. Do you see any end in sight or do you think you’ll always be involved in some way?

Yep, I am coming up on 25 years in this evolving scene… Fuck’s sake! Whether it is power-electronics or noise or synth, I plan to continue my activity… performing, releasing things, and being an audience member…

Any passions outside of the music scene? Painting, writing, films, etc?

I am also a visual artist, although I have not shown my work much in the past several years, as I have let music be my dominant creative outlet. But I do draw (mostly) and paint. My involvement in visual art came long before I started recording music and I hope that I get more involved with that side of things again, sooner than later. Aside from that, I try to devour books and movies, as always. I am really just trying to live an interesting and well-rounded life – which includes, art, music, film, reading… travel… family and friends…

Thank you very much for taking the time, as always, the closing words are yours.

Only a very big “THANKS!” for being so patient with me. And I do appreciate the continued interest shown by Plague Haus for my music and for my label…

Spread the Plague...