Posts Tagged ‘Mind’

Christopher Nosnibor

This is a show I’d been looking forward to for weeks, even months. Arranged as a benefit gig for Mind and Shelter, Aural Aggro and personal faves Modern Technology have pulled together a truly killer lineup for their official hometown EP launch show.

So I arrived at The Victoria a full two hours before loading in and soundcheck was due to begin. Ordinarily I’d be positively crapping myself, a mess of perspiration and palpitations, but unusually, the only reason I’m sweating is because it’s bloody hot. But kicking back with my book in the beer garden outside The Victoria, I’m decidedly chilled.

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I get a message from Owen, Modern Tech’s drummer, asking if I want a pint since he’s arrived and getting a round in. Of course I do: I’m sweating them out faster than I can sink them, and I finally meet him and Chris in person after months of to-and-fro and co-producing a tabloid zine for tonight’s event, which I’ll soon see has tuned out brilliantly.

I walk in during Bruxa Maria’s soundcheck. The snare alone is punishing, and the full band’s run-through is devastating. This isn’t a venue that’s afraid to turn it up. It’s also a really nice space, too, something Owen and Chris comment on as we riff bout work, mental health, merch, and whatever else. The rest of us soundcheck. We’re all buzzing with anticipation. The sound is fucking incredible. And I realise I’m in a room with some of the nicest, most decent people you could find. No bullshit, no posing, just mutual respect and support.

Tim, aka Cementimental, and I take the floor – literally. We’re playing in front of the stage at 8:20. The plan really is as simple as ‘you do what you do, I’ll do what I do. I’ve got maybe 15-18 minutes of material including gaps, and I’ll drop the mic and walk off when I’m done.’ And we stick to the plan. It works better than I could have ever dreamed.

Nosnibor v Cementimental

Nosnibor vs Cementimental – photo by Phil Mackie

I’d been genuinely concerned about my ability to perform, wrestling with a cold that had affected my ability to speak for a full week. Friends had advised me not to perform, but I don’t ‘do’ defeat. I don’t know how long we played for, but I managed all six of the pieces I’d planned – ‘Thoughts for the Day’ / ‘News’ / ‘Ambition’ / ‘Punk’ / ‘Cheer Up… It Might Never Happen’ / ‘Alright’. Tim’s racket was punishing, and spanned broad sonic range, tapering down and going full nuclear with remarkable intuition. It was brutal, and it broke me. And we went down a storm: I was inundated with people – perfect strangers – enthusing about the set, how well it worked. They were all incredulous when I croaked, squeaked, or barked at them that we’d not even met properly, let alone rehearsed even once beforehand.

Lump Hammer – whose front man James I’ve has been sending me stuff from his label for review for a while, but who I’d also not met in person previously – are a different kind of punishing. With pounding drums, and guitar – churning, overloading with distortion – providing the music from the stage, James is in front of the stage with some kind of sacking over this head and eyes. He’s a tall guy with big presence and a lot of hair, and he howls impenetrable anguish into the churning aural abyss of dirgy downtuned grinds, some of which last an eternity. And yet for all the agony, the unremitting catharsis, there’s something immensely enjoyable in this kind of torture.

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Lump Hammer

Exploiting the limitations of a drum ‘n’ bass (no, not that kind) duo arrangement, Modern Technology focus heavily on the rhythmic and the low-end. It’s the perfect backdrop to Chris’ dramatic vocal style: there’s an arch-gothic hint to it, and it lends a sense of detachment and alienation to the heavyweight blasts of disaffection and desolation. Tonight’s show is the first of three of a mini-tour to officially launch their debut EP, and while on record they’re intense, live, they take it to another level. There’s nothing fancy, or even pretty about their performance. There’s no great showmanship, no empty chat between songs, just hard riffs played at hard volume.

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Modern Technology

Things are starting to catch up with be a bit during Bruxa Maria’s set: I get to witness it from the front row, next to the right-hand speaker stack, which is both an optimal spot and handy as my voice is so fucked I can barely speak. And Christ, they’re noisy and intense. The guitars are dirty and distorted, and they play fast and furious, a relentless frenzy of punk and no-wave that tears your ribs open and punches your intestines, laughing at the blood. Gill Dread may be diminutive but she’s one hell of a presence – just on the other side of deranged, her raw-throated scream goes right through you. If I was close to being finished before, I’m utterly spent by the time they bring their set to a roaring close.

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Bruxa Maria

People hang around afterwards to chat, and the merch stall does steady trade. I’m struck by the levels of enthusiasm and appreciation for all of the performers, and not only has the evening drawn a respectable turnout, but a bunch of really great people, the likes of whom collectively demonstrate that however bad sit gets, not everyone is bad shit.

We have more beer, and Owen finds a late-night wrap joint where I join him and the Lump Hammer guys for what I realise is my first proper meal of the day. It’s 3am when I finally hit the hay. Rock and fucking roll. Yeah!

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The primitivism of Modern Technology’s raw sound, coupled with your lyrical content says you’re not entirely happy with where modern technology and late capitalism has brought us. Would you like to walk us through the band’s ethos and politics?

Owen Gildersleeve: When Modern Technology first formed we were going through a really difficult time – The Brexit process had just kicked in and Trump had found his way into power – so it was tough to create anything that felt as though it had any worth. I remember sitting in my studio around that time trying to get on with work just thinking ‘this is all meaningless’.

Chris and I both really needed a place to vent and Modern Technology became just that – Somewhere we could speak out for frustrations and unleash some of our anger about what was happening in the world and the chaos we found ourselves in.

Chris Clarke: Absolutely, Modern Technology was started through a shared catharsis. I see the whole process as a physical and emotional release, using the band as a platform to mirror society and give a floor the injustices and social discomforts that saturate us.

I would align us more towards socially focused than politically focused. Politically there are things we ultimately disagree with, and strands of that weave through our writing. But we tend to focus on the effects rather than the cause in our writing. Sometimes this manifests in highlighting the mundanity, sometimes it’s much more drawn from our own experiences – but ultimately we always try and leave a bit of room for interpretation, both in the way the lyrics are constructed and the themes to hopefully encourage some conversation rather than polarity.

Where did it all go wrong?

Chris: Owen and I were born pre-internet age and have seen the acceleration of technology advance faster than our understanding of the detriment to our mental health. It is something both marvellous and monstrous, and for all its virtues it has been manipulated to really illuminate the cracks in us. Our private lives are now public reality — we break down the minutiae into a public commodifiable event — and then give this away for free through interfaces that profit from our addiction. Politics is stuck and the idealised idea of democracy from centuries past is fundamentally outdated. It’s largely accepted that we can’t continue on this trajectory — It will eventually break.

I feel politically we’re caught in a cycle — hoping for our next liberator — but our focus is all wrong. We should be questioning how we got here in the first place. Only when we understand that we can truly break the mould. My concern is that we’re all products of our own making, too internally focused to think beyond the status quo, and that’s exactly where the governments want us – idle, predictable, safe. Personally for me the true thing is the fear of not knowing — not knowing how this all ends. Where reality is our best shared hallucination.

Was there a specific rationale behind being a two-piece, and do you find there are any particular limitations to operating within that setup?

Owen: It came as quite a natural thing. Before Modern Technology formed Chris and I had been jamming on and off for many years in a variety of different setups, but it didn’t quite click until we came together just the two of us. There was a real raw energy, with both the bass and drum sounds being so clear that you couldn’t hide behind anything. We also enjoyed playing with those limitations – Seeing how far we can push the sound just the two of us, and also stripping back an instrument at certain points to reveal the space.

Chris: To link with your description of us — The primitivism spurs a little from our limitations, both in talent and the constraints being a two piece affords. It’s something we both delight in, allowing the tension between bass and drums to manifest in ways that are quite precise. The limitations are important to us because it truly focuses our music. We know the scope and parameters that we can work within and this often forces us to try sometimes naive and unexpected combinations of things, purely from trying to work around our constraints.

A bass guitar inherently is restricted, it has fewer strings and a low emphasis. We couple that with a set of loud humbuckers and a board of pedals that have a myriad of different distortions and ways of producing slight variances in harmonics. The MT sound comes a lot through mixtures of cheap digital and analog pedals — that help create that tone that’s slightly industrial.

There’s a real transparency that we also enjoy — being a two piece really lays you bare — with Owen and I really having to work hard to stay mechanical and locked rather than being able to hide behind more musicians.

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What’s your creative process? Is it quite structured, or is it something more organic?

Owen: The process is really organic, more so than any bands I’ve been in before. Chris and I really enjoy jamming and that tends to lead to at least a couple of new ideas each practice. Also unlike previous bands Chris doesn’t mind me chipping in on bass riff ideas, kindly not mocking my hummed riffs that I’ll send over from time to time. Although when Chris eventually plays them he does always make them a lot better!

Chris: I guess we have a very explorative approach, we take great joy in just stepping in a room and playing on different trajectories till something eventually overlaps. There’s nothing better for us when that moment clicks and you’ve lost an hour playing the same riff. As mentioned earlier — it’s exactly that catharsis in why we started the band in the first place. It’s a physical and emotional release for us, a chance for us to really vent, where in our day to day we are both quite controlled human beings.

Musically, you sit somewhere in a bracket of noisy, nihilistic post-punk. Who would you say you feel most affinity with, both in terms of precursive influences and contemporaries?

Owen: When we first met, although we had a lot of similar musical interests, there was definitely a bit of a divide in our tastes – Chris coming from a more punk, grind and psychobilly background, and myself listening to more metal, sludge and doom. So meeting in the middle has been an interesting process and I think has led to quite a different sound than we could have expected.

Chris: Owen and I both originally hail from the south west of England, which during our childhood seemed to be the perfect stomping ground for alternative music. Growing up I had a lot of musical influences that crossed a myriad of genres. It’s hard to really pinpoint any specific bands, but there has always been a strong undercurrent of real authentic voice within the music.

I jokingly once described us as a post-truth band, which however forced that terminology might be, certainly describes a step on from where we may be labeled as post-punk or post -industrial to something more fitting of the influences we draw our references from now.

The sound marries a bunch of different inspirations for us. Musically and culturally — What’s important for me is creating an ‘atmosphere’ — one that feels exasperated, worn-out and futile. Which on reflection I guess goes some way to explaining some of the melodrama in the vocal style. It certainly wasn’t an intentional subversion to sing like that — it just seemed to help add depth to the tight, rhythmic pattern the music was developing in.

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The profits from your debut EP went to Shelter and Mind. Would it be fair to say you’re more concerned with societal issues than success in the conventional sense? And why did you choose those particular charities

Owen: We never started the band to make any money or for any sort of success – In fact it’s been quite a pleasant surprise that people are enjoying what we do. So when we started looking at selling our record it didn’t sit well with us to keep the profits and we thought it would be much more appropriate to try to give something back to those affected by all of this mess that our songs explore.

That’s when we decided that any profits we make off the physical and digital release will go to charities Mind and Shelter. Shelter is doing some amazing work with the homeless and people on low income, which unfortunately has become far too common after years of austerity and benefit cuts. Mind is also doing some incredible work for mental health – an area which has in the past been overlooked, but is becoming an ever-growing issue with society’s increasing demands, stresses and strains. Their work also links back to Shelter’s, as a lot of people going through housing issues unfortunately also suffer from mental health problems along the way, so the two charities feel like good close allies.

So far we’ve raised nearly £600 through our record sales and we hope to make even more through our upcoming shows.

You’ve a handful of live dates coming up, and the shows feature some cracking lineups (especially the London show, which is also a charity benefit gig). How did they come about?

Owen: We were contacted by James from Lump Hammer to say they were planning to come down from Newcastle and whether we’d like to do some shows together. We set about making plans and thought it would be nice to try and do something special for the London show – bringing together a range of friends we’ve met through our music and trying to raise some money for charity. The response has been amazing and we were delighted to have so many amazing artists agreeing to get involved!

We’ll be joined on the night by the amazing noise-punkers Bruxa Maria who we’re all huge fans of and who are about to bring out a new album, so expect some of that! A fantastic chap called Mr Christopher Nosnibor will also be joining us for a one-off collaboration with absurdly prolific home-made electronics and noise artist Cementimental aka Tim Drage. The show is being co-promoted by the excellent Total Cult who have put together a Spotify playlist of the line-up, alongside some top Hominid Sounds and Black Impulse selections.

The London charity show will be held at The Victoria, Dalston on Friday 28th June. Tickets are just £5 from Seetickets, Dice & Eventbrite. You can find out more about the show on the Facebook event page. It should be a really fun night so if you’re in London in June make sure to be there!

After that, we then move onto Leicester to play at show with the the brilliant promoters The Other Window and then finally to Brighton to team up with the excellent Pascagoula. It’s going to be one hell of a weekend!

Modern Tech gig

Could you summarise what you do and what you’re about in a single sentence?

Chris: If you are neutral in times of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor — Desmond Tutu

7th January 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I like Modern Technology before I’ve even heard a note. Drummer Owen approached me through Facebook having clocked Aural Aggravation with a link to the East London duo’s debut EP. Most bands starting out want to get on the radar, and get some cash back for the hard graft they’ve put in trying to get to the point of putting music out into the public domain, especially as a physical release – and this comes in limited-to-200 clear vinyl in addition to the digital version – but they’re donating all profits between Mind and Shelter, perhaps two of the most vital charities in the age of austerity.

I may not have written much about the plight of the homeless, although the fact we have a massive problem here in Britain right now requires no qualification, but I have touched on mental health on more than one occasion here in the past. The oft-shared statistics are just statistics, but in my day-job (yes, I work for a multinational who deal in insurance and investments, because, incredibly reviewing bands no-one’s heard of and writing books no-one reads doesn’t pay the bills) I’m often required to step out of my role to help people and to listen to people. They all have trouble. They’re all stressed. They’re all anxietised. Some are depressed. I know how they feel, and they know it. It really is good to talk. No, not just good: vital. This is my daily reality. So the fact that the bulk of CD I get sent for review which I don’t choose to keep end up at my local Mind charity shop is just something I do. Because it’s important to do what you can, right?

According to their bio, Modern Technology formed through ‘a shared frustration of the post-truth society and political unrest that is currently suffocating our global conscious’. The one positive of political turbulence is the spur to creativity: it’s no coincidence that that post-punk emerged during the Thatcher era, and it’s fair to say that the parallels between then and now are strong. One major difference now, however, is that it’s practically impossible to sign on and form a band: zero-hours contracts and the benefits system mean that even looking for work is a full-time job, and the economics of making music simply don’t stack favourably. But regardless of economics, all that shit has to go somewhere. You need to process. You need to vent. Modern Technology sound like a band who are doing this not for fun, but because they need to.

The EP’s opener provides a theme tune of sorts: entitled ‘Modern Technology’, it launches with an ear-shredding blast of splintering noise, before pulverizing drums, grating bass and squalling feedback hammer out a sonic landslide of a backdrop to a hollering vocal, half-lost in an avalanche of reverb. Christ! They’ve got the savagery of early Head of David coupled with the goth-noise mania of The Birthday Party.

It certainly sets the tone and tempo: ‘Project Fear’ is two minutes of overloading, distorted fury that makes optimal use of lo-fi production values for maximum impact. It hits like a punch in the guts. Deciphering the lyrics isn’t easy and at times is pretty much impossible, but the sentiment is more than adequately conveyed by the medium. Besides, the titles speak for themselves in many respects, as they take the most mundane aspects of contemporary capitalist living and attack them with shuddering sonic barrages. Shades of psych filter through the scuzzed-up tumult of no-wave noise. And deep from within that sonic cyclone screams the painful truth: everything is fucked.

When they do slow it down, as on the grinding ‘Select Retail’, they bring out the brooding theatricality and highlight the depthlessness and superficiality of consumerism with the blank slogan / refrain ‘Select retail / reject detail’. But then they also do choppy, bass-led Shellac-tinged angularity on ‘Queue Jumper’. Closer ‘Modern Detritus’ distils every last ounce of frustration and compresses it into a dense roar of thunder.

Modern Technology are the real deal: this isn’t music being made with one eye on a commercial ticket, but music that’s born out of compulsion, the urge to purge. It’s art. It’s raw, it’s visceral, it’s painful. And in expressing the agony of frustration, it’s perfect.

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