Conure Interview 2/9/2009


1. For those 1st coming to hear about Conure tell us how the project came to be?

I had been thinking about starting my own noise project for some time, and in mid-May of 2000, I finally bought my first piece of equipment -- a Yamaha CS2X. With the addition of some "free" software that I got from Mason of Exclipsect, I started my first recordings. I then started acquiring additional hardware from my bandmates in Imperial Floral Assault Unit (which started around the same time as Conure) and 15 Degrees Below Zero, and Conure slowly evolved into what it is today.

In case you're not aware, conures are large parrakeets or small parrots. (I've heard them described both ways, but I'm definitely not an expert. I love the birds, but I've never owned one myself.) I had actually planned to use the name Conure for some time before I started the project because of an inside joke with a friend. I won't include it here, though, since it really won't make sense to anybody else.

2. Mark you also work for or run Crunch Pod Media correct . Tell us about that?

Actually, neither is correct. Crunch Pod (the label's current name) is run by Ben Arp (aka C/A/T). Ben originally ran the label as a hobby, mostly releasing CDRs of his friends' projects as well as his own. I had been friends with Ben for a few years before I started working on music, and he was one of the first people I approached about releasing my recordings once I did start. (My very first Conure release, though, was a split cassette with LHDSWTH -- a collaboration between lefthandeddecision and Sleeping With the Earth -- on Troniks.) Ben put out most of my early CDR releases as well as my first real CD, "49 Minutes (Until Release)". However, shortly after that release, he stopped viewing the label as just a hobby and wanted to make it into more of a business. With this shift also came a focus on more beat-oriented bands (which makes perfect sense considering Ben's current musical tastes). Even though Ben isn't releasing any of my current material, he's still very supportive of what I do -- which can be seen by the fact that I'm still using his domain for my websites and e-mail. (I'm guessing this is why people think I work for or run Crunch Pod.) I can't imagine either Conure or 15 Degrees Below Zero being where they are today without him. Thanks, Ben!

3. Conure is working with Edgetone Records for last few releases. How did you come to work with this label?

I was having a tough time finding a home for "The Generation of Our Grandfathers". Most labels that I sent it to said that they liked it, but couldn't release it for various reasons -- wasn't appropriate for their label, too many scheduled releases already, etc, etc. I told my friend Andre Custodio how frustrated I was getting with this, especially considering how happy I was with the recording, and he asked me if I had ever thought of working with Edgetone (who had just released his latest Nihil Communication release). I had met Rent, who runs the label, a few times at various shows, but I wasn't familiar with the label at all. I looked over the label's website and was very happy with what I read, especially this: "Unlike many music corporate structures that mimic a parasite, Edgetone is dedicated to a symbiotic relationship between artist and itself by releasing recordings by artists who are 'self-producers', show a clear proactive interest in working in a community environment with empowerment as the base, a mind for business, and not just looking for the 'deal'. Edgetone does not just 'put out' records, it supports artists."

I sent Rent an e-mail about "The Generation...", and he seemed interested from the start, even before listening to the material. I don't think he was familiar with any of my previous recordings, but he had seen some of my past performances. We came to an agreement, and I've been very happy working with him ever since. Edgetone has released two Conure CDs, one 15DBZ CD, and will be releasing the next 15DBZ CD in April. I'm free to release things on other labels, and will do so if the interest is there, but Edgetone will remain Conure's primary home.

4. Conure is a live force is it hard to be a pedal/ gear based project to perform live?

During the actual performances, no. When I first started playing live, my set-up was pretty much a mix of software and hardware. However, now it's 100% hardware -- a mix of pedals, mics, contact mics, and occaisonally, keyboards and other devices. I don't even remember the last time that I used software for a live Conure performance. (15DBZ is a different story.) I prefer the tactile feelings of the knobs, and I find it's easier for me to stay focussed on the direction the sounds are taking when I'm using hardware.

Other than that, though, being a hardware performer is definitely not that easy! Lugging around the number of bags full of equipment and merch that I do is not the most fun I can imagine, not to mention the amount of set-up and tear-down time that I require compared to other electronics-based artists! At least when I play locally, I can throw everything in my car trunk. However, when I have to fly -- which I've had to do for shows in Berlin, New York, Providence, and Montreal -- things become much more difficult because I have to try to fit everything in my check-in bags, including clothes (which help to protect the equipment) and grooming supplies! (I prefer not to carry any of my equipment on because I don't want to haul the stuff through the airport, and I don't want to have to explain what everything is to security. Fortunately, I haven't had any problems with equipment breaking or being stolen -- YET.) So, yes, insisting on remaining a gear based project can be very hard at times indeed! I'm oftentimes very jealous of John Wiese who does large tours with just his laptop and is still able to sound like he's playing pedals! However, I remember why I put myself through all of this everytime I start playing.

5. Do you always perform Conure as a solo artist do are there collabs for live shows.

Until recently, I wasn't really interested in collaborating with anybody outside of 15 Degrees Below Zero. (In mid-2007, there was one live Nihil Communication/Conure collaboration, but this was just an exception to the rule.) However, this past December, I was playing a fundraiser show for Outsound Presents, a local community of artists headed by Rent of Edgetone, and at the end of the night, there was a large scale collaboration between all of the artists involved in the fundraiser, most of them from the free jazz/"new music" world. It was certainly a unique experience for me and a hell of a lot of fun! This really opened me up to future collaborations, and coincidentally enough, several offers popped up right after that.

In January alone, I ended up collaborating with Whormongr (a San Francisco-based IDM/power noise project), Big City Orchestra (on their ubRadio Salon web radio series), and Andre Custodio. In the next couple of months, I have two shows scheduled with Andre and Thomas Dimuzio (solo and collaboration sets) to celebrate the release of our Thomas Dimuzio + Andre Custodio / Conure split release release on Cohort Records. So, yeah, I'm really into the idea of live collaborations right now. (Even if I wasn't, though, I still would have jumped at the chance to collaborate with Thomas. He's always been one of my main influences.)

6. Is there a running theme with Stream . It seem a lot darker and massive then earlier release to my ear?

In the sense of an actual narrative concept as found in "The Generation of Our Generations", no, there isn't a theme. However, in terms of the sounds used and the overall construction of "Stream", there is. I was trying to make a recording that more closely matched the sounds of my live performances. Thus, the main components of "Stream" consist of heavily processed field recordings, scraping and hitting of contact mics, and other processed mic sounds, which are also the main components of a lot of my shows. These elements also exist in my previous recordings, but not to the extent that they appear on "Stream". There are also sounds on "Stream" that I won't use in performances, such as the synth chords at the beginning of "Sycan", but I feel those elements further accentuate the other elements. However, there was no conscious effort to make "Stream" either angry sounding (a term used in your review of the CD) or darker. That's just where this particular album took me!

7. If someone was to ask you Mark how would you explain Conure to them.

This is probably the hardest question to answer out of all the ones you sent me! I always have a problem describing my sound. I usually just say, "ambient noise", but that really doesn't mean anything to anybody not familiar with this type of music as it is. I've said "experimental electronic music" to some, "avant-garde sounds" to older people, and when I'm feeling more descriptive, I describe Conure's music as being the manipulation and processing of various tones and sound sources. I know that doesn't really say anything, but it's the best that I can come up with!

8. I think Conure would be great for dvd media will there be a video format or music for soundtrack coming . Your atmosphere's would work so well for either.

Thank you! Nothing is currently planned, but I would definitely be open to the idea. Unfortunately, though, my artistic ability is limited to audio so this would require another type of collaboration. For now, I'd probably be more interested in creating the soundtrack for somebody else's project than looking for someone to work with on my own, though.

9. What is the major difference from 15 degrees below zero vs conure?

I was initially going to say the instrumentation used (the addition of Dan's laptop and sampler and Michael's guitar to my equipment) is the main difference, but upon further thought, it's really the ideas behind the sounds. Everything that comes out of Conure is me. There are influences there, sure, including influences from working with Mike and Dan, but it's still just me. However, 15DBZ is a complete partnership in regards to the music. I know I tend to be the public face of the band, and I make most of the organizational decisions, but when it comes to the music, it's all of us. It's not just a collaboration between three separate people either. We bring sides out of each other that don't show up in each other's past or current solo projects. I play stuff with them that I would never imagine doing with Conure, and the same goes with them as well. Conure is my own mind, but when things are on with the band, 15DBZ is its own separate identity, not just Mike, Dan, and Mark playing together. There are definite disagreements when working on new material, and there have been some pretty nasty arguments, but I've never failed to see something worthy coming out of those disagreements, something that would not have existed without the conflict. And it's that melding of different ideas that makes up the difference. (I hope that actually makes sense to somebody else besides just me!)

10. Where do you see conure's sound moving as it seem to have a more organic/ analog style now ?

I don't really see it moving in one particular direction. I'm sure there will be more works reminiscent of "Stream", but I'm interested in producing more atmospheric sounds as well. However, when starting a new work, I don't usually have a firm idea of where I want it to go. I have a few ideas that I want to play with, the results birth more new ideas, and so on. After several rounds of this playing, I finally start realizing what further elements the work needs in order for it to feel like a whole piece, and only then do I realize what sound that work is going to have -- harsh, dark, moody, atmospheric, rhythmic, or whatever. I may be using slightly different tools now, but I'm still unable to predict the direction any particular work will go, much less predict where Conure's sound in general is going to end up.

11. Are you a fan of the Digital age (Myspace, Digital Audio, Webzines, Internet radio) or do you miss the days of radio, paper zines and tape trading???

It's not so cut-and-dried for me. There are elements from both sides that appeal to me equally. For instance, I do miss the tactile feel of zines, but I also love the convenience of webzines. And, while I also love how easy it is for people to sample my music via MySpace, LastFM, my own website, and other sites, I personally prefer to find new artists the old fashioned way -- through live shows, word of mouth, and actually plopping my money down to sample something new, even though I know that I may hate it. (I'm actually pretty good at selecting things that I'll like, though.)

There are also elements from both that do nothing for me. I'll be 38 this year so I'm definitely old enough to have been around for tape trading, but I wasn't really part of this. It just didn't interest me. The same goes for radio. I feel that it definitely has its place for promotion or artists, but I wasn't interested in listening to it myself. However, the same can be said for internet radio. I don't listen to that either.

Well, frankly, I don't listen to any music on my computer. I prefer physical copies of releases, and that is one area where I can't stand the digital age. I loathe the proliferation of MP3s as a new standard. Sure, MP3s are great for sampling new music, but to actually really LISTEN to compressed music on a regular basis? Give me a physical release (I prefer CD over vinyl, but I still have a large vinyl collection) with uncompressed music and actual artwork, and I'm a happy man. Download a band's new release through iTunes? No, thank you. And to prove that I a complete hypocrite, most Conure and 15DBZ CDs are available as MP3s through your standard sources!

12. Whats you thoughts on the current underground music movement in North America do you see a major rebirth or is it very difficult?

This question kind of ties in with the last one for me. I think the underground music movement is VERY strong right now due to the digital age, at least in terms of the number of people letting go of mainstream artists and looking elsewhere for music. There are now so many places to go for people who want to sample new artists. There is definitely a lot more crap for people to wade through, too, but this is a necessary evil for finding the good stuff.

In terms of being able to support one's art financially, though, it is very difficult. (And by supporting one's art, I don't mean paying rent, etc. I suspect underground artists will always have to have an outside source of income. I just mean bringing in enough money to cover your expenses for what you're doing.) One would think that with the relative ease of finding new fans these days, more money would be coming in, but I don't see this happening. Maybe it has to do with piracy, but my (completely uneducated) guess is that this is only a small part of it. The current state of the economy definitely has a part to play in this, but I'm sure there are other factors as well that my currently sluggish brain isn't even thinking of.

13. Do you have interest in working with others on music for Conure or is it way to personal?

As mentioned above, I do enjoy the occaisonal live collaboration now, and I've also done a few collaborative recordings (with Kenji Siratori on a so far unreleased EP and with Moz for a track that was supposed to appear on a Moz ten anniversary release that unfortunately never happened), but as a whole, when working outside of 15 Degrees Below Zero, I prefer to work alone. For one thing, it's difficult to schedule time with others (and that does include scheduling time with 15DBZ), but the main reason for this is that Conure is my chance to see what I am able to achieve on my own. In the future, if I have an idea that I don't have the technical ability to pull off myself, I might utilize other people (but I don't see this happening any time soon), but that's really about it.

14. Thank you for your time place any closing thoughts here.

I don't really have anything to add other than to say thank you, and thanks to those of you who have given my work a chance.