2 Dec 2011
Planet 'O' - When Heads Collide - A Rocket Interview with Oneida
The following interview was 1st published in 'Optical Sounds' fanzine (Issue 3) here
CHRIS FROM ROCKET RECORDINGS SENDS OUT A SIGNAL TO PLANET ‘O’ AND HERE IS WHAT WAS TRANSMITTED BACK:
(Thanks to everyone & anyone not credited for the photo's)
CHRIS ROCKET: When we first started reading about you in mags like Careless Talk Costs Lives and Loose Lips Sink Ships, the journalists always found it important to mention you were from NY and part of the so called 'Brooklyn scene', do you think the influence of NYC was integral to the Oneida sound?
KID: Well back in the day we lied to the UK journalists about the scene. There was something - but we blew it out of proportion in order to stoke the interest. That said - the Careless Talk piece was the 2nd wave of the Oneida press. We got a ton of big features written about us when Enemy Hogs came out in 1999. Our label at the time, Turnbuckle, had hired a promotion guy in the UK who was very good. He pitched features for us in so many fucking magazines. . .the other thing that Turnbuckle was doing was flying journalists over and putting them up in NY hotels. . .so there was a bit of payola involved. The journalists got a free trip to NYC and then they agreed to spend some time with Oneida. But to Oneida's credit - once they were here we kind of kicked their asses. We got good at blowing minds. . .
So anyway - when we started there was no scene. There were a few monthly parties, a few art spaces and no venues in Brooklyn. There were no bands who were excited about the same music we dug - UK Glam, Detroit Proto punk, Cleveland punk, Krautrock. . .etc. . .
We also saw how pointless it was to play the shitty dive bars in order to "make it". . .I had worked at the Knitting Factory so I had no illusions about the cynicism of the club environments. . .so we just forged our own path through the city, playing spots where people were already partying. We also played shows, had Turnbuckle buy us a keg and serve free beer. So yeah - people came to have a cheap, fun time. That was how our reputation was built in the beginning. We also knew that no one would give a shit about our band for about 5-6 years. . .we were right!
It wasn't until the 2nd wave of press about Brooklyn hit that we started to meet the bands that we apparently shared a scene with like Black Dice. . .I mean we're friends now - but. . .back then it was pretty pixelated.
BARRY: I think that NY influences us as much as anything else influences us, I mean there are moments where there are things we've done musically where I feel like "oh this is like the noise from the construction work outside of my apt", but I also feel as if alot of what happens with us happens in a space that we make of our own musically, a place we all end up going together.
BOBBY: The idea of a “NYC influence” is murky and imprecise. Looking at NY’s musical history, you’d have to incorporate nearly every facet of popular (and anti-popular) music in order to make a case for an “NYC sound.” However, the experience of living and playing in New York, and Brooklyn in particular, has certainly been integral to our experience as a group and as creative-minded individuals, simply because we’re surrounded by multitudes of similarly-inclined people. While there are certainly plenty of folks who view New York as a springboard to success or cultural acceptance of some kind, there’s also a substantial population interested in the idea of creative community – those who want nothing more than to bend their energy ceaselessly toward some kind of vision, and who revel in the fact that there are others who share this drive – no matter if the eventual product seems related or wholly individual. We’ve done our best to make use of this very real possibility of community, and it’s a point of pride for me that I’ve been a part of some category of successful idealism. That’s pretty tough to manage in most contexts, especially sustained over a long period – and Brooklyn has proven a fertile ground for this.
SHAHIN: As somebody who whose own band Ex Models shared many a handbill with Oneida back in the day, only to be asked to join them years later, I offer myself as definitive, irrefutable, mystery-dismantling, conclusive Proof that the Brooklyn Scene provided demonstrable—even quantifiable--Influence on the Oneida Sound.
JANE: Well, the influence of the NYC/Brooklyn thing had more to do with the community that we had outside of music. Brooklyn mattered because it was where we all lived, in close proximity. Brooklyn was where our parties were, where our friends were. The proximity allowed us to drop in on things and feel organic and casual about playing and socializing in a way we had experienced in school, where many of us first met, and in a way that we would not have known how to access in Manhattan.
CHRIS ROCKET: I remember the first time i witnessed you live at the Buffalo Bar in London, you started with a 30 minute version of Sheets of Easter that totally blew my head off, i remember turning around and seeing more scared faces than smiling faces, though that track has become your most revered track, why do you think people have taken to it so much and want to hear it every time you play?
KID: I think people responded to it because it's such a simple and inevitable idea. The music was already there - we just played it.
BARRY: People like sheets because it's rad.
BOBBY: It’s beyond my powers, at least, to figure out how and why people experience/consume our music the way they do. I have always believed completely in the power and meaning of Oneida’s music, even in its most casual and ambiguous presentations. I’m not surprised, I guess, that sometimes it’s challenging for people to feel the same way about it as I do, but by the same token I’m not surprised when it seems as though people are moved by it, or swept up in it…I just can’t predict effectively, and I’ve been pretty successful at not trying too hard to sweat this. Let me be clear: “Sheets of Easter” is an amazing composition, and we are a bad-ass band; so I guess that’s why people like it….right now, anyway.
JANE: Maybe people like it because they like to see us work hard. Naw, that can’t be it. It’s probably because music fans don’t really like notes very much and ‘Sheets’ has very few notes. We are awfully kind to our listeners. That’s the way of the O.
CHRIS ROCKET: Do each of you have a personal favourite Oneida track, be it one you are proud of or just one you love to play live?
KID: I have lots of tracks I'm proud of that I think get short shrift. . .for instance I think Enemy Hogs is a triumph. It rocks, it's catchy, and it's hilarious. Each record I think stands on its own - and I'm proud of them all. . .right now I love improvising live - that's kind of where my head is at. Songs are not as interesting to me anymore - I mean we beat songs into the ground for 11 years and our fans are fucking rad - there aren't a ton of them - plus they seem to hang tight even when we do outrageous things. . .so I believe our fans can handle the improvising phase of Oneida. . .it's this weird broken band kind of thing that I don't think has a precedent. . .or well whatever who knows. I'm excited about it.
BARRY: Gosh, I love so many tracks, uh, I think I really like it when we play what's up jackal live and pull it off. I love playing all of Pre-teen too.
BOBBY: That’s an interesting question. I guess I might have favorites from time to time, but they’re usually circumstantial – not permanent favorites, but just tunes that I’m feeling at a given moment for some reason. Often, I’m remembering the recording or composition process fondly or with pride – maybe some risky decision or performance idea that worked out, maybe some accident of chance that pulled a song together, maybe a vision perfectly (or accidentally) realized – right now, the first thing that pops to mind is “History’s Great Navigators” from our album “Happy New Year” – it’s just something that was fun as hell to record, came out of a variety of perspectives and attempts, something we reconfigured in various ways for live performance…just a flexible composition that was written around some ideas that turned out to be maybe more lasting than I thought at the time.
JANE: I have lots of O songs that I love: some for playing some for listening. Big 5: 1) Human Factor, 2) Town Crier, 3) New Head, 4) Sneak Into the Woods, 5) Hard Workin’ Man.
CHRIS ROCKET: I chatted to Kid after the last Ocropolis show at Minehead and even though he said it was an amazing experience he also said it will be a long time until you try that again as it takes too much out of you...but there you are, doing it again at the next NY ATP curated by Portishead, what was the lure, and who do you hope will join you on stage?
KID: Its such an amazing experience - on a personal level. To overcome all your anxieties about generating material, to play with your idols (like Mike Watt) and to acquit yourself decently. . .all this stuff adds up. It has informed the next phase of the band. . .the Ocropolis performances are Oneida. . .it's the truest form of the band we can present. In terms of who might join us in Atlantic City? It's a little early to tell. . .but definitely Aaron Mullan of Tall Firs - he's been a part of every one so far - we can't break the chain!
BARRY: Why does a man climb a mountain? Because it's there. It's hard to do, there's a lot that has to go into doing it, it's physically and emotionally exhausting, but the fact that we can do it, and it's never the same and there is so many variables, it's sort of like getting on a 12 hour roller coaster, high highs and low lows, it's super scary but super fun, and there is that feeling of having run a marathon by the end of it. Dunno if that's am explanation or not. As far as who I want to join us onstage? Springsteen in asbury park..
BOBBY: It is so hard to sustain mental and physical energy and focus during these extended performances, especially (for me, at least) the improvisatory, instant-composition mental demands, that by the end we’ve all experienced a wrenching form of altered consciousness. I wouldn’t believe a fucking thing anyone tells you after an Ocropolis performance! The lure is, in part at least, this altered consciousness and the intense musical revelations it has occasioned within us as individuals and as a collective entity. It’s indescribable, and has changed us radically and permanently as musicians and as thinkers. I don’t know if we’ll ever stop doing it, honestly – or some kind of performance experience that opens doors in similar ways.
SHAHIN: It's actually much worse than that.. When we perform the Ocropolis at the Asbury Park ATP, we will have performed a ten hour improv in the MIDDLE of a THREE DAY show in Secret Project Robot (upstairs from our Brooklyn Studio) in June, a 6 hour set for a Japan benefit in our studio in March, and recorded another 7 hours or so of improvising later that month.
For me the lure changes each time. The first time we did it we were very much prodded by The Flaming Lips to come up with an outlandish set idea for the ATP they were curating. It was Kid's initiative as I recall, a large-scale extension of a series of parties we were having inside our studio. If you have heard the phrase "it seemed like a good idea at the time" I can tell you what it means. Anyway, it was! Looking back, the first ten hour improv was the hardest, and it reallybroke our brains.. really, in a beautiful way I think.
It turns out that there's a place you sort of have to get to in order to make up music on the spot for ten hours, with a rotating cast of friends and people you admire, on zany gear you may or may not be able to monitor very well, in front of a paying festival audience, and to have a good time with your band doing it. Wherever that is, I wasn't all there when we started that first one, but I was when we finished and I'm not sure I know another way to get there. There's no coat-rack for hangups inside the Ocropolis, put it that way.
More recently I think we're all curious to see where this takes us musically, and that's why documenting the events is really important. I think we're all of the belief that these performances draw music out of us we would never make otherwise, and that's why it's important and kind of fascinating for us to record them.
JANE: I don’t remember committing to this.
CHRIS ROCKET: Tell us about some of the people you have played with in the last two Ocropolis performances, who 'got it' the most, who pushed you into uncharted territory etc?
KID: Well. . .damn. . .each performer took us to new heights. . .I mean there are so many. The Boredoms, Hisham Bharoocha, Zach Hill, Deerhoof, Flaming Lips, Mike Watt, The Dead C, White Hills. . .all of those jams took us to different and interesting places. . .no one was the "best" - everyone brings their A game. . .
That said - the most damaged performance was Dead C. . .I think actually they might have broken Oneida. I say this in a good way - they might have shown us a new path in improvisation we're still mining. . .
BARRY: Dead C was insane, it was the most sea sick music of pushing and pulling in the most bizarre way, it really pushed us as a band and into uncomfortable territory kind of like a plane that's gone out of control. On the other end of that spectrum Mike Watt came up threw down his cane, picked up his bass and just kicked it. Good times.
BOBBY: I’ll answer this personally, not on behalf of others – playing with the Dead C guys at Minehead was powerful for me, because they enforced a personal vision on the performance that we wrestled with in various ways, and I had to strip away some vestigial notions that I had brought with me to the performance, or that had been built throughout the previous hours of playing and improvising. They were musically confrontational – not aggressive, not brutal, but they actively pushed against ideas of collaboration and cooperation, presenting a deliberate deconstruction of the group-improv process that was ultimately awesome and produced a more pointillistic kind of sound from the stage – scattered individual fragments of sound that clashed and scraped against each other, rather than combining into a coherent single entity of sound. Playing within that altered context was exhilarating and inspirational for me.
SHAHIN: I think the ones that agree to do it all get it, there's really nothing more you need to "get" once you've agreed to do it. I remember having an especially great time playing with folks from Boredoms, Home, Dead C, Deerhoof, Tall Firs, Black Dice, Christy & Emily. I'll add my bandmates in Knyfe Hyts but that goes without saying. For me Boredoms, Dead C and Deerhoof folks all kind of messed with my mind and I found myself doing really unnatural things with the group that sounded cool to me. It's always an honor and a thrill when curators like the Flaming Lips and Godspeed play with us. I remember being shocked, nearly to inaction, when Mike Watt took the stage at The Nightmare Before Christmas.
JANE: Yeah, we have had many great connections with performers during these improvs but the Dead C thing was a good big problem. That knocked some pretty stubborn gears loose. Also, the very first Ocropolis jam at the very first Ocropolis (ATP staged that is) was with Akron Family and that was such a fun and successful connection that I have to say that it set the tone for my ongoing relationship with this whole thing. That was WONDERFUL.
CHRIS ROCKET: Predictable question time, but who living or dead would you love to see joining you on stage for an Ocropolis performance?
KID: Neil Michael Hagerty, Thurston Moore, Kate Bush, Jimi, Joni Mitchell. . .
BARRY: A few years back we played a festival in Sweden and this older guy was playing in a band that was he and another B3 player and as we watched Bobby and I realized we were watching Bo Hansson, and it was rad, I think he passed away a few years ago, but he's my fantasy jammer.
BOBBY: Living: Ralf, Florian, Moebius, Roedelius, all together w/the O. Dead: Jimi, no question.
JANE: Living: Neil Young, Yo La Tengo crew, Yoko Ono, Angus & Malcolm Young, Brother JT (reunion, brah!), Kelly Clarkson. Dead: Jimi, Roy Orbison, Bernie (from ‘Weekend at…’).
CHRIS ROCKET: I hear both Ocropolis performances were recorded, will these ever see the light if day? I know a UK label that would love to put them out ha ha!!!
KID: Wading through the material will take a lot of time. . .so when the time is right we're going to do it properly - maybe we need some funding to do it. . .I'm not sure. We're all so busy - but yeah - those performances will be explored and released at some point! Yeah - perhaps that UK label will get a taste!
BARRY: Hopefully the Ocrops will see the light of day, but when you have 24 hours of music to go through, highlight and edit, and also want to be an active band and make new studio records, you have to pick and choose your battles. One of these days we will spend a few weekends going through it all and start to make the Ocropolis Into digestible listening adventures, when? Only time will tell.....
BOBBY: All recorded to multitrack, yep. They will see the light of day in some form, but we are being measured and thoughtful, waiting to see how this experience and project develops. If someone came along with a massive, thought-out proposal that combined vast ambition and a persuasive sense of mission, we’d listen very carefully to them.
JANE: If we ever stopping playing new Ocropolis shows then maybe we would have time to release the old ones. Not looking hopeful, brah.
CHRIS ROCKET: Repetition is an integral part of your music, why?
KID: Hmmm - that question's a bit broad don't you think? But yeah - what we do is not complex. We're going for a mesmerizing kind of experience. We're also trying to break listeners' expectations. "Does this part go on too long? Well let's stretch it out another 5 minutes and see what happens."
I don't know - its what we're drawn to as composers and song writers. We want to lose ourselves in the music and to be able to find the nuances that emerge when you play a riff or pattern over and over. . .I mean Steve Reich and Phillip Glass are clearly antecedents to our music.
BARRY: I like doing things more than once.
BOBBY: We stole the idea from James Brown.
JANE: I like a groove.
CHRIS ROCKET: What are you favourite pieces of repetitive music?
KID: Oh - yeah - well early Phillip Glass and early Steve Reich. . .La Monte Young's Dreamhouse installation. . .James Brown. . .Miles Davis' electric period. . .Can. . .Detroit Techno and Chicago House. . .stuff like that. . .
BARRY: Personally I have a deep fondness for John Carpenter sound tracks, as well as I play synths in the band in a repetitive nature, but the Escape From NY and The Fog soundtracks are definitely influential on me, as much as 13th floor elevators or and other kraut/psych. I also listen to decent amount of hip hop, anything Wu Tang related I still try and check out one way or another.
BOBBY: The complete discography of James Brown from 1967 – 1975.
CHRIS ROCKET: Are there any tracks or albums that are a key influence on the band that would suprise readers of Optical Sound?
KID: Would Moondog surprise anyone? I doubt it. . .but Moondog II was played a lot back in the day. Credence? Oasis? The Carpenters? It's all music. . .at this point in the game nothing should surprise anyone - anyone can listen to any record that ever existed now. It's all in play.
BOBBY: I’m not sure what might come as a surprise – and of course, presenting that would be in a sense insulting to your readers (ie, “what do we think is rad that you fools haven’t considered…”). That said, I’ll at least acknowledge that I listen to WKTU more than you might imagine, and maybe that’s an influence on me?
JANE: Yeah, I’m with Bobby, I think that people do not realize just how much dance music we listen to. I mean TONS.
CHRIS ROCKET: What was the original idea behind the Thank Your Parents Tryptitch, and now it is complete, has it turned out the way you wanted or expected?
KID: It has turned out perfectly - not as I expected but it never had any kinds of rules. . .I think it's perfect and heads ain't ready.
BARRY: As far as the thank your parents trilogy is concerned, it has changed alot since the dawn of the project. Initially it was going to be one album, but in the process it became difficult to make deadlines and we shelved alot of the tracks, and then as time passed, and we revisited them realizing how close we were to finishing alot of those tracks, plus we had a whole bunch of new tracks and that's when the scope of doing it as 3 albums kinda came to light. As far as the arc of the three albums, I could not be happier. I love all 3 of them.
BOBBY: The triptych construct is the idea of three layers, three modes of presentation, three interconnected and interdependent components of a whole. I tend to envision the triptych as inviting intensest scrutiny of its center panel, with supporting leaves/panels providing context, narrative direction, physical support and framing. By exploring the infinite sides of the O, “Thank Your Parents” is a recognition of cyclical, multifaceted reality as we experience it. And yeah, it’s awesome. I mean, it’s the only way I’ve actually, literally experienced death so far, and that turned out to be fascinating.
JANE: I just thought that we should acknowledge that we could not have scrapped out the early O without the support (indirect and direct) of some solid parents. Beyond that, what better way to thank a parent than to make music that they would not want to hear or show to their friends or colleagues.
CHRIS ROCKET: The third chapter of the triptych Absolute II features no drums, which is a real departure from most Oneida records how did that come about, did Kid lose his sticks?
KID: Actually the minimal phase of the band was instigated by me - at least in my memory. Perhaps I got tired of my playing for a few months. It was just something I wanted us to explore in the studio. We recorded a bunch of pieces and then sat on them for a while. . .when we returned to them later they sounded exciting to us. There's also a People of the North record that has no drums. . .don't tell Jagjaguwar that though.
BARRY: kid did not loose his sticks but Bobby did hide his mallets.
BOBBY: Kid should probably answer this…but I’ll note that while all five members of Oneida play on this record, your expectations of what exactly is happening at any given moment might not match the factual history of the recording. It is an absolute collaboration
SHAHIN: I think it was a while into it before we realized that Kid doesn't play the drums on it. I think someone pointed out that Bobby doesn't appear to play any organ on it and Jane doesn't seem to play any guitar either. Anyway none of that was on an agenda. It's not totally uncommon for us to realize we have no memory or record of who did what on what recording, and much of the who did what on what instrument on Absolute II is a mystery to us. I mean sometimes we can't even tell who's doing what while we're doing it. We record and experiment in our studio year round, as often as we can. When it came time to take inventory and envision the concluding piece of Thank Your Parents, these recordings stood out thematically and musically and so we worked on them. We figured out much later that they were among the first Oneida recordings made after all the Rated O recordings, and that's fitting and believable to me.
The recordings on Absolute II to me are remarkable for their patience, discipline, acceptance and stillness-- I'm proud of them as a mark of the depths of mutual faith and understanding the five of us have been able to achieve in this context. In some ways it's the recording in which I'm most proud to have been involved.
JANE: We were kind of organically heading this way as an extension of our improvs. Additionally, we had been working on some documentary soundtrack work (e.g. End of Time used on Rated O) that was very minimal and ambient (which I got into the electric piano stuff I contribute to some of Absolute II). Kid wanted to push the minimal thing further and that was an easy sell. Like the whole Thank Your Parents project, we just kind of collaboratively and organically got there.
CHRIS ROCKET: To me the tracks on Absolute II sound like incidental music for some amazing psyched out movie, have you ever been approached to soundtrack a film before?
KID: We have done a couple soundtracks - you can hear unreleased Oneida music on the films Speedo by Jesse Moss and Up on the Roof by Sonny Arenson. The music is pretty cool. . .here's an Oneida track you probably don't know about (my drumming is a little sloppy though): http://www.creativearson.com/upontheroof/oneida-history.mp3
I'm not sure what's going to happen with this film - if a DVD will be produced or not - but it's a great film about the gentrification of Williamsburgh, Brooklyn.
BARRY: We did a documentary about pigeons and a doc about demolition derbys.
BOBBY: Yes, a few times, always documentaries. Some have worked out, some haven’t. Still waiting for “Holy Mountain II”.
JANE: I have also been trying to get someone to use this kind of O material in some of the San Fran scene surf movies. No luck yet but from my perspective, such a clear fit.
CHRIS ROCKET: Are there any films from time you would of loved to of been offered to soundtrack?
KID: Top Gun and Point Break would have been fun.
BARRY: Absolute II is lines up perfectly with the hangover II, just don't tell the rest of the band.
BOBBY: Escape from Alcatraz – except the soundtrack for that is so amazing, it’s kind of unfair to imagine a world without it. So maybe some old Roman epic Cecil B DeMille thing, or a Busby Berkely film – it might be a profound experience to write for Esther Williams!
SHAHIN: We've all been involved in composing music for picture, as a band and as individuals. Weirdly, I have a lot of experience doing this for TV advertising, and that experience has taught me that a mutually fulfilling scoring experience is as much about working with a director--and/or whoever else is calling shots on the overall creative team--as it is working with a film. If you don't share a creative vision or some common way of talking about and relating to music, the scoring work and the results can be frustrating.
I would work with any director who was able to accept that they're probably not going to get what they think they're going to get from the O (I mean, who does?), and be psyched about it.
JANE: Old school horror movies. Anything related to Werner Herzog. Westerns and, as I mentioned earlier, surfing movies. Would also love to do music for a Jim Jarmusch movie.
CHRIS ROCKET: Whenever the 'O' come over to the uk you always ask the 'O', Rocket’s johnny O that is, to bathe you in his lightshow, and i do remember the amazing visuals he put together for you on your last UK tour when Teeth Of The Sea supported, why are visuals so important for you, is it the 'dead head' in you demanding the psychedelic lights?
KID: Johnny O is a lighting genius - so of course we want him involved when we come to the UK. He's a master. Thanks for the reminder - I'll make sure to contact him about August!
We've always tried to incorporate additional installation elements to our performances - mainly with Mighty Robot Visuals but also with the Rickety Visuals in Pittsburgh. . .we've also worked with the famous Joshua Light Show on a couple of projects. Analogue visuals are a dying art form - you can't get these effects through digital media yet. . .that doesn't explain why we incorporate visuals. . .but I think it livens up our otherwise pretty static and uninteresting stage presence.
We're also not an incredibly attractive bunch of guys. . .so we need the darkness.
BARRY: Back home our friends from the mighty robot a/v squad do lights for us. With us coming over and having Johnny O do lights for us, to me anyway, it's like an extension of family. I love the idea that we have built an international community of folks who like to do cool shit together. That we can expand the process of a band playing into being something a little bit more. Growing up and going to punk and hardcore shows, and then going to indie rock shows there was very little creative lighting going on, and for the few bands that I did see who did something crazy with the lighting, to me really stood out. Mbv and Neurosis, that stuff was next level to me with crazy projections, and we are seriously blessed to have made friends and co conspirators to deal with your eyes while we deal with your ears.
BOBBY: I don’t think it’s the dead head in me…in fact, I’m 100% sure it isn’t. We value the transportative experience immensely, and adding a visual component to our show adds to that potential. We’re judicious about our collaborators, of course – we love what Johnny O does, so we ask for his input each time we’re around. When we’re on our home turf, or when we’re mounting a full-scale Ocropolis performance, we work with the Secret Project Robot visual crew, who are based in the Monster Island collective with us in Brooklyn. They’ve provided lights, projections, and installations for all of our Ocropolis performances (and will do so again this June in Brooklyn, and October at ATP’s “I’ll Be Your Mirror” event in New Jersey).
SHAHIN: Johnny O is a seriously talented head and his visuals make our show a better experience for us and for the audience. Am I right?! So long as he's moved to do it we'd be crazy not to have him. Jane and I probably spend half the show staring at the visuals and chatting amongst ourselves "dude are you seeing this? let's do long tones on three...".
I mean what really in the moment visuals add is kind of a deep thing. I've never considered music to be an exclusively auditory thing, I mean I'm definitely interested in what it sounds like but that's only one part of the art, one way it effects you, and often for me that's the most boring and least moving part. More than a recording entity, Oneida is a relationship between very different people who find a mutual way of seeing, and being okay in, the world. Oneida is a band, and like any relationship it can be something or it can be nothing. You can't spell okay--and you can't spell Johnny--without the O. In summary, we dig visuals.
JANE: Visuals are just a natural extension of our performance and also give us a chance for yet another layer of collaboration. Johnny O is part of a visuals community near and dear to Oneida. We have the Might Robot AV Squad (based out of Brooklyn, in our studio building), The Rickety Visuals crew based in Pittsburgh, PA and, of course Johnny O, our UK brah. They all have their own style and all lay heavy jams with the lights. It just makes the whole experience better, more complete, more realized.
CHRIS ROCKET: What was the best experience of a psych lightshow you have ever witnessed?
KID: Hmm - definitely three things - Mighty Robot Visuals' work at The Kitchen when Oneida performed The Wedding, Joshua Light Show's Fulldome performance at the Hayden Planetarium and Rickety Visuals put together for Oneida's performance at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
BARRY: Personally it was a show we played in NY with silver apples and the Joshua light show had done lights for us in an old theater in NY. What blew me away was how huge there light crew was and all of these old school techniques that they had used and watching them work their magic was brilliant. Also there was this time in high school that I took acid and went to see David Bowie at the meadow lands for the sound and vision tour and there were these giant Bowie's that freaked me out.
SHAHIN: There was a moment when I sort of woke up on stage at Abrons Art Center on the Lower East Side. We were on stage playing
"Oscillations" with Simeon from Silver Apples over to my left, and the Joshua Light Show--the crew who did the insane psychedelic liquid light shows at the Fillmore East in the 60s-- was doing remarkably mind-bending real time visuals on a giant screen directly behind us, just an enormous crew using technology old and new. I kind of looked around and was like "what decade is it?" and touched the torch.
JANE: For Oneida experiences I’d have to say the heaviest lightshow performances that I can recall were the Might Robot AV visuals during our performance of The Wedding at the Kitchen in NYC, Johnny O’s visuals in that square box place (Kube Cinema?) in Bristol a few years ago,… actually no, Johnny flipped my lid when we played with The Heads in London many years ago. I cannot remember the venue but the visuals were so nuts that I just got totally lost in them. Yeah that’s one of the most truly psych, overwhelming, lost in space moments I have had with visuals while we were on stage. The Rickety Visuals at the Warhol Museum show in Pittsburgh were nuts, they do great analog film loop stuff. Each of those crews has such a distinctive style, each creeping into my brain through a different relay, each inspiring a particular set of immediate emotions for me – Robot’s initially alienate me in a cool Phillip K. Dick way, Rickety’s visuals feel nurturing and warm and Johnny’s cloud me up in these waves of gauze – but they all share these moments of transcendent beauty that just truly fill me with joy. Crap, there’s some hippy for you.
CHRIS ROCKET: The Oneida line up has shrunk and grown several times, do you think these changes have helped your creativity, and if so in what way?
KID: I think yes they have - always. When Crazee quit the band in 2002 we had to re-imagine our sound and make sense of the space we started hearing in our music. That gave birth to the songs on Secret Wars. . .and moved us into the territory of The Wedding and Happy New Year. . .
Then we added some people to flesh out some of the new ideas we were tackling with Preteen Weaponry and Rated O. . .the new guys are taking the music in new directions. So yeah - new people equal new ideas.
BARRY: I've been involved with the o since secret wars, as an engineer and in playing on the records. Each member of the O past and present bring their own magic and what's really nice is that no one really leaves the O. We've had to do a few shows over the last year or two that Bobby wasn't able to do so we call Crazee and see if he wants to and boom, now it's Crazee in the mix. I think that when we do the Ocrops it's sort of an extension of that mentality of "now you are in the O". Everyone plays music differently, hears things differently, reacts to things differently, and it's the dynamics of those musical reactions that make playing with different people so rewarding.
BOBBY: Absolutely – being put in unanticipated positions, working in different situations, listening to different people – all of these are ways to keep us pushing into new perspectives. Right now, the five-piece lineup is exploring a new set of limits and possibilities occasioned by who we’ve been in the last three or four years. Our first lineup change, when PCRZ left in 2001 and we moved from a four- to a three-piece, was a hugely educational experience for us. We learned the value of adaptive evolution, and we learned how to be patient with ourselves creatively. This probably would have been a less productive experience if we hadn’t had a patient, supportive label who was committed to allowing us the space and opportunity to explore and evolve. Thanks, Universal Music Group! Oh shit, sorry, I mean Jagjaguwar.
JANE: This shifts have all helped us to grow creatively but they also clearly reflect or natural organic creative style. It is pretty thrilling to play with such an adaptable, ever-mutating organism. Also, the GuitArmy (Jane and Showtime/Shahin) is an unstoppable Tower of Power and that would not have come to be if the O did not gr-O-w.
CHRIS ROCKET: You all play or have played in many bands, to help the readers out there complete their Oneida family tree can you tell us about all the bands you have played with?
KID: White Hills, Jah Division, Soldiers of Fortune, Man Forever, Midnight O'Connor, Christy and Emily, Super Hussy, Mishagas, People of the North. . .probably some others. . .
BARRY: I played in college in a band called The Vanpelt, I played in a band of the post JSBX world called The Knoxville Girls, I played in a band called Dan Melchior's Broke Revue, I played on and off for a few years with Samara Lubelski and Kid and I play in a band with Crazee called Soldiers of Fortune.
SHAHIN: I used to have a band called Ex Models and that's how I met Oneida; Kid played drums on the last album we did before we went on hiatus. The dudes from Ex Models and I have a stoned alter-ego called Knyfe Hyts that puts out all kinds of stoned brilliant genius. I also play with Kid and Bobby in People of the North a bunch, solo as Inferior Amps, in duo with Noveller's Sarah Lipstate, with Kid in his solo thing Man Forever, all kinds of temporary posts with Awesome Color, Jah Division, as a duo with Noveller's Sarah Lipstate.. there's other comedy that I'm forgetting.
JANE: Sheik Zander (okay that was a highschool band), Super Hussy (w/Kid), Miagi, Karaoke Hustler (w/Bobby), Oneida, The Bible (with Kid and sometimes Barry), On Golden Bong, Jah Division (Kid, Barry, etc.), Tiny Boy (Jane and Barry duo)
CHRIS ROCKET: You have been responsible for some great remixes, especially the ones for your own Caesars Column 12" have you been approached by many bands or artists to remix them, if so how did they come out?
KID: Yes we've been approached by many bands and delivered remixes that have usually been rejected. Head's ain't ready for the O - they never have and they never will. At some point we should release an album of rejected remixes. . .I think it would be instructive because some of the remixes we've done are fucking awesome and it will show up the bands that rejected them.
We tell people that we expect to be paid no matter whether they use the remix or not. But they still don't pay us.
Next time I will demand payment upfront.
BARRY: Well I did a remix on the Ceasars 12" and Oneida seemed to like it just fine!
SHAHIN: Kid and I have done a handful of remixes as "Better Brothers", and we enjoy working on them, we always have a blast investigating other people's recordings and finding things we respond to. I really like them. Whether or not anyone else enjoys them is another matter, ha ha. Nobody ever gets what they think they're going to get from the O, even when we warn them that's probably going to be the case! We also do house painting.
CHRIS ROCKET: So what is next for Oneida, how do you follow a tryptich?
KID: There are some really ambitious plans we have in store - I think it's too early to reveal them though. . .maybe off the record!
BARRY: A record that plays a week.
JANE: We will probably keep jamming and that will probably lead to some accidental songwriting and we will probably record all of it and release all of it. Oh, and we are moving our studio again, so more moving and building and some, hopefully cool, new sounds.
CHRIS ROCKET: And finally, I have never asked you this, but what is the fascination with cutlery?
KID: I think this might be a joke that I don't understand. . .
BARRY: This reminds me of when I asked Fuck Buttons why they hate buttons so much....
***END OF TRANSMISSION***
Thanks to Dave C from Optical Sounds.
Oneida-Mugstar-Collisions-02 is available now on Rocket Recordings & in all good record shops.