Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Email Interview: The Finer Points of Sadism

For this post, I'm gonna hold back and let a worthy local band, experimental electronica duo The Finer Points of Sadism, do most of the talking.  I caught one of their performances a little while back and was very impressed (you can read my write-up on it here).  So, without further ado, here are Jacobb and Ashley Sackett:

You mention on your Facebook page that you two met in high school.  How did that come about?

Jacobb Sackett: We met on a sort of blind date after speaking on the phone for a while.  She was 14, almost 15, and I was 15, almost 16.  It was a "Freshman Farewell" school dance.  I was not allowed into the dance because I was not a student at the school.  We ended up sitting outside for the 2 hours of the dance and got to know one another and talked the whole time.  The rest has been history.

How did you two start making music together?

Ashley Sackett: When I was 15, I had one day joked with Jacobb that I should be the bass player in his then 2-person indie rock band.  He actually thought that was a great idea and handed me the bass tab for Nirvana's "In Bloom."  I then got my own bass guitar.  We became a trio and played in that band for a couple of years.

Who are some of your musical influences?  How did you discover them?

Jacobb: Wall of Voodoo played a huge role in my musical development.  I discovered them at the age of 7 whilst watching an old episode of "120 Minutes" on MTV, with "Mexican Radio" being the video played.  I got obsessed with them in my teenage "early band" years with their strange instrumentation and use of sequencers and vintage rhythm machines.  Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV and Wire all inspire me greatly.  I have known about Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV for years but didn't really get into their music until after discovering the joys of altering noise frequencies and playing distorted, almost disembodied voices through cassette tapes.  They also inspired a lot of the FX that we use for our vocals.  Wire has always been a favorite, as they are utterly unique and hypnotic.

Ashley: Definitely Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV for me as well.  I can't really remember how I was introduced to them all but my influences also include Adam and the Ants, The Cramps, Pixies and Gang of Four.

You mention on your FB page that you started off playing punk rock.  What prompted you to start making experimental music?

Ashley: We had played in previous bands, from indie to punk, with the music evolving each time we started something new.  With all the band politics and the strain it put on friendships, as well as the differing opinions on where the music should be going, Jacobb and I were left dissatisfied and frustrated.  When our last band came to an end we had thought about starting another band from the ground up, but after thinking about it long and hard, we decided we didn't want to go down the same road and end up where we were once again.  We began experimenting with sound, endlessly listening to music and talking about our ideas until we settled on starting The Finer Points of Sadism as a duo.  We agreed to focus on what we truly wanted to express without concern, with no limitations or censorship.

Jacobb: It's true we did play "punk" rock, but to elaborate, it was more new wave-tinged, not some manufactured emo crap or anything like that.  Our music over the years has always had a more lo-fi, unconventional flavor.  The transition into full-blown experimentatal music was easy, as my near-death experience was the catalyst, as well as the freedom to create without limitations, to improvise on the fly and from that create sometimes breathtaking things.

Artwork by John Facey

You mentioned that FPS arose from a near-death experience.  Can you describe what happened?

Jacobb: To put it bluntly, one day at the end of my rope I tried to OD on over forty-plus anti-anxiety pills.  I drove out to a remote area and waited to die, and soon I began hearing strange audio anomalies.  Strange low humming-type frequencies acting as a sort of arpeggiator, raising to a hair-raising distortion and lowering back down again to a numbing buzz.  While OD'd, the only visual hallucination was my whole vision going to a sort of "negative" type look.  Like the negatives you get when you develop photos.  That x-ray brightness, the darkened background, in quick half-second to 1-second pulses.  It was quite unsettling and I felt as though I was dying each moment I saw the world in that negative look, and I was afraid the negative would finally just stay that way and I would be dead in this frightening afterworld.  Finally, after 4 hours of being where I was (which I thought at the time was only 20 minutes), I was able to be taken to the hospital where I recovered and got the help I needed.  Shortly following my discharge Ashley and I officially started The Finer Points of Sadism, the name based on a song I wrote while in our new wave band, but we never performed or recorded it.

Which of your recordings are you most proud of (or, if you prefer, which of them do you hate the least)?  Why?

Ashley: It's really hard for me to pick just one.  The interesting thing with the music we are doing now is that I can honestly say I really am proud of it all.  There is something about the way everything comes together, the way we create together, feed off of each other, that leaves me feeling completely satisfied.  It's nothing that I listen to and become critical of.  It is something close to us not only in content but in the way we record that leaves nothing to be desired for me.

Tell me a bit about your creative process.  How do you first start to construct a song?

Jacobb: We basically just sit at the mixer, with all the equipment spread out all over the damn place, and improvise right then and there.  We decide which instruments or items we're going to play and just go for it.  As far as instruments specific to us individually, there are only a couple, with me on electric guitar and most of the beats/rhythms and Ashley on steel guitar.  Otherwise, we interchange instrument duties on a constant basis.  We sometimes record huge chunks of audio, anywhere up to 40 minutes at a time, and pick out the juicy bits and elaborate on them.  Other times, the whole song is constructed from the improvisation right then and there.  Out of nearly 50 gigabytes of audio, around 5 songs were written beforehand or in some way planned ahead.  If something we record isn't up to par for us, we scrap it.  If we like it, we keep it.  Use of FX on various instruments is sometimes added after we finish recording, other times it is already set up for the song.  We try to accomplish the best of what fate and our minds can do together when interacting in our improvisations.  The results are the many songs that we have released in the past 2 years.  We just feel something and go with the feeling.  If the feeling is to experiment or play a certain item or instrument, we just do it.  It is like we read each other's minds.  We are extremely good together at improvising, anytime, anywhere.

Ashley: We also experiment with ways of coming up with concepts and writing some songs.  In previous bands, we had both done the typical "verse-chorus-verse" songwriting, and since we are doing something different this time around, we are very open to anything and to each other's suggestions.  We can write together or start a track on our own, then converge and complete it, the great thing being if one person starts on a song, the other can come right in and finish the thought.  Sometimes, we just go in and start playing and it's those sessions that give us the most rewarding results.  We improvise very well together, almost anticipating what the other is going to do next.  Things just come together for whatever reason, and it's perfect.

Is there anything you'd like to say to readers/listeners out there?

The Finer Points of Sadism: We would like the general public to know that in live situations, we are a performance art act.  That the majority of our songs are improvised on the spot and involve use of instruments and items that produce noises and effects not many people have ever heard or felt before.  We would like people to know that during live shows, spirits may become present as they have in numerous practices, sometimes communicating through a particular circuit bent instrument we use.  This may or may not happen during shows, it is not a guarantee.  It sometimes also fucks up the cord going to the said "cursed" instrument, so that's fun.  We are currently planning shows for the Portland/Seattle area in July and are open to doing shows in the Boise area if on the right bill (meaning with the right bands or for some kind of art show).  We do not feel above any band or person or business entity, but we do feel that our music/noise belongs in the right mix.  Thank you sincerely for your time.

You can find info about The Finer Points of Sadism on Facebook and elsewhere online.

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