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Sign On!: Human Conduct Records, Part 3: Interview (w/ Rick Weaver)

To cap off this series of posts on Human Conduct Records, I exchanged a week-long email relay with all-around Human Conduct man, Rick Weaver. Our conversation exposed what my previous pieces attempted to avoid–the theoretical foundations of Human Conduct’s disposition. Coincidentally, it is my impression that we also received a remarkably profound character profile for Rick Weaver (whose works were covered extensively in Part 2).

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Sign On! – Human Conduct Records, Part 2: The Many Faces of Rick Weaver

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  1. MP3: The Ruined Frame – My Sex Is A Dead Thing from Breath & Pulse (2009)
  2. MP3: The Ruined Frame – Two Travelers from The Weight of ALL Filth (2008)
  3. MP3: The New Flesh – A Lesson In Manners from Hall of Heads (2009)

In this post I’ll attempt to provide a brief survey of a few fresh releases from The New Flesh and The Ruined Frame–in what might otherwise become known as “the Rick Weaver Hour.” Now, this is not to say that Mr. Weaver doesn’t deserve it. In addition to his percussive work for the New Flesh, the Human Conduct co-founder also acts as frontman for The Ruined Frame. Once more, his name probably emerges in the credits for a great number of other releases within the label–and pretty much everywhere else when you’re talking about Human Conduct. Honestly though, I don’t see how we can so effortlessly unite The New Flesh and The Ruined Frame outside of the Weaver link. Side by side, the two projects represent oppositional musical polarities: the harsh distortion typically penned by the New Flesh feels even more brutal in the face of The Ruined Frame’s freaky folk rock. Where one group’s desolate waveforms attempt to rid their listener of an appetite, the other uses satiated song structure to fill their audience’s stomach.

As I already established in the last post, I’ll be examining the sound of Human Conduct Records using descriptive criticism almost exclusively. The full endeavor is to ignore, as much as I deem it necessary, my longing to investigate abstract logic as it relates to artistry. You can check the last post for my in-depth statement of intention. Without further ado, here’s the Rick Weaver Hour:
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Sign On! – Human Conduct Records, Part 1 – Detox, Form A Log, and Occasional Detroit/Gay Bomb

It’s pretty difficult to bottle together Human Conduct Records as a uniform whole. Portions of their output could pass as material from your average Joe’s favorite freak folk label, whereas the opposite is true for their less accessible releases. An understandable slight of ambivalence may sour your first impression of HCR–and that’s certainly not abnormal in this case. Uncertainty to the nature of the noise going through your headphones can, after all, be a bit daunting. The fact is: that’s precisely the sort of thing you have to expect when you’re talking about a group of people who aren’t afraid to embrace the atonal and arrhythmic in pursuit of artistic expression. I mean, they do call some music “abrasive” for a reason.

detox front

Human Conduct was founded in Baltimore during the late 90s by Ari (Ari and the Shanks) & Abe Schenck along with Rick Weaver (The New Flesh), who appears on a number of their releases. Since then, HCR has garnered quite the reputation in many anti-traditionalist circles. Coming straight out of their website, they apparently specialize in “lo-fi, hi-fi, and mid-brow” jams, mostly local but not always. That being said, I now welcome you to the world of Human Conduct Records. I’ll be going through their most recent releases by the way of our own Zack Turowski, sans alcohol. I hope to present a meaty survey of Human Conduct’s most current catalog–whilst attempting to circumvent my beloved rants about the theory (or potential lack thereof) behind experimental music.  Later segments will be focused on individual artists.

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MT6 Records: Part 5 – Interview w/ Alex Strama


To close out our series on MT6, I grabbed some joe with label-head Alex Strama (Newagehillbilly, Heroin U.K., tons more) to talk about all things empty six.

Aural States: So let’s start with your background, what came before MT6, how you got into experimental music and what drove you to start MT6?

Alex Strama: Well, before MT6…that started in ’98.  I was doing music way before that.  I graduated high school in ’95; in high school, I had a few bands I was in.  More towards the rock end.  Still kinda weird, but definitely more rock-oriented.  I recorded a bunch of stuff, but I didn’t know anybody that was gonna put it out.  I’m from Harford County, so I lived in the sticks, and at that point I knew very little bout the Baltimore music scene.  So I started it mainly to release my own stuff: in ’98 I put out a release from a band I was in called Operation Huss, a 3-piece indie rock band.

I would say what exposed me to experimental music was the Red Room.  Definitely.  About 2000, through playing with friends like Carlos (Guillen).  He was in the band the Penny Regime at that point, which was kind of a straight-ahead punk band.  He was really into the Red Room, had played with a couple of the guys like Dan Breen.  I’m believing that I probably played a show with Carlos or Dan or another band, and just kind of branched of into seeing some bizarre stuff.

I went to the Red Room Crap Shoot, which still happens the first Tuesday of every month.  You just come in with anything, any instrument, that makes a sound.  It’s like an open-mic but more collaborative, they pick a couple of people and then you just kinda do your thing.  I would say that definitely opened me up to experimental music because I hadn’t heard anything like that before.  Awesome, great feeling to be exposed to that stuff. I mean I was listening to some early Sonic Youth before that which was pretty out there…but the Red Room definitely opened me up to the weirder side of Baltimore music.

AS: When did MT6 start evolving into an engine for the more creative and experimental stuff to come out of Baltimore?

Alex S: Probably not until 2004.  Between 2000 and 2004, I probably released about 10 things…mostly of stuff I was in.  This band called Rot Guts, 2 bass players, a drummer and a keyboardist.  We played shows and released something.  Some friends were in Chief Pokawa.  So at that point, it was just me and close friends.  But at that point, in 2004, I was approached by the band Human Host who were looking for someone to put their stuff out.  It was all CD-R then, so that was the first official CD release.  So the first chapter was me releasing my own, and real close friends’, stuff.  Then when I released that, it was kind of a new chapter.

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MT6 Records: Part 4 – In the deep end…

mt6sampler2009Welcome Carlos Guillen, who will be providing an insider’s take on the Early 2009 MT6 Sampler, a decidedly different perspective from Zack’s fish-out-of-water scenario.  

Carlos is a longstanding performer of experimental music whose past projects include the fantastic Soihadto with Duff from Ace of Cakes.  His baby continues to be The Expanding Man, a dizzying instrumental showcase of aural textures from Carlos’ guitar and the instruments of whomever he decides to collaborate with (main collaborators now are DJ Tyler Quinn and Percussionist Michael Castor).

Carlos is also an owner at the Hexagon and runs sound there and every year at the High Zero festival (which he credits with originating a lot of his appreciation of experimental music).

You have to be a little crazy to climb into the rocket car of experimental music, both as a listener and as a performer. Experimental music is about taking risks – huge risks. There are musicians out there who gig regularly with no hope of radio play, no hope of mainstream label support, and no hope of selling records. These performers do what they do for radically different reasons than the mainstream performer; they have no traditional conventions to hide behind. More often than not, the experimental musician speaks a language that is very personal, so naturally, most people will be very turned off by what they do.

Experimentation can be dangerous – accidents will happen. Many experimental musicians relish their accidents, their train-wrecks. The payoff is when an experimental performer is allowed to show some real warts-and-all personal truth, and is able to find an audience who understands and appreciates them for it.

MT6 Records has been promoting such musicians for several years now. Most of their output simply cannot be understood without some knowledge of experimental music, some reference point with which to approach the music MT6 helps spread to the masses.

For those of us who do have such inclinations, MT6 is pretty awesome.

The Early 2009 MT6 Sampler should not be confused with the typical record label sampler. This is not a slick infomercial designed to tease the average listener to come into the world of MT6. This is a mixtape by MT6’s beer-swilling synth-destroyer NEWAGEHILLBILLY; it is a compilation of his favorite tracks from some of the label’s latest releases, and it is just as personal and freaked-out as MT6 itself.

Are you ready for some freak-out? Let’s hope so.

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MT6 Records: Part 3 – Jason Willett – The Sounds of Megaphone Limited

jasonwillett_thesoundsofmegaphoneunlimitedAlmost twenty years ago Jason Willett was plunking out the bass notes for Half Japanese, a band that would become one of the most celebrated cult heroes of experimental rock. Opening for Nirvana on their In Utero tour, being name checked by Thurston Moore in interviews, featuring guest appearances from Moe Tucker and Ira Kaplan, they certainly bore all the signs of being a major contender in that early 90s scene.

The Sounds of Megaphone Limited is mostly a collection recorded in 1995 and 1996, with some 2000′s recordings peppered in. Although the record features some help from Jad Fair, the sound is purely Willett’s, featuring none of the charming naivete of his first band, and in fact eschewing most of the more tuneful songs released under the name of Jad Fair and Jason Willett for the more abrasive and atonal end of his repertoire. Read the rest…

MT6 Records: Part 2 – Abiku – Novelty

Photo by Bob Myaing

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MP3: Abiku – Novelty

Abiku. Not every sound they make is golden, but they are all enthralling.

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MT6 Records: Part 1 – Getting your feet wet…

mt6sampler2009MT6 is a record label based in Baltimore that puts out primarily experimental rock music. As such an engine of unabashedly abrasive music, their output isn’t going to be for everybody. Before receiving my package from MT6 in the mail, I thought I listened to some pretty out-there music, but I can honestly say that I’ve never really been asked to talk about any kind of music like this before. And I fear I was sadly unequipped to describe what I was hearing. It took a bunch of listens, but eventually I began to tease apart the different strains and come to a consensus on what I liked and what I didn’t.

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