So if you’ve been paying attention over the past week, I’ve been talking a lot about this Record Store Day 2018 compilation coming out in just a couple weeks called Communion. The righteous duo of Darren Page(Burning Tapes) and Gary Dimes(All of Them Witches) who run Burning Witches Records together are throwing their synth-heavy hat in the RSD ring this year with a powerhouse collection of tunes from some of the electronic/synth world’s greatest. It’s a smorgasbord of woozy synth goodness; from Berlin School headiness to dark cut and paste drum grooves.
April 21st. Find this and savor every morsel.
So last week I sat down and talked to musician/producer Cory Kilduff about his childhood in Texas, how he got into music, and his incredible contribution to Communion titled “LV426”. Cory’s got an album in the end stages of being complete and will be coming out with Burning Witches Records, hopefully sooner rather than later. Cory also recently was a guest on the Squirreling Podcast where he talks extensively about the music scene he came up in, graphic design, and how the electronic scene is far more punk rock than the punk rock scene is(something I completely agree with.) Check it out here. It’s a great conversation.
Today is a double feature. Today I’m talking to musicians Alex Cuervo of Espectrostatic and Timothy Fife, he of solo release Black Carbon, as well as his soundtrack work and with Chris Livengood in Victims.
First up is Alex Cuervo. He released the excellent Silhouette with Burning Witches back in 2017, but before that he’d been releasing music as Espectrostatic since 2012. As well as Espectrostatic, Alex was in the band Hex Dispensers(which disbanded just last year.) Music has been Alex’ main trip, but electronic music has become a passion over the last few years. You can hear that passion on Silhouette, as well as his excellent track “The Locust Accord” on Communion. Stuttering cut and paste drums, the ominous tinkling of piano keys, and the gloomy synth all come together to make one hell of an engaging listen. Check out our conversation below.
J. Hubner: Where did you grow up?
Alex Cuervo: I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas.
J. Hubner: Have you always been into music? Either as a fan or as a composer?
Alex Cuervo: Yes, I’ve always been drawn to music. I’ve been playing music in some capacity for most of my life now, beginning with playing in punk bands as a teenager (over 30 years ago!)
J. Hubner: Can you remember the first movie you saw where the score made as equal an impact on you as the film itself? Where you realized the importance of the score?
Alex Cuervo: I remember being really blown away by the music in Onibaba (A classic Japanese film). I think that was the first time I’d thought about how cool it would be to make music for films.
J. Hubner: Were you always into making electronic music? You also play in Hex Dispensers. Can you tell me a little bit about them?
Alex Cuervo: Electronic music is a more recent interest. I’ve only been doing it for about 6-7 years. The Hex Dispensers called it a day last year, but we had been active since 2006. We released 3 full-length albums, many singles, and toured overseas quite a few times. It was incredibly rewarding, but I felt it was time to move on from it and push myself to write music more outside of my comfort zone.
J. Hubner: How long have you been making music as Espectrostatic? Prior to your Burning Witches debut release ‘Silhouette’, you had quite a few self-released albums.
Alex Cuervo: I’ve been doing Espectrostatic in some form since 2012. The first two Espectrostatic LPs were released by Trouble in Mind Records; a fantastic label out of Chicago. Before that I’d self-released some digital stuff. It’s evolved a lot since the earliest recordings.
J. Hubner: Speaking of Burning Witches Records, you released your debut with them late last year and now you’re contributing a track to their RSD 2018 release ‘Communion’. “The Locust Accord” is a powerful bit of looming dread and groove.
Tell me a little bit about that song if you could. What was the process of creating it? Is there a mix of electronic and acoustic instruments? The drums don’t sound programmed to me. It sounds like a real kit.
Alex Cuervo: Thanks. Yeah the drums on that one are all chopped up from human performances. I approach percussion and drums differently on every track. I often program the drums from acoustic samples, which also sounds more human – but sometimes I go for a colder, more mechanical feel. Depends on the song, but I do really enjoy chopping up and editing human percussion performances. I guess it’s similar to how Hip Hop producers have traditionally worked with drum breaks. The rest of the Locust Accord is a mix of virtual and analog synths, as well as sampled instruments. It was an idea I’d picked up and re-shelved a couple times over the years – so it was nice to finally see it through to a complete track.
J. Hubner: Besides having a very unique sound, you seem to also take your time on the visual aspects as well. Not only is the music intricate and detailed, so is the album art and videos. Are you also a graphic designer?
Alex Cuervo: I am, but I’m well aware of my limitations. I prefer to get more talented designers to handle the Espectrostatic LP art. I did all of the Hex Dispensers LP designs, and I also design a lot for Espectrostatic, but I really want the LPs to be something special – so I seek out the help of more skilled people for those.
J. Hubner: As a teenager did you haunt the local video store and burn through the horror section like I did? Who were some of your favorite horror filmmakers growing up? Or just filmmakers in general?
Alex Cuervo: Oh you bet I did! I’ve always been a huge science fiction fan. I was super obsessed with anything post apocalyptic in the 80s – and there were many low budget, straight to video movies to scratch that itch . I got really into horror in my late teens/early 20s. My favorite directors were the top ones of that era: John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Ridley Scott (etc). I was also really drawn to weirder arthouse, foreign & trash/cult cinema from David Lynch to John Waters.
J. Hubner: What’s next for Espectrostatic?
Alex Cuervo: I’m planning on compiling some rarities, demos & one-off projects for a digital release this summer. After that – I’ve got a couple things planned with Burning Witches on a slightly more distant horizon.
Up next is the conversation I recently had with musician Timothy Fife. I first spoke with Tim back in 2016 as half the musical duo Victims. Their 10″ Death Waltz Originals release Form Hell really blew my mind. When Tim released his solo debut Black Carbon back in early 2017 I got to sit down and talk with him then as well. Timothy Fife is a humble dude, and an incredbibly talented one, so it’s no surprise that Burning Witches Records asked him to be a part of Communion(he contributed to their Halloween compilation as well.) His track “Erotic Rites” is a monster Giallo love fest. Exquisite, detailed, and makes you think of early 70s, Italian countryside, and beautiful bodies in a tangle of technicolor exploitation. Check out our talk below.
J. Hubner: So it’s been close to a year since we last spoke. At that time your excellent ‘Black Carbon’ was recently released. How has the last year treated you? Are you going on your 4th week of being snowed in out east?
Timothy Fife: It’s been a while! Last year was pretty good, I played SxSW with Antoni Maiovvi then played at the Boston Underground Film Festival with Antoni and Dust Witch and then two other shows, one with Boy Harsher and the other with Bastian Void. Those were the first shows I ever played as a solo artist and each set was totally different. But then I didn’t do much for the rest of the year because my parents passed away and I had to clean out their house and sell it. Then I got married right after that. So now I’m getting back into working on new music, although I did manage to sneak out two releases by the end of the year. And the snow doesn’t bother me, it keeps me inside working on stuff.
J. Hubner: Well my condolences about your parents, but congratulations on the nuptials. I’m glad to hear your back working on new music. I wanted to ask you about a couple things you’ve been involved with over the last year. First is your excellent work on ‘The Streets Run Red’ S/T with David Ellesmere. How did that come about?
Timothy Fife: Streets Run Red is the second soundtrack I did with Dave, the first being a Suburbia-type film called The Ungovernable Force. It was my third full length feature for Ungovernable Films, a company out of the Boston area that do punk inspired exploitation films. Dave is great to work with. He’s known for being in all of these classic punk bands but he has great musical depth and can play just about any style of music.
J. Hubner: You also did a single release with the Polytechnic Youth label. Both tracks, “Simulacra” and “All Tomorrow’s Remembered” are Komische heaven. Just brilliant work. I was wondering how that collaboration with Polytechnic Youth came about? And where did the idea for the 45 to play from the inside out come from?
Timothy Fife: I can’t remember how I came across Polytechnic Youth, but I figured out that they did odd releases like reverse playing records and stuff like that. So I contacted them, they knew the Victims record I think and said “let’s do something.” There was some talk in the beginning about it being a split with Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3 but that never materialized. I really wanted the tracks to match the feeling of the record playing backwards so I wrote those tracks with that specifically in mind.
J. Hubner: Along with a bunch of other amazing artists, you are contributing a track to Burning Witches Records’ RSD 2018 release ‘Communion’. And like those other amazing artists your track “Erotic Rites” is a real banger. Love the vibe of that one. How did this collaboration come about?
Timothy Fife: I did a track for their really amazing Halloween compilation “Witches’ Halloween Brew” and the record company and I both wanted to continue working with each other. They have a really cool roster of artists and I hear something great and inventive out of their work.
J. Hubner: Was “Erotic Rites” something you wrote specifically for the compilation? Or was it something you were working on for another release?
Timothy Fife: I wrote Erotic Rites for it for sure. I originally had this grand idea to have this really crazy kosmische-type track and worked on one for like a month straight until I realized it was just not going to work for the comp. So I sat down and pumped Erotic Rites out in a day after watching some sleazy Italian films and I’m glad I did because it fits the mood of the compilation much better.
J. Hubner: So what else is lined up for 2018? Any super secret information you can divulge?
Timothy Fife: 2018 has still just begun! In the beginning of the year I scored a short called “Tiny Clones” that’s getting into some cool festivals. I’m playing with Pentagram Home Video at the Boston Underground Film Festival next week, then I’ll be scoring another film. I’m trying to get a live group together right now and I’m preparing work for three different collaborations. Hoping this is gonna be the best year yet!