Locust Accords and Erotic Rites : Alex Cuervo and Timothy Fife Talk ‘Communion’ Compilation

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!

Communion will be available on Record Store Day, April 21st 2018(that’s two weeks from tomorrow if you’re keeping score.) Go get in line at 4 am, drink lots of coffee, and don’t leave until there’s a copy in your grubby hands. If you can’t find one, keep up with Burning Witches Records over at their website for possible post-RSD copies available online at their shop.

I bet your 7″ lathe cut can’t do this….

I thought I’d seen everything. From UFOs landing in Midwest cornfields and their extraterrestrial pilots revealing to me the meaning of existence thru an old Lite Brite, to talking coyotes that revealed to me the meaning of existence thru an old Milton Bradley Simon game, to a monkey that could make Toaster Strudels for a man born without arms, legs, and a mouth to eat the Toaster Strudels with. It seemed that nothing in this universe could surprise me at this point in the game. How could it, with me already realizing that we’re all here as merely a collective sigh baking on this rock and waiting for the Planctorian Death Lords from Sigma Nigh-8 to come and turn us all into slave monkeys, our only purpose of existence to toast their damn Toaster Strudels because they have no arms or legs???

Turns out life just surprised me(a little, anyways.)

A very small record label called Polytechnic Youth came into my world. Polytechnic Youth is located somewhere in the far reaches of the universe where they make these magical 7″ lathe cuts. Super small batches of different artists each time. Side A and Side B, boom, they are gifted to the world and then they’re off to the next. Super limited, super rare, but super incredible art. Here’s the simple description on their website:

library sounds | electronic experiments in kosmische | primitive electronics as a soundtrack to physical education | a micro label for vinyl heads

The reason I came across this label is Timothy Fife. Timothy Fife of synth duo Victims and of his own solo work, in-particular this year’s excellent Black Carbon. Fife is the real deal when it comes to electronic composition. He’s deep into Giallo scores, Italian directors, and horror cinema in general. His work that I’m familiar with is of the heady and heavy synth variety. Fife is heavy into the Berlin-School Movement, Komische, Krautrock, and sites Klaus Schulze as a big influence. You can hear it in his work, for sure. But he adds elements of ambient music, darker incidental work, and this East Coast sensibility that can only come from staring out into the endless Atlantic and hearing those icy waves crash against the shore. It’s quite beautiful.

A few weeks ago Timothy Fife released a 7″ lathe cut with Polytechnic Youth. Side A is “Simulacra” with the B side being “All Tomorrow’s Remembered”. These are exquisite synth compositions. Bubbly, dream-like, and take you to another place when you’re in the middle of them.

“Simulacra” pulls you in with arpeggiated notes and whispers of new age ambient in the background. It’s Komische of the highest order. “All Tomorrows Remembered” puts me in mind of Edgar Froese, Rudiger Lorenz, and touches of JD Emmanuel, but all rebuilt and redefined by Fife’s style.

The unique thing about this release is that it plays from the inside out. You drop the needle right at the runout point of the 7″ and it rides those grooves backwards. I was skeptical at first. “How will this work?” I said. “Do I need to light candles and repeat dark incantations?” I said. “I think your grilled cheese is burning” my wife said. It was. Anyways, I followed the instructions included with the 45 and sure enough the needle grabbed the groove. And also, as stated in the instructions, I turned the volume UP!


As I said, these releases are super limited and are gone before you know it. Timothy Fife’s sold out in record time. I think you can locate one or two on Discogs for like $1,000,000 or something. If you’ve got the cash I’d go for it. It’s worth it, man. Brilliant tracks, artwork, and it plays from the inside out.

Who needs the meaning of life when you’ve got records like this? If you listen hard enough, you can find that meaning you’re looking for in the grooves.




Favorite Albums Of 2017(so far) : Timothy Fife’s ‘Black Carbon’

Normally by this time in the year I’ve posted at least two lists of my favorite albums of the year, first in April at the 3 month point then in July at the 6 month point. It appears that the year keeps rolling by whether I want it to or not. Needless to say I haven’t made a list of anything(other than that weekly grocery list on Thursdays.) There will be a year-end list, and even though no major lists so far this year I do plan on sharing a few of the records that have been blowing my mind thus far in the year of our Lord, 2017.

First up is Timothy Fife’s Black Carbon.

I first came across Timothy Fife last year with his Victims’ Form Hell release with Chris Livengood. That record really blew me away, both in how it seemed to appear from out of nowhere(via Death Waltz Originals) and just how fully formed the two tracks were. Fife and Livengood(along with Aaron Dilloway) seemed to pull some Komische magic out of the ether and created two beautifully dense tracks that I’ve played more times than I can remember. I talked to Timothy and Chris here.

I made it a point to keep tabs on Fife as I’d heard he was releasing his debut solo record via Death Waltz Originals. 2016 turned to 2017 and before I knew it I was holding Black Carbon in my hands. At only 3 songs(4 in its digital form), I have to admit I was hoping for a whole hour of bubbly synth and vast space vibes. Fortunately, Fife packs quite a punch with those three tracks. His debut for Death Waltz Originals is a tasty bit of synth voodoo that will pull you out of the everyday doldrums.

The album opens with the epic “Sydney At Night”. When you listen to this track there’s an oppressive quality to it at first. Crackling distortion, ominous electronic howls emanate from the speakers, and there’s just a general sense of dread. You can hear crickets begin to chirp and a distant wave of synth begins to emerge from the darkness. Pulsating synth starts up and at this point you feel as if you’ve taken flight. Soon enough the chirps subside and a dark melody emerges. This is very much a journey track. Whether you’re cascading through the black of an Australian night or burning miles on the open road with a slight buzz putting you in some other headspace, “Sydney At Night” is a track that takes you somewhere. Where that is lies firmly in your brain. Side A is dominated by this 17 minute mind melter.

“Black Carbon” opens side B. It’s the shortest song on the album but it makes its presence known quickly. Ponging synth structures bubble up and down as the track moves along effortlessly. Three and a half minutes, it’s in and it’s out. Its sits perfectly on this record, very reminiscent of Fife’s work with Chris Livengood in Victims.

The great thing about Timothy Fife’s work is that he has a very deft touch when it comes to compositions. He never lays it on too thick, while the tracks never feel overly sparse. His songs are carefully layered to reveal maybe something new you didn’t hear the first time you listened, but he’s never going to reveal too much. What’s the fun in that?

The real sonic surprise here is closing track “Low Plain Landscape”. It deviates from the Komische atmosphere of the previous tracks and gives us a lighter, contemplative ambient track that is reminiscent of Daniel Lopatin’s early Oneohtrix Point Never albums(check out Betrayed In The Octagon, Russian Mind, and Drawn and Quartered for beautiful counterpoints.) I feel that this track is what distinguishes Fife from other artists working in the heavy synth realm. He’s not afraid to set the pulsating arpeggios and Edgar Froese-isms to the side and just open the universe a bit in one track. There’s a free floating quality to “Low Plain Landscape” that I just can’t get enough of. I imagine some futuristic visions of floating cities and double sunrises, or unlocking some “Pandora’s Box” of life meanings when this song is playing. There’s a serenity throughout, though at the 9 minute mark a slight turn of the knob creates tension for a moment. Like enlightenment is great, but it comes at a price. You dig?

Timothy Fife just announced a new release coming out in October via Polytechnic Youth. I’d buy it from the artwork alone, but I’m sure it’s gonna be another amazing track from one amazing musician. If you haven’t yet, grab a copy of Black Carbon at Mondotees. There’s still some of that wax available. Or just download it here.

Timothy Fife : Black Carbon

Timothy Fife seems to have locked into another realm on his Mondo/Death Waltz Originals debut Black Carbon. Within these three key tracks there seems to be worlds and entities that bubble up from the cascading synths and eerie oohs and ahhs he creates with nothing more than circuitry, wires, and electrical impulses. You get a feeling of traveling through space and time as you let the album roll over you. There’s both a sense of new age enlightenment and darker cult realms, sometimes in the same song. Fife is a student of both music and of the macabre, and he works them both into one momentous work of art on Black Carbon.

I first came to know Fife’s work on last year’s excellent Form Hell, a release by Fife and fellow synth enthusiast Christopher Livengood’s project called Victims. With Form Hell, Fife and Livengood released two immense tracks on the world that brought to mind the best of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and even John Carpenter. My eyes were opened to what serious voodoo Fife could summon with analog devices. When I’d heard Timothy Fife was releasing his solo debut album with Death Waltz Originals I knew it was going to be one of the best of the year. Well Black Carbon is here and it lives up to all my made up hype, and then some.

“Sydney At Night”, even before the music starts, sounds like an epic journey. It opens with the sound of evening overpowering you. Chirping creatures, distant winds, then electrical disturbances slowly take over in your head. Buzzing feedback, horror film dissonance, and eventually a synth melody makes itself known. Propulsive, electronic rhythm moves you along through a makeshift night sky. Blackness pushes over your face as chills take over your body. Musically we’re in komische territory, all bubbling synths and desolation. Beautiful, beautiful desolation. Fife has worked out a krautrock masterwork here. All 17 minutes are vital to the overall atmospheric beauty here. A frayed psyche never sounded so good.

For the digital-only crowd there’s a bonus track in “Alebedesque”. It’s a dreamy, hallucinogenic track that feels like you’re slowly falling through space. It suddenly switches gears and turns into an almost industrial noise track before dissolving into the atmosphere.

Lead track “Black Carbon” powers through a mere 3 minutes and some change, but what it accomplishes in those few moments feels like one hell of a journey. Those familiar with the Victims EP will find “Black Carbon” familiar and inviting. It’s an ominous riff with bits and pieces bobbing in and out of earshot that make you look around the room thinking someone is sneaking up on you. It’s short and sweet, but nonetheless overpowering.

We finally arrive at album closer “Low Plain Landscape”, a sort of aural journey into the ether. It carries new age tendencies; swaths of dense soundscapes that swell and collapse onto themselves, revealing new layers and emotions the deeper you get. It’s this gentle walk through the mist. “Low Plain Landscape” is the peace and enlightenment we searched for through the darker journeys taken before.

We began in the dark and have now reached the light.

Black Carbon is a stunning debut from Timothy Fife. He brings to mind many of the greats that came before him, but brings something completely his own to these excellent songs. There is a flow and continuity here that makes this record an engaging listen from start to finish. So put on your headphones, close your eyes, and get lost in Black Carbon.

8. 3 out of 10

‘Form Hell’ : A Conversation With Victims’ Timothy Fife And Chris Livengood

It seems we’re in a bit of a synth phase, musically. Five years ago you had to go digging for those great heavy synth albums by newer artists or head to some obscure record shop that smells like a mix of mildew, takeout food, and cigarettes and spend and afternoon digging in the crates for cats like Klaus Schulze, Edgar Froese, Wendy Carlos, and Popol Vuh. This really wasn’t a bad deal. The thrill of the hunt was what it was all about, if I’m being honest here. Then back in 2013 I started reading about this record company over in the UK called Death Waltz Recording Company. They were reissuing the scores to all those films I used to rent in the back room of Video World when I was a kid. City of the Living Dead, House By The Cemetery, Zombi 2, as well as countless others were being beautifully pressed on splattered and clear vinyl, as well as standard black. For a guy like me that grew up in the early 80s on all of those great horror films on various Betamax and VHS copies, to have these scores on vinyl was like being able to jump into the Wayback machine every time I dropped the needle. Death Waltz Recording Co and it’s originator Spencer Hickman saw there was a need to revisit these underappreciated musical scores and hear them in a different light(or at least a slightly brighter one.)

Besides the old film scores, Death Waltz has gotten into releasing original artists as well. Under the label Death Waltz Originals, Hickman(along with his partner in this venture Mondotees out of Austin, TX) have filled ears with new,exciting artists exploring the far reaches of heady, dense synth music. These aren’t guys and gals reinterpreting the musical past, they’re expanding what has already been done and putting their own creative stamp on composing with the synthesizer. I’ve been personally blown away by artists like Law Unit, Pentagram Home Video, Pye Corner Audio and Miles Brown just this year. Recently Death Waltz Originals put out a 10″ by a band called Victims. The released titled Form Hell, consists of two tracks of extremely dense and heady synth explorations. I was immediately blown away by this release and wanted more. “Profecy” and “Cleonova” both swirl and sway like a mix of science fiction dread and existential wandering put to music. If these two tracks were the appetizer, I’m ready for the full-album main course(sorry for the food analogy, I’m hungry.)

Victims consists of musician and film composer Timothy Fife and musician Chris Livengood. I reached out to the guys to see if they’d want to talk about the band and their music and they said absolutely.

J. Hubner: So tell me about Victims. How did you two get together? 

Timothy Fife: Victims was started out of a few failed attempts to make a record.  The first was more of a mood record of sorts, that might have been a lost 70’s electronic score.  Another was a more full band giallo experience that I honestly just wasn’t right for.   During both Chris and I would play for fun during the writing process and we would always play music that was similar to the Victims record.

I sent Spencer a soundtrack I did for a film called Normal, and he liked it a lot.  He posted about it on Twitter, then offered me a record deal with his yet to be unleashed label Death Waltz Originals.  I knew Chris from seeing him in a couple of great bands, AM Frank and Video Nasties being the ones that really grabbed me.  We both shared similar views on music and had similar influences and he seemed like a good person to try and work with.

Christopher Livengood: The first time I ever saw Tim was probably around 10 years ago. He was in a Portsmouth venue that my band at the time, Visitations, was playing. I remember it clearly because he was wearing a corduroy or tweed sport jacket and was walking deliberately across the room. He had 2 or 3 big box VHS tapes in his hands, almost as if they were business documents and I thought, I should definitely know that guy.  As it turned out, we had some friends in common and from then on, whenever we would run into each other, we’d chat about Italian horror, soundtracks, and stuff like that. At a music festival in the summer of 2014, after my band, Video Nasties played a set, Tim approached me about working on the Death Waltz record. I was totally thrilled because I had bought their Zombi 2 LP when it first came out and was well aware of who they were, not to mention I’d get to work with Tim who shares many of my interests and influences. Over the course of the next year I would lug my synths from Portland to Portsmouth or Tim would drive his rig up to Maine and we worked on a lot of material, some of which became ‘Form Hell’.

J. Hubner: Can you tell me about your previous musical projects? Are you still currently in them, as well as Victims? Tim, what are some of the films you’ve composed music for? 

Timothy Fife: I haven’t been in band in a long time.  I used to be in a lot of noise bands that would play a few shows and then move on to something else, so nothing really substantial.  I got into doing soundtracks around five years ago.  In the beginning I did lots of movies for Scorpio Film Releasing out of Providence, which was great because I shared similar influences with the director and I had a lot of creative freedom.  Since then I’ve done work for Troma, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Ungovernable Films, Nick Principe, Izzy Lee and a bunch of great directors.  I even have some music in Paul Schrader’s new film.

Christopher Livengood: I was fortunate to grow up in a small town called Windham, where for whatever reason, within my age group there was a tiny group of total weirdo art/music nerds that ended up doing cool things. I grew up and was in bands with the artist, Scarecrowoven (who, coincidently, has done some work with Mondo),  the avant-garde drummer/multi-instrumentalist, Mike Pride (who just toured in the opening act for Amy Schumer…!??), the noise artist ‘id m theft able’, and my current band mate in Video Nasties, Brendan Evans…

Although I’ve been involved with a lot of projects over the past 15-20 years, some of them were important in my development: Visitations was I guess what you would call a ‘freak folk’ band…we were an improvisational trio (including Brendan) that used a mix of acoustic and electronic instruments in our sets. We played spontaneous songs about occult-type stuff, apocalyptic scenarios, horror tales. There were elements of harmony, noise, song, ritual, performance…it was pretty exciting in that we never knew what was going to happen at shows…but we played really, really quietly.

Things got more energetic when we started a side project (A.M. Frank) which was kind of like a Suicide tribute band, in that we played 60’s garage rock songs as if Suicide was covering them. I performed all the music on an old Korg MS20, Moog Prodigy, and simple drum machine while Brendan freaked out on vocals and Janane Tripp (our 3rd in the trio) did some unnerving and confrontational dancing underneath a bunch of strobe lights. It was the first time I found myself playing minimal electronic music to crowds of dancing people and in some ways it led into a lot of what I’m doing now.

Video Nasties is my current, ongoing project with Brendan. We’ve been doing it since around 2011. It’s basically the band we both wish we had had together when we were in high school, meaning it is noisy bedroom electronic/punk that has been deeply influenced by a heavy consumption of sleazy horror videos in said bedroom…basically an extension of what we were both doing alone as teenagers. Our initial plan for the band was to pre-record a lot of our backing tracks (drum machines, synthesizers, etc.) to a vhs tape on which I collaged some gore scenes and other weird elements from our tape collections and sutured together using some old analog video mixers and fx machines. We’d project the tape onto the stage and play along with the tracks. We did this a couple of times before realizing that the crudity with which I edited the materials together caused the vhs to flutter and distort, repeatedly putting us out of tempo and pitch.  Now our shows consist of the video reel projected over us while we play our guitars, bass, synths, to a rhythm track which I control from the stage. We have a male dancer/tambourine player. It’s a lot of fun. We released a string of cassingles and we just finished reworking a lot of those releases along with some new material for our first LP.

victimsJ. Hubner:  What got you guys into heavy synth? It seems a lot of the heavy synth guys I talk to start out in hardcore band and find themselves tinkering on synthesizers at some point. Are you two coming to it in a similar way?

Timothy Fife: I certainly grew up on punk and hardcore, and Void has always been one of my favorite bands.  But I was always into synth stuff too.  My dad would come home from yard sales with casio keyboards for me because he knew I liked Skinny Puppy and bands like that.  So even when I was in basement hardcore bands as a teenager I was playing on my synths trying to make an arpeggiator type sound.

Christopher Livengood: I was really really really deep into punk and experimental music as a teen, but the first instrument I ever owned was a large but simple Yamaha keyboard that my parents bought me from Service Merchandise. The 1st song I ever wrote was on that keyboard, circa 1987. It definitely involved the automated arpeggiator and built-in drum machine…so I had an early start on this type of music I’m doing today. When I finally got a guitar and started writing punk songs, I thought it was perfectly acceptable, and in fact economical, to use that keyboard for the drums and bass. I would teach my younger brother James (10 years old at the time) the bass lines and he would play them, pushing the ‘start’ and ‘stop’ buttons on the drum machine, while I did guitar and vocals. We had some originals but also did G.G. Allin, Misfits, and covers of 60‘s garage rock tunes. It helped that bands like Big Black were around to demonstrate that you could play punk music to drum machines and it would sound cool.

I think I really got into heavy synth music in my early teens because I was completely and totally obsessed with cheap horror videos. I spent a great portion of my youth riding my bike to the local video stores and renting everything they had. I noticed early on that when a movie had a score performed entirely on synthesizers it was a strong indication that something totally surreal and uncanny was about to unfold. It seemed to me that the more synthetic the score, the more whacked out the content of the movie. I always wanted to make movies and music like this and it took me a long time to realize the reason those synths sounded so dense and vibrant was because they were analog. It was even longer before I would eventually be able to afford some of these machines.

cleonovaJ. Hubner: How did the ‘Form Hell’ 10″ come about with Mondo/Death Waltz? How did it get into Spencer Hickman’s hands? It’s one of the best things I’ve heard all year, honestly. Beautifully textured music.

Timothy Fife: I already had some correspondence with Spencer because we both knew Fabio Frizzi and I was very excited about his label right from the beginning.  I sent him a demo because I really admired his vision and I really wanted to be a part of it.  So when he asked me to do a 10” it was a pretty cool moment.

J. Hubner: So the 10″ is comprised of two tracks, “Profecy” and “Cleonova”. Can you tell me a bit about the composing process for the band? Are the songs equally written between the two of you? Or is one song more Tim’s and another more Chris’? I’d also like to mention Aaron Dilloway. His sonic touches seem to add just the right amount of graininess to the proceedings. Is Dilloway’s process the last thing that happens in the composing process? 

Timothy Fife: I would say the composing process is equal.  There would be some sections that would be more Chris, then I would go home and tinker with them later.  Throughout the process we did a lot of editing and changing sections together.  

Yes, Dilloway was basically some of the last part of the composing process.  I really wanted to have him on there because I grew up on Dead Hills and was really influenced by Wolf Eyes and his solo work.  Plus he is also into the whole soundtrack, horror thing just like us.  I also wanted to have something that was really harsh and snapped you out of the moment.  It is a much different experience to hear Profecy without his sounds in it.

Chris Livengood: Tim and I are always sharing ideas with one another (sometimes, fully completed tracks) and trying to add to each other’s efforts. In the case of the two tracks on the 10”, we spent a lot of time watching horror trailers and talking about specific films with scores that possessed certain textures. I think Tim would describe a feel or ‘vibe’, I’d come to the table with a arpeggiated sequence, and we’d build off that…sometimes spontaneously jamming over it together, sometimes adding elements independently in our studios. Tim definitely handled much of the organization of the individual tracks and atmospherics and I don’t think that he would argue that I am more of the ‘melody man’.

Tim sent Dilloway rough edits of ‘Profecy’ and he (very quickly and efficiently, I might add) sent us back a series of loops that synced up perfectly with different parts of the track. Tim and I, with the help of Caleb Mulkerin (our mixing and mastering engineer and a seriously amazing artist in his own right) organized them and mixed them in. I think they blend in very subtly and sound organically a part of the overall mix. Tim and I have both been active in noise scenes so it’s pretty thrilling to have a figure as important as Aaron Dilloway collaborating on the record.

dwblogJ. Hubner:  I’d like to know who or what are some of the inspirations you guys are pulling from when going into something like ‘Form Hell’? “Profecy” reminds me a lot of ‘Phaedra’ and ‘Rubycon’-era Tangerine Dream, while “Cleonova” puts me in mind of Boards of Canada and old Betamax copies of horror films I watched too much of in the mid-80s(Gorgon and Vestron Videos come to mind.)

Timothy Fife: Certainly the Krautrock, Komische, Berlin-School movement was a huge influence on the recording.  For me Klaus Schulze is one of the greatest and his way of hypnotizing you with very simple repetitive patterns is very engaging to me.  But also lot of the early electronic pioneers were influential to us like Mort Garson, Phillian Bishop, and Marcello Giombini.

Christopher Livengood: Well, you’re definitely in the ballpark with these estimations: Those horror tapes left a lasting impression on my aesthetic development and over the course of my life I’ve consumed more than any healthy person should. Tangerine Dream, Moroder, early Steve Roach, Jarre, Michael Hoenig, Terry Riley, Kraftwerk, Goblin, etc. etc….I fell in love with this stuff in the early-mid 90’s. Back then you could find some LP’s like this in the ‘New Age’ bin for about 2 bucks. I used to be self-conscious about being a punky-goth kid browsing that section, but once I got them home I’d daydream to those records and truly feel transported. To me it was total alchemy as to how they made that music…all those different synth lines that seemed to be played impossibly fast. I had no idea about sequencers!  I think B.O.C. is also a bit of an influence…I’m not huge into their kinda beat-driven tracks, but I love the little miniature interstitial pieces that they do…not to mention all the masking and subliminal stuff going on in their mixes. I was really in love with the production and mix on Geogaddi.

J. Hubner: Was there more music you two created as Victims, but “Profecy” and “Cleonova” were the two tracks you decided to go with? 

Timothy Fife: Oh yes, I’d say there’s about two LPs worth of music we didn’t use, most of it is unfinished.  Right from the beginning Spencer wanted a 10” so we knew how much material we could fit on the record.

Christopher Livengood: This project went through 3 distinct phases: We recorded a number of demos in the vein of Bruno Nicolai or Morricone with the intent to have an orchestra perform them. We probably have nearly an LP’s worth of this material.  When that proved too difficult and expensive to organize, we pooled together a large number of electronic ‘miniatures’…strange, distorted, synth pieces inspired by the more bonkers cheapo horror scores, like The Severed Arm, or Messiah of Evil.  We have a lot of material like this that we hope to do something with at some point, but it didn’t seem appropriate for the format of a 10”. Finally we settled in on doing side-long pieces and that’s what made it to the record.

profecyJ. Hubner: Could you tell me about your music/recording set up? What are your main synths/instruments? Do you guys record to tape or are you recording to a DAW? The songs have a very warm, analog feel to them, that’s why I ask.

Christopher Livengood: For this record, we employed a variety of recording techniques, both analog and computer-based.  In my home studio, I mostly record and mix on a Tascam 388 1/4” reel-to-reel. I also use multitrack cassettes when appropriate. I’m clueless when it comes to DAWs (absolutely nothing against them, I just can’t keep up and like to stick with what I know) although I use a computer for final editing. Tim, through his film work, is much more adept at using computers for music.

I have a number of analog synths from the 70’s, none of which are midi-equipped. For the past 10+ years I’ve been trying to make synth music that sounds like I’m using sequencers despite not having one. I’ve developed some strategies for convincingly playing this way, but it’s difficult and inefficient. Only recently did I get a newer model Moog that can be synced to other devices and has a built in sequencer. ‘Form Hell’ was, in many ways, the first opportunity for me to express my excitement about that. Analog synths and CV gear has become so much easier to acquire in recent years….it’s really exciting!

J. Hubner: Tim, can you tell me about your full-length debut with Mondo/Death Waltz? Is this just you or is this a Victims full-length? If it’s a solo release will you and Chris be putting something else out together as Victims or in some other form?

Timothy Fife: My full length solo album will be called Black Carbon and it should be coming out near the end of this year or early next year.  I know the art will be made by Eric Adrian Lee, who does a lot of the covers for Death Waltz and Giallo Disco.  I’m not sure what else to say about it, I just know that Spencer really likes it a lot and that’s pretty good to me.   It definitely feels to me like it could be a companion to Form Hell in a sense.

Soon, I really want to start work on the next Victims record.  Chris temporarily lives in New York and I live in New Hampshire, so it’s a little bit tougher to work on music at the moment.  I also would like to work out a live Victims show as well.  

Christopher Livengood: I’m hoping for a Victims LP in the future.  We’ve also bounced back and forth some ideas that are a little different from Victims, but we’ll see.

J. Hubner: So what do you two think is the appeal of analog synth? What’s the appeal for you guys?

Timothy Fife: For me, analog synths are very nostalgic.  My dad used to play me The War of the World Musical by Jeff Wayne and the Flash Gordon soundtrack, both of which have some really great synths sounds in them.  So I feel like others might be like myself, that they remind of a time when all of this cool, very creative stuff came out.  I also look at analog synths in the way Sun Ra might have, as a textural instrument that you can very expressive sounds with that other more traditional instruments could not be able to do.

Christopher Livengood: There is something uncanny about the purring harmonics of VCOs that you can practically visualize. Like a string on a guitar or cello vibrating, you can feel the constant undulations and transformations of the sound waves.  It’s almost as if there is an acoustic presence to the sound yet there is no physical object moving around. When I was a child and heard synthesizers in PBS station breaks or in re-runs of Dr. Who, I got chills…I thought those moments were scary. Vocoders and talk-boxes in pop songs creeped me out. But those were also the moments that stood out and fascinated me the most.

I’ve always appreciated any element in art or narrative structure that intrudes into and disrupts the fabric of a narrative. It’s what I like about the horror genre (or poorly made films in general)…that reality as we know it can suddenly be ruptured by the incomprehensible or the abject. So in ‘Lucky Man’, Keith Emerson’s out of tune Moog solo suddenly transforms a fairly straight-forward song into a something casually transcendent. Boring Steve Miller songs sound like drifting ambient music for just a moment before returning to rote blues-rock…I swear I’ve ‘seen’ and felt sawtooth synth tones from a well-recorded prog album slash their way through the speakers and buzz across the room.  It’s definitely a palpable, tactile sound.

J. Hubner: What does the rest of 2016 have in store for you guys? Are there any live performances planned? Chris, Video Nasties has a debut LP coming out on Feeding Tube Records. Are you gearing up for that? And Tim, any other projects we can look forward to?  

Christopher Livengood: 2016 has been a big year for me. My wife (Sascha Braunig, who provided the artwork for ‘Form Hell’) and I have temporarily relocated to New York City for the year while she participates in an artist’s residency and prepares for several upcoming shows. While this will add some challenges to my existing collaborative work, I’m still very excited about the Victims 10” and would love to do a live performance if the opportunity is right for what we do.  The Video Nasties album is something I’ve been working on for the past several years so its completion is kind of a dream finally realized. When that album comes out (very soon) we plan to do a number of shows and perhaps upload some of our video works to the net. We also have some new material we’re working on.

Tim and I have a lot of unused material from various ‘Form Hell’ sessions in addition to some rejected tracks we recorded for Paul Schrader’s new movie, ‘Dog Eat Dog’. I think we’d be into developing some of that stuff for a future release.

Another collaborator, Nick Barker, of the band Tempera (formerly the drummer of Herbcraft), and I are finishing the final mixes of an album we recorded almost entirely on various beaches in Maine. We used a portable rig to record ourselves playing small digital synths while surrounded by sunbathers and surfers. I think the atmosphere was definitely captured on those recordings.

I’m also sitting on hours and hours of tapes full of unreleased material including a couple of finished ‘garage psych-pop’ (best way I could describe it) albums and lots and lots of synth music. I have a habit of filling up tapes with material, not labeling them, and then tossing them into boxes for later, so I’ve got years of boxes overflowing with stuff that I don’t even remember making. My goal for the year is to organize all this material and maybe figure out what to do with it.

Timothy Fife: Right now Dave Ellesmere (ex-member of Discharge) and I are finishing work on the score for a film called Streets run Red.  I’m also working on a collaborative project thats a bit of a secret for now, but I will probably be able to talk about it very soon.

Want a copy of Form Hell? Just head over to Light In The Attic Records here or get one of those triple color variant copies at Mondotees right here. And be on the look out for Timothy Fife’s Black Carbon via Death Waltz/Mondo, as well as Video Nasties’ debut via Feeding Tube Records.