interview January 2001 by email with phone supplements
What is Drekka? Who is Michael Anderson? Well, he’s a musician. Some kind of modern folk singer in a way. Like americana complimented by street noise listened to in a reverb chamber. I don’t know, maybe that’s on the right track, at least to explain the music. He also runs BlueSanct a label with a lot of heart. So this interview is mainly about music, but hopefully all you non-music geeks can like it too…..
QRD – If there were some kind of apocalyptic thing that made the whole world tribal & people's names changed to be based on their talents or attributes, what would your name be?
Michael – Either “Psalter” or “Sound Collector.”
QRD – Do you think BlueSanct has ever suffered from being ambitious & over extending itself?
Michael – I think I get over excited about things, about so many projects I want to release. I over extend myself, wind up financially & morally bankrupt & wind up with no food, people disappointed & wondering what to do next. I am unfortunately in the midst of one of these downward turns in the wheel right now.
QRD – What's your favorite brand of water?
Michael – Either Akva or Thorspring (non-carbonated). As they both come from Iceland & contain the essence of Odin. I did recently discover that Lime Flavored Perrier is not gross as I had previously assumed. It is in fact quite lovely.
QRD – What's your favorite Swans song & what one would you most like to cover?
Michael – Off the top of my head I would say either “No Cruel Angel” by Swans or “Breathing Water” by Skin are my favorites. I also really like M.Gira's version of “Song for a Dead Time” or “Ligeti's Breath/Hilflos Kind” off Die Tur ist Zu. I guess I'll throw in “Another You,” as well, to make it a Top Five. The one to cover would probably be either “Song for a Dead Time” or “Real Love.”
QRD – You make a number of guest appearances as a live performer in other bands, do you generally lend creative input or do as your told & how fulfilling is it compared to Drekka?
Michael – There have been times I have been asked to join a band on stage to “do what you do in Drekka” & times when I am just asked to join in & do whatever. I don't think I am interested in playing with a band in a “hired-hand” sense. I have to be able to express myself. In a band like static films, I am not so much a guest, as a family member. I have no problem with Mark guiding me in what he wants me to play, since it's his vision & I am there to help realize this vision. But, the role he assigns me is one of such flexibility that much is left open & I have frequently thrown out all rehearsed parts for passion's sake & spontaneity. It has never been detrimental to the work. With lovesliescrushing, it was the same thing. I was asked to be an active participant & writer. So again things were mapped & occasionally discarded onstage. With the recent In Gowan Ring/Stone Breath shows on the west coast, I was a little more conservative & stuck within guidelines. The music was already so celestial & powerful that I was merely the little bells & fine rain in the sky, trickling down the tapestry that B'eirth & Tim wove. The Anaphylaxis set at Cornerstone, which I was asked to collaborate on, was a case of “do Drekka.” We did some wonderful improvisational sets beforehand, Jason & I. But for the set, it was four of us onstage together for the first time ever. Truly improv, so I just closed my eyes & was Drekka playing along to the tone structures the other guys were creating. At one point I started singing, which I think took Jason by surprise. I thought “maybe I shouldn't do this, sing this song.” But, I was there to improv as I would Drekka, & it felt like the right thing to do. I think it worked out quiet well, despite probably taking Jason by total surprise for a second. I think it is in most cases equally fulfilling to Drekka, in that playing is about communication. & so playing with another band, as a guest, is a nice way of communicating with these other people & with the crowd. I am equally interested in having people guest in Drekka. It is flattering to have someone even want me to aid in this communication, this sound letter. The only thing that matters to me in perfoming something live, the sole purpose for bothering to get up & play in front of a crowd, is to communicate. Love & the sharing between people is more important than anything. It is not about entertainment, though it can be entertaining.
QRD – How did you get the Low live record & videos to be on BlueSanct?
Michael – My friend Mike had done sound for Low on their fall '97 tour, & he had all the shows on DAT. We were talking about that one particular show at the church, & he said I should ask them to release it. So I did. It was not the best show of the tour, technically. But it has an amazing ambience to it, the reverb of the room; the song selection is great. It included “Song for Little Baby Jesus” on it, which was a very important one for me personally. My friend, Phil Perry, had just died in a boating accident while on a cross-country walking trip, which had been inspired by the song “Over the Ocean.” The postcard image on the backtray of the cd is from the last postcard we got from Phil, days before his accident. It just seemed very important to me to share this show with everyone & a fitting memorial for a unique friend. The videos came about when one of my best friends, Kirstin Grieve, made a video for “Will the Night.” We showed it to Alan & they sort of came up with the idea to do a video ep for the Kranky albums, focusing on the then new Secret Name album. I then licensed the three videos from their Vernon Yard records.
QRD – Do you feel comfortable releasing your own recordings or would you rather another label did it?
Michael – I would love to have Drekka signed to another label, & to be able to solely focus BlueSanct on other people’s works. But, until this happens I will continue to release my own projects. I think that I will always do so in some way. It's nice to have a vehicle to release... Say Drekka gets signed to Label (no specific label). I would still want to release side projects & random stuff on BlueSanct. So, I guess it's ok. I have no problem with releasing my own stuff, except that if I were on another label, I'd get more out. I feel like I spend all my time with BlueSanct releasing other people’s stuff, to the detriment of my own output.
QRD – What are the best & worst pieces of equipment you've ever had?
Michael – I am not sure about worst, but best is my acoustic guitar or my four-track. I am not really sure as to what “worst” & “best” mean in this application. Is it favorite or most expensive or most useful?
QRD – The most useful with price taken into consideration.
Michael – The most useful would definitely be at this point my Boomerang, which is a first generation Boomerang that can only sample up to one minute & has this weird click if you sample at loud volumes so it makes some cool weird stacked loops. That I got cheap in Boston when Scott [Cortez (lovesliescrushing)] & I were there & we convinced the guy at Guitar Center that we were on tour & it was that we either buy it right then & there or never so he gave it to us for half price.
QRD – What do you think about talented & creative musicians playing in classic rock cover bands to pay their bills?
Michael – I think if I could do it, if I were a proficient enough player, I would do it in a second. These guys make $1000 a weekend. The downside of it, which keeps a lot of people from doing it, is that you wind up playing for morons, with morons, & in clubs run by morons. But, it's better than selling french fries to morons. Besides, I'd love to play some hot licks & such once in a while. Maybe work a Suicide song into the mix for fun. If you're going to do the cover band thing, better classic rock than Green Day covers.
QRD – Why do you use an alternative tuning & is it always the same one?
Michael – I usually either use standard tuning or a troubadour tuning that is based on D. I like to use this tuning because it is good for raga drones & cyclical pieces. It is mostly the same one, though it changes a little for some pieces.
QRD – If you had to lose one finger which one would you most like it to be?
Michael – The middle finger of my right hand, since I can barely feel in it anyway. The nerves were damaged in a car accident ten years ago, & it's never been quite right since, geezer.
QRD – Would you say Drekka is an album band or a singles band?
Michael – I think that Drekka is more of a long form band. You hit it in a review you did of one of my EPs. Drekka is more effective in a larger dosage. Then, once you've “got it,” the random tracks & comps make more sense in the scope of things. I personally think of Drekka's output as one long-form piece. I re-use ideas & motifs, stick things in different combinations to look at contrasts & familial resemblances. It's all about the same thing. Love, communication, & how these things affect a life & our ability to share with others when thought about or when neglected. I am not much of a writer, so Drekka is a sound essay on what I hear in my head, attempted to be transmitted in some faulted form or other for my friends & loved ones & all else who care to listen.
QRD – What's the most accurate description you've heard of Drekka?
Michael – My friend Thax, a noted poet in Chicago, once told me that he liked to listen to Drekka with the windows open in his small apartment which is right by a busy intersection. He liked how the music changed every time, depending on the time of day & amount of traffic outside. Another person told me at a show that he kept trying to concentrate on the show, but found himself staring at the ceiling thinking about something he hadn't ever thought about before. Both of those are nice descriptions.
QRD – What are the current plans for the next Drekka release?
Michael – Drekka's debut CD, entitled Take care not to fall, will be out this spring (or I will hang myself). It has taken a long time to do, far too long. For reasons touched upon above, money, & lack of focus, I have not finished it, though it's been recorded for some time now. It will be released on BlueSanct. A second full length, entitled Extractioning, will be out on Elsie & Jack imprint Mar/Ino later this year as well.
QRD – What all projects are you currently involved in?
Michael – Drekka has several projects going at once, fortunately & unfortunately. static films is gearing up to record their/our first CD release. La'brador is almost done with a cover of the entire The Top album by the Cure. Turn Pale is being very patient while I try to write lyrics & not break microphones. Orphanology is a new label I am starting for Day2 Alliance bands (as if I have the time). I was thinking of working on a new, all electronic, 4K album... but probably won't for a long time. Scott Cortez & I are slowly working on a Vir CD.
QRD – Why is La’brador covering The Top instead of Pornography?
Michael – La’Brador is in the process of covering The Top instead of Pornography because Keller from La’brador’s other band Blinking Lights just covered Pornography. So after The Top we’re going to do Seventeen Seconds & Faith & then I don’t know, probably Head on the Door.
QRD – How is Orphanology really different from BlueSanct & why are you making it a different label instead of just part of BlueSanct?
Michael – Well, when I started BlueSanct I was doing a lot of short run cassettes & children’s books & books of poetry & very limited edition stuff, but now that BlueSanct has become more of a label with cd’s in excess of 1000 & stuff, I’ve started to catch flak from distributors who say it’s confusing that I’ll release a cd that’s catalog number forty-one & then the next one is twenty-eight & the next one will be sixty-one & they want to know what was in between. I’m like, “Oh, this one was a bean bag I made for a friend & this one was party hats for a show, like a Teen Beat thing.” So I guess just to make it easier to distinguish between the two. BlueSanct will continue to release more major releases by Day2 artists & then Orphanology will be for fun off the cuff projects & really limited edition cds & stuff.
QRD – What’s 4K?
Michael – 4K is originally from the early 90’s & I made it as sort of an art terrorist project in Boston. It was an extension of a collective called ATN which meant “annoy The Noise,” which was a local magazine covering mainly cock rock kind of stuff. So a bunch of bands started making cassettes on a weekly basis to send to The Noise to annoy them. So I started this thing called 4K which was an anonymous art terrorist project where I was the only visible member & we’d record really really bad stuff & send it to them bi-weekly. There was one time where we figured out where one of the guys lived & we broke into his house & left the cassette on his kitchen table with a manifesto. The other thing is that the main band in the Day2 Alliance is called The Stuffings & we played up a rivalry between 4K & The Stuffings & this guy got freaked & wrote what he didn’t think was very funny, but we thought was very funny article, about how we were using him as a media pawn in this war between two factions of art terrorism. So that’s how 4K started, but then I just started using that name for when I do re-mixes & my design company.
QRD – With you & Scott Cortez, is Vir the only thing, has lovesliescrushing officially ended?
Michael – lovesliescrushing ended as of 1995 officially as far as recording goes. There’s a lot of material that’s not released yet that Scott &, to a limited degree, I am working on mixing & releasing in batches. The next lovesliescrushing release I think is going to be a Drekka/lovesliescrushing clear ten inch on Sonic Syrup Records in Connecticut. The lovesliescrushing side is going to be out-takes from Xuventyn that Sam Rosenthal thought were too noisy for the album. But Vir is the only active project that Scott & I are working on. Scott works on any number of mythical projects at once. Vir is primarily a sound orchestra where Scott sends in guitar tracks & then I have other people work on it without hearing his parts & then I assemble them all & I have two or three female vocalists that I incorporate in there too.
QRD – Do you think having a day job stifles or stimulates your creativity?
Michael – It's odd. I have tried both sides of this one & found that not having a day job just makes me worried about how I am paying bills & actually tended to strangle all the energy I have. It's a careful game of having a job that is not too stressful, so you can work at night & go to work tired. Also, it's good to have a job that's disposable, so as to be able to ditch it for a tour or because you want to. I find it's always best to keep a rotation of the copy shops. Free copies come in handy. & once you've worked one, you can work any of them.
QRD – Who would you like to see in the radio top 40 that you could realistically see there?
Michael – I don't listen to the radio generally, but when I do I think notice a huge lack of any emotion in anything played on Top 40. Even the bands that seem it, fake it, all sound like a bunch of bored losers whining about broken families & stuff. I would like to have an infusion on passion in Top 40. Get the kids worked up for real. Radiohead can't do it alone. I think that Bright Eyes could do it, he's young & cute. He would kick some asses. I was at work the other day listening to Bright Eyes, & I started crying in the middle of the transaction. Bright Eyes rule. Neutral Milk Hotel should be there too. Not Olivia Tremor Control though, just NMH. Swearing at Motorists, maybe. I think that Tiltmaster could fit in. He's on BlueSanct, but don't hold that against him. He could be the next Elliot Smith for sure.
QRD – What retired musician/defunct band would you most like to see do another record?
Michael – Taking into account the actual musicians ages & other factors (like post band sucking), I am having a hard time. I'd like to see the Virgin Prunes, but don't think Gavin Friday could pull it off. I think the Birthday Party could do it right & fierce. That would be amazing. Talk Talk would be amazing. I would go anywhere in the world to see Areski & Brigitte Fontaine perform together again. Personally, I would love for the original line-up for the Stuffings to play again. Day2 Alliance's premier rockers! I was really impressed by 90% of the Bauhaus reunion, up until the stupid Dead Can Dance cover. HELLO YANNI! The Wire reunion was pretty amazing. The ones I can think of that are impossible; Joy Division & Nirvana. I would love to see Cat Stevens do his songs, but that's not possible either.
QRD – What art form are you saddest about computers bringing to an end?
Michael – Definitely old school industrial tape loop experiments. You can do it on computer now, but it’ll never sound like a tape loop. It’ll never sound like a mangled piece of tape that you had to put together with some scotch tape. & you put it in the cassette deck & it lags & is never a perfect loop & the physical performance aspect of that. Like I saw Psychic TV in 1989 & Paula P. Orridge was performing with this machine she had built that was a bank of about thirty cassette decks & she spent the whole show switching out cassettes & making cassettes right then & there. So I would say tape loop culture.
QRD – Why is Bloomington such a hot spot for music?
Michael – When I moved here it was to work with Secretly Canadian & I think the rise of Secretly Canadian has helped. But I think Secretly Canadian exists because of the ongoing artist community here, where people are really willing to interact & try different & new things even if they’ve never come across it before. You can say, “I wanna start a band that sounds kinda like this” & either people will offer to play with you or they’ll suggest people for you to talk to. There’s just a really good amount of musicians & artists who are really willing to have fun experimenting.
QRD – But isn’t it really small to be that way?
Michael – Yeah, it’s surprisingly concentrated because it is really small & you have the school that gives you a constant flux of new people in & out, but it’s really cool how few people are here & how much goes on. Everyone is in like three or four bands here, I just joined a new band last week & it’s gonna be cool.
QRD – So do bands stop & play there? Like big bands?
Michael – There are some bands who would
rather play here. Like a band like Bright Eyes who are getting pretty
big play here three or four times as much as they play Chicago, because
everyone loves them & they have a good time. They can play a
show & then afterwards there’s a party & they just hangout &
it’s really fun, so a lot of bands would prefer to play here than Chicago