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Peter Aldrich interview June 1, 2002

Peter Aldrich is hard core old school Silber.  He pre-dates the first Silber release & even pre-dates the first QRD to when there was absolutely no empire here at all, just a vast plain without the factories & homes we’ve all come to know & love.  Pete’s music is a combination of space rock, jazz, punk, & art rock.  He’s always been the number one influence on getting us to listen to music we’d otherwise forget about like Colin Newman & Pere Ubu.  He’s also responsible in a round about way for Zombie Kisses.

QRD – How do you think being left handed & playing guitar right handed has helped or hurt your playing or effected your style?

Pete – It's funny, because I think much more rhythmically and texturally than melodically, and my dominant left hand is the one in charge of selecting notes and melodies. I suppose it hasn't had much effect on me. Guitarists have to use both hands anyway, so I suppose it doesn't much matter. It seems that many guitarists are left handed players adapting to right handed technique, including my teacher and several students in the music department at my former school.

QRD – For a long time you said you had no way of expressing yourself with an acoustic guitar, that your instrument was you guitar & its pedals more than just your guitar. But I understand recently you were playing acoustic guitar a bit, what has changed?

Pete – It's therapeutic. Recently I was going through some stressful situations.  I found the simple act of picking up my classical guitar and playing happy lines and riffs that end in a ringing resolution makes me feel better. It's not really a musical statement. I don't really have anything to say with one, and usually stay away from them because they are dominated by girl wooing bad songwriters.

QRD – What musical project that you've been involved with do you wish you'd gotten more or better recordings of?

Pete – Probably the early effect based music I used to do at Appalachian University, but even that is recorded enough to be able to recreate it if needed.

QRD – Your first band was Snail Snott right? What did you learn in Snail Snott?

Pete – I didn't know it at the time, but I learned in Snail Snott that I had a voice on guitar. Listening back now, I can hear that I played with many of the same values at 15 as 27. I also experienced the true joy that can come from rocking out without worrying about other's expectations or hang-ups about technique.

QRD – People were waiting for your debut album from your debut appearance on Alleviation in 1996 all the way until 2001. Why did it take you five years & how long will it be until your next record?

Pete – The material from my album was not really intended to be released as is. It's made up of individual tracks from wholly different home recording sessions. The equipment varied widely and so did my intent and moods, but it was usually alcohol fueled and anti-craft. Just like I was figuring out how to record and play, I was also finding my own voice. The long recording process is partly due to personality issues and alcohol consumption. Now that I feel more comfortable with myself and my music, more should be available within a year.

QRD – For a while you were making your living as a musician playing music you didn't particularly care for. Why did you stop & do you think it was the right choice?

Pete – I stopped because I had learned all I could in that situation. I didn't make enough money to live on and I didn't learn about enough else to make it artistically viable. You should at least have one of those.

QRD – How did going to school for music effect you positively & negatively? Will  you go back to finish your degree?

Pete – I learned many things about music in school that will ultimately help me a lot. However, when I go back to school it will be for something else because I was not a good music student and studying music did not make me happy.

QRD – What’s the difference for you between practicing guitar & playing guitar?

Pete – Practicing is for trying to accomplish some skill that I cannot yet achieve on guitar, or to keep up or improve a level of competency on my instrument. Playing is more like broadcasting an intent of mine on guitar.

QRD – What's the best exercise for improving your craft as a musician?

Pete – Two things: do exercises to take your ego out of your actions, and do things that you would think an improving craftsman would take on, as opposed to what you feel like doing.

QRD – What’s your take on the art versus craft dichotomy in music?

Pete – I think you should be aware of both, so that you can choose how to present your music, as opposed to the choice being made for you. I can dabble on both ends, and it's more fun for me that way.

QRD – What’s your favorite Swans song?

Pete – I don't have one, although they all sound similar to me. One great tune over and over.

QRD – You’re a bit of a film geek & I know you made a short film a while back. Do you think you'll ever make another? How do you think film compares to music for expressing ideas?

Pete – I might do another. I'm a very visual person. I sort of see moving visions when I hear music. Film is great for communicating ideas, but it is very collaborative, and I'm not so great at collaborating. It is also technically difficult. It's easier to just pick up the instrument.

QRD – I know you're a big zombie & Romero fan, what do you find so interesting about zombies?

Pete – I'm really only interested in zombies as far as Dawn of the Dead goes. Since I can remember I have had apocalyptic dreams. Dawn of the Dead perfectly tapped into that, and kept the unexplainable dreamlike edge with the zombie element. Also, a friend of mine had died in an accident, and I had frequent dreams of her in an ambiguous state between life and death, zombie-like. Finally, at the time I first saw Dawn, life seemed confusing, and a film which made mere survival seem heroic was appealing. As far as Romero goes, his movies are funky, colorful, energetic, and homemade in 1970's Pittsburgh. What more could you want?

QRD – What’s your favorite non-zombie Romero film & your favorite non-Romero Zombie film?

Pete – I guess The Crazies is my favorite Romero film outside the zombie movies. It contains all my favorite Romero stuff. There is the funky, homemade look, the oppressive atmosphere, the apocalyptic theme. Best of all, the grating snare drum soundtrack!  Other directors' zombies’ films don't tap into my imagination in nearly the same way, so I would rather not compare.

QRD – What super hero do you most relate to & why?

Pete – None currently. I think real people are more interesting. However, when I was in junior high I would read Marvel comics. I liked nerdy, high-minded heroes like Captain America, ones with moral dilemmas. Or useless ones like Cypher and Gargoyle.

QRD – Do you think rock & roll will ever die?

Pete – It's been undead since 1963.

QRD – What decade of the twentieth century has made your favorite music?

Pete – That’s easy. Nearly all my favorite records and big influences come from the seventies. Wire, Funkadelic, Pere Ubu, "The Harder they Come", King Crimson, etc. There seemed to be a lot of mixing simple, humanistic ideas and psychedelia. Miles Davis' seventies records are a good example of what I'm getting at.

QRD – What records or books or films have changed the way you look at music?

Pete – Book: Lester Bangs' Psychotic Reactions and Carborator Dung.  Record: Beach Boys’ Endless Summer. It was my first rock record from when I was about six. It was cool then and still is. Now that's rock and roll.  Movie: Back to the Future. I got a guitar because of this movie. I wanted to play "Johnny B. Goode". I got a skateboard too. Thanks Michael J. Fox!

QRD – Do you think Jimi Hendrix is the best guitarist ever?

Pete – He's certainly my favorite.

QRD – Do you feel the guitar has been fully explored/exploited?

Pete – No. Even if it had been, I'm not that interested in telling people "It's been done before", because that's all relative.

QRD – Are you happy to be part of Silber?

Pete – Very. Being associated with Silber has turned me on to certain ideas that have allowed me to express myself in all sorts of ways that I would never have thought of otherwise. I mean, I think of Less Visionary as a guitar record, and I never would have realized certain ideas and techniques without Silber's influence. That said, I would have produced little to nothing on CD without the generosity of Silber. I'm extremely glad for it's existence and influence. Viva Silber!

QRD – What’s the name of the first song you ever wrote?

Pete – The first song I remember writing was putting the music to a friend's lyrics called "Betsy the Chainsaw". I think I have a recording of it.

QRD – Anything else?

Pete – Keep up the good work, Brian. The world's a better place with you in it.