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QRD #34 - the halloween issue - October 2007
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Interview with Brian McKenzie of Electric Bird Noise 
October 26, 2007
Electric Bird Noise is Brian McKenzie’s “cinematic loop project” & he’s been doing it for almost ten years now.  He also runs a record label & is in several bands & runs a recording studio.  A busy guy…
QRD – It seems like your music used to be able to go pretty easily under the post rock label, but as post rock has gotten more & more specifically defined, you are kinda cut out of it.  How do you try to describe your music to someone these days? 

Brian – I’ve never personally tagged my work with Electric Bird Noise as “post rock”.... I like some bands that I guess get or may have gotten the “post rock” stamp, so this may translate in some of my recent works being called by others as “post rock”.... I’m liking the tag “future folk” right now... at least for the Fragile Hearts.....Fragile Minds record.

QRD – You come from a bit of a heavy metal & hard rock type background growing up, how did you get into music more along the vein of what you do in Electric Bird Noise? 

Brian – Before the metal there were a slew of arty rock/punk bands... plus I’ve been doing sound art pieces sorta like Electric Bird Noise since, ummmm, the mid 80’s....  I’ve always jumped genres since I started doing music related stuff....  If there’s any click that spawned Electric Bird Noise & my sound art journeys, it would have to be the 80’s 4ad stuff.

QRD – How do you think living at Myrtle Beach has effected your sound?  It seems like a lot of musicians take off from there as soon as they graduate from high school. 

Brian – Yeah, a lot people move away....  I’m thinking living all my life in Myrtle & being secluded here in the south has forced me to come up with some-what independent ideas & to independently resolve artistic problems.

QRD – It seems at any given time you’re working on half a dozen musical projects, what ones do you look at as serious & what ones just for fun? 

Brian – Honestly I take ever project that comes my way 100% seriously....  When they stop being fun I’ll either give it a break or dissolve it.

QRD – On the song “We Share More Than Our Father’s Last Name” you used a vocal loop, but it’s by Michael Wood (singer for SAVAS) instead of yourself.  What’s the story behind that? 

Brian – Can’t answer this one... sorry... too personal.

QRD – You run your own recording studio & have for about ten years now & you’ve chosen to keep it a bit of a word of mouth unadvertised thing, not trying to work seven days a week & sixteen hours a day like a lot of people do.  Why have you tried to keep it small & controllable instead of expanding into a bigger studio?

Brian – It has grown gradually... especially over the last 5 years....  The studio is just me alone & I work about 5 to 6 days a week.  I’ve been able to keep a very busy schedule; usually booked up for at least six weeks, sometimes more, with no advertising.  I’ve been very lucky!  Check out: myspace.com/brianmckenziesmusicfactory

QRD – On Fragile Hearts....Fragile Minds you seemed to not have that much guitar, but in the live show guitar seems your dominant instrument.  Do you see that as something that would confuse a fan of either the recordings or the live show? 

Brian – I started Electric Bird Noise as my personal outlet… free form (improv) in its beings.  Touring lately has been the guitar rig that goes back to the Unleashing the Inner Robot days.  But from time to time I’ll do an Electric Bird Noise show with all keyboards or what ever comes to mind.  I did a show where I put on Slow Riot for New Zerø Kanada by Godspeed You Black Emperor & just sat there enjoying the record with the crowd.  Hopefully folk see & or feel the connection.

QRD – You’ve had essentially the same pedal set-up for ten years.  Do you think about changing it much? 

Brian – I’ll pick up a new gadget every once in awhile; but you’re right, not much has changed with the basic Electric Bird Noise touring guitar rig in a while.

QRD – A lot of the recordings you do seem to be for compilation appearances & then collected into album formats.  Do you record them again to help them fit together better as an album? 

Brian – No... just do my best to sequence them properly so hopefully it all makes sense.

QRD – Your live show is just you & a smoke machine & lights.  I know years ago you used to occasionally have other people perform with you in EBN, what are the benefits & problems to doing the show with other musicians as well as by yourself? 

Brian – The benefits of playing with others is the camaraderie... & the extra sounds....  The only real problem is scheduling & availability.  One of the reasons I started Electric Bird Noise is I was tired of depending on other folk. 

QRD – At this point would you rather add more lights or more performers? 

Brian – Both!

QRD – A lot of people get confused by your album Soundtrack to the Motion Picture The Pace.  Because of course there is no movie.  In your head is there a movie that has just never been made? 

Brian – Maybe....  When I was trying to come up with a title for what would be The Pace I would listen from top to bottom & all I could imagine was a movie that would vaguely have something to do with pacing....  I’m a fan of soundtracks (80’s John Carpenter for example), so why not make my own imaginary movie soundtrack.

QRD – Your main looping pedal for EBN is the Lexicon Jam Man.  I know you’ve used some other loopers over the years, why do you like the Jam Man so much & if it broke would you buy another or get something newer? 

Brian – Yes I’d purchase another Jam Man if it went down.  I do own two Gibson Echoplexes as well as a DD20 & the jam man has a certain sound that seems to work a bit better with the Electric Bird Noise guitar rig.  The loops seem to degrade a slight bit with the Jam Man.  The Echoplex is really nice though & gets used a lot.

QRD – On the records do you still do the loops on the fly or do you make them on the computer to get them exactly right? 

Brian – A bit of both.

QRD – I guess a lot of people reading QRD know you as a touring companion with Remora, how do you think the music of EBN is similar & different from Remora? 

Brian – We’re both big fans of Warrior Soul as well as Swans & like minded bands... we’re both guitar/fx junkies... we both loop... he sings, I don’t.

QRD – There’s been talk of a Remora/EBN collaboration for a few years, do you think it’s going to happen & what are your plans for it? 

Brian – We collaborated & recorded a couple pieces for a radio station in Cleveland on our last tour... about 3 hours worth of material.  We need to go through these ideas independently in the near future & edit out some of the filler stuff.  I’d like to have something focused with this particular project sometime in early-mid 2008.  Also we’re talking about having Brian come in the studio & cut a song or two for Remora.… We’ll see what happens

QRD – You used to be in a band that “almost made it” called Dead Cut Tree.  What happened & what did you learn from the experience? 

Brian – We had a record contract, but the label when under before we signed up.  I’ve had a few of these & what I’ve learned is to do as much as you can independently.

QRD – The first EBN was released on your own label under the title “Artfag” & now you are running your own label under the title “No More Stars”, what’s the difference? 

Brian – No More Stars Records.com is a web based (iTunes format) label; Artfag was a traditional CD format thing.

QRD – What do you think are the biggest positive & negatives to running your own label & what are your eventual goals for NMS?

Brian – Running my own label plus running a recording studio, I have complete control over every single aspect of my music & what I release.  I see all losses & gains first hand.  Eventually I’d like to sign up outside bands other than my immediate projects... record & release others’ ideas. 

QRD – Being a digital only label obviously has some benefits, but how do you personally feel about the lack of a physical item? 

Brian – The entire music industry been heading this way sometime.  Smaller & smaller packaging, now almost none.  Bad for the art-cover lover, but great for modern folk on the run searching for that band & their 15 minutes of fame.  It all equals to very low overhead, no physical storage problems, plus it’s environmentally safer.

QRD – Anything else you want us to know? 

Brian – Try viewing all works separately....  See every record as a gallery....  Thanks for helping me spread the word!