with Brian Lea McKenzie of Electric Bird Noise
Since 1998 Brian McKenzie has been making music as Electric Bird Noise. From prog rock to new wave to drone to cinematic landscapes all in the same project. Definitely not for everyone, but probably worth checking out to anyone into the weirdo music & guitar experiments that we’ve been covering here since the beginning. We started out this interview with some questions from a few friends.
Claudia Gregory (Feel No Other) – If your music was a sci fi flick which would it be?
Brian – Not really a sci fi flick...or could it be?? We’ll choose any Stan Brakhage film... he’s a mild influence on our current works (Kind of Black & the new EP “birth”). Thanks goes to Ben Link Collins at Silent Media & his Coupling compilation for turning us on!
Philip James Fox (Wicked Gift) – Do you set out to create an emotional mood, or do you select the notes in the moment & let the mood fall where it may?
Brian – Both... depends on the space, crowd, & event... for the more recent shows we have been leaning toward a somewhat more free form approach, but some performances just have to come out a bit more structured. … An example of the latter would be Silber Records head honcho Brian Remora & Chelsea’s recent wedding we had the honor to play.
Philip Polk Palmer (Port City Music) – If you had to let go of reverb or delay, which would it be?
Brian – Delay... since a lot of what we do is loop & repetitive based.
Jerry Kranitz (Aural Innovations) – With the striking difference between Kind of Black & Desert Jelly in mind, what is Electric Bird Noise? Maybe as simple as being a vehicle for your interest of the moment?
Brian – Yes... you pretty much answered the question.… We like to think of Electric Bird Noise less like a band & more of an art project.
Jerry Kranitz (Aural Innovations) – Regarding Kind of Black, "One" - "Eight" seem to follow a theme (which I describe my perception of in the review), & tracks "Nine" - "Eleven" go into a very different direction. Do you see the album as being in two parts, or did it just work out that way?
Brian – I don’t hear that much of a difference... or at least it’s not suppose to be different... those songs came from the same sessions as the rest of the record.
QRD – What did you learn from your experience in Dead Cut Tree & how did it shape your career?
Brian – Dead Cut Tree… I don’t think anyone reading this is gonna know this band.… It was a band we started up right after high school... we initially sounded like The Cure & ended up sounding like Danzig... toured a bit,did a bunch of showcases received a few contracts, etc. So what did I learn? The music business is just that, a business; touring while fun can be really expensive; & do it because you love it, nothing more.
QRD – Why have you stayed in Myrtle Beach?
Brian – Family, friends, business, creativity, weather, & of course the beach!
QRD – You got the Vibesware Guitar Resonator. Does it appear on any recordings?
How does it compare to an ebow? Is it a one trick pony?
Brian – We used it a good bit on our new EP “birth”... compared to the ebow the Vibesware has a softer sound.... it’s closer to the sound of actual feedback.... also your right hand is free with the Vibesware so you can get really expressive with a tremolo arm.
A one trick pony… no... there’re so many cool sounds you can get out of the Vibesware you just can’t achieve with an ebow... like putting the Vibesware’s head over a pickup... you’ll get some crazy stuff going on that sound like squawking birds or underwater conversations with whales.... Do the same with an ebow & you’ll get different results.
QRD – You’ve been doing a lot of mini-tours through the Carolinas lately. Is there a reason for more shows? Do you plan on doing more extensive touring?
Brian – The new records (Kind of Black & "Birth") are the reason... & lately more folks have been asking if we wanna play... we very rarely ever say no... no plans as of now for any extensive touring.
QRD – Traditionally you have multiple musical projects you’re involved with where you are a dominant songwriter. How do you know what project a song belongs to & where do songs go when a project becomes defunct?
Brian – Usually it’s set out from the get go what the intent is… be it an instrumental experiment, a structured pop song, or a straight up rock ‘n’ roll tune. Don’t know if a project ever goes defunct in our world... still occasionally doing reunion shows stretching back from the high school days.
QRD – When you’re writing songs with your guitar, which comes first, the tone or the notes?
Brian – A little of both... some can start out grabbing an acoustic & picking away & some are signal chain inspired.... There’s always tone/sound... the sound, tone, or noise can sometimes be the note... right?
QRD – What’s your favorite pedal of all time & why?
Brian – Boss TU3... we like to stay in tune... most of the time.
QRD – You’ve been running a recording studio for about the same amount of time as you’ve been doing Electric Bird Noise. How have the two influenced each other?
Brian – Collecting new studio gear & getting better at recording pushes Electric Bird Noise in new directions for sure... the artistic concept that is Electric Bird Noise at times influences the studio work we do for others.
QRD – What do you think is the advantage of recording in a studio instead of at home these days?
Brian – Staying focused & getting that outside opinion as the material takes shape.
QRD – With the digital re-release of Unleashing the Inner Robot, how was it to critically re-listen to those pieces? Did it make you want to revive that style a bit or bring some of those pieces back to your live set?
Brian – Brought back fond memories.... We’re at another place now musically, so for now those songs live in nostalgia.
QRD – Anything else?
Brian – Thanks Brother B for all you’ve done for us over these years... love & respect!