Thursday, 29 April 2010

Mark Mcguire

Whether making up a third of ambient psych band Emeralds, collaborating with Oneohtrix Point Never, recording under his own name or several other guises Mark Mcguire is a guitarist characterised by his prolific output and Krautrock inspired drones; creating music that can equally veer off into the shimmering and epic or the sedate and sublime. I caught up with the Cleveland, Ohio native over a series of e-mails to talk about instruments, the creative process and bromances.

You’ve always been pretty prolific with your output, like you’re always creating, what’s changed in the way you perform and record in the 5 years since you started with Emeralds?

-I play music either with Emeralds or by myself almost everyday and am constantly recording, playing, and practicing. There’s so many jams to be made and things to be done I feel like I just have to keep working constantly, there’s no time to waste! All that has really changed since we started is that I’m able to focus a lot more, and I feel like our recordings are a lot more relaxed and becoming more ambitious. I think we’re realizing our potential more and more each year and trying to go for it even harder. I still feel like we’re just getting started.

What equipment, guitars/effects do you use to record?

-For the past five years, I’ve been playing a Gibson Les Paul Studio. I recently bought a new Fender Lonestar Stratocaster, and I’ve really been digging it, such a different feel and sound than the Les Paul. I run it through a cheap distortion, a cheap phaser, an even cheaper chorus and a couple delay pedals. I also use two different guitar-synthesizers.

How much of your work is improvised? Do you spend a lot of time honing sounds and tones or do you work more on melodies?

-A lot of times I’ll just get a riff or a rhythm or a concept or something in my head, and then next time I play I try to get that idea out. It usually ends up sounding way different than planned because once I start going it’s about 90% improvised. Sometimes I’ll have an idea so deep in my head that it comes out just the way I thought, which is nice too! I like to try lots of different methods of writing and composing. Some of my new stuff is a lot more composed and put together than usual, and I’m definitely gonna keep trying out different styles and structures in the future.

Your music seems to lend itself towards the more Berlin side of things, who are some of your favourite Krautrock bands?

-I think more obviously some of my favourites are the early and mid-period Popol Vuh records, and all the Manuel Gottsching and Ash Ra Tempel records, and Kraftwerk is definitely one of the best bands of all time, and TD and Schulze and all the classic greats. That is a really important time and place for music that I respect and admire very much, but to be honest I don’t really sit around listening to that stuff all of the time or anything. Like if I’m driving and I’m listening to something really far-out I get way too zoned and that can get dark! I’m always looking for new music to get into from all different areas of the spectrum.

You collaborate with Daniel Lopatin from Oneohtrix Point Never for your Skyramps project, how do you two influence each other?

-Dan is one of the people we’ve met through our band that we had an immediate connection with as far as musical kinship, and just in general as a dude. We get along really well and I think that’s one of the most important things when collaborating with someone artistically. Being comfortable enough to create something as naturally as if you were doing it alone, and it’s definitely like that with him. Sometimes I think he’s the reincarnation of my estranged first best friend from childhood, it’s cool like that.

You’re from Cleveland Ohio, how has the city influenced you?

-Cleveland is a very unique place to grow up. The Midwest in general is a really specific vibe but Cleveland is totally its own world. There’s a lot to be inspired by here. There’s a really beautiful parks system in Ohio, were right on Lake Erie, and we get a full dose of each season. So in that way there’s a positive charge. Cleveland is also a really poor city, with a lot of people out of work. Major companies have moved out, the Ford plant is hanging on by a string, East Cleveland is really violent and scary. The Cleveland crime rates are double the national average in pretty much every category, and the winters are eternally harsh. People are really depressed here and most of them don’t even know it. They think it’s how everyone feels but it’s really just dark! That’s the negative charge, but it’s also inspiring to want to escape the bleak reality you grew up in. I love Cleveland and it’s always going to be where I call home. But with that said, I can’t wait to get out of here and see the whole world.

Mark can be found online at and

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Tuesday, 20 April 2010


Disaro Records is a music label from Houston at the heart of the recent 'Witch House' movement. Acting as a Texan umbrella for the current batch of dark, electronic goth acts that mask themselves in pitch-shifted vocals and gloomy synths they've released CDRs, vinyl and cassettes by the likes of Salem, o0o00, White Ring, Modern Witch and Mater Suspiria Vision amongst others.

Interview with label founders Robert Disaro and Jim Owleyes

-What were you influenced by when starting Disaro, did other labels inspire you, or was it more about wanting to get music out there?

Robert Disaro did do some work with another Texas CDR label, only he started branching off into a sound that did not fit with the old label, and what he would eventually turn into Disaro.

-With Disaro, there's a certain visual aesthetic associated with the label, was this always the intention?

Of course, the image plays such an important part of how the music is initially catalogued in the cerebral cortex. We started off at first with Robert collecting the sound while I started creating images that we wanted associated with the label. A lot of the artsists on the label make their own art as well, which we like a lot.

-How was your SXSW this year, was it interesting seeing Disaro related acts play, did you discover any new music or is it not really like that?

Texas is the place! We both are from there so we get screwed and chopped. It was a family reunion of sorts. The gathering storm is in full swing there.

o0o00 - Seaww. Video by Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never)

-What new releases can we expect from Disaro for the rest of the year?

We are actually doing a lot of new projects in LA at the moment.

-What's your take on all the different buzz words that are thrown at some of your acts, genre names like Witchhouse and Drag?

Witchhouse is a great name, we love it. Only once a name comes about to define a vibration, it becomes a solid, the word takes form and shapes reality, for better or worse.

White Ring - Roses (Fan Video)

-Apart from Disaro, are they any other projects that you're involved in, you do artwork for the label but do you create outside of that context?

The owleyes is a working graphic artist in LA, also we have been working with the Showcave night gallery in LA, developing it as an alternative space to explore ritual in art and music:

We are only agents for the unseen forces that carry the charge of the spirits of the air.

"Storm the Reality Studio. And retake the universe." -Burroughs

Disaro Records can be found online at

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Wednesday, 14 April 2010


Feel My Bicep is one of the fastest emerging music blogs on the internet. Formed by 5 old school friends from Belfast last year as a way of sharing their love for anything with a danceable beat; their posts range from classic and obscure Disco and Detroit techno to yacht rock gems and current house sensations.

With a Diaspora spread across the globe, I met up with London based contributor Drew who along with fellow member Matt, currently in Dubai, makes up the musical wing of the outfit.

When asked about the origins of the Feel My Bicep (the name itself a playful homage to the continued influence of gay culture on Disco) Drew, 22, explained how he had been enamoured with the sounds of Detroit and Berlin from an early age, being conditioned by Tim Sweeney’s Beats In Space and years of weekend attendances at a small Belfast clubnight called The Shine.

-We’re five friends who all went to school in Belfast, and when we were 15 we went to this club called The Shine. We’d go see people Laurent Garnier, Richie Hawton, Green Velvet, Underground Resistance. The guys who run that club night have got a real Detroit influence, they loved the harder side of techno, I think we grew up with the harder side of Detroit techno . Like when Tiga was playing back there, he used to play pretty hard tunes, I used to love that back then.

It was a really good club night in a city that didn’t have much else. And they used to put on people like Josh Wink, we didn’t have a clue who he was at the time. I look back at some of the flyers and some of the line ups and you’ll see Richie Hawton in one room, then upstairs you’ve Green Velvet and Tiga back to back. It’s like shit, that kinda line up, you’ll never get that again. They kinda mixed up the fundamental guys, not a lot of clubs do that anymore. The Shine’s moved away from that, it’s a bit different now to get more of an audience inside. Back then it was really quit, they didn’t get big turnouts, but all my friends were really into it.

It’s really quite strange actually everyone in Bicep likes different music: there's Rory and James in Glascow, David in San Francisco at the minute and Matt who’s in Dubai, so we’re getting all this weird influenced music out there at the minute. With James he’s really into punk and post-punk and David he’s perhaps more band influenced and with me I like lots of proto-house and proto techno so it’s quite a good mix of things.

It is interesting, and it’s always being updated...

-Yeah it’s not a thing of just trying to update it, with other blogs the quality control wasn’t good, I don’t want to name names but it’s a couple that we know. But they don’t keep to it, and we listen to so much music, you know with a DJ, you’ll listen to this new set and pick out the songs you love, that essentially what we do constantly. If you look at my music and my influences it’s all singles.

Not a single album?

-I don’t download albums. I do have a few albums but not very many: Andres II, a couple of Moodyman albums, couple of Theo Parrish, couple of Stevie Wonder's. I don’t really listen to albums that much cause I get bored half way through. I can’t really remember the last album I enjoyed throughout. That album by Andres II is a pretty cool album, it’s very hip hop.

Do you spend a lot of money on Vinyl; do you use it to DJ with?

-I play on Serrato, but yeah I buy all the music I love on vinyl. I work just two minutes away from Phonica and BM in Soho that’s where I get most of my records from. Same with Piccadilly Records in Manchester I used to go there all the time, they‘ve got a really good selection. I got some really good Italo records quite cheaply the other day, it’s like Bicep’s guilty pleasure, Italo.

You say it's a guilty pleasure but it’s still a pleasure

-Oh no I love it, some songs are amazing, Italo’s hard to do well, and it’s really hard to replicate so that’s why you don’t here a lot of it now, but yeah I do love it, some people just can’t stand it.

It’s a really cool genre, we always say Minimal Techno is 99% shite, but that other 1% is amazing, and it’s true, same with Italo Disco. That 1% is outstanding.

Now receiving over 70,000 hits a month, Bicep have attracted a considerable international audience, ranging from label attention from around the globe, having their records mastered in New York to DJ sets on the continent and a two week tour of China at the end of April

-Yeah that’s the coolest thing about it, we didn’t realise what it would do when we started it last October. It wasn’t a published thing and we built up the archives. We had a really slow start. It’s really amazing though I remember when it started, you’d get people commenting from Lisbon and Sweden. Now it’s got to a point where you can make a real connection with people.

With DJing, do you have to go see a DJ to be inspired by them or can you hear bits in mixes or is it a mixture of things?

-I keep thinking about that myself recently, because I don’t understand this whole culture, at the minute of, of booking producers to. Like they’ll book Aeroplane off the fact that they’re good producers, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to them being good live.

There’s some natural born DJs, like Erol Alkan is a natural born DJ, he was mixing House and Indie records when he was 18. There’s a big difference between a DJ and a good producer.

Who would you say are your favourite DJs?

Omar S definitely, I spent £40 on one of his records ‘Do Me Right’

Man, it’s not even a good cover

-I like it, that 90’s cheesy house style, I checked the record prices today and it’s going for £25.

In terms of producers Gavin Russom from Black Meteoric Star, Theo Parrish is a really cool DJ, cause he’s got amazing taste and again DJ wise it’s Moodyman, it’s odd I like songs by some guys but not all. Omar S is one that I like most of his stuff

The other component of Bicep is their original output as musicians and producers. With 12” releases on labels Ghost Town and Traveller, Andy and Matt make tracks as a creative output for their diverse influences, much like the blog they can come out with driving techno inspired tracks or take on a James Brown sample just as easily.

What’s your approach to making music, what do you use, what are you inspired by?

-Most of our stuff we want to edit to play live, we don’t necessarily want to release everything we edit, because the edit culture at the minute overwhelmed with people putting out shit edits. And there’s so much debate on it, I’m just open to any edit that takes a different turn on things. There’s so many good editors people Mark E, The Revenge, Floating Points. These people are good at twisting tunes and turning them into something completely different, almost like daft punk did back in the day. It’s a new wave of good stuff, but the other stuff is shit. So we’re at the stage where we wanna be doing something different, we’ve got 35 tunes that we edited, because we want to have our own take on it. But we’ve got this style, that’s really rigid, be want to make it more funky and stuff.

To explain our production first we’ll draw up an idea on things like Ableton, and then we’ll record everything live on analogue, we use analogue equipment for everything, we redo everything in analogue, most of the drums we’ll start off on MPC where we’ve got drum machines like Roland 909’s, just standard drum machines.

It’s a slow process because Matt, my main production partner is in Dubai. He’s really talented at making things blend and putting them together. He’s very meticulous; he’s a graphic designer by nature so the tiniest minutest parts are important to him.

It’s quite hard because we’re associated with the blog but we want to also create our own music, not specifically be taken serious for it but we want to makes tunes and spend time with them and think about the approach to them because we want everything on vinyl. We’ve got like 4 tunes for one EP (a vinyl Fine Art Records to be confirmed) and an edits EP (a commissioned vinyl by Untracked), it’s just such a slow process with Matt in Dubai, slight tweaks are just endless.

With the dance side of things covered, Drew mentioned he might have leave the Bicep name behind, a least for a while, for a more band influenced project

-In terms of influences it's pretty much Gavin Russom from the production side of things, kinda laid back, really simple. I'd love to get something going like that.

I think we’re gonna go under a different name for the Housier stuff we’re doing and keep Bicep more fun, because I think the last EP was a bit too serious. It was more to get the name out there I think, it’s gonna be more streamlined now. So we’ll have a name for the Housier stuff and edits, because we’ve got lots of Italo Disco and stuff that we want to put out and lots of really heavy arpeggiated stuff.

We’ve got so many tunes it's tough to know which ones are good, you’ll think you're good then you’ll listen to something like an amazing funk and think this is so weird and mine is just a straight up 4/4 Techno tune this is terrible. It’s trying to get that balance right

And that’s the thing about Feel My Bicep, and the impression I got from talking to Drew in general; the music they make and post isn’t done so in a pretentious way to impress or mark territory but for their love of dance music, any dance music and for others to discover and enjoy. Similarly to when DJing he says ‘it’s all about trying to educate and entertain... it’s more about getting their attention, I think that's the hardest thing about it’.

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Fluffy Lumbers

It's wierd, think I e-mailed Sam Franklin from Fluffy Lumbers around last December asking about an interview. Though that never came about initially, we re-arranged things to fit in for February with Sweet and Sound magazine. I'd pretty much forgot about it until last night when an e-mail popped up in my inbox with all these lovely answers in them, pretty much been to listening to Todd Rundgren since.

-You always have a rifle to hand in your press shots, are you into all that kinda stuff or is it just a look you're going for?

That's actually a BB gun. I wouldn't say I'm "into" that kindof stuff per se, it just turned out that this set of photos are the only I have of myself which were taken with the intent of representing this music. Do they represent it well? Eh. The label (Weird Hug Records) that put out the first 7" was asking me for a cover photo so I decided to base it loosely on the backyard photos of Lee Harvey Oswald taken by his sister. I was living in Massachusetts at the time and couldn't get my hands on any gun, BB or otherwise, so my friend Travis and I drove to a Wal-Mart in Salem that was authorized to sell guns of all kinds. I bought the cheapest BB gun I could find and Travis bought a machete. On the way home we passed a huge carnival that I told myself I would attend the next weekend I had some free time. Unfortunately, it disassembled and moved on within the next few days so I never got to do that. Anyway, a week or so later I put on a collared shirt and my friend Katie took a bunch of photos where I was standing on the neighbor's roof with the gun and a newspaper. If I could do it all again, I wouldn't be on the cover and the photos of me that circulated would be a bit more straightforward but what can you do! One of the upcoming 7" covers features a drunk cameraphone picture of my friend Luka so you can tell that I take my image very seriously.

-Your music really has a happy and carefree feel to it - what songs do you listen to yourself when you're in a similarly energetic mood?

What's strange is that most people seem to be under the impression that these are happy songs written during happy times, which is never the case. All of the songs have almost exclusively been written during/about uncomfortable, nervous, confused or just plain unhappy emotional situations. The lyrics are usually buried or obscured in some way though so I guess it is my fault that everyone thinks they're happy and carefree. In truth, I am a bundle of nerves. As far as pop songs I've been listening to recently while feeling good, here's a few I'd recommend...

-"She's Just My Style" by Gary Lewis & The Playboys
-"Under The Light" by R. Stevie Moore
-"That's How Much I Love You" by The Manhattans
-"Two Steps" by Home Blitz
-"Move" by The Plugz
-"I Am Free" by The Kinks as well as the cover by Hospitals
-"Break The Ice" by The Scruffs
-"No More Tigers" by Martin Phillipps
-"Wild Weekend" by The German Measles
-"I'm In A Different World" by Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin

-You list Todd Rundgren as a influence; Unlike in the US he's relatively unknown in the UK, his songs and persona have always been pretty baffling to me - what do you like about him?

Todd Rundgren is relatively unknown in the UK? Wow! The UK is missing out! I should start by saying that I have only listened to his discography up to A Cappella (which is pretty unbelievable by the way). Reviews that I've read of the successive album (Nearly Human) make it sound pretty interesting but I'm just not there yet. I haven't really left my comfort zone of writing rock and roll songs yet but I hope to someday branch out to a musical palette as broad as Todd's. Whether through my Dad playing his records when I was growing up or actively listening to him on my own after getting into "Can We Still Be Friends" in middle school I've been a Todd Rundgren fan for a while now and am still consistently surprised by the versatility of his body of work. Compare, if you will, these two performances (both from the 80s, no less):

Unbelievable that one man can do such disparate styles so well! Nilsson is the same way. I've been really into his A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night record recently and had a bit of a nerd heart attack upon finding out that Frank Sinatra downer-arranger Gordon Jenkins had arranged it. One day I'd love to have dabbled in half the genres they dabbled in.

-What equipment do you use to record?

So far I've used various Tascam 4 and 8 tracks (except for the "Cruisers" song which was recorded on my computer). For the eventual full-length record I plan to use some better equipment but we'll see if I can pull that together. Instrument wise, I use any number of guitars, drums, keyboards, etc.

-Pop Punk or Indie Rock?

I guess Indie Rock? Those are two very broad genre classifications but I would say that I listen to more '80s and '90s indie rock than '80s and '90s pop-punk so I suppose I'll lean towards the latter.

-How long has the F.L project been going, how does it fit into the grand scheme of things?

I've been making recordings under the Fluffy Lumbers name since my freshman year of collegiate education but only really settled on somewhat of a consistent sound in the winter of my sophomore year (December '08/January '09) after having learned to play guitar that summer. I'm in and involved with a handful of other bands but Fluffy Lumbers is the project which is most important to me.

-Are there plans for some further 7" releases?

Following the sorting-out of some unforeseen setbacks, the Harry Dolland's 7" should be released by Group Tightener relatively shortly and Transparent Records will be releasing a Fluffy Lumbers/Big Troubles split soon after that. There may be some more 7" releases in the works but I plan to dedicate my time to recording a full-length record once this semester is over.

Photo by Aubrey Stallard

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