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Friday, July 07, 2006

Controlled Bleeding


Since the early 80's a trio of musicians have been doing their best to bewilder listeners in an audio experience known as Controlled Bleeding. Their material greatly consists of grinding machinery and deconstructive noise experiments atypical of a true industrial band, however on a whim their music becomes almost classical. The styles employed by Controlled Bleeding vary greatly from album to album, and also depends on their mood swings or individual emotional states at the time of recording. This has earned them a diverse group of fans. Imagine going to see a harsh industrial band open up for the city symphony and you'll have a pretty good idea of what Controlled Bleeding is all about. Paul Lemos, the man in charge of Controlled Bleeding, has worked hard to set the band apart from conventional music experimentation as well as attempt to further the efforts of other artists by forming the Dry Lungs series of international music compilations. He has done much to aid those who fuel the fires of artistic creativity. Now, this trio from New York are riding on a wave of disjointed noise releases brewed up for the 90's. Faster, and more menacing than some of their previous works, Controlled Bleeding once again takes another twist in its long and winding existence. Photo by Bonnie Graham, courtesy of Wax Trax.

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AC- Would you tell me a little about the meaning of "Soul vomit"?
PL- "Soul vomit" sounds pretty odd, but I suppose that has been a way to describe the motivation behind some of our recordings. A lot of the material comes from some basic need to channel internalized feelings into a creative process- so at points a lot of pent up aggressions produce some of the harsher or more violent things we've done, where as in periods of sadness or depression, a very different ambiance develops. The process of making sound and music allows us a source of pure release.

AC- I read an interview that was done with Controlled Bleeding early on in it's existence. The question of using video to convey C.B.'s music was brought up. At that time there were no plans to make any videos. Since then, have any been made? If not, will there be any to look forward to? How do you feel about the use of video?
PL- We did make one video for Wax Trax- actually, they made it. A fellow hacked up a lot of really shitty footage of nonsensical imagery and pasted it together for "Words of the Dying." It was disgusting and has been locked away. I am interested in video and would like to work with someone who is interested in aesthetics as opposed to money..... right now nothing is in the works though.

AC- How did C.B. get started out? If you were going to put the finger on someone, who would be responsible?PL- Controlled Bleeding has been the name of all my musical projects since 1978 or so. There have been about 5 different line-ups of the group, and musically there is little similarity among them. I began it as a multi-media art project in Boston. Later, it became an actual 2 man musical group, doing sort of ambient electronic dirges, then developed into a band of 3 persons. Creating a sort of farfisa organ driven surf music with experimental sound on top and fusion guitar riffing interwoven. Then it all exploded; for a year I quit- then started the present project which was originally based on experiments with sound, void of any structure or "regular" instrumentation.

AC- When C.B. sits down to begin work on new material, how does the process unfold? Is the writing and construction of the music a collaborative effort, or is one member of the group in particular solely in charge with the others following closely behind?
PL- We work in a strange way. Often times I will work alone developing rhythms or keyboard patterns or just some textural basis on top of which I or another group member will overdub parts. We rarely work as a unified trio, and rarely do we begin with a solid preconceived idea for a song or a piece of music. Each piece starts from scratch when I (or we) decide to record. Therefore, the tone of the track is often determined by our mood or feelings at the time. Some of the music is solo, but these days most of it is produced in collaboration. Generally Chris and I work together on the more rhythmic, harder edged material, since that is in keeping with our personal chemistry. Joe and I work on the more textural projects, and then often all of us add our own bits to each song. So C.B. is a group but we each work in a very different way, and usually when all of us are together nothing works out at all on tape, but we each add an equally important element which has allowed us to continue since 1983.

AC- Could you tell me a little about the importance/significance of each of C.B.'s members, and how they've grown with the music?
PL- The only members have been Chris, Joe and myself. Pecorino was a fellow with whom I worked many years ago on a song called, "Someone Shit (On My Birthday Cake)." Later I redid the song with Joe and retitled it "Red Stigmata." Linda Paganelli is a friend who added a sax part to one of our songs. She's in Sham 69 and is a great player. In terms of the individual importance of each member of the group, Joe Papa has a powerful, rich, almost operatic voice and this is his main contribution to our recent music. He is also a good funk drummer and has a keen sense of melody and rhythm. His tastes lean toward the progressive 70's music like Yes, Genesis, etc. Chris' roots are in hard thrash, like Minor Threat, Circle Jerks, Slayer- but through the years he became very interested in a wide variety of musics (Tim Story, Roger Eno, Skinny Puppy, Diamanda Galas, Phillip Glass, etc.). So Chris brings a sense of aggression to the music, but he also has a strong disciplined sense of rhythm and melody. I've always been interested in integrating noise and raw sounds into an unpredictable bag of musical styles so I lean towards the more experimental end of things. I also am interested in medieval music and modera-classical stuff as well as hip hop and thrash.....so my input is somewhat schizophrenic. I suppose we've grown as we have gotten to understand each other's strengths and weaknesses and as we learn more about the possibilities of our various instruments- things like programming computers, midi setups, sequencing etc. all has allowed material to come closer to what we imagine in our thoughts.

AC- How would you describe or categorize C.B.'s material? How has C.B. changed with the times?
PL- It's hard for me to categorize our material or to be objective about it. We've never consciously changed with the times. The music has always developed very naturally. As we become interested in certain musical areas, I'm sure it's reflected in our releases. But the music like Knees and Bones and Body Samples was a direct outgrowth of confusion and feelings of violence and rage within our personal lives. At the time the anger faded, and as life got easier, the music became gentler and more textural. And so it goes-aggression/depression, happiness comes and goes, and so the music changes frequently.

AC- Does C.B. have a doctrine or message that is trying to get out through the medium of sound, or is it simply a creative release?
PL- There is no doctrine or message that we're trying to express through what we've been doing. The only reason for it is creative and emotional release. It's a means of communicating with others and ourselves. I would probably blow my brains out if I didn't have a creative release. Music is it. For some it's painting or writing, but music has been my only love since I was ten years old.

AC- As far as live performances are concerned, what is usually the goal of C.B.? What do you consider to be a good performance versus a poor one? Do the members look forward to performing live?
PL- I used to hate the idea of playing live because I could never get the money and materials to choreograph it the way I imagined, but as our stuff has become more physical and song oriented, I find playing live a lot of fun. If I can play guitar live and if we can really play a physical, aggressive set, then it's satisfying. I don't find it enjoyable to play keyboards live or to perform a great deal of textural music- this is satisfying in the studio. But the live thing is only worthwhile if it's fun. Therefore a good performance is one that rocks and that is exhausting. One where we get some bruises and aches. Again, it has to be a release. So, we now play infrequently, but we do look forward to it every time.

AC- Why has C.B. moved so much from record label to record label? Have some of them hindered the band? How did C.B. come to rest in the hands of Wax Trax?
PL- We've done records for several small independent labels. The reason that we haven't issued our own work on one label is because none of them could effectively distribute the material. Working with 3 or 4 labels allowed us to get better distribution. Also, and most important, since we like to work with different musics we need different labels that are appropriate. Sub Rosa and Dossier Records are perfect for more experimental music, and Wax Trax was an outlet for tighter rhythmic material. Another reason why we used to issue records on several labels was because we were doing a lot of recording and needed an outlet for 3 or 4 releases in a year. These days we're very slow in working and complete about 1 record of new material per year. So we needed to settle into a more stable label deal, but as usual this may change. Some of our label experiences have hindered us- Placebo Records was problematic and so was Sterile Records. Generally, however we have hindered ourselves at points. Most of the labels have been very responsible and fair.

AC- What do C.B. fans have in store for them? Any new collaborations in the near future to keep an eye out for? How about solo pieces?
PL- C.B. has broken into a few different groups now.....Joe and I continue to work on the more classical music under the name In Blind Embrace. A new CD on C'est La Mort/Rough Trade should appear next year. I'm starting a noise/guitar project (possibly solo) for Dossier in Europe and Subterranean in the states. C.B. will direct it's focus toward harder, rhythmic music. We're working on songs for the follow-up to Trudge. The material is getting increasingly noisy. Hopefully this project will be realized by Wax Trax.

AC- Besides your involvement with the Dry Lungs compilations, and Another Room Magazine appearances, where else may stray C.B. material lurk?
PL- A few years ago I used to write for Another Room, Unsound, and a couple of other independent magazines, but it became difficult like a job- too much to do. I couldn't maintain any focus. As the demands on the group intensified, the writing stopped. Dry Lungs continues. Vol. 4 should appear in the fall and I'll start soliciting stuff for vol. 5 in the next month or two.

AC- Has Dry Lungs been an important part of C.B.? Now that Placebo Records has gone out of business, what will become of the first 3 volumes? Will there be any plans to re-release them on another label?
PL- Dry Lungs has always been a separate project from C.B.- I add our tracks to the records as a sort of trademark I suppose, but no it's not important to my work with the group. I don't think volumes 1-3 will ever be reissued. Tony Victor was a decent guy, but his partner Greg was a real asshole. They kept the tapes, artwork etc. so it's all lost in their inept hands. A shame, but beyond my control.

AC- Are there any plans to perform live on the West coast? Europe?
PL- We'd like to come out to the West coast. No plans yet, but hopefully next summer if all goes well. We'll get back to Europe in December for a short tour. It's a lot easier to play Europe than America.

AC- Do the terms "industrial music," "musique concrete," and "white noise" hold any particular significance to C.B.? If so, how?
PL- Sure, those terms hold significance to us. "Industrial" is tough to figure- does it mean Skinny Puppy and Ministry, or does it mean P16d4 and Nurse With Wound ? It's about as general as "punk" or "new wave" were. When I think of industrial, I think of our early work, based on the sounds of machinery and raw sound etc. Musique Concrete is a form of music that I enjoy- the amplification and manipulation of acoustic sounds. We've done some work in this area like the song "On Eating Garbage" and various sound pieces on "Between Tides."

AC- What is the reaction C.B. normally gets to its music? Is it welcomed with open arms by the underground? What type of person do you think would enjoy C.B.? Are you popular in other countries?
PL- The reactions we get differ. We've sufficiently confused people so that some find the more classical stuff pleasing, but dislike the other stuff and vice versa. So, we've found very varied reaction, but generally I get positive feedback. I'm sure that a record like Trudge would disappoint someone expecting a follow up to Songs From the Ashes. Thus we're separating the projects to avoid such confusion. Our work is known by few people when comparing it to stuff by bands like The Smiths, Sonic Youth, Ministry, Tears for Fears, etc. So I think it still dwells in the realms of the underground here and abroad. It's all relative. I suppose our work is mainstream compared to Etant Donnes or Merzbow. There are different levels of obscurity. Really, I don't know what types of people might take to our music. I think it depends on the project at hand. The audience that found value in Trudge was surely very different from the audience that bought Songs From the Ashes.

AC- What have been some of the high and low points of C.B.? Was there ever a time when it looked as though it was all over? Has the band ever been in turmoil?
PL- Because of the very loose nature of our collaborations together, we've never come to a point where it looked as if we'd break up. Chris works on other musical projects of his own, as I do, and Joe occasionally records with other projects. But all of us maintain our main focus on C.B., so it has remained stable. There have been highs and lows of course, but no particular experiences come to mind except when Joe was in the hospital having a quadruple bypass operation.

AC- What are your favorite C.B. pieces?
PL- My favorite piece is "Dying/Reliving," the first track on the Knees and Bones album. Also I like "By the Drain" (Hog Floor mix) a lot. I like the "Silken Barb" from the Trudge CD, and "Crimes of the Body." Tracks like "The Peacock" on Songs From the Ashes and "Consecration's Will" from the Joined at the Head ep are also some favorites.

AC- Why was the song "Healing Time" remixed for the Trudge release? Which one do you like better- the original from Music for Gilded Chambers, or Trudge?
PL- We remixed it because we got some money to do a full studio mix. I like the Trudge mix much more.....Gilded Chambers was done in my home studio which is mediocre at best.

AC- In the future, when people look back on C.B., what do you think they will say about the music? How would you like to have the group remembered?
PL- This is a hard question. I'm not sure what people would say. I guess it depends on what projects they've heard- perhaps they'd say we were musical chameleons. I suppose I'd like to have the band remembered for its movement through different musics, for its schizophrenia.

AC- How soon do you think industrial music will be considered to be obsolete? When do you think it will cease to exist as a movement, or is there a movement?
PL- I think industrial music as a movement has become obsolete in a sense. I recall early Einsturzende Neubauten, TestDept., Vivenza, etc. as industrial, using the tools of industry-machinery and metals. The stuff that one normally associates with "industrial" these days is just new beat orientated dance music melded with thrash/metal. I don't see these musics in the same genre.

AC- How much unreleased C.B. will be left after the Hog Floor LP comes out? Are some of the earlier efforts by the band considered to be unfit?
PL- We have loads of unreleased stuff from 1983 and 1984 when we were doing a lot of noise onto cassette. But yes, I think most of it isn't fit to be heard. There will be a couple of CD releases of unreleased noise work from some small European labels, and Dossier will issue a CD of Body Samples including other unissued noise tracks.

AC- Is the diversity of C.B.'s music from album to album solely attributed to emotional swings of the members, or a result of diverse musical training?
PL- I think the diversity of the music stems from boredom and from our changing musical interests, as well as the different emotional swings. None of us were musically trained, but we have all played our instruments for a long time- so as we work together it's fun to experiment and move in a variety of directions. Sometimes however, the material isn't fun at all. It's sometimes very upsetting.

AC- Why did the name Controlled Bleeding stick?
PL- I guess we kept the name because after a time it gained some recognition, so it seemed foolish to change it. But the name doesn't relate to the music as it once did.

AC- What has been one of the most outlandish or unusual experiences that comes to mind since you started C.B.? Any stories or ironic mishaps?
PL- There have been many outlandish experiences, most of which I cannot discuss. Getting metal shards stuck in my eye recently was pretty uncomfortable, fighting with Chris on stage in Berlin was another. Driving 12 hrs. (directly after an 8 hr. flight to Europe) from Frankfurt airport to Milan, Italy only to find the club we were playing was a gutted out flooded concrete dump with no P.A. system-that was pretty unnerving.

AC- Could you tell us a little about the new graphic symbol being used on the recent C.B. releases?
PL- The symbol was created by Brian Shanley at Wax Trax. It has no name. It was abstracted from the cover of the Grinding Wall ep- this meaning is vague, but I've come to see it as a symbol representing unity through separation, if that makes any sense. It kind of depicts the way we work!

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This interview originally appeared in Antocularis issue #1, August 1992.

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