The sound of Pylon, and the Pylon Reenactment Society, is often stated as being highly original and influential on other music around it. What I’m curious about is, when you started playing as Pylon, what initially would inform a song’s creation? Moods, environment, other bands, etc? What influenced Pylon?
Since we were creating sounds from the perspective of artists as opposed to musicians, our response to sounds and the way that they were strung together was more intuitive. Initially the lyrics were already written for me by Michael Lachowski and ready for me to attempt to fit into the song structure. As time went on, I wrote most of the lyrics. The music itself suggested to me what the song would become. Sounds of words might be more important than the words themselves. The types of things we listened to around the time of our band’s creation were: No Wave Music (No New York album in particular), the original Eraserhead soundtrack (very static-y with a lot of interesting electronic sounds), Suicide, German bands, U.K. bands, Roxy Music, the Ramones, Pere Ubu, Wire, B-52’s, Talking Heads. This era was an extremely interesting time to be coming of age. The studio environment that we rehearsed in probably was an influence in itself as well-dark, old, high ceilings, wood floors and was right in the middle of a half vacant downtown with our friends nearby painting or drinking.
A lot of the lyrical content of Pylon is pretty straightforward and simple, strikingly to the point. It makes it, to this brain, for ‘absolutely everyone’. When writing words for Pylon was it a conscious decision to make things so direct, instead of ‘spinning word tales’, and if so, why?
I can only speak for the lyrics that I was personally involved in writing. The sound of the song itself suggested to me where words might fit in. I was pretty interested in the concept of minimalism at the time. Sometimes I would write a lot of words and par them down to a few that I felt were more universal in tone. It’s the attack that you give the words and the feeling that you use to express them when singing them that actually gives the words real meaning- and meaning lies somewhere in a place that is different for everyone. We all have all own iconography and our own histories. If we over examine them, I don’t think that we can get at that truth. I think we can lose something by over nitpicking and being too specific when writing lyrics. The truth is that we are all connected and it doesn’t really matter what words you use to unlock that fact. In my opinion, it is important to try to be life affirming, universal and to not be negative.
In 2004, the original lineup of the band reformed to play live sets and subsequently play some more to celebrate DFA’s 2007 reissue of “Gyrate”. What is the fondest memory of this particular regrouping?
Probably the fondest memory for me is performing in Los Angeles November, 2008 for the Part Time Punks event at the Echoplex. Pylon had been away from touring for a long time and we went out a few times to have fun. At this particular show, there were a lot of younger people who really had no clue who were or what we were about. We came out on stage and Randy Bewley hit the first chord of one of our songs and this tremendous roar went up! I was extremely surprised, because I thought that no one knew anything about Pylon at this show. It turned out that the DJs for Part Time Punks had been playing some of our songs in their set for the last several months and when the audience recognized the song we were playing-they went bananas-even though they didn’t know who we were.
The Reenactment Society has been playing around for a few years. What finally made you decide to get down in the studio, putting to tape (and vinyl & cassette) some of these new versions? Were the song choices completely random/natural or an intended retrospective of Pylon’s career?
I would have to say that it was a natural process. I just picked six songs that we enjoyed performing with no real thought given as to what recording they were originally from. I thought that they should be diverse, but no other real thought went into it. We really had no intention of releasing this material. It was recorded on December 10, 2016 for Michael Stock’s long running radio show on KXLU-fm-“Part Time Punks” during the afternoon before we went to soundcheck at the Echoplex to perform for “Part Time Punks” that night.
The recording was done at The Cave by Josiah Mazzaschi in the spirit of John Peel’s show on the BBC. We thought that perhaps a song or two might be used for a compilation CD that is put out as a yearly fundraiser for KXLU and perhaps it might be aired. In the spring of this year, I was looking for a few promo songs that our media person Michelle Roche could send to the press.I sent this and a few others over. She said, you should really consider releasing this recording.
So, I took a serious listen and was happily surprised-something special was there and it had been overlooked. It had great recording quality, and a tight, live sounding performance. I was reminded of Pylon’s Gyrate album which had also been done very quickly with few overdubs.
One of the most interesting things about the Pylon Reenactment Society EP’s take on the old tunes is Damon Denton’s effective keyboard textures. I noticed this especially since in the first go-round of Pylon there were very little if any use of keyboards. What/how did these sounds effectively come to the table in these new versions?
We brought Damon Denton into this project initially to add textures and sounds which were present on the later recordings and impossible to recreate live with the original configuration. Damon had worked on a few small projects with me before and are friends who hang out when we can. His day job is as an accompanist for the UGA School of Music-so he can literally play anything. Damon was given carte blanche to come up with his own parts and sounds and he has worked from there. I might ask him to make something feel like popcorn- he totally understands that I mean random. We communicate well. PRS all take care to be sure that sounds don’t intrude on each other’s sonic space-unless we want them to. Purists initially were a little put off by PRS having a keyboard player, but they have for the most part come around. Damon Denton really adds a lot to our live show’s sound and energy.
I have to mention the rest of the band. Guitarist Jason NeSmith and bassist Kay Stanton have worked with me for a while now. Previous to PRS, we were in a recording project called Supercluster. They currently have a project called Casper & the Cookies. Jason and Kay are both open and gifted musicians and play the music of Pylon with a bit of their own take on it. Jason also mastered this EP“Part Time Punks Session” at Chase Park Transduction here in Athens, GA. Joe Rowe, whom everyone in town loves, was the drummer for the Glands and we are very lucky to have him work with us. I wasn’t ever interested in having an exact note for note recreation of Pylon’s music. Music should be a living, breathing thing and open to the interpretation of the artist who performs it. In this case, it is closely recognizable, but it’s not dry and sterile. It feels like Pylon. It has that same exuberance live.
The Society’s gigs have mostly been concentrated in Georgia. How are audience’s reactions to the new arrangements? Are there plans to branch the shows out (e.g. tour the Society)?
I think that the audiences who have seen us, love the new arrangements. They seem impelled to move and dance. PRS have done a few short tours over the last year and a half or so and will continue to do so as long as we are having fun with it and can afford to do it. We have so far performed in the states of Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, California, Oregon, Illinois, Michigan and Alabama. Three of those short tours involved flying in and out. Most of our shows have been concentrated in the Southeast so far. We have been contacted by and played at a few festivals here and there. We would love to tour a little more and have some new experiences. Our booking agent is Jim Romeo for Ground Control Touring
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mainly electronic music composer on the darkwave side :: founder of Fish Prints Inc