Track-by-Track // Nun Gun – Mondo Decay
Track-by-Track // Nun Gun – Mondo Decay

Track-by-Track // Nun Gun – Mondo Decay

Nun Gun Mondo Decay

Handing over the mic to artists/musicians who break down their new albums track by track/share the thought process behind the creation. Today we’ll hear from Lee Tesche (Algiers, Lyonnais) whose new project is Nun Gun, a collaboration with Algiers member Ryan Mahan and visual artist Brad Feuerhelm. Mondo Decay is out now on Witty Books and features plethora of guest contributors including ONO and Mark Stewart (The Pop Group).

More TBTs in our archives.

The project began as an accident. Many years ago, Brad Feuerhelm and I were playing these horror soundtracks late into the night that I was really stoked on. The next morning I discovered that we had been playing that at the wrong speed and we hatched a plan to build a project around this concept. It would be a few years before we eventually got to it. I also wanted to use this project as a means to learn new processes and familiarize myself with some recent equipment finds. I did the entire thing on a Tascam 388 ¼” 8 track portastudio beast. The goal was to recapture that experience of those original records played back at the wrong speed and the heaviness that came with it. Everything was recorded at high speed and then mixed at various lower speeds. I’ve included some of my notation on the speeds of each track.

The Spectre

+/- 15% Tascam varispeed, 25% detune

This was the first track that we did. It was the original idea that the entire project was based around. As far back as 2015 it was an Algiers set opening dirge (we would have a skeleton of this kind of fade up as we were taking the stage). When we first submitted this idea to Witty Books for their open call I had to quickly assemble a test track. I built the skeleton for this in about 20 minutes and was pretty happy with it upon reflection after the fact. We didn’t change it too much after that.

I asked Michael Salu, an incredible artist and writer with a great baritone voice, to send me some words that he had written down after a conversation we had at the beginning of the pandemic. It just all came together pretty quickly and easily. The concept of the album in its ode to decay and its deeply suspicious treatment of orchestrated power structures are concepts native to Michael who also has text in the book. One of my personal favorites.

Nun Gun Mondo Decay 1

Stealth Empire

+- 10% Techniques varispeed, 20% detune

I’ve been a huge fan of Mark Stewart and The Pop Group for most of my adult life, but also a lot of Mark’s solo work. It was a reference point for a lot of the music that I have been trying to make for as long as I can remember.

We met Mark a number of years ago and throughout working on this material, we’ve become decent friends. He’s got such an interesting perspective on music and life. The construction of this song began with Ryan and I jamming over the Zombi 2 theme. Dub and bass culture has had a tremendous impact on me. I recognized really quickly that it’s actually kind of a Steppers Beat and I started writing some dubby stuff with shoegazey guitar. I’m not sure what Ryan was doing, but it was definitely more death disco, so we just kind of combined it. I put my guitar in the MPC and just played back chopped bits through the space echo and it really tied the two disparate ideas together. Pretty early on I thought Mark might work really well on this one. He had written some vocals that he sent over and I just dropped them on top and it was like he was in the room with us the whole time.

Beef Diet

45 RPM played at 33 1/3 RPM

Beef Diet was one of the later ones that came together. I wasn’t sure where to go with it but knew that I wanted to incorporate a lot of Brad’s drum work. At the time I only had this crappy boom box recording of him, but it sounded kind of great when slowed down and chopped up. As someone who is incredibly interested in music and a part-time drummer, it felt kind of natural to have this syncopated and rough decay in the bombast of improperly recorded percussion. It really gave that track all of its character.

Gold Mine

Begins with 45 RPM played at 33 1/3 RPM then tape speeds up to +- 10% Techniques varispeed, 20% detune

This was one of the last tracks to get right. We really wanted to do a blazed out kind of psychedelic heavy guitar track with Ono that deconstructed Addio Zio Tom.

This marks the third time that the we have collaborated with ONO. Ono’s Singer Travis, appeared on Algiers’ 2017 album, The Underside of Power. Last year, I contributed to ONO’s monumental 40th anniversary full length, Red Summer. Travis is a national treasure, and he and P Michael are two of the most incredible souls in rock n’ roll. Its an honor to continue working together. Travis wrote the most incredible words that he sent over and I dropped them in and it all fit together perfectly. I couldn’t get this one right until the very end because I kept going back worrying that I hadn’t done Travis’ voice justice and that his words were getting lost in the cacophony of all of the other stuff we had going on. His vocal is the most important part of this entire song, so once I finally got it sitting right this became my favorite track.

More Viscous Than Dawn

+/- 15% Tascam varispeed, 25% detune

Our good friend Luiza Prado is a Brazilian poet and visual artist based in Berlin. She sent over this incredible reading of a poem of hers. It became the glue that really made this track take off and lent a creepy cinematic tone. At times it kind of ends up in a Berberian Sound space, which makes me happy. Her speech goes between Portuguese and English and thematically worked really well. It was also imperative that we have her voice on the record to offset the overly defining male characteristics of the Mondo movie genre which we used as a basis for the conceptual undergirding of the project.

Excusable Homicide

+/- 15% Tascam varispeed, 25% detune

I’m a self-taught sax player. I’m still working at it. Sometimes I can fool people into thinking I know what I’m doing, as is the case here. We had a bit of a funny discussion on that as Brad finds difficulty with the sax outside of Tim Capello’s stellar take on “I still Believe” from the Lost Boys soundtrack which has become an anthem to Brad’s emotional and spiritual life in the first part of the last decade. This is more of a channeling of Ornette or something.

On Neurath’s Boat

+- 10% Techniques varispeed, 20% detune

Both this track and Stealth Empire were partially inspired by this amazing club in Athens Greece that has been going for many years. It’s called Rebound and they just play the best music. Algiers always seems to end up in Athens playing on Saturday night, the only night that they are open. Se we have all ended up there at various points enjoying a post-punk, goth and industrial dance night. These elements are at the foundation of this track and Farbod Kokabi who I work with in Lyonnais has the perfect voice for this, so we enlisted him. It was our goal to write a track that they might play at Rebound. So these two songs are our attempt at that and the inclusion Farbod aids in this cross-genre attempt.

The Aesthetics of Hunger

+/- 15% Tascam varispeed, 25% detune

This track is the closest to what we set out to do. The rest of the process resulted in songs that went a variety of directions but the goal from the outset was to try to make a track like this. I feel like it’s successful. I love those pads that Ryan does that open it. Including Ryan on this was super helpful. We work together in Algiers, but this kind of project gave us both the freedom to express other interests. Ryan had also been making his Dead Meat project which incorporates a number of the same audio concerns, so it felt natural and this track is the result.

Nun Gun Mondo Decay 2

Under The Throne

+- 10% Techniques varispeed, 20% detune

I first approached Sohail Daulatzai because not only is he a storied film scholar that’s written quite a bit about some of the themes that we were exploring, but he also has a great speaking voice. We’ve worked together on a number of projects over the years and had made a point to talk regularly throughout the pandemic, just as a means to check in with each other.

I explained the concept to him and, forever the researcher, he sat down and watched all of the Italian Mondo and cannibal films in one marathon session, which is kind of horrifying and hilarious to me. The track that he is on was conceived as an interstitial piece in the vein of the weird lighter funk tracks that permeate parts of these horror soundtracks or some of my favorite moments on something like DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing. He expressed how much he loved some of those classic Roots reggae tracks of the 70s that musically were light and upbeat sounding, but lyrically were militant as fuck, and how that duality created a wonderful tension. He wanted to write something that could occupy that same space that spoke to the ideas of Third Cinema and touched upon Italian colonialism. Knowing I planned to slow everything down considerably with the tape machines, he requested “Just don’t make me sound like Clyde Smith from Ghostface’s Supreme Clientele”

Addio Zio Sam, +/- 15% Tascam varispeed, 25% detune
I Used to Wear a Face, +/- 15% Tascam varispeed, 25% detune
America Addio, 45 RPM played at 33 1/3 RPM

These three tracks actually were all one track together at one point. I wanted to do more blazed out guitar and organ odysseys. Blake Butler has been a good friend for over 20 years. We had been in touch a fair amount over the previous year or so, as the last Algiers record borrowed it’s fitting title “There Is No Year” from a novel of his of the same name. He also wrote the bio for the record. I had reached out to try to include him and he quickly responded with this piece that I think is just brilliant. I wanted to experiment with broadcasting him via a small watt radio transmitter across my room and dialing it in, and then mixing that with strings from certain moments of problematic monologue from Africa Addio. The final 8 minutes or so of heavy feedback actually has a ton of modulation and movement as I was mixing. Just playing with the decay of a single chord for a long period of time seemed like an appropriate way to end the record.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *