Francesco de Figueiredo

Consciousness and Passion

from NERO n.02 november/december 2004 Lightning Bolt, interview… Something that when thinking of it (and conducting it) stimulates a particular delight: because it undermines, as with all interviews, the vertical rapport inevitably established between artist and consumer / because from this fracture, sometimes something profound and unexpected emerges / because the consumer in question (me) adores Lightning Bolt / because if listening to gossip (dear old cultural hallucinations), mr. Brian Chippendale and mr. Brian Gibson prefer to avoid personal expression in the form of “they ask, I respond” / because if you’ve seen them live, I know you want to know more…

Brian Chippendale (drums) and Brian Gibson (bass) have been friends since high school and they share a musical universe called Lightning Bolt, an undefinable territory, difficult to sum up, a place made up of schizophrenic drives and an improbable will for relative control. in short, a passionate expression of sentiment and oppression. Perhaps noise/free-core best describes their sound, consisting of sharp riffs and wild rythmic sections. What hits you in the stomach is the lucid desire to subjugate an aggressive and incoherent sound; that background noise that always risks overflowing; the decision to close ranks in a place of little precision. Who has seen them live is struck by that bass capable of pulling out riffs ala Slayer, of that wall of excessive amplification, of that man dressed up in coloured rags who moves like a caged devil and generates striking, paradoxical, seductive rhythmic sections.
Lightning Bolt began in 1995 in Providence, a prolific small town in Rhode Island, USA, with three members in the band (vocals were sung by Hisham Barocha, now the vocalist of Black Dice), a formation that they would soon abandon. The path of Chippendale and Gibson was surely marked by their belonging to the creative space Fort Thunder, a squat which acted as spokesman during the 1990s of a change in the interpretation of creative space, of the entire city, of art, and of everything that means provocation. The interview was conducted on occasion of their Italian dates at the Zufest, a travelling festival in October that presented realities of undoubted merit and of enormous technical and creative skill (Zu, Mats Gustaffson, Lightning Bolt, Black Forest Black Sea). Brian Chippendale, despite the famous gossip that he’s unwilling to be interviewed, allowed a few questions, demonstrating lucidness, passion and consciousness.

Francesco: The “art world” and more or less institutional galleries seem to be rapidly showing interest in the performative musical approach and to noise in general. what do you think of this? Do you believe it’s the right context for this type of expression?

Brian: … I don’t know… I believe that the art world you’re referring to tends to eliminate the rawness of creative expression and to mix everything that it receives into a large stew. In this way it takes strength from the world outside, as with raw musical expression, which generally doesn’t have that “fashion” sense that the galleries do.
You know, I believe that everyone tends to bring water to their own well. The music world has more media-related power, and the art world tries to appropriate its audience.
The overlap between artist and musician is OK, but it’s up to the spectator to understand what’s real and what’s not. I like it when music, art and everything else blend together. I hope, however, that artists have the judgement to make something that’s authentic. But I believe that the world of a certain kind of gallery poisoned itself. I’m not a fanatic of that type of conception, I think it’s sterile… I believe that everyone should stay away from it.

Francesco: Would you like to talk about Fort Thunder and what this experience meant for you both?

Brian: Fort Thunder was a squat where we lived for six years, then three years ago it was razed to the ground. It was a situation full of vitality, the perfect collision between art and music. The amazing thing was being constantly surrounded by creativity, it was like living in a work of art. To live inside it constantly and not just for one or two hours a day, to always interact with new people who were living there for maybe only a few months, was meaningful and natural at the same time. Music always and everywhere, also while you were cooking or doing something else, it was something amazing. What strikes me the most is that this reality no longer exists, and I miss it terribly. On the surface, it may seem simple to recreate Fort Thunder but it’s frustrating and difficult; we’re trying to re-plan a similar space, but by now everything tends to define and close in on itself.

Francesco: Providence, your city of origin, proliferates groups of a certain sector. Do you think that the surrounding environment is an influence, or is there a scene that unites and allows for the continual evolution of a specific sector?

Brian: In Providence there’s a large art school, which is where I studied. A lot of creative people came together there. But what particularly distinguishes my city is that it’s not elegant at all. Providence is a very dirty and dilapidated city.
In fact, the kids didn’t seem to want to stay in Providence after having finished studying, but when we started Fort Thunder the people began to live Providence in a different way, a sort of tradition began. In a certain sense there was already a kind of rock scene, but its interaction with the art students generated something electric. It was a kind of “Fort Town”, cheap, dirty, dilapidated, and a really raw independent music scene began to emerge.
The thing began to grow, people began to decide to stay there, a lot of events took off. As if a small bee began to fly and all the others simply followed it.

Francesco: What’s amazing when listening to your records is your ability to control the tension and aggression, to curb the schizophrenic drives of your sound…

Brian: You’re probably right, I believe that this mainly comes from the fact that we play constantly, every day. By being able to play in the place where I live, we have a chance to train and this brings us to a high level of sound control. I think that what you’re talking about comes from the equation between a discrete technical ability, the continuity of playing, the desire to create a compact block of sound, and our strong personal harmony. Brian and I are integrated; the bass and drums are two instruments that tend to go together naturally. In this way a schematic table, a uniform clean sound, is formed.

Francesco: Do you think that it also comes from an elevated technical ability? What were your experiences in studying music?

Brian: For me, to play drums means to enter a state of excitement, to feel full of strength, energy. I didn’t study music, I just played and played. I don’t think Brian studied either, maybe a few lessons in the beginning. You know, we come from a school for visual arts, our music is more a reflection of that. We’re probably also musically ignorant, unrefined.

Francesco: What necessitated the decision for just the two of you to play together?

Brian: When we began to play we had a singer, then after a year and a half we decided that the best thing was to give room only to the instruments. The more people who belong to a band, the more you have to compromise and we wanted a straight flush, without worrying about having to leave room for anyone. It’s more than ten years now that things are like this, since we were in school. A lot of people would like to play with us but I can’t even imagine it. We have a musical complicity that’s too strong.

Francesco: Do you intervene a lot during production or do you have a lo-fi approach?

Brian: I think that one probably can’t talk about a lo-fi production. In the beginning, the first recordings were made on tape with an 8-track mixer and a Walkman that we always kept in the room. Instead, over time, the sound continuously became more dense and packed, which necessitated recording with more microphones and a more complex system of production. You know, the fact is we try to reproduce the violence of our live sets and internal energy; the result, then, is that we need to record with a system that allows us to reproduce that faithfully. So we slowly moved towards a hi-fi production, though obviously not in the full meaning of the word. Let’s say that it was a continual evolutionary growth that made us look more attentively at what was being produced. But we’ll see how it’ll be in the future, we’re about to begin recording new material, something that I’d definitely like to do at home…

Francesco: Ok, thanks a lot, i’d just like to ask you one last thing: why have you often avoided interviews? Do you think words can miscontrue your expression or diminish it in some way?

Brian: It’s not that we don’t like being interviewed… we simply don’t seek it out. We’re always surrounded by people with whom we communicate; it’s not a problem for us. I don’t know why people say that we don’t like being interviewed. This probably happens because I receive a lot of emails and, not having a computer at home, I don’t always have a way to check my inbox and every time I open it I tell myself “OK…I’ll do the next one”. And so the gossip grows and spreads…well…anyway…always better than a voice like “Lightning Bolt always want to be interviewed”…