Dec 16, 2011, 12:21AM

Let There Be Crumer

This is the second part of a conversation with noise artist Jason Crumer. Read the first part here.

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In the second part of the interview, Crumer discusses Reverse Baptism, his new punk trio, the mechanics of new album Let There Be Crumer, and the Occupy protest movement. 

SPLICE TODAY: Tell me about your new group project, Reverse Baptism. Who else is in the band? Is there an aim or a mission that's being pursued? The live video you sent was heavy; it was like mutant power-electronics hardcore, with a front woman who seems capable of commanding any venue she's on stage in.

JASON CRUMER: Reverse Baptism is a "fuck you" and maybe outlet for aggression. I love watching people try to take it seriously. The other members are Cheetah and Hammy.

Reverse Baptism is the epitome of hiding behind a band name. Think we're shitty people? Here, have a crude drawing of a penis cumming swastikas and pentagrams. Aloof, drunken drug addicted bed-hopping scum. It's fun to take misconceptions of you and blow them completely out of proportion, show how ridiculous they are. I feel like I'm in Guns N' Roses when I play in this band and it's very fun. Get in the ring!

ST: "Get In The Ring!" I love that song; when I try to remember songs from the Use Your Illusion albums, that's the only one that comes to mind, mostly because it's so badass. Also, you need an equally awesome pseudonym ala your band mates, like "Axl Baptism" or something.

JC: Ha, yeah it's so ridiculously badass. Utterly sexist, racist and homophobic to show how much they just don't care. I love the line "I'd like to crush your head tight in my vice." The others in Reverse Baptism don't like G n' R ‘cause they're cultured and into industrial and "legitimate" stuff.

 Axl Baptism, yeah, may have to use that in the LP. The Illusions albums don't have that many good tunes though. "Locomotive," "Double Talkin' Jive," "Yesterdays," "You Could Be Mine," "Bad Side" or whatever, where he says don't fuck with his bad side; those are the only good ones in, like, two and a half hours of mediocre music.

ST: Are you a big fan of metal?

JC: Not really, no. I listen to lots of country, R&B, and old rock’n’roll. Metal is for pussies. Real killers listen to the Rolling Stones.

ST: How did you guys meet and start playing together?

JC: I moved into [Baltimore-based noise warehouse] America when I first moved here, and they lived/hung out there. I just thought it would be fun. We all contribute equally, didn't really think anything would come of it, had to stop ourselves from laughing the entire time making it, and people call it the "power electronics release of the year." Ha! Wait until the LP comes out.

ST: When Reverse Baptism performs/records, is the process pretty improvised, spontaneous?

JC: It's pretty square, really. They write the lyrics and I make a bunch of noise; we figure out which lyrics go with which songs, and then stylize the music to fit around the words. Not improv at all, but sort of random.

ST: Do you like working with them in a group? This way, I guess it takes some of the pressure off of you, in creative and performance terms.

JC: There's no pressure, yeah, they're really entertaining; all I have to do is show up.

ST: Are there any Baltimore artists or venues that stand out for you as favorites?

JC: Nautical Almanac has always been a favorite, but I haven't seen them since moving here. I don't go out much. I did enjoy a recent performance by Five Mask. The Bank is looking a lot better than it was when I played there with American Band in 2007, fuck, it looks great in there.

ST: In our last interview, you expressed frustration at having to discard unused sound generated through physical activity, the spare parts recordings made with a friend for Ottoman Black, I think I was. Have you ever considered throwing all that material into a super-rare boxed set or something? Maybe housed in a box of steel and wood.

JC: I actually found that master the other day. Some friends recently returned a big book they had of my old CDr masters. The fight scene source stuff is hilarious; three hours of pop, bam, poof, ugh, slap. I don't know. There was much more valuable material in the CDr booklet: weird old-field recordings and drones from when I was a teen, some OK stuff, some crap. I will eventually be making a tape for Razors and Medicine as well as for Banned Productions with those things being part of the source.

ST: Was there much material left over once Let There Be Crumer was completed?

JC: Yes. I don't have any of the material though. There was a totally different version of the harmonica song at the beginning that featured a weird guitar part I wish I still had. I moved so much, at various points Let There Be Crumer was in four different dudes’ basements on CDr.

ST: "Infantile Supremacy" might be the most eerie thing I've ever heard from you. It's like being lost in a swamp with no idea how you got there or how to get back out. Were violins or other stringed instruments used there?

JC: Do you mean “Lovelock,” or just the whole first part? They're dorkily titled in three sections and the actual song names are sub-sectioned.

“Lovelock, NM” is the first song. It is a harmonica duet with my friend Alan Bloch. We did this in Michigan mixed with one of those awful African thumb piano thingies being played through three stories of ductwork that is contact mic'd from the basement. It's supposed to give the record a location; some lonely bastard in the middle of the desert head-in-hands over probably a lady sort of thing.

I wasn't going for eerie in the ghosts and goblins or evil and dark way, but in the meat of loneliness and confusing depression way. The inevitability of depression, or death. Matter-of-fact style, with zero magic. More country than black metal. 

ST: There's a creepiness to that whole suite, but in a way in the first part the sense of dread is more pronounced because there isn't quite as much happening.

JC:  Yeah, it's just harmonicas through a nano-verb and that thumb piano. I'm glad it worked for you, that was really the desired effect. Some guy going "fuck" ... "what now." A ruined vibe.

ST: On Let There Be Crumer, "Sault..." seems to introduce the idea of "prepared music box" to the musical lexicon; it starts out feeling like a breather track or an interlude, but that constant thrumming on the low-end eventually swells and crowds out the deconstructed music box tones. Were any music boxes eviscerated in the creation of this song? Am I misidentifying how that sound was achieved?

JC: It's not really that "prepared." My dad had this music box; I wanted it to sound like "Yankee Doodle" but I think it actually played "Oh Suzanna." I just did three tracks of it with hot microphones and put the one with the least noise from me winding the thing in the middle, and the clunkier crappier ones hard left and right. There aren't effects on the box itself other than amplitude and placement sort of things, no "plug ins" or pedals. That's the only music box in the song; everything else is just subdued feedback field recordings and some synth.

ST: "Days Inn" starts with what sounds like an automotive engine turning over. Was that the real thing, or a simulation?

JC: It's a lawnmower being started; afterward is tons of overdubs of mowing the yard.

ST: This may seem like an obvious question, but I've never posed it or seen it posted in an interview with a noise musician. Are you ever inspired or influenced by incidental sounds you encounter, like jackhammers, radio static, woodpeckers, or trains?

JC: I'm real annoyed by loud sounds in general. I walk extra miles on the way home to avoid a construction site or loud bar.

Inspired isn't the right word. I do try to create sounds as they're heard in the real world, for two ears, coming from "nature." Trains are such an obvious and cheesy sound source, with open easy and available poetic attachments; despite this, they remain the perfect ambient sound source. There's a track in Greensboro that every local musician with a Walkman has put on a record and none of them sound the same. Almost endless variety of concrete sounds.

ST: How's living in Baltimore in terms of unwanted noise pollution?

JC: Average.

ST: What did you think about Occupy Baltimore?

JC: I like the concept. I support my friends in everything they do, and if they are involved in this movement, good for them. For everyone else, I strongly dislike being spoken for by people who would rather kill than help me in this world. The same people who Google my name every morning, thinking "How can I fuck this guy over today" are involved in this movement.

With that considered, anyone would understand a certain amount of contempt, or at least discomfort on my part. I wish I could support it more, as I agree with what I think are its main points, a wealth redistribution, money out of politics, be cool to each other kind of aim.

ST: Was there an event or something that made it apparent that the participants weren't to be trusted, or just a general vibe?

JC: The negative effect the bullshit rumor mongering has had on my existence has left me with a sour taste and piece of legitimate hatred for the "radical" anarcho-punk blah blah movements. I have my beliefs, but can't show support for the types of people who would stone you to death over something they read on the Internet. The art students and children of lawyers would be better off just being elite. Fuck it; be proud of knowing something, don't pretend you want to hang out with the real poor people at your protest, people you wouldn't let in your house in other circumstances.

Extremely repressed people who live in fear of being outed as the sexist, racist fucks they are. They can't take someone less uptight. This "coded living" leaves the abstract parts of people ignored. Not saying "nigger" doesn't make you not racist, and "bitch" is the perfect describer for many. Their views are not liberal, they are just communal: everybody has to agree. It's no wonder their camps are separated by race and class. People with legitimate hatred for the poor, who are turned off by the telltale signs of poverty, parading as the poor.

They suck, man, not sure how else to say it. The majority of them being the children of the 1% makes me think they would do the world better as classy yuppies. I mean, old money rich people contribute more to culture than PC whining ever has. They buy the art we make. They live lives free of the unrelenting nature of survival long enough to develop legitimate tastes. They can afford to pay broke 99%ers like myself. I don't have a problem with the top 1% as much as the 15% just below them, people with no taste. People with 500 jars of Folgers in their huge gaudy cupboard who like crap. If you are going to speak for the 99%, you have to accept things like drugs, meat eating, racist jokes, homophobia, dogfighting, religion, sports, and worst of all, the music of the proletariat. If you think of Whole Foods as anything other than "that weird place yuppies go," then you're not part of the 99%.

In activist circles, there are some brilliant and high-quality people. There are high-quality people in every genre of people, including the unsavory ones like junkies, jocks, cops, Nazis, yuppies, and joggers. Their greatness is not because they are activists but in spite of it. Their beliefs, whatever they may be, are more than re-arrangable conveniences, they stick by them when of no benefit. These are elite and rare people. They are this way because of their enviable balance of logic and emotion—not because they'd never laugh at a racist joke. To expect every piece of humanity to behave with this dignity is insane. Life is very hard and you all know it only takes one asshole.

Capitalism is a brutal system that kicks and beats the ones who fall even slightly outside of its boundaries. I hope the younger protestors don't find out the hard way that activism is this way too. Not only do both systems stone the shit out of strays and outsiders, they really fucking enjoy it. I have no confidence in these people's ability to speak for me.

ST: There's some legitimacy to these kinds of frustrations; all it takes is a handful of people to ruin the experience of any organization for somebody. There's something to be said for pushing for change in an individual way that's part of a larger effort.

JC: There has got to be something better. My heart sinks when I hear of armed cops attacking groups of citizens, some containing loved ones. Look, after seeing the absolute worst side of the PC left punkoid movement I feel like I am betraying myself when I even slightly agree with them, which I often still do.

It's their movement. They can be how they want. I don't trust that Mohawk Bob has a better plan for arranging society than me. You'd think beliefs so waterproof would be defendable without dogma. People before profit, okay. It attracts low quality people because all you have to do to join is agree with the main dudes. Repeat four or five key points, and bam: you're an open-minded activist who really cares. Mind blowing that this is called "alternative." Attractive, educated and wealthy making rules for ugly, stupid and poor: this is your fucking civilization.



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