Interview: Brian Chippendale (Lightning Bolt, Black Pus)
Published on February 6th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Brian Chippendale is not just the clattering percussive whirlwind of Lightning Bolt: he is also the clattering percussive whirlwind of his side project Black Pus, whose forthcoming All My Relations album represents our hero’s first venture into the realm of recording with a proper studio setup rather than a 4-track.
Brain thoroughly frazzled from this latest Chippendale triumph, Rocksucker zapped him over a set of questions broaching such topics as the new record, his myriad other projects and what his Lightning Bolt cohort Brian Gibson is up to at the moment. First, though, check out this choice cut from Black Pus’s 2011 album Primordial Pus…
What prompted the decision to record with a proper studio setup for All My Relations? Is it something you’ve wanted to do for a while – perhaps even on previous projects – or was it spur of the moment?
It was something that I have been curious about for the last couple years. In Lightning Bolt I felt like we had a hit a wall with our kind of half home half studio recording style (we had a friend come and set up an assortment of weird gear in our practice space for Hypermagic Mountain and Earthly Delights, but no computers) and in Black Pus it felt like some of the 4-track cassette recordings were turning people off just by their raw scruffy nature. And I just wanted to do something different in general. I am friends with the two guys that run a great studio nearby, Machine With Magnets, so I finally decided to take a swing at it. Now I am hooked!
Very soon to be asking, I realise, but is there another Lightning Bolt LP or EP in the offing? If so, do you think you might record it with a full studio setup as per All My Relations?
Lightning Bolt went into the same studio in the fall of 2012 after a tour to do about a week of recording to test the waters for us as a band in that setting, and it was fun. We will be working on some of those recordings in the first half of this year. So it’s in the works.
Are you chanting “nanu nanu” at one point in “Fly on the Wall”? Probably not, but thought I detected something like that…!
Maybe, maybe I was sitting upside down on a couch like Mork from Ork singing his trademark tune. I’m chanting something, I was probably in some sort of demonic trance that I have no memory of. Which might account for the missing sound technicians and the blood.
Was the melodic nod to “Frère Jacques” in “Hear No Evil” an intentional one?
Not intentional. Maybe that was just a red flag warning all of my limited sense of melody. But many melodies I come up with are just mangled versions of songs I’ve heard. Me trying to remember something and getting it wrong. Lightning Bolt has a song “Saint Jacques” that is a nod to “Frère Jacques” so maybe I was nodding toward that band Lightning Bolt.
Do you plan to tour this album?
I am doing a month in the states in May, and maybe more after that, I’m not sure. I really want to commit a lot of time to getting the next LB record out so I have to schedule carefully. But I would love to take BP over to Europe. I would love to take BP just about anywhere. The Space Shuttle. Oh no, they retired the Space Shuttle didn’t they. Am I too late?
Aside from the obvious logistical problems of big shows/festival appearances, have any problems arisen over the years from playing in the middle of your audience? Anyone trying to meddle with your equipment, or something like that?
There has been a limited amount of intentional meddling. A few pedals have been stolen which resulted in a few chases through the streets, but mostly its unconscious stomping on things that screws up the equipment. But it very rarely kills a show completely, or at least if it does it tends to be near the end of the set. Brian Gibson got the innards of his bass pulled through his bass cable’s input at the end of a show in LA once. LA is tough, too many movie stars trying to make a scene.
Are there any projects on the horizon? Mindflayer, a comic book, a gallery show, or anything else? Are you still reviewing comic books?
I am finishing up a new comic book called Puke Force that has been serialized by my publisher at his site Pictureboxinc.com over the last couple years. That’s the big thing right now. I also have a monthly strip “A Trophy Life” in a newspaper in Providence called Mother News. I want to review more comics but the time has been hard to find. Thought just this week a series might have moved me enough to get me writing. I’ve been scanning 1000 drawings for a Black Pus video and reading comics as I wait for them to scan. But usually I spend my wasteful online time Tweeting these days (cue shoutout to @ahafan88). I wish Mindflayer could do some stuff, we live in separate cities and at quite different altitudes now so our meetings are fleeting. Someday.
What’s the other Brian up to at the moment?
Gibson’s been working on some video games stuff, for a company and also toying around with his own games. He tends to space out on long form projects in his spare time, not feeling the need to grab attention like I do. He recently made these really nice wooden frames for various seats around his house. Well constructed.
I’d imagine you get asked this frequently, but do you suffer from tinnitus or any other hearing-related ailments? If not, what’s your secret?
Oh yes I’ve got the ringing and some hearing loss. I recently went to the doctor and she was amazed on how much wax is built up in my ear, so I am excited to get that out and see if a little hearing comes back. My loss level is not so bad, I can still hang out and talk with people. I’m not living in silence yet. I protect my ears way more these days than I used to.
Do you tend to listen to music as raucous as your own in your leisure time, or do you perhaps seek refuge in Chet Baker or something like that?
I tend to put on Slayer and Enya simultaneously. I listen to the gambit of stuff. Been into Die Antwoord lately. I like stuff you can get lost in because I draw to music a lot and it’s good to get lost while drawing. Just downloaded a Kid Cudi album and that new My Bloody Valentine.
What were The Flaming Lips like to collaborate with? How did you go about writing and recording the tracks?
Lightning Bolt as a band really didn’t do very much. Wayne came and recorded a sound check of ours when we played in Oklahoma where we jammed for maybe 15 minutes. There’s a good YouTube clip of the jam. Then the Lips messed around with that recording, made their two initial songs using bits of our jam, and then I took those songs subtracted out the LB stuff and put new LB stuff in to make the two songs from side B. It was all very casual, lots of high-fiving through text messages. But no real jamming together, we’ll do that at a later date.
When your EP with The Flaming Lips first came out, it sounded as if they’d been recorded using more of a Lightning Bolt aesthetic/setup than vice versa. Did “I’m Working at NASA on Acid” have to be reworked much to fit in on the Heady Fwends album (assuming the other tracks were recorded as per the Lips’ usual setup)? And was it your choice or theirs to include it over “I Wanna Get High But I Don’t Want Brain Damage”, which rocks to frankly inordinate degrees of rocking?
The Lips were in charge of what went where for Heady Fwends. They maybe had to dumb down their recording style to fit in with the live sound from our recording, perhaps, but I don’t know if stuff was changed for the record. I think they went with “NASA” for the album because it’s more soothing? Maybe? Poppy? Yeah “Brain Damage” hits pretty hard. Too scary to go on an album with Ke$ha and the Coldplay guy. Oh I gave some of my blood to them for the blood vinyl edition, did you see that? Smuggled it in a talking stuffed animal.
What do you think of Steven Drozd and Kliph Scurlock as drummers? And are there any other drummers currently doing the rounds that you admire? Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier is someone who leaps to mind for me as coming close to your own style…
Greg is great. Zach Hill is obviously a beast. To be honest I’m not a diehard Lips fan so I don’t know Stephen and Kliph’s style well enough to really talk about it. I’m a casual Lips fan. There’s this guy we have played with in Iowa City who is a great drummer: Joe, he’s in The Tanks. I think he was the best drummer I saw on tour last year. Look for Joe. Greg Fox is killer, he’s from Brooklyn and his band Guardian Alien has a recent LP on Thrill Jockey. He was in Liturgy for a while as well as Teeth Mountain. Kid Millions from Oneida, he put out an interesting drum-centric record on TJ with his project Man Forever.
Any collaborations with anyone else lined up?
Nothing planned right now. Just finish this next damn Lightning Bolt album!! Oh wait, now that I think about it me and Greg Saunier might be doing something this year.
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to? Or are there any albums that you are particularly looking forward to in 2013?
There is a duo from Providence called Humanbeast putting out an LP on Load Records this spring. Recorded in the same studio I used, it’s going to be great. Disco RRRiotnoise. I heard a bit of it, they are the best live band in Providence right now. Look for that. Also my friend who goes either by Kokomo or Baby Aspirin depending on the day just put up a really nice soundtrack on Bandcamp to a play version of Pk Dicks “Ubik”, it’s really sweet. I just saw 5 minutes ago on Twitter that DJ Dog Dick put out an EP called Identity on Hoss’s SoundCloud. It is sounding awesome 15 seconds in so far.
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?
The Boredoms, Rush, Rihanna and Sun Ra of course because his discography alone would never dry of new material. Can I bring all my unreleased tapes of all the Lightning Bolt and Black Pus jams? If not then I might settle for Judas Priest.
You absolutely can. Brian Chippendale, thank you.