Monday, May 20, 2013

Daniel Menche Interview for BLACK Online Magazine 2013

Conducted by Daniela Lobstedt. May, 2013

Have you already been creative today?

Yes actually! It’s part of my morning routine. Wake up, eat cereal, drink coffee, walk my little doggie and then work for an hour on music. Right now I have several projects I’m working on so it’s exciting. To be honest I will have months where creativity is very difficult to grow, like a stubborn vegetable in the ground. Then somehow creativity will shoot up out of the ground in overabundance. The mornings are best for the mind I think because in the evening I’ll work way too long and late and honestly that’s when my work doesn’t work so well. So the next morning I’m spending more time fixing than creating. Now I’m rather strict that I only work on music when I know I am not tired. I mean we only have 16 waking hours a day and ideally it’s a good idea to separate those hours into three categories: Mind, Body, and Spirit. Read a lot of books or something for the mind. Then exercise the body and feed it right. And finally for this thing called a “spirit” that is all about making art and music or whatever that can be called your own and no one else’s. So it’s a good trinity of sorts to follow. As of today I am furiously working on a new side project called “Beast Resonator” that as of now will be four or five hours of intense percussion music that is entirely intended as exercise music. I’m talking very dangerous aerobic workout music! I’m getting really excited to get this released on Bandcamp and start some sort of new sonic physical exercise revolution…..well maybe that is.

What do you think were the most important crossroads on the way of your history as an artist?

There have been a few. I would say in the early beginnings (1991) it was meeting and befriending Key Ransone of Small Cruel Party. He was an incredible inspiration full of creative energy and a man of the highest integrity and dignity. We would perform a lot together and he was a strong supporter of my work in the early days. He was a practicing Buddhist and that was interesting to me, how that influenced his work. We both toured Japan in 95 and that was certainly a crossroads because it was the first country I visited! It was an amazing experience. Meeting many Japanese artists and observing their way or I should say the “Japanese way” of making art was very profound for me. It was the non-attitude of it all. The non-thinking Zen about it way. I mean just witnessing Incapacitants and Merzbow as a three piece and so many others just going for it without any hesitation. It was really exciting to take in the eastern approach to making extreme music. Many of the Japanese noise artists told me directly that they really appreciated my work over the other American/European noise because “I was not trying to be like them”. So that was a compliment of sorts, to get that reaction from my Japanese peers. Throughout the 90s it was the Japanese noise artists that were some of my biggest supporters! Another crossroad was when I read Yukio Mishima’s “Sun and Steel” and that had the most profound punch in the face effect on me. That was in 2001 and clearly one can see/hear a difference in my music. That book totally changed my music and also my physique! Because you see that book links art with the physical self. So that book made me into an exercise fanatic and a creative warrior. I got more actual muscles and I made more music because of that book! So that book clearly affected my music. Yukio Mishima’s nationalist vibe was just silly to me so I simply glided over that nonsense. But his attitude about art and exercise was spot on! I immersed myself in all those samurai philosophy books like the Hagakure and just replaced all the talk about sword fighting with making music. Books about Zen have helped too but to be honest I am far far far away from being truly Zen…..still working on that! Around 2004-2005 I became very obsessed with trail running and found myself running in deep forests. Sometimes even barefoot and wearing nothing but shorts. I would run and run and run through forests and that is when I became very in tune with animality. I stopped thinking about being a human and start feeling more like an animal while running. Sounds silly to say that but really it’s absolutely natural to feel this while blasting through a dirty trail barefoot with the bottom of your bare feet bleeding. BEST FEELING EVER! I would lose myself and just be a ball of sweaty energy. I would have the craziest visions and ideas running through my head during these wild exercises, so that when I would get home I would immediately get more than enough inspiration to work on music. That’s why there was a strong percussive element coming into my work around that time (2004-present). It all came from my lustful passion to run through forests. I broke a bunch of bones in 2005 from a high speed skateboard accident and that was a bit awful. I’m still very much active but my body has been a bit abused from physical injuries. For three years now I’m more about long hikes in the mountains and forests than say running. You see with running in forests you have to be constantly looking at the trail in front of you so you don’t trip and fall. By hiking or walking I can focus more on sound around me and also be able to view more of nature. That explains my photography and also my field recordings. That is all from my long hikes. My nature themed recordings such as Kataract and Terra Paroxysm are due to my hiking. All of my crossroads with my music is entirely due to a crossroad with my physical self. As my body is changing so is my music. What my music will be like when I am a very old man……I don’t know really but I promise it won’t be boring and mellow! Mortality is a great motivator! The more I realize time is getting shorter the more feel like shaking my tail and absorbing life as much as possible and in return trying to offer some music along the way.

You’ve released an unbelievable amount of records, how do you oversee all of your releases?

Well to be honest it’s really rather shameful having such a large discography. It’s NOT something I take pride in. It’s a reflection of my ridiculous pathology to keep moving on and not stopping. I see my discography as measurements and documentation of time, of the usage of music and sound. Rather intriguing throwing my entire discography into iTunes – it will automatically tell you exactly how many minutes, hours and days worth of music that I have created. I can’t tell you how much it is exactly but yes it is a peculiar realization. I’m not reflecting on the amount of releases but rather the actual time increments of my work. And to think about how many hours went into each recording to make that, say, one hour CD would be about 48 solid hours to make that one hour recording for that one CD. Then there was the time and effort for the artwork and packaging and even doing interviews! So it’s a time value measurement that I am referring to and not how many releases. As I see it there’s a hell of a lot of other ways to waste time so making so much music and spending so much time getting it done is time well spent. Work ethic is absolutely precious! Once you have a strong work ethic, no one can take that away from you. Laziness is my enemy. So if my discography looks ridiculously huge well that just shows how much I am at constant battle against laziness. My war against boredom! The great quote from Bruce Lee sums it up…. “If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” As far as using time as my main canvas to paint on then I’m at peace with it. I’m comfortable being a cockroach in the music world where the apocalypse can happen and I’ll still be making music somehow. There’s a lot of criticism for us cockroaches. So what if we cockroaches have big discographies!? It just means we cherish time and life very much! When the day is over and my head is on the pillow and about ready to fall asleep at least I know I made some sort of personal accomplishment in spending a few hours on making music as well as exercising my body and mind. Again back to that trinity I mention before (Mind, Body, Spirit) Even if it’s something 99% of the world would not like or appreciate I’m still comfortable that I’m creating some sort of energy in the air waves in the form of music. I would have great regrets if I did too little as opposed to doing too much. I’ll take the “too much” route.

Where does this endless creativity come from?

This may sound strange but really it’s natural that exercise is very crucial to creativity. Or I should say “blood to the brain”. You will see artists, writers and musicians all trying to get blood to the brain to get that creativity kick and so they smoke endless amount of cigarettes or other drugs and such just to get that kick of blood. Coffee is AWESOME! And yeah I love coffee and it’s good for creativity. Besides that caffeine addiction I have never touched drugs or cigarettes and I have always kept my health very clean. So it’s intense exercise that truly gets my blood pumping and going to my brain and I get the craziest ideas swimming around there when I am in a most intense physical state. When it’s all said and done it’s all about getting blood to the brain. What happens when blood doesn’t get to the brain? You faint or die actually! So blood to the brain is it and if you can get a lot of blood shooting to the brain you are a powerful engine of creativity. All you have to do after that is to figure out what tools are needed to unleash that creativity. For what I do it’s an ongoing process of choosing technological tools for the aim of creating an imaginative state of ecstasy. In short I’m a dramatist with sound so really it’s a process of getting the drama delivered as strongly as possible with the aid of electronic tools. We are all emotional volcanoes….,.most are very dormant but some of us have figured out how to explode our emotions. I’m really happy that I find my way to explode.

What role does the word “catharsis” play for you and for your work?

Well catharsis is obvious in my music and so much of contemporary extreme music. I really admire the original classical Greek definition of Catharsis of being the process “purification” or “cleansing”. I like that! I hope my music can achieve this. I have always felt music should be a wrench that clogs the gears of the machine known as the mind. Music should function as a weapon to halt the process of thinking and usher in a wave of emotions. Or as Kafka would say about writing, “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.” I like that approach a lot! I think the roots of cathartic music can be traced to being very young, when you start noticing the world that you were born in is…….very fucked up. And the only friend you have is music. Now this is when you are very young and mom and dad are starting to really piss you off, as well as teachers, police, and any and all grownups. So with the awesome technological devices known as music players and the high volume knob you discover that you can incinerate all the bullshit of the world with music. Just hit play on your player and let SLAYER melt all those annoying grown ups. I mean nothing is more cathartic than a SLAYER concert! SLAYER is the champion of cathartic music! This is just an example but that is how catharsis comes into our worlds at a young age. “Disgust” becomes a mighty rocket fuel and music can be a great rocket to escape. It begins with that gut instinct that you are being held down into some sort of soul bondage. It’s like a fire hose tied into a knot and music unravels that knot and the water blasts your soul out into a much better place. This is what music did for me when I was young. Many years ago when I was young and performing concerts I would have visions right before hitting the stage that my arms turned into two fire hoses and my blood would blast out of my arms into the audience and somehow the sound of all this would be blasting through the PA. I would put this silly fantastical image in my head right before I would hit the stage just to get into the right vision of the concert. Of course it’s a silly vision but I need these silly visions to at least have a metaphoric goal in mind. Sometimes I would feel cathartic after the performance that the imagery in my imagination matched what the performance gave off but of course there were many short comings too. I mean us humans are cursed with grand delusions and we are always trying to make art to match these wacky huge epic visions. Especially when we are very young. These days I haven’t had that cathartic intention anymore. I’m in such a solid place in my life that I really do not need anything cathartic for myself but CERTAINLY I offer something to younger audiences and they do get it! So instead of searching for the next catharsis I am now serving it to younger audiences. Older audiences aren’t that hungry for this effect but the younger ones certainly are because after all they KNOW this world is very very very fucked up and reason and meaning are losing ground. Intense and extreme abstract art offers an experience that is very much needed these days. It’s interesting to see that the most chaotic music now is actually rather calming and harmonious with young people. There will always be a supply and demand for cathartic artistic expression.

Could you briefly point out your working process?

I am very observant of my surroundings and I am always visualizing objects into sound. For instance the sound of the inside of an object. That is why I love contact mics. I am always feeling objects around me with my fingers and trying to sense a vibration running through them. I search for sounds that the ear cannot hear. Like finding myself hiking in a forest and a broken tree limb is in a surging river and I can feel the water bashing through the tree branch and feel the vibrations. So then I clamp a contact mic on it and record straight to my recorder. When I hike I bring my camera and recorder and sometimes I have more photos than recordings and sometimes the other way around. What is moving around in the solid matter of an object is something I am always fascinated with. Sound waves moving are such an incredible concept. So it becomes an exciting process of imagining… “hmmmmmm what is in that object and how can I take ownership!” The hunter and gatherer approach. Then of course there are musical instruments. I know absolutely nothing about any instruments. I have zero knowledge of how to play any instrument but I perceive musical instruments the same as I would the sound of a rain storm or a flower pot crashing. My album GUTS is all from old piano innards and I treated that piano as if it was a trash can that I would throw off the top of a building. Or for a really big acoustic phenomenon I can see how a sound source can be made into a character like in theater or film. Like for instance my waterfall album Kataract. I looked at and heard gigantic waterfalls and saw potential in how they could be cast as a character in an intense drama of sound. So by grabbing raw and loud waterfall recordings I shape a them into a character and put them on display as a emotional element. Vilke was created by looking at the essence of wolves howling as something dramatically displayed in an otherworldly manner. Looking for sound sources is similar to being a casting agent for film or theater. Find the right sound source and inject a big dose of drama into it. Then it’s the ability to script the dialogue and give it the final costuming. All said and done I’m just creating drama with sound and your speakers are the stage where the sounds perform their drama. I perceive every music project I am involved in as a big theater presentation but strictly in the sound world. And yes BIG drama is what I aim for.

How do you feel your compositions have evolved over the years?

Oh yes to a certain extent but also not so much either. In some regards there are similarities with my early work and present so I am glad I have stuck to my guns and stood my ground in being honest with my work. I have a belief system that still stands of my music being direct and honest. And I do feel there has been an ongoing pursuit to make the strongest work that I can offer. There’s a test of sorts that can be applied to anyone at an older age and that is: Say you are 43 years old for example (That’s my age). Now observe what you are creating artistically NOW and you put that in a time machine and present that to your much younger self of say 18 years old……Would that 18 year old self freak out in shock how crazy insane awesome you became or would he or she be rather disgusted that you grew up to be a boring old fart who makes terrible boring music? That’s the test! Who are you NOW and would your younger self be disgusted or excited by that person? After all being 18 years old is an age when you think you are immortal and older folks seem sooooo uncool. Well the game plan is to totally blow the head off of your younger self. When I was younger I was a weak and fragile person who really could not see myself as an older person who would be any stronger. I had huge low self esteem. The good news is that as I have grown older I have also grown stronger and making my own music has empowered me. So it’s a guarantee that if my younger self would hear what I am doing now with music I would totally have my jaw hanging down and my eyeballs would pop out. I would be crippled with shock if I heard what my 43 year old self is making for music now. When I was young I thought I would never be able to travel. Because of my music I have traveled all over the world and met countless amazing people. This is all because of my music! My 18 year old self never could have imagined! Now think of the tragedy of being young and wild and seeing yourself becoming old and boring…..what a horror that would be! How about if you apply that to your own health? Imagine sending a photo into the past of your older self…..would that younger self be repulsed or amazed? Once you start competing with your younger self in this manner you will strongly pursue making your life as kick ass as possible because after all that is what any 18 year old wants. So yes my music has grown but so have I as a person.

Your album “Vílke” is just about to be released ( What can you tell us about the recordings? What were your intentions for the album as you headed into the studio?

Living here in the northwest I often go hiking and camping out in the forests and mountains. A few times while trying to sleep at night I heard a strong chorus of howling from wolves or coyotes and that sound always makes my arm hair rise. It’s one thing to hear a recording but to actually hear it in the wild is just beyond haunting and extremely beautiful. Trying to record wolves in the wild is very very very difficult so I was lucky to record a whole evening’s worth of wolves and coyotes howling while I had a rare opportunity to spend the night at the Oregon zoo. I didn’t really have an interest in recording howling as documentation because I had a much different vision and that was to create a massive choir of howling wolves that are confusing to the ear. A blurry line between the synthetic and natural world. As you know electro acoustic music is a hybrid of electronic processing and acoustic sources, which is a very exciting world to play around in. Especially electronically manipulating traditional instruments such as cellos, trumpets and other acoustic instruments, which I have done a hell of a lot of. I was looking into choral music and how I could make it my own. I’ve worked with human voices for choral music such as the collaboration with Joe Preston “Cerberic Doxology” and then with a high school choir for “Hover”. I really wanted to create a massive choir with wolves yet it had to be as “other worldly” as possible so to speak. So it’s layers upon layers of wolves processed with granular synthesis and other synth techniques. I absolutely love powerful choral music so making some sort of music with howling wolves was something I have been obsessing over for years. After making massively layered wolf drones I felt it needed something more to give it a savage and graceful energy. So that’s when I added snarling guitars and pounding drums to really give it the dramatic feeling of a virtual wolf pack. There are four tracks. Two of them have that running – chasing, hunting and being hunted feel to them. And the other two tracks are more graceful, there’s a calm peaceful energy to them as though it’s the dreams of wolves while sleeping. Again this is all about creating drama and using the wolf as the character.

Could you explain the title “Vílke”?

I had the recording all finished but trying to find a title to anything I record is actually the most difficult part. Hence, my lack of song titles and simple title naming. Honestly I am not talented when it comes to the written language or for that matter spoken English. I know my limits and the written language it is one of them. (As this interview may demonstrate!) But anyway I knew the whole album is based upon wolves so I opened my favorite book in the world: “The Complete Oxford Dictionary” and looked up every single word for wolf. Well my girlfriend is part Lithuanian and so I gravitated to VILKE as the Lithuanian word for female wolf and by coincidence I found this Lithuanian beer that had this ridiculous graphic of a blond women (who kinda sorta not really looked like my girlfriend) along with a wolf. The beer tasted awful…..but it’s a source of a funny inspiration. And in all VILKE simply looked good as word and as a visual type of person and not at all a “word” type I found VILKE simply looked good as a word and my girlfriend was honored too.

What role does the album play for you personally?

The ongoing theme of animality is a theme that I am most comfortable with. As you know my work is very abstract and never really thematic. There are never any political or religious or “worldly” themes present in my work. It’s absolutely abstract! Although the energy of my music coming across as animalistic as possible is something I can certainly stand firm with. The gauge for my own work is if the music sounds as beastly and animalistic as possible. Even when my music is at its quieter moments it still has that poetry of an animal in its calmest state. My quieter work could be soundtracks to animals’ dreams, while my most intense work is the feeling of animals in their most savage state. Some of my other “animal” themed albums like “Creatures of Cadence”, “Hope and Prey” and “Animality” for example strive for this feel. Vilke I feel is my strongest work in regard to capturing this essence of the otherworldly ecstatic animal state. This is oldest and purest pursuit with us humans, expressing drama through art. The earliest cave drawings are of animals presented in states of action and in the moment of intense drama, and then of course the earliest music is based upon animal energy. Drumming reflects the movement of running. All of my percussion work is formed around the rhythms of a wild animal running or galloping. Very rhythmic and but also always on the verge of chaos. Of course many people prefer to make music for the divine and for their own god or gods but as for me, I stick with the animals and I’m making my own hymns for them. Vilke is my hymn to the wolves.

How did you get to working with Faith and Aaron and their label SIGE?

Just a couple of years ago I was introduced to them by Joe Preston and he told me that Aaron had a hardcore punk band and wanted me to remix a track……That really confused me and gave me a WTF response. But I was curious because I couldn’t find this so called band anywhere on the internet because it wasn’t even known to the world. As it turned out the band was called “Split Cranium” and included members of ISIS and Circle which are two bands I never ever heard music from. Well then I stumbled upon Mamiffer and immediately I was blown away! My favorite new band! I was absolutely stunned by Mamiffer and thought it was some of the most gorgeously powerful music I’d heard. I was still scratching my head over doing the hardcore band remix but then I met Aaron and Faith in a coffee shop in Seattle and immediately knew I would have two lifelong friends. So then working on the Split Cranium remix was a exciting challenge and as it turned out, an incredibly fun challenge, because after all I was weaned on that hardcore punk music in the 80s so I know my punky roots and the mix turned out pretty cool. After that it has been a good relationship of hiking and cooking and many other projects that have nothing to do with music or art. Aaron and Faith are pretty darn awesome folks!

What can you tell us about the creation of the artwork?

Having Faith do the art was awesome, she is someone I always wanted to work with. It’s a slight collaboration of sorts because the cover is a collage of close up photos of animal fur that I sent her and that she made into the main art. And the rest is her special style of art that is very simple and effective. Her artwork perfectly represents my music and I hope to work with her more in the future. Maybe even with more video work much like what we did for the VILKE short video. She has talent beyond the stars! (Video Link HERE:

What can you tell us about your new project with MAMIFFER?

It’s vocal based. Not my voice because honestly I really do not have a good vocal voice. So there will be two very long songs, one with Aaron’s voice as the main core and other with Faith’s. So far it’s “on your knees” beautiful! Absolutely the most elegant and graceful recording I have been involved with. It’s still in development but it’s been a real pleasure using their unique vocals as a rich piece of sonic clay to sculpt with. It will be very shocking for many to hear how gorgeous this new music is.

One has from the outside the impression that your life is full of impulses and inspiration. Do you listen to a lot of music in your day to day? If yes, would you like let our readers know of a few noteworthy bands or albums?

Generally when someone asks me what music I listen to my overall response is “The most beautiful music and/or the goofiest music.” Which is rather accurate for the most part. WFMU is constantly playing at my house and job and that covers the goofiest music end of the spectrum. I absolutely LOVE anything that Vicki Bennett is involved with and anything she touches makes me very giddy with joy! I’m a huge disco fan too! Also I love super insane dance music or electronic techno freakiness. Anything that encourages me to dance silly, I’m all for it. Then for beautiful music I really do hunt down the heaviest of the beauty and mostly this is coming from women artists. I do find most of my music collection is from women. Case examples of recent new work would be: Hildur Ingveldardottir Gudnadottir, Preterite (side project of Menace Ruin who I also very much like), GROUPER, Worm Ouroboros, Fever Ray, Promise and the Monster, Chelsea Wolfe, Jessika Kinney, and of course Mamiffer. Some of the most exciting music I heard this year is Maria and the Mirrors….That’s some seriously insane stuff! LOVE IT! I also listen to a lot of choral music, as loud as possible, such as Arvo Part, Veljo Tormis, György Ligeti, Krzysztof Penderecki and so forth. I love anything by Miko Vaino as far as electronic work goes; the same goes for William Bennett (Cut Hands). Stephen O’Malley has been involved with some very exciting new music like KTL and such. I love techno from REGIS. I listen to a lot of soundtracks especially any of the soundtracks from Warren Ellis and Nick Cave, those are great! And then yes I have a sweet tooth for the metal stuff and that is all over the place in taste. Old and new or dumb and smart metal. I am always loving and always finding the next step of metal. I’m usually the first person in line buying the new Anaal Nathrakh album….My guilty pleasure I guess.

Do you believe that music is only a narrative in harmony with other things?

Good question and also a dangerous question where the answer can bring up endless philosophical debates. As with many other musicians I do feel that music is a result of language stopping and music beginning. I can certainly relate to this since I have always found a voice through my music that simply makes more sense than any words I could express. Thus this makes talking or writing about music rather senseless but we are all rather senseless creatures’ right? And while it is true that us humans are cursed (some say blessed) to constantly trying to find some sort of poetry in nature, whether it being sound, words or images. Creating a narrative to the harmony of things is part of the human goal to find meaning in which animals simply do not need to do this themselves! The absolute firms embrace of chaos and the harmony of this earth is crucial. Music is a reflection of the harmony AND chaos of nature. I can relate greatly to the Jackson Pollock quote “I don’t paint nature. I am nature.”

Would you agree to the assertion that music in general loses some meaning when it is enclosed to a small group of fans, but simultaneously gains meaning by belonging to special or unique audiences?

Well I could agree in both parts of that. I have always hidden from any scenes or trendy flocks of sorts. My work has never been something that music journalists want to write about and believe me I am VERY happy for that! I aim for my work to hit listeners in an individual way. Music scenes or trends have never been my thing and that’s why my music is always in the dark hiding out and waiting for someone to discover it. I typically avoid all journalist hype. Been like this for 25 years now and I’m happy for that. To be honest it’s most exciting for me to perform concerts for audiences who have never heard of me at all. Music journalists can really trash me but then there’s a young person who approaches me and tells me how much my music has affected them in the most personal and unique way….whose side am I on? I make individual music for individual people and that is a beautiful position to be in as a musician. Even if only one person heard my music in my whole life and that person got some sort of personal experience from it then that would be a job well done. I really like the idea of people receiving my work in the widest of ways and especially when it’s in a way I would never ever imagine myself. My favorite performance was in Mexico City to about 600 people who had really never heard of me and I tell you the look in their eyes was just incredible. They really understood my music right at the beginning of my set. And it was really fucking LOUD! That was an amazing experience. That was an amazing audience and the energy in that space was just atomic! Whereas I have performed to audiences who are obsessed with the scene thing and who have read and absorbed all forms of music opinion journalism and dumb blogs and it feels like going to court and performing to judges and juries. And of course after your concert is done the damning opinions come pouring in on the internet. That’s just how our so called social information culture is. I feel there is a stronger effect on large audiences who know nothing about my work and better yet I love the idea of people not remembering my name! They just hold on to the sonic experience. This is the great goal! To make a intense impact without credit. Funny still to this day that very few people know how to say my last name right. Even close friends still say my name wrong. In case it matters it’s pronounced “men-chee” but really I get a giggle when folks say it wrong. Ideally I want my music to speak louder than my name.

How did you get first interested in photography?

True story but I went and saw the 7 and a half hour movie “Satantango” by Béla Tarr in a movie theater! That is a bit rare to do and the whole experience of watching this loooooong movie in a large dark theater had the most profound effect on me. I am talking about a total religious experience watching this movie! No way can you get this experience on a small TV or computer. This “Satantango” absolutely blew me away! I walked out of that theater….(actually maybe I crawled) and I told myself that I would make B/W photography in the same manner as “Satantango”. You see I didn’t think in terms of film but rather photography. This movie inspired me to do photography and that is saying a lot you see. Nothing else at all inspired me to get into photography except for “Satantango”. I then saw his other movies and yes all of them are amazing but that 7 and a half hour theater experience of “Satantango” was really profound for me! After that I became obsessed with black and white nature photography.

What is the name of the adorable dog on your landscapes images?

That’s Arrow! He’s my dear little doggie who has become very famous! He even has his own Facebook fan page! He’s my closest animal companion and a real heartbreaker. Actually I call him the “Smile Maker” because everywhere I take him everyone smiles. I walk him down the street and everyone walking past has a big smile because of him. He sits on my lap and naps while I make my music so he’s sorta like my manager. Arrow’s always with me.

Will there be Daniel Menche-gigs in Europe in general and in Germany in particular in the near future?

I WISH!!!!! I love coming to Europe! I do have a European booking agent Qu Junktions so anything that may come up, I will be there front and center! I played in Berlin in March, 2012 and that was the best show of my European tour. Really awesome energy in the room! The only problem with touring is that I am a school librarian so I have to work during the school months. As of now I have no offers but I am very eager!

What do you feel that live elements add to the finished recording?

My live performances can be greatly different from my recordings as many know, but lately there’s been a stronger bridge between these two worlds. For many years I kept those two (concerts/recordings) far apart. But recently it’s getting closer. For instance my live shows would convey a sense of wild chaos while my recordings were very controlled and civil so to speak. It’s the difference between a pet dog at home behaving and those are my recordings and a dog running wild and free in the woods and that would be my live performances. As loud as possible and on the edge of total chaos. But it’s coming together more now. So my recordings in the past 5 years or so are getting a lot wilder and yet they still have that “well behaved dog” sort of feeling. The core elements of “grace” and “fury” are two that I feel are best partners. I’m projecting my videos during performances and that is exciting if I can get a huge projection along with a powerful sound system. These recent performances can be an intense sensory overload. My video work is based upon countless black and white nature photos animated as fast as possible. So it’s basically a bright strobe light of nature. I prefer performing in this audio video sort of way but if there’s no video then I perform in my usual manner. Last time I performed I had several disco balls spinning at different rotations in total darkness. That made the audience really nauseous! I looked at the audience from the stage and it looked like a room full of zombies in a disco. It was hard not to laugh!

Would you like to tell us about your future plans?

Working on a sizable collaboration with Mamiffer now. It will likely have a new project name for it. But it’s turning out to be an amazing creative journey with them. And as I mentioned before I am starting a new side project, “Beast Resonator”, that will be strictly recordings for exercise. Those will be available on Bandcamp soon and I will continue to add more recordings to that. Also I hope to start making some new videos soon for my solo work. I made several videos in the past as a series called “FULMINATION”. I really enjoy making videos and it is a really strong challenge for me. Much harder for me to be creative with video than music but it’s a good challenge. I just finished a new solo recording for a split LP with William Fowler Collins and that will be very cool! It’ll be a concept album of sorts. Oh and if I ever get around to it I want to finish my album entirely of MISFITS covers……if that ever happens. Beyond that there will always be something washing up on shore for me in the form of music opportunities and such.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Daniel Menche Interview for ATTN Magazine: Spring 2012

Interview conducted by

Your new album Guts is an assault/dissection of a piano. Can you tell us about the piano in question?

About 10 years ago I was driving around, and I saw this old piano sitting on the street. I had a pick-up truck so I pulled over and asked the folks in the house if I could take it and they were very happy to know I wanted it. So there were about six neighbors helping out lifting this damn heavy piano into my truck and then when I got home I couldn’t get it out of my truck alone because as you know, pianos are really fucking heavy! So I cut up the piano inside my truck with a big power saw so that all there was the iron piano soundboard or the “guts” as I would refer to it. Even trying to get the “guts” moved was extremely difficult; I had it outside at my house and used it for sounds here and there, but to be honest it was best used for neighbor children to bang on it for fun, which was really fun to watch and hear as you can imagine.
Finally I had to get rid of this massive chunk of wood and metal so I put an ad in Craigslist for free scrap metal, and then after posting it I thought, “Oh crap! I’ll never have my piano guts again!” So I ran outside to the piano guts and put a Zoom digital recorder inside the sound board, and proceeded to smash the hell out of it for a hour until a metal scrapper came to take it away. For an hour I was throwing big rocks at the strings like a baseball player, trashing the strings with a huge wooden stick or taking a garden rake and thrashing the strings to hell and back. The whole neighborhood was wondering what the fuck was going on at my house – rather funny actually! I mean, my time with the piano was hot so I got the most intense noise out of it before it went away. After that I took the high-res raw recordings and mangled them to hell and back with a lot of computer granular synthesis and such.
I feel it’s a good relationship to the acoustic and the electronic world in which I am always trying to find the perfect balance. I never really do pure digital computer noise and nor do I ever create pure acoustic music, so the marriage between the two is always important for me to get a strong weld. As far as location goes it was at my house, so in a sense it’s like going out to my backyard to get some fresh lettuce from my garden, but instead it’s grabbing some fresh piano noise from my rusty old piano. I really like that “hunter and gatherer” mentality with making music. I’m not sure if there was an inspiration to choose to use a piano because it all seemed to fall together in a coincidence of sorts. As I was working on it I did get feeling I was onto something. I really like a lot of other deconstructed piano work from other artists – Anthony Pateras is one of my all time favorites – yet never would I imagine I would do something like this. It sort of all fall into place…or rather crashed.

You’ve used an X-ray of your dog Arrow as the album cover. Why is this image appropriate for Guts?

About three years ago my tiny Chihuahua got attacked by a huge Labrador, and it was so awful that I had to pry open the large dog’s jaws top get my little doggy out. Horrible incident! He should have died! He was okay after all with some internal bruising, but the vet gave me the x-rays and they were brilliant to behold. I said to myself that some day this will make a great LP cover or sorts and I waited for the right recording to come around. As with all of my recordings, the most difficult work is actually coming up with a title. Hard to believe but it’s true. I struggle the hardest with titles and never in my DNA brain could I come up with even track title, let alone the ability to make lyrics! Making sounds and noise is natural to me but words are another thing. As I was working on this piano recordings I was going to call it “Piano Guts” and then I remembered my doggies x-rays and it all fall into place to just call it Guts. I’m not sure if most other people have referred to the inside of the piano as the “guts” but I always referred to anything inside of something as “guts”, so the title and the doggy X-rays fitted and all was fine from there.

Does creating this music have a particular function for you?

Well it’s something that I “have” to do because it’s in my DNA wiring. I can’t stop working with sound because it’s simply what I like to do passionately. Nothing more or less. It’s just a pure passion of mine. When I say “What Does Blood Sound Like?”, this is referring to what is the gasoline that fuels your engine to create and invent yourself. For myself, I divide each day with equal proportions of mind, body and spirit. For the mind, I will read books and educate myself, for body I will exercise and practice good health, and then for spirit I simply work on art; whether it’s photography, video work, writing and of course music. Keeping everything in balance is very important. Poor health will infect the mind and spirit and so forth, backwards and forwards and so on and on. It sounds almost corny and trite but really it’s true and it’s a solid system to live by.

Is it cathartic in any way?
I don’t think it’s cathartic in any way to be honest, because it’s just a natural feeling to me and fortunately technology is very good tool for me to create what I want in sound.

Do you believe your music to have an ideal listening setup or environment? If so, what is it?

Probably not during a nice date…or maybe? Well, what I mean that my work is best for loners and so is most weird music. It seems to be simple math that avant-garde music is created by solitary individuals for solitary listeners, and it’s always been that. I’m referring to recordings of course, and it’s true that this music is demanding to be heard alone without anyone around or distractions. It’s loner music by loner musicians, and for the most part and that’s a beautiful thing! For myself, my work has been intended for a one-to-one experience and what it means to have a personal-emotional relationship with the drama contained within the sounds and noise. After all, I feel I’m more of a dramatist with sound than a musician, so drama plays a strong role on how the listener can get lost. The thrill and danger of getting lost alone in a dense forest is the ideal feeling I hope to achieve with my sound work. If you ever have been lost alone somewhere, then you’ll know the feeling. There’s some fear involved in the unknown, yet there is also comfort in the loneliness. This is where music plays the important role to all of us. The Romanian philosopher Emile M. Cioran once said about music: “Music is the refuge of souls ulcerated by happiness.” I think that saying is a bit true in regards to how us humans are so spiritually weak compared to the animal kingdom in that we “need” music, so there’s a sense of humor in what Emile Cioran is saying.

You’ve recently started uploading a series of raw field recordings of various locations (empty school basements, waterfalls/rivers). What does these soundscapes possess that makes them worthy of capturing?

I’ve been recording a lot of nature sounds since I scored a simple digital recorder. Since I hike a lot, I take my camera and snap a lot of photos and if at a position of interest then I will record sound; typically at far away places away from any urban sound whatsoever, although planes can fly by and ruin a pure recording. So far I can say I have recorded days worth of nature recordings, and I have mixed and edited them down for anyone to hear online through Soundcloud. Some of the mixes are so scattered in time and place but the cross-fades and arrangements work really well on their own. So in short, I make raw nature recordings just like I take photos – basically stealing the soul out of my subjects just like what the Native Americans used to say about white man and their early cameras! Occasionally I’ll record something not very natural like, say, loud sizzling electrical power lines that are crackling with a zillion volts of electricity. I really like those recordings a lot, and the power lines that I recorded were deep in the mountains. And then there was a high school I used to work at…in the summer, when there were no students, I walked around the huge basements recording just the ambience of the rooms. You can hear these loud cracking sounds; that is the sound of my ankles cracking. I used to skateboard a lot and my ankles are really crunchy. I was amazed how loud my ankles cracked in those quiet rooms! It just added to the recordings. I can say that the element of adventure is what makes a recording worth while – not really planning, but simply finding an amazing situation to capture a sound. “Hunting and gathering” is still the main urge within us.

What’s next for yourself and your music? 

Right now I am working on a huge gigantic collaboration project with the duo-group Mamiffer, which will be a very shocking recording for sure complete with multimedia audio and video. This will be quite the surprise for many who are familiar with Mamiffer and even my work. Hopefully there will be live collaborations as well with this relationship. Beyond that, I have other ideas and such but it’s too early to spill the beans on them as of yet.

What can be expected from your upcoming string of live European dates?

I’ll be performing (hopefully) with my video work – that is if the venues have a projector. But if not that’s fine, because I perform two different types of performances: with or without the video. I make these videos of billions of animated nature photos flickering in a strobe light manner, and I perform with live electronics and simple contact mics on my body and objects in my hand. I’m very excited in performing now because I feel I am making some of my most intense work. There’s an odd thrill in being able to create intense work as I am getting older; typically aging inspires a mellowing of sorts but I’m at a different angle. The closer to my mortality I am, the more intense my output has become. When I ask the metaphorical question: “What does blood sound like?” I better be walking the talk with that. So expect a crimson tsunami!

Daniel Menche Interview for Personal Best Magazine: Summer 2011

Conducted by Lasse Marhaug: 2011

How many times have you broken bones in your body? What were they? How did it happen?

It's a funny coincidence you ask this because just now I am going through medical physical therapy for back and neck pain due to breaking both my shoulders from bicycle and skateboard accidents in the past. How many bones have I broken? Well both my wrists and shoulders. All from nasty falls on concrete from high speed downhill sports. I have had a lot of accidents……really nasty falls and most of them I walked or crawled away very lucky. I do shudder often how many times I was supposed to die from my crazy high speed sport activities. I still skateboard and bicycle but I'm rather timid and slower these days. Honestly the whole "extreme sports" days are behind me. If anything "extreme hiking" is more my style and no…it's not that extreme either. But I do have a bit of post traumatic images in my head from falling hard. The rushing of concrete violence still hits me occasionally. I really hate to break anymore bones. Just last week I saw a young man eat the street hard on his long skateboard and he knocked himself out cold. He wasn't wearing a helmet so he got a concussion and blood was splattered all over his face. I used to be just like him and maybe a bit crazier… still was a disturbing sight for me and I have seen several of these accidents in the past. He recovered ok mainly because he was young but head injuries are truly the scariest. These days I go slow and smooth down hills and yeah….always wear a helmet where as in the past I didn't and I was lucky…..but also dumb too. In 2005 I whipped out hard on my long skateboard and broke my left wrist and my right shoulder. HORRIBLE pain! And I am still feeling the after effects from that fall. I had two arms broken with a casts and slings. It just sucked really hard for about two months. Also I hated the pain medication so I didn't really take any. I'm sure they would of helped me but I hate the effect narcotics feel to me. I mean I hate drugs period so I have never taken any drugs in my life, not even a puff of weed nor any cigarettes! TRUE FUCKING FACT! I say this because even tho I am clean drug free person I still abuse my body with physical sports stuff. I mean pain is pain so who's crazier? Some druggie or cigarette addict or someone flying down a hill on a skateboard pushing 50 mph in which is what I used to do. As humans we all find silly ways to abuse ourselves. 

Speaking of bones and the sound of them. Just recently I was recording large empty rooms at a abandoned high school. Large cavernous rooms with excellent acoustics of the vents and air blowing through them. I wanted the purest and cleanest recordings of these rooms. I was walking around with my digital recorder and being as quiet as I could complete with wearing the softest sneakers. But there were these rather loud but subtle cracking noises going on with my ankles. The cracking was so loud but it was bouncing off the walls echoing & reverbing in these large empty rooms. I had to stop and decide to myself…..should I record stationary so that my cracking ankles don't intrude with these pure recordings? The walking around with the live recorder is the best way to get some life out of recording but my ankles just could not stop cracking loudly. Well I thought…hmmmm…..fuck it……keep recording with cracking bones in these old dark rooms and maybe no one will notice…or care. It'll be more "personal" recording I guess. So I continued recording and yeah they sound pretty cool and strange. Yet it was rather shocking to me that my bones are LOUD now at my age! My cracking ankles are from 30 plus years of skateboarding or I guess whatever I have been doing to my feet. I'm 41 now and it's a odd realization that my body it crunching up. I'm still in top health but it's true my body is telling me to mellow out a bit on the physical sports abuse.  I sure wish I had my 18 year old skeleton again!

Hiking is also likely to cause less injury I guess?
Is the Portland area a good place to go hiking? Do you go back to same places, or explore new ones? Do you go for long walks? Do you sleep out in nature? 

 Yes less injury is true with hiking but ya know…....I'm in my 40s now and I have done a good deal of damage already. So hiking is more my style now days. Understand with the whole trail running thing that you have to keep your eyes on the trail all the time so you don't stumble and fall off the trail, so you can miss out on a lot of nature scenery. I hear this a lot from my friends who motorcycle and they have to where tight helmets and keep their eyes on the road constantly so they never really enjoy nature and the mountains that much. Sorta funny to think about that....staring at the road all the time while the most majestic views can be seen. Rather ironic.

Here in the Northwest there is an infinite amount of hiking one can explore. It really is never ending it seems on what to explore next. Sure I do revisit many places and I have my faves but really it's what's unexplored that is most exciting. The wildernesses here are so massive and gigantic that it is truly scary to get lost within them….and every year several people do die a nasty death out in the wild. It's mostly tourists or folks who never have hiked before and get all nature loving….but you know as much as I know that nature will NOT love you back. Have you seen that dreadfully pathetic movie "Into the Wild".....that same story happens all the freaking time! Or better yet is the superb movie "Grizzly Man" in which that is just too profoundly funny. It's one of my all time favorite movies. Of course common sense and above all RESPECT for nature that is the best way to explore the wild nature. So it's a exciting area of the earth here in the Northwest for hiking and exploring for sure. I do sleep occasionally out in the wild in the Summer months. The stars are so amazing and vivid at night and the deer and elk are walking all around. One time while sleeping some deer were walking all around and over me. I was totally motionless but it was freaky. I mean the feet were inches from my face. Just slowly stepping around and over. Strange experience indeed. I tell you….Hiking here in the Northwest is really the best aspect of living here. It's just what's it's all about when it comes to living here in just in general. I mean the city is ok I guess but really it's all about the vast nature to explore around. It's a bit criminal to ignore all this beauty all around ya know. So yeah hiking is very very very mandatory indeed for me. When Darkthrone came out with that song "Hiking Metal Punks"……..that hit the nail dead on. Hell of a great song!

When I played in Eugene the organizers told me that you played there two days after you'd taken off your casts in 2005. They said that during the gig you banged your fists so hard against the concrete floor that they were afraid you'd fracture your bones again. Do you remember this? 

The true story is a bit more ickier. I broke my wrist in 2005 and That day my wrist was healing up from surgery where they placed a titanium plate inside and there was a long gnarly surgery slice still there on my wrist trying to heal up, about 4 inches I guess. Well they did take out the stitches about two weeks earlier but that day while in Eugene I noticed under that bandage there  was a stitch that they forgot to take out. Nothing to overly panic over but this stitch was hugely knotted and embedded in my flesh. It had to get removed promptly. So about two hours before my gig I went to a grocery and bought some medical alcohol and tiny scissors and in the parking lot I did my own surgery trying to pull this nasty stitch out. Painful…...yes and very gross to look at and it took me about 45 minutes to get it out. Folks walking by were puzzled and freaked at what I was doing to myself. Because you see…..this stitch just wouldn't want to leave. I was pulling and pulling and slicing in my wrist and still it was being stubborn. I was very angry that the nurse forgot to remove this stitch so I was cursing and bleeding at my wrist until finally it pulled out. I went to the gig and did my performance with my wounded hand behind my back. So I guess folks were freaked and tricked that actually my good arm was performing so that's funny that that rumor occurred. At that time I made an album cover for a double CD retrospective called "Scattered Remains" of all my old 90s rarities and such and I placed my stitched up wrist on the scanner and that was the artwork. I still have a long scar and unfortunately folks think I tried to kill myself……but not really. It's just a surgery scar.

Have you ever hurt yourself during a gig? 

Earlier days I hurt myself all the time with bruises and such. It was common occurrence but really not so common these days. I think the spectacle crazy concerts became more notorious than the music but I really don't have that much of any regrets. It was exciting-intense performance that put folks in a "worried" position for my well being. I think honestly that my work can be much more powerful on it's own without my self making my body abuse the main attention. These days I perform more subtle physical concerts and also video concerts and I think the music is much more powerful than ever. Honestly I am trying to do more of the video performances and so far folks think those are vastly more intense than any of my physical performances. The physical stuff used to be a bit crazy in the early days. Honestly the crazier the physical concerts the worst the sound so that would confuse people a bit from them hearing my recordings. Maybe that was a good balance because I like crappy-ugly sound and good clean sound. I believe in a time and place for everything and sometime ugly-bloody-sweaty is the goal but certainly not all the time. So I try not to go towards route because I've "beaten" that concept in a bit…….pun intended. A funny story occurred in Szczecin, Poland 2006 at a festival in a actual slaughterhouse. Well it's not a operating slaughterhouse anymore but it was good place to perform regardless. I was doing some sort of wild and crazy physical set with my amplified metal stick and I smacked my upper lip and gums with it. Blood starting splattering on the killing floor! My teeth got all bloodied and everything got a bit crazy after that. Incredibly lucky that I didn't bust out my front teeth. Honestly it was not one of my best concerts, terrible noise and sound and a sort of a mess and a rather confused and shocked Polish audience. But I guess folks liked it because I was sweaty bloody mess. I was sorta embarrassed because I sorta lost my mind and went for the blood and noise show, trading in a spectacle instead of a concert but oh well. It was a time and a place so no regrets but it all made sense in that Polish slaughterhouse back in 2006. 

Have you always been a physically active person? I know that as a kid you did juggling, and skateboarding? What else? Are you a runner? Did you ever run a race? 

As a kid I was really shy and super quiet. I skateboarded a bit in the 70s on those little suicide sticks. Then in 1980 I discovered juggling and I became obsessed beyond anything to be the best juggler ever. I practice for hours upon hours a day all alone and taught myself how to perform. Then I started to juggle on the streets for tip money and made some pretty good dough considering my age and time frame. Then I juggled all over the city in shopping malls, libraries, children's theaters, birthday parties….you name it and I juggled at them. I even got hired to juggle at McDonalds occasionally! Now that was weird! There's a famous kids TV show I was on called Bumpity that can be seen on Youtube and that has shocked more people about me than anything my music could shock. I juggled so much that I developed extremely thick calluses on my hands. So thick that I would show off at school mates by jamming sharp metal xacto blades in them and hang my hands upside down with the blades falling out nor any blood. That was all from 80 -85 and then I discovered hardcore punk and skateboarding and that was it….no more juggling and total obsession in extreme punk/metal and non stop skateboarding. I always hated sports because of that thing called "rules" ya know. So anything that had to do with chaos and intensity was all that I wanted. I loved the insane punk-metal shows and I would really smash up my body at those shows. So yeah as a teen I was ultra hyper energetic but only in the truest sense of teenage chaos. Never took a drug and never really got drunk much at all, actually hated alcohol when I was young because I wouldn't be in control of my body. Funny to say that but I mean is that I lusted for chaos but I wanted to control it. So that trailed to my music making later on. But this is all pathological junk I'm sure no one would care about. 

Running was something I was really into a few years ago. Mainly trail running deep in the woods. I gotta get back into that because I really loved trail running yet I did injure myself a lot. I was doing it bare foot occasionally which was exciting but also sometimes horrible. I would tear up my feet bad and get stuck deep in a forest and would try to get out wearing absolutely nothing but a pair of shorts. No shirt-no shoes and yeah…..occasional catastrophe. From 2004-2008 I was really into trail running and always fascinated by the concept of animality. I wanted music to over intensify the body in an animalistic manner. So I recorded several drum albums that were entirely inspired from trail running. All the rhythms correspond to the pace of feet hitting the trail and such. I mean I wanted sic to be so intense that bones would break or I would rip out trees with my bare hands. Crazy shit type of stuff. Seems to me that music originated from early humans replicating animals running through rhythmic sound and noise from animals screaming. We are of course animals so to break down the music into pure primal onslaught was what I was fascinated by. It was just a phase but thinking about it now…..I did stop running when I stopped making drum albums. Maybe I made my point enough? Since then I am very much into hiking and that I do a lot of. I don't really run but I do hike very steady and far. I guess I'm getting a whole different inspiration now days. I'm making video work now created and inspired by my hiking adventures. And of course my photography in which I snap waaaaaay too many photos of the great mother nature. Hiking is such a classic that I am sure I will be doing that for the rest of my life.

1. the state of being an animal.
2. animal existence or nature in human activity; the animal in man as opposed to the spiritual.

Well here in Norway Fenriz of Darkthrone is now just as known for his love of nature as his metal. Do you listen to music when you hike, or do you prefer the sound of the forest? Do you always bring your dog on you walks?

Oh no I never listen to music while hiking. When I am outdoors in general I don't want any music around. Not even in the gym while lifting weights or anything like that. Not only do I prefer the sound of nature but more so the sound of the wind in my ears or the heart beating in my chest. Well just the natural sounds and that includes silence in which I treasure greatly. Sure I used to listen to music a long time ago while running-biking-gym stuff but that had to go because it was too much of an abstraction to my thoughts. I realized that thoughts/ideas/realizations come faster and more powerful when in deep exercise and in silence. Just a simple walk alone at night without any music will get you the most profound ideas and thoughts. That "aha" moments come more frequent. (no not the band Aha….) But it's true that so many of my ideas for music and such come from long exercises in nature and such. This has been true for me for many long years. I read the fantastic book "Herzog on Herzog" and he mentioned his love for long hikes in the mountains and how profound ideas will come to him. That was interesting to read that because I was on that tip already. So I really do not advocate listing to music as much as people would normally would. It seems to me that the portable music devices came into popularity because folks just hate dealing with other folks. Of course that's why you will see most people with headphones on in the subway…..I would too. Misanthropy clearly has a strong part in portable music device sales. But I avoid all public transportation or most other daily public norms so I really do not need anything pumped into my ears. Then there's driving and I do actually enjoy listening to nice music while driving in the mountains and forest to get to hiking trails. The PERFECT album for me to listen to while driving in the mountains is ULVER's "Kveldsfanger". After parking it's hours of silence for the long hikes. But after I'm done I feel so enlighten by the quiet sounds all around….and some loud ones such as loud waterfalls in which here in the Northwest can be very loud. I do hike to large waterfalls all the time and of course record them for sound sources such as Kataract. Note that I record them…..not actually hear the recordings till much later. But any ways I do feel like it's a bit of a natural crime to avoid such rich sounds in the forests by electronic music devices. 

It's true that in 2005 I was very much into intense trail forest running and I did think one day about the idea of making dangerous music to run to. So I came up with a style of percussion work that was mainly inspired from running and to make it as intensely animalistic as possible. Rhythms that represent running legs from animals or humans. Just massive animal sounding drums and it's true I did listen to my own demos while forest running and even barefoot and the first few demo mixes were at a speed I could run with…..and that wasn't enough. So then I did more mixes of intensity and finally I got a mix that just killed me on the trails. I felt like ripping out trees like a monster. Sorta anti-dance music but more of a violent animal music. At a point I felt I finally created drum music that does indeed over power my body and potentially could crack some of my bones I felt it was finished. The frost recording was a double CD called "Concussions" and then "Beast Resonator" and then there was a few more. But those two recording in particular were fully inspired by forest running barefoot until my body would break. I don't know how anyone could listen to those records sitting down……but I'm a bit fond of those drum records I did because it shines a light on a rather wild time in my life. I mean this drone music tends to make people sit on their asses and get fat so doing this rhythmic drum recordings was my protest to all that agnostic drone crap. I really feel that music should be as instinctual as possible in which that translates to being as animalistic as possible. Music has to scare the sacred somehow.

And yes my little doggy ARROW is only 6 pounds heavy but he's very very muscular! He's a chihuahua and loves running with me while I am hiking. Tiny little creature yes…..but far more powerful than anyone could imagine. Sometimes I don't bring him because of laws against dogs on the trails and that is very very very understandable law because after all there are delicate wildlife that should not be interfered by dogs. Those places are actually the most beautiful with wildlife. ARROW will chase squirrels and such and I always worry a coyote or a raccoon will get him in a fight because he will loose that battle. There's gigantic owls and eagles here they can fly above in circles looking for food and I know they are looking at my doggy with salivating desire to swoop down and grab him for dinner. There has been times I gotta hold him for his own protection. I'm sure a day will come that a bear will appear and Arrow will scare one away and save my life. He does have a rather nasty bark.

What made you get a chihuahua in the first place? Most people would guess Daniel Menche would get a big dog that would keep up with his running and skateboarding, not a small dog.

Well this little chihuahua came to me in 2007 in the form of a tiny little fur biscuit. Just 7 months old and he fitted right in my single palm of my hand. Arrow is now 4 years old and a mighty little nature warrior. (He's sleeping on my lap as I type this…..he just farted….gross) Arrow is only 6 pounds heavy and his poops are tiny so he's really easy to deal with. A friend of mine called me a cross between Paris Hilton and Jack London whenever I am with Arrow. My little "Call of the Wild" that can fit in my side purse. I prefer to think of myself and Arrow in regards to the movie "There will be blood" with the little boy and the oil baron. "BASTARD IN A BASKET!" But it's funny you should mention this because I know a few people with massive gigantic dogs. Usually German Shepard and I have no idea how anyone can cope with a massive dog especially all those massive loads of turds. Funnier is folks who are oh so evil-metal that have these massive dogs and walk around with leather trench-coats as tho there some nazi twits. I mean what a comedically pathetic stereotype! Not sure why but folks who do not know me think I am some ultra serious-dark-somber guy and really I'm just a goofball with a tiny dog. I also have a house with a massive garden and enjoy collecting exotic bamboo and Japanese maples. My house is ultra colorful and fully lush with plants and trees. Some people have visited my house and they see this lovely garden and a little Chihuahua playing around and they're shocked. All to often they picture me living in a dark-depressing place with loads of your typical bummer-culture stuff collected all around. Well not me! I have more in common with Martha Stewart than say Anton Levay….....or whatever. But yeah I do get a kick out of destroying stereotypes. Here in Portland one can see Jerry A (singer of Poison Idea) walking his chihuahuas and that guy has quit the reputation but really he's all fluff and loves a cute doggy as much as a little child. But yeah Arrow is defiantly my numro uno buddy and I take him just about everywhere. He has had more adventures than most people I know.  

Your current job as a librarian is well documented on your blog, but before this you worked as a demolition worker? You were a one-man demolition crew? What kind of jobs would you do? How did you like this job? 

Well for three years I was struggling a bit on my career and jobs. Portland Oregon is notorious for an extremely low job market and in 2006-2009 it was very very very difficult to find work. So I scrapped really hard to find any work I could. Grunt work and such and mainly working on houses to fix them up to resell and or to demolition work. Sometimes my job would be to clean out a house that was partially burnt from a nasty house fire and then re-fix it up to resell it, Those were the worst dirtiest jobs. Really brutal work I tell ya! And when there were times of desperation I would simply place an ad in Craigslist for junk hauling and I would get work that way since I owned a beat-up truck. Easy work really because I would drive up to someones house and I would haul off a heaping pile of garbage to the "dump" and that would save my ass to pay for my house payments and food. I would bring my little doggie Arrow with me and he would break hearts of the customers and they would pay more because they would know I was a good honest soul who is trying to survive since most junk haulers are sketchy druggies and some sort of fishy thieves trying to score a burglary opportunity. Any ways......American dumps are fascinating places to go. It's the final line for "stuff" to go and die into this massive incinerator. These dumps here in America are so huge that one could almost call them a city in themselves! HUGE mountains of junk and the most amazing odors coming out of them ( My doggie Arrow loooooooooves the dump odors!). To really truly get a good idea of good ol American consumerism then going to the dump is the place! It's TOTAL madness the materialistic crap that gets thrown out. It's a incredible place and I would make up to 2 to 5 trips a day and if lucky I would make $50 per trip.....if I was lucky that is. The more people had stuff to throw out them the more money I could get. I hate "stuff" ya know and I do what I can to live as minimal as possible. As empty of rooms and as possible. and if anything my house is cluttered with an over abundance of trees and plants and such because that's a "good" clutter because it's all living but with materialistic stuff it's just an absurdity to own a bunch of "stuff". These days I only wish to spend money on food because I know I will poop that out and never see it again. Even owning a bunch of books and CDs is a bit annoying to myself and yes I do have a bunch but I'm getting that removed out of my life myself. Anyways the whole experience of working as an person who removes and destroys other people stuff has influenced me to not tolerate much stuff myself. I want to die with the least amount of stuff.....maybe NO STUFF!! Then with the house demo thing I was fixing up old houses that were rather junky and get them spiffed up to resale for much more. I had to chase and kill all the rats and remove all the toxic asbestos crap and especially house mold (very bad!). Occasionally I did have to destroy a barn or garage or a large chunk of a house and basically destroy as much crap as possible with a sledgehammer for a whole day....FUN!!!! That was interesting work because I was working with other desperate jobless souls such as Latinos who were new to America and fellow desperate artists who just weren't having the best of luck.....just like myself! Fortunately my big break from all that dirty work changed when I got a job position as a school librarian and that changed my life completely. It's really funny to think about all the ridiculous odd jobs I have had. From working at a slaughterhouse when 16 years old to presently where I am reading out loud the tiny children in a school library. My occupations have really painted my life up into some funny experiences. I always found this old saying rather funny and amusing "If you want to make the gods laugh just tell them your plans". Funny one liner indeed and just about the story of my life!

Daniel Menche Interview for Biomusicosophy: Summer 2010

Since 1993, Daniel Menche has released roughly 50 recorded documents in CD, LP, 3” or 7” format, has collaborated on over 20 albums, and has recorded for 5 film soundtracks. As a newcomer to all things noise, of which Menche is a leading figure, my first experience with his music occurred when I was reviewing Kataract for Tiny Mix Tapes (read it here). For the album, Menche manipulated field recordings of waterfalls. I was immediately attracted to the idea, its motivating factors and implications, so I wanted to talk with him more about it. Despite a busy schedule, he graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions.

Me: What’s the most recent album you acquired and why is it so great?

DM: Darkthrone’s Circle the Wagons. Really great album…especially for playing in my truck. Oh sure it’s knuckle-dragging Beavis and Butthead tunes but it’s rocking my world and bringing me back to when I was a punk-metal kid. Just super simple metal-punk….nothing more and nothing less. They always deliver the rocking goods. I tell ya honestly that I never cared about their black metal stuff that all the cool kids drool over. Their last 5 or so punk-thrash records are tops. I really admire those guys for pissing off all the orthodox black metal kiddies. When I was a teen the nipples I was snugging up to were early-mid 80s hardcore and metal. The ACCUSED and POISON IDEA ruled the Northwest America….or so it seemed to my little head. They were gods to me. I hear a heck of a lot of POISON IDEA influence in the recent DARKTHRONE albums. All that crazy music back then really had a strong influence on me as a teen. I mean it scared the hell outa me at those shows. Extremely violent gigs that were beyond loud and powerful. It shaped me greatly to go on and make the music that I waned to make. I was talking with Stephen O’Malley recently and he was a Seattle metal kid in the 80s and we both glowed with excitement remembering those hardcore-metal days in the Northwest. Both of us agreed that all the concerts that we have seen in our lifetime can be traded just for those few magical moments of witnessing POISON IDEA and the ACCUSED in the 80s while we were young-dumb teens. So I can see how DARKTHRONE has pulled a few pages outa that history book. It was those punk-metal concerts that were our “church” that gave us the sense of freedom and power for us scrawny dorks with acne and skateboard scabs to go on and make our music. I’m constantly meeting top-notch sound artists and discovering that they themselves were raised on 80s punk-metal yet grew up to make powerful and original music. Recently I was staying at a friend’s house that was a very serious academic sound artist and I peaked at his huge CD collection of “serious” music and such and I noticed he had a copy of D.R.I’s Dealing With It and I told him….FUCK YEAH! and lo and behold we partied it up listening to that fine gem and just chatted all night long all about the good things in life growing up in the 80s….skateboarding and punk-metal. The list goes on who’s who in the sound art world that was raised on punk-metal. Punk-Metal really was the nipples that we suckled in that cradle of the all ages shows. So there’s no shame in loving the newer DARKTHRONE. They keep it alive and I salute them! Also I have been really loving the latest Hildur Ingveldardottir Gudnadottir CD Without Sinking that TOUCH music released. All of her solo work is absolutely beautiful. Needless to say I have both low brow and high brow taste in music. I listen to a lot of good shit and bad shit.

Me: What was the process of capturing and producing the sounds on Katract?

DM: I hike a lot in the forests and mountains here in the Northwest America and at first I was taking the sound of the waterfalls for granted as well most local folks do. I never really listened “closely” to waterfalls. But for tourists coming from large cities these waterfalls can be mind blowing, visually and soundwise. I never really thought about recording waterfalls and working with them until I took my friend Zbigniew Karkowski to some of these massive falls. He never really witnessed such waterfalls due to being in cities and he was amazed by the full spectrum sound of them. I remember him saying that this is more exciting than electronic white noise in which this is what he works with a lot as a computer music composer. Zbigniew Karkowski works often with several types of white noise as a starting blob of clay and then sculpting it. Also with pink noise, blue noise, brown noise etc etc etc….So this is what Zbigniew comes from in working with computer sound and such. I then remember responding back to him that it would be interesting to collaborate with his electronic white noise sounds and my waterfall recordings and have a nasty war between the organic and the digital noise. White noise vs waterfalls…to the death! Well as it turned out this concept never really happened at all for collaboration but it spawned a great inspiration to me to work with waterfall sounds as raw chunks of clay to sculpt with. So I bought a cheap digital recorder to attach to an Ipod. Cheap and simple because for starters I can’t afford expensive equipment and also waterfalls are of course a very wet experience. So getting a dumb little Ipod wet is no big deal and the little recorder could take a beating. The quality of the recording was actually very good for being so simple and cheap.
Now the timing of these waterfalls was key because in the Springtime the water is RAGING! Mainly due to all the snow melting from the mountains. So this was a prime time for waterfall sound hunting. Loud and violent and all that good stuff. I made hours upon hours of recordings in several locations and positions. Some direct straight forward recordings and other situations I found cave areas behind the waterfalls where I would position the microphones away from the falls and against the cave walls to pick up the infra-bass sounds. Those where my favorite recordings. Also I used a long PVC pipe (actually a potato canon) with the recorder at one end and seal it with a cap so that I could get really close to the falls and get that “pipe” sound. Those recording were very interesting as well. Funny too because it looked like I was trying to shoot a waterfall with a bazooka….that baffled many other hikers walking by. Also I would tie a string to the recorder and swing it around near the waterfall to get that crazy panning-phasing noise stuff. Sorta like the Old Testament’s David with his sling trying to kill Goliath that is the waterfall I was recording. So as you can see I aim to have fun with field recording.
For Kataract I mixed all these versions of recordings along with some slight stereo funkiness and choppy-chunky editing. But really no tricky effects. I strictly rely on EQ and simple band filters. It’s my belief to work with field recordings in terms of “subtraction” and “amplification” Stripping out frequencies and boosting them with the simplest of tools. Mother Nature is indeed a lovely lady so I avoid plastering her image (sound) with a bunch of make-up. I mean women with globs of lipstick and eyeliner is silly looking. So I strive to present Mother Nature as raw and powerful as possible….but of course sensual and elegant at the same time. Rodin’s way of sculpting the female figure is very inspiring to me and there is a connection to Rodin’s approach to sculpting the human figure and how I approach sculpting the sound of nature. Very stripped down and presented as bold, powerful and as sensual as possible. If there’s a inspiration to my work it’s the way Rodin sculpted hands and arms… powerful!

Me: I find Kataract particularly interesting because it raises questions about how we normally think about, talk about, and remember nature. Are you attempting to bring up such questions with these sounds? If not, what sorts of philosophical, cultural, political, or other questions to do you think this release raises?

DM: The late heart throb actor, River Phoenix who died of a nasty-violent overdose right in Los Angeles in front of a loud and noisy rock club. His heart literally cracked in half inside his chest from a lethal dose of a speedball concoction. Truly a really freaky way to overdose and die. Yet just days before his death he made a comment “I don’t want to die in a car accident. When I die it’ll be a glorious day. It’ll probably be a waterfall.” This quote is very funny to me. I mean death by waterfall to me….is a absolute nightmare yet for River Phoenix it was the ideal way to die. A car accident is so “urban” which is perceived as a bad way to die but the waterfall death is a picture perfect demise. But he got the speedball overdose death in front of his horrified fans and friends. What a sad story….he didn’t get his final waterfall goodbye.
Here in the Northwest there are countless near deaths out in nature. As a matter of fact just recently I took Zbigniew Karkowski on another waterfall tour to Silver Falls, Oregon and took a handsome photo of him in front of a particular waterfall. Just a few days later a young man fell to his death right exactly where Zbigniew was standing. I e-mailed him the news story and he responded to some effect “Stupid idiot…just like the fool in that Into the Wild movie. It’s so common for deaths to occur here in the Northwest from tourists or city folks. Likely the deaths occur because the poor soul was trying to get the best photo of mother nature and well…..whoopsy over!
So it’s all amusing to me the perceived “peaceful nature” in our comfort zones of the urban dwellings. Try observing a city dweller pooping in a forest for the first time…comedy I tell ya! Mother Nature really does not care about our benevolence. We created the “EDEN” story and thus entered a long history of art that conveys nature as something romantically grand to our eyes that is always seeking some sort of divine “bigness” than ourselves and really it’s all no more bigger than what’s below our feet with dirt or the oxygen we breath. A glorious mountain with the suns ray shining on it gives us that “profound beauty” to put us in a “AWE” state. But to a bird or a dog it’s well….just another big pile of rocks or just some sound from a gushing waterfall that is blocking the hearing to find food or prevent danger. Different sensory-circuitry for the animals vs our human perception is possibly the divisive politics involved. If there is a fatal flaw it’s within our perception of nature and how we just can’t get over the whole nature supremacy stance. Why is it so shocking to many that we simply do not rule the world?
I relate to the painter Jackson Pollock when he was asked once “Do you work from nature?” and Jackson’s answer was, :I am nature.” Brilliant answer to an ongoing question about art vs nature and the goal is that there is no “vs” and it all is a natural process expressing form and chaos with nature. If anything I refer to myself as an old fashioned hunter and gatherer, bringing back to the camp sounds I hunted down and retelling folk stories with sound in a form of electronic media. How a Native American Indian will go and kill a coyote and bring back the carcass and make an artistic expression with the fur and bones to represent his or her experience. The same can be said with gathering waterfall sounds and myself carving the sound’s carcass to make a story out of that sound object. After all we’re only storytellers with our gathered experiences and elements and nature is the words that we use to share with each other. Primal and primitive… let’s not forget that…right? Observe nature in an individual manner and then express and share with others our own interpretations. In my case this would be Kataract and how I perceive my waterfall experiences. It’s really nothing special and a rather ancient way how us humans connect with each other. How one tells the story of the experience can be a form of ecstatic storytelling of nature…..especially if it’s presented really loud in the case for Kataract.

Me: What do you think is the relationship between the sounds on Kataract and Emily Hyde’s art work, which appears on the cover of the CD version?

DM: Perfect fit as always. Emily Hyde has done some of my other releases and she always “gets it”. She’s a really amazing artist and very young too. So I really think her work will be recognized more in time.

Me: What’s the difference between the LP and CD versions of Kataract, and why did you choose to release these two different versions? Is there any particular reason why one version is on vinyl and the other on CD?
DM: The LP version is the “alpha mix” which was the first mix I did years ago. It was initially intended for a LP release years ago but another labels couldn’t release it. Then MEGO came to the rescue and offered it to me as a CD release but I remixed it much denser and louder and some more tweaked waterfall stuff. So yes the CD version is very much more intense and bolder yet the LP version is much more subtle and textural. Back to the “white noise” vs waterfall topic. There is some very strange sounds I got from the intro to the CD version. There’s this odd noise removal software that tries to remove “white noise” from any source sound. Really odd because I have no idea what this application could be used for. So I threw in a bunch of waterfall sounds to trick the program that it’s trying to seek white noise to remove and it got really confused in a good way. Basically it melted the waterfall sounds into a bass blob with slithering highs. Experimental music to say the least. So I used those sounds for the beginning of the CD version of Kataract. I love confusing technology with organic sounds. Always something “wrong/right” happens. 

Me: You’ve collaborated with many artists in the past, including Kevin Drumm, Zbigniew Karkowski, and Kiyoshi Mizutani. If you could collaborate with any artist in the future, sound or otherwise, what would this collaboration entail?

DM: I purposely went through a phase with collaborating and I knew it was a phase that would pass. I plan out my own “phases” so that I can grow and learn about my own creativity capacity. So I had my run with several collaborations and all of them I am very pleased with and have learned a great deal in composition. Although I must be honest that there isn’t any strong plans for collaboration recordings. I’m always open for live collaboration because that entails “instinct” approach to music. I mean it’s live so it’s a different game than say recordings because that is all about strategy in which I feel it’s more important to focus on my own strategy. There is still some unreleased/unfinished collaboration that may never become a reality just due to whatever reasons. But again never say never. I suppose the geography aspect is a hindrance because I live in Portland, Oregon far away from the artist that is willing to collaborate. Because as we all know collaborating in the flesh is ideal and not so much through the mail system in which I’m opposed to even though I have had no choice to in the past. But as I said before about collaborations… never say never. So to really answer your question about who to collaborate…..… hmmmm….. Vangelis? That would be awwwwwwwwesome! Honestly I really cannot think of anyone now besides possibly my alter ego in which I haven’t created yet.

Me: On your website you mention that you recently recorded a 40 piece student choir that performed at the high school where you work. Can you tell us more about this?

DM: For over 10 years I have wanted to record a big group of voices. I have had so many ideas but it never would take off. One of them was to make my own shape-note singing chart all with shapes of the sounds but it just took to much work trying to get adults to cooperate. I mean everyone needs all this sheet music and notation layouts and I simply cannot work that way. Then in about 2007 I worked with Joe Preston and I wanted to get his voice in a way he never has done…which is straight, clean singing. So to convince him I instructed him to sing in vowels as long as possible and to give me 10 different versions of each vowel. Some loud and some soft. So all together I had 50 different long voice tones he made into a microphone and then I mixed them all for a release called Cerberic Doxology. Then jump to 2010 where I work at a high school as a librarian and there’s a choir class just in the other building. I was struck by the great sounds I heard from the teens when they were warming up for class. I got the idea to “hijack” the class and record them singing these vowel sounds just like what I did with Joe Preston. So I did this and it went well and fun. Especially with the kids getting a chance to sing however they want. The biggest joy was having them pick out a vowel on their own and to sing it loudly, which really created a great noise! The choir teacher was just baffled and slightly appalled. It was really funny as hell. Finally I mixed this all down along with a Hammond bass organ and it became a track called “HOVER” that TOUCH MUSIC has released as a download only. I highly recommend getting this one, it’s a one of a kind recording from me for sure. 

Me: What do you think is the relationship between your photography and your sound-art? Do you ever try to create sounds that correspond to the images you capture, or capture images of the sounds you create?

DM: Honestly….no relationship really to think of off hand. My photography is just a little hobby I do when I go hiking with my little doggie Arrow. I’m really a naive amateur all the way with photography. I suppose there’s some connection with my music and photos in that I really love B/W imagery and so it is when I work with spectrograms while mixing music. I have a college degree in graphic design and basic design aspects of B/W have actually influenced my recording work. For instance BASS is identified as black in the spectrum frequency area and the highest highs are reflected as “whites”. This is what I do very much appreciate in computer technology is that I can see frequencies in color schemes. I rely in this on everything that I record. A good visual spectrogram that shows me the frequencies in color and shape. So yes one can say I work in B/W in photography and in music. And all the colors in between. There’s some tracks that I have recorded that with a spectrogram there is only a big thick black for the bass and some speckles of white for the highs. It always looks rather pretty to me in some odd way. I just love “looking” at sound….if that sounds odd to ya. The mixing program that I have been using for 10 years now is Magix Samplitude and that shows all the colors to my sounds instantly while mixing. Have to say that in the 90s it was rather troublesome and difficult with technology and then the computer came around for me and the ability to see shapes and colors in sound was a big jump in the joy and pleasure in making music. The past 10 years I have felt like a true sculptor or painter. 

Me: What projects are you currently working on? What upcoming releases and performances are you planning?

DM: Right now my main focus is trying to get my first DVD released of my abstract films of stop motion animation of close-up nature photos. I make movies that are hyper-strobe effects of thousands of individual B/W photos of highly textured nature shots. An enormous undertaking making these films but they are all done…but not the music. Trying to create the soundtracks for my own films have proven to be an extremely difficult challenge. I believe in challenges and the more the better but honestly this is the biggest challenge for me. It’s not easy trying to be two artists in one and multimedia is really a challenge to say the least. I hope to have it finished this by the summer of 2010 and I’m getting really impatient because it’s been about 3 years in the making. But when folks finally see this DVD I am sure it’ll be an exciting visual/sound experience. It’ll be in HD and super high quality sound (Glorious stereo….not surround) As far as the near future I hope to record some more albums on different formats and perform as much as folks will allow. And yes also with performing….I wish to perform as much as possible and travel as far and wide because after all traveling is crucial to grow as a person. So yeah I’m excited as always for the future. As long as I can wake up in the morning with a heartbeat and a spark of creativity then you can call me a happy camper.