Wednesday, March 21, 2012

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!