Every rainbow owes its existence to a rain cloud, and that dark space between the two is filled by Corridor’s music. As Corridor, Michael Quinn has recently released his second album, Real Late, with Manimal Vinyl. It’s heavy, intense stuff that wields a fine metal edge to reveal something beautiful. We went into Quinn’s house and sat him on the couch between L.A. RECORD’s Dan Collins and Daiana Feuer to simulate the kind of claustrophobic intimacy that brings human nature bubbling to the surface.
DF: When you go to a strip bar do you put the money in a woman’s underwear or do you just watch?
I just throw it onstage.
DC: Is that disrespectful?
People have different terms for what’s respectful strip club etiquette. I don’t really want to touch anyone unless it’s extremely necessary. Maybe it’s disrespectful to throw money at someone’s feet, but I also don’t feel comfortable just sticking money in a stranger’s underwear.
DF: Which one is more disrespectful?
It’s a question for the ages and I’m definitely not the right person to try to answer. If I could, I would steam it flat and gently place it down on a little pillow but I don’t have that kind of time.
DC: Which of your songs would be best for someone to strip to?
I guess it depends if you’re doing some kind of intense power dance or if you’re trying to do some graceful pole-sliding.
DF: Which one do you like better?
I find pole-sliding impressive. ‘C.I.T.M.’ on my new record is a kind of piano industrial ballad. That would be a good one to get down with but also be very graceful with.
DC: The first Corridor record was very clean but it had lot of ferocious technical activity. Is that different on the new record, Real Late?
As far as ferocious technical approach, it’s definitely been pulled back a bit. The first record was more my own self-discovery of what I was capable of doing. It turned into what it turned into and was released. As the virgin release for Corridor—I mean, this is the only project that I’ve written, sang and played everything for. My history as a musician until this was as a drummer for ten years. I never did anything outside of that. I wanted to write a record where I played all the instruments I could play to the best of my ability. I wasn’t trying to be grandiose or over-the-top, but I wanted to make something with every ounce of my being. I’m not showing off or being pompous.
DF: No one is calling you pompous!
DC: I think there’s a place for music like that. Is this album more song-based?
I wanted to make it a little more accessible than alienating. We all make art to have people enjoy it, look at it, listen to it, watch it, whatever. I don’t want to push anyone away with what I’m doing. The first record was good but it wasn’t the most easy listen. It wasn’t pop-structured. It wasn’t made for people to enjoy. It was just made to exist, in my opinion. After playing in so many different kinds of bands since then, I learned more about the structure of writing music.
DF: When did you learn all these instruments?
I’ve been playing guitar as long as I’ve been drumming—sixteen years. Cello has only been five or six years. I’m not classically trained.
DF: I imagined you playing in a school band.
Not at all. I bought that off a roommate who was moving and taught myself.
DC: Do you listen to classical cello music?
Some I do. I’m not authority on it. I have a lot of friends who are so I don’t even bother trying to assume I know anything.
DF: You have a lot of friends that are authorities on cello music?
Let’s put it this way: I have more than four, which is a lot. I’ve played with people who are classically trained. I honestly feel like I’m insulting them. I can see in their eyes, them judging my technique.
DF: Sounds like it’s their problem.
It’s definitely their problem. But I respect where they’re coming from. It is an art form. But some of my favorite musicians aren’t schooled but just made sense of the instrument and made it what they want it to be.
DC: Isn’t that what rock ‘n’ roll is at its best—a bastardization?
Absolutely. I just happen to make music with classical elements so I get lumped in with the genre. It’s cello, but it’s not ‘classical.’ It’s ‘avant-garde.’
DC: It would be hard for me to believe there’s not a classical influence on your guitar
DF: I’d say an early heavy metal influence might sound like a classical influence.
Since you brought it up, if there is any influence I can say I’ve taken things from, it’s definitely old metal. Initially when I started on music, I listened to punk and metal and thrash and those were the bands I played in. When I was a kid, the first records I got were from my brother. Slayer, Metallica, Judas Priest.
DF: What was the first song you learned to play?
I got a guitar in seventh grade and I would learn everything from Minor Threat to all the songs on Ride the Lightning on guitar and same with drums. It all stemmed off this adolescent shit. I grew up in a rural city, a kind of shitty area in Massachusetts called Brockton. It’s an old industrial city that got everything taken away from it and it just became sort of like Detroit, though not as bad. The businesses were gone, there was a lot of poverty and crime. It wasn’t the greatest place to grow up. It wasn’t in touch with ‘the now.’ It was very suburban. The music I could access was very technical, intense stuff—very hard and fast. I didn’t grow up listening to the Beatles or Rolling Stones. It wasn’t in my house. My brother and sister liked 80s hair bands. Everything I heard had a face-melting solo, from any room in the house. So that’s what I came to know as music. It wasn’t until later in life I realized this represented only a small percentage of music. But it’s how I learned to play, and the records I heard as a kid turned into what I do now. Once you push yourself that hard, it’s hard to regress. I try to hold back.
DF: You hold back the impulse to shred.
I don’t sit around in my room anymore trying to melt people’s faces off. But I’m interested in time and space in music. The space that is in music to be filled. When I’m writing, I listen to all the empty space where things can go and I think, ‘Well, if I have the possibility to put something there rather than not, I will try to do that tastefully.’ Or un-tastefully sometimes.
DC: Are you leaving more space unfilled?
There’s more silence and room to hear things. It’s not empty, but different things fill in the space now.
DC: You’ve managed to make an extreme form of music that is not reliant upon the way metal went—where it’s all demon voices and fast and loud as possible.
I come from that format of music. There’s so many kinds of heavy music in the Northeast that weren’t metal or hardcore. Lightning Bolt is a good example. I grew up hearing that band. They’re heavy technically and crazy but they’re not really metal. They don’t sound like Slayer. I grew up in an artistic time with heavy music. There weren’t really boundaries. You could still be heavy and crazy and mosh and trash the place. The music I make now comes from that. I was molded a certain way to begin with. I would like to pretend to fight that stuff but I don’t have the ability to fake it. The honest truth about my music is that this is what comes out of me without any premeditation or boundary. But, of course, the music is definitely orchestrated. I have to compile and do it piece by piece.
DF: You created this music entirely yourself in order to play it by yourself, so what’s brought you now to playing it live with a band?
There was a sort of romanticism to starting Corridor as the anti-band. It was like flying a space ship—one false move and the whole thing collapses and crashes. I learned to do it from playing awful shows. It wasn’t even trial-and-error. I was just learning from error, and then eventually it got good. But after six years of it, I feel like I’ve hit the ceiling with that. I’ve conquered that aspect of this project.
DC: One of your new songs is called ‘Rebuilding My Internal World.’ Is this album more personal?
It’s definitely more introspective. I wanted to make the album more accessible and to do that, I had to focus more internally on what I thought accessible meant. These songs are actually influenced by experience. The first one was more for everyone and this one is more for me. There’s a paradox, I know. I wasn’t up there shaking my ass, just a guy sitting onstage. It was bare bones: ‘I’m here for you to listen to, not to be entertained by.’ Now that I’m trying to entertain people by giving them something they can relate to, I have to reverse everything. I have to dig into a place that’s more personal, like a diary.
DC: Isn’t it weird that the personal is more universal?
DF: Whoa, Dan!
DC: I know.
DF: In the spectrum of weird music there’s the light side and the dark side, and you would
have to be on the dark side.
DC: Ha! Every silver lining has a touch of gray and you’re that touch of gray. How does it feel?
If someone in a dark place, darker than I’ve ever been, gets a moment of relief from listening to my record … There are plenty of records that I listen to because they relate to how I’m feeling when I don’t want to feel better. If don’t want to get out of the dark place, I just want that misery loves company feeling.
DF: Why do you feel this way about stuff? Why does your dark side come out in music?
The easiest answer is that I have to go out in the world and be an approachable person and I have to do the things I have to do for basic functioning in life. The one time I can be at ease and feel how I want to feel without judgment is when I create music. When I sit down to write music, I’m not trying to get people on a dance floor. It’s not happy or sad but it’s this tonality. It’s not to bring anyone down.
DC: What does “C.I.T.M.” stand for?
‘Caught in the moment.’ It’s about a friend that I had an intimate relationship with that spearheaded my seriousness about playing music to get me where I am today. It’s about an intense violent experience we had. It’s not an apology but it’s an explanation why. We’ve reconciled, but it was something that I felt I need to always remember so I put it in a song. I know that sounds like bullshit.
DC: That is heavy and personal and a lot of people can relate to that.
I know the both of you, and we’re sitting in my house, and we’re fucking around a little bit, but to truly answer your questions I have to step outside of myself. This isn’t an artist rant but it’s more like an alter ego. This [points to himself] is all the performance and this [points to CD] is all that’s real. This is my attempt to exist the way I would like to exist. I would rather exist on record than in real life.
DC: I do feel that your music is very real but the ability to be purely on record is an illusion.
It is an illusion but it’s no more an illusion than reality, I’d say. We’re all an illusion. I don’t think anyone’s really real unless they’re alone.
DF: There’s six songs on this record. Why not make music all year long and put out tons of records? Wouldn’t that be closer to shifting your existence to a recorded form? By existing to record?
People do that. Rather than leave a footprint by putting out twenty records a year, I’d rather leave a miniscule existence with stuff that I think is relevant to me and an exploration of my meaning. I stand by every song I’ve written and put out. I’m not trying to sound spiritual or melodramatic. I’m really not. I’m really boring and normal.
DC: I really don’t think that’s true.
DF: I don’t think you have enough shirts and shoes to be normal. But you do like to watch News Radio, which is very normal.
DC: You’re getting all dark on us but I feel you’re moving in very human directions.
I can only look at myself in the mirror and think I’m normal. But I’m sure most people think I’m somewhat different. I’m not saying I’m not human. I’m as human as you or her. Music can be taken too seriously and literally. I take it too seriously and I take myself too seriously. But I have to find a balance between being serious with what I do and not being arrogant about it. I love what I do. I truly enjoy making music, as dark as it may be to other people or off-putting because you can’t shake your ass to it. I think it feels good to write sad songs, not that these are all sad. I wouldn’t even say they’re sad, they’re just intense.
DC: Do you feel like how the Sales Brothers must have felt in Tin Machine?
DF: Or do you feel like Clint Eastwood?
Definitely more like Fistful of Dollars.
DC: Do you have any ponchos that you wear?
DF: No, he has like four T-shirts.
I have four T-shirts and two cardigans, and one pair of shoes.
DF: You have your little moccasins, too.
CORRIDOR’S REAL LATE IS OUT NOW ON MANIMAL. VISIT CORRIDOR AT MYSPACE.COM/EASTCORRIDOR.