September 10th, 2008 | Interviews

dan monick | installation by lucy burrows

Stream: Gangi ‘Commonplace Feathers’


(from A on Office of Analogue and Digital)

Is your new attic in Glendale healthier than your old bedroom in Williamsburg?
Matt Gangi (guitar/vocals/samples/drums): Definitely. I don’t know if it influenced the record, but there was black mold and mushrooms growing out of the wall—bigger than the size of my hand. And growing out of the ceiling. The place was rent-stabilized and the landlord didn’t care because I was just like a noisy kid paying cheap rent.
He didn’t care if you lived or died?
M: It was pretty terrible. They cut open the ceiling and this green and brown stuff was dripping all over my stuff. My neighbor came down and said, ‘That shouldn’t be exposed! I built your walls out in the ‘60s and that’s asbestos!’
Lyle Nesse (drums/keys/samples/vocals): Matt always called me thinking he was dying—that’s just his personality.
M: I’m a hypochondriac in general.
L: That’s an understatement! But I went up there and there actually were huge fungi and mushrooms growing out of the wall.
M: Completely non-edible.
Did you try?
M: We don’t go that far out, man! People in the building got really sick. In Williamsburg, people were getting all these cancers—sarcomas. Someone got cancer in my building, and the person who lived above me got nose infections from the toxic mold. And he got an autoimmune disease akin to lupus and had to take HIV medication. I was finally like, ‘Hey, man, the album’s done—let’s get on the road!’
When you came to L.A., were you like, ‘Ah, smell that fresh air?’
M: Exactly. Better that than aspergillus.
What are your favorite two songs to DJ together?
L: When we DJ out, Matt and I are pretty much switching every song. I usually bring hip-hop, Afrobeat, some gamelan music—so beat-heavy music and hip-hop and then Matt playing a lot of psych and reissues. So that idea of bringing together all of that and people who listen to all that music, and the people who listen to only that music exclusively.
Have you been to Low End Theory?
M: We’re really into Low End Theory. We were there just the other day to see Gaslamp Killer. He’s amazing. Crystal Antlers played a couple weeks ago. It’s really exciting when these communities come together. There shouldn’t be a separation between those scenes, and there’s not.
What is an information bomb and how do we live in it?
M: We decided before not to burden you with this kind of an interview.
M: ‘What if we just took it really conceptually and answered by putting every interview question into Google searches?’ Why even answer an interview about ourselves when you can type in a question and get so many voices and experiences? That’s more interesting than anything we could say.
What is interesting then?
M: What’s interesting is what would survive. Lyle comes from a hip-hop background—so it’s which samples survive—which ones are interesting and relevant. What’s interesting about an information bomb in general is the back catalog of information. A catchy little phrase or word combination in the future might be really interesting to people in a way it isn’t now. We played at Little Radio and the sound guy was talking about John Titor. It’s just kind of silly but an interesting idea. That a blog from the past could foretell the future. That’s kind of why I’m into all the reissues coming out now. I’ve really been digging on like Brazilian recordings that made it out when all the psych recordings had been destroyed by the government for being subversive. That Marconi Notaro record.
L: To me what’s interesting is what part is preserved and what ends up in a basement somewhere. From a sampling and beatmaking background—it’s the more obscure things that you as a producer can blow off and bring into the light.
Like the Skull Snaps.
L: Just bringing it back into circulation. Like in psych and folk with all the reissues coming out. It’s so confusing to me that appropriation is looked down upon in some circles. It’s so important to culture to bring things back out.
M: The act of appropriating in general is a political act because of all the things it brings up. Every phrase is like trademarked now—the Situationists had that line ‘revolutionize your everyday life’ and now that’s how products are being sold.
L: You just made me think of the book I’m reading now—by an author Matt’s been corresponding with. Sebastien Doubinsky. For his first draft of his new book Potemkin, he took the titles for his chapters from the songs on our record.
M: It’s interesting how the internet creates all these new worlds. When I was creating the album, I was just throwing new ideas on Rupert Murdoch Myspace and you’d get people writing me like ‘Check my work! Check my blog!’ He was like, ‘Read my writing!’ And it ended up his writing was really interesting. As I was recording, he was taking the song titles and writing along with it. But that’s my idea lyrically—by writing with disjunction or different voices, hopefully the person who is listening has more room for interpretation. ‘Commonplace Feathers’ has a line about ‘these matters shook up the community.’ The line is taken from a farming book. People are like, ‘Oh, September 11?’ It’s those things that the culture is putting in and interpreting. A lot of words and images from outside. But we’re creating them as much as any other author who is like, ‘I am the author! I’m speaking from the energy flowing through me!’ If you approach it more conceptually, you can kind of make a statement about the fact that most stuff is regurgitation. A catchy sample or a catchy meme—information that’s surviving and moving into the future.
L: In the book Sebastien wrote—the writing is very much sci-fi. The dystopia he creates in his book—the way people escape it is through this internet world that’s very commercial, where you create your character and go in their shops and buy their things, but this group of hackers has created another world in that world. I don’t wanna give it away but in the world within that world is the black market for culture. It’s where you go to buy all the records the government burned, all the books—to have a meaningful exchange with people.
M: We’ve been reading Virilio and he’s talking about scientific advancements—kind of how science is more destructive because we’ve created a way to completely destroy each other, and the advancements don’t outweigh the negatives. I was reading how in the ‘60s and ‘70s performance artists—a woman could take her top off and walk down the street and get arrested, and they’d say, ‘You’re a woman—you’re not allowed to walk around topless.’ And the woman would say, ‘Oh, I’m a man.’ That was really interesting politically and culturally then. Now with technology you can just get your ID scanned—‘No, you’re a woman!’—and get arrested. Today we have to find new forms. As a performative act, a hacker could hack in and change their gender from female to male, and then they’d walk free!
L: Just to be clear—I don’t endorse anyone hacking anything!
How does someone make music under the domination of the info bomb?
M: Making art that makes people think is really important.
Who has done that for you?
L: I was really into the first Eno and David Byrne record My Life In The Bush of Ghosts. Just the idea to me with all the sampling—you put that record on and it brings up all kinds of things—what you think about, what you haven’t—but it doesn’t preach. And they’re often using samples for simply the way they sound. So anything that encourages anything but passivity.
M: When Lyle and I take samples, that’s kind of the first concern—how it’s working sonically. For our cover of ‘Fire In Cairo’ on the Cure tribute Manimal Vinyl is putting out, we had that sample from the Egyptian workers’ strikes. We were listening to the different commentators—it was less about the language and more about the tonality of the voices, and how it affects the listening experience.
L: I’m listening to Rainbow Arabia and the fact that they take from so many sources is interesting—Middle Eastern sounds, Asian, African—that’s synthesis!
M: Danny from Rainbow Arabia imports all his keyboards from Afghanistan and Iran. We were talking about covering the names on our gear because it’s like branding, and he was like, ‘I have to leave this one—it’s Casio in Arabic.’ There’s something in that—how many people are creating your sound? People are so anti-sample or appropriation, but every synth sound—every plug-in in Logic or whatever interface—how many artists and designers went into making those sounds that we’re using? So many other people were involved in creating our sound. It seems it could go even further. Sampling text—emotive bloggers to corporate propaganda—because there’s already so many creative people giving input into the sound.
L: It’s great that in underground music circles that the obscure is always prized. Instead of rehashing old shit, you’re bringing something new into the cycle.
M: You can’t get away from appropriating. Just from being in a certain environment—all you are is a rehash. You can’t create outside what you know.
Public Enemy sampled Wattstax for sort of the same reasons.
L: The Bomb Squad is a huge thing for me. That brings to mind something Matt said. It’s impossible to not be political—the way the Bomb Squad sampled, it was so claustrophobic—and if you’re not taking anything from that, it’s your fault. There’s so much there.
You have that United States of America sample on the album—what else is in there?
M: ‘Ground’ sampled the EPA and the New York Times. Brooklyn was a really loud place. I recorded in my apartment and there was so much noise. I recorded sirens on my street, ambulances going by, chattering on street corners—and the EPA talking at you.
L: At our live show, we look for all kinds of stuff that catches our attention in the sampler, and because we’re looping through the mic, it’ll pick up some of samples I hit. We have a sample of Hugo Chavez in front of the U.N. yelling that Bush is el diablo, and that will get caught and create some new word.
The Chavez Diablo Vortex?
M: We’ve also been sampling news about the Large Hadron Collider.
L: This amazing propaganda film. ‘CERN in three minutes! CERN is good! The Large Hadron Collider will probably not destroy the universe!’
M: There’s a rap video my friend Kari turned me on to—people rapping inside of CERN.
How’s the production?
L: Godawful.
What would be an appropriate way for someone to build on something you’ve made?
M: However they want.
L: That’s part of the fun. Do whatever they wanna do with it. In a really cool alternate reality world, I imagine in fifty or a hundred years when it’s all dusty in someone’s basement—some kid will find it and sample from it and bring it back to life somehow. There’s a scene in Scratch where DJ Shadow is down in the basement he’s been digging in for years, and he’s basically like, ‘When you’re down here, show respect.’

—Chris Ziegler