MOUTHY ISSUE TWO
EVOLUTION CONTROL COMMITTEE
interview by Ian C Stewart
Putting my name on this is like taking credit for someone else's homework. And I've never used the word geopolitical in my life. That said, I had heard that The Evolution Control Committee were secretive, but once they blindfolded me and put me into a van I knew they were serious. They've had to beef up security, the driver explained, because they're afraid that leaks of their evolutionary plans could fall into the wrong hands, and what with the international state of things, it could give someone an unfair geopolitical edge. “Why?” I asked. “What sort of thing would tip the balance?” The driver remained silent.
After about fifteen minutes, the van stopped and I was led out and my blindfold removed. Squinting in the daylight, I was greeted by tradeMark Gunderson, co-founder of The Evolution Control Committee's Music Division.
tm: "Hello Ian, welcome to ECC Headquarters."
What are you going to be doing in Paris with Alec Empire, etc? What does the ECC live experience entail?
tm: The ECC has been invited to be part of the I.D.E.A.L. festival at the Le Lieu Unique, it's actually in Nantes, France instead of Paris as we'd previously thought. The lineup sounds, well, ideal: The infamous Jean-Jacques Perrey (of Perrey & Kingsley) opens the evening, then we have other great names like Quintron, Tipsy, Alec Empire, and Wire, with The ECC between the last two. The other night of the festival has some other great names, including FM Einheit (of Einstürzende Neubauten), Glenn Branca, and Gold Chains. Should be a great evening! As for what ECC live is like, maybe I should toss that to Mike Gunderson since he's in charge of building the new equipment...
Mike: Yes, um, well, our current project is to build The Kitchen Of The Future, a complete MIDI-compatible kitchen, so that the performer can trigger and change sounds by pressing the toaster plunger or the buttons on the blender. This is currently just beginning development, the toaster is about 50% finished and it's our top priority right now. We expect that an appliance or two will be ready for the Paris show, but not the complete Kitchen.
tm: Many past performances have been done solo by me on the Thimbletron, a custom live performance device we constructed by mounting ten ordinary thimbles on two white gloves. The thimbles contain a small amount of thimbletronium, a new element discovered in The ECC's underground particle accelerator, and the thimbletronic energy it emits can be converted into sound and music. So, some blend of the Thimbletron and a sneak preview of The Kitchen Of The Future is likely what will be seen. We're very into the live aspect of performing our music... we don't want to be another band of statues basking in the glow of our laptops. We create our own instruments that we can wear and carry around and jump into the audience with.
How's the current label situation working out?
The Evolution Control Committee attempted to start our own label, Evolution Controlled Creations, a couple years ago but it went into hibernation after only one release, a compilation CD with all tracks sampling Prince's “1999.” The label is taking baby steps back into the music world with the upcoming release of Plagiarhythm Nation v2.0, which will be co-released on Seeland, Negativland's label. This means we'll have great distribution for this release, and it should be readily available in many stores. We have good hopes for the success of this release, and hope that it will reawaken the label.
Where's your favorite place to play live, you elitist swine?
tm: Ummm... at the risk of sounding kind of elite, Europe. They always treat you 24-bit. Super hospitality, always a place to stay and home-cooked meals and unlimited bar tabs, hah! We just did a tour of Germany and Holland in December 2002 and it was splendid.
Will there be a DVD of your stuff?
Nothing planned at present, but we're trying to come up with more video work for our live shows. When enough is completed, we'd love to put out a DVD.
Do you have obsessive fans?
Mike: Luckily, we tend to lure in the "geek" contingent and the ones that are smart enough to like us that much, are smart enough to give us our breathing room.
tm: Eh, you never get out of the lab enough to even meet 'em. But actually he's right. “Music by geeks, for geeks.”
What's the strangest recording session you ever did?
tm: It's non-musical, actually... the first paid voiceover work I did. I was paid handsomely to say the phrase “chicken worshipping weirdos.” As for an ECC show... hmmm... perhaps Burning Man. We were suicidal to think that our equipment would continue working all the way through a set staged in the middle of the Nevada desert.
DJ Pantshead: DJing there was no picnic either... we had our turntables mounted on the top of a thick metal storage bin, belting vinyl out into the desert. And talk about having to clean your equipment afterwards... the desert dust gets in EVERYTHING.
Are you excited about any new bands?
DJ Pantshead: What, you mean bands that we're not involved in, right? Um, maybe not so new, but Kid Koala, DJ Z-Trip...
tm: Some of the bootlegger/mash-up stuff, like Osymyso... People Like Us... Raymond Scott...
DJ Pantshead: Even some more obvious stuff, like Air, Mr. Oizo, and Boards of Canada... we have few limits on our musical preferences around here.
How many interviews have you done in your entire life?
tm: Heheh... I guess I've done the most... maybe 25?
Where did the name Evolution Control Committee come from?
tm: Oooh, the obvious queston that few people ask. Well, The Evolution Control Committee, outside of our Music Division, has existed for quite some time. It's their job to decide policy on evolutionary advances -- what species gets the next opposable thumb, when the monkey gets to start walking upright, and so on. However, as culture advanced, they found that it was also essential to determine policy in cultural and social advances as well. At that time I was working with the Art Wing, and thus given the task of being a co-founder in the Music Division.
When did the band form?
tm: Well, 1987 was our first public presentation of work. Start it there.
How do your songs come to be?
DJ Pantshead: Sometimes a vinyl sample starts it. I'm the main collector for The ECC’s massive vinyl library of about 10,000 sample-worthy records. Sometimes I'll find a great sample or phrase or song that needs to be used, and I'll bring it to the others for development.
tm: But sometimes it can just be an epiphany... I remember when we came up with the idea to combine Chuck D’s vocals from Public Enemy with the music of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass... it was just one of those moments where you're holding the PE record in the left hand, the Alpert record in the right, and before you know it, hey, your peanut butter's on my chocolate, your chocolate's on my peanut butter, but they go great together!
Mike: As well, the equipment can have something to do with it too. The custom equipment lends itself to a certain style of playing and composing.
What artists inspired you initially?
tm: At the time we got the Music Division going, I think the big influences guiding musical evolution were Art Of Noise, Cabaret Voltaire, some other industrial bands... DJ Pantshead: Thompson Twins, haha! And other 80s pop...
Mike: But also some of the early names, like Harry Partch, Perrey & Kingsley, Wendy Carlos...
tm: Even Spike Jones! ESPECIALLY Spike Jones!
What made you decide to start making music of your own?
tm: Naturally, once we starting analyzing the poor state of music, we kept seeing improvements and ways that music, as a whole, should evolve. For example, the sampling keyboard -- we were very excited about that right away and it figured highly in our policy recommendations for musical evolution.
DJ Pantshead: A more specific example might be the Chuck D/Herb Alpert combination mentioned before... with the popularity of mash-up/bastard pop music in the UK, that single of ours has frequently been cited as the first of the genre.
tm: That's what we're about... starting new genres like that as a step towards superior music.
Are there any music people you'd like to collaborate with?
tm: Are there!! Of course... tons... we’ve been trying to start a collaboration with Emergency Broadcast Network, but I'm not holding my breath there... we hope to do more collaborative efforts in the future, but for the next while, we're focusing on the current projects at hand.
Where's your favorite place to play live?
tm: You already asked that! Are you feeling alright?
What's the biggest audience you've played to?
tm: It might have been Grand Buffet's CD release show in Pittsburgh in December 2002... there were probably over 300 hiphop kids there, totally dumbfounded over this crazy ECC stuff. But we've had others that were pretty close too.
Anything funny ever happen to this band?
tm: I once paid for surgery with music. Seriously! The surgeon was doing a minor operation on me, just cosmetic really, and turned out to be a glass artist who was interested in the unusual. After telling him about my work with The ECC and the music we do, he offered to take CDs in payment for the procedure.
DJ Pantshead: The single that we did combining Chuck D and Herb Alpert? We have a copy signed by Chuck! It's over there, in that frame on the wall...
Do you have obsessive fans?
tm: Hey, you asked THAT before too! You MUST be sick! Hey, get the van ready to take him back...
What do you think about the state of music in general?
tm: I think it's better in the underground, but getting much worse in the mainstream. The major labels and Clear Channel are spending all their effort homogenizing the world with bland music, and also trying to squash underground music -- it's sad. On the other hand, the underground is doing great, exploding with new original music, distributed over file sharing networks on the Internet. PC audio software is making it possible to have your own sleek-sounding home studio for cheaper than ever. It's like the cassette culture of the 80s, but faster and easier.
DJ Pantshead: I'm encouraged that vinyl isn't dead, and that vinyl production has actually increased recently. There’s nothing like vinyl.
Well, there’s polyvinyl. Isn’t that kind of like vinyl?
Mike: I'm a little encouraged to see new devices with unique interfaces, like the Korg Kaoss Pad for instance, but there's still a long way to go to make an instrument that truly feels natural for live electronic performance. However, I think we're getting closer to seeing that. When it comes, electronic music will explode even further than it has now.
What's next for The ECC, musically speaking?
Mike: Development of The Kitchen Of The Future, to be used in future live performances...
tm: Once finished, we'll start using it to compose music as well and let it guide us.
DJ Pantshead: But hey, no more food songs, alright? We've got like four on the next CD.
tm: We've got a huge stash of home recordings people did on their computers and accidentally shared to the world via Napster, when Napster was so huge. We hope to put out a CD with the best of those. We also have an ambient CD that we hope to get out.
DJ Pantshead: Hopefully I'll have a solo CD coming out before long as well.
And: where do you find the time?
tm: I don't. I always have a list of dozens of things on paper and then another in my mind that I wish I could get done but never have the time. If anyone has time for sale, I'll buy.
Mike: Stay home, press onwards. The outside world is overrated.
DJ Pantshead: Steal someone else's time.
Mike: We've got a theory for a method to borrow from future leap years, but haven't been able to implement it yet.
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