Interview with Mark Spybey of Dead Voices on Air conducted by James Graham via e-mail, July 1996


James: Just who is Mark Spybey anyway?

Mark: Well, I am certainly not esteemed. That makes me feel like a High Court Judge. Somebody else should answer this question. I'll ask my friend Sheldon. Better still, e-mail him. Ask Sheldon this question..

James: so I mailed Sheldon Drake, and got this in response to the question "Who is Mark Spybey anyway?"

Sheldon: well, that's silly, he could only have been fishing for compliments if he referred you to me, I should turn it back on him.

I've been curious about Dead Voices on Air since I heard "Vuls" on the Ambient Rituals compilation; I saw a post about a show they were doing in Canada, and eventually got his e-mall address from the guy who posted the info. We started e-mailing, and hit it off quite well.

The first thing to know about Mark is that he doesn't do drugs (except beer), not even pot, which I find inexplicable.

You always crave being able to bring something back, some material violation of the dulled realm you return to, and you almost never can. DVoA's stuff comes damn close, but he doesn't do any of those substances, so you go figure. That tells you a huge amount about him right there, ok?

He's a strange combination, at once incredibly civilized and considerate, lovely social skills, but perfectly likely to let his eyes take on a madman's glaze at a moment's notice, he doesn't seem to be self-conscious about Going Insane for the sake of a quick joke or illustration. One minute he's walking along talking peaceably, the next he's howling too convincingly. Me, I find this all very comforting; I'm too self-conscious to be quite that supple (or civilized), but he sure is quite a welcome influence. Perhaps it's from the lack of drugs; those of us who use them have as our task bridging the vast chasm between what we learn there and what we have to sit through (or worse) here on this plane; maybe his plane is continuous, and he has no such gaping maw to slag in; if so I'm jealous, but attentively so. I wish we lived closer together.

In a lot of ways, Mark is what I would have hoped would be a relatively unremarkable human, but after centuries of the stupid people breeding like flies and the smart ones holding off while they stare into or away from the void, the chances of meeting someone at all like him have grown rather slim; he's pretty rare.

Guess if I'm glad to have met Mark or not, take a wild one as to whether or not I'm extremely psyched to have gotten to know him better... as soon as we get into a studio, the output of our little mutual admiration enclave is going to find you where you live and gnaw at you relentlessly. Just because we're nice people doesn't mean we don't have Certain Appetites... you have nothing to lose except years of tired horseshit, nothing to gain except a peek into the timeless physics-du-jour. Not sure why we're here, but getting deep into the real nature of things (if there is one) and then throwing a party there seems to be a good one, and the more the merrier, so come on...

James: Why the stylistic shift from "Furnace" to "The Eyes of... "?

Mark: Stanley Pain is as near a concept album as I would like to get. It was circumstantial. With Dwaynes passing, I think we, in retrospect, used the album as a way of coping with some of the feelings around. It wasn't that clear at the time. Theoretically I would not want to reproduce Furnace, which was built around improvisations. Again, circumstantial. As a band develops, it goes through a number of stages. At the time of Furnace we were exploring our relationships through music. That's how I work anyway. We had a pretty interesting combination, Dwayne, cEvin, Philth and myself. When we started Stanley Pain, it was cEvin and myself with Ken Marshall. The music took a new direction. It was harsher, more aggressive. cEvin and I wanted to explore that territory and in Ken we found someone who really pushed us in the right direction. As a band, in the space of a year we have done a great deal of maturing in the public eye. It's not as though we locked ourselves away, recording episodically. Everything has been completely open for people to look in on. I am proud of that.

James: What is North America to expect from a live Download?

Mark: By playing live we continue to develop as a band. I think we push peoples limits of perception of physical and dare I say it, emotional tolerance. We don't do this in a gratuitous way. It's no horror show. Four people playing music, hard. For me, every show is an endurance test. Actually, as players we all push ourselves beyond the pale. I think people are pretty much blown away with the energy of the show. I feel that the band is completely focused on it's task. Our goal... Download.. .. Mass exposure to sounds and images. A rush to the central nervous system.

James: Is that not something of an exhausting task, night after night, throwing your self into the blowing of minds?

Mark: Have you read the tour diary.. it's tiring, it sometimes hurts.. it's about looking after yourself..

James: Is there anymore older DVOA material looking to be released?

Mark: I have lots of material. I am not particularly interested in filching through old tapes. I find it easy to do new stuff. I have a CD of material recorded live in Toronto in March that I have yet to assemble. That will be the next DVOA release. A return to New Words Machine territory as opposed to the staccato feel of Shap.

James: Will we see more Propellor styled material in the future?

Mark: I hope so. I will have to ask the other members. Claudio from Scratch has been working on a remix album of Rame, which I think is a wonderful idea. He has a studious approach that works well with my first take, instant music philosophy. Rame was supposed to be a kind of disposable music release. Hence the shortness of the tracks. The fact it is being remixed is sufficiently perverse enough to make the outcome intriguing. Propeller is in common ownership. I am open to other people stepping in and working on it.

James: Whats your recording set up for the DVOA stuff?

Mark: It is like painting a wall. You assemble all the equipment you need, do your preparation and start. It is finished when it looks finished. Sorry, I dislike technical questions. Comes from being a kid who was much more interested in kicking footballs around than taking apart radios. There is a photograph of me with my DVOA set-up on Shap. No doubt it will change, it has changed.

James: Why haven't we seen any videos backing up TEOSP or Sidewinder?

Mark: We are set to work on Glassblower with Bill Morrison directing any day now.

James: Why did you grant me permission to use a Propellor track for my film? sight unseen? (I first made contact with Mark as an attempt to gain permission to use a track from the Propellor project in a short film I was entering in a festival.)

Mark: You seemed like a nice guy. Propeller is not holy music. I was pleased that you liked it enough to stimulate your own work. It's about collaboration. Something that has always interested me. Fits into the Propeller ethos.

James: Would you say that your life outside of music has had any reflection on what you have produced?

Mark: I think the two are intertwined. Every day is a bit of an adventure to me. I have a short attention span. I pick up a book or look at an image or watch a tv show and store intricate details before becoming quickly bored. I get very excited about minutia. For example, looking at the bare concrete walls in my apartment. I ignore the expanse and focus in on small pencil lines left by the builders. I ask myself questions about how those lines were created. I think about the people who worked on these walls, about their lives. About chance and probability. About accident, causality. About texture. Colour. The way the walls seem to change color over time. Degrading concrete. It is about the process of creativity and how that filters through to ones daily life. We are all artists. It is just that some of us profess to be, 'Artist' and some of us don't. It is also about society. The fact that privilege creates comfort and comfort creates 'Artist'.. ... The fact that art galleries are all to often the place to go if one wishes to see bad art.. So cooking to me is an art form, reading is a process of rewriting internally, someone elses words. I try not to waste time conceptualizing. To do so is to risk stagnancy. I gain a good deal of reassurance from those around me, safety and belief in my own abilities. I have never considered myself as being different or special. I don't come from a privileged background. I have not done a lot of soul searching or personal exploration. I really don't agonize over music. If I stopped making music tomorrow I don't think my life would be any better or worse. In fact I would probably make a better Chef or Gardener than music-maker.

James: Any advice for young punters like myself who are just starting making music?

Mark: Gather knowledge of music over the centuries as opposed to what others are doing now. Try not to exclude any possibilities. Avoid slavery to equipment.

James: Why does todays top 40 drive me and my friends away from the radio?

Mark: I know why it drives me away from the radio. Somebody, somewhere ( it has to be the person with the money ) dictates fad or fancy. They systematically create a hybridized sound that will appeal to sedentary, accidental listeners. Their goal is to make money for themselves. The artists are after all disposable and many will self destruct anyway. Their lives seem to become hollow shells, held together by their fabric of fame. Popular culture is dictated by media moguls and public relations experts. Their goal is to make money. It's a nasty circle. The result is music that is, tasty and comfortable.. like a doughnut. We probably get what we deserve. Skilled conspirators such as Malcolm McLaren and the KLF will periodically puncture the balloon. Thankfully.

James: What would you recommend to listen to?

Mark: Everything. Anything. Everybody's collection should include classical music.

James: Any last words on Zoviet France.. not like it hasn't been covered all ready?

Mark: I wish them well.

James: What are you doing on TEOSP/Sidewinder besides the vocals?

Mark: Abrasions.

James: Define Abrasions. You could tell who contributed what on Furnace to the point where I've heard it referred to as Dead puppies on air... on TEOSP, its not as prominent?

Mark: I won't do this.. I wish to leave the listener guessing.. 9 times out of 10 when someone ascribes a particular sound to a player.. eg.. 'thats obviously Dwayne..' they are wrong.. I cannot enjoy dissecting the music..

James: What are you trying to explore with DVOA?

Mark: Textures. Patterns. Rhythms. Words. Images.. .. .. It's like an abstract jigsaw puzzle. The bits are not supposed to fit and when they do it's by accident.

James: Has Genesis ever been up to Subconscious? Why sample his lyrics on TEOSP off of his spoken word album?

Mark: No, he's not physically been to Subconscious. I didn't know that his lyrics were on a spoken word album.

James: Where did the lyrical inspiration for TEOSP come from?

Mark: Relationships. From the ether, from the back of envelopes stashed in pockets of clothes I have not worn for a while. From poems. From being in the studio and responding to music. I make some up as we go along. Artaud referred to this as,' glossolalia ' and i prefer this explanation to the fake religiousity of 'speaking in tongues. ' I suspect the meaning of the two descriptions are the same.

James: Where does Mark Spybey as a creative entity from here?

Mark: Well, I don't know about Mark Spybey but I have numerous projects in mind. Download US tour, new Download album, new DVOA album, new Propeller album, a collaboration with my friend Sheldon Drake from NYC Before all that and of more immediate concern, a vacation Spending time with my wife Elaine, my animal friends and our apartment.

James: How open are you to jamming/working with others that you hardly know or have never met before?

Mark: In a free-improv. setting.. completely open. With a purpose in mind. I have to want to do it though.

James: Where can I get Download/DVOA merchandise to take to Japan with me?

Mark: Nettwerk will have a full line soon, with the US tour in mind.

James: What do you do for inspiration?

Mark: Take a walk. Seek a quiet place and think. Visit art galleries! Sleep.


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Last Modified: Monday, 24-Sep-2012 16:43:37 MST