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Interview with Marc Spybey of Dead Voices on Air - conducted via telephone - 8/7/98

Jester: Whose idea was it to do the 10 hour live collaboration at The Lab in Chicago?

Mark: It was organized by Stephen Collins. I met him through Curse Mackey whom I worked with in Spasm. I was in Chicago opening for Test Dept. a few years ago and was introduced to Stephen. He told me about this warehouse space he had access to and his desire to bring in live bands and broadcast the event live over the Internet. I joked about doing a 10 hour show and very seriously he responded that he could arrange it.

Over the period of the next two to three months we conversed via e-mail about the event and it became obvious that he was fully capable of pulling off such an event. I decided to invite a few friends to join me because I thought that 10 hours of live music would end up becoming quite lonely. Eric Pounder and David Marine, whom I had worked with before were conveniently located in Chicago so I asked them. I also invited David Wright because we had just started on the collaboration project together. It was a very memorable experience for all of the people involved. It was a definite testament to Stephen's ability to put together such an event.

Jester: Will any material from that live performance ever be released?

Mark: If it did, it would be as an archival project. Stephen mixed the whole event down into 3 - 75 minute CDR's and I have the only copy. I wouldn't want to release the music as anything else but a special limited edition box set primarily because it is a live album. My last album "How Hollow Heart" was also a live album and there are a few similarities between the two works. I don't want to release a CD that sounds very similar to other albums. The point of me making music is for people to hear all the different ideas that I come up with. When I last talked to Stephen, we had discussed a box set with a large booklet documenting the whole event.

Jester: How did the idea for "A Fire on the Bronx Zoo" collaboration originate?

Mark: Invisible Records sent me a copy of everything they released. I really enjoyed "Sangre Azul" after they sent it to me and the label suggested that I call David to talk about writing music together. Ironically, out of the blue, he called me. We got along immediately.

David is a very productive person and sent me tapes of sounds right away. He suggested that instead of reworking old material that we develop new songs and each add new elements to our respective material. In the space of about a month we traded tapes back and forth via mail that eventually became the "A Fire in the Bronx Zoo" album.

Jester: Was the entire album written via mail?

Mark: Yes. All of my collaborations have been done via tapes sent in the mail. I don't know if it is a disadvantage, but it is just one of the facts of life because I live on the West coast of Canada and have a day job. David lives in Arizona. James Plotkin is in New Jersey. Jarboe is in Atlanta. All of these people that I work with live all over the world which makes it very difficult to get together in person. So for me, the mail is a very good receptor. I really do enjoy working this way.

Jester: How is working via mail different from working within someone in a live in-person setting?

Mark: To date, the fact that I started out as an improviser and that everyone I work with is as well, it doesn't really matter how I write music with someone. If they are able to play sympathetically along to any music I might send them, then we can work either way. One of the reasons that I choose to work with the people that I do work with is because they are good improvisers. They are all excellent receptors to my music.

Taking Eric Pounder as an example. Eric played with me in Chicago on the Lowest of the Low tour and he never heard any of the material I was going to play before the show started. Before the show started, I created a few sounds for him to play and Eric was so skilled that he was able to perform with only those sounds. The relationship between Cevin Key and myself originally started with him coming over to my apartment to jam with me. We were able to work with each other in that manner.

Jester: What was your overall opinion of the Lowest of the Low tour?

Mark: In terms of the amount of time I had to perform each night, that varied depending on the technical issues at each venue. To give Invisible Records credit, they put together a tremendous tour. With four to five bands performing each night, to set-up all that gear is amazing. These types of things never seem to phase the label.

They always seem to be able to pull off the impossible. The lingering impression I got from the tour was the overall sense of family that was created. Everyone wanted to get along and they did. I met some really good friends throughout the tour. There was a real sense of everyone pulling together especially when David Wright got sick in New York.

Jester: Did you perform any of the collaboration material on the Lowest of the Low tour with Not Breathing?

Mark: We wanted perform together from the beginning but it didn't always work. The order in which each band performed changed every night so we didn't always have a chance to perform together. On the first leg of the tour, we played together quite a bit. We were fully equipped to work with each other and I certainly enjoy doing so. David has always made sounds that I can easily relate to and that I cannot make myself because I don't own the proper equipment. We certainly played a random collection of material from totally new stuff, to older recorded material and even a few of the collaboration pieces.

Jester: Your wife was performing with you at the Portland show. Does she always tour and perform with you?

Mark: Apart from the Download tour, she has been with me at every live event I have played. After the Download tour, I made decision that I would never tour without her because I missed her horribly. She is a very empathic person and gets along with all the people I usually play with. It is good that she performed on the Lowest of the Low tour because I feel that when I perform, people can't see me making music very well behind my console, but they and see what she is doing.

Jester: Has she had any role in writing your music?

Mark: She is definitely more involved then anyone else due to the fact that she lives with me and tolerates my music. She is a great supporter of what I do. The very first person that ever listens to what I do is her. She has a very strong opinion about things and will tell me if she doesn't like something. Usually she is very good at pointing out the problem areas in my music.

Jester: Where did the title of the new album "Piss Frond" originate?

Mark: I think it actually happened on IRC. In the past, I used to go through this phase of conversing with people via IRC for long hours at a time. I used to have conversations based on huge strings of unrelated words and ideas. By chance I happened to stumble upon the two words that became the title. They don't really mean anything but they resonate well together.

Jester: How was "Piss Frond" recorded compared to other Dead Voices on Air releases?

Mark: The way that it evolved is somewhat unique for me. I have always been the kind of person who recorded music very quickly. In the beginning, I recorded it very fast and considered the music done. Then I started working with Darryl Neudorf who is a producer in Vancouver and played him a few tracks. He suggested that we work with the music a bit more and we did. We ended up working with them so much that one of the two CD was changed dramatically. It was definitely a different approach than anything I have ever done before.

Jester: I had heard that a version of 'Base Metal' was supposed to appear on the album and it did not. Why?

Mark: There was a press release for the Lowest of the Low tour that was a little ambiguous. The press release said that a version of 'Glae Bastards' from "Paradigm Shift" was going to be on the album and that track was featured along with 'Base Metal' on the tour. People just assumed this meant both tracks would appear on the album. when in fact, there was never actually any intention of putting the track on the album.

I will definitely release a version of 'Base Metal' sometime because of the interest that it sparked. I think that the drum programming on that track is brilliant. The track will definitely see the light of day on a future Dead Voices on Air release.

Jester: What is the status of the Drum'n'Bass project you were working on?

Mark: That project is complete but I don't particularly like it anymore. It was finished a few months ago and I sent copies out to a few prospective collaborators asking if they wanted to contribute and haven't heard anything. My patience is limited concerning music, so if I don't finish something after a short time frame, my attention span moves onto something else.

For example, I was supposed to be recording a new project a few days ago and instead ended up with another Propeller album. I didn't intend to do it, but it worked perfectly. I am just a terrible fidget when I go into the studio to work on someone elses project. My attention span is so small that I move on to quickly for some people.

Perhaps some of the tracks from the "Drumme'n'Basse" project will be releases, but I certainly don't know in what format or when.

Jester: Unlike your solo efforts, someone else did the artwork for the Not Breathing collaboration. Why?

Mark: I wanted to do something different. The project was distinctly different from the usual Dead Voices on Air material and I wanted to use someone elses work. The cover art came from a colleague of mine who is a Doctor and a photographer. He goes to the top of mountains for long time periods and takes photographs. I saw some of these on his office wall and asked if he would like to contribute for album sleeves, not knowing when I would use them. Since the collaboration ended up sounding very tormented to me, I came up with the idea of using photographs of frozen mountains and ice for the cover. I also get bored of my own art as well.

Jester: Did you have any role in the package presentation of the Propeller releases?

Mark: I am completely involved with all of the art design for all of my music. For example, the first Propeller, which was packaged in a copper plate, took well over a year to design. I made a decision to use copper. As a result I had to find a copper supplier that was cheap enough. We even had to wait for some time because the bulk price of copper had risen above what the label could afford. Then the supplier could not get thickness we needed. We switched suppliers and ended up being taught how to finish and fold the plates properly. The whole process was a great deal of fun.

For the Spybey:Theriault, we decided we wanted to have it be sold in a sewn bag. The initial idea was to stain the cloth with blood but we didn't think people would take kind to that idea. On the second Propeller album. we decided to use a folded paper design from The Climax Golden Twins in Seattle. It took us quite a long time to find the correct paper. Then we had to work out an embossing process onto the paper chosen.

Everyone who has released a CD using unconventional packaging will attest that I do take a great deal of thinking and work to complete such a project. At the end of the project, you have to hand assemble it and still make sure the product looks good enough to sell.

Jester: How did you first meet Jean-Yves Theriault?

Mark: He used to run a CD rental store in Vancouver. I used to live near the store and visited often. Working in the store was this crazy French-Canadian guy who had a completely infective personality. Every time I went in the store we talked for quite a long time.

It turns out that we were both musicians and that he had been in a band called Voivod who I had never heard of at the time. I inquired about the style of music and he called it Heavy Metal. However, I knew he was involved with Ambient music.

Eventually his store closed and he started working for an Internet provider. I got an account with his company. We continued to socialize and ended up deciding to do a record together. It wasn't until quite some time after the album was released that I realized just how popular Voivod really was and how legendary this guy Blackie was. I didn't realize that Jean-Yves was the same person.

Jester: What does the future hold for Mark Spybey?

Mark: I have a new album coming out in September with James Plotkin called the "Peripheral Blur" on Cranky Records. The project is a very haunting, quiet and melodic Ambient record. James and I will be touring with Damo Suzuli and Michael Karoli from CAN in a few select cities. I am very excited about that because both Jim and I are huge CAN fans.

I just finished a CD working with a group called Anti-Form from Ontario. I am working with a German Techno artist based out of New York City called Khan. I did some work with Jarboe for her solo album "Anhedoniac".

I did want to tour in support of "Piss Frond" this Fall, but my work schedule won't allow it, so we are planning for next Spring. We have also been approached to do a European tour as well as a North American tour, so we will tour eventually. I am also planning on making a video for a track on "Piss Frond".

I still have offers to work with Cevin Key again. He has moved to Los Angeles, so the prospect of me flying down there for a weekend it not possible any time soon because of time constraints. The day job is somewhat engrossing at times.

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