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Interview with Eric Pounder of Pounder - conducted by e-mail - 11/3/97

Jester: Why did you choose to leave Lab Report and pursue your own project?

Eric: In July of 1996 Matt and I realized we couldn't work together anymore. It was a combination of circumstances based on the fact that we had grown apart since starting Lab Report in 1990. The decision to release "E6" under the Pounder name came later after I found that I had put together the CD myself and there weren't other collaborators on that project.

Jester: Obviously you still continue to perform with Lab Report live, why is that?

Eric: You are mistaken. I am not involved in Lab Report anymore. Pounder happened to play a benefit show at the Lab on the same bill as Lab Report, but there is no interaction between us.

Jester: How does Pounder differ musically speaking from the material you have done with Lab Report or Spasm?

Eric: Lab Report is a result of Matt and I moving to Chicago and starting a band with the dream of becoming what we had admired about the best of the bands we listened to. So from the very beginning until the end of 96 is a wide stretch of time in which I went from a kid who could barely play an instrument, to an adult with a passion for discovering what music can become.

I have to consider what I did in Lab Report in at least three different circumstances. I think the purest and deepest Lab Report work I did was on Fig X-71. There is a great deal of coordination and interplay between us and it seems apparent that we are listening and responding to each other's sound in a thoughtful and deliberate manner. I had a limited sonic palate to draw from as I really was a novice guitar player. I remember we exchanged instruments quite a bit back then and it wouldn't be unusual for me to be sitting on the drums or playing an organ to give us fresh ideas. I know we spent four to five hours trying to get a song down on which I happen to be play an oil drum with the rubber handle of a hammer.

Unhealthy is the "live" recording. Matt and I went on tour with Pigface and spent six weeks masturbating on stage. It took us a week to invent a "set" of songs, which we drove into the ground over and over in varying states of intoxication. What emerged is a freakish CD that I find difficult to listen to. The title refers to the lifestyle and attitude we had at the time. Musically it was not a good time for me.

Terminal was the only proper studio recording I did. About half of it we recorded at our practice space as improvisations using the Burrough's cut-up method we mixed several jams together that had nothing to do with each other. We did what I later learned is a common technique in film production. We made the recording, shot stills and wrote an outline of a script with the idea that we would have a package to give to people interested in financing the making of an actual film. Many times a movie trailer will actually be shot in order to facilitate further financing, before the actual film is shot.

It was during this time that I was becoming more intimately involved with the passion of playing music and I had actually spent several days in a recording studio with the hopes of having a solo CD then. Working with Matt was becoming more and more difficult as I became increasingly excited about making music. The collaborative process became more of a burden than an asset.

Spasm is really only a document of a few days in the life of Eric. The first CD was made as a result of a private party at Invisible when Mark Spybey first got involved there. He and Curse Mackey were in town at the same time and they all decided to put on a little performance. They called me and invited me to join in and fill out the sound along with Martin. I came down to Invisible with just a guitar and an amp, no effects. I met Mark and ten minutes later, we played to an audience of about fifteen. The result you can hear on that CD as well as a Wire tribute CD that I don't know the name of. I didn't even know we were playing a cover of any song, but everyone else knew the song so it worked out well enough. Smear was another happenstance of Mark and Curse being in town at the same time. Mark was touring with Download and Curse was recording at Invisible with Evil Mothers. For that recording we had no audience and we just played until we had filled up a few ADATs. Later Martin went through the tapes and edited. I did a few guitar overdubs one evening, basically improvising over the material we had. Since we had a few hours, most I did as just one take.

"E6" differs from all of the other work I've done as I had all of the decisions to make. I had much advice from those who helped, but ultimately it was up to me to make the final decisions. In any other project I've worked on I've always been able to interact with other musical ideas that come to the table or come to a consensus about a particular point. There are also songs that have come from the process that can exist outside of the recorded medium. The idea of having written songs is something I am carrying further with the next CD as I have four or five songs that I have written but I haven't recorded yet. They exist as entities unto themselves. This allows for a certain exactness in their architecture that I haven't been able to capture yet as well as it puts me into an established field where the format is tested, but my ability to use it isn't. If it works then I will be the hero, if not them I'm the goat.

Jester: Why is your debut album titled "E6"?

Eric: "E6" is chess notation for a pawn moving forward one square to the e6 position. It can be the white pawn advancing into the black's back rows or the black pawn with the first step. It happens to be the move which caused an Albanian Grandmaster to resign from a game with the Romanian Ambassador in 1946. The game is quite famous as the ensuing melee nearly caused a resumption of WWII. Apparently the Romanian Ambassador was such an undignified winner and the Albanian Grandmaster so utterly taken aback at having been beaten by an unranked player, that the embassy was thrown into tumult. Within a few hours, the entire embassy staff was recalled. What rippled through the diplomatic community was the indignation of the Albanians and shortly thereafter Albania withdrew from much of the world keeping only the vaguest of ties to the USSR.

Jester: Are you an avid chess player?

Eric: Avid is probably the wrong word to use, but I find it a whole lot of fun. I don't currently have anyone who I can play with so I am very out of practice. I have a cheap electronic game that I beat on its highest level once, but it isn't any fun to play as it always "thinks" in the same manner, never trying anything new. All of it's games start the same way whether it is set for the highest or lowest level and continue in a predictable manner until you can't distinguish one from the other.

Chess is an interesting game as it rewards those with a long term goal and the ability to think quickly and intuitively. I suppose it is a the simple restraints and the limitations of the individual pieces that make it an interesting game. If there were five queens, it wouldn't be such an exciting game.

Jester: Is that you performing the 'vocal' sections on "E6"?

Eric: Yes. I plan to have a few songs with lyrics and singing and the whole nine yards on the next Pounder CD.

Jester: Have you ever performed with a vocal element before?

Eric: On "for Mother", a track on Fig X-71 there is an almost subliminal vocal I did. On Welcome to Mexico... the opening track is my vocal. On Unhealthy the walkie talkie vocals are mine.

Jester: When you actually use vocals on a track, how do you decide to actually use decipherable words rather than a type of glossalia, and vice versa?

Eric: I don't have any method per se. On 'Transparency', it came after the drums were recorded. Listening to what had become of the song, that lyric struck me as the appropriate thing to use. With the songs I am working on now, I have both had music and lyrics influence what from the songs take. I don't have a good enough voice to just sing the notes without words and I am not interested in using a cascade of effects to make my vocals acceptable. I'm very interested in being able to reproduce things live in some form as well, so that entails leaving some things sparse and alone.

Jester: What is your favorite track off "E6"? Why that track?

Eric: I don't know if I have a favorite track. I like each track for different reasons and in different ways. They are all something that I consider explorations. I spent a month or so doing the initial recording and from there was able to build on each piece. The drums came the last and were the biggest learning experience for me. I hadn't much experience working with a drummer or mixing drums into music so I know there are some decisions that could have been made differently. When I hear many of the tracks I also hear what is wrong with them and how they could be better, so it is difficult to enjoy them sometimes.

The best experience I had was with DDB. When I recorded most of it, a friend was in the room working on the computer and he fell asleep while I played. The next night, he fell asleep again while I was making a rough mix to cassette. I knew I had something worth while. And to further strengthening my belief in myself, while doing the final mix to DAT at a professional studio, with the music very loud and crisp and as well re-produced by a pair of speakers that I'll ever hear it, I was able to lose myself completely in the moment. What I heard was not a piece of music that I had made, but a work of art that belongs to the collective conscious.

Jester: Have you ever had any formal musical training?

Eric: About three years ago I took classical guitar lessons for a summer and it changed my life. I was able to get to know the guitar in ways that I hadn't before and I came to appreciate that act of playing it as much as the sound that comes out. It showed me new ways to communicate and express myself with the guitar and it was a valuable time. I only took lessons for a short time as my life quickly became overloaded with the trivial matters of day to day existence, so I never progressed beyond what would be a rudimentary level of classical playing, but I know from that experience that I could live on a desert island with only a guitar and be quite content.

Jester: How did you first get involved with composing your own music?

Eric: Until very recently, music was very much a by-product of the tape machine. It is only within the last summer that I've written more than just the outline of a song to play latter. The next Pounder CD will feature this newest material, as well as things recorded track by track like "E6".

Jester: Why did you get involved with this genre of music as opposed to any other?

Eric: The music I do is an extension of me. That I don't play Heavy Metal or Salsa or Reggae is just the way I am. I think it reflects more of what I find interesting in the human condition. Love, peace and happiness are great, but we more often find greed, pain and misery. I like to think that I am doing more than playing music. I want to believe that I am an Artist interpreting society and finding new ways of communicating the psyche.

Jester: What was it like performing during the 10 hour multicast at The Lab back in April?

Eric: In April 1997, DVOA inaugurated the Lab with a ten hour music broadcast. I was happy to be a part of that. It was actually quite a difficult music project to do as it tested the limits of both my creative abilities as well as my endurance. Playing for 10 hours is difficult. The hands and wrists get tired, the brain gets mushy. At some points it felt as though I had smoked pot even though we were all sober. Within a few hours I had gone through the sounds and shapes that I had been concentrating on at that point in my life. In the trial by fire aspect of it all, I was forced to consider new approaches and push myself beyond what I had been doing. Fortunately with the combined talents of Mark Spybey, Dave Wright and David Marine, I could take a break and let the others play by themselves. In most jam sessions there are points where you stop and talk and have a beer and a sandwich. For this there was no stopping of everyone at once. When I got tired or lost some energy, I simply put the guitar down and let the others go on, similarly with everyone else. I think there was only one moment that there was no music and that was to separate a piece Mark had been working on from the rest of the day. He did his beautiful and moving piece and then we continued on for another few hours. In the end we were all exhausted both physically and mentally. It was a great experience to have as it brought all of the previous skills and talents I have been perfecting to bear on one day.

The next Lab performance was a Pounder show with special guests Steve Collins and Matt Skaggs. We played a Pounder set and then had our guests join for a "jam" session that went on for an hour or so. The music wasn't all that great from my point of view, so I took the lessons I learned from that experience and put it toward the next Lab performance which was a tribute to a deceased friend Jon Bondelli.

Jester: I know that you will be touring a bit in the Southwest this fall. What does a live Pounder show look like?

Eric: As time progresses on without much going forward on that tour, I can't say what it will become. Since February Pounder has been David Marine and myself, as guitar and Theremin duo. We normally do the first four songs from the CD and a few others written since. Currently though I'm looking for a bass player and a drummer as I would like to go beyond the limitations that the duo sets.

Jester: Did you ever build any of the instruments used by Lab Report? If so how did you go about constructing such devices?

Eric: I was responsible for the garage door spring and a few of the toys that got used; motors, wind-up toys, walkie-talkies. The garage door spring came from the alley behind where we lived and made such a great rusty gate sound that I knew it would come in handy. About the same time, I was using some very cheap guitar pick-ups which actually put out a good amount of acoustic noise, so with a piece of duct tape, the best instrument I ever built was born. Putting good pick-ups on my guitar made me concentrate on playing more as it sounded that much better, so it freed me from having to find more and more noise-makers to get new sounds and let the guitar get discovered.

Apart from that I've always found making instruments unrewarding as the inherent problem of how to amplify them is tedious. The best solutions to that problem are usually turning the instrument into a version of a guitar. I'm not an instrument maker, so I let the people who do that best do it. Currently, I'm looking for precision and control that a conventional instrument can give. Just making a bunch of noise isn't good enough.

Jester: Do you think you classical training has hindered you any because of the implied constraints behind the use of accepted musical theory?

Eric: Not at all. In fact I disagree with the premise of your question as I don't think accepted music theory has the constraints you surmise. When the definition of what is considered accepted music theory is put to a real test, usually the results are that what has become accepted is generally what everyone uses, without regard to theory. I think that deliberate attempts to somehow subvert what are the basic tenets of organized music can become mostly structural in nature and not the kind of exercise I'm interested in. In order to get beyond the theories and structure of Western music, one really has to be quite literate in their construction. Such formal exercises rooted in the de-construction of an intellectual ideal is by it's nature an unemotional and uncommunicative realization. What I aim to do with music is not to be the troubadour for an intellectual movement, but communicate ideas by tacit response.

What I think maybe you misunderstand about classical training is that in some cases, the student who is formally trained is merely a technician who moves fingers, lips or wrists in a prescribed method much as a typist. The focus has been to be able to transcribe the notes on a written page and not communicate the emotional content in the music. I have heard of several cases of orchestra members who can sleepwalk through the most difficult Mozart Concerto, but do not have a clue how to lay down a decent Reggae line. The difference is in the musician and many of the techniques I learned have improved my playing tremendously. In fact, their purpose is to make playing as efficient as possible and therefore extend the faculties of the instrument.

Jester: What or who would you consider your greatest musical influence to be and why?

Eric: I'm going to take a stand for musicians everywhere and say that isn't a very good question. It assumes that the reasons I make music are limited to a few experiences of aspirations that are easily definable in simple categories.

Jester: Any future collaborations or projects on the horizon?

Eric: I am constantly working on the next Pounder CD. The last four days have produced four songs that need drums and some vocals. Mark Spybey has some tapes that he needs to put his touch on. Dave Wright has expressed some interest in doing a project and I am always trying to network. I saw Main last night and talked to Robert Hampton. He is doing something that is in the same vein as DVOA, so I'd like to work with him. I'd love to play some shows with Spasm. I'm also considering starting a recording label for local musicians to put out low cost demos and merchandising albums. I am also involved in a local group called Tickled Pink.

Jester: Is there anything you would like to add in conclusion?

Eric: David is no longer a part of Pounder. The reasons for this are numerous, but the short story is that he doesn't feel like he can get enough attention being in Pounder. So I am currently looking for a bass player and drummer for live performances, as well as solo recording the next album.

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