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Interview with George Hagegeorge of Under The Noise by telephone on June 20, 1996

Jester: How did Under The Noise from and how did you first meet Ric?

George: Under The Noise formed after a period of time when Ric and I were not working together. We had been working on other material with other people. After that time period we decided to start working together again but with a new name, Under The Noise. The new project had a much more together sound to it than the first project. The original project was started around 1989-90. It all started very casually, Ric just walked up to me and asked me if I was George from Black Pete, which was another band that I was involved with at the time in Baltimore. I responded affirmatively and he indicated his desire to start a musical project with me.

Jester: How did you get involved with COP International?

George: When we had the "Visionary" CD which we pressed ourselves, we sent it to a handful of labels and COP responded the most positively. They gave us an offer so we choose to go with them. It was all very easy.

Jester: Could you go into a little detail about the "Visionary" CD? Your press release suggested that it was only a single song release.

George: It was more than one song. It was pressed with the one song, two remixes of that track and a B-side which sort of closed the single. It was all my own mixing work, as I hadn't brought anyone in to do remixes at that time.

Jester: One thing that surprised me about Under The Noise was that you are only a two member band, released on a small label, yet you have a manager. How did Cheryl become your manager?

George: Cheryl had helped me put together the Track In The Box studio concept, so her involvement with the studio also lead her to knowing Ric and eventually to becoming our manager. She was the person who suggested that we release the "Visionary" single because she felt that she could find some labels that would be interested in us.

Jester: You work full time in your studio, what does Ric do in his spare time, outside of the band?

George: Ric is in communications, which is fitting for a vocalist.

Jester: I was reading in the liner notes on the new album and it mentioned something about the Baltimore Industrial Alliance, could you go into a little detail about that?

George: The Baltimore Industrial Alliance is an esoteric tie between Pygmy Children and Under The Noise. They live about a mile away from us and signed their deal about the same time we did. At that time we hadn't met or even know that each of us lived in Baltimore. So Brendan from Digital Underground contacted us and suggested that we meet them since we lived in the same city. Eventually Brendan introduced us to them and we have become really good friends. We've even remixed each others material.

Jester: And Bryan did the artwork and layout for "Of Generation and Corruption"?

George: Yes. We were really happy with that artwork.

Jester: Is he going to be doing the layout on the upcoming release as well?

George: I was just supposed to get ahold of him today to wrap up all the details with Christian of COP, but he wasn't home, but yes he is going to be doing the artwork on the remix album as well.

Jester: On the liner notes on your last album you list Melissa Sharlat as a vocalist on some of the tracks. Is she now an official member of the band or is she just helping out from time to time.

George: For this record she was definitely a full fledged member. After I heard her vocal work on 'Sun', it was just a logical choice to include her on other sections of the record. Melissa has always been a very fast learner when it comes to our music as well as being a very professional vocalist. So working with her has always been quick, fast and fun. The really high quality tracks are always easy to get from her, we work just that well together.

Jester: I also noticed that you had a video shot for '13th Tribe', is there anyway that the public can get ahold of that video?

George: It is presently being shown on Much Music in Canada and Latino MTV has picked it up. Sending it to Latino MTV was a tip which turned out to be a good one because they really liked it. The track is really funky and urban so it seems to fit in real well. The only difference between Latino MTV and regular MTV is that they have Spanish speaking VJ's. Technically it is the same company. They broadcast from the same studio in New York. The management group in charge was totally different though, so it was not a problem getting them to play the video. Cheryl directed the video and also did all the footwork in getting them to play it. They seemed to be very encouraging about it from the beginning. After they saw it, they immediately added to their rotation on two of their shows. It all went so smoothly that we hope that the main MTV will also pick it up. Have you had a chance to see the video yet?

Jester: No, I just saw stills of it on the web site.

George: Cheryl said that we will send it to you if you review it.

Jester: Not a problem, send it my way.

George: The video isn't very industrial, but we got all of our friends together from all sorts of bands in the Baltimore area to help us out. We closed down a bridge for it and banged around all day on it. The video could have been a really heavy LA street scene with a bunch of bad ass gangers screaming the vocals but that would have been a very stereotypical way to do it. So we decided to go with a lighter approach and make a fun video for a relatively serious album. So far everyone has responsed well to the video so I am happy.

Jester: Have you ever had any musical training of any kind that has helped you out with your music making process?

George: Yes, I took guitar lessons for like three years from sixth grade until high school. In twelfth grade I had an hour of music theory at lunch time. The guy who taught that class was really cool and I still remember him. It was really cool because he taught us intervals, scales and he did teach me quite a bit for his being a trombonist. It was just a public school music theory class but I did take it very seriously and combined it with what I had learned from sight reading the guitar. Other than that I have done my own individual studies for the past few years of scales and some of their origins. Things like comparing scales to calendars and other such models which actually resulted in some of the structuring of the last album as a circular model of scales. If you look back about two thousand years you will find an essay from Aristotle that was written in a very similar fashion to this album. I actually derived the title of the album from his concept. If anyone wanted to understand the concept of the album all they would have to do would be to download the first few pages of that thesis. The seasons are the most simple, primary and graphic way to think of the turning of a circle.

Jester: I didn't really pick that up until you just mentioned that.

George: You think much too linearally! The concept has been really obvious to some people who have called me up out of the blue to tell me that they understood the meaning. Obviously it wasn't meant for everyone to get and maybe one day more people will think about it in that fashion. However, I really didn't make it loud and obvious. The whole concept is a very rigid model but I had to find a way to keep it musical. The easiest way to do that was to place the songs next to each other in a way that they were relative to one another in a relief pattern built along the same principle that would make a scale. Instead of having a straight line, I curved it. For example, guitar frets become smaller as you go further out the neck, but if you curve them in a circle the spacings become equal. Yet even though the songs are of various lengths it still works. I built the album on the basis of time being a continuum and just allow myself to loosen up the model a little to make it work. There are references in very subtle ways between different areas of the record with others. Some are very obvious with recurring vocal themes, and others are based on these scalar models. In other words, the record was edited with tension and release concepts from the outset. Then the songs had that concept enveloped inside each one of them as well.

Jester: So it really does end up being a type of concept album without jumping out and and saying so?

George: Right. We didn't want to go retro for obvious reasons. Yet the lyrics are threaded and certainly tell a story that is a personal reflection of social issues. There is a spiritual thread to the record as well, but once again it is not as loud as much of the major label music. We really tried to keep a lot of the spirituality tempered and not go glittery with the whole project. If you notice there are almost no indications of anything being a solo or singular part. The whole album in essence is really restrained.

Jester: Which is interesting because in all of the album reviews I've read people have pointed it out as a guitar album which I simply cannot see. Sure there is guitar present, but it is subdued like everything else going on in the album. Personally, I felt that the album was put together in a way that all of the elments functioned in harmony together so that you could not pick a single piece out and make a comment on it like that.

George: That's cool. One of the things that I have been surrounded with as a musician is trying to be able to find people who are diverse. From woking with various musicians in different genres I have found that there is this huge gap in the methods which people use to record and compose music. Either they are into the guitar, bass, drums methodology, or they are stuck in this orthodox manner of only creating music with samplers and keyboards. I live in Baltimore and am surrounded with all different types of music like Punk, Hip-Hop, Rap and Industrial and I have found there is a real polarity in the people who make music these days. I see it as really silly and as a result, I have kind of melted the whole process down, fused it together and turned it to my own advantage. It has always been an obvious choice to me.

Music makers really need to understand how to make the most out of the tools they happen to have at the moment. My decisions to change equipment occur every two years because of that. I change systems, upgrade and sometimes I do lose money on it, but it keeps me closer to the edge of the music. I often find myself frustrated waiting for manufacturers to bring prototype models to the market at a price I can afford. The system I am using now, I am really happy with. I produced the Clay People, "Stone-Ten Stitches" album on it earlier this year and everyone was just standing around with their mouth hanging on the floor watching the computer go crazy. It was nice being able to record their music in a very live, comfortable, tape like fashion and then go in and work on it later with the editing power of the computer.

Jester: I've actually heard a few tracks off that album and they strike me as being very different from older Clay People material.

George: I've actually worked on some of their older material as well. This time they managed to catch me at the right time and the new stuff turned out fairly well. Just having the band isolated in the studio with me for ten weeks was really cool.

Jester: Do you think that some of the music you write is effected by being exposed to all of these others bands that you work with?

George: Absolutely. I did a lot of experimenting when I first got into recording twelve years ago and I spent the first year recording rap, hip-hop and reggae. Those were types of music that I had only heard of at the time and had never even experienced live before. The method which they used to record their material was something that I really enjoyed. It really influenced my work quite a bit and I've been involved with many club oriented hip-hop projects in the past. I've had to learn how to operate certain pieces of equipment for bands that I have never had any experience with in order to properly record their music for them. It came to the point where I saw so many people come into the studio who were wrapped up in the technical aspect of making music and thinking that this certain piece of equipment was going to save their production that I started to move away from the idea that the physical equipment was the answer. The idea that the creativity and the music was what counted gave me the most motivation. It allowed me to really think about how I wanted my music to sound before I wrote. Maybe that is why the "Stone-Ten Stitches" album sounds so much different from the past because the process with which I recorded the album was so vastly different from before.

Jester: We talked briefly earlier about the remix album which will be released soon. Who all is involved in remixing your work this time? Is it people from inside or outside the genre?

George: I would really have liked to included people from further outside the genre but it is hard to reach toward the people we would really like to mix our work. We have our eye on some people which we probably could not cut deals with right now. However, at the same time, we met with people we knew from their remix work within the genre. We looked through compilations for bands whose remix work really appealed to me. I am not offering any remixes myself on this album so I really wanted to be able to offer people a real diverse and high quality bunch of artists to remix my work. So, Pygmy Children have two remixes, Zip Campisi of Bigod 20 is also doing another remix for us, Siebold of Hate Dept, Ray Nours of Pain Emission, and an offer from STR of The Swamp Terrorists. We also just e-mailed Acumen as well and we are going to swap remixes of each others work.

Jester: I know you mentioned in the past that you are mainly a studio band but would you ever be interested in playing any live performances?

George: It would be really cool but this particular album was not designed to be played in a live format. I made no consideration whatsoever on this album for any of the material ever being performed live. The next album will probably be designed to be able to be played live with the help of a few more musicians on stage. Yes, we want to go live, but I am not going to do it before its time. We also don't have the personnel right now to do it.

Jester: Is there anything else you'd like to add in conclusion?

George: Just that I would encourage people to come and take a look at our web site and find out more about us.

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