Jean Encoule talks to Josh (guitar) & Blake (funeral organs) of NYC behemoths, Bloody Panda:
trakMARX - Tell us about the birthing issues behind Bloody Panda.
Josh Rothenberger: Yoshiko O'Hara made a bunch of money as a visual artist in Osaka, Japan. She spent all the money on musical equipment and a plane ticket to the US. Having never played music before, she recorded a demo called SPIRAL (23 songs) in a manic, obsessive fashion. A month later she posted ads in record stores looking for band-mates. We found one and responded, due to the fact that she sounded very serious about making intense music "at the risk of her life". Bryan, Blake and I became her companions in doom. We played with a few drummers along the way. When we met Dan Weiss and realized he was even more obsessive about his art than Yoshiko, we forced him to sign on the dotted line, and now he is our main guy.
Blake McDowell: Yoshiko is the mother. She brought the panda into existence. Bryan found her and the desire to 'play music at the risk of your life' brought the rest us together.
trakMARX - How would you describe that Bloody Panda sound to the uninitiated?
JR: We strive to make music that sounds pre-rock, or even more idealistically music that is pre-technical. We kind of want to sound like (un)holymen - carrying out our ritual, rather than learned musicians playing in a certain style. Yoshiko has somewhat unintentionally steered us in this direction, as she has always sought self-expression through music, even though she doesn't really understand concepts like time signature and scales. Additionally, one of our songs, MIZU, consists of Yoshiko invoking a chant that a Buddhist priest used to sing to her dead grandfather.
BM: Reverberations in a cathedral basement.
trakMARX - What is the primary objective of Bloody Panda?
JR: To make music at the risk of our lives. To become the biggest band in the world, ASAFP.
BM: Play music at the risk of our lives.
trakMARX - Who sits in Bloody Panda's pantheon of rock and roll deities?
JR: We all draw from very different influences. I am inspired by the versatility and relentlessness of people like Aidan Baker, Mick Barr, James Plotkin, Steve O'Malley. Most music that inspires me is not inherently metal or indy, though. Alfred Schnittke, Robbie Basho, Bhimsen Joshi, Neil Young, Tibetan Buddhist Monk Chants, Skepticism…
BM: Thergothon, Arvo Part, Skepticism, Robbie Basho, Estonian choirs
trakMARX - What are your thoughts on the current underground metal assault on mainstream culture & how do you feel about the ever varying demographic of your audience?
JR: I appreciate that there are "scenes" out there and that they create a vibrant culture and camaraderie for certain types of boundary musics. I enjoy the fact that we are not completely embraced by any of these scenes, however, and, as such, we assume a nomadic role that allows us to freely wander in and out of genres, fads, musical movements. Having been in more genre-type bands, I feel it is more fun to make music this way.
BM: We played at an art gallery recently. Over half the audience were women. We felt good about that.
trakMARX - What music publications do you swear by?
BM: Wire is nice.
trakMARX - We understand you are about to drop your debut LP anytime now - can you furnish us with any details with regard to the recording process, release date, label & contents?
JR: We tracked most of those songs 1.5 years ago. So we've been treating the music like a secret document and have forbidden outsiders access to the secret file's contents for a long time now. Too long. I can't wait to open the vault. Jason Marcucci engineered and mixed it. We accomplished a lot in a short amount of time thanks to him. Steven Kasner – an amazing artist that has worked with Craw, Khlyst, Lotus Eaters – is doing the artwork with help from Blake McDowell, staff organist and photographer of necropolitic pastures. Level Plane has been great thus far and we feel like the record is in the right hands. But like I said, the music has been in the can for some time now and in fact we are almost ready to start recording our follow-up.
BM: April 24 on Level Plane Records. 4-songs, about 40-minutes. Artwork by Stephen Kasner, who did the early Craw albums and the recent Khlyst release. Recorded onto tape in Brooklyn over a year ago by our friend and engineer. Jason Marcucci.
trakMARX - What has been the reaction to your EP & split with Kayo Dot?
JR: That split did a lot for us in terms of getting us a show at Madison Square Garden and an MTV video directed by Bono.
BM: We love it.
trakMARX - Which two groups would you invite to join you on a fantasy package tour?
JR: Skepticism and The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. We'd do an encore where all three acts are on stage at the same time belting out Thergothon's lost relic: "Evoken."
BM: Lepo Sumera. He's dead. So he counts as 2. Well, Skepticism would be great to play with.
trakMARX - Which countries would you most like to take said package tour too?
JR: Everywhere that is not New York City.
BM: Japan, so that we can meet all of Yoshiko's relatives and Indonesia so we can get amazing field recordings.
trakMARX - Which artists would the soundtrack on the fantasy tour bus include?
trakMARX - Live/studio - which is more important to Bloody Panda?
JR: I can't say. They both stimulate us in very different ways. We make music that aims to attack the listener's gut, to affect the listener's body in a very physical way. The physiological mission of panda is always easier to communicate live. But the studio presents possibilities in panning, stylization, and collaboration with other artists and technicians that are tough to simulate in a concert scenario. Can I vote for both candidates?
trakMARX - And finally, where next for Bloody Panda?
JR: Our debut full length comes out April 24, as I said. We recorded “Anxiety Hangover” for the upcoming Eyehategod compilation - which should be out any day now. A split with Noothgrush is potentially in the works. April tour of the US East coast - and possibly Midwest. We're working on a live DVD project with Torsten Meyer - looking for an editor who might want to work for free on that with us. Live album as well. Like I said, won't be long before we are in the studio again working on our next full length. Some of us may expand into some side-projects as well.
Jean Encoule – tMx 28 – 02/07
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