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An Interview with Eric Lunde – Part One: Assaults on Culture

Eric Lunde: 33 Years of Assault & Chaos –
A three part serial conversation with TQ’s Aram Yardumian and Wisconsinite Eric Lunde.  We talk about nonlinear dynamics, noise systems, auto racing, and the roots of the Industrial scene in America. We do not talk about Ed Gein.

Introduction and Serial Three-Part Interview
Prolegomenon, Part Two: The 80s, Part Three: The Aesthetics of the Crash

The following conversation with Eric Lunde took place via email in June of 2015.

Aram Yardumian: Tell me about your time as a film student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee I believe you were running experiments in re-recording video through multiple generations to see what emerged from the information loss. In fact, I think I remember that you did this with porn loops. Did this technique then inform your sound experiments?

Eric Lunde: In the period of 1981 to 1985, I went to the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. I started out in English Literature, but spent a lot of time nursing hangovers. Poetry professors are notorious alcoholics, especially were then. So I moved into art and theater, and I think my theater experience really altered things. I had the privilege to work on a production of Mabou Mines’ Dead end Kids. That was way beyond anything my farm boy countenance could comprehend. At the suggestion of one of my friends I started taking film classes. At the time the UWM had a phenomenal film school with the facilities to process 16mm film in house but had nothing in terms of video. When they started video classes, it was with old CCTV cameras and Sony U-matic recorders. It was a bootstrap, “make do with what you can” sort of thing. The next semester we started getting upgrades, VHS portable cameras and a Panasonic VHS editor. I spent like 7 nights in the “studio” reduplicating Deep Throat into a visual degeneration. I passed because the sex acts were essentially erased, illegible.

dek

AY: Einstürzende Neubauten seemed very self-conscious in their wishes to destroy, and rebuild, musical conventions. Did BDC have any similarly wider cultural aims, or was it more a purely aesthetic concern?

EL: Irrational exuberance born of youth? Yes, they were. So were we. But what was to rebuild? I can’t speak for everyone in BDC. I mean, we worked on this premise I guess, but it wasn’t the structure so much as renegotiating habits of listening. To rehabilitate the listener, to retrain the observer into accepting the unconventional. It was more in the service of sound and the listener. Odd to say now in that we were actively threatening them? Yes, as the mobile militaristic strategic unit that was BDC. But even then we knew we were really only working over the listeners expectations. Did Neubauten succeed? I guess we all did, given the range of sounds that people have come to accept in their music, samples and performance. Didn’t Neubauten become more…theatrical? I haven’t really paid much attention to them. But then, yes, they were impressive and, well, exuberant? But I think they found out what we did; cultural components like this soon wear down into conventional patterns even as they had proposed unconventional methods. If I had rebelled against anything during and after BDC it was this hegemony of the music industry. Appearance and public relations. Sales and headshots. And preservation! Which then becomes archival (I say this very aware of my own situation, so the irony is noted). All these dumb conventions regarding stagecraft and presentation. And then you have the reunion tours to prove your relevance and viability. And well, that seems pretty inescapable then. As long as you’re obedient to the conventions.

Neubauten, was, as they say, a game-changer and rightfully so. But in the early days, they did everything they could to protect their brand. When we opened for them in Chicago we were, at the last minute, instructed not to use metal percussion. Contractual obligation overlooked by the venue: no metal percussion bands. Now, in some ways I think that was smart in that they controlled the sound and the image. But I think it might have ultimately worked against them in that by prohibiting mimicry they defeated any sort of growth in the genre. OH! That sounds like free-market capitalism! But if they had intended to alter the sound landscape, I think they failed. Such prohibitions, while protecting the slippery boundary of originality, ultimately negate themselves. I think it would have been wiser to have either encouraged such mimicry or at least turn a blind eye to it. Rather than orchestrating a cultural upheaval in music conventions, they merely caused a blip in the conventional radar of ROCK. Anyway, what did they expect? Imitation is, as they say, the sincerest form of flattery. Rather than the singular entity of Neubauten on top of a vacant hill, why not lead an army? They didn’t.

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AY: You and BDC were operating far away from the centers of the art world and the various birthplaces of post-punk and Industrial music, i.e., London, Berlin, Los Angeles. As a result I think you and BDC have been left out of the narrative. How do you view this?

EL: It kind of pissed me off. Parochial. That’s one way to describe it. I mean you’re fighting the perceptions of the potential consumer because if it isn’t from one of these cultural centers it’s not worth your time and for the cultural centers, well, it wasn’t from them so how could it matter. I don’t think we were a threat to them and had only intended to contribute. But I think this attitude prevented us from expanding. I mean we toured the western states in the context of the Hardcore scene and were welcomed more often by the musicians than by the fans. And I was surprised by that. I would also attribute this “marketing stall” to my own reluctance to “invade” one of these cultural centers. I hated touring, I hated the logistics, and I was very concerned that our approach wouldn’t hold up under the scrutiny of those Hallowed venues in New York and such. Being that they were in the vanguard of all things, we would be seen as trying to hard or something. Now I wish I had gotten over this and just made the move. But it couldn’t be done. I was reluctant to give up my job. I was, and always have been, risk-aversive, in terms of livelihood and existential comforts.

AY: There are theories in cultural studies and art history about the relationship of social demands and technological change, and how this allows, for example, five completely independent people to be working on what would become photography, or on theories of inheritance, or musique concrète. What is your view on how this can happen?

EL: Coincidence? Are we speaking of those moments whereas agents, unrelated and not communicating with each other, and come to very similar conclusions despite the disparity in their situations? That weird moment whereas you’re working on something and you think “damn! That’s a pretty original idea!” and a few days later you encounter something very similar generated by another agent thousands of miles away?

Yes, it is disheartening to make this discovery but I think I’ve gotten past that. Because it’s never that surprising is it? We exist in a compressed sphere of limited circumstances and limited elements. Ideas don’t float about waiting to be captured. We generate them and this great big machine we call society, civilization, is an idea-generating machine. And this machine does not discriminate between good ideas and bad ideas, beneficial or detrimental. It just generates ideas.

In that we are essential components to this machine and that the resources are so limited, we cannot help but overlap in our efforts. There are only so many “topics” and a limited degree of variation of interpretation. So a person could certainly be working on photography as she has interpreted in one location while a person in another location could be working also along the same lines in that the subject of investigation can only suggest so many interpretations. The suggestive powers of objects of investigation are limited if they even can admit to any such suggestion.

industrial_xchdx

AY: With XCHdX: On The Terrain Of Prophecy did you feel as if you’d reached a conclusion with your sound art, or questions you could not answer with art, or something else?

EL: XCHdX was, yes, the culmination of years of work, research. I didn’t think of it that way at the time, but it made it all fit together. Tape Death Cut I think was a recapitulation of all the sound work and I think of Tape Death Cut as pretty the final say on that sound work of that period. But XCHdX was a totally realized project, theatrical in its staging and performance (as it also was a sculptural installation), philosophical. I was totally immersed in its production, I mean beyond also being bolted into the suit. And the circumstances were perfect, everything aligned. Maybe it was the Harmonic convergence. But it was an opportunity I have yet see return.

AY: In many ways I see your post-2002 work as picking up where you left off in 1990, except minus the interest in viral transmissions. Am I wrong? What was the reason, in retrospect, for your hiatus from producing audio work for 12 years?

EL: In my working life there’s a saying: Working around here is like pissing in a dark suit, you get a warm feeling but nobody notices. I felt then that I had pissed in the same suit long enough. After XCHdX, Tape Death Cut, and LLND I hit a wall and simultaneously the industrial culture scene did too. Cultural movements ebb and flow and I could sense that Industrial was subsiding. You could see it in the diminishing returns. And I had spent some of that time shooting myself in my left foot, so some relationships had become strained.

As well, Industrial morphed into Industrial Dance. I had no problem with that. Other people did. But I didn’t. I thought it smart really, and right. Chicago of course had the more vital ID scene and the clubs were doing it justice, particularly EXIT. I wanted into that so I moved to Chicago. But unfortunately you needed access to, well, equipment, because ID required higher production standards. I was ill prepared for that, in that I lacked the equipment, I’m a lo-fi artist. I work best with bad equipment. Yes, Tape Death Cut was the first time I had worked with samplers but all the samples were from my own work. Most of them. I am not a studio person. I have a tin ear for production. Even when I dabbled in “techno” in the mid-90’s, I just couldn’t get the production values right.

I found other things to do and I also did nothing. It was nice, and I was oblivious to the cultural upheaval that the Internet and PC’s were initiating. No idea. I was trying to make “techno” on a Fostex 4 track cassette and various digital components while everyone around me was editing loops on PCs! I had no idea people were still interested in noise, in power electronics, in industrial, in tape work. I had thought it had all disappeared.

So about 2004 Joe Colley enlightens me to a pool of interested parties in some chat room. And I started recording again.

So I’m off course here a little. Yes I did pick up where I left off but I’ve always insisted on a premise, a strong philosophical objective I think. I consider my recordings more books really. Just short of literature, but I think my recordings are written, not composed. I write noise. There is a schism though between what I was thinking then and what I am thinking now. And I object to some of what I embraced back then.

Nowadays, not only have I returned but also so have the diminishing returns. It’s a little odd coming back into this after missing one upheaval and then witnessing its demise! I’m not the only one complaining about it. GET OUT THE DARK SUIT!

 

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