– Visuals are a big part of your live shows, although the very first time I saw you playing live you did not have any. How did you come up with this idea ? How do you work on your visuals and are they related to your setlist ? Why do you mostly use abstract and black & white images ? Do you really make one DVD for each live show ?
(Eric Quach) After playing in a band for a few years, I felt a bit naked on stage alone and I felt too self-conscious about my solo performances. I needed some kind of accompanying support as to take the focus away from me, thus the visuals – they are also a great way to hypnotize people, which help to take in this kind of music. It also adds so much more to the experience and opens up to a lot of possibilities in terms of presentation and performance. Gradually and ultimately, the concept changed to a real-time multimedia performance. It also helps to time my sets and makes them more consistent.
I create all the visuals myself from original footage, I apply various treatment and layering techniques to get a feel of what want the visuals to complement, in relation to the music — thus the black and white abstract, part-dream & part-nightmare. I did however incorporate some color sequences for my latest shows.
I do have to re-render and re-sequence the visual parts every time there is a setlist change – like if I want to play a different piece, I have to make sure the mood, the flow and the length of that specific visual part is acceptable. Since I play in Montreal more than elsewhere, so it’s important to change something at every show, so there is a different DVD for almost every show, unless I judge that it’s acceptable to use a previous one, such as on tour – but I usually carry a few different pre-made DVDs to be used, depending on the vibe I get from the night of the show, the venue and crowd. That’s the general rule, but there are some exceptions.
– You have released a lot of records (eight ?) over the last couple of years . Don’t you fear that people might perceive quantity over quality ? Which of your releases are you the most proud of ? Which one would you recommend to a first time listener ? Why ?
I consider that I only have 4 official albums (Unconquered, Blackhaunter, Transmissions, Aftermath) with 2 new ones on the way this year, Vessels (to be released on Aurora Borealis, late march) and Resurgence (to be released by Denovali, late summer/early fall). The other releases are either collaborations (with Yellow6, Scott Cortez, Aidan Baker) or limited EPs – which of course, also count as records, but are to be considered as necessary complements to the main albums, which I am usually most proud of. Recommendation for a release would always be the latest one, from an artist’s point of view.
Every release has its own purpose though, but I guess it can be intimidating for new listeners to start diving into my discography at this point. The problem with it is that it’s very varied; I incorporate a lot of different styles within my sound because I have a lot of musical influences and I always look to explore further grounds. The records are also separated into different themes – when I work on tracks, their essence can be different from each other and would not together on the same album. So, I usually end up working on 3 different records at the same time over the course of a couple of years (then it usually take another year or two to get them out, with label searches and schedules).
On a first listen, you might pick and fall on something completely ambient and improvised or something very structured & very rhythmic, far from the style I may have been pigeonholed as. I try to care less and less about these things and focus on being true to my artistic path.
So it would be wrong for people to perceive it as quantity over quality, but that’s not something I can really control. It’s just because of the way I create, and the way I care to finish each body of work (in my opinion, with the same quality standards) and also because I get a lot of label offers that are hard to refuse.
– thisquietarmy is also a label (thisquietarmy records). How do you select the bands you work with nowadays ? How did you come out with the idea of the Dyptisch Series ? Who came up with the whole packaging idea ? Do you chose the photos included from Meryem Yildiz’s portfolio or does she shoot the actual photo after listening to the records ?
The people I work with are always friends, artists I meet on the road, or artists I admire. I do listen to demos, but it’s just not the same when you’ve already shared a connection in real life.
In 2008-2009, there wasn’t much activity with the label because some expansion plans fell through. I also felt that its identity was a bit scattered, especially on the packaging front.
I decided to create the Aural Diptych series to re-launch the label, which is based on the packaging that I designed for my own Europe tour CD in 2009, which included a mini-CDR and mini-DVDR, with photos inside an envelope. Instead, it would be two mini-CDRs to combine two artists (as a split release), splitting promotion and costs, while making an elaborative design. On top of that, it allowed me to collaborate with two of my best artist friends, Meryem and Elayne, for the photos and illustrations – all of the art (except the first one) was created after the music has been submitted, and was made specifically for the release. I take care of coordinating everything, giving them key words to define the artwork direction from the discussion I have with the artists about their music and song titles, as to gather the general concept. Then when I have everything, I start working on the whole design to try and make everything as cohesive as possible, which can be quite difficult to do with several mediums and styles of artwork, on top of being a split record.
– Is it easier to release albums on other labels when you run your own ? Is it the same motives that makes you run the label before now that you release your albums on other labels ? Would you consider releasing a new album of thisquietarmy on your label now ?
I don’t know if it’s easier to release albums on other labels when I run my own – not sure how it really relates. Though, it’s advantageous for an artist to have a sense of business and of what it takes to run a label, so you are able to evaluate what is being offered from other labels interested in releasing your works.
The motives are always the same as before – if anything, releasing my own music on the other labels will help to provide more exposure for mine and the artists involved. It’s always been about creating a platform and an exchanging community to help each other out.
As for a new thisquietarmy album on my own label, I would not do it if I feel that it deserves some better exposure, promotion and distribution than what I would be able to provide. Though, it’s nice to know that I can use my label as a last resort. I would also consider releasing special items with an elaborated packaging, or releases that I need to put out quickly – such as a tour CD for example.
– What is going on with your other projects : Destroy All Dreamers ? Mains De Givre ? What about hi_my_quiet_tsar and Ghidrah (collaboration with Aun and Maggot Breeder) ? How come you haven’t released much with these two projects (except a very limited 3″ and a compilation track with hmqt) ?
Destroyalldreamers is still somewhat fairly inactive, because of priorities and logistics. We made two great albums and two EPs, we’ve always wanted to make this 3rd studio album – kinda like Slowdive’s Pygmalion after Just for a Day and Souvlaki, but it has not happened unfortunately. We’ll keep trying.
Mains de Givre will probably release a second album on Lunasylum later this year. We have a couple of new tracks out on compilations from France’s Chez Kito Kat and Quebec’s Chat Blanc Records.
Parallel Lines, another tri-city side-project that you forgot to mention (with Ryan Ferguson & Pascal Asselin) will play its first official show under this name at the Under The Snow festival, March 11th with Sianspheric & Esses.
Ghidrah will play its first show in more than a year, this upcoming May. We haven’t released anything because none of the recording sessions were satisfying, unfortunately.
Hi my quiet tsar is a funny/bad anagram, maybe that’s why there’s not much output from that project. Though, I promised something to Brise-Cul, so… maybe a tape soon, as I have hours of recordings I need to sort out and work on… still really not sure about that name though.
– Your album first collaboration album with Aidan Baker “Orange” will be re-released shortly. Would you consider recording new material with him ? Is there anyone else in particular you’d like to work with ?
It will be re-released with bonus material from the same session, on Lunasylum (CD) and Orange Milk (LP). Sure, we’ll probably record something new at some point as we have a pretty good relationship and chemistry. We’ll be meeting again late spring for a European tour, dates have been booked for France, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia so far… still looking for more dates in Italy, Poland & Austria, among others. So maybe we’ll have the chance to record something then.
I’ve been approached by Lichens to work on something together, but it hasn’t concretized yet – I’d like for it to happen. Don’t really have any other wishes that comes to mind, though I think I’d be more open to collaborate on something else than ambient/experimental for a change.
– I have read somewhere that the way you write thisquietarmy is a hint to loveliescrushing. How did it feel to collaborate with Scott Cortez then ?
It’s still hard to believe it happened, since LLC is one of my biggest influence and inspiration for playing shoegaze music. I had fun getting to know him and picking his brain. We’ll probably collaborate again soon as we’re always throwing some crazy ideas out there. I’ve really enjoyed working with him, as he is really passionate about doing things conceptually, which is refreshing compared to most collaborations that are just winged out (with good results of course, but nonetheless).
– You use the social networks a lot. How does this help you ? What is the role of sites like twitter and facebook now in today’s independant scene ? Is myspace dead ?
It helps to interact and build a relationship with those who are interested in the music, and the people behind the music, to make spontaneous announcements or generate some constant interest. It’s a good way to let people know what is up, basically, in an exhibitionistic sort of way – such as sharing your creative process & productivity with people that are interested in what you do, not just the fans, but people from the media, promoters, bookers and other artists you respect.
Myspace (and also Virb) definitely shot themselves in the foot, the new design and functionalities are just horrible. With new platforms like Bandcamp and Soundcloud, in addition to Facebook and Twitter, it’s safe to say that Myspace will not be missed.
– What do you think of the current Montreal scene ? Which current Montreal bands would you recommend and why ?
Honestly, the current Montreal scene seems to be a bit stagnant at the moment – not just in the experimental scene, but also in the indie, punk, metal scenes and everything in between. We’re definitely in need of some fresh blood, but that’s kind of what Montreal is about (and we especially feel this way during the dreaded month of February, wrong timing for this question!): we get tired of everything once in a while, and so we retreat in our corners to try to come up with something exciting.
Photos by Bakt El Raalis