they trip us up
a place to bury strangers
interview by kenyon hopkin
The Brooklyn-based A Place to Bury Strangers has been jack-hammering a post-punk wall of noise-pop, while accomplishing the dream of opening for some of its biggest influences and bigger named peers- Jesus and Mary Chain, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Brian Jonestown Massacre. Their new album Exploding Head just hit the public and it's another mesmerizing assault. Leader Oliver Ackermann (guitar/vocals) began the killer rock n' roll in the mid-90s, with the formation of a previous, similar incarnation called Skywave, which released the distortion drenched Synthstatic in 2003. The other two members of Skywave continued with dream-noise-pop as Ceremony down in Virginia. In APTBS, Ackermann is joined by Jono MOFO (bass) and Jay Space (drums). They've been written up in the Washington Post and New York Times. And now, Oliver faces Advance Copy for his most ultimate, complex and challenging interview to date.
Advance Copy: You opened some dates for Nine Inch Nails. NINE INCH EFFING NAILS. HOW THE HELL DID THAT HAPPEN!? When that got confirmed, WERE YOU FLIPPING OUT OR WHAT? how did it all go?
Oliver: They asked us if we wanted to play the shows because they liked the band. It was really rad, I definitely used to blast the Pretty Hate Machine cassette in my Chevy Caprice in the sticks in VA all the time.
AC: Is the new record, Exploding Head, as crazy and effed up as you planned it to be?
Oliver: No it isn't, but I don't think that is a bad thing. I was planning on making it really really fucked up and then we kind of took it in a different direction as it was being recorded. That is the way I think any recording has always gone. A lot of the writing is done while you are recording it and I think that is crucial and lets the composition work with the sounds that are laid down on tape.
AC: Although we both have to admit the songs of the JAMC are timeless classics, dynamically and noise-wise, APTBS blew away JAMC at Webster Hall (New York). There was another band that played in between but they were forgettable. Respond to these statements please.
Oliver: I think the Jesus and Mary Chain may not care as much now. Also what they are doing isn't as unheard of now as it was back in the day so there must be less excitement for them to get into it. I don't remember blowing them away but you can say what you want.
everything's alrite when you're opening for jesus and mary chain. photo by kenyon.
AC: It's real difficult to hear the lyrics in your songs, especially live. i have no problem with this, but do you ever get criticized for that? Or do most people "get it"?
Oliver: I think some people like it and some people don't. I've definitely heard people complain about this. That is fine though because I am mostly just making music for myself, if other people enjoy it and it can help people out than that is all a bonus.
AC: Your previous band Skywave is essentially the same sound as the current band. Why the name change? Cause of different members? Strangers though is indeed more of a sonic assault.
Oliver: Skywave was a band with different members and in that band we were all writing different songs that would all make it on the albums. APTBS is pretty much just my writing style from that. The other guys from Skywave have formed the band Ceremony. I think all of these projects and songs sound different but I would bet that I have a different opinion of what this music sounds like than what other people would.
AC: Have you ever gotten any really shitty negative reviews? Can you tell me about one?
Oliver: Sure, I think people sometimes say that our music is really derivative of other stuff and it always cracks me up because if you were to look at the reviews of what these people thought were original it is always such a photocopy of something previous. I always want to hear something new and different and that is definitely a goal of mine when I record.
AC: Creating your own guitar effects pedals has got to be the most killer and potentially lucrative thing you've ever done. i think i want to buy one. But aren't you afraid of other bands being able to replicate your sound? Who exactly makes the pedals, you? i read that U2 used a pedal, is that true?!
Oliver: I love to build effect pedals and all of the money that is made from the business is spent to design more pedals, release friends' records, pay for rent and food. I don't like money and try to put as much back into the art and community of things going on around me. I'm not afraid of other bands being able to replicate our sounds, it is an honor to hear that people are using the pedals to realize the sounds that they want to create. I think a lot of the originality comes with how you use effects and songwriting. I make the pedals as well as a few other people who have really helped out as the company has expanded. I think U2 uses a bunch of the pedals, they bought them all and then reordered a few duplicates of some of the pedals I think for their tour.
AC: Up until signing to Mute [records], you definitely made some progress as far as getting better known, without the help of a decent-sized indie label. How did you do it? Without giving secrets away of course.
Oliver: I think you just have to do what you like to do. I like playing shows, writing songs, and recording music and I think all of this is important if you want to be in a band that people will hear about. Just do what you love and if people like it or they don't at least you will be doing what you think is cool. I think that is the secret to success with your own personal sanity.