Tuesday, 17th October 2017. 10:56:15am ET
Interviews Experimental, IDM, Glitch Interview- Rollerball
Band: Rollerball
Interviewer: Joshua Heinrich
Date: 6/1/04

After reviewing their excellent tenth album, Behind the Barber (read my review here), I was kindly presented with the opportunity to ask multi-genre experimentalists Rollerball some questions about their past, present, and future. The interview was a bit unorthodox, being pieced together from three separate interviews with bandmembers Mae Starr, S Deleon S, and Mini Wagonwheel. However, with the aid of scissors and a generous amount of tape, it somehow came together into a pretty cohesive interview that's both entertaining and informative (and I believe we all know the value of edutainment). Enjoy!

Hi! Thanks for doing the interview. It's finally starting to warm up over here in the northeast. Now it's just rainy. How are things over there in the northwest?

S Deleon S: My 7 month old kitten is in heat. I have a white chicken named Delphine who is brooding. Lucky (black and green hen) was killed by a racoon a month ago, and my two newest chicks have dirty vents. The broccoli has been served and the lettuce is delicious. The pumpkin patch was planted yesterday.

Mini: Green and sunny. This is a good time to visit the northwest.

Your sound obviously draws upon many different genres and styles. What are some of your influences?

S Deleon S: The more the better, video loops, random sound, birds, bands, computers, sex, love, other Rollerbrawlers...

Mae Starr: Some of my influences include, Fela, Sun Ra, califone, Point Line Plane, any music that you can really feel energy coming off of.

Mini: mingus, scratch perry, sonicyouth, can...all the usual stuff.

The amount of sonic experimentation found in your work would obviously be difficult to recreate live. How does your live sound or approach to playing live differ from your studio approach? Which do you find more fulfilling, the immediacy of playing live or recording and experimenting in the studio?

S Deleon S: We just seem to use the tools that are at our disposal. Allow oneself to be overcome, and just expand in the direction of the moment. I love art in the basement, studio, or on the street.

Mae Starr: As far as playing live to recording I like both. Recording is more of a slow process as to seeing what you've put into it come out in the final mix. Live is different every time. Sometimes you feel good for days sometimes you wish you could try again. Approaching either is different for all of us, mentally. Live playing can be so unforgiving so you have to prepare and focus for that. When we record we are usually at home so it's a lot more relaxed.

Mini: When playing live, I try to simplify my approach. One thing that makes playing live difficult is that most sound people have never heard us until sound check. We can be a hard mix because we switch instruments,and styles during a set. Bad sound is hard to overcome. In the end, either way, we are just trying to feel the music. The music always wins. I live in the studio, so I guess I would be more comfortable there.

When working on material, are most songs written in a traditional fashion, or do they come about through jamming and improvisation?

S Deleon S: We are trying to blur life, reality, art, instantaneous and composed music, with the current situation. A lyric here, a melody there, an overpowering emotion running through it.

Mae Starr: We seem to write different all the time. A lot is improvised but usually one of us will start an idea and then we all add our part. SLITs started with mini and expanded from there. Some of the songs are recorded sessions with friends in the basement and then they expand from that one moment. That has been a really great thing to invite our friends over, and just set up play to see what comes out. The people featured are all our friends and it really is the best to see which way the music goes with different people.

Mini: We will make a piece of music from anything. The best stuff comes from nowhere.

If I'm not mistaken, you started out as a power-pop group. How did you get from there to your current musical incarnation?

S Deleon S: We've always been freaks.

Mae Starr: I think one time one review said we were power pop. We used to have a different line up and when it wasn't flowing together we became a trio, just me, gilles, and mini, so out of that became the way we are now. We all wanted to participate in the music not just play someone's songs. So i suppose that's how we moved away from POWER POP?????

Mini: I don't think of it as power pop. I remember it as being more like rem/pixies/yo la tango kinda thing but whatever... We just try to stay inspired.

Your work definitely displays a great amount of skill and technical knowledge. Do the members of Rollerball have any academic background or classical training in music?

Mae Starr: I was trained as a classical pianist and majored in piano and voice for a few years in college. But I have definitely learned so much more about what music is by playing in Rollerball.

A fairly wide range of instruments and non-instruments were employed in making the new album. As a musician myself, I often find myself collecting odd instruments and non-instruments (like the back of an old metal chair I had lying around with a pair of drumsticks for a while) and usually find a way to incorporate them into something. Were some of the instruments and objects used on the album assembled in a similar random fashion in the spirit of impromptu experimentation, or were the instruments used on the album chosen carefully to achieve the sound you wanted?

S Deleon S: We all just collect ideas and instruments while out on tour, I'm always looking for that fond memory and good price. Recently at an Alabama flea market I bought a toy guitar synth and played it in the van until the batteries died, or the van died, I forget which died first. But they are both still dead.

Mini: I like to put a ton of shit on every song, and then when I mix it most of it isn't even in the mix. First we are random and then at mix down we are a little more careful.

Behind the Barber contains a number of noteworthy outside guest contributions ranging from Italy's OVO to Jackie-O Motherfucker's Jef Brown. How did these collaborations come about? Did they contact you as fans of your music interested in working together, or did you get in touch with them as fans of their work or because of an interest in expanding your sound?

S Deleon S: We've toured in Europe twice with Ovo and once here. On tour we sorta graft into one experience and it is usually masked, unsettling, and weird. In Croatia I was in a bunny suit sniffing Zagreb crotches in the club with Italian sax virtuoso in a tutu, Jacopo Andreini. So collaborations just happen through friendship and cherished experiences. Jef lives in Portland, and until recenty Brian Foote(Nudge) was in my neighborhood and we would session regularly.

Mae Starr: We asked jef to be on Slits because of his beautiful sax playing. We knew he would put all of it over the top. We see him all the time at the local music store. The best thing about living in an alive music community.

Ovo is crazy, we got set up to tour with them in Italy through HUP booking and we were a little afraid to go over seas and ride around in a van with complete strangers. You never know what you're going to get. And touring sometimes brings out the best and worst in people. SO we met Bruno and stefania, who are OVO, we were so torn apart to leave them when the tour was over. It was completely fate that we were placed with two amazing people and now they are our closest friends. Bruno says we are their American family. So they came here and toured with us. Every night we would rotate and one of us would sit in with OVO. We recorded when they were here and got to tour with them again a second time. They are really special people, I guess I have made that clear.

Mini: We are all friends.

Out of curiosity, what is the significance of the album's title?

S Deleon S: The studio is aligned with a salon, and we are giving only hot cuts!

Mae Starr: The barber is connected to where we live and play. We have to watch when we make noise ect. He is in our lives whether we want him there or not. The view on the cd is our porch and the lovely arbys fast food. I always wonder what he thinks when he hears us playing certain things. He pretty much plays the eagles all the time.

Your music, while obviously embracing sampling and electronic manipulation and experimentation, consistently maintains an organic vibe. Is this an aspect of your sound that you consciously tried to preserve while working on the album? Were there any special measures you took or techniques you used to make sure that the album's electronic side didn't overpower its organic side?

Mini: Mostly it comes down to personal taste. A lot of the source material was acoustic. I worked on the mic placement and stuff, just trying to get it right. Not much looping and smooth edits. A good take helps.

For those interested in recording and sound experimentation, could you elaborate a bit on the equipment, software, and techniques employed in manipulating and creating some of the sounds on the album? Was a lot of the sound manipulation done live or did you concentrate on the manipulation of recorded sounds?

Mini: Gilles has a universal audio 2-610 pre and some good mics and an otari 8 track. We mix down to stereo on my pc (sound forge). More overdubs and effects are added. Mae has a 4 track, some were done on that. Some were just stereo into the computer with two octava condensers. I really like those mics, for the price they can't be beat. I just fuck with it until I like it. Anything goes.

Where do you see Rollerball going next? Any plans at the moment for a tour of any sort or another album?

S Deleon S: Muddmakr and Surfactant Bleed have been diligently continuing to aurally record our band, and we are currently nearing completion of the next album. Rollerball will hopefully be doing an American and European tour with it early next year.

Rollerball also have a docucomedy called "Subtle Adjustments" that will be having it's world premiere on August 14th at a music festival outside of Portland, and will also be on DVD with the complete videos, and more.

Mae Starr: I see rollerball growing and growing, we are learning to adjust to change and just go with the flow of life. We hope to go to europe again in the future. Just to keep producing powerful emotive music is all I want.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

S Deleon S: Change the Regime, be creative, help kids and old people.

Thanks again for doing the interview. Best of luck with the new album!

 

Silber Records: www.silbermedia.com

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