interview by Jim Beckmann
photos by Chad Syme
Having slayed the crowd at Glastonbury last year *and* accepted an invitation to play at the prestigious Rachel Ray SxSW 2008 party, Holy Fuck can be called a fairly new band but hardly a rising one — they’ve risen. Bands who go for the “shock name” tactic are usually a bunch of crusty punks in arrested development, and the name is the most interesting thing about them (see: Lubricated Goat, and — ahh, too many others to even begin listing). Toss aside any bias here, though — Holy Fuck make jagged, gloriously 3-D soundscapes, and a pair of two live drummers hold it together when the gaggle of electronics threaten to take over the musical asylum. Overwhelming for some listeners at first, Holy Fuck get even better with repeated listens. Carefully crafted or a whirling mass of pleasing accidents? Decide for yourself by listening to their exclusive set live on KEXP.
KEXP: Obviously what people won’t see on the radio, you have a couple of things going on visually, one thing is you guys face each other. The rhythm section is pretty locked together. What brought that on?
HF: It just sucks, if you can’t see each other, you need visual cues when you’re up there.
HF: We just look at each other when we’re going to change things.
HF: If someone messes up, you get the stink eye. [All laugh]
HF: I guess it’s mainly for if you want to try something different, you got to cue that to each other.
HF: It’s a multifaceted thing.
KEXP: Improvisation is a pretty big thing for you guys? At least it was originally, is that still true?
HF: Yeah, I try to play differently every day. That’s the fun about showing up, this music especially. Certainly some things work better than others. You find those things you can sneak in there.
HF: And if it’s good enough, you probably keep doing it.
HF: It’s like that Ornette Coleman style, if you mess up… “Oh that sounds good. Let’s keep it.”
KEXP: Does it affect the dynamic in a club or anything?
HF: Well it does affect it with the crowd. There’s some moment that will build and the crowd is just loving it, so we’ll extend that and keep it going and we’ll wait for the crowd to guide us.
HF: And the energy we’re receiving from the audience will reflect the energy we’ll send back.
KEXP: But you also don’t face the audience either….
HF: Not in the traditional sense, but you’re aware, you definitely pick up on the vibe. That’s what we were worried about today but the people were giving us some energy.
HF: Yeah, I was really getting into it. It was fantastic.
KEXP: Going back to the improvisation thing. When you have to record an album, do you record it live? Is that how you usually lay it down?
HF: Yeah. So far, as I know, there isn’t much a separation in the process. You just try to play it well then lay it down.
HF: Some songs we wouldn’t even attempt to record until we’ve done them enough, live, and worked out the kinks. But there’s one song where the first time we ever did it ever (Latin) it’s the best version we’ve ever done. And we’ve never done it as good since! [All laugh]
KEXP: And you didn’t record it??
HF: No, we still laugh about it. [All laugh]
HF: But we remember it though.
HF: Yeah we’re still trying to recapture that though.
KEXP: So the other thing the radio audience doesn’t see is the instrumentation. You don’t use computers.
HF: No drum machines.
KEXP: That’s obviously a conscious decision. Is it something you plan to maintain? Is that a philosophy?
HF: I don’t know, it’s been a bit of a debate.
HF: I don’t think it’s going to be hardcore, like we’re not trying to make a stance or anything. I envision a time potentially when we might have samplers. Those old drum machines are awesome. They sound really cool.
HF: It would have to just be a natural thing we bring into the band. And only if we think it sounds cool. I don’t want to get stuck in the “we’re goofy guys, we play toy keyboards!” thing. [All laugh] “We make wacky dance music!”
HF: Yeah, whatever keeps it from being limited. That’s just the way it’s been.
HF: I guess some of the limitations are what result in the cool stuff.
KEXP: And I guess it would loose a little bit in the improvisation right?
HF: It could. In a way we have sort of got our structure, our way of creating music. And within that, maybe we can use whatever we want.
KEXP: Yeah, what was up with that 35mm film thing? Does that actually do anything?
HF: Everything has a purpose!
HF: Yeah, that’s Bryan’s thing. He was an assistant film editor at the time. And that was a piece of equipment he would notice would make a [makes warbled film projector noise] thing. He thought it would be neat to sort of add in a song.
KEXP: Yeah, that’s your wacky gadget.
HF: That’s the wacky gadget!
KEXP: So what are you up to next?
KEXP: Then are you playing shows?
HF: Yeah, we’re still on tour. We’ve some things on the East Coast. Europe. Then back out to the west coast for Coachella then back to the East Coast. It’s like a big ampersand.
KEXP: Great and good luck.