“There is nothing like fucked up crazy rock and roll so that is what we are here to make.”
We caught up with a reflective Oliver Ackermann from Brooklyn’s A Place To Bury Strangers soon after they were confirmed for this year’s NXNE. A full feature on the noise-punks appears in our magazine – check out the free physical or digital copies – but here’s the unedited transcript of our little chat, taken on some downtime during their recent European tour…
Q. Having come from a DIY background, how do you manage your expectations as one of the bigger indie bands around? Are you taken back by your relative success at all or do you look to build on your status?
That is funny, I don’t really think of us as one of the biggest indie bands around. At times I feel like throwing in the towel and not ever touring again because I feel like we are unappreciated. We get a lot of bad reviews and it really hurts personally. We spend so much time working on creating something really interesting and unique then people write it off because of some reasons I am not sure.
Q. Do you ever feel you’re compromising anything sonically by being so loud? Equally, do you feel people overlook some aspects of the band due to this reputation?
We are so loud because we are not compromising what we want to do. Sometimes there are restrictions and we can’t be as loud as we want and that is really strange because the sounds that we are making is made from the speakers being on the verge of destruction. When this is going on the vibrations play off of the guitars and it creates our sound. The guitars I use have very little sustain and that point in-between where they sustain and don’t is where I play guitar. This is achieved with an amplifier that is very loud. I think being described as very loud definitely distracts from other aspects of the band but I don’t care. If people are listening to music based on descriptions I think they probably aren’t listening to the music anyways.
Q. ‘Exploding Head’ verged on being surprisingly melodic. Can we expect a similar direction from your new, self-produced album? And does the sound in your head when writing/recording ever match what you’re able to lay down? Or is it completely impressionistic?
The new record has a lot of melody on it as well. I think I have always been in love with melody and old pop music so it really does come through in our song writing. That being said we really went back to the way we did the first record where we really didn’t give a fuck. We were just going to create something we thought sounded cool and approach it and create it any way that we could. I can match sounds and make them what we want but I get a lot more excited about things that I am not ever able to replicate. We spent a lot of time on this record putting ourselves in dangerous situations, like playing with knives, lighting amps on fire while recording, etc to give the album a feeling of danger and excitement. I realized at some point that it almost doesn’t matter what recording techniques you use to record a record as long as the feeling is there. I have heard plenty of good songs recorded by kids on their four tracks with Radio Shack microphones.
Q. For me there’s an element of rock and roll mythology about APTBS (“loudest band ever”, imposing name, really worthy influences etc) which places you at end of a lineage of seminal bands. Do you ever feel your music is stylistically nostalgic or referential? Or do you approach each release with a forward-thinking/year zero/clean slate approach?
I mean it must be referential because I am a person who likes things and my experiences must get retransmitted out through our music. It is not done on purpose and in fact we try not to do anything we have heard before but we are not going to do something just for the sake of it. We are creating music that we want to hear and we don’t focus on what other people think or would want and I think this makes the creation of our music pure. So being someone who likes to hear something different and new we are always approaching everything we can with a new and fresh perspective. But don’t get me wrong, there is nothing like fucked up crazy rock and roll so that is what we are here to make.