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Larvae Interview; Nation of Bling
Monday, October 18 2004 @ 02:45 PM PDT
Contributed by: Malahki Thorn

Larvae Interview

Heathen Harvest:  Can you start by telling us how Larvae began?

Matt Jeanes: The band started as a project that I wanted to do. I was in another band in about 1997 and wanted to try experimenting with different sounds so I needed a new project to do that with. So that's basically how it started. I just started working with what I wanted to do. I wanted to do my own take on drum and bass. So I cut out all the rules from drum and bass and started playing with them.

HH:  Who are the current band members?

MJ: It's me and a guy named Chris Burnett and Bryan Meng. Chris works with me on the music and Brian works with me on the video.

HH:  What was your previous musical experience or involvements before Larvae?

MJ:  Well, I had been in a couple bands before this. I was in a band back when I was in high school. That was the first thing I did. In college I was in a band with a couple friends of mine, Brian included who is still currently in Larvae. We did that all through college until about 1997 then that teetered out. So then I began work on Larvae. But it's all very DIY and self taught. I don't have any true musical training or anything like that. You know it's all just been buying gear and figurine out how to do it.

HH:  Can you tell us how you came about choosing Larvae for the bands name?

MJ:  Yeah, it was actually a joke at first. It's based on two things. One is the Godzilla movie that has Mothura. Mothura starts off as a larvae and I thought Larvae would be good a name since it was a new project for me and sort of a new kind of birth. It was also kind of homage to Godflesh because they did a song called Mothura. They make really heavy music and I liked that they made a song out of such a cheesy movie. I always wanted to keep a little bit of a sense of humor in what I was doing. And that's where it came from.

HH:  Larvae are based out of Atlanta , Georgia . Do you see the bands sound as being influenced by living in the southern United States ?

MJ:  Yeah I think so. I have not spent much time in the Northeast United States since I was a kid. Since I have been on tour I've noticed that the South does have a slower pace and it's more spread out. There's still a lot of people but everything is more spread out. It's not as congested as say other places like Pittsburgh , Toronto , or Philadelphia . It's like people stacked on top of people, buildings sit just two feet apart. Before this tour I may have said "Yeah I don't take anything in from around my surroundings when creating music.” But the problem is a certain amount of space and stillness is part of our music that comes from living in a place that is a little slower and a little more laid-back unlike a place like this ( Toronto Canada ).

HH:  While listening to your music I have detected what could be called African-American music influences, even hip hop influence. The South is much more racially integrated than parts of the rest of America such as the Midwest . Have you found that living in such a more racially integrated part of the state has helped you integrate sounds and influences into industrial music that are normally found their?

MJ:  Yeah probably. I have always just kind of gravitated toward that music. The first record I remember ever buying for myself was a soundtrack to the movie beat street. It was like 1984 or something like that. And from then on I've always loved electronic music with the kind of funky feel. A little more soul, a little more humanity, and a little less robotic. So I've always really got into that sort of stuff it was really completely a-cultural to me. It was a sound and I liked. It had nothing to do with the lyrics or the style or fashion of it. I just really grooved on the sound when I was a kid. Growing up there is obviously a lot of cultural things attached to that type of music. It's definitely somewhat split along racial lines in some places. I don't know how much it really affects what I am writing so much as it's just a sound that I like. I do live in a place that is totally saturated with hip hop and I've always liked that. I'm actually probably more into that then I am atypical industrial music. It's definitely a natural thing for me to work with that instead of pounding, robotic, mechanical rhythms. I mean it has its place but it is just not what I like to do.

HH:  I can definitely understand how pounding beats and mechanical music and burn you out after awhile.

MJ:  The first band that I was ever in was very electronic, synth, techno, and industrial. It was very derivative of all of the musical stuff that was going on in the early 90's. I kind of burned out on that in college where I just realized there was more to life than strapping on your boots every day, being pissed off at everybody and just screaming at the top your lungs and distorting everything. I just gradually grew away from all that. I've begun to embrace a lot of things that are not fundamental tenets of this scene.

HH:  I have to mention that your what I the only people I scene attending the concert not dressed in black from head to toe other than myself. Is that part of the title of the most recent Larvae album "Fashion Victim?”

MJ:  That was born more out of my frustration with people in Atlanta Georgia . You know people I've been around and just mass culture and their fixation on image, style, and way over substance. I didn't necessarily think about it in the context of the industrial music scene because I didn't think of myself as an industrial music artist. I still don't. So it's funny to be playing a place, or even a whole tour for crowds that have really absorbed one kind of niche or social / cultural fashion sense. You know there are all the signifiers of this subculture everywhere we go. And every time we go somewhere, Chris and I really don't look like the rest of the people. You know the title's really funny it is appropriate in ways I had never anticipated. I initially meant for it to be a kind of a play on words. Because I lived with a makeup artist for a couple of years. And just seeing her and all the people she was around, they had a very weird, very superficial approach to the kind of people they accepted. To me Fashion Victim was not about pointing at someone and saying that person is a fashion victim because of what they are wearing. It was more like the people who are the doing the pointing are prisoners of their own circular thinking.

HH:  Larvae has changed the post industrial musical landscape by blurring genres and musical elements from an array of influences. How has this new approach been received in the industrial music community?

MJ:  It has been received fairly well actually. I was very nervous and skeptical about the tour. It has been so many years since I have been to clubs were people have piercings, and tattoos, and Mohawks, and eye liner. I mean I have nothing against that. But I did that when I was seventeen. I am twenty eight now and I have not been doing that for more than seven or eight years now. It's just kind of weird being back in that environment. I'm not sure how people will respond to the music but so far it's been pretty good. So far people have been very open-minded. Especially with all the stuff that we are doing with the music and videos combined. Conceptually maybe this isn't the type of record they would put on all the time. But I hope it is something they'd give a chance to because we are plugging away at it about as hard as we can.

HH:  Larvae's music is difficult to categorize as it draws upon so many diverse influences. How do you go about composing the music and writing the songs?

MJ:  The songs are usually born out of some type of idea. I do not just sit down and try to come up with a cool beat or try and make a cool break line. I don't even have plans for whether a song is going to be fast or slow or if it's going to be a club hit. Usually my songs come out of some type of idea. So, I might be thinking of some type of form of social protest or I might be thinking about driving in Atlanta traffic or something like that. And a lot of those things inevitably kick start some sort of memory. A lot of it is just tinkering around trying to find the right samples and the right sounds and maybe three weeks later the song will be done. I'm not always in the same state of mind when I finish it as when I started it. But the whole thing eventually ends up being a reflection of what I originally started dealing with. There's really no one way to construct a song. Sometimes Chris will send me sounds and I'll just figure out some way to incorporate them into something. Sometimes I will just start from scratch. There's really no other rule other then when the inspiration hits that's when you work on it.

HH:  The music of Larvae stretches from one end of the spectrum to the other. On Fashion Victim songs range from mellow trip hop grooves to intense industrialized break beat tracks. Most bands do not give themselves such freedom when composing. What makes Larvae different?

MJ:  It was really a reaction to the way I started the project. When I started the project I wanted to force myself to use certain rules that were not common in the musical system of drum and bass. I had always written pop songs before and been in pop bands before. I wanted to begin by making drum and bass and I wanted to make it right. I wanted to make it the way people expected it to be made but I figured even if I followed the rules to the letter something about my take on it would still different. I did that for several years and finely I got really tired of trying to figure out how to make this song have this particular structure. How to have a DJ lead it, how to have melodrama, how to have breaks. All the things that have to be there for people to be able to say OK this is what this music is. It was kind of like just a very liberating experience. I had spoken with Nicholas from Ad Noiseam and he said go ahead and do whatever you want. I just started writing songs. There are definitely songs on the record that three years ago I would've never called a Larvae song because I didn't get my idea of what Larvae had to be. I just kind of threw all those expectations out the window and wrote the record.

HH:  Do you attempt to explore specific themes or ideas through the music of Larvae or is your intention to allow the listener to create their own interpretation?

MJ: I don't subscribe to the open interpretation idea. Because I think the artists usually use that as a copout to say people can take whatever they want from my music. If that were the case there would clearly be no point in me making music. I use the music as a way to communicate with people. I don't expect that a person is going to hear an abstract song with just some beats and noises and they're going to get some very detailed theoretical message from it. But I'm hoping those that like the music enough will think about the title, look at the artwork, and visit the web site. There are many tangible ways that the music and message can be accessed. Not just through the music. So the music is kind of like a greeting card. People will hopefully just listen to it and like it at face value or find something in it that interests them. And if they're interested I would hope there was some way I could create a dialogue with these people.

HH:  Larvae also have some involvement with various multi-media projects. Can you discuss your interest in video and film?

MJ: Music happens to be the easiest way for me to get ideas out and to be creative and feel fulfilled in doing that. But it's not necessarily the only way I like to approach creativity. I use to try painting but I wasn't really that good at it. I tried video for a while then I went to music. Now I am trying to go back into some music and video stuff. Just because there are ideas that are better communicated in different Medias. We've done some projects that are very specific to physical sites and are very conceptual and involve a very long process of site-specific installation. Then we do stuff like the tour where we basically edit videos together to accompany the songs. I really feel it's kind of necessary to have some type of visual element with the music of Larvae.

HH:  Fashion Victim is being distributed by Ad Noiseam Records. Can you discuss your working relationship with Ad Noiseam and how you came about working together?

MJ: I had been aware of the label for a while. But I hadn't really sent out any demos are anything like that for years. Finally I wrote some songs that I felt were good enough for somebody to hear so I just sent Nicholas two songs on a CD-R. It wasn't sent as an actual demo so much as I just wanted to get his feedback because I knew he wrote reviews and stuff like that. I sent him two songs and he contacted me and said wow this is really good I'd like to hear more. I used to run a label to, so I knew that meant he was somewhat interested in what I was doing. So I put together some more stuff and sent it to him. He was into it and immediately wanted it to be an album or put out something. And so far it's been great. I've been given the freedom to do whatever I wanted to do. There haven't been expectations that the music has to be dark or menacing. It could be whatever we wanted to do, with the confidence that we had the artistic creativity to create something worthwhile.

HH:  Ad Noiseam is a French / German label that is fairly well known for producing stunning industrial / electronic artists. Do you feel as if your music is reaching a wider international audience then if you had pursued working with a label within the US ?

MJ: Yes definitely. The joke we always tell people is that we are big in Germany . I run a label as well and it is very difficult to get your music heard across the Atlantic . And it's even harder to get people in a different country who speak a different language to understand what you're trying to do. And then you're expecting them to take a chance on a new artist and a new release that they've possibly never heard. So the fact that he's already over there and has established distributors here and over there and has connections is perfect. This means people on both sides of the Atlantic get an idea of what were doing. It's much better than if I tried to do it myself.

HH:  Larvae are currently touring with Needle Sharing from Germany . What brought about your touring together?

MJ: It was all Nicholas's idea. He is good friends with Rollin from Needle Sharing and Needle Sharing has a new record coming out in May. Nicholas knew it was time for Needle Sharing to tour again. Our record came out last October so it was definitely time for us to do something. It was a really good opportunity to get two bands together. Needle Sharing is more on the side of drum and bass than the industrial side. He sort of has one foot out of the grave so to speak. And we are probably both feet out. It's a good way to stretch people who might not already be into this stuff.

HH:  On the Larvae website you have a blog in the 'Think” link. You share many thoughts and opinions both personal and political. Many artists in today's music world come under attack from extremists for expressing political views. What prompts you to be so candid and open a window into your personal thoughts and reflections?

MJ: It's really just a reflection of the music. The only reason I do any of this is to communicate. I feel like our society is very isolating expressly to someone who does not buy into the consume equals happiness equation. So since I'm not an avid person that goes to the mall every weekend to buy lots of things and so fill my life up with things that make me happy. I have to find another way to find some sort of meaning in my life . For me it is communicating with people and creating some type of dialogue with people. I imagine there's a good amount of stuff that I will probably write about that is going to piss somebody off. I'm not doing it to make friends, I'm not campaigning, and I don't really have any ulterior motives. It's just a matter of starting a dialogue. The best response I get is when someone e-mails me or writes me and says I read this thing up on your web site and I agree or disagree. Either way a dialogue has been started.

HH:  I would like to thank you on behalf of Heathen Harvest for your time today and I wish you the best of luck on your current tour.


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