Litany: Interview Archive

???. "Dead Voices on Air." Invein, 1 April 1998.

Mark Spybey is a man of many talents. He dazzles us from his many projects, ranging from Spasm, to his older work with Download, to Propeller, to his home-base Dead Voices on Air. I was given the honor of some of his time, to speak to him and get a better feeling about where he comes from, where he is now, and where he's going. This interview took place on April 1st, 1998 in Washington, DC at the Lowest of the Low tour date at the Capital Ballroom. I extend my apologies in the time it took to put up this interview, but I think it's well worth it. Sit back, relax, and enjoy.

INVEIN: So you've just released the versus cd with Not Breathing. How did that project come about and evolve?

Spybey: It was really simple really. When Not Breathing signed to Invisible I received a copy of their cd and I really liked it. Then David Wright called me out of the blue and over the period of a month or so we became friends over the telephone and the internet, and then he sent me stuff and said "Let's do something together!" He does things with everyone you know, he's quite productive. And we have an affinity, in that i think that when I hear them play live they're expressing some of the things that I probably can't do, and we really like each other's sound. It seems that there's a really common ground between us, and we did the record just through the mail, and really liked what we did. It's quite nice.

INVEIN: Are you planning on doing any more?

Spybey: Yeah we're working on another one. We started it as soon as we finished the other one. We havent gotten very far, but we're in the process of working on it.

INVEIN: I was just at your updated website recently, and I read that there were two new Propeller releases?

Spybey: Yeah!

INVEIN: Are they available now?

Spybey: Yeah they are!

INVEIN: What label are they on?

Spybey: Scratch..it's a rather small label. Distribution is small also.

INVEIN: So where do you draw the line as far as what you expect out of yourself for Dead Voices on Air, and what you expect for Propeller?

Spybey: Well, the story behind Propeller is that about 3 years ago I was asked to submit a piece for a cd-rom project and instead of just going through something I'd done, I did something new. That's how it happened. I started that and really enjoyed the process, so I did more and more and more. But the album ended up having 34 tracks. Very immense sound. I just wanted to express things in the shortest period as possible. I've always been fond of disposable music, you know music..it's almost like disposable pop music. It's sort of like my pop album.

INVEIN: So the new album is a double-cd, "Piss Frond" correct? &nb sp;

Spybey: Yes.

INVEIN: I was reading about it, and it said that the first cd would contain "songs," and the second would contain pieces? So what is the difference with you between the two?

Spybey: it is very simple. There are some that are songs...voice, music, lyrics, song structure. That is a song. A track, a piece whatever. I mean typically my music has been instrumental, but i use words and voices alot. But this is the cloest that I've personally come to making things that are really pop songs. There's really 4 or 5 of the pieces that have those sort of structures. And my feeling is that i just want to do it. The next album might be you know, me masturbating against a sampler. (laugh) I don't know. But I'm really into songs right now, trying to explore songs with my work.

INVEIN: Do you see Dead Voices on Air evolving to a total song structure sound?

Spybey: All I see it evolving into right now, is more of a live band, instead of the context of what I'm doing right now. On this tour we're getting 30 minutes and under shows, and there's not much you can actually do. And the amount of time is so small that you can just give people a brief overview of what you're doing. What I can actually see this evolving into right now is a live band. There are several people that are going to be involved and one is Ryan from the Pink Dots, and he's going to play accoustic drums. And my friend Darryl, who's a producer, is going to play electronic drums, you know triggers and samples, and we're going to have some vocals and moog basslines. And then I'm going to be doing my thing. So all I want to do right now is develop this into a live band, like 5 or 6 piece live band. Which orchestrates what I'm doing right now. But I have so many opportunities to express myself and so many different ways and so many people that I really can do whatever I want to do.

INVEIN: Has Invisible been good about giving you freedom to expand what you want to do?

Spybey: Second to None! They've never questioned any single thing I've done. Musically, artisically, or whatever. Everything I've done is accepted and released in it's entirety. I think that's rare from what is normally practiced.

INVEIN: Yeah considering how abusive some record labels can be.

Spybey: Oh yeah...yes.

INVEIN: So New Words Machine was on Hypnotic. Why?

Spybey: Well it's real simple. What happened is that was the first that I recorded. And I licensed it to this guy in Toronto, he had a record company that went bust. So he licensed it to Cleopatra. So at the same time, or just after I signed my product to Invisible. So I licensed this one product to Cleopatra, and that was my involvement with Cleopatra. And I forget but I think Hafted Maul came out first, which breaks the actual series, it was supposed to start with New Words Machine and then Hafted Maul.

INVEIN: So as far as the many things you've been involved in...Spasm, :Zoviet France:, when did you actually begin getting involved with music?

Spybey: Probably last week. Heh. I don't really know really. Before I started DVOA in 1992 I was never comitted to what I was doing. I was in Zoviet France, but it never felt like I was a part of it. Nobody had ever heard of us in England, so it was never a big deal. I've been involved in music back since when I was 13 or 14 and I think that it was a benefit to me, to be around all sorts of different bands. It adds a sense of discipline to your work, you know work ethic. And you know, since 1992 I've been pretty much focused on what I'm doing. But it just gets more and more, harder and harder, time wise.

INVEIN: I'm sure you get sick of being asked this, but which is your favorite of all of your releases?

Spybey: It's always the thing that I"m working on at the moment. You know I rarely listen to the music that I've done in the past, I'll do it occasionally when I'm getting ready to play live. I'm usually into what I'm doing right now. I'm not...

( Not Breathing returns to the bus after finishing a set. Mark speaks to Dave Wright who had just completed his set "That was interesting music you played out there. Yeah I liked it alot." - Spybey. "It was fun. Because what happened, like so many times before, you start everything is crystal clear, and then it gets rough."-Dave "It's like the rain, you miss the best rain storm whenever you are playing."- Spybey A bad rain storm was occurring at the time)

INVEIN: One thing I've always wondered about, and I've read and heard things, but when you're about to make a piece, is there any set way you produce it? How do you decide which tools you use?

Spybey: You know it's tangent. I likely would have given you a much simpler answer a few months ago. But usually the way that it starts, is me jsut messing around with a sound. I'm really lazy, so if I find something I like, I'll just lay it straight to type. I'll reprocess it and work with it and such. So there's really no sort of organized structure to it, beyond finding a sound, playing with the process, and then layering it. But I've started to work with a producer who will take things that I've done and add other things to it. And for me it's alot like working on something by mail. And that's really nice, it's really nice to do that.

INVEIN: So I heard of a japanese cassette release that you had made..that was going to be released in some Drum n' Bass mixes?

Spybey: Well you've got that a bit confused, I'd like to release that on cd. But it's only 38 minutes long, and I think that's rather unfair, but the mixing won't work right to do the Drum n' Bass mixes. So I don't know what's going to happen with that right now, as well as the drum n'bass stuff that I've worked on that.. I'm definitely more interested in working with more people who are into creating rhythm, because it's something that I don't really do myself.

INVEIN: So how did you get involved with the LAB and the internet broadcasts?

Spybey: Well I know the main guy behind, Steven Collins, and he's a long time friend of Curse Mackey's. And I'd met Steven a couple times in chicago, and we talked about setting it up. And I was joking about him, at the show with Test Dept at Dome Room awhile back. So he said to me "would you like to do a show on this thing" and I said I'd like it to be over 10 hours, and he said sure. So over 4 or 5 months we set it up, and it was real good quality sound. It's even been a lot better since we did that, because of the new equipment they have. And I invented David Wright, and Dave, and Eric Pounder to play with me..

INVEIN: Was there a good response to that?

Spybey: I think there were nearly a thousand people logged on, and it was literally from all over the world

INVEIN: Do you ever get any propositions for remixing or working with people?

Spybey: Nooo. I never get any propositions for remixing...

INVEIN: Because the thing is, tons of friends of mine who are into your music, and work with similiar noisey type stuff, are just dying to have your hand at their music. What do you say to maybe touching some amateur music in the future?

Spybey: (Laugh) Well...the only problem I have with that is that I"m just so busy. I do other things besides make music, but I'd find it hard to clear the time to do that. Unfortunately, I already know that I have enough work to know that I am tied up for a given period of time.

INVEIN: I'm sure you've been bothered about this..but you left Download..and from what I've heard you wanted to spend more time working on your own stuff?

Spybey: Yeah..

INVEIN: Was there any hard feelings involved in it?

Spybey: No...I've tried...but..the whole history of Download was littered with accidental happenings. There was never visage, that it was a band. You know I'm sure, somebody decided it was at some point. But there was so much coming and going of people, and it was really only Cevin and I that were the stable members, the sort of nucleus. And by the end of that tour where we had spent 4 months together, and at the end of that tour I had no more motivation to make another download record. I was just so tired of the process of doing that kind of thing, and I wanted to take time off from it. The motivation never came back to me, and I wanted to work on what I was doing. So I started that process last January, and recorded the basis of Piss Front back then. The decision for me to leave was mutual, they were going in a direction where they didn't feel that my "aggression" or "passion" in what I do, contributed to their wants, and I certainly wasn't interested in being an accessory to minimal techno music. I didn't feel able to do it. It's that simple.

INVEIN: I'm assuming you've heard, III ?

Spybey: No I haven't actually. I heard some in the studio when it was being made.

INVEIN: Basically what I get is that it's minimal techno yes, and that the feeling isn't there without you. Do you feel that could be the case? I mean if you sat down and heard what they'd been working on before you touched anything, how did you feel about it before...

Spybey: Well..that wouldn't be fair for me to...well I couldn't simply aggree with you, but you know what I would say, is that when I used to go down to the studio, and they'd be working on III, it was clear that they weren't looking for the stanely pain aggression, and I thought that was a great mistake because the eyes of stanley pain was doing very well at the time. You know there we were..and we had sort of formula going, and I'm thinking "Why don't we explore that?" I would have wanted to do that, I would have wanted to take that sort of manaical thing to another level. I"m certainly not going to change the way I am, I don't think I'm a very mellow sort of person. I'm not really interested in music that tries to "chill people out," or "escape" from things. It's drivel to me, and I'm not saying that's what it's about, but I'm not interested in hippie chill out music. I'm interested in music that's confrontational, or that has got some sort of like undercurrent to it, so that you're not neccessarily sure of what's going on.

INVEIN: Yeah like not something to get high to...

Spybey: Yeah yeah..and that's a general thing in music anyway. The reason why that whole ambient scene turned me off eventually, because it was primarily associated with people who just wanted to take drugs and go to sleep. That to me is a waste of music.

INVEIN: Do any of your albums, beyond HHH, do any of the albums have concepts?

Spybey: Well there is a concept, and this is what I would say to you, and the first time I heard this said when someone was asking a friend of mine "Do your films have a literary meaning?" He said "of course they do, but I'm not going to tell you what it is, because if I did, I'd destroy your perception of them." I could give you a very literate reasoning to some of the thigns I've done, in my point of view, but I won't , because what I'm trying to do is allow your inventiveness as a listener to be your driving force in listening to it. This why I was even loathed to write about techniques I use, not because I'm afraid people will copy them because they're not all unique, but because it mystifies what you do.

INVEIN: The magician never reveals his secrets?

(laugh)

Spybey: Well..but I just thing that sometimes it can spoil the audience's perception of the music.

INVEIN: Do you feel you'll continue doing this to the grave?

Spybey: I don't know really..I've never felt particulary attached to it. In the moment I'm feeling more into it than I ever had before, due to the opportunities I'm getting being in a situation like this..and the people I can work with. I'm presented with all sorts of opportunities to develop what I'm doing, so as long as i feel that I've got potential to continue, and there's been many times I've felt like packing it in and just reading books or what not.

INVEIN: So what would you tell someone picking up your cd...

Spybey: You know that's real hard, I'm a terrible salesman of my own product. I just think that you should expect a bumpy ride..you know it's like being on an airplane with turbulance. It's something you can't avoid. There are going to be times you think it's so irritating it's hurting, or this is so boring it's mind-numbing, or there's something going on here that's really quite scary. Not that I try to do those things, but it's just what people tell me.

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