Controlled Bleeding: welcome to our world of intuition.
Addentrarsi nel mondo dei Controlled Bleeding significa entrare a contatto con uno dei gruppi che sul finire degli anni Settanta ha scritto la storia della scena newyorkese. La formazione che è stata da molti indicata come una delle iniziatrici dell’industrial americano è in realtà molto più complessa ed articolata nella proposta e nei risultati di quanto si possa credere. Al tempo in cui intervistai Paul Lemos per INDUSTRIAL [r]EVOLUTION mi accorsi subito di quanto ci fosse da scavare in profondo per cogliere appieno le mille sfumature di un gruppo che si è mosso tra dub, industrial, free jazz, sperimentazione, ambient, senza mai farsi intrappolare dai generi e dalle scene. All’inizio degli anni Duemila Joe Papa e Chris Moriarty muoiono lasciando solo Paul Lemos. Sembrava che fosse giunta la parola fine sul gruppo, ma dopo un po’ di tempo, Paul decide di proseguire.
Dopo il già pregevole “Larva Lumps And Baby Bumps” del 2016, il nuovissimo “Carving Songs” (Artoffact) è un album in cui Lemos ha chiamato a raccolta una sporca dozzina di fenomenali manipolatori d’assalto, con nomi da far tremare le vene e i polsi come Merzbow, Justin K.Broadrick, Le Syndicat, Ramleh e il nostro Matteo “Sparkle In Grey” Uggeri. Un album che ho avuto l’onore di ascoltare in anteprima e che restituisce dei Controlled Bleeding ben proiettati in avanti, con energia e chiarezza di idee. Paul è un insegnante, questo suo lato mi ha sempre affascinato e dalle sue risposte in lingua originale si possano assaporare ancora meglio gli affascinanti percorsi logici che guidano oggi i Controlled Bleeding.
Controlled Bleeding, one of the most important and interesting act from late ’70 in NYC. Industrial, experimental, free jazz, whatelse? It’s hard to put a label on this amazing act, better to listen to their new album, “Carving Songs”. Please welcome Paul Lemos, mastermind and founder: nobody could be better than him in describing this new work. I had the pleasure to talk with him long time ago when I wrote “INDUSTRIAL [r]EVOLUTION”, and I had the same pleasure a couple of days ago.
I[r]: It’s a pleasure to meet Controlled Bleeding’s name on the list of the new release. In 2016 it was “Larva Lumps & Baby Bumps”, and now “Carving Songs”. Why did you choose to come back with your iconic project?
Well, my band-mates, Chis and Joe, died within two years of each other, leaving me behind to figure out how to proceed… It took awhile to find my bearings again and embark on new recordings. Controlled Bleeding never really went away; it just took some time to reorganize and find the right line up for the next phase of our evolution… Initially, I began working with my old drummer from 30 years ago, Tony Meola, and found great pleasure in returning to being a guitar player and playing vigorous, prog inspired pieces with him… As the music evolved over many months, we added Mike Bazini and Chvad SB to the group at various times and played a number of live shows in NYC and Brooklyn shitholes, where no one knew the history of our music or had much interest in it…After this humbling experience, we reoriented our focus on studio recordings and abandoned live performance. Over time, Chvad, Mike and I have become close friends and the fruits of our collaboration have become ever more powerful. You can hear the most recent results on CARVING SONGS LARVA LUMPS was the first installment of the new group, bringing together some of the intense live music that Tony, Mike and I had recorded with Martin Bisi about 6 years ago as well as the new studio recordings that Chvad, Mike and I had been working on during this time.
I[r]: Let’s start from “TROD”, Paul. Great song, seems to set the clock backward to Controlled Bleeding’s golden age! Or better to say forward. How did you gave birth to this song?
I’m excited about TROD, but I don’t really relate it to any of our past work. The production and sound design are much more refined than anything we’ve previously recorded. The song, like everything we do, just intuitively builds, perhaps beginning with a bass line, then drums and guitars before exploding into something else entirely…Each of our three contributions to CARVING SONGS indicates an area of music that we plan to further explore on the next full length I[r]: This album is full of amazing artists, most of them have a place in my heart (Merzbow, Ramleh, Le Syndicat, Justin K Broadrick just to mention few of them…). Most of the artists involved are old friends whose music I have enjoyed for many years…Some of the bands, like Child Bite and Child Abuse, are newer musical acquaintances who have inspired me…Because I am a fan of all these artists, it just made sense to include them in our collaboration…The idea behind Carving Songs was not simply to remix, but to re-record and re-imagine the various pieces, and I think everyone involved did such a beautiful job…
I[r]: In my opinion, Controlled Bleeding is something impossible to classify, even if I mentioned you in my book as one of the first US industrial act. Reading the list of artist in “Carving Songs”, I can see that there isn’t a red line, they are all very difficult to put in a tag! Is this experimental approach (another way to try to put a label…) something in common between you?
I don’t think about being experimental…But I do think that the possibilities are very interesting when artists from different genres approach music as fucked up or as rudimentary as some of the material on Larva Lumps…So, when a free jazz/classical player like Jean Jacques Birge, from the peerless Un Drame Musical Instantane, approaches a piece of straight up guitar rock like DRIVING THROUGH DARKNESS…the results are fascinating. Same with Tim Story, a modern day Satie, reworking one of our pieces into something so much more elegant, something so much richer than anything we could create! The brutality of Zeitkratzer devouring the carcass of Carving Song’s bruising rock, regurgitating it as some massive orchestral nightmare…and Justin blowing up SWARM into an earth shaking mass of grinding dread…The results throughout just blew me out of my fucking shoes!!! I think the one common factor among all of us is the willingness to explore, to create something exciting and unpredictable, not for the purpose of turning a profit, but because it’s what drives us to make music.
I[r]: There is also place for Barnacles, a project from Italian artist Matteo Uggeri (I love him). What put you in touch for this collaboration?
I LOVE him too! Matteo has always been so very supportive of my music… In times when I was full of sadness and self-doubt, he always urged me to continue, inspired me not to quit…When I am a critical, annoying pain in his ass, as I have often been in our collaborations, Matteo does not give up on me…He is a true friend in every respect…and his contribution to Carving Songs is a real highlight of the album…such a beautifully delicate interpretation of AS EVENING FADES…He is very talented…
I[r]: Controlled Bleeding created great music, from industrial to dub, from power noise to free jazz, and “Carving Songs” seems to me a great compendium of your music journey. What has led you into each genre you touched during your career?
This is a tough question…I suppose that it all goes back to INTUITION…to create what we feel is relevant in a given moment. There have certainly been times when I have prostituted myself musically to make money or to gain more notoriety…In those times the music suffered…when we hopped on musical trends… Sometimes I make music directly inspired by the records I’m listening to, and I listen to a lot of genres…But generally, I try to simply do what I like, and I feed off the chemistry of my collaborators…Chvad and Mike are open to anything…They are true adventurers…We are not doing this for money, so the only motivation is the excitement of creative discovery as each piece slowly takes on a life of its own.
I[r]: New York back in late ’70 and New York now. What has changed most in your opinion, musically speaking?
I rarely go into New York City these days…It is now one of the safest cities in the US and it’s blander than ever…For me, there isn’t much going on in NYC that I want to be part of…same with Brooklyn. It’s such a ridiculously expensive place to live that many artists have migrated to other places…I much prefer places like Providence Rhode Island…When NYC was really dangerous, it was also really exciting…People like Cale, Eno, Fripp, Fred Frith, Zorn, Swans, Sonic Youth, Foetus, Branca, Ron Anderson, Iggy, Suicide, Cramps, Talking Heads, Mars, Contortions…everyone was in NYC…And because everyone wanted to be in NYC it slowly became a place for the rich and so much of the creativity disappeared…Downtown is a shell of what it was in the 70’s and early 80’s.
I[r]: What does inspires you the most when you start writing with Controlled Bleeding?
As mentioned, sometimes I’m inspired by the music or bands I’m listening to…Sometimes a bass loop just kicks in and needs to become the root of a piece…There is no single inspiration….I experiment with sounds, lines, rhythms and then we start molding the sounds and gathering ideas as we progress…and sometimes things take strange, unexpected detours…The recording process is always an adventure. There is no set method of proceeding.
I[r]: What do you think about the evolution of experimental music along these years in US?
I can’t really answer this since I have not kept up with American experimental music or noise…There are a number of extreme bands that I really love, like Child Abuse, Doomsday Student, Lightning Bolt, Child Bite…But this stuff is not considered experimental music…I am much more interested in experimental components within rock…
I[r]: And finally can you tell me if Paul as a teacher is able to focus young students on good music instead of listening the mainstream and serial products that seem to be unbeatable and everywhere?
Every day I play something interesting and challenging as kids come into the classroom…Sometimes it’s a piece by FINNEZE (sp), or Arab on Radar, maybe Meredith Monk or Steve Reich, Maybe The Locust or Portal…maybe early Massive Attack or Blood Brothers (not the rap group)…Maybe ICE’s classic album “BAD BLOOD” or The Scientist’s dub plates…maybe Penderecki or The Godz, Tiny Tim…The Wild Man Fischer Story…Upsilon Acrux…John Zorn’s ARCHERY, London Jazz Composers Orch, Mahavishnu Orchestra, RUINS, Boredoms!!!… Some of the kids are intrigued and write down the daily playlist, and some beg me to shut it off!!!! Much of the time kids are fascinated that such music actually exists, since it is so far from their experience…But if one day I am not playing anything, they get upset and want to hear what weirdness might be in store for them on that particular day…
Interview by Giovanni Rossi
Interview originally published here: