Rotten Piece-Interview
the Rotten Piece Interview

Rotten Piece has been brutalizing the Houston Scene for quite some time. The sister band of Sad Pygmy helmed by Sean and Carol, its shows revolve upon improvisation, film collage, electronics and found sounds.

I recently enjoyed their show at Rudyards Pub (technically a rotten artRotten Pygmy show...but I digress) and while we all enjoyed the show, we found out soon after that the audience just wasn't ready for experimantal music on a Saturday night. "Turn that fucking smoke machine off" was one persons cry while another asked his friend "are they warming up?" My point isn't to say these people are fools (although in a way they kinda are) but that some people may not quite get what's really going on with these cats.

Shaunrotten art and Carol have what I consider to be one of the best attitudes in music which is 'Damn it were going to do this. If people hate it...fine. If we make asses of ourselves then so be it.' Even though they won't admit to it they are wonderfully adventurous in their music and, unlike many people making experimental music, do not see it as a high minded persuit but goddamn it something that is (god forbid) fun to do. And when all is said and done they have kept up a wonderful diary on their adventures in sound in their many fine releases....but enough of my crap here's the interview.

WG: WHY do you and Carol do this? What is the reason that you take hard earned cash and valuable time to get together and not only make the music but to share it with people?

rotten art

Shaun: Poor business sense? Low self esteem? Sociopathic hallucinations brought on by the humidity? I don't think either one of us really know. It seems important to us, and we do spend our own money, but I don't question where it comes from. It's a bit like automatic writing in a goofy way. We turn on the recorder and try to express ourselves in an unusual way. We're not hermits, and we're not so sensitive we need to hide our music from the world in arty obscurity. We correspond with people all over, and trade releases, collaborate etc...So let's see, gratuitous self indulgence, and egotism?

Carol: yeah, what he said.

WG: Art is worthless yet valuable. Discuss.

rotten art

Shaun: You could say that about anything. To some even the CONCEPT of art is worthless. Art IS worthless yet valuable, so are algebra, gold, religion, the ozone layer, the government, and music. I think art is valuable, but I'm probably in the minority, at least in the US. I don't expect the state to support me, but the push to shut down the NEA seems ridiculous. No wonder the rest of the world thinks we're (The U.S.)ignorant.

WG: You mention that you recorded sounds on your trip for raw material. What were you using and what makes you decide to tape any particular sound?

Shaun: I used a Craig portable cassette deck that I swiped from my last job( the American thing to do) . The real cheezy 70's style, with the little pull out handle. I taped lots of dialog, that's always fun, as well as background, traffic and nature sounds. The more bizarre or unidentifiable the better. Often it's the least likely sounds that are best later. Found tapes can be great. When we played in New Orleans recently with death squad Michael Contreras found a great tape in a goodwill store; 45 min of some psycho singing in the shower. It's brought me to my knees in tears many times already.rotten art

Carol: (nods knowingly in mute agreement)

WG: How do you approach using raw sounds?

Shaun: We've used many different approaches, collaging sounds on top of one another, distortion, altering the direction and speed of the tapes, looping, multiplying generation loss, or just as coloring on an instrumental. We recycle lots of old sounds, whatever is at hand at the moment. I also enjoy trading source tapes with other bands. In the past we've traded with Richard Ramirez, TEK, Near Earth Objects, Death Squad, Infant Mortality Rate and others.

Carol: Yes...

WG: How do you approach composing/improvising a track?

Shaun: Carol and I start by choosing an instrument (or tape, or non-instrument), and some type of processing. Once we get a sound, we generally improvise freely like jazz. We also will build up tracks around rotten artan initial improvisation, then thin it back out by notching out sections or over dubbing quiet stuff. These are the most common approaches for us, but we try to be a bit different each time. It seems like every rule we made about what we would and wouldn't do, we broke. At first we said we wouldn't use synth or sampler, then decided why limit ourselves? As long as we don't use tools in a cliche way what difference does it make? We still try to trick the ears, we'll have a clarinet that sounds like a violin, or a sax that sounds like a guitar. We'll get a review that's like "such-and-such song had a bizarre guitar part", and I say, Carol that song didn't have a guitar did it?

Carol: No.

WG: You also imply that we have only seen a tiny bit of your work, what criteria do you use to select the material for tapes/ case?

Shaun:rotten art We try to use the most interesting bits and avoid long pieces by only using parts of them. We try to mix it up for variety as well. Our output ranges from very harsh noise stuff to electronic, music concrete, free jazz,glam rock, brazilian death metal, rhumba, big band, bulgarian folk music, techno, southern rawk, choral renditions of easy listening favorites, and frat rock so our new cd will hopefully reflect all of that.

Carol : We only release the stuff that sucks, we keep all the good stuff for ourselves.

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