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To a lot of artists, the music they create is precious. They've worked long and hard to make it sound a certain way, and the last thing they want is for someone else to dig their claws in and make changes. Chemlab's Jared Louche, however, is inviting a slew of musicians to do just that to his latest release, "Oxidizer." In putting together a remix disc, he's asking people to virtually tear his work apart to create an entirely new entity. RSJ speaks with Jared about taking his hands off the wheel -- and letting other musicians have their way with his creation.

Rock Star Journalism: Why did you decide to work on a remix disc for Oxidizer instead of going straight into new Chemlab material?

Jared Louche: It makes a lot of sense to me to pull one last thread out of a record that never really got the exposure it deserved. Without the luxury of being able to tour to support the original, it seemed like the best way to keep the trembling, shuddering ignition of OXO alive. Besides, I've always wanted to do a remix disc that incorporates a lot of people that might not be thought of in the context of Machine Rock and mix their talents with those who are more genre-identified. The juxtapositions are what really turn me on -- the music between the notes -- and this seemed like the perfect opportunity for it.

RSJ: How does your approach to this project differ from that of the "suture" remix disc?

JL: "Suture" really isn't a remix disc, though there are certain pre-existing remixes that got folded into its fabric. It simply served as a stop-gap, as well as a collector's package. It was a compression of random elements that had slipped below the surface. There really wasn't any remixing for that record per se. The KMFDM remixes were from a trade we did with them after the Angstfest Tour in '94 -- not something that was specifically made for "suture." The BlackMetalBox remix is the first of a series of remixes that I wanted to compile when we were releasing East Side. As with so many of the art-terror ideas I've had, the ESM mutations disc died an unpleasant death, it's limbs twisted beyond all recognition, terminal pilot error.

RSJ: Creating a follow-up remix album has become more common in recent years -- what's the best example you've heard recently?

JL: Trent [Reznor] is one of the most interesting remixers, as he really sticks the knife in. "Broken," although not recent at all, was a blast, but "Fixed" was the really searing skin-blister disc. He pulled in all manner of evil collabs that I thought made the whole thing truly devastating. It also seemed to gel into a surprisingly unified whole, a thing that I've always tried to do with the stitches I call "sutures." Amon Tobin and Plasticman, both musicians I wanted for this disc but couldn't get, are brilliant as well.

RSJ: What do you think are the elements of a good remix?

JL: Pushing the envelope until it bends out of proportion turns me on. A version of the song that doesn't take any chances or fundamentally change the frame of the original isn't a remix -- it's simply a mild rethinking and couldn't interest me less. It's like bands that do slavish 'wish-I-was-so-and-so' covers, or bands that make their live show note-for-note reproductions of their albums. The point is to reinterpret the song, filter it through your latest obsessions and make it speak with a wholly new voice, a voice that's a gene-splice of the original and you making it something different and interesting. Interesting -- the thing so many remixes are NOT. Tempo shifts. Time changes. Pitching. Rewritings. Layering. There are so many simple things that you can do to make it worthwhile. Nitzer Ebb's "Control I'm Here" played by the London Symphony Orchestra in half-time while a high school marching band plays The Dead Kennedy's "Police Truck" from the orchestra pit. I'd pay good money to hear that.


RSJ: I think everyone can probably think of cases where remixing hasn't been done well. What pitfalls would you like to avoid with this disc?

JL: Bluegrass versions? Actually Bluegrass wouldn't bother me at all. What I've told the artists involved is that they're utterly free to interpret the songs in the ways that they see fit. There's no point in my setting an agenda for a remix record. There are other 'project records' that I want to do that'll function under a specific conceptual umbrella, but not this one. I suppose that there are times when you'd want to frame the contributions for a remix record a certain way: 'no acapella' or 'inspired by "The Matrix"' or some shit, but that doesn't interest me. I think that a lot of the remix record failures come from the attempts to get the remixers to stay in a certain neighborhood, and I think that's a monumental waste of time. Why would you ask someone whose music you respect and instincts you trust to be a part of a record where you're going to essentially blunt the very skills that made you ask them to be a part of it in the first place?!

Another pitfall is asking all musicians from one label to be a part of a remix record, and another, and another. Though they may all be good in their own right, if this happens time and time again, then the public won't be turned on by the remix idea because the end-product is a fairly known quotient, the artists playing to their strengths instead of using the remix context as a place to do the unexpected and take chances. Yet another major problem is asking a bunch of talentless fuckwits to participate. I haven't done any of that. So I think that the primary pitfall of predictability and mediocrity is avoided by asking only incredibly creative musicians to be a part of it and telling them to do with the song as they will without a fence built around it. 'Interpret as you will' shall be the whole of the law. Hope it works! It could easily turn into a record of castrati barking and farting the chorus of "Binary Nation" down cardboard tubes. Couldn't be worse than any of Justin Timberlake's records though.

RSJ: Which Oxidizer track do you think will most benefit from the remix process?

JL: I honestly think that all of them will benefit by a remix. All Chemlab songs would benefit that way. Most songs in general would. Why not? I don't think that Jason [Novak], Jamie [Duffy], FJ [DeSanto] or I have actually created the perfect album, an album that can't be touched, that can't be reinterpreted, made stronger...or at least stranger. Nor would I want to. Once I've made the perfect record what do I do for an encore? I'm fucked without a kiss. But in reference to this record, that's the crux: I'm not asking people to make the songs better, I'm asking them to mutate them in shocking, disturbing and unique ways. Maybe that will make them "better," but I'm not going to make that value judgment. Some of the versions I've heard already make me wish we'd done something similar originally, but that's a different beast altogether. Some of them also make me think about new projects and ideas, but that's the ADD artist in me mountain goat-leaping from one project to the next.

RSJ: Who do you have currently signed on to work on this project?

JL: If I told you that I'd have to torture you and kill you by forcing countless hours of Yanni down your deadened ear canal. Ask me again in a week or so.

RSJ: There was a lot made over the "other" version of Oxidizer with Novak/Duffy's production. Any possibility of getting either of them involved in the remixes?

JL: I've asked Jamie, and by default Jason as well, if they'd be up for doing something. It looks like they'll be involved, and I'm dead pleased about that. I thought it would be pretty weird if they weren't involved, but then this is a weird record from start to finish. I think "Queen..." is going under the Acu-knife, and I'm really looking forward to that. I'm tempted to ask them to do a remix of the whole record, top to bottom, but I suppose that the response would be that that's been done already: the original version of the disc. That's a discussion for a whole separate interview.

RSJ: You've hinted at some fan involvement with this disc. What can you tell us about that idea?

JL: I'm not even sure if the fans know about this idea fully yet. What FJ and I are working on right now is getting a track or two up on the site so that the kids can tear them apart as they see fit. From the versions that are turned in we'll pick the best one and put it on the disc. Simple.

RSJ: Is there a tentative release date yet?

JL: As frustrating as this sounds (and believe me, I find it frustrating as well), there's no date set for the release at the moment. Part of that is due to prior commitments of some artists involved and my desire not to hassle them to be creative under the gun. I'd like it to be out in the spring, but it looks like it'll be the summer. The other issue potentially slowing things down is that I'm putting this thing together totally out of my own pocket, so I've got only the leverage of friendship to use as a tool to make people turn their mixes around quickly.


RSJ: In your recent Hydrogen Bar post, you discussed dealing with birth and death, stating that putting this disc together has been a therapeutic experience during a difficult time. Have you also found yourself writing more?

JL: I've written some interesting material over the past couple of months, though I think that a lot of it will take some digesting and gestation for it to yield anything more than the predictable sophomoric writing that such events can occasion. I'm working on a record with a friend you'll recognize when I tell you his name in a few months, and that will, I'm sure, be a deep vent for a lot of the intense gear-shifts [my wife] Maja and I have gone through over the past six months.

RSJ: Do you think your new work will have a different tone to it?

JL: All of the records have an evolving tone, though I don't have any overarching intellectual vision of my work in the same way Anthony Braxton has, or some specific yet shifting surreal, framed universe the way Manson or Sun Ra does, or did. I do think that each record speaks with a distinct and unique voice, and the next record I do will as well; that's simply the by-product of being an artist not constrained by having to produce artwork to make a living. But I don't think that, like Fad Gadget and many others, you'll hear me start singing songs to my son, or hear him googling into the mic, if that's what you mean. I think I might be struggling with more of my mortality in future, but that started revealing itself in the writing of "Oxidizer" already. After all of the years of heroin, crack, pills, reefer, speed, smokes and booze, stitches, losing friends in my arms, falling off the edge, deals gone bad and everything else I've been through, it's hard not to include a certain amount of existential gravitas and questing into my writing -- and all of that came before the death of Maja's father and the introduction of our soon-to-be son. Talk about touching a bit of my mortality!

RSJ: Last time we spoke, you were working on a project with Mark Spybey. What's happening with this record?

JL: Sadly that project is on hold. About a month ago Mark's home was flooded by the Tyne River that flows right past his house. Highest flood-point it's reached in over 100 years. Nice fact, devastating result, though, since it sluiced through his house. Not only did it take over his house, but it rose, and it rose about a foot or more, transporting sludge across every inch. This happened within the space of about an hour. The end-result of the flood was that some of his artwork, years of his archives, posters and photos, Zoviet France, CAN, DVOA and other memorabilia, ephemera, originalia and recordings were lost forever. We also lost all of the experiments and initial trax that we'd made for our record. Robin (ZF, Rapoon) has some of it on his hard drive, as we spent some time just at the end of the last session together doing a pretty extensive digital dump. So, some of the semi-finished versions are saved, but all of the original source recordings and found sounds and atmospheres are gone for all time. Although we can recreate some of the songs, a great deal of it functioned spontaneously in an improvisation idiom, and that's impossible to reproduce no matter what the circumstances. It's a spreading migraine of heartbreak and the least concern right now is the record. It'll come out in one form or another, but not right now. Some of it may rear its half-formed head on the H-bar at some point fairly soon.

RSJ: Pigface has just announced that they are going out this spring. Do you have any plans to take part in this tour?

JL: Our son's slated to join the world on April Fool's, so I'm going to be on a pretty cool tour of my own at that time and won't need to deal with loopy tour managers, cold pizza, fans with knives and grumpy promoters. Hope they have a blast though. Maybe next time.

RSJ: Are you thinking about the next Chemlab record (of new material) at all yet?

JL: I've been thinking about it since I was in the middle of the last one. I'm always looking forward to the next thing, I just can't quite tell how it's going to come together. I've got ideas for it, and I know it's going to happen, but I've got a few other ideas I want to unleash first. After the Fifth Colvmn days, Chemlab has taken a different place for me. It isn't totally front-and-center -- I'm front-and-center in all my Technicolor Atomic Age glory! That doesn't mean that Chemlab gets no attention, it just means that it has to share with The Aliens, films, broken word gigs and other projects. Yes, new Chemlab record soon, no sweat...