|LJ Interview 4
||[Jan. 14th, 2006|01:50 pm]
Stanleylieber is to me perhaps one of LJ's biggest mysterys, depending on who you compare him to though(The exception is NicePimmelKarl). But I like his music and his friendly gestures alot. And he likes my album too. This interview was made because I wanted to know more about Stanleylieber. But it did make me ask some more questions aswell. Anyhow, here is the lenghty(in a good way) interview of Stanleylieber!
CS: How many songs have you made up to day and why did you start
SL: I started classical piano training when I was about seven or eight
years old. For many years afterward I found it difficult to plink
around on my own compositions without inadvertantly reproducing
something that already existed. I would launch into an improvisation
only to have it morph seamlessly into a piece I had memorized from my
lessons. Everything would collapse into lines of Mozart or Bach. This
was immensely frustrating and I basically just gave up on composing
alltogether, figuring I had some sort of strange mental block --
simply wasn't meant to be a composer. I continued with my classical
lessons for about nine years, without really going back and trying to
write any more music, though scenarios were always playing out in the
back of my mind and on occasion I would sit down for an
"improvisational freak-out" at the keyboard. A few times I discussed
starting a band with classmates or friends, but it never went
anywhere. I sensed that I wasn't ready. In life I've found that I'll
frequently take something I have an intense desire to do and set it
aside for a number of years, hoping that the submerged longing will
somehow mutate into a full-blown talent if I leave it alone long
enough and give it time to gestate. I'm still waiting to develop an
aptitude for foreign currency trading, for example.
I went through several teachers during this period, as they all kept
either moving to larger cities or simply passing away from old age. My
last instructor was partially deaf (and wholly senile); by that point
I was 16, kicked out of school, and could no longer practice during
the week because my grandparents didn't own a piano. I was really only
getting to play when I would be taken to this woman's studio for my
lessons. I had managed to acquire several books of sheet music
featuring transcriptions of a handful of Prince's albums, and this
last teacher was disturbingly enthusiastic about some of his racier
lyrics. Eventually it was discovered that my older sister was
exploiting the trips back and forth from my lessons to move large
quantities of marijuana (at the behest of an older man she was dating
at the time), and so in short order all the adults in my family
decided that I had to stop taking lessons entirely, since the only
place to take them was several towns over, and the only person willing
to drive me there was my big sister, who was quite obviously batshit
out of control. By that point, given the increasingly uncomfortable
physical closeness of my teacher on the piano bench (the space between
us was closing with every lesson, in spite of my attempts to
rationalize away the fact that a 60 year old woman was coming on to
me), it was not entirely heartrending to at last abandon my training.
Perhaps understandably, my interest had already begun to wane. So,
after many years of playing the piano every day, being made to
practice before and after school, I would not touch a keyboard again
for quite some time. I became wholly absorbed in working on my comics
and zines. Didn't think about music at all.
That lasted about six months. By the time summer rolled around I was
back living with my mother and had managed to secure a job at the
local bottling plant. I used my first paycheck to purchase a
secondhand electric guitar from one of my co-workers. Not sure why.
Knowing precisely nothing about guitar tuning or maintenance, and
possessing absolutely no recording equipment, I was left to experiment
with the various pieces of junk lying about on my bedroom floor, which
- 1x component stereo system, including dual tape deck and turntable
- 2x partially disassembled boombox, with CD and cassette
- 1x cheap kid's Casio keyboard that belonged to my little sister
- 1x metal box fan, which I would play by switching the dial between
different fan speeds and blasting sound through the spinning blades
- 1x children's novelty microphone (non-powered), with several
"special effects" settings
- 1x pocket microphone from Radio Shack, which I had seen members of
Sonic Youth using to mic their guitar amps (in a photograph in a
magazine; who knows if this was something they really did in the
Inexplicably, it had suddenly become imperative to get something down on tape.
And so I got to work. I rigged up a lot of wires between the various
stereo equipment and cobbled together a set of very primitive effects,
such as "mild distortion" and "slightly less mild distortion," but
ultimately most of what I did concerned manipulating the playback
speed of cassettes using the pause button. I also did some primitive
scratching and turntable tricks with various quarter-bin vinyl I had
managed to procure, to add "flavor" to the mixes. My guitar playing
was laughably inept, but I threw some in anyway as it had become my
primary instrument. I was experiencing some strange psychological
reactions to hearing myself on tape, embarrassment, whatever, and yet
still couldn't stop recording. It had become almost compulsive. I
wrote to my girlfriend that I thought music was driving me insane.
Coincidentally, that same summer I was undergoing involuntary
psychological counseling, so the effects of the material I was
creating on my mental state was something I brought up during the
sessions, just to see what they'd say. My therapist claimed his son
(then a college student) had told him my music sounded like "techno."
He seemed proud of himself for getting that all out correctly, and as
I recall there was an extended pause while he waited to see how I
would respond. I remember sort of losing track of the conversation a
few times as the diamond-stud earring in his left ear kept drawing my
attention away from his face, toward the giant poster of Eric Clapton
on the wall behind him. I suppose I was meant to infer from these
trappings that he was "hip" to my "youth culture." It's likely my
incedulity was apparent. I'm not sure how they got "techno" out of
what I'd put on that cassette -- there were no percussion sounds to be
heard anywhere in my earliest material. After discussing it with him
for a while it was fairly clear he'd not actually listened to it. I
should have tried to talk him into putting it on and demonstrating
some rave dancing. He probably would have done it.
Eventually, I filled a 90-minute Denon ceramic tape with experimental
noise and carried it around with me for the next few months, listening
to it over and over again on my Walkman. Unfortunately I've no idea
what became of this cassette. I can still remember many of the short
compositions (probably most averaged about 1-2 minutes) and I wish I
had them now so that I could rip my teenage self off, mix those early
pieces into my current work. I had developed this system whereby I
would play notes on the guitar by twisting the tuning knobs rather
than trying to use my fingers on the frets, and I'd come up with some
interesting transitions that I wish I could reproduce. I wonder if my
therapist still has a copy.
The next recordings I completed, collected on cassette as Eve,
were intentionally designed to integrate as a single work, and may be
This I circulated to a handful of friends in the fall of 1994. People
told me that it reminded them of doing acid; some of my older friends
would say that it sounded like the kind of stuff they used to noodle
around with in their college bands back in the '80s (presumably, also
while under the influence of acid). I got it reviewed in a local zine
and verdict was, "a bunch of fucked up noises that are practically
inaudible." All of this made me roll my eyes since I had never done
drugs and "fucked up noises" were precisely what I was going
for! I mean, "no shit," right? By this time I'd been exposed to a
wealth of underground experimental and noise material, so the old
"this stuff is weird" digs rolled off me like water off a duck's back.
I decided to start claiming I was trying to sound like Prince (which
may have been true in its own way, but still sounded preposterous
enough to amuse me greatly). The reviewer I mentioned above actually
heckled me from the stage once while he was performing with his band.
The one live show I played as a DJ resulted in the promoter mocking me
from the audience. I reacted pretty badly to all of this and burnt a
lot of bridges in the local scene by going on the attack and basically
overturning the tables of moneychangers everywhere I went. I put out a
free zine and gave away free tapes at every all-ages show I attended.
For the longest while I would just mass-produce runs of cassettes and
force them on people on an individual level. I even sent copies to my
parents, who I was not otherwise in contact with anymore. I would go
to the Salvation Army and buy boxes full of discarded commercial
albums, stretching a little piece of tape over the write-protect
notches so I could record my own material on them. They were better
quality than the blanks available at retail shops, and also the cases
didn't crumble in your hands when you tried to get the tape out. These
I began putting in the mail with zines, giving away at shows, and
leaving in strategic locations just about everywhere I went. I
probably heard back from four or five people over the next ten years.
I started to realize that what I was doing had very little in common
with the "pop" dynamic that so appeals to music lovers of whatever
nomenclature. It didn't sound like warmed-over Beatles and it didn't
make your girlfriend take off her shirt and that was that. (Or, quite
possibly, I simply didn't have "the goods"; couldn't operate at the
level of quality necessary to sustain an audience.) Whichever.
I'm afraid I've sort of lost track of what I'm saying here, and I
don't think I've actually answered any of your questions. Let me
refocus and try this again; this time leveraging the technology of the
1. I would estimate that I've recorded over four hundred individual
tracks since 1994. Many of which are vanished forever as a result of
my having given away the last copy I had to people who likely threw
them away, or the inevitable catastrophic hard drive crashes that have
periodically set me back at square one over the years.
2. I do it for the same reason a child draws pictures: I don't know
any better. No one has successfully socialized me out of it yet. I'm
perpetually immature. I "just don't give a fuck."
CS: What are your main inspirations for your music?
SL: Headaches. To a lesser extent, the desire to express complex,
abstract thought, if only to myself (see my zine, 23).
When I started recording music it was not with the intent of ever
sharing it with anybody else. It was sort of a spontaneous action.
It's now become more of a situation where the music is a form of a
personal journal, for me to encode the thoughts and ideas that are
swirling about me at a given moment in time. Sometimes I will pull out
old tapes or CDRs and think back to what was going on in my life at
the time they were created. In some ways it preserves the mood of a
given era much more effectively than my paper journal entries. Memory
mapping to sound or some such. It's only been a coincidence of the
circumstances of the Internet that in the last year or so I've begun
to get some feedback via livejournal and have now actually started to
interact with other musicians. Kind of a weird sensation, in a way.
I'm not used to anyone being this up-close. Wonder how it all
translates, outside of my head.
CS: Would you be able to sit through one whole night, if you could,
with a song just to get it the way you imagined it?
SL: I have done this many, many, many times. I generally compose while
the tape is rolling, one layer at a time, and since I don't write down
my music or really bother to memorize it, I usually try to finish
whatever I'm working on in a single session. This has become less of a
truism since I've started using digital tools and, on some projects,
editing purely visually from remote (without actually hearing what it
is I'm working on), but by and large it's still the rule when I'm
using analog instruments. I would describe my recording process as
"perfectionist loose sketches," if that makes any sense at all. Fast
but purposeful. Loose but directed.
CS: In some ways you have adapted an "mysterium persona" on LJ.
What made you think of doing that? Or is it a part of your real
personality you just happen to have to be able to scare your boss?
SL: Reflex from early days on the Internet. Real names are for marks
or grown-ups. This isn't the only name I use, either; taking a page
from the intelligence services, you compartimentalize to minimize
Let me provide what I hope is an illustrative example: When you type
my real name and the word "resume" into Google groups, you find my old
address, phone number, e-mail address, and work history. The only
reason you don't find my current information is because I've taken
pains to make sure that material stays off the Internet (at least for
the most part; so often you can't control what a company does with
your personal data). And don't even get me started on Zabasearch and
similar services. Do I really want to paint big neon arrows towards my
private info by linking all of these facets of my life together in a
permanent, global medium, especially while I'm as yet not wealthy
enough to insulate myself from the resulting loss of privacy? The
answer to that rhetorical question is a resounding no.
Conversely to the above, if you type the name "Stanley Lieber" into
Google all you will find is a metric fuckload of my artwork; comics,
music, writing, etc., etc. I'm the first five hits, even beating out
Stan "The Man" Lee, who is inarguably more successful and well known
than I am, and, obviously, the personage I borrowed this name from in
the first place. In this case all inbound connections and links are
welcome and very much appreciated. But which do I want a potential
employer, credit agency, law enforcement official to be confronted
with, when they're researching my background on the web? I try to
think of the situation from multiple angles, backwards and forwards.
"If someone is going to run a search on my name, what are they going
to find?" Or, perhaps more directly: "What do I want them to
find?" Certainly not that song I wrote last year called Fucking
A Girl That Was Born In The '80s.
CS: Which kind of blog would you prefer to read: A personal blog
which reveals alot of personal secrets that updates everyday or an
artistic blog that updates every now and then?
SL: A little of both, I think. A dark secret about my lj reading
habits is that I often skip text-heavy posts that don't have any
graphics or photographs to accompany them. How terrible is that? I
think the thing that interests me the most about livejournal is that,
much moreso than other journaling or discussion systems, it seems to
encourage the integration of multimedia elements into the general
stream of its entries and reader replies. Facilitates it, even. My
favorite livejournals all read like interactive comic books. With
occasional audio or video. With instant responses from the author.
With RSS syndication, if I like. In other words, livejournal behaves
like the natural culmination of creative personalities exploiting
multimedia technology as a matter of course, rather than having the
technology itself be the singluar focus of their work, its bare
existence overriding any other possible content or concern. We're
using the hammer, not merely pondering it's significance (though of
course I'm a quite ponderous chap myself and see nothing wrong with it
per se). For example, I've utilized MFeeds.com to create
podcast feeds of journals that regularly post multimedia content so
that my podcatcher program will automatically download whatever songs
and videos they link to. I archive a lot of my own stuff using lj tags
and then rely upon those resulting links to organize my
material, to allow others to view my work according to category. I get
e-mail notifications of comments to my livejournal, which link me
right back to the fully interactive page where the content actually
resides. These tools are making it possible to operate in all
conceivable media simultaneously. I tend to gravitate towards journals
that take full advantage of these possibilities.
Which reminds me:
I wrote an entry in my paper journal a couple of weeks ago describing
a nightmare I had, wherein I woke up one morning and it was 1995
outside, none of the modern Internet tools I use every day existed,
and I had to make do with a 14.4 connection and .au sound files and
people who didn't understand the basic visual metaphors of hypertext,
and so on and so forth, ad nauseum. All while still knowing
what the future had in store for us once CPUs and bandwidth could be
made to shoulder the burden. Gah! On the one hand this would have been
a great opportunity to exploit my knowledge of the future and invest a
considerable sum in Yahoo!, but it also terrified me that my entire
working process has become so wrapped up in technology I still pay a
monthly fee for, which could be rendered totally inaccessible or
inoperable by the slightest of global economic fluctuations (I'm still
not sure I believe all of this about the Internet having become the
dominant lifeform on Earth, employing us all to propagate itself like
some sort of manmade analogue of the selfish gene, so let's just
assume here for the sake of argument that it is still an essentially
"killable" beast, and that everything we upload to the web isn't being
archived in more-or-less permanent form by intelligence agencies or
commercial entities like Google). In a lot of ways I suppose that, no
matter which sort of blog I prefer, I'm just sort of sitting around
waiting for a new set of barbarians to come crashing in and burn this
digital Alexandria to the ground. It all feels very fragile. Fun while
it lasted, and now the context of my work is vanished. Poof. Politics
as usual. Aw, I hope not.
CS: Where do you find your inspiration for CD art?
SL: French novels. Toy packaging. Alfred Sisley.
CS: Are you able to listen to a Noise track directtly after a
chamber pop piece without blinking an eye?
SL: Yes. Something many conniseurs of "straight" music don't
realize is that a lot of Noise artists are creating complex,
structured compositions; it's not always an amorphous blob of aimless
chaos. Rather, I think the impeutus behind much Noise music is
analagous to the yearning for a "clean slate" expressed by Surrealism,
Abstract Expressionism, and other non-literal or non-representational
movements in the fine arts. Starting over, attempting to transcend the
common influences. I think the relatively unfamiliar base sounds in a
lot of this material convinces the casual listerner that whatever it
is, it ain't music. It's common that when a friend of mine will put
one of my CDs into their stereo for the first time, once it starts
playing, they'll bang on the side of the device, or start adjusting
knobs and dials -- thinking there must be something wrong with their
equipment. Some individuals will take this further and suggest that
the failure to conform to musical norms is evidence that your piece is
not really music at all. As if purposely recorded sound of whatever
stripe could be divided into an intrinsic, gradated hierarchy of
intentionality! It's like your aunt with the bad dye job and the Tammy
Faye makeup asking you why you "cover up your pretty face and do all
that to your hair." It makes no sense to differentiate, at this level.
Consciously organized sound is consciously organized sound. Even if
that just means "curating" a field recording or soundscape by choosing
where the piece begins and ends. Even at greatest reduction, the
curator is still an editor, and editing is what this is all about.
(Granted, there are some songs I wouldn't put next to each other on a
mixtape...) Imagine being the guy who invented "Middle C."
Of course, given enough time many of these seemingly directionless
innovations will be absorbed into a new norm (each according to its
overall fitness as an aesthetic meme), and a whole new generation of
musicians will be taken to task for daring to violate the sanctity of
the new auditory normalcy. Such is the relationship between artist and
audience. I don't think that cyclical process is ever going to change.
CS: Were you into music making during schools and did it affect
your early social life?
SL: No. I had to write a composition for a music class once, in high
school, but I didn't have access to a piano and I just sort of put
down a bunch of notes on the page, not having any auditory reference
for what they'd sound like. I got a good grade because I know how to
read and write music, and the composition was technically valid
musical notation; but when the teacher went to play my song on the
piano it was somewhat less than warmly received by him and my
classmates. Not very musical, emotionally touching, by their standards
(which stands to reason, given the method of composition!). I wish I
could say I enjoyed the result more than they did, because it would
tie this story in nicely with the rest of my spiel above, sounding
like some sort of precursor to my experiments with oplocromodalization,
but such is not the case. I didn't put much time or thought into the
piece and it showed. It was plainly awful.
I of course continued to write dramatic and melancholy lyrics
throughout my school career, but had no idea where they'd end up, if
indeed they were to end up anywhere at all. Years later I would return
to these notebooks in seach of material.
CS: Do you enjoy your work?
SL: Sure, why not! If you mean my day job then I'll have to amend that
to a "no." Since 2005 I have managed to combine the two forms of
"work" by oplocromodalizing many songs over a VNC connection to my
home network, all from the economic safety of my cubicle at work. This
probably sounds like a "I got fired" story waiting to happen...
CS: Do you find persons who are a bit dreamy/"cloudy thinkers"(I. E
they think alot of big issues and might come up with ideas some never
thought of) as people you have hard to understand or hard to
SL: Since I'm often accused of being one of those people, it would
hardly be fair of me to talk smack about them here. Sometimes I forget
to eat, or absentmindedly run into doors and that kind of thing. I
frequently block people out and don't hear them when they're speaking
to me. I won't remember your name ten minutes after I first meet you.
These kinds of people rarely suffer a shortage of enemies.
CS: Would you rather listen to someone elses advice or your own
SL: I'm notoriously suspicious, dismissive of, advice. It's probably
easy to manipulate me in that I tend to take off in the opposite
direction of wherever a given person is trying to point me. I've been
this way as long as I can remember. Go on, try me!
CS: If you got a way of working and tells about it to a friend who
works in the same field and he says "But you don't always need to do
that" would you mind it or would you make it an big issue?
SL: No skin off my teeth. To me advice is just another source to
sample from. I do find though that sometimes those who like to give
out a lot of advice are detrimentally affected, emotionally, if you
choose not to follow it. Probably the ability to gracefully offer and
receive advice is a beneficial quality in a civil society.
CS: What kind of fashion do you find interesting but you would
never wear yourself?
SL: Papal regalia. Actually I've worn Papal regalia.
CS: What kind of fashion do the people wear that you would avoid at
SL: Beats me. I find a lot of things profoundly ugly, but if I'm to
start nitpicking people's clothing then I'll never have time for
anything else. My work is more important to me than your shoes. Though
I do fancy a nice pair of shoes, and I would be sure to appreciate
them if you were wearing a pair that met that standard. But you see,
you are not. In fact, please get rid of the ones you have on, for they
are hurting my eyes. What's wrong with you? How could you wear those
in public? GUARDS!
And so on.
CS: Thank you for this interview?
SL: Thank you for interviewing me. It's been a while since I've
had to come up with coherent background material for Stanley Lieber.
At least, I hope this has been coherent. If I were to fill this out
tomorrow, the answers would probably all be different.