Boole are many things to many people, but mostly unheard from the last half a decade. They returned to the music world with the monstrous, challenging, and downright fun “The Vital Few ” this year. I spoke to Boole’s three main players, ringleader Br0d, brother and co-ringleader MAB, and instigator and all around nice guy Blimpcaptain (née Andy).
What transpired is as weird and varied as Boole’s music is. Read and be educated, entertained, and most likely mildly confused. The band would have it no other way.
It’s been five long years since Pheromones came out. What the hell have you lazy dicks been doing that took “The Vital Few” so long?
Br0d: I did some really fun remixes in 2003 and 2004, and then from 2005-2006 it was mostly just laziness in combination with a pretty crappy and depressing night shift work schedule. I was a zombie, and zombies don’t release albums – they just stagger, moan, and bite people on the arse.
MAB: Spying on foreign governments, playing ice hockey, and drinking wine.
When I have time, I like to do what I call Redneck Wine Reviews. Check em out on http://www.winelog.net/winelog/boole.
Blimpcaptain: Playing hopscotch… What else?!
What’s the process for each of you in the song writing for Boole? Who does what?
Br0d: A few songs here and there are fully collaborative, like “Tabby”, and they usually end up being bizarre because we are drinking. Most of the songs, I write like Barry Manilow. And well, I’m usually drinking when writing alone too, so I can’t explain why “Tabby” is more bizarre than the rest.
Blimpcaptain: I materialize right around the time Brad has whittled his most recent trials, tribulations, and observations into song form. If the timing is right, my voice ends up on a track. It’s a pretty sweet gig, but my union representative says I should be doing more than one track per CD so I’ve been seriously considering writing some lyrics. That is, if I can shelve my hopscotch addiction for awhile.
MAB: Basically, I write all the lyrics and music while Brad and Andy sit around and bother me with incessant queries about how I got so awesome. Haha, no seriously, for this album especially, the lion’s fucking share was done by Brad in his Laurel studio. It is a primary pastime for Brad, and his studio has a much better vocal setup than mine (which only became relevant when we moved to separate domiciles in 2006 and I built a replica studio at my place, which is recently coming up to speed), so this album basically consists of Brad’s musical DNA with a couple fingerprints of mine and Andy’s. Plus, of course, some of Inox’s lyrical genius is thrown in here and there.
Previous albums involved us more because we lived in one place and jointly developed songs more often, along with a variety of other reasons. I did a good amount of recording, mixing, production, saxes, etc., on the previous albums, but this one really took shape in Brad’s studio. Pretty much the only song on this album that resembles the olden days is “Tabby”.
Name three bands that currently inspire you and three authors that currently inspire you.
Br0d: Bands – Stevie Wonder, Infected Mushroom and Meat Beat Manifesto. Authors – Gibran, Carroll, and Crowley.
Blimpcaptain: Uwe Schmidt, Mario Girard, and Krzysztof Penderecki, then Salman Rushdie, Jim Thompson, Franz Kafka
MAB: Since you used the verb “inspire” as opposed to influence, I’ll cite Justice, Tool, and Thievery Corporation as current/recent inspiration.
Most recent authors I’ve been reading include Rushdie, Milan Kundera, and Aldous Huxley.
Post 9/11 you came out with the powerful, reactionary “Thanks For Playing”, which some took as a very nationalistic track. It’s been 6 years since that track, and with everything that’s happened since its release on “Pheromones” do you feel the same way you did as when you wrote it?
Br0d: Absolutely, despite how saturated by news media FUD we’ve been since then, I feel the same way. It was written on 9/12/01 as a gut level anger reaction to the idea of deliberate civilian terror on native soil, and it would be just as relevant if someone had attacked the Netherlands. If someone nukes St. Louis, regardless of the fact that George Bush has hijacked our collective will, it is not the average person’s fault, and they don’t deserve such misery. Writers like C. Wright Mills and even our own president Eisenhower had predicted a military industry which would become entirely self-governing as early as the 1950s, American foreign policy is and has become more a function of corporatism than of some deliberate civilian complicity. But I think we can at least temporarily delay that reality by voting for Obama in November. But eventually voting will have no effect.
MAB: As a contributor to the production of that song, I’d say no, I don’t think anybody feels the same way they did in the days immediately following 9/11. As has been said before, that song is as much about internal corruption as it is about terrorist jihad. Around ’03-’04 we thought we had to preface our performances of “Thanks For Playing” with a disclaimer that we wrote the song right after 9/11, sort of as an excuse for it, because frankly that was a pretty disheartening time to be an American, but lately we haven’t done that as much. This is because the original idea makes sense independent of 9/11, even though the events of that day inspired it.
Blimpcaptain: Absolutely. Terrorists of all stripes can plant a thick rainbow of lipstick around my pole. That includes assholes who hurt and kill innocent civilians and also the media, whose non-stop fear-peddling and fomenting is simply insupportable.
Boole’s got an extremely unique mix of influences in it’s tracks– what kind of music did you grow up with and what brought you to electronic music as means to express your ideas?
Blimpcaptain: My first four albums (borrowed from my parents) were Led Zeppelin II, Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant,” “L.A. Woman” by the Doors, and Elton John’s Greatest Hits. I also got my hands on several boxes of old 45’s… Everything from Curtis Lee to Brenda Lee… Aretha Franklin to Zager & Evans… That was around age 5. I consumed music like mother’s milk during my entire childhood, listening to as many different artists as I could find. I rarely had a single “favorite song,” opting instead for any number of tracks that caught my fancy during a particular phase. I can remember being really fond of “Light My Fire” by the Doors around age 8 or so, and I can still hum the entire keyboard & guitar solos. I played trumpet growing up and took piano lessons for a couple of years in my teens. I listened to mostly classic rock, soul, prog-rock, classical and jazz during high school with a growing interest in funk, punk, goth and industrial music.
I was actually friends with Brad’s freshman roommate before meeting him. After seeing his collection of cassettes and being told by his roommate that he was “weird, and kept strange hours,” I figured he was someone worth getting to know. When we met shortly thereafter, a musical collision of tectonic proportions occurred. I began exploring punk, thrash, and metal with increased enthusiasm while providing Brad with a growing cache of electronic and industrial influences. It wasn’t long after we met that he discovered the amply outfitted electronic music studio at Salisbury and started laying down tracks. This early period of experimentation marked the birth of the Apologizers, with our adventures around campus and town being translated into little ditties and tunes in the studio by Brad and unleashed on as many people as I could foist them off on. Boole was born several years later as an outlet for Brad’s more ambitious and serious efforts.
Br0d: I first got into music around 6, and jazz around age 11. My neighbor was a saxophonist, and I wanted to be like him. My first record was John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. In high school, JJ got me into punk and metal. Being used to improvisational and very textural forms like jazz and fusion, I hated repetitive shit like Metallica and Megadeth at first. But then I sorta “got it” and started really digging it.
About the same time, I was also getting more into funk with the school jazz band. You can imagine that at this time, albums like the Chili Peppers’ “Uplift Mofo Party Plan” seemed like a godsend. Inox was also an integral influence, he was cutting edge, he saw NIN on the Peter Murphy tour, later on he brought bands like Covenant to the Baltimore Washington area.
I got into computer based music composition in 1986 or so, with Music Construction set on the Apple ][ and then more so with Music Studio for the Apple ][gs. Before that Mike and I (yes, he was 7 years old) were experimenting with sound by hacking the Apple PC speaker with poke commands. So that was the real beginning of my electronic experience, the Apple POKE command.
The real turning point came with the formation of the Apologizers in 1990 at SSU. I had met Andy and he was literally the most mentally unstable social genius on the campus. And he came bearing Meat Beat Manifesto. At the same time, I had buddy’d up with a gay music professor (no homo) and a dramatic influence on both me and JJ, named Dr. Ray Zeigler. He was sort of a musical anarchist. He would give people A’s on their musical projects if he could detect that they earnestly believed in what they had done, no matter how much it sucked. Sort of prepared me for the world of pop music.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I blame it ALL on Andy, ARMED AUDIO WARFARE and STORM THE STUDIO. Those two CDs are the reason I am doing this shit now. So it’s all Jack Dangers’ fault. And Andy’s.
MAB: I remember Brad and JJ working with Music Construction Set on the Apple when I was maybe 7 years old or so. That was my first introduction to electronic music. As a kid, I was a huge fan of jazz, metal, and classical, and I got a little bit into popular orchestral shit because I was in every band and orchestra the school offered from age 7 through graduation. I was about 11 when Scatterbrain’s first album came out, and I thought it was the shit. I liked the early days of the Chili’s, Metallica, and Primus a lot, and I was a big Jaco Pastorius fan. Ween was a huge influence on me, and actually “The Pod” was the first CD I ever purchased. Later in my teen/college years, I was into Tool, Rage Against The Machine, Helmet, Parliament, and Steely Dan, and in the early 90’s I got into Frontline Assembled and Meat Beat Manifesto as my first real electronic music obsessions. In the very early days of Boole, I was influenced quite a bit by Meat Beat Manifesto, X Marks The Pedwalk, and Covenant. Nowadays my primary influences are Bette Midler and the band from the www.freecreditreport.com commercials.
Does the band have any touring or live plans? Where are some places you’d like to hit?
Br0d: Yeah we’re doing two shows this year, we may take on more. Honestly the enthusiasm of the person booking has a lot to do with how into a show we are. If someone called us from Fiji absolutely demanding that we play there, we’d probably fly there and play. It’s not really about money, but sharing a vibe with like minded people. Then we’re also doing another show for this obnoxious noise pariah up in Madison Wisconsin on August 23, his name escapes me at the moment. (Note: It’s the Reverence Festival that the fine interviewer of this piece puts together. Boole will be sleeping on the street for it)
MAB: The 2008 Jump Up My Butt Tour will be hitting a shitty near you! Cher is opening for us.
Actually, we like playing any city that can draw us a big crowd of cool people. So far, that has primarily consisted of Madison, Charlottesville, and depending on the night of the week and venue, Baltimore. Dracula’s Ball in Philly wasn’t bad either, except for the historic winter storm featuring thunder snow, so we’d probably do that again if invited.
Blimpcaptain: The schnoz of Bill O’Reilly is a place I’d like to hit. I’d love to perform pretty much anywhere folks are willing to assemble and groove to our tunes. A show on board a blimp or along the river Neckar would be quite spectacular. I’d also be down with tapping into the Canadian market — Montreal and Toronto are both fun cities, and if I could squeeze in some pond hockey, that’d make my day.
What do you think the biggest misconception of the band is?
Blimpcaptain: That’s hard to say. I’m not in contact very often with many of our fans and almost invisible in terms of the online/public presence, but the ones whom I’ve met seem to be very friendly and open-minded. Most of those with whom I’ve spoken seem to understand that we take our music seriously and want for people to enjoy Boole, but that we’re not overly serious about ourselves. I can say, though, that the rumors that Mike is pregnant with my love child are pure tabloid trash!
Br0d: That we’re as rude and mean as we were in 1998-2002. Hahaha. I used to be really antisocial, messing with people a lot, talking shit, etc. Basically I loved getting a rise out of people, calling the emperor naked, and embarrassing people. I’m really over that phase of my life. Oddly enough, I’ve always gotten along with Bryan Erickson of Velvet Acid Christ. There are obviously people who still carry grudges and well, a grudge is something you carry for someone else, so as the Buddha would say, the burden is yours.
Another misconception I’ve noticed is that some people think comical music isn’t serious or professional. We’re big Ween fans. People who take themselves too seriously HATE Ween. But if you really examine their music, they are some of the most gifted pop musicians in all of America. The talent, the eclecticism, those guys are fucking fantastic.
MAB: First of all, we are not a gay band. Just because I am having Andy’s baby and you can find a song called “The I’m Gay Song” on our website, does not make us gay. At least that is what my psychiatrist, also Andy, told me.
Secondly, I did not have sex with that guy in Stromkern, no matter what you media jackals insinuate.
You give a massive amount of music away for free (both Boole and the Apologizers). What are your feelings on digital distribution as the possible future model for music releases?
Br0d: Apologizers was always a social operative and had no designs on profit. For over 10 years, none of the music was even released in purchasable form. Boole seeks profit but is not into greedy rights protections, The Vital Few is already torrented and pirated all over the place anyway. I don’t think non-touring musicians should expect to make any specific amount of money as some sort of primadonna. Mom and pop go to work every day, and artists who can’t go to work setting up and breaking down gear on a regular basis really don’t deserve to be bankrolled merely by what they shit out in the studio. If someone can pull that ivory tower shit off, more power to them, but if not, don’t be surprised, there is no music messiah, and if there was, he wouldn’t use verse-chorus-verse.
As for digital distribution, we’ve been in a weird reformation/crossroads period for some time. I think the recent NIN release in multiple formats will be like the hammering of 95 theses for rock and electronica. No matter how dated people claim Trent is, almost everyone secretly looks up to him. He was the original “Band in a Box” autonomous electronic/rock artist, he created entire genres at a whim. He has managed to remain relevant for almost 20 years, while changing constantly.
MAB: Don’t get me started on this. I have enough opinions on the matter to fill a whole article. In general, I am in favor of it, but I feel that the traditionalists are gnashing at their own noses to spite their faces when things would be better off if everyone embraced the reality of digital distribution. I also think that the microfinance element of DPD means we are going to have to revisit the laws surrounding sampling and covering songs.
Blimpcaptain: I’m with Steve Albini — “The future belongs to analog loyalists. Fuck digital!” Actually, I do have a soft spot for physical media, as evidenced by my absurdly large collection of CDs, records, tapes, 8-tracks, wax cylinders, etc. I’m one of those old softies who enjoys flipping through the liner notes, poring over the credits and contemplating the artwork. I realize that we’re headed inexorably toward an (almost) all-digital world, but I think it’ll be a little further down the road than 2010 before the larger industry moves away from physical media. There’ll still be plenty of pockets of collector scum out there, ready and willing to support the independent labels and artists known for their innovative packaging and design.
What’s the difference between the writing process from Boole and the Apologizers?
Br0d: A lot more time is given to production for Boole, with the Apologizers, whenever we stop laughing, we call the song done. Also Boole generally has a focus on more meaningful lyrics. Apologizers songs contain things like keyboard failures, ambient room sounds, and interruptions like people walking in during the recording. One Apologizers song was ended by Andy kicking a soccer ball really hard against the studio window and scaring the shit out of me. Not exactly your typical outro.
Blimpcaptain: Brad writes most of the songs for Boole. They are his experiences and ruminations brought to life through music, with occasional influences or collaborations from his brothers and friends. The Apologizers includes anything and everything that exists in the space between any of us pushing “STOP” after a device has BEEN recording our shenanigans and the endless void of the cutting room floor.
MAB: What’s the difference between Ruth’s Chris and Five Guys? They are both awesome in their own way.
If you could be remembered for one song as Boole, what would it be and why?
Br0d: I have no specific answer to this, but my favorite songs are the ones which lay bare realizations about falsehoods which we collectively tolerate. I have no desire to be remembered globally, in some kitsch fashion for any one song, but through the specific application of songs which mean specific things to individuals, who then use the music to improve their lives or assist themselves in making realizations which carry them forward.
Blimpcaptain: I like Brad’s answer to this question. I’d like to be remembered by anyone who has found any kind of positive motivation or inspiration in any of our songs.
MAB: “Disco Vampyre”, definitely. Because only I know JUST how much that answer will piss Brad off.
Have you ever fucked Stromkern’s Ned Kirby?
Blimpcaptain: Sadly, no.
MAB: It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.
Br0d: Ned is the kind of guy who will give you the shirt off his back to wipe up the spunk he has just torqued all over your face. This is the kind of guy who does not need to be reminded when you want a reacharound. He’s also the guy who gets trotted out when someone says “durrr why is German industrial always better than American? Trent, Jourgensen, and 50 others don’t count!” Ned’s like a trump card for dealing with the underground elitists.
If I gave you $1000 would you all dress in cyber-industrial gear for a show? Would you even wear black shoes? How about just NOT wearing tennis shoes?
Br0d: We’ve got nothing against the subcultural uniforms, per se. I guess my problem with clothing is that it creates strong misconceptions in those who misunderstand, and communicates a weaker likeness in those who do understand. I guess that’s why I prefer to dress somewhat anonymously, it’s actually more fun when people can’t look at you and say “oh, he is an X or a Y, I’ve classified him, I can now deal with him according to my appropriate bias.” People who don’t know me don’t deserve the luxury of quickly classifying me.
Now, if you buy me full fetish gear and a lacrosse helmet, I will certainly play in that. Because confusion is holy.
Blimpcaptain: Right now, yes. My fuckin’ car’s clutch is fucked and I could use the grand to put toward the repair! Generally speaking, no. I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy. I’ll dress up every now and again, but as a rule I’m pretty lazy when it comes to fashion. As for the sneakers, I used to wear nothing but DMs when I was in college — often, even to rugby practice — but I haven’t felt like dropping the coin on a pair for some time.
MAB: Shit, dude, normally I’d do it for free. But since you offered $1000, that means I will now do it for $1000.
How do you consider yourselves “traditional” (define it as you wish) as an industrial outfit?
Blimpcaptain: A lot of traditional influences and experiences. We were listening to and/or seeing a lot of the “classic” bands during their early years. I think a good bit of that has rubbed off on us, musically, and in our ethic. Industrial music has always been about experimentation, breaking new ground, and pushing boundaries. Those concepts still resonate with us.
Br0d: We wear BDUs. We used to have televisions on stage. We own a Juno 106, and have owned an Alesis Drum Module. We have played with control.org.
We sample “Clockwork Orange”, “Blade Runner”, and “Dune”. We own, and listen to Ras DVA. We like Clock DVA. We were on R.M.I. When someone complains that real industrial happened in the 1960s and 1970s, we don’t get quizzical looks on our faces. We own the :wumpscut: box set. We own rusty things. We like warehouses. If we had an anvil, we would beat on it as a snare.
MAB: We try to make noise, breaking as much shit as we can get away with on stage?
Give us a great live story about one of your shows.
Br0d: When we played with Covenant and And One in DC, we showed up, sound checked, and started doing whippets. Someone brought over Steve Naghavi of And One to introduce us to him, and I was practically blind from all the nitrous. The pocket cracker we were using had frozen to my lip, so it ripped the skin off my lip and it started bleeding. So I am high as hell, blood running out of my mouth, and trying to talk to Steve.
Then a few minutes later, we’re going on, my mouth is still bleeding, and I am having to swallow blood in order to keep singing during the first song, which was ironically “Disco Vampyre”. Looking back, I should have just stuck my tongue out and spat blood everywhere during the chorus, like Gene Simmons.
Later on that show we brought out our hockey sticks. We had taken about ten Boole shirts and bundled them up in duct tape, to make them into shirt pucks. So we put on an instrumental and Mike and Andy start hitting wristers and slappers into the crowd, and one girl got hit in the face. I mean that kinda sucks getting hit in the face, but hey, FREE SHIRT! In a week the bruise will be gone, but you’ll still have a shirt!
MAB: Oh man there are so many, even though we really haven’t played that many shows in the grand scheme of things… maybe 30 or so over the years.
I would say Dracula’s Ball in Philly in 2003 was quite memorable. I’m not feeling to story-tellingy right now so I’ll just say it was a big show in a club in Philly that is normally known as a gay club. Anyway, we were playing with Bella Morte and I happened to have some stale-ish chocolate milk and a BLT everything bagel on the way up to Philly before the show. Brad is always fairly gastro-aggro. However, Bella Morte came prepared and when fart came to shart, they managed to pull what may be the greatest upset in the history of competitive flatulence backstage. Nobody’s girlfriend was pleased. We vowed to avenge our defeat the next time we played with them, but that hasn’t happened yet. Then, after the show, three fucking feet of snow fell on the ground and we were stranded up there for a couple days. The official weather report called for something called “thunder snow” which at the time we thought was riotous.
Then there was the supposed Apoptygma Berzerk/VNV show at the Black Cat in 2000, which turned into our greatest show ever. Apoptygma Berzerk and VNV copped out due to some lame rider requirements regarding lighting and black socks or something, and so they left several hundred angry fans stranded outside the club. We reduced the price and let them all in for one of the rockinest shows that Boole ever did.
Blimpcaptain: The first two official Boole shows were actually performed under the name George Boole and the Toggles, and they were essentially one-ring circuses. Our first performance took place during a battle of the bands at Loyola College (where Mike earned his undergrad degrees). Brad and Mike played saxes and fiddled with sequencers and synths, with the three of us sharing vocal duties and myself and Kevin Danko (a friend of ours) performing all sorts of inane, acrobatic and interpretive dance moves. We had one called the helicopter which involved me hoisting him onto my shoulders and having him stiffen his limbs to approximate the blade while I rotated on my heels as quickly as I could. We also incorporated some breakdancing and a lot of moves that looked like pole-dancing without the pole. I don’t recall how we finished in the contest, but the assembled masses were equal parts amused and confused. Our second show was at a club called Hepburns in Highlandtown, which is a suburb of Baltimore. Inox hosted a weekly event there and had gotten us a gig. We recruited a girl named Anna to provide the “wailing slut” vocals during our cover of “Rough Sex” by the Lords of Acid. The show was a total clusterfuckstival, and ultimately we survived, but the band was pared down to Mike and Brad with occasional input from JJ, Inox, and myself after that.
If you could do a show in comfy chairs, would you? How comfy?
Blimpcaptain: As comfy as you got ’em! I’ve also joked with Brad and Mike about doing a “barstool industrial” gig at some point in the future.
MAB: A barstool show would be awesome!! I would totally do a show on an exact replica of Chairy from Pee Wee’s Playhouse, too.
Br0d: Absolutely. Didn’t the Mighty Mighty Bosstones do that? We have actually discussed adding a fourth member. A full time gamer. Someone who sits in a recliner and plays PS2, PS3, Xbox, and Game Cube the entire time, completely ignoring the show. I know I would like to have that job.
— interview by interview by Matt Fanale (May 2008)