The name Squid is bound to ring some bells among the North-American Industrial music scene. Known for his participation in the Toronto Industrial Kollective, Squid started his own record label, the viscerally named Bugs Crawling Out Of People, which can be interpreted as a manifesto of sorts against the perceived staleness of the Industrial music scene and corruption of the world in general.
The past couple of years also saw the emergence and development of his own creative project, the self-styled spoken wordcore Rock’n’Roll Super God It-Clings. After a series of colaborations and guest appearances with various artists, a partnership with Pneumatic Detach resulted in “the all too logical descent into madness”, It-Clings full-length debut. Explicit and misanthropic in the extreme, it is an angry release in which no concessions are made and no punch is pulled.
C.B. – Many people will be aware of you through your involvement with the now defunct Toronto Industrial Kollective organization. Since then you’ve moved on to found your own label, Bugs Crawling Out Of People, and the spoken word project It-Clings. What led you to start a spoken word project?
Let’s begin this interview with some complete bullshit: It was all destiny! I had no choice but to become it-clings. In fact, I have recently retold the revisionist origins of It-Clings in a new track, “I’m the biggest fucking thing in the whole fucking world.” Yes, it’s all too true. When the lightning bolt of destiny strikes one can’t ignore the outcome. When one is chosen, when one amongst the many is selected, there is an altering of the very structure of the universe. One day I was nothing but a mere “mortal, piece of shit, drunk pissant” and then the next suddenly “rock’n’roll super-god it-clings!” Destiny works in fucked up ways. The very idea of me being at all involved in a music project would, several years ago, seem highly absurd and yet that absurdity has now manifested itself.
Now let’s gets to truth, let’s start with the very basics: I have on many occasions stated that I have absolutely no musical talent what so ever. This is not humility speaking. I simply don’t. However, I do have some aspects which can overcome this handicap, in that I believe what I write, the prose that I write, is of a quality that more than makes up for its lack of musical ability (people may of course disagree with this). I don’t have to attempt to claim that I am singing and I most certainly do not write poetry. I write prose and when I perform it, I speak or yell it.
I also seem to have a bit of a knack for performance. However this isn’t saying much, and perhaps this is a mixture of humility and reality. I’ve seen a lot of bands perform and far too many of them lack any sort of performance charisma. They stand, or if you can believe it, sit behind their laptop and they think that’s performance, or that the video of weird or cool stuff projected behind them is performance. It’s not and it’s forgettable. There’s not much egotism in my statement that my performances are an upgrade of that, and I don’t even believe that I put on the best show ever. I think it’s important that performers put on something worth actually paying attention to. Important too is the feeling that my performances improve with every show, that I’m trying to add something new each and every time to make the experience something unique.
In a way it really helped that my first performance sucked beyond all belief. It was also so terrible that it gave me a instant wake up call; I couldn’t go on stage a second time and continue like that so I had no option but to improve. I want to be critical of my performances and I want to get better and better at them.
C.B. – And an obvious question… How did you come up with the name “It-Clings”? Is there any particular meaning to it?
It-clings actually comes from a track on the album “the all too logical descent into madness” but it also represents the idea of the project. As stated above and elsewhere, I don’t have any musical ability. However, I have found a loop-hole in becoming a rock’n’roll supergod: get others to write the music for you. I write the words then ‘cling’ those words onto people whose musical talents border on genius. It’s such a simple concept that I’m confused why everyone hasn’t realized it.
I like to think that the term “it-clings” has a greater meaning, however. It works within the sentence within the track on which it originally appears: “…and I think that maybe I should try to remove an entire bone, try to separate it from the mass. It won’t come off clean, that’s for sure. And I dig the knife in a little further. And the bone doesn’t want to become free, it clings and I think that this is going to drive me into more of an angry rage than I’m really prepared for.” There is a lot of meaning for me within these few lines, the mixture of freedom with rage, and pointless desire to separate from the greater mass.
C.B. – Speaking of which, between the inception of It-Clings and the release of the debut album, “The All Too Logical Descent Into Madness” you featured as a guest in quite a few tracks by different artists both recorded and live (Pneumatic Detach, Fractured, Dead Man’s Hill, Autoclav1.1 and Prospero come to mind). What kind of impact did these multiple collaborations have in the evolution of It-Clings (from text themes, to the performance and even writing style…)?
I should separate this answer into two.
To begin with, my guest appearances on CDs have been sort of amusing and confusing since I don’t think anyone has really ever gotten what they’re about. I think a major problem is that Europeans (the major consumers of this sort of music) just don’t understand it. I don’t know if it’s just that it-clings is too English language focused or that Europeans are just unable to understand the complexities of my particular style of “Cruelty Humour”. Who knows really… I don’t really ever receive any positive feedback, I just hear the negative. But the negative always makes me laugh because when I read it I think to myself “wow, you SO didn’t get it, did you, you fucking ignoramus” although I never use the word “ignoramus” in my inner monologues. But that’s OK, because I don’t reciprocate the gesture; I never really bother reading the lyrics of any music I listen to. I assume that these musicians don’t really have anything worthwhile to say… Because in truth, 99% of the time they don’t, and German lyrics only sound cool until they are translated into English, and then they instantly become nothing but mockable.
My guest appearances during live shows however have all gone extremely well, and the impact it has on me has always been to push myself further. When performing with a band I usually only do one track with them, so I figure I’ve really got to make it count.
Here’s a little anecdote that I heard from someone else that sums up a lot: I was performing with Fractured at big club night in Toronto. The show begins and we start off with “What is the Moment of Truth.” The owner/DJ of the club was standing next to some guy who had never heard of Fractured before and so didn’t know what the sound was like. “Does it all sound like that?” the guy asked the DJ. “No, no,” the DJ replied. “This is just a guest vocalist for one song.” And then there was a pause. The guy points at me to stress the point and tells the DJ “That’s dude’s fucking angry!” We all see lots of industrial bands all time and in theory they’re all angry about something, but you watch it passively and would never think to yourself “holy shit, that guys angry!” until it-clings comes around.
C.B. – You once mentioned that your texts are written – and memorized – prior to live performance. How much room do you leave for improvisation?
To some degree the live performances have a great deal of improvisation in them, but not necessarily in what is being said. The improvisation at the moment occurs in the way it is performed, as I do not rehearse or choreograph the performance before hand. What exactly I’m going to do on stage and the way it is delivered is highly improvised. I like to keep the emotional elements fresh, and you can’t do that with well rehearsed poses.
As for the texts themselves, I think I it will just be a matter of time before I integrate more improvisation into my live performances, however I’m a little wary of it for several reasons. The first reason is that I take a lot of care and a lot of re-writing to craft each of my pieces. They aren’t simply stream of thought or quickly conceived, and so having too much improvisation would dilute the essence of the piece with random crap. The second is perhaps more important since I’ve been known to go on rants that are unstoppable, even once they surpass the point of entertainment or acceptability. And although many people might like to see that, I think I would regret it in the long or even short run.
C.B. – Considering the ‘origin’ of It-Clings, Pneumatic Detach certainly seems to be the natural choice for the ‘accompanying musician’ in your debut album and the end result is quite effective and coherent as well. However, what prompted work with a single musician – in particular Pneumatic Detach – instead of working with several?
By ‘origin’ I suppose you mean the incident where Justin Brink of Pneumatic Detach spurred me into one of those painfully long angry rants I just spoke of, one that so amused him (and pretty much no one else at that party) that he invited me to perform with him at the Rhode Island Noise Fest, and not the newer more public friendly origin that I mentioned at the beginning of this interview (which will probably be the ‘origin’ version you’ll be seeing one day on the crappy made-for-TV movie version of the tragic tale of It-Clings). The original plan was to have more than one artist working on it, but PD just went all insane and started pumping out ideas for the tracks. He took to the whole idea of the CD and so doing the album with just him became the way it was to be. Working just with PD was amazing, in that the tracks all have a wonderful flow to them.
C.B. – Spoken word works usually don’t have much in the way of musical background and, in “The All Too Logical Descent Into Madness” the music is a clear complement to your discourse. Can you tell us a bit about how the creative process between you and Justin Brink worked for this album?
All the text was written first, then recorded, then sent to Pneumatic Detach. I generally give the musician total control to do whatever he wants with the track, as long as the minimum requirements are met; they aren’t allowed to fuck around with the order of the text, and the vocals must be clear. Other than that I will offer input but that’s pretty much it.
C.B. – The content of your texts can be considered from misanthropic rants to really serious stuff if taken at face value. What is your relationship your texts’ content, do they represent some sort of catharsis for you? And towards the listener, do you have some sort of intention or objective with your texts’ message?
Is that a mistake in asking “from misanthropic rants to really serious stuff”? I think that misanthropy is fairly serious, and although I often use dark cruelty humour to express some ideas, the underlying seriousness is always there.
I wrote a lot of the text for “the all too logical descent into madness” after drinking serious amounts of alcohol. The alcohol was used to break down some barriers and allow ideas to free flow easier. Some mornings I would wake up the next day all hung over and wonder if I had written anything the night before. My memory was a blank. Then there on my computer screen was this brilliant piece of work and I had to assume that I had written it. Listening to the album afterward, I would often think “what the fuck? Whoever wrote this has some serious fucking problems.” and then the realization that I had indeed written it would settle in. I don’t agree with what the text on the album says, I mean, it’s pretty fucking harsh and it’s extreme, and yet it is a reaction to this really fucked up world, and with that I can agree.
My own opinion of the content can be seen in the title of the album, that there is a logical descent into madness, that the world has caused us make a choice to make a reasonable descent into absurdity. It makes no sense and all sense.
C.B. – Whether ‘constrained’ by musicians’ requests or whether you have ‘carte blanche’, can you tell us something about how your texts come to be? I’m wondering about inspiration, the choice of subject matter and its treatment.
When working on a collaborative track I usually ask the artist I’m working with to give me a very rough idea of what they want the track to be about. I then take that idea and corrupt and distort it through my own ideas into something totally different. I like the idea that they give me to be as vague as possible, but it doesn’t need to be.
The actual process of inspiration I can not talk about.
The musicians have been generally really easy going as far as my texts go. If you allow me a step into egoistical statements, I think they have either been too impressed or too intimidated to be too critical. Or to be less egotistical, perhaps I just write stuff that they feel, but have been unable to put into words. The only negative reaction I have gotten was a piece I wrote for Fractured’s second album that was rejected because, as Nick put it, “I’d prefer if the first words on my new CD weren’t ‘There I was slamming my cock into some chick’s asshole'”. And although it was a great piece, perhaps he was right and it wasn’t well suited for his CD. As a side note, when I performed this very same piece with Iszoloscope at Savage Garden two people were so insulted by the context that they left the venue. I was quite pleased about this on a personal level, but also disappointed with how frail people are.
C.B. – Knowing about your involvement with music (T.I.K., your own label, etc), how did the music you listen to influence your work as a spoken word artist? If I’m not mistaken, in addition to electronic music, you’re into black metal as well.
As far as Black Metal goes I’m actually only into Chinese Black Metal. I like Chinese Black Metal because its crazy fucking stuff, it doesn’t seem to have to sound like anything else. But who knows, my knowledge of Black Metal is very limited. I’ve pretty much always been a fan of crazy fucked-up music.
I’m not sure how much the music I listen to influences my own work. In fact, I would even say (in a bit of a cryptic way) that music I don’t listen to influences my work more than the music I listen to.
C.B. – You coined a new term, “spoken wordcore”, to describe your work. Taking the piss on spoken word and the tendency of the music scenes to invent genre definitions for everything under the sun?
The short answer to this is yes and yes. I think I came up with the idea at a party, where I was simultaneously bitching about and making fun of most spoken word, and slam poetry in particular. I needed a way to separate what I do from them and also to subtly show to those who understand humour that I’m not taking myself too seriously either. You see, adding “core” to anything makes it more Industrial in nature without having to resort to going too far and using the word “cyber”.
C.B. – Some spoken word, your spoken wordcore and even scathing stand-up comedy all end up being confrontational performances. Has your work and live act been influenced by performers such as Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra, Bill Hicks and even Lenny Bruce?
Nope. Not in any sort of conscious way.
C.B. – And since we’re at it, I can imagine some people dismissing the content of your texts and performances as “the ramblings of a madman”, or even suggesting you should be locked up. Comments?
That’s probably understandable. And yeah, why shouldn’t they dismiss it all as the ramblings of a madman? To expect more from them would be to expect them to do anything more than casually pass over the context of the text. The texts are an admitted fictional extreme of more realistic ideas. If you only see the excessive in the text than you’re going to think I’m totally fucked up. Ah fuck it, even if you totally get the text in the way they’re meant to be understood you’re probably going to think I’m fucked up too, and I suppose you’d be right. However, unfortunately I’m not fucked up enough and can still be a functional and (more importantly) productive member of the greater society. That point of snapping remains outside my reach.
C.B. – Productive and creative (as an artist) member of society and perhaps even actively responsible (if I remember it correctly you are a vegan)? Do you consider yourself to be an idealist or a pragmatic realist?
Neither. I think I view myself more as a pessimistic than anything else. Even my veganism can be seen as an extension of my pessimism. I just don’t want to be involved in any of their crap anymore. It all sickens me, but I’m not an activist or an environmentalist. I don’t want to be part of their world, but I am and I’m just another insignificant part of it. In the end the worst and most vile aspects always win out because they are easier, cheaper, and because no one give a shit.
C.B. – Going back to music for a bit before the conclusion, can you give some insight into the origins your label, Bugs Crawling Out Of People as well as its purpose and objectives?
Bugs Crawling Out of People was created sort of as a convulsion against what I was seeing about me, and also as a way for me to forcibly insert my own opinions, ideas and myself into the industrial music scene, and take more of an active role in subjecting people to the sort of music and concepts that I felt they needed to subjected to. The name itself comes from a thought I had one night while DJing music that no one wanted to hear, and that actually caused averse reactions in their tiny little minds, caused them all to believe that their were bugs crawling out of them (it was actually a combination of the drugs and the music). They hated it and I realized that this was the music for me.
With the release of “Revelation” (Bugs Crawling Out of People’s first release), a lot of reviewers were critical of the stated objective that I posted on the Bugs Crawling Out Of People website. It was a little strong and a little idealistic and people always like to criticize stuff like that, and perhaps they should and perhaps they are right, but you know what, fuck all of them too. Luckily I’m not doing this for any other reason than my own personal satisfaction. Oh yeah, sure it would be nice if someone else out there ‘got it’ but in the end it doesn’t really matter. Someone else truly getting it won’t lead to anything, so in the end its all for nothing.
C.B. – Concerning It-Clings guest appearances and collaborations, live and recorded, are there any others down the pipeline? Are there plans to compile them in a single release at some point?
It-Clings is dependent upon further collaborations. And there are a couple of them being worked on at this very moment. It looks like the next Prospero album will feature an it-clings collaboration, and I am talking with several different artists in several different genres about further releases.
Hopefully within the next couple of months the next Bugs Crawling Out Of People release will have begun.
As for compiling them all into a single release: No plans at this point in time. I think people should get hold of the albums that they are connected with. They are meant to be heard that way.
C.B. – We’d like to thank you for your time, do you have any final words or requests?
I hate this question, to be honest. But I suppose it could give me the opportunity to point out all the questions that were missed. I could, but I won’t. And that’s really too bad because some of them would have had incredibly interesting answers, answers that may have explained it all.
“i’m the biggest fucking thing in the whole fucking world”
(It-Clings live with Famine at C.O.M.A.4, Montreal)
“how terrible it all is”
(It-Clings live with Pneumatic Detach & Autoclav1.1 at C.O.M.A.3, Montreal)
— interview by Miguel de Sousa; photos taken from It-Clings’ site and by Kathleen Chausse used with permission (May-June 2007)