First off, we have some scintillating photos for use in your esteemed publications.
Also, we have the ASM is the Future of Everything Press One Sheet and ASM is the Future of Everything Radio Track Information for you press types to download.
Now on to the lovefest:
They may call it the Great American Songbook, but don't settle in for a listen expecting Gershwin to crop up among these tunes. Those Anti-Social Music kids, a self-described "low-rent" chamber music group out of New York, have packed eight pieces of new-music madness by their own membership onto this latest release. Despite all their marketing bluster about being a rowdy, rule-disrespecting bunch, here their repertoire is left to fend for itself absent the ensemble's usual stage antics. And stand it doesespecially John Wriggle's "...Hero Cops & Olympic Gold" (Symphonasm No. 1). Wriggles has yet again produced a piece for the group that is classy, edgy, fun. Definitely a guy to watch.- MS
Punks In The (Orchestra) Pit:
Just when the spirit of punk was gasping its last whiskey-laden breath in some forlorn gutter under the crashing Chuck Taylor of corporate pop-punk and nu-screamo, it's discovered miles away, drunkenly wavering on a stage or in a basement playing ... chamber music?
Anti-Social Music is punk's next breath, a non-profit organization slash rag-tag orchestra from New York that takes the DIY ethic of hardcore to heart. "We certainly weren't profiting, and we didn't see any hope of profiting any time in the future anyways, so might as well make it official, right?" Anti-Social Music's co-founder / secretary / composer / cellist Pat Muchmore says, explaining the "non-profit" tag. Co-founder / president / composer / accordionist Franz Nicolay adds, "What never stops being a revelation and a guideline for living is the ethos of punk rock: live cheap, live free, live together, don't wait for a handout, craft your life the way you dream it could be instead of complaining when it doesn't happen that way on its own. That, you can always use. In fact, it's the original, pre-corporate American way ... DIY is an aesthetic of necessity that becomes one of first perverse and then genuine pride. The world was never going to beat down ASM's collective doors begging to hear our music, so you do what you have to do to convince them.
"In the last five years, we've played 67 brand-new works by 32 composers and played with over 150 musicians. It's like the Blob," continues Nicolay. Jean Cook, ASM's treasurer / violinist, seconds the "Blob" motion. "We're the Blob, slowly consuming everything in our path in our quest for world domination. Hide your music stands and small children!" What does an amorphous jazz and classically trained blob of punks and composers sound like? Not one member of ASM offers up an explanation. They have none. Real D guesses: "An avant-garde orchestra with a punk attitude."
Just know that ASM makes socially unacceptable music. "With the general acceptance of punk and metal and pretty much every outsider music in circulation, listening to punk rock no longer has the subversive cachet to piss off your parents and annoy your friends. You start listening to the ASM record in your car, your parents are confused and a little worried and your friends are gonna get pissed and yell at you to put the radio back on," Nicolay offers. Muchmore adds, "The average American would be pretty shocked by some of the things we throw together. The noises we seem to like and think are pretty even when 'pretty' might not be the first word that comes to the average guy's mind ... There's something dangerous [about ASM] ... we're not going to get hurt actually I hurt myself at concerts sometimes, but that's my fault. We're aesthetically dangerous."
There's a sort of chamber music scene in NYC right now, but ASM is different. How so? "We get loaded on stage," Cook says. Composer / trombonist John Wriggle quips about the difference: "ASM has gigs and an audience." Zing!
ASM's goal? "To present the music that gets us rejected from composition competitions and graduate programs," Wriggle explains. Cook thinks similarly: "To play music we like. To put on shows we'd want to go to. Make records we'd want to listen to. Have fun." Nicolay adds: "In the future, everyone will be a member of Anti-Social Music."
So after loads of musical training, why do ASM? Wriggle says: "The cats can play." Nicolay explains: "Where you gonna go to feel part of something? Probably the punk rock show, 'cause that's where your friends are. How are you ever going to indulge that other part of you that just discovered Zorn and Ives? You can't, so you probably let it go ... Instead: Anti-Social Music." | RDW
from An Aquarian Drunkard:
Franz Nicolay -- NYC musician-about-town sits down with the Drunkard to discuss (among other things): the NYC collective of musicians known as Anti-Social Music, The Hold Steady's recent success and their involvement playing CO's Columbine High School, the Internet and music, his favorite albums of 2005, etc. etc. etc. Read on... get enlightened.
AD: Can you give us a bit of your background what brought you to New York and what your "musical" path has been over the years?
Franz: I moved to New York from small-town New Hampshire when I was 17. I've been here 10 years. I went to music school, had an American Music Club-influenced band called the Suckers. In 2000, we started Anti-Social Music. In 2001, I joined the circus-punk gang World/Inferno Friendship Society and started touring the world. In 2003, me and Peter Hess (Inferno, ASM) formed the gypsy/klezmer group Guignol just in time for the NYC gypsy-punk scene. In 2004, I joined the Hold Steady, just in time for that to turn into something. An excellent combination of elbow grease and timing, so far. I also played or recorded with a gaggle of groups including the Dresden Dolls, LeftoverCrack, Mischief Brew, and hella others.
AD: Let's talk about Ant-Social music, the NYC collective of musicians which you founded in 2000. How did that come about, and how would you describe it? Chamber-music revivalists too narrow a label?
Franz: Well, revivalist implies that we're trying to recreate some past glory, which is exactly the opposite of what we're after. "Reinventalists", maybe. The idea is that there are musicians, and music fans, out there who have classical or new-music training and a love for it, but can't abide the self-regard and embalming piety that surrounds going to recitals or "experimental-music" shows. This stuff is supposed to be fun, people! And there are teenagers who have grown up playing violin in orchestra camp and maybe just discovered Zorn, or Ives, or the "The Yellow Shark", but if you're looking for a scene, your friends are hanging out getting drunk and making out at the punk show in dude's basement, so if you want to see them you best be there. Anti-Social Music is here to combine the two, so people can indulge that side of themselves with all the sweat, heckling, and bottles of whiskey that you need to have a good time.
Plus, there's no real bridge between the experimental-indie-rock fans who are nuts for Animal Collective, Deerhoof, and the Locust; and new-music nerds who show up a dozen strong for Phil Kline, orthe Ives Fourth, or a Moondog reissue. But the music is not that different, it's just about the scene. We can fix that. Carl Stone and Danger Mouse? Same shit. Different marketing plan. Doesn't have to be.
AD: In today's manufactured "indie" rock scene, has this music, while truly independent, been received well? Better/worse than expected?
Franz: Yes. Better than we expected. With the caveat, it sure is all about the publicist (thanks Clermont!) in this industry. Anyone who thinks that the indie record business is purer or more merit-based than major labels is seriously deluded. Wonder why some records end up on Pitchfork or in whatever zine? Everyone I know has been making great records and selling two dozen. ASM is five years in. All it takes is $1300/month and some people are gonna love it. I'm not complaining, that's actually just advice. It's a way better investment than a tour van.
AD: Some of the readers may know you from your work with The Hold Steady. How did you get hooked up with those guys?
Franz: World/Inferno played some shows with Lifter Puller in Chicago a long time ago, then when Craig moved to New York he was doing A&R for the now-defunct DCN live label and signed us up for the live record "Hallowmas at Northsix". Over the course of working on that, we'd go out drinking with him and Tad when the Hold Steady was kind of coming together as "this new band we're sort of working on". When it finally happened, they called and asked me and Peter to come play on the first record ("Almost Killed Me"), which led to me coming and playing those three songs on NY shows whenever it worked out, which led to "Hey, do you wanna get together and work on some songs for the new record?", which became "Well, do you want to join the band?"
AD: This past year has been quite successful for The Hold Steady, with the Target commercial and getting name-checked on the popular television show LOST. Have you felt the 'buzz' steadily increase throughout the year at your live shows with turn-out and energy level?
Franz: Not at first. It wasn't until the October tour that you could really see the change - from the 300-ish venues on the March tour to twice that (in a Chicago or San Francisco). Or in a San Diego or Tucson, from barely attended to sold out. It happens pretty slow. The money happens even slower. It's hard to get too excited when I'm still getting evicted next month and eating my girlfriend's food. That kind of keeps it all in perspective.
AD: The Hold Steady recently played a set at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO. How did that come about? Good experience? Receptive kids?
Franz: Amazing, and genuinely both strange and exhilarating. This teacher, Mr. Thom, who runs a program for troubled teens making the transition from middle-school to high-school, was using "Separation Sunday" as the basis of his curriculum all semester: the English classes studied the lyrics for literary references; the geography classes did reports on all the cities we were going to on tour; the math class figured out how much gas between all our stops would cost (answer: a lot.) They called it the "Hold Study". So he emailed us to see if we could come play seventh period when we were in Denver. We said "hell yeah", and when we got there, they had a huge, homemade "Welcome Hold Steady" banner over the school entrance and all the kids lined up cheering. One kid playing the"Hoodrat" riff on his guitar. A gym done up like a pep rally, with "Hold Steady Rocks" signs over the bleachers. A HS look-alike contest. An interview by three of the kids, which was actually the best interview I've done all year (no offense). Those kids really got into it: What would you tell kids about drugs? What do you think about teachers? Do you guys fight, and what about?
AD: As 2005 comes to a close, what exciting things to you see on the horizon for modern music in the next half decade?
Franz: I barely have enough time to think about what I'm doing this week musically, not to mention trying to keep body and soul safely apart. I bet all the other individuals who comprise modern music feel the same way. If whatever happens looks retroactively inevitable, it's for the same reason all the ants in the hill manage to keep the queen alive.
AD: Being that this is for a music Blog, I want to ask if you are much of an "Internet guy", and if so what are some of the Web sites or Blogs you tend to check out?
Franz: I don't sleep that well, which almost by definition makes me an Internet guy cause after a while I can't be banging on a piano after a certain hour. Helps me keep up on my correspondence but not my sleep. The only Blog I read regularly and will tout to the four winds is Superlefty (www.superlefty.com), who I'll just say that some newspaper needs to give this one a column post-haste. MP3 Blogs and that stuff I just haven't had the chance to get into yet. Don't really know where to start, actually. I'm like most people, I only like reading stuff about my friends. Or Googling myself. Or snooping on total strangers' most private (except for the entire Internet) musings.
AD: Any 2005 albums you can recommend for our readers?
Franz: Stuff like the New Pornographers, Constantines, Mountain Goats, and Antony & The Johnsons I guess don't need my endorsement at this point (though they are all totally awesome). In indie-land, I thought people might have missed The Oranges Band's "The World and Everything In It", which feels like some kind of culmination for a veteran band; and Demander's debut, a first step for a band which is gonna do a lot more. Circus Contraption from Seattle is a underground circus troupe that just happens to also be amazing musicians: they'll do mid-air duets and juggle in the dark, then step over to the piano for a faux-aria, saw solo, or beer-bottle orchestra finale, and they put out a new record of it called "Grand American Traveling Dime Museum".
AD: Thanks for your time, before I let you go what can we look for in '06 from you and your various groups?
Franz: New Hold Steady record, in the fall maybe? We're still writing and demoing. In the meantime we're going to Australia in February. World/Inferno is recording right now with legendary hardcore producer Don Fury (Agnostic Front, Gorilla Biscuits), out on the picturesque off-season Coney Island boardwalk. It'll probably be out mid-summer on Chunksaah. We'll be touring Europe in April and July. Guignol is scoring a documentary on the legendary sideshow promoter Ward Hall, and also hopefully going to Europe. And last but most busily, Anti-Social Music: a rather high-profile Merkin Hall show in February, the release of the soundtrack record to our indie-opera "The Nitrate Hymnal" in March on Lujo Records, a tour to the Midwest to record our collaboration with His Name Is Alive, and at some point a split with Dalek of our collaboration: a 20-minute electronic piece, rescored for 15-piece amplified orchestra.
from Pitchfork, 2 and a half star review of Muchmore's Fracture II:
"Fracture II" is what happens when a bunch of talented musicians become hell-bent on recording something nearly unlistenable. The punk rock chamber music collective convened as a live troupe and should have stayed that way, because stuff like this is always more fascinating when you can see its construction. Recorded, devoid of context, it doesn't amount to much -- 10 minutes of bracingly disjunctive orchestral maneuvers that traffic in a sort of pointless tension. Discordant piano phrases, frantically sawed strings, clunky amp buzz and patches of rawk chordage, meandering accordion, conversing saxes, acoustic folk, and vomiting brass are all hopelessly crowded into the aural field. What's in a name? This time, a lot. Anti-Social Music seems proud to make music grating enough to diffuse a party even at the moment of its tightest orbit. Worse, you can't even use it to get rid of the random hippies cleaning out your fridge at dawn, because they'd probably get into it. [Brian Howe]