The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Mercury Rev Discuss Swans Support
Luke Turner , April 3rd, 2013 15:01

Grasshopper tells us about Mercury Rev's Cinematic Sound Tettix Wave Experiment performance before Swans tomorrow... Plus! Mercury Rev recording new material

So one of the most intriguing things to the already extremely intriguing Swans Mouth To Mouth festival (taking place at KOKO on Thursday, April 4th) is the presence of something called the Mercury Rev's Cinematic Sound Tettix Wave Experiment. What the hell is that? We wondered... and dropped Grasshopper of Mercury Rev a line to find out.

How are things in the world of Grasshopper and Mercury Rev?

Grasshopper: Everything is well in the world of Mercury Rev and Grasshopper. I took my fourth trip to Guatemala this March and am writing a book and trying to pick photos for the book about my experiences in this strange part of the world. I have many tales to tell and took thousands of photos with both old style film cameras and digital cameras, so I'm going thru the work of sifting through and narrowing down my options. Mercury Rev has been busy unearthing and releasing a few live shows from the early days (1992-1993) on our website and also worked on the package named Deserted Songs. It is a vinyl release which consists of out-takes and alternate takes/alternate mixes and demos from the Deserter's Songs sessions and will be coming out on Record Store Day on Light In The Attic records, so we we've been busy compiling those projects, but Jonathan and I have also been writing new songs and will be going into various studios in the coming months to record some new stuff.

Great news! Can you tell us a little about how you came to be involved in Swans' festival?

G: Michael Gira lives in the Catskills/Hudson Valley up north a few hours from New York City, where we also live. I met him through a mutual friend and went to his house for a BBQ in 2008. We found that we both love music and whiskey and I had mentioned that I played mandolin live with John Cale's Across The Borderline project.

Michael called me up when he was recording My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky in 2009 and asked if I could play some mandolin parts on a bunch of songs, and it came out really well, I'm a big Swans fan, so was honoured to be asked and witness the process that Michael goes through with the other members while recording. It's always great to learn and see the ways in which other artists work.

Then I got the call again while The Seer was being recorded and played mandola, mandolin and clarinet on a bunch of the songs, I was struck by the intensity, power and beauty of the songs. Michael called about six months ago and asked if Mercury Rev would like to be involved with the 30th Anniversary show of the Swans in London at KOKO and Jonathan and I jumped at the chance to do something different and make it a special event.

When did you first become aware of the music of Swans, and what was it about their music that spoke to you?

G: I first became aware of the Swans around 1986 in Buffalo NY when I was 19-years-old.. Tony Conrad, who was my Media Studies mentor at SUNY Buffalo got me into the music of Rhys Chatham and Glenn Branca and from there I learned about No Wave and about Sonic Youth and Swans. The music was just so powerful, the overtones and shimmering flicker of the guitars was an inspiration and eye and ear opening experience.

Swans came to play in Buffalo in 1987, I saw the Angel Of Light tour and it was mind-blowing. Probably one of the loudest concerts I have attended other than shows by My Bloody Valentine, Suicide, and Sonic Youth. This music was life altering, a religious type of experience -"Rock My Religion" as artist Dan Graham would say. It is the type of music to become totally immersed in, to let it wash over all of your senses and in a way that is "cleansing" to me.

So what exactly is Mercury Rev's Cinematic Sound Tettix Wave Ensemble?

G: Mercury Rev's Cinematic Sound Tettix Wave Ensemble is Jonathan and myself, with various other musicians and we play music while silent films are shown. We have done these types of shows in Poland, Belgium, Tel Aviv, Amsterdam, Woodstock and the first was in Copenhagen in 2009. For The show at KOKO we will be Joined by Nick Franglen (Lemon Jelly) on Keyboards and all sorts of gadgets, Martin Smith (Tunng) playing way-out percussion and Robin Bennett (The Dreaming Spires) on flute.

Tell us about your Tettix Wave machine? When did you invent it?

G: The Tettix Wave machine was banks of analogue Oscillators and Sound Generators mixed with tape loop machines that an engineer friend of ours built for us back in 1994, and we used it on See You On The Other Side. It was pretty massive, so was impractical to tour with. Now, with technology the way it has progressed, many of the sounds that we were taking hours and hours to patch in and produce can be generated in seconds with programs like Ableton, so it was ahead of it's time!

What can people at Koko expect from your performance?

G: From The KOKO performance, people can expect to be bathed in light and sound that will hopefully enlighten and alter some minds. The audience can provide the chemicals, we will provide a time to dream, a time to let the awesome force of music and light overtake you and divert your efforts in a different reality using your power to propel your intentions forward.