INTERVIEW: Patrick Hughes talks to us about “Black Stabbath, Volume 1”

Republibot 3.0
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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON 8/18/09

A short while back I reviewed the debut CD from “Black Stabbath,” a one man noise-project from Patrick Hughes. (Which you can read here http://www.republibot.com/content/science-fiction-music-review-%E2%80%9C... ) Mr. Hughes is with us today to tell us more about his project, his influences, and stuff like that there. Pat, thanks for agreeing to let us interview you!

GREETINGS - I PINCH MY CHITIN CLAW TO YOUR METAL PROBE - AND EXTEND TYPICAL SALUTATIONS AND PLEASANTRIES TO REPUBLIBOT. (Please read that in a creepy robot voice.) (To yourself.)

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
I really liked your album and gave it a good review, which seems to have confounded many of our readers here who were expecting it to be a bunch of cheesy metal songs or whatever, but I stand by my review: It’s interesting and good (if you’re in the proper frame of mind for that sort of thing), and I pretty much think I get what you were going for. What kind of reaction has “Volume 1” gotten?

HUGHES:
Positive. It's nice - the context and expected for this type of project is absurdly limited, but a handful of people I respect, involved to varying extents in making and distributing noise and abstract sound art, have received it well. Happily, a number of interested friends, family and co-workers lacking any knowledge of "noise" as a musical genre or reference points such as familiarity with eletronic or experimental work seem to dig it. A number of people with young children tell me the kids like it a lot, and why not? In some ways the overall aesthetic represents a semi-conscious effort on my part to distill a variety of things the young me found mysterious and fascinating.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
I quoted heavily from an entry on your old “Diary of Indignities” website in which you jokingly describe Noise as a quick and easy way to reset the brain without having to resort to “All that awful Buddhism,” which completely cracked me up. So was sonic overload as a road to satori something you were actually going for, or were you just screwing around?

HUGHES:
Not on this release. Big overpowering unchanging sounds are more effective for that sort of thing.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
In that same page on your old website, you go on pretty hillariously about the Noise subculture, and your own experiments in it. Is there actually such a thing, or were you just making it up to sell the story? You know, like that Werner Herzog documentary about the subculture of Jesus-impersonators wandering around Russia in the wake of the Soviet collapse, which turned out to be entirely fake..

HUGHES:
Yes, there is a noise subculture, and it's actually been around long enough to develop it's own sets of cliches and stereotypes.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Can you tell us a bit about it? And what those cliches and stereotypes are?

HUGHES:
Well, like with any number of other genres of music, you have a handful of relative innovators kind of coalescing at one or more flashpoints - loose geographic areas and rougly equivalent points in time. It's exciting, people are attracted to it, some are inspired and want to hop on board, but maybe their frame of reference is just the flashpoint, and not all the antecedents that led to it, so what they produce is limited. Coupled with the tendency to categorize and mentally process, what was relatively innovative at the outset becomes increasingly compressed as succesive waves of participants make the genre more and more self-referential, as well as retrospectively trim off inconvenient complexities. It creates a feedback loop - the original wave becomes complicit, because instead of farting around in the wilderness they're suddenly making a little money or getting laid or hailed as fountainheads, and the new audience encourages artistic similarities and the formation of tropes because broadly speaking human beings are hardwired to associate safety with known qualities. Anyway, the end process is frequently the particular sound of any specific original participant becomes a micro-genre unto itself. Only the most compulsive or dedicated participants can tell the difference, because they've essentially got their nose right up the ass of whatever's going on, while to someone participating from a moderate distance or looking in from outside it all seems the same damn thing. The compulsive turn this into a virtue and make people feel excluded for not discerning these micro-differences, which encourages an additional level of conformity among newer participants. I know this all sounds pretty derogatory, but it's just a pattern arising out of human nature, and can be applied to noise as much as any other kind of music or artistic product. Personally, I enjoy a lot of wholly derivative art. In my mind you might as well get mad at the sky because you don't like blue as condemn the processes moving innovation to boilerplate. I know this didn't directly answer your question, but the details as they pertain to noise honestly don't interest me much.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
That makes sense. First you get the trailblazers who make up the rules as they go along, then other people copy then and innovate, then the third wave comes along more-or-less unaware of the trailblazers, and they prefer the innovations more than the origins. Happens in everything. You see a lot of that in modern film, where people ape Spielberg and Lucas without somehow ever realizing that Spielberg and Lucas are aping a whole hell of a lot of stuff that came before them. Steven and George weren't so much interested in the artistic theory behind the people they were aping, so their own immitators are two generations away from, say, the expressionist movement in film, and their stuff can grow to feel rather hollow as a result. So, ok, assuming some of our readers are interested in the whole noise movement that you're talking about here, where can they go to find out more information? Can you reccomend some other artists and some websites?

HUGHES:
1. Google.
2. No.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0
[Laughing] Ok, moving on: So what made you decide to form and record as Black Stabbath?

HUGHES:
I've been doing similar work on and off for 20+ years as time and technology permit. The last few years have seen an explosion of readily available free and cheap tools to take on a project like this, and it fits well with my work and family schedule.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
I notice a lot of recognizable samples in there from Godzilla films, old Science Fiction movies - some sound effects from the original Star Trek - certainly a lot of hold horror movies as well. How big of an influence is Science Fiction on you?

HUGHES:
There are actually just a very few untampered samples on the album, and they're pretty blatant, so if you're hearing science fiction sound effects a la Star Trek, it's because I consciously wanted to build individual sounds and an overall atmosphere evoking science fiction films of the 1950s-1980s, especially giant monster movies and post-apocalyptic Italian Road Warrior and Escape from New York rip-offs. Along with horror and fantasy movies from the same rough time frame, and crtainly fantastic literature of the Weird Tales pulp era, science fiction was a huge influence. Not Star Trek, though. It's not purposely excluded, but I'm not much of a fan.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
I'm not much of a fan either, but I would have sworn I heard some tricorder sounds on there. Anyway, There’s an interesting dischord in a lot of those low-budget 50s SF and Monster flicks between what they’re doing on screen, and the emotional impact that it makes. Mostly, people tend to gravitate to the cheese factor of it - Ro-Man from “Robot Monster,” and people being ridiculously terrified by a puppet in “The Giant Claw” - but there’s a deeper magic at work in some of these films, a strange kind of dream-logic that can be unsettling, far more unsettling than more polished productions. It’s my theory that David Lynch goes for this same kind of dissonance in his films, but puts it in a different, usually more oppressive context - the painfully long takes, the unflinching camera that just will not cut away, the everpresent, never-explained rumbling on the soundtrack. Kubric had some of this quality too, now and again.

HUGHES:
If there's one cinema tendency I hate, it's the middlebrow false intellectualism and despicable morality of movies such as Boogie Nights and American Beauty. I like stuff at the end of the bell curve, art and trash, and have noticed a lot of similarity between genre and exploitation films of all types, science fiction and horror and blaxploitation and what-have-you, and more high-minded movies. There's a simple explanation, and it's that both choice and the effects and necessities of working outside something like the Hollywood production machine can land you in the same place. You end up saying something different, either consciously, for artistic reasons, or because you're not plugged into a system. I think both things happen often enough in both art and exploitation movies.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Were you going for any aspect of that feel in your project?

HUGHES:
Not overtly. I only tease these threads apart when I need to, in discussion, not internally when I'm working or anything. I like a lot of disposable, trashy and exploitative popular culture artifacts, but how I get to them, and what I take away, is sometimes complicated. I'm not deliberately trying to be oblique when I say that - it just can be exhausting to pick it all apart in detail, and every example is going to be a little different.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
So what’s your favorite SF movie? Actually, what’s your favorite low-budget SF cheez-fest movie, and what’s your favorite ‘serious’ SF movie?

HUGHES:
Blade Runner, Road Warrior, anything with Godzilla.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
You’ve got a bunch of tattoos, I understand. There’s a Godzilla, a Judge Dredd, a Devo one there…got some stories behind them?

HUGHES:
Judge Dredd was covered up a few years ago by a huge, slightly stylized Black Cat firecrackers logo. Godzilla is a work in progress and covers my entire back. No stories, really. I hate people who try to infuse tattoos with a bunch of awful symbolism and meaning, or go on and on about their unique form of personal expression or whatever. I just like tattoos, and I get tattoos of things I think will look cool. I knew I was going to do it since I was a little kid, and I'm still getting tattooed at 40, so there you go.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
So tell us about your fascination with Japanese Giant Monster movies.

HUGHES:
I am fascinated with Japanese giant monster movies.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Fascinating. And Dredd - do you still follow 2000 AD at all? I used to love it myself. First thing I ever picked up was the Cursed Earth saga when it was eventually reprinted in the states, and I read them pretty solidly from early High School through mid-college, I guess…

HUGHES:
I still like Judge Dredd comics, and lots of different types of comics for that matter, but I have no clue what's going on in any current 2000 AD storylines or anything.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Fair enough. So let’s see, you were a successful Blogger on your Bad News Hughes website for several years, you’ve written a couple books and gotten ‘em published, you were writing for Suicide Girls for a while, you’ve done the Noise thing, you’re an accomplished kick boxer, and I know you’re a bit of a film scholar as well. What’s next for you? What’s your next big project? I have to confess I’m a little surprised you’ve never tried film.

HUGHES:
I'm currently mulling over a few ways to incorporate some type of movie into Black Stabbath. I just need to get a better handle on the current technology at some point, so I can maximize effectiveness with minimum resources. Flash animation? Stop motion? Home video shot on my verging-on-obsolete digital point-and-shoot? A combination? Who knows. It's gestating though.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Speaking of which - do you follow the Fan Film subculture any? Most of it is goofy Star Wars or Star Trek films, but some of it is original standalone stuff like “Venus Rises” and “Black Dawn,” and the quality of these projects is getting better and better. Have you looked in to that? Thoughts on it?

HUGHES:
I'm only vaguely aware of it.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Might be worth giving a look-see, just to get a sense of what's possible. I could reccomend some projects if you're interested. But getting back to the music, what kind of equipment were you using?

HUGHES:
A freeware program called Audacity for building, mixing and mastering, as well as generating sounds to use for source materials. A crappy dinged-up Gateway laptop I can't move because the power cord only delivers power if angled and tensioned to a degree so finicky it would give NASA engineers facial tics. Source sounds from a lot of different places, including a lot of recordings made using my cell phone.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Any plans for a follow up? Will there be a “Volume 2” or a “Son of Black Stabbath” or anything like that, or are you moving on to another sonic project?

HUGHES:
Black Stabbath Volume 2 is in the works. It's basically one massive hour-long metallic drone that kind of hangs there and shimmers and changes very very slowly while distorted voices and vague HP Lovecraft references shift in and out of the murk.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I’d like to ask you about art. Republibot is a conservative website, and traditionally conservatives haven’t shown much interest in the arts - musical or visual - or in Science Fiction, and on occasion we’ve been openly adversarial to them, Part of our purpose here is to try to explain Science Fiction - and really any interesting new idea or form of expression - to conservatives in a non-threatening way, without anyone making fun of them, so they can understand what people are going for, and *then* make up their minds somewhat less reflexively as to whether they like it or not. So with that in mind, do you have any advice for people who didn’t grow up in the whole punk rock ethos like you did, and are confused and frightened (or even angered) by sonic experimentation like yours?

HUGHES:
I'm not one to proselytize. I'm happy to discuss things when asked, but I don't need people to agree with me or like the things I like, so I'm not really inclined towards trying to convert the adversarial. Anyway, the kind of stuff I'm doing is such a small, obscure thing, and you really have to seek it out, so I don't think such strong reactions are likely. Personally, when I am confused, frightened or angered, my favorite response is violence, so my advice is to maybe give that a try, should one find oneself in such a state.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
[Laughing uncontrolably] Did not see that coming! Ok, so, straight from the artist's mouth: Listen to the CD and if you don't like it, go out and riot! Anyway, Pat, thanks for being with us today, it was a lot of fun talking with you.

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