Talk Show Host: 010: Prude

This week on, we’ve caught up with Jared Louche of Prude, previously Chemlab and a few other bands besides, over e-mail, to talk about his current band, music past and present and god only knows what else. He did warn he that he might have a lot to say.

And he was right.

The photos of Prude live at Electrowerkz are my own work, while the other shots are from the band. The Spotify playlist is a collection of Prude and Chemlab songs selected by me. So Prude has now been around a while – I have the original version of Darkroom from 2008 (on Sean Payne’s Glitch Mode comp Gears Gone Wild) – where did the idea for Prude come from? Was it a way a start afresh as you ended Chemlab – and was this a deliberate move to put that to bed and move on, or did the ideas for Prude evolve to the point where a new project was the obvious answer?

Those Aren’t Gravestones, They’re Seeds

Jared (Prude): For a while now, a number of years, I’ve been wanting to push beyond what I’ve done with Chemlab. The band’s always been cool terrain to play around in, to experiment with a certain set of sounds and formulas, but it’s structurally constrained. As much as there’s theoretically the conceptual space to push at the boundaries, it actually exists within a scene that’s as constrained by proscriptive dogma and formulaic in execution and intent as any other style, be it Goth or Punk or Rap or Deathpopnoisebunnymurderhop. What’s exciting about Prude is that there really aren’t any constraints on what we’re doing, no guy wires and guidelines about what we’re supposed to do or to avoid. Whatever restrictions there are would be self-imposed and we’re really not about to do that. For most of my time in the public eye I’ve been defined by the sonic frame of Chemlab in the same way that each of us has been defined by our main band’s sound. That, however, is a single crack through which some light inches. It forms only a meagre insight into who we each are as individual artists. The first band I was known for to a minor degree was Peach Of Immortality and that was a furiously character-assassinating, migraine-inducing, crowd-dispersing, hatred-generating noise machine of profound proportion. Each of us has musical and creative interests and influences that don’t comfortably dovetail with the music we’re most known for. Prude serves as the unfiltered, barrel-mouthed outlet, the beta-testing experimental caldera for all of these unrequited tastes. Beyond that though, Prude doesn’t exist to kill off Chemlab or any of our other bands per se. Inevitably, as it grows to become the ascendant force the others naturally begin to ebb somewhat, at least for me and Plastic. Whether that remains the case or not is yet to be seen, but it’s certainly defining the moment.

Part of me celebrates this autumnal stage for Chemlab, the death that’s encoded in the framework of the band’s current state. It’s correct in the context of cycles. Of course, part of me also laments its passing, but it must eventually end and anything that I do at this stage feels like prolonging the inevitable sundering of what’s essentially a walking corpse too zonked-out to lie down in a ditch and end it all with a grenade in the neck. I can record new Chemlab albums, and I think that there might well be a last one nestled in there amongst the charred remains and fading grey loops, but why go on twenty-some-odd years later for a crowd that has now almost wholly dispersed for other lands? The band has always been a mega-ton blast and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had the run with it that I did, but everything has a season and Chemlab’s glorious, golden Summer Of Hate is long past, and it is right that it should be past. To hold onto it much longer starts to look off-color, forced and zombified. Of course, having now said that, circumstances will present themselves in such a way that I’ll start work on a new record next week.

The question for me though isn’t how much more there is to do in Chemlab’s universe, but how to end it properly. There’s a singular history to Chemlab that I feel I have to honor in some elemental way and a last album, if there were to be such a thing, has to be dealt with under that aegis. Whether or not I’m artist enough to master the task is yet to be seen. What’s important to understand though is that Prude isn’t some nostrum taken until Chemlab’s reanimated: it’s the new disease. You’ve got a transatlantic line-up for Prude, has that made you all conceptualize the band and the music in a different way than if you were all in the same place, and is there a particular division of labour in terms of the different elements of the sound?

Detonator 77 and The Shootout On The Lawless Streets Of The Cartoon Map

Jared (Prude): Being International Jet-Set Mongrels has levied all manner of costs and produced all manner of benefits that play into the way the music’s created, mandating, mitigating and aggravating constantly in almost equal and combative measure. Because we’re not all hammering out songs together in the same space, not all huddling under the same dripping shroud of the sprawls Dome where the soot collects at the edges and the grimy moisture lazily rains down thorough endless halflight, it means that decisions and directions inevitably have extra accreted layers, those of Time and Distance. Instant decisions are virtually impossible, songs take longer to flesh out and then burnish, actions constantly slower than desirable, and all of this feeds into the way the songs sound. However, I don’t know that you can say that there’s a discernable flavour of geographic detachment salted throughout the songs. I think they’d be just as effervescent, as furious, as fractured and fucked as they are now if they’d been created in a garage in the space of a week. It’s hard to say unequivocally that the distance imposed a certain sound that’s actually audible, though I suppose if we were Neubauten we’d say that “you can hear the lonely distance across the oceans reflected in the music”. I think I’m sufficiently pretentious all on my own without saying something like that though.

What I’m constantly in awe of is how deftly an album of this level of complexity and contradiction managed to come together considering it was engineered across so many points of isolated creation. We’ve actually engineered an album through exclusively non-musical channels traditionally reserved for business comm. We’ve sent thousands of texts. When we need to discuss things we get together online in video conferences ranging from G+ Hangouts to Skype and FaceTime. We’ve sent video and iPhone recordings about song notes back and forth. The mountain of wave-traversed emails could stun a team of oxen in their tracks. We’ve passed song skeletons across binary currents by flip-dash, file dump and upload stream. We’ve mailed material by snail and strapped to fucking carrier pigeons. We’ve shared photos and photos of notes and notes about the photos to explain what the fuck the photos and notes are all about. We’ve passed ideas around through the comedic homogeneity of Farcebook and the other soc-med plat-forums, but the one thing that we’ve never done is get together in the same room at one time and bang out song ideas. Ever. This album’s exclusively written, recorded and produced without the band ever once getting together as a unit in the same place to create any of the songs. It’s rare that that’s the case. In fact I can’t think of a band that’s made music this way exclusively, especially a rock’n’robot record of this calibre. This might be a format that would be employed temporarily as a stop-gap until the band, or producers, could get together in the same room and unkink the snarl of half-formed ideas, but not the whole thing. I’m actually proud of how well we’ve commanded the process, a process that would have wiped out most other bands. We drove the technology hard to make this beast. Wasn’t easily achieved, but it fucking worked, and so I flip off all the detractors and nay-sayers who joked that it wasn’t a real record or that it was never going to happen or that it was taking too long. You bitches try making a record this way and we’ll see how long it takes you and, much more importantly, how good it sounds. How did the line-up come about, anyway? Did you have particular people in mind to offer certain elements – and how did they respond to you?

Hooker Cheerleaders

Jared (Prude): Prude has no Patient Zero, no Trigger Event, so it’s not really a case of me searching out the people with whom to build a new engine.

The initial idea for the band begin as three mouths talking music, books and films .. talking, quantizing and E chords. It mutated into five hands typing code-strings, 1’s and 0’s slung electrically across a semilogarithmic ozone layer tear, shockingly newspaper-yellowed typewriter riots, coding songs about Molotov light shows. It could be said that we began as one pair of hands madly ripping guitar chords, one pair of hands smashing keyboard keys and one mouth screaming into the inky blue-black, sound-swallowing void. The unknown is the unknowable. No one asked anyone else to come inside, ‘inside’ was just suddenly where everything was happening. In the beginning, Prude was just eager anger and street-collision noise spread between London and Madison, unknown, unset, unsettled. But even broken machines grow lonely. A series of seemingly unconnected simultaneous mag-lev wrecks in Chicago, New York and Paris produced smoking piles of blackened luggage and strangely twisted body parts, but almost gleefully waltzing out of these head-on collisions came dislocated figures draped in coils of deviant static and some back alley sultry sleaze that hand-in-gloved us perfectly. Thus Prude came to assume its final deformed shape, becoming what it now is: the unknowable. It is fairly obvious that there is a seventies New York feel to Prude – an oh-so-sleazy glam-rock feel, and at one of the gigs someone described you as “Velvet Underground gone industrial” (!). Was this the kind of feel/impact you were going for?

Codes For Programming A New Hologramatic Noosphere

Jared (Prude): It’s largely a conceptual fallacy to say that we were “going for” a particular sound when we started making music together. We weren’t. We were just trying to make something real. We didn’t want to make something that’s forced or says something that we don’t believe in or takes a stance that’s just false front.

If you wanted to push for it, you could say that essentially, we wanted to spawn a mutated riot queen with a mimetic polymer skin, rifle scope eyes and a ticking jet boy heart because we knew that would be real for us and reflect us properly: history, futurography, pink robots, graphene sleaze, rock’n’roll at escape velocity, grease fires and some broken glass. “Or what”. I’m too old to fuck around with anything that I can’t really touch, that doesn’t touch me, something that’s not real. If I can’t get behind it then why would I want to push it through all of the hardslog shit you have to go through being in a band, even a band as cool as this one, just to get out of the starting gate. Anyway, people with a jot of intelligence are far too info-suffused these days, clued-in and savvy to care about venal, plastic fakery. Maybe other people are up for the challenge of trying to pass off some half-baked façade that seems like it might make it through the Bullshit Detectors because it’s wearing the right leather pants, but I haven’t got the urge. Besides, the decompression will kill you.

For me, for all of us, what I make has got to be real or I just don’t care. None of us are interested in spending time and energy on a project that doesn’t trigger something deeply primal in our lizard brains, and because we’re all from such divergent backgrounds there’s a plethora of influences fighting and preening for primacy. What turns me on is the kinetic energy released by all of the contradictory influences and tastes in collision. There’s a very profound European-American pointcounterpoint push-me pull-you effect, the layering of rock guitars with electronic elements fascinates me and it creates a very retro-futurist sound, to my mind. So, sure, there are reference points in the music, but they’re not the focus, they’re just the triggers. We dig John Foxx as much as Blondie as much as Cyanotic and James Brown as much as Neubauten and The Stooges as much as Louie Prima as much as ‘Spem In Alium’ as much as Tonikom, Stan Brakhage and Chris Marker and Nick Zedd, Kojak as much as Bai Ling, Ministry as much as Bauhaus, Francis Bacon as much as Yves Klein, Derek Jarman and Bowie and Ballard and Bataille, The Forever War as much as Groucho Marx’s autobiography, 3 TEETH versus Leonard Cohen and and and that doesn’t even get past the simply straightforward stuff that’s basically low-hanging fruit, and no, that’s not prison slang.

Chemlab was a blast, but I couldn’t do everything that I want to do, and I want to do so much. That’s one of the reasons that “dark age” is as broad as it is because we’re all utterly willing to try out everything and I think that’ll hold true all the way down the line for us. We really want to explore as much as we can, so I suppose “VU gone Industrial” hits the target in a complimentary way as much as “Gainsbourg Does Dallas post-bomb drop” or “Johnny Thunders Eats Glass Slippers in Transgender Beirut”. I couldn’t care less about putting any sort of label on it though as that’s not really my job any more than saying that it sounds like “Waylon Jennings pig-fisting Rammstein at a garden party for Miou Miou”. I often describe Prude as “23rd-century Rock’n’roll Music For Fucking Made by Broken Robots”. See? Doesn’t really mean anything any more than trying to do anything that doesn’t satisfy the urge to make music that’s not contrived would. It’s got to flip the bird to everything and nothing all at once regardless of what it’s called. I wanted a no-bullshit, no-holds-barred band that uncompromisingly reflects all the disparate, conflicted and contradictory strains of sound and vision that have accreted inside us all over the decades to make us the fucked up people we are, a band that can take on all comers in a fight situation .. and we’ve done that.

Truth is a battle. To cut through all of the bullshit you need to fashion a good sword so you can arrive at something real. That’s what matters to me. Prude is the sword. I fucking love it. Tell us more about the album – the subject matter seems fairly oblique.

The Face Of Black Jesus Revealed In The Debris Field

Jared (Prude): = Solo voice begins first line, but slowly other voices enter, male, female, swelling chorus, speaking in concert at first but then occasionally at cross purposes, almost cancelling each other out until profusion is confusion. Then, at “at last she let go..”, one voice surfaces to lead, the others receding slowly to a susurration of waves. Voices rise and fall beneath but now never overwhelm.
Solo voice, resolve and outro.
Background hum and crackle of plugged-in but ungrounded guitar cable mingling with the ancient but utterly recognizable squonky modem dial-up tones.
Voices recorded in the street for ambient noise and immediacy. =

“Coming through raindrop spattered swirl she pitched up at the precipice, the edge of the cliff, sticky edge of the black pool, pitted roof ledge, the edge of the blasted crater in the center of it all.

There, in the full moment of a full-color drawn-in breath, paused between on and off, between bought and sold, between child and grown, used and wasted, between put down and given up, there at the lip .. she let go.

She let go of her black eye, eye that watched but yet couldn’t see.

She let go of the crumpled, hungry five-dollar bill from pocket bottom, dog-eared totem so fingered its ink is lost.

Let go of the radio-box telephone voice that denied, tongues each severing, calling to dance marionette.

Let go the strands and streams of rain-winked lights that flickered along the swooping dark outlines of bridge stanchion and cable, elegant ribbons of highway night leading away. She let go of the cold hand, hand that held back.

She let go of three coffin nails, the broken tooth and the tin foil scrap of winter smoke exhaled every day on the winter porch in the grey winter light.

At last, she let go the restraining belt of noise, of duty, accreted day-today photocapturemoment snippets, routine wrong-number mornings, snarls of lovers, stutters of losers and shrieks of mothers down the coldwar wires, released from moist grasp that held childishly tight to the merry-go-round, slowing down now, “little ember bright”, little ember fades.

Infected by too much electricity and not enough light, she let go of the plug.

In fluid motion rippling richly up from chipped-polish toes, she leapt straight up, up off citymountaincliffledge into the clouds, up towards a crack just her size, up and out and further up, arms gracefully swan-wing wide catching waiting open air .. feather-light .. and as a knife she sliced, drawing a slender incision of tender perfection, and as a breeze she blew, feeling elation and ear-popping release, and as the lights caught her eye she realized that now she…
… “

= crackling on the line = I’ve always seen it as fairly clear within both Prude – for all members of the band – and your previous band Chemlab that you came from influences way beyond industrial rock (or however you want to pigeonhole it), what were those influences when growing up and first forming bands?

The Lost Rivers Beneath The City

Jared (Prude): When I was a little kid our house was suffused in music, days starting out with classical in the paint-peeling mornings, always, composers filtering through the bleary haze. My parents loved to host parties and so there was a constant stream of contemporary 60’s rock music in our house as well as fountains of jazz. My pops played clarinet in a band in Korea when he was in the war, loved jazz, used to stay up night after night with the band and a bunch of the audience members. They’d pull out the accordion-folded paper interior of bronchial dilator inhalers that were soaked with Benzedrine, tear them up and stuff strips into their beer bottles. They sat up all night, buzzing and jamming and talking and drinking beers laced with speed. At parties at our house there was a lot of rock’n’roll, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, Janis Joplin, Cream and Hendrix and all of it laced with smoky jazz, jazz, jazz.

Around the edges a lot of other things filtered in too, some nascent funk, there was always a lot of music in the airwaves outside the house. I was pretty unsupervised as a kid and even in the late 60’s when I was 9 and 10 I was out on my own a lot in the evenings and into the night, sliding through the movie streets and watching the lights. I absorbed a lot of crazy input that kids aren’t normally exposed to; wild ones in the park, riots and bikers and demonstrations and tear gas attacks, sit-ins and love-ins and freak outs and free concerts and none of it escaped me. By the early 70’s I’d seen Aerosmith perform live at outdoor concerts as well as other Boston legends like J. Geils as they were each trying to get their scenes together. They were both hugely instrumental in bending my little brain, shaping how I understood what a good performer was, making me wonder what it was like to do that rock thang on stage. In ‘72 a soon-to-be-my-heartbreaker girl I was crazy in love with played ‘Hunky Dory’ for me. Suddenly I discovered a universe of alien grooves that sank serious hooks into me and have fucked me up ever since.

I spent the 1980’s in DC in a hyper-productive sloom during which I spawned an interlaced collection of over 35 various punk rock/noise/experimental jazz/junk funk/experimental noise/performance art/hardcore/industrial/rock’n’roll noise/poptrash/grunge/noise-noise bands. I performed relentlessly, gigging anywhere and everywhere and supporting a whole host of ghosts, from The Birthday Party, Virgin Prunes, The Fall, Swans, Jesus And Mary Chain and countless others I couldn’t remember if you threatened me. The last engines of that period flew simultaneously in broken formation: Jackhammer Orchestra and Furnace.

JackoffOrchestra was a dual-guitar (sometimes three) assault bolstered by bass and two drums, brutally minimal songs that I wrote on the iconic Peach gutter guitar. It was primitive rock’n’roll delivered via sledge. I sang and played cold chisel guitar. Furnace on the other hand was a stiff non-coital failure between pre-teen Coil cast-offs and crippled, blinded wanna-be Puppy slag. The one redeeming quality of that band was that I came up with the FUCK ART LET’S KILL shirt there. Ogre’s Fuck Art shirt he wore in the live Ministry tour film isn’t a Chemlab shirt. It’s a Furnace shirt I gave him during the VivisektVI tour.

There was much that vented out of the volcano, much that avalanched in on top of me, much that I simply can’t encapsulate here in minima. I glued those broken record pieces, film clips, crumpled ink-spattered pages and snapshots together and decorated it all with glittering intaglio. Then I split for New York with the threshing, yowling, nascent Chemlab in tow oozing amniotic fluid behind. How did you feel about the first couple of London shows? They appeared to me to be deliberately low key as you found your feet with Marc onstage – and indeed the second show at Electrowerkz was notably a step up from the first on the Friday at Aces & Eights – was this the plan?

Audio Shock Rorschach

Jared (Prude): Are you assuming that somewhere buried beneath all the pilot error cabin-terror noises and crashing steel frames there’s a plan? Silly.

The shows to this point have been a swirling mesh of confusion and elation and sexual release and I’ve loved every minute of the madness, but the “plan” is simply to get a feel for the songs live as we get our rocks off, really. There have been more gigs since the first few you saw and they get progressively better and more pushy and hooky and sweaty every time. The very first two gigs were indeed stiff, but that’s part of the chemical inevitability of first shows, an alchemical moment never to be repeated. They’re special in a faltering way but now they’re gone for good. You can rehearse a band as much as you like in the glittering gloom cast by fantasies of your impending stardom, but there’s a huge gulf between rocking out in the mirror or the shower and actually getting it on in front of an audience. This material’s very charged thus it’s filled to overflowing with interpretive possibilities, so many ways to let each of these little disasters unfold its bruised petals, so many doors to open, bridges to burn. This whole, achingly vast catalog spreads out before me the moment we hit the stage, so it’s taking a while to explore the territory. Performing songs is a deliriously long process of discovering the places within each that reward, that are worth returning to as well as the swamps and cesspools to be avoided once crossed.

For me, a recording’s simply a promise. The live shows are when you get to deliver on that promise, and as far as I’m concerned there’s no excitement, no thrill in performing the songs exactly as they appear on the record. The stage is the terrain of experimentation with a known shape, the place to carve anew the shape that’s already been crafted by you and viewed by your audience. Rote repetition bores the shit out of me. I want to arrive at the place where we’re freed of constraints imposed by using backing tracks of any kind. At the moment they’re a necessary evil and we make them rock, but I want us to be playing exclusively to triggered loops so that the songs have a more organic texture and elasticity to them. I want the freedom to be able to play a ten minute version of ‘sniper’ or a one minute version of ‘great eraser’ if we so choose and be able to make that decision on the fly as we’re playing.

It’s also a challenge to play these songs without a drummer. We’ve blasted out a number of shows now just the two of us. They’ve all been killers and I’ll take on any band with just Plastic at my side. It’s always a bit of a feat of performance legerdemain, but we pull it off every time. We’ve done a few gigs with Christophe and those have been absolutely no-holds-barred super nova cool. He’s such an amazing drummer, so musical in his playing that the songs felt like they were leaping off the stage. Marc and I have a profound, special chemistry that permeates everything we do. There’s a mutual affirmation that strengthens us so we can push out into the unknown secure in the knowledge that we’re traversing new lands in tandem. For us, performing together is woven with much that remains unspoken, unplanned and yet unleashed and that makes playing with Plastic a real kick. It’s always different, always new and always very live. We give good show, and although it’s important to give the audience a kick, there’s actually no choice in the matter for us. Once the music starts we really do enter into a state of possession, we’re not the people that we were moments before, and in that state of disassociation it’s impossible not to move as the air from the speakers pushes at our bodies from every side. It’s better than speedballing, sky diving naked with no parachute, racing on the freeway without a helmet. With Christophe that part of it was incredibly heightened. I just can’t wait to have the full line-up together. Having everyone on the stage as it’s meant to be will be so good I’m pretty sure you’ll have to carry me out of the joint. Getting to that point will be incredibly hard, but absolutely worth it.

At this stage though we’re only five shows into the maelstrom [Editor’s note: A few more shows have followed since the question was asked, and I’ve seen one of those too] so it’s pretty hard to seriously make any sweeping statements about what we’re doing yet beyond that we’re doing what most artists do in their career: fumbling through the clutter and mistakes to find what’s real as we ride towards our personal Calvary. Regardless, I’m fucking loving it. It’s electric and cathartic and erotic and incantatory and raw. It’s an amazing feeling to be back on stage and especially to be performing these twisted songs. I’m really proud of them which rocket-fuels them even more. They also seem to be getting the crowds wound up every night. I find the process of building up a new audience as exciting as it is frustrating, to see people coming back night after night’s a knockout. I always wonder why they keep returning, and bringing friends, but they do, so I suppose I should stop questioning it. Obviously the album is now out (on Metropolis, buy here), what are the plans for Prude beyond this?

Pray For Pills And Shoot The Rainbow (or : A Long Walk In The Desert With A Shovel)

Jared (Prude): Live shows around the UK? Painting with blood, sound, acrylic? Live shows around Europe? Photographing the unphotographable?

Swallowing the crow feather? Touring the US? Rewiring? Recording? Channeling? Filming? Pink grease blackout?

Everything is possible now.

Everything, and more, comes next. Keep coming back and you’ll see the seeds urge forth.

Prude’s new album the dark age of consent is out now. More live dates to come in 2015.

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