Picking the bands to talk to in this series is a strange business. Some publicity people offer me interviews as part of the general promo process – and they are often surprising bands that I might not have expected to be able to interview in the first place (this is only a small corner of the internet, after all).
/Talk Show Host/063/Consolidated
/Talk Show Host/Links
/Talk Show Host/2019-20
But others, I’ll leap at a chance when it comes around, and with the news last week that Consolidated has reactivated, I immediately got in contact, as I had a feeling they might have quite a bit to say. They were one of the most strident, politically-aware industrial-adjacent bands of the late-80s and early-90s, happy to include samples, political statements and sloganeering within their industrial-hip-hop sound, and they notably covered a number of issues well before they became part of the wider public discourse.
As a DJ, I’ve continued playing Consolidated songs for many years (most notably You Suck, of course, which if you’ve been to any night I’d DJed in recent years, you’ll likely have heard), and there’s always been that hope that others will do so too. And now, they’re back, they have a new song to listen to, which very much sounds like I’d hoped they would, and Adam Sherburne kindly took time out to exchange a number of e-mails and patiently deal with my questions over the past few days.
A note about the interviews on amodelofcontrol.com. This is now a long-running, occasional series, occasional because of the fact that I only interview artists when I have something to ask, and when artists have something to say. I don’t use question templates, so each is unique, too. Finally, I only edit for grammar and adding in links, so what you’re reading is the response of the artist directly. Thanks, as always, to the artist and indeed those that help to arrange such interviews.
I’m intrigued by the mention in your reunion notice on your new Facebook page, that this reunion is “Adam and Mark working together on new Consolidated material for the first time in 25 years”. Maybe my dates are wrong, but weren’t you recording together for longer than that?
/Adam/Consolidated: You’re accurate in saying that Mark and I continued to work together for three more albums in late 90s, I think my friend/‘manager’ Matski was simplifying the narrative for people now, those three recordings (Dropped; Tikkun – a two-disc soundtrack to a play about the pathology of manhood conceived by pro-feminist scholar/queer activist John Stoltenberg – and The End of Meaning) all had Consolidated name but were made after Philip quit the band and were clearly solo recordings. Mark and I have continued to work together ever since in a different context, since that context was outside of capitalism and the music industry, few in the ‘real world’ heard about it, and that relates to your third question.
Why reform now? I know you’ve been busy elsewhere in the meantime – Mark with a number of different bands (Meat Beat Manifesto and Hercules & Love Affair, among others), and you with activism and music outreach in Portland, OR. How have those experiences changed your outlook, compared to the intensity of Consolidated? Did the time just feel “right”, or was it the ever-spiralling clusterfuck that is the world right now that inspired you to write again?
/Adam/Consolidated: Mark did remain in bands, production, recording, promotion, etc., but I had to develop a different way to be involved with music that was a rejection of and an alternative to all of the aforementioned (for aesthetic and mental health reasons). That was FREE MUSIC! STOP AMERICA!, which you can research on Limbabwe records. It is simply the opposite of everything capitalism/music industry – no bands, no $, no songwriting, no performance, no promotion, etc., and yet we have detoured the world and made numerous educordings, two fockumentaries, and although people have taken a quarter-century to admit that the recording industry (and ultimately capitalism) is dead, they are dying to play music with strangers in public. So the experience of being in bands, the industry, etc., naturally lead me to the evolution of FREE MUSIC!, fifteen years on, it’s still the most exciting thing going for me and the countless people around the world that contribute to it. This is not a reunion, Philip isn’t able to take part in this.
I have zero interest in being in a band, especially my own. It is true that in the last year some friends put out A Tribute to Consolidated recording. The spiralling clusterfuck before COVID-19 and since has given us the chance to think about how to weigh in on the last two months, the last thirty years, and the future, so to the extent that whatever we’re choosing to do doesn’t end up in the Spinal Tap nostalgia industry, I’m cool with it. I’m speaking for myself only, others might be very excited to be invited to the Spinal Tap reunion industry.
One of the most notable elements of your recordings were the questions from the crowds – certainly a brave decision at the time (certainly as I can’t think of any other bands doing it). Was it uncomfortable learning about what some of your fans thought, that some certainly weren’t as progressive as you?
/Adam/Consolidated: I say the audience discussion is the single distinguishing aspect of the band, the most unique, exciting, and democratizing thing we contributed (thanks Phil!). It didn’t matter what people said, about us or anything else, the fact that the band got off the stage and stood/spoke with the people was a courageous and appropriate gesture for any artist wanting to claim social or political engagement/relevance. The fact that the comments became our future lyrics was also very cool. Before we did that, I certainly had no trouble understanding the politics of our concertgoers, they were waiting outside the van after the show to congratulate, critique, threaten to assault us. I heard years later that punk bands had picked up on that idea and continued ‘giving the audience the mic’.
It seems in retrospect that Consolidated was dismissed a little unfairly as being “earnest” and “preachy” about politics. I’ve been working for a while on a piece about Play More Music in particular, whose broad point is that in fact, you were some way ahead of your time (particularly around the continuing debate around gun control, the #Metoo movement, women’s rights, Incels, the media driving the political narrative…). How does it feel to look back and realise so little has changed for the better?
/Adam/Consolidated: It is sobering to spend the bulk of one’s life working toward tangible social improvement, only to die with things seemingly more fucked up, definitely not less so. But that is what wakes people up the next day inspired to keep freeing music and stopping America. I do feel Consolidated has our shame in being part of the generation that thought capitalized resistance culture, university political activism, new liberatory language, etc., could actually mount any real challenge to the game. I don’t know if I felt that honestly, but I admit my part in it, mostly because I was raising kids in America and I was mentally ill because of it, not to justify, just explain. You do crazy shit when you’re a parent.
How has the lockdown period been for you? It seems that local initiatives are leading the way in the absence of any coherent Government response in the US (not that we in the UK can do much better, particularly after this weekend…).
/Adam/Consolidated: This time is unprecedented in our experience, and like most folks, I have anxiety around all my/our people health-wise, and then the economic pandemic, but this is what FREE MUSIC! is all about, actually being a person to people, musically and materially. Even though the music program I volunteer for is not happening, we still cook and serve food on the street to the homeless youth that we would be playing music with, and we do have a FREE MUSIC! jam every week at a local Food Bank distro. Plus, COVID-19 exposes clearly the moribund status of the current political-economic bullshit.
What about the future, as a result of the current upheaval. Do you see any chance of genuine change in attitudes or politics, particularly in the USA, or are things too entrenched now for that to happen?
/Adam/Consolidated: Re: ‘the future’, I said fifteen years ago that FREE MUSIC! is the future, that future has long arrived, but the world doesn’t want to face what that means about people’s assumptions of life, capitalism… Trotsky said 110 years ago that societies can only advance so far, then they descend into barbarism – well, a combination of those sentiments is how I see the shit we’re all up to our necks in. The economic play out of this shit could be a decisive factor in possible cataclysmic developments.
When you heard A Tribute to Consolidated last year, what were your thoughts? I particularly liked the Stoneburner/Out Out take on Butyric Acid – a song that sadly still has particular resonance right now and perhaps had additional urgency and power because of that.
/Adam/Consolidated: When I heard the tribute recordings, I immediately thought of the back-and-forth Mark and I would always have on the level of the vocals in the mix (Mark being the aesthetic father to these industrial-techno producer kids, and bless them for bringing our ideas forward), to me and any of my ‘non’ musician friends/family, it was like, “Why do you bury the vocals in the mix if you say the words are so important to you?” So in that respect, it’s frustrating to know that what I found compelling about our generation of complaint rock has been further ploughed under by technocratic programming algorithms.
It’s been interesting how social media has become so prevalent, and important to the world in general. Facebook and Twitter, in particular, dominate the global discourse, journalism, dissemination of news – and more pertinent to independent music, are the best way to promote music and writing. Is it just a case of “holding your nose” in terms of promotion by using social media, or just accepting that you may not have such a reach if you don’t?
/Adam/Consolidated: Yes, everything you just said about all the sociopathic mediation platforms. Our discussion about it is basically what you said, its ubiquity forces us to hold our noses or simply not be in the discussion. I can’t access my own facefuck [sic] site, don’t what’s goin’ on there, don’t want to know, hoping to strategize a way to build in a decommissioning date, when the nine people in the world that want to find our shit have done so, grenade the site and perhaps take a little of facefuck with it!
This might be a redundant question right now, but what are the future plans? Is there an intention to play live again when you are able to, or will this just be a studio project for now?
/Adam/Consolidated: Any future plans, IF we get to make them, would hopefully include playing live, if only to give the mic to the audience again, and then to extend that very same invite to people musically by inviting them to bring their own instruments and literally play FREE MUSIC! with us on the street after ‘the show’. We are making a single recording, it will explain and sound like thirty years ago, today, and a different future, the fact that it may turn up on facefuck (which disgusts me and which I’ve never been on ever) or other ‘platforms’, is simply a matter of the degraded reality of music and everything else – but also to highlight the artwork of our friends in videos that will accompany the new material.
You note that “free music is the future”. Sites such as Spotify allow “free” dissemination of music – to the detriment of artists, in the main – while Bandcamp, perhaps offers a fairer deal by allowing artists to decide what they charge. While free music might work for some artists, some might want to still make a living from this. Do you believe the latter to be a totally busted flush now?
/Adam/Consolidated: FREE MUSIC! is not to the detriment of artists, it’s literally the end of artists-as anyone perceives them in the last 500 years, and the beginning of humans relearning how to be human. All of these sites are simply dream-crushing factories that manipulate desperate people’s wish to be thought of as artists, for $0.03 cents of royalties that the vast majority never receive anyway, I know, I worked for eight years in the biggest of that garbage, CDBaby, that’s where we filmed the first fockumentary. Anyway, when you see the term free music anywhere in capitalism, free is an adjective that describes devalued music commodities, in the context of FREE MUSIC!, free is a verb indicating the liberation of music from its commodity prison.
The new Consolidated single Capitalism can be heard on YouTube.