No-wave tends to work as an anti-music, a reaction to pop music slathered in classy hooks.The wondrous prog of yore dared not mix with the rough edges of hairy music from the outer crust. Skarekrau Radio is a cult under the pretenses of fantastical rock and experimental sludge. Calling on the shrieking feminine voices of the New York underground, this Midwestern troupe is as whimsical as it is appalling, with sound-scapes balancing the inane and bizarre.
Rick Wilson has shared his rank breath for 20 years of Skarekrau Radio, a religious sect of noise warriors who celebrate Kuu, a god who permits sexual freedom, promotes happiness and most importantly dissolves borders. Krau lives with a history of organic albums, which promote stream-of-consciousness structure with a penchant for static amongst feedback. Wilson dropped its latest effort on my digital doorstep recently, and in doing so raised my eyebrow with this concerted effort of solid rock music.
The Coital Mass of the Kuu Puu collects two years of musical massage, kneading the amoebic noise crew into an angled rock band. Breaks in structure occur throughout the album with pockets of expressive free jazz, but Krau shows a melodic penchant with riffs you can tightly grasp. With this release now swimming in record pressing hell, ears will have to patiently wait until an autumn release. With all tracking, mixing and mastering done, Kuu Guru Rick Wilson has joined us to speak more on this full length effort and the future of Skarekrau Radio.
Joseph Hess: Albums typically work as the bench marks in a band's life. Skarekrau Radio tends to carry a bevy filled with messages for the listener. What can you tell us about this latest studio effort?
Rick Wilson: When I wrote the music for this album, I had in the back of my mind that it would be science fiction. I watched this thing on PBS about the second shuttle disaster, the one that came in and blew up in the atmosphere. Debris went all over Texas somewhere. It wasn't the first one where the shuttle blew up as it was taking off, but the second one when the shuttle was coming in. What was really amazing about the documentary was that they had the scene of all the astronauts, all getting ready to go home after being in outer space, seconds before the whole thing blew up. And they're all happy and cheerful and waving for the camera and they're all excited about being home and then the next minute the whole thing blew up from the inside out.
Before the whole thing blew up, they noticed there was something wrong in the back and they hit the thrusters to hopefully slow the shuttle down, you know, before it just blew up to smithereens. I guess that energy of something coming in from outer space into the atmosphere is called orbital decay, because it's basically the decay of a meteor or a satellite coming back in. That was something going on in my mind the whole time and there's even a song called "Orbital Decay" on the album.
There seems to be an underlying message in having a song about orbital decay.
I wanted [the album] to be about how small we are, and how we can't control the forces that keep us on this planet. It's almost like we shouldn't be leaving the planet, it's almost telling us. We're in this beautiful ecosystem, this beautiful Earth and we leave it because we want to be star-faring beings but we really don't know what we're dealing with. We don't even know what's going on at the bottom of our oceans. I think our resources should be more internal rather than external, and once we get there, then we can begin to explore space. A lot of the songs are about that.
The science fiction direction is quite different from the sexual themes of older albums.
With a lot of Skarekrau records, there are a lot of songs about sex and sexuality. The song [on this record] "Tropical Mattress" is about sex, and the sexual residues left over on your bed. I imagine it being like a small little insect going into this moist area and it's like a jungle. It's the tropics. You go from that and burning up in outer space and it's about small worlds, large worlds.
It sounds like a celebration of your limits.
Yeah, that's a good way of putting it. I never really thought about that, but yeah maybe that is what it is. Maybe the Kuu Puu is our existence on this giant piece of shit in the sky and how we're living in it in different ways and how we can't escape it.
The new record is titled The Coital Mass of the Kuu Puu. Elaborate on what that means to Skarekrau Radio.
It's like mass is sort of like poo, and Kuu is our god, so it's worshiping poo in a kind of sick way. Maybe not sick. The Coital Mass of The Kuu Puu is worshiping, sexually, God's poo. And who knows what God's poo is? Maybe the Earth is the poo of God, maybe we're just living on it.
When did Skarekrau begin work on this record?
This album was recorded almost two years ago, in July of 2010 by Cooper Crane up in Chicago. We've made several trips up and down, and it's been very frustrating. Cooper Crane recorded, produced, mixed and mastered this album.
What studio did you record at?
I don't remember the actual recording studio's name, but I can get it to you. It has a funny name, but it's a beautiful recording studio and a lot of bands have recorded there. Bobby Conn has recorded there, Cave records there, Lazer Crystal records there, Ga'an records there. It's beautiful, and has a basketball court floor and pianos and extra drums with a beautiful booth. It's all analog, it's a beautiful recording studio. We recorded there for two days and we left and came back and then did some overdubs, singing and stuff. We came back again to mix it and we came back again to master. So I would say we were there every step of the way.
How was it, working with Cooper Crane of CAVE?
Cooper's magic, you know. He took most of the cymbals off the drums, he did all these goofy little things to make it sound the way he wanted it to sound. It sounds great I think, it sounds very powerful. It's probably the most rock album that we've done. There is improv, but there's not a lot improv. There's actual beginnings and endings of songs, which is completely different from what we're writing now. It's sort of like this phase, like I said before, it's about science fiction, story-telling, more like [the movie] Heavy Metal. I imagine us in space rockets, ships are failing apart but we're barely hanging on. We're moving around, getting sick, our puke's bubbling around us and we don't know. We're supposed to grab this piece of space junk, bring it on board, take it to this satellite, deposit it there and now we're back up in outer space again. That's what goes through my mind. The album prior to it was mostly improvised with story-telling and this one is more internal, with us trying to play tight. Having listened to the album, it is that sort of experience. It's much tighter and there's a concise sound where you can hear the instruments clearly.
We wanted it to be like a big rock album. We didn't really think of it as being some experimental thing. Which is funny, because I don't really listen to a lot of rock. When I was younger, that's all I listened to. And maybe this record is for people who are younger than me who are just discovering rock music and there's not so much rock music out there that is good anymore. There's so much good experimental music out there, but I feel that with rock music in itself, everything has been done already, especially with rock, pop and a lot of people don't listen to (rock) records anymore. Yesterday I was really surprised to see all these kids getting high and blasting Led Zeppelin in their jeep as they were leaving a noise show at Floating Labs. I was almost dumb-founded, I thought that was me back in high school, sixteen or seventeen, smoking pot right after class listening to Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin or something. I want this album to be what those kids listen to in their cassette player or CD player. With myself personally, I don't know if I would listen to this album like I did back then, I might listen to it while looking for something weird or strange. And I feel this album has elements of both [experimental and rock] but I want this album to be for people who want to rock out. I don't want this to be something to scrutinized or over-examined for its experimental-ness or anything. It's not really that experimental, but we have weird time changes and go off in tangents.
Did you run into any challenges when laying down the pieces of this album?
During the vocal recording of "Waste Size," Cooper wouldn't let any of the other band members in the room. It was just (the singers) Larva and Lee. It got to the point where Larva was actually on top of Lee, choking him, and he was just talking while he was being choked. I think there was nudity and drugs involved, it was just this total bizarre...like Cooper wouldn't even talk about it. I asked him "How'd it go?" He said, "Man." It was just 3 or 4 in morning after we recorded the whole album. That part of the album also has heavy guitars in the background and it's supposed to be this stoned-induced, drugged, sitting back on your couch wasted listening to this. I wanted to regain that feeling again, because I think that's missing on a lot of rock albums coming out now. It's something you can grab and feel like you can maybe even play yourself, and I want people to put the headphones on and pretend they're playing the drum part or the guitar part because it's so simple. It's not simple, but it is simple enough.
Skarekrau Radio has had a revolving door of vocalists, and for that matter, songs. How does a 2 year old album play into future plans for the group?
Lee is the only singer on this album who still is a member. Larva left to focus on her own music. As of this coming show on July 12, we won't be playing a lot of songs from the album, because it was made two years ago and the band's moved on. I'm glad the album is still coming out, and I think it's going to be good for everyone in the band and even though it's older stuff, the release might rejuvenate us to play the old songs again. It's unfortunate it didn't come out sooner, but at the same time I'd rather have it out than not at all.
Apop Records has been a big part of your past work, are they helping to release The Coital Mass of the Kuu Puu?
It's a combo of Apop Records and my label Cum Sun Curiosities. It's going to be an LP, with six songs on one side and two songs on the other, which is great because it reminds me of old Genesis albums. I love that kind of stuff.
Any preview of cover art for our readers?
Lee, our vocalist, was doing the artwork. He had artwork made, but he was walking home from somewhere and he either got jumped or he blacked out and he lost the artwork. It was gone, it was a collage that he had made and he lost it. Lee started up a new one, and he's working on it right now. It's going to be a black jacket with a pasted on label like an old jazz record. We don't know what it's going to look like because Lee keeps making something, then ripping it apart then making another one. I think he's having trouble finding exactly what he wants it to look like. He's a wonderful artist who makes great flyers. I'm not saying what he's doing is going to be the album art, because we don't know what it'll look like, but I'm pretty sure we'll use it.
The Coital Mass of the Kuu Puu was recorded in the Summer of 2010 and you're looking at a Fall 2012 release window. What gives?
The record got caught up in the middle of being pressed. There's a whole story, I don't know if I should legally be talking about it. Basically there was a bleed in of copyrighted song at the end of Waste Size, I don't know if you caught it. Most people don't catch it. The plates were made at Aardvark and they sent it to United, where Apop is having the Shaved Women and Strangulated Beatoffs records done at. We were going to do all bands playing together at a record release show. When the plates were sent to United they made the test pressings and listened to it, to see if there's any samples on it because they had gotten in trouble with a major record label in the past for samples. Aardvark didn't notice it, Dustin from Apop didn't notice it, but United did notice it. Because of that, they wouldn't press it. United is being pretty nice about it, they're not being jerks, but they said they can't press it. They made the labels already, so they're going to give us the labels and the plates. Dustin has been wonderful about trying to right this problem, and I'm not sure if we're going to a different pressing plant. What I think is going to happen is that we're going to re-plate the second side without the bleed in. It's an unfortunate thing that's going to delay the release of the record, so I don't know when this record is going to be released. I think it's going to be in the Fall. I really hope it's before Winter, because we'll probably be ready to record again by Winter.
With the Coital Mass of the Kuu Puu set for release, what's left for the future of the Krau?
The new material right now is one continuous album side song. We're planning on doing another album side song, a non-stop song. The next album will be more or less two pieces. It's about the death of our god Kuu. It's more theatrical. The first song is a patterned roller-coaster that goes up and down and sort of reprises itself at times. It's about how the world is turning to shit because Kuu doesn't exist anymore. He died, he's not anywhere anymore and we don't know why he's not around. And why the Mantis Head, which is the anti-Kuu, is taking over by teaching us what to buy and how to consume media and how we should view sex. The whole first side will be about humans being assimilated, it's about population control. The world is getting bigger and bigger and religion is a part of it. Politics is almost small potatoes compared to how religion has forced us into a way of thinking. The new music is about the death of our benevolent Kuu god that makes us free and frolic nude with many people making love with no war. It's very idealistic, our god is sort of about anarchy and not being controlled and being able to release your desires within reason.
To read more into Kuu and Skarekrau Radio, visit their holiest of holy Internet propaganda.
Skarekrau Radio will be performing at Pig Slop Studios at 2700 Cherokee Street on Thursday, July 12. The show begins at 8:30 and has a suggested donation of $5.00. Bikini Acid, b0dy gl0ve and Attic Ted of San Marcos, Texas will be performing as well.