Charles Brownstein talked to Aaron Hemphill from the band “Liars” about their new album “WIXIW” and a few other interesting topics including his love of Notorious Big.
CB: Liars have been together for over twelve years now. The band has always made music on their own terms, shifting gears musically throughout your time together. Do you take pride in the fact you have been able to do this?
AH: Not necessarily pride, we feel our changes and focus are very natural results of the processes we subject ourselves to in order to complete each album. I’d say the overall feeling is gratitude. We are lucky to have a label and support system that expects nothing else from us but to be ourselves
CB: Some of your song themes on your last album you described as “Environments where outcasts and loners celebrate a skewered relationship to society”. What was the mindset on the new record?
AH: The focus is on ourselves really, the content is much more introspective. Reflecting back
on the previous question, it seems now that WIXIW is finished, that a record communicating how we sit within our own skin might be due for examination. This added to the anxiety and doubt we felt in making WIXIW. The fear was amplified, but so was the sense of accomplishment in the process.
CB: The album was recorded in an industrial area of L.A. in an abandoned office space. What
was the setting like for the sessions? How involved was Mute founder and legendary producer Daniel Miller?
AH: We decided to collaborate much earlier on in the creative process than we have before.This was helpful due to all of the new programs and software we were using/learning at the time. I’d say the setting was extremely productive…like that of a hive. Each of us running back and forth, eager and terrified at what the next step in the process might bring. Daniel acted as more of an adviser than what the traditional image of “producer” may conjure. His encyclopedic knowledge of electronic music not only helped us to avoid potential sounds that may have a certain trademark from being featured in a huge song, or suffer from overuse that we would be unaware of, but also a level of confidence from receiving his comments along the way.
CB: “WIXIW” has been described as your most accessible to date, what’s your opinion on that description?
AH: It’s hard for us to gauge, though for us, comments like that are very welcome. We make every record without compromise, and if we are communicating something that people understand or resonate with, we feel very lucky.
CB: I was curious to ask about your involvement with Beck’s ‘Record Club’, you covered “Kick” by INXS, what attracted you to this record?
AH: It was a very last minute decision, we had no idea what album we would attempt until the last second….literally! For us, the songs on “Kick” are so strongly written, so catchy, that any abstraction on our parts would still bare something recognizable and enjoyable. I think it’s great that Beck puts the effort into such projects where the only objectives behind it are fun and enjoying music.
CB: What kind of experience did you have living in Berlin during the “Drums Not Dead” period?
AH: Quite similar experiences as that of “WIXIW” coincidentally. With both “WIXIW” and DND, we felt nearly clueless as to what it was we were dealing with as far as the album is concerned. Both sessions were filled with doubt and anxiety. I had entered a serious relationship, while Angus had just concluded one. With “WIXIW”, this pattern was reversed. I suppose the main effect this would have is a harsh self evaluation…issues of who you are
and what/whom you are good for. Also issues of whether or not the things that make you good at what you do are any good for the people you care about.
CB: Angus and Julian have backgrounds in Photography and graphic arts, and have been involved in that aspect regarding the band. What have been some of the more interesting projects you have worked on? What are you working on these days?
AH: I think the Tumblr of ours amateurgore.tumblr.com has been the most exciting new project. Angus started of the posts in a way that I think were fun and creative, but not diary paced or what we had for breakfast. It was scary figuring out how to communicate to people through this new medium, but I think his early posts of us in the creative process helped lower our guard and attempt posts that were fun and idea based, hopefully less about us as people.
CB: How much fun was it curating Sonic City?
AH: We felt very fourtunite to be chosen to curate Sonic City. The organizers and people that put on the festival are very special, caring individuals. It was almost hard to believe that the artists even all showed up. I mean all of them! All of them are favourites of ours…Sightings, Legendary Pink Dots, Mark Ernestus, HTRK, Oneida…all of them! We felt very fortunate for having experiences in music that allowed us to meet such talented and amazing people that all played the festival.
CB: Which five records have had the most impact on you?
AH: Guns N Roses – “Appetite For Destruction” – After I heard this album in fifth grade I started do
yard work in order to raise money for my first guitar. I still listen to it, and I still wish something like it would come today.
The Germs – “GI” – After I heard this album, I started the first band I was in with some friends.We were 17 years old and played dives in LA. We payed a Halloween show at The Long Gone Natural Fudge Cafe in LA and were banned! We also used to play Tijuana for free alcohol.
CAN – “Delay” – I heard this album right around the time I first met Angus. It has, and still makes music seem limitless. We fell in love with the repetition, rawness, the rhythms, and the vocals. All of it really. It made us feel like we could play one note for seventeen minutes, so long as it’s a note we cared for at the time.
Notorious Big – “Ready To Die” – Before I heard this album, I always under the assumption that if a rapper made it to MTV, he wasn’t the real deal. I listened to Hip Hop a little a bit in high school, but I wasn’t into all of the new production and songs that were being made at the time. Someone told me Biggie was the best there will ever be, so I checked it out. I was schooled in seconds and became obsessed with this album. I think of Biggie in the same way
as I do Jimi Hendrix. People that are exceptionally talented that were lucky enough to find out what they were good at. I think Biggie is the best, still. Not Pac, Not Nas, but Big.
Missy Elliot – “Under Construction” – I remember how huge this record was…Outkast style huge. I think this album inspired both Angus and I to see the songs we make from a production standpoint…as around this time we started making more of the sounds during the recording process and altering them constantly. She had such good lyrics and is so unique. It still sounds so good today.