“I Hung Around In Your Soundtrack” Part 55 by Justin Pearson
Geronimo “Self-titled” CD
I had been on tour with The Locust around the time that “New Erections” came out. One of the acts touring with us was Bastard Noise. Eric Wood had been a long time friend of ours so it only made sense to share the stage together. On the last date of the run together, the show was cancelled due to a noise restriction that the venue had. Gabe’s acoustic drums were louder than the decibel limit, so there was just no way we, or anyone else we associated ourselves with could play. So we all packed up and headed back to San Diego. Just before we got in the van WT Nelson, who was the other half of Bastard Noise at that time, handed me a CD and said that his other band was looking for a label to release their album. I already thought the guy was a genius due to his interesting and innovative gear, not to mention his over all attitude and personality on tour, so needless to say I was excited to hear what it was. The following day at home I put the CD on and was mesmerized to say the least. The opening track was over eighteen minutes long, so not only was it a test of listening endurance, but it was meditative as well. I think we spoke on the phone after I had given the CD a second play and agreed to release the album on Three One G. Getting the details and lowdown, I found out that the track, “Facepeeler”, featured David Yow as well. My only issue with the album was that it was too long to press as an LP, unless it was to be a double LP, and still with that, we would have had issues with the splitting of songs on each side. So we opted for the run-of-the-mill CD version focusing on the fact that the actual music was the entire focal point.
Interview with WT Nelson: January 2018
Justin Pearson: For me, Geronimo came out of nowhere. I remember The Locust being on tour with Bastard Noise and right at the end of the tour you gave me what was the self-titled album on a CD and said you would like to release it on Three One G. When I got around to playing it, I was instantly hooked on the band and thought it was a perfect album and unlike anything I’ve ever heard. Do you care to explain how the band came about and what went into the process of writing the album and the band’s aesthetic?
WT Nelson: The idea was built around a two piece originally: Ruiz on percussion, myself electronics…
We strived to force the compositions to match the stripped-down lineup: austere patterns that live in the dynamics as much (or more even) than tone; Steve Reich executed on jazz kit & engineering lab equipment. The idea was made more succinct and more forceful as Francoso (bass) joined, retaining and supporting the elemental / powerful minimalism which initiated the project.
We wrote / performed / revised / reworked / honed the material for better part of a year before we engaged with Michael Rozon to commence recording.
The collaboration therein realized the tracks in a manner exponentially greater than what we had come through the door with. Our sonic (& spoken) vocabulary was expanded enabling articulation of details that would have escaped our comprehension previously. This affected the work in ways that we could not have possibly imagined before the sessions began. Rozon’s influence (genius really) was nothing short of desert-fairy-tale-grade revelation. By the time we were finished, I was back to the drawing board undertaking the creation of an interface which could actually match the approach & reproduce what Michael had helped us realize / render on that recording live. In fact, his influence continues to inform the design of instruments I build to this day.
JP: The minimalist aspect is what initially intrigued me about the album, and then seeing you live as well. Hearing and also seeing those sort of extremely long, repetitious chunks of songs is so impressive. I would always wonder about cues as to when the changes come in with material like that. I suppose the instrumentation makes complete sense as well. Without sounding like a douche, your role sort of fits the traditional place of a lead guitar in some respects. There is this mechanical groove with the drums and bass, and then there is what you bring to the table, pun intended, since your gear sits on a table for live performances. I’m intrigued about the stuff you use to create your sound. I suppose we should jump into the world of Trogotronic as well. Can you explain how that came about? Perhaps you can talk about your involvement with Bastard Noise as well, since that is how you and I initially ended up becoming friends.
WTN: When my years were counted in single digits, relatives unloaded a few old tube ¼” reel to reel machines on me. Building soundscapes using whatever sound sources I could get my hands on soon became a high-quality pastime in my mind. By high school, I had plenty of buddies who were into playing music, but didn’t have the cash flow for the type of hardware they had in Keyboard Magazine. So necessity forced my hand at invention, and given some of the music that was around in those days (SPK / Kraftwerk / ’Neubauten)— it really wasn’t as far fetched as it seemed to me at the time.
The first music stuff I built were hacked tape machines influenced by my earlier experiences. Later I was inspired by Barnes’ incredible work and he mentored me in the ways of the tube.
Barnes vouched for me and I ended up playing with him, Connell, Kenyon & Wood in MITB along with the beginnings of the Bastard Noise sessions. It was a far-out time because although I’d always looked at the music I was trying to make as, well, music— to be played along with a “normalish” band— it was about this time that Wood brought to my attention the fact that there was an entire genre of stuff that was the kind of thing I was doing already but without the rest of the band, which blew my mind since I’d been making weird-assed tapes of random soundscapes for about a decade at that point. What would follow were another two decades of collaboration with Wood, Barnes & others as Bastard Noise.
Over the years, I kept playing music with Wood, “pre-Geronimo” band Sleestak (with Gandara, Francoso, Ruiz & Martin) plus other stuff— and I started looking at my homemade gear as a strength rather than a weakness; I mean, if something broke, I could fix it, and I started to develop my own sound. From time to time, heads would ask if I could build them something, but I sort of thought they were nuts.
In 2003, I went to Japan and met Uchino (Last Gasp Art Laboratories / Defektro Noise Army) and was really inspired by the work he was up to. I also met Garrison (Control) for the first time and was surprised to hear a tube analog synth rig on his table… It was funny to him because the tube was not visible but somehow I instantly recognized the sound (since I’d been building my own for a 5 years or so at that point) like it was a magic trick.
Back at home I was art-directing Arthur Magazine among other hustles; I’d cut the publisher a deal in return for some freedom on the page and I noticed all the writers were getting ads as compensation and I figured, hey, I cut these guys a sweet deal & work my tail off on this thing, I feel like I got one coming here. So from next issue a quarter page ad space was mine. Next problem was what to advertise: “the Marque of the Subhumans” was born.
JP: Then Geronimo was born of the aftermath of Sleestak to some extent? There was quite some time from the end of that band till Geronimo hit the ground running. I was aware of Sleestak and Bastard Noise, but Geronimo had something very unique and special. Perhaps it was the minimalism, but for me, there was the political slant, as well as a sort of prominent cultural awareness among the art that you all created. I think the first time I saw Geronimo perform live was at the old Black Panther Party headquarters in Los Angeles. It was a trip, as it was during the day, there were lots of families and children, and then there was Geronimo, playing this sort of post apocalyptic soundscape. It was pretty surreal and confusing… in a good way. Do you care to discuss the politics of the band, as in what sort of political message was tied to the stuff you all were doing? For instance, the actual music as well as who you associated yourselves with such as playing venues like the Black Panthers Headquarters.
WTN: The misanthropic sound itself is designed to question the shameful / shit-assed gilded-age state of affairs: idea being if you bang your head against the wall long enough, you start to see things.
However, lyrically, I remain personally unhappy with the results. Whenever there was an angle, its presentation seemed trite at best and childish more-often. I think the best of it simply sketches moments that share a theme of awakening for the parties described; allegory, I guess is what it is.
Compared to the stuff I watched Wood write (March of the Trolls for instance), it doesn’t even rank… I mean that really sets the bar for me lyrically (the relentless Power Violence “Dragnet” composition is also a home run). March of the Trolls feels like an anthem, but delivered with a knowing tongue in cheek wink at the viewer. It’s so perfectly integrated & balanced that it makes me wonder why I bother.
I mean, I’m perfectly happy to discuss politics (provided the other party asks for it by name), but I’m not skilled at laying that down as “positioned” lyrics without it sounding like tedious crap.
JP: I understand, both the opposition to laying out a political agenda, especially when we can all be enlightened with certain aspects on the world that we live in. And I also understand the musicianship aspect, and your perception of what is up to par and what isn’t. I cringe at most of the vocals and lyrics that I’ve delivered in the past. Nonetheless, what you all did certainly spoke to me, and resonated with a lot of people. I think you all stumbled upon something unique and righteous. I know you all added a second drummer for a while, Sal Gallegos. Was that the next evolutionary step in what the band was moving towards? Was there ever any recordings of that line up, and is Geronimo still an active band? Or are you all involved in other projects now? I know there was a pretty unique resume going into this band as a whole, with Ruiz playing with Beck, and as you mentioned Francoso coming from the world of Sleestak. It’s fairly eclectic to say the least.
WTN: Gallegos was about the only other drummer on the planet who could stomach the blindered vision and scope of the enterprise, and that—coupled with our extremely slow writing process and the absolutely rotten commute (which I’m sure you know too well)—eventually took its toll.
Some of the ideas therein are documented when the original trio was able to subsequently record a huge chunk new material (of which the first bit appeared on Three One G’s INERTIA split 12” with Bastard Senza Testa Noise).
If slow activity counts as activity, I guess you’d be forced to mark the ‘active’ column given the tortoise’s steady procession of editing in anticipation of further collaboration with Mr. Rozon for what will surely be a transformative mix.
That said, given geography, economy & current events, there’s more immediate manifestations of the personnel such as White Eyes peopled by Ruiz / Francoso / Galarza (Aztlan Underground + appearance on the forthcoming Geronimo LP) & Gandara (Sleestak / Bastard Noise). Meanwhile, on this end, there’s continued work on a massive track for Gallegos / Rieder (aka Secret Fun Club) as well as maintaining the Unicorn & Emperor of the North projects with releases on Fabrica & KP records, plus some planned appearances on KZSU radio and in Oklahoma for the Tulsa Artists Fellowship this year. And somehow, in the middle of all that is another spin-off project or two: one was documented on the second Trogotronic compilation called Two Legged with Ruiz & yours truly wherein we coaxed Barnes and Gomez (Slowrider) into the studio…
Needless to say, we are all looking forward to finishing the Geronimo Double LP and seeing what comes next; the truly blessed component of working with Francoso & Ruiz is whether its writing, recording, touring or sharing quality time, there’s a mutual feeling of sublime respect and a deep trust that is unmatched and rarefied. It’s obvious to me that it’s actually this component which makes Geronimo what it is; it allows a safe space to work in where we can critique, advise and take advice without ever needing to feeling insecure, where we always have each others’ backs and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It allows us to continue (albeit slowly) when the project is able to command the undivided attention it deserves without ever having to worry about drama of any sort when scheduling, economy or logistics present inevitable challenges to what has always been a labor of love. We have the confidence in each other to keep the project a positive force in our lives and keep pushing it forward toward our shared goals.
JP: Does that mean Geronimo is still a band, even though you are not currently active?
WTN: I’m not sure I understand your metric of activity, or perhaps you don’t understand ours?
JP: Good response about the metric of activity. I think that certainly says something in this day and age of instant gratification.
WTN: One step at a time; a lot of sensational stuff has touched us personally since we tracked the new Geronimo material: A Culture of Monsters Album & Tour, scot’s chocolate revenge all around, children reared & raised, a Ph. D earned, two households relocated, careers changed and businesses created, multiple life-threatening illnesses both overcome & succumbed to, historic wildfires endured, catastrophic mudslides & floods recovered from. I wouldn’t call it a story of survival, just a humble and determined path of perseverance for all involved.
JP: I still to this day, have people tell me how amazing the Geronimo stuff is. I think it’s still way under the radar. Perhaps it’s the Bastard Noise connection that still helps get Geronimo a bit of needed exposure. But nonetheless, the album is certainly timeless, totally unique, and obviously something that a lot of people really dig. The band seems to be so foreign, in so many ways. And certainly has a sense of mysticism to it, which is pretty unheard of in current times.
WTN: Very nice of you to say, and truly gratifying to find that these concepts & ideas translate to the grey matter between the hear-holes!!!!
JP: Nonetheless, I am glad to hear that Geronimo is still an active project and I as well as a good chunk of this planet hopes to see more. I’m sure that when it happens it will be warranted and relevant. I think what you all did, and specifically what you do with your gear, Trogotronic in specific, that the prospects of a double LP is great news. Coincidentally, the self-titled album, which was only released on CD due to the length of it, could easily mean that a double LP is equivalent to an EP of sorts, since some of the material that the band created is so expansive. This is one of the things I really appreciate about Geronimo, since I personally think my mind is wired for dense, short bursts of absurdity. So the pay off with your material is so great to someone like me, and I mean this as a compliment. I think the challenging aspect to some of the material you guy write is really impactful.
WTN: Yeah, well I think both ideas—absurdly detailed work that requires unpacking to fully appreciate the artistry of composition & performance and a minimalism which also at first appears to be an opaque load of nonsense beyond comprehension without real dedication and time afforded—question the commercially distributed audio commodity by design. Both demand a patience “the market” is not expected to possess by the focus group marketeers. And of course time and again, the REAL market is ever hungry for something REAL since 99.9% of what is delivered prepackaged really hasn’t changed much in a century (although it does sound different).
Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate the finely crafted fascist pop anthem as much as the next guy, and I appreciate more than anything the pinnacle of production craft therein…
But in this obviously precedented (to anyone willing to learn about 20th century history) gilded age:
—Where top commercial artists are actual American aristocrats,
—Where the newscasters are fucking Vanderbilts and polemic speechwriters,
—Where top politicians are bumbling shit-stained uneducated fucking slumlords, nightmare bosses & litigious cheats surrounded by Wall Street hacks,
—Where the promise of freedom through technology from the brain-trusts has been realized for what it is: a dumbfuck master-class of tone-deaf tasteless teen-blood-transfusing turds who worship the half-witted drivel of Ayn Rand and scoff at the rest of us from within the moneyed-tech safe-zones while they eat organic vegan lab meat and spin the power meters ever faster drilling for blockchain numbers that they can hide from the tax man—
—I think it’s a big mistake to rush let alone compromise on fucking ANYTHING!
Historically, the reactions before were extreme, and the reaction in the present is as well.
Clearly the folks of “opposite extremes” down here on the bottom-end have a LOT more in common than the sensational shit that supposedly defines us and determines “which side we are on” —it’s not a matter of left and fucking right: it’s TOP vs. BOTTOM!
That’s what keeps them up at night: We wake up one day & read the financials; we follow the fucking blood-soaked greenbacks and it becomes crystal clear.
It always does.
If we all do our part, even if our greatest eloquence is something as small as an audio idea delivered with excellently crafted minimal raw power, I think we can lift the curtain on Goebbels’ greatest corporate hits from the machinery of Madison Avenue and help reveal the horrendous half-assed hoax for what it is.
JP: Yes, of course. That is a pretty impressive list of obstacles and/ or achievements. I suppose it’s all those aspects in life that make you all do what you do. Needless to say, you have plenty of inspiration to create those beautiful and frightening soundscapes. The world looks forward to what you all will eventually present to it. And as for the market, pop anthems (fascist or non fascist), the news, slumlords, and Wall Street hacks, you have the opposition. As much as they say art will get good again with this current administration, I think there are a lot of people who didn’t have the ability to get lazy under the previous administration and who were aware of the general ballgame of fucking the environment, attempts at erasing culture, abuse of all types of power, and the constant influx of anxiety and depression that seems to hit humanity harder and harder as the years pass. With that being said, the previous Geronimo material was spot on for so many reasons. I can only imagine what the future Geronimo material will present to this planet.
WTN: I don’t know about you, but some of my most valuable time spent these days is spent reading… It’s a real luxury… An exquisite reward & remedy for the brainless bullshit on fast forward we are subjected to day after day…
Anyway I’m a real sucker for history & as a history nut it’s pretty clear to me that all of the shit going on is the SAME OLD SHIT that has been going on in the past.
None of it changes, I mean there’s progress sure, and that’s what makes us so lucky, to at any given moment to see the very furthest reach of human imagination, and yet who can argue that if we don’t focus soon on taking care of each other and ending the shit where we eat attitude instead of bending over for the criminal hoarders in the gated floating world we will be in a real fix.
The shameless hoarders endeavored in the past (and continue in the present) to make as sure as possible we know as little as possible about the past and therefore the present.
They assure us it’s much too complicated, and we are much too busy to possibly understand and by the way look at this guy who is different than you: he eats babies and his god tells him to light his C4 panties on fire at the mall and this lady: she wants to make your boy a girl and worship the vegan god of cabbage or death to your kind! But the sensational is time and again nothing more than the distraction from the really truly sensational lawless shit the cokehead wall street hacks and shamlord bosses are trying to get away with again. “we’ll privatize the water and the air they breathe in the name of freedom!” Right.
And so the idea is the relentless sound, the consistent message of awakening must be as relevant now as it was in the past since nothing about the struggle has changed. The criminal overlords repeat again and again that today is different, today is unprecedented but the human experience of life, love and struggle against the parasite-hoarders and their ridiculous attempts at redefining reality is exactly the same as it was 100 years ago… sure the hardware and lingo has changed, but if you think you are anything special you are in for a rude awakening!