Jeremy Harris' Lazy Magnet is a long-running institution of synth noise, shambled beauty and uncompromising sonic experimentation. Acts Without Error, the project's umpteenth album, juxtaposes long-form, meditative tone structures with briefly revelatory scenes of dismal art pop, coupling stark melodies and fragmented dialogues with icy, mechanical instrumentation. I chatted with Jeremy via email just days before embarking on his East Coast tour to catch up on Lazy Magnet's current touring incarnation, the background of the band's pinacle release on the Bathetic label, and what's next for the 20-year-old project.
Lazy Magnet is, for all intents and purposes, your solo project. How did the current 5-piece come together for this tour? What necessitated the expanded touring crew?
Live, touring versions of my songs tend to be radically different than the recorded versions. After spending a year and a half producing the three songs that comprise the B-side of Acts Without Error, I still felt as though the songs hadn't been pushed to their full fruition. I planned on taking them as far out as possible - creatively speaking - on the tours set aside for promoting the record. The idea of forming a new Mag band occurred to me as a way to make an event out of the tour to honor the effort that Daryl put into the recordings, and Jon's (Bathetic Records) unwavering dedication to seeing the project through to the end. Naturally, I asked my closest friends, who also happen to be my favorite musicians, to join the tour.
How does the larger group of players change the songs in the live setting?
Don't know how the band will sound yet - we won't be getting together until a week before the tour! Everybody is coming from a different city, including Tampa, Savannah, and Philly. I have some plans to incorporate themes from alternate, outtake versions of the songs that didn't make the record. I'm going to be looking to everyone for their input on changing the arrangements.
You've largely worked with noise labels before now. How did you come into contact with Jon and his Asheville-based Bathetic label?
I'm pretty sure I first met Jon (and Cody, too) when he played a D.I.Y. spot I booked shows at in Providence years ago. He was ripping it in a noise rock trio called Boids. This was years ago ... Then we met again on a fateful night in Chicago when I was doing a tour with Preux Breaux Geuxlde. Then, years after that, he asked me to do this record out of the blue.
Acts Without Error seems to have an interesting story, first starting as a split before evolving into a full-blown LP. What's the deal?
Initially the record was going to be a split with Claire Hubbards' Caethua project. She did a haunted reading of [Aliester] Crowley's interpretation in the tarot moon card. A creepy, unsettling recording. Claire lives in Maine on land with no running water, phone, or electricity, so at times it can be difficult to get in touch with her. Making my side of the split was incredibly difficult. It took over a year and-a-half and dripped out painfully, little by little. I can't remember the sequence of decisions that led to it finally being released as a Lazy Magnet record, but Jon asked me to produce a second side, which I did quickly and decisively, because by that point everybody involved was frustrated by how long it was taking to finish the project. I mention that Claire is hard to contact ... I'm honestly not sure that she knows that the record exists or if the split isn't being released. Extreme circumstances, for sure.
What is your writing/recording process like?
For this particular recording I borrowed a CD-r burner and recorded long jam versions of the music straight from my rig, which at the time consisted of an Ensoniq ESQ-1, an Alesis MMT-8, a Boss DR-770, a Paia Fatman, the Pro One, and some effects. I imported them into Adour, which is a daw that comes with the Linux OS platform and edited them down to song length. Then I wrote the lyrics and melodies and finally recorded the last bits with Daryl in our living room in Providence last winter.
"SCI Pro One" is a 20-minute suite of post-industrial, radiophonic sound, complimenting the three brief goth-synth-pop tunes that make up the rest of Acts. How do you find balance in the two genres?
To me, the songs on the record are very delicate and exposed. The record is designed in a way that the drone piece should be listened to first so that the listener is taken down to the frame of mind necessary to really hear the songs in their terms. Otherwise, I'm not sure people would hear them the right way. So I'm not sure that there is a balance between the two forms, but I'm using one to prepare the listener for the other, lest their sensibilities be too coarsened by this savage world to hear!
I hear sonic resemblances to Chris Forgues' synth work, especially his "pop" outfit Daily Life. With what other acts do you identify ?
That's funny, I've known Chris since I was 19 and I used to play guitar in Daily Life. The people that will comprise the Mag band on this upcoming tour are prime examples of artists whose output I follow and love dearly: Daryl Seaver who does SAM-V and will have a 12" out on L.I.E.S. Records later this year. Noah Anthony, who is Profligate and has a stellar LP called Come Follow Me out on More Records/Hot Releases. Jeff Zagers, who releases music eponymously and brilliantly... Josh Plotkin, who does outmode and controls more records out of Tampa. Right now, I'm excited about the Panzerkreuz label and weird techno in the american noise underground.
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