-- Dan Lopatin, interviewed at FACT about the new Oneohtrix Point Never album R Plus 7
Interviewer John Twells asks, "I wonder whether this at all relates to the mainstream obsession with all things retro, from Disclosure’s vintage house revivalism to Jack White’s hoary rock? Does Lopatin lump himself in with this sort of nostalgia?"
Lopatin says "My take is that to me, all of that history is subject to becoming a sort of abstract materiality to use for whatever it is I do, intuitively. What I don’t like about music that has this retro aesthetic is that it’s just simply sad that whatever’s happening now isn’t what was happening then, so that sadness is weird. I’m not sentimental for the past so I don’t really understand entirely what the nostalgia is really about – a sadness or a histrionic sense of the past that’s dishonest whereas I’m trying to make an illusion in the sense that, I’m trying to take the past and make it an abstract material that I can then start from scratch and work with, you know. And I just need it because I need material, I need stuff, I need paint.”
But does oil paint, canvas, etc have a "pre-loaded depth", built-in "histories" that manipulate the artist and the artistic outcomes to the same extent? Or, even if it does to some extent, isn't the struggle of the artist precisely to force the materials and the tools to produce results that break with the history sedimented in those materials and tools by the accumulated history of all of their prior usages to date? John Cage and Hiller's HPSCHD does not sound anything like Renaissance or Baroque harpischord based music. (It is also barely endurable as a listening experience, but that's by the by....)
But for sure you can make art that plays with those in-built depths, works with a palette of association, allusion and evocation...
Interesting in this light that Lopatin fesses up to being a Tarantino fanboy:
"There’s part of me that has been and will always be an appropriation artist, I don’t think it’s too much of a debate. I enjoy that aspect of what I do. Also I was a kid who at age 13 saw Pulp Fiction and all of my passwords, my Hotmail password was Quentin, I was completely obsessed with Tarantino. Seriously the way that his films conveyed the love of film itself and not just making pictures, there was this kind of hidden language in them.”
Tarantino who, I've subsequently thought, really ought to have been the subject of a chapter in Retromania.
I touched on the parallels between video-store-clerk cinema-about-cinema and record-store-clerk rock-about-rock way back when reviewing Jon Spencer's Blue Explosion live at the Irving Plaza, NYC, in July 1995:
You could call it 'We-Just-Wanna-Rock-Y'Know' Rock. Bands who really do just want to rock are veteran troupes like Motorhead (currently trudging across the States in support of Sabbath) or Dokken. But 'We-Just-Wanna-Rock-Y'Know' bands, that's something else altogether. That's groups like Royal Trux or Urge Overkill, whose apparently 'inane' motivation is really a conceptualist art-rock manoeuvre; they have reached their fundamentalist aesthetic only after years of tortuously exploring and exhausting all the options of avant-rock noise. For Urge, 'rock' = Cheap Trick. For Trux, 'rock' = the terminally unhip but populist Grand Funk Railroad ('Exile on Main Street' now being too tarnished with intellectualism). And for the Explosion (like Trux, an offshoot of Pussy Galore, the ultimate 'conceptual dumb-ass' band), 'rock' is an unholy hybrid of John Lee Hooker, Creedence Clearwater Revival, James Brown and Black Oak Arkansas.
JS & TBE are the toast of Manhattan's hip-oisie. So when, in his Lux Interior/Nicholas Cage in "Wild At Heart" hillbilly/silly-billy voice, Spencer yelps catchphrases like "I got soul" and "you sho' got tha funk", the audience shriek back like a teenybopper throng whose collective G-Spot has been tickled by Take That. What exactly is this entirely white audience affirming with these histrionics? That indeed they have 'got the funk', since black folks abandoned the genre 20 years ago, leaving it open for gentrification? Meanwhile, true modern funk (swingbeat) and the real contemporary urban blues (hip hop--same tropes of alienation, "I'm A Man" bragging, pacts with their Devil) etc, are deemed black cultural property, a no-go zone for whitey. Sadly, this stylistic apartheid seems to suit both races in the USA.
JS & TBE are at least aware of modern black music. They pastiched Dr Dre’s synth sound on 'Greyhound', and now here's "Experimental Remixes"--pretty much the first time that US indierock has even recognised, let alone embraced, the science of remixology that underlies all modern music, from rap to rave. While it's a shame the Explosion have yet to drop any of this science into their live-in-the-studio methodology, it's a start. It's encouraging because 'we-just-wanna-rock' is precisely the cop out cul de sac that adventurous US bands run into when they run out of ways of renewing rock from within the gtr/bs/drms format, yet refuse to meet the challenge of sampladelia.
With 'We-Just-Wanna-Rock', it's a question of whether bands can 'fake it so real they get beyond fake'. In the Explosion's case, the 'so real' that redeems them is the rhythm section (ie. the entire band, minus Spencer's hoodoo-hokum vocals and lyrics). Above all, it's drummer Russell Simins Tha Human Breakbeat Machine who really makes things so swingin' and smokin'. Their boogie-funk groove thang--sort of No Wave gone Redneck, an Appalachian Gang of Four--is so phat and juicy you could swear there's a bass palpitating in the mix, instead of just the two guitars.