Siren Festival 2009: Q&A with A Place To Bury Strangers’ Oliver Ackermann


Over the last few years, A Place To Bury Strangers have become a heavy presence in Brooklyn, dominating the fuzz-drone scene that draws from shoegaze stars Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine. Lead vocalist Oliver Ackermann also founded the successful pedal effects company/music space Death By Audio, which has provided equipment to bands like U2, Wilco and MBV. As a band, APTBS have recently put the finishing touches on their sophomore album, Exploding Head, set for release this October. This Saturday, they play the Siren Festival Stillwell Stage at 5:30pm.

Are you psyched for this weekend?

Definitely. I’m really psyched.

Did you ever go out there as a fan before the band got going?

I did a bunch of times. I was a guitar tech for my friend’s band at one point, so it’s pretty cool to be actually out there playing it.

What band was that?

Dirty On Purpose.

What’s your favorite carnival game?

My favorite carnival game would have to be skeeball.

Have you ever won an amazing prize off that?

I’ve won lots of sweet plastic trinkets and tootsie rolls and maybe some stuffed animals.

Siren is always synonymous with sweat, heat, sun. Do A Place to Bury Stranger tunes translate well into daytime gigs?

I don’t necessarily think so, but that’s okay. Not everything is always the most appropriate, but I think it’s all about having a good time, so I’m sure that will be alright.

You have had a successful rise over the last few years. What have been the highlights so far?

Being able to travel around has been fantastic. Going overseas and all the bands we’ve played with has been pretty fun [like] Nine Inch Nails and Darker My Love.

Any lowlights?

We had our transmission blow up on our vehicle out in Arizona. That was kind of crazy. It set fire and shot flames out. We were stuck in the desert for maybe like four or five hours. And then we were stuck in some middle-of-nowhere town for a few days.

What did you do there?

We went swimming and sat around the pool and ate at this one Mexican restaurant about 12 times.

The new record is called Exploding Head. Is that in reference to any specific event, possibly a hangover?

[laughs] It’s just sort of about some mass realization that is based on the song, when you sort of find a turn around, and you realize your head switches. Something that’s really intense.

What’s changed this time around?

The last album was all pretty much written by me. This album has a lot more collaborations as a band. The parts are more natural. It has much more of a live feel than the last album, which had a lot of drum machines. We’ve been slowly trying to capture that energy of what it’s like for us to play live.

Will you be playing any new songs this weekend?

We’ll be playing a couple new songs, but I’m not sure exactly which ones. Probably pick ’em on the day.

Is there any new fun Death By Audio toys?

We’re about to come out with a pedal in a week or so that’s called the Robot. It uses these voice transformer chips to make your guitar shift, and do some pretty cool things.

Very direct, but poignant name.

It just makes whatever you’re playing sound like a robot.

Is there any orders already in for it?

We sent out to something just to dealers and they’ve all ordered a bunch of them. I think it’s going to do good.

I feel like Peter Frampton would like it.

[laughs]. Maybe.