A figurehead of the New York noise scene and tireless agony enthusiast, Dominick Fernow is a record label owner, record store proprietor and synth molester for Cold Cave. But he cut his blood-caked teeth with Prurient, a sadistic power-electronics therapy session that left amps brutalized, ears ringing and spines tingled. After more than a decade putting out countless slabs of monolithic feedback and self-eviscerating scream poetry, he finally pulls back into more serene, meditative and dare we say danceable territory for his Hydra Head debut, Bermuda Drain (out now). The gamble paid off; Bermuda Drain, where Fernow fearlessly explores his longtime secret love affair with electronic music with the subtlety of a back-alley fistfuck, is easily his highest-profile release to date. His vein-popping throat torture remains intact, but now it’s matched with shades of darkwave, industrial, trance and even some haunting John Carpenter synth ambience. With a violent screech and some shimmering Depecheness, “A Meal Can Be Made” recalls that magical first moment where Ministry went shopping for distortion pedals.
What is “A Meal Can Be Made” about?
Entropy and the need for decay. Humidity. Nature’s disturbing hyperactivity in the tropics and our place within it. The energy of destruction. The need to be needed. Unavoidability. Depressive sadism. Dread. Cruelty. Facing fate and being ok with it. Last I checked desire is still the root of all suffering.
What inspired it lyrically?
I lived with and loved a woman who loved the tropics and the beach. We went to one tip of the Bermuda Triangle in an area that is devoid of billboards and advertisements. If you go a little deeper you can find the remains of a hyperactive military base and the fallout testing facilities. The jungle has reached its fingers and hands through the razor wire fences. In front of that stands white horses from nearby ranches and lizards and beetles crawl on every surface. I was struck by the overwhelming sense of fantasy and escapism that is corrupted and tilted off center by the remains of violence and mechanization for the purpose of destroying people, places and things. When Anna Nicole Smith died, I heard a news report that said she wanted to be buried in the Bahamas. I thought that was incredible as the Bahamas are always associated with vacations, pleasure, escape, relaxation and all things temporary. The eternity of death in the landscape of tranquility is the ultimate poetry.
What music or events inspired such a drastic shift in your sound for Bermuda Drain?
I’ve had a lifelong interest in techno and electronic music but I never had the tools to enact those fantasies properly until now. At least to begin to approach that terrain. Sure, learning synthesizers and computers over the last two years helped, but really trips to Amsterdam and the Ukraine over the last two years cemented a relationship for me between dance music and power electronics on the psychological and physical level that bridged the two worlds. The dance floor remains the arena in which society allows for the predatory mating rituals to begin–complete with the proper plumage. In a sexphobic society the line that is crossed in the clubs is where individuals choose to transform into openly sexual beings. The moment being so pathetic and obvious makes one ask the question of why is the mask necessary to participate in the ancient games. On a sonic level, I define the ideology of noise as the freedom to pursue personal obsession outside of audience and genre. There is an obligation to change because ultimately my work is about pain. If I get to comfortable with one setting, its disruption is critical in order to still transform negative energy into something creative. My physical living situation went to shambles as well this year so I suppose the bed of nails kept me moving as well.
Would you say you’re exploring new emotions on Bermuda Drain, or similar themes through a new lens?
Old loves, new shoes. I’ve always used bits of music and electronics in the work in the backgrounds. On Bermuda Drain the hierarchy is reversed. I don’t consider Prurient to be music. While it may be musical, I think it’s important to draw a distinction. It’s essentially a collage project lyrically, visually, and sonically. I just happen to making the “music” now rather than pasting it in…
How is the record store business? Are rumors of the “tape renaissance” true?
Hospital Productions hit its five-year anniversary on March 17th, 2011 and the majority of sales are cassette based. DIY or die.
What’s the most memorable show you’ve played in New York City?
The show I did with Major Stars and Ye Olde Maids at Mercury Lounge stands out in my mind, as it was a decision point to go “down with the Mayflower of rock ‘n’ roll.”
What’s your favorite place to eat in New York?
Three Of Cups. The best Italian food and service in the East Village. Go there. Also, hails to Moonstruck!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 28, 2011