This week, wiry drummer Greg Fox announced that he was quitting black metal nirvana-seekers Liturgy, leaving the mega-buzzed art-rockers without one of Brooklyn’s fiercest, blurstiest spasmotrons. Eager to explore other musical endeavors, Fox is blasting full-speed ahead with two side projects. First, is his free-form heavy-psych quartet Guardian Alien, which seems to explore similarly transcendent plains at Liturgy, but at a far slower, uglier, weirder pace. Guardian’s open fields of bliss owe to the expansive, exploratory, slow-building work of bands like Acid Mothers Temple or Gong, all played with Lightning Bolt levels of aggression. Their upcoming vinyl debut is due on Swill Children, and we have a excerpt of Side A, a 23-minute ritual recorded at Shea Stadium that owes a little to Tuvan throat singing, Boredoms spirit-jamming and the unhinged vocals of Alex Drewchin, who caterwauls like an acid-tripping Diamanda Galas.
Fox’s electronic side-project GDFX is also ramping up its circuits for some extra action, a colorful mix of 8-bit sputtering, blackened squelch and ecstatic funshine. His debut vinyl release, One Thing (just out via Impose; the cover’s at left), is 40 minutes of marble madness, skipping and sputtering Casio squiggles fighting for air in a disco nightmare. Album highlight “Pipedream” has the clinical squish of electronic purists like Mark Fell or Oval, but ultimately settles into a head-knocking groove like Hot 97 on Mars.
What is “Pipedream” about?
It’s not really about anything in particular. “Pipedream” makes me think about an old videogame that my grandpa had on his computer when I was little, called Pipe Dream. The point of the game was to connect a bunch of pipes from one end of the screen to the other before this stream of magenta goo—representing sewage, I think—overflowed. Coincidentally, this track ended up being used in an Adult Swim flash game by my former videogame-making collaborator Messhof, called Pipedreamz, which is about surfing and flipping burgers.
What inspired it musically?
These interesting sounds started emerging, so I just followed them. I guess that when the synth tones started coming out and intermingling in the way that they do, I was reminded of playing that old game at my grandpa’s house, something about those sounds reminded me of that goop going through those 8-bit pipes. And then I threw some drums on it.
What do you remember about the session?
This album was for the most part recorded in the apartment I used to live in. My equipment was all set up under this mezzanine where my old housemate Bobby’s room and the bathroom were. While I as recording Pipedream, he was taking a shower, and water started dripping through the light fixture above my work station onto my gear. Luckily nothing was damaged! I’ve had a weird karmic thing throughout my life with water and water damage—almost everywhere I’ve lived, there’s been some incident or another of leaking, flooding and material possessions getting destroyed. In fact, in my current place, it is raining outside and there is water dripping onto the floor.
What does recording electronic music provide for you that live drumming cannot?
To me, drumming and making electronic music are totally different experiences, but by way of either I can wind up in the same preferable mental space: Not being there, and also being there, so to speak… Whatever you call that… I mean, drumming is really the best, [but] I feel the urge to play every instrument, and to make all kinds of sound. I think of the pieces of equipment I use to make GDFX music as just being other instruments that I play.
Guardian Alien definitely has a more ritualistic and trancelike feel. What is your personal, emotional goals when playing these long, hypnotic sets?
Letting not-knowing take the lead when it is so inclined and embracing that uncertainty; listening to and trusting my bandmates and whatever guests we may have sitting in with us, and supporting them and the sounds they are making; supporting their experimentation and discovery and knowing that it contributes to my personal discovery and self improvement; not judging my playing or anyone else’s playing while it is happening; remaining unattached and allowing moments to come and go, leaving the room, being entirely present, trying new things, feeling my physicality while playing and being aware of my body, how it is working and how it could be working better; focusing on my breathing; improving my endurance and technique; improving as a musician in general; creating something that unites people; challenging myself, my bandmates, and the audience; moving energy around the room; sweating…
What are the moans on side A of Guardian Alien record?
That’s the Kargyraa Moan… It’s a form of Tuvan throat singing. I had a dream a little while ago where some weird looking folks from another dimension or something had these two little bugs, and they kept showing them to me and asking me to do my Kargyraa. I did it, and the two bugs became two huge spaceships… but they weren’t really spaceships, they weren’t material like that. Its hard to explain. I had another dream where I visited the Sphinx and sang and a secret door opened. But then again I’m not sure specifically which moans you are referring to. Alex also has a really crazy vocal range. She speaks alligator.
What’s the most memorable show you’ve played in New York?
When I was drumming in Dan Deacon’s band, we played a show at the Brooklyn Backyard. It was the end of a two-month tour, and that was definitely the biggest show I had ever played in my hometown up until that point, by far. Dan played one of the demo songs on his keyboard, I think “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and I crowd surfed from the stage to the back of the audience and then back to the stage, where the folks in the front kindly deposited me back to the drums to finish the show. It was one of many moments that I’ve been very thankful to have had, one of those validating experiences that has further justified my devotion and dedication to being a musician.
You’re a big pho fan. What’s the best place in New York to grab one?
Cong Ly on Hester and Chrystie. Shout-out to my pholluminati. Hai—Cảm ơn bạn cho tất cả các số pho tai năm!
The Guardian Alien release show is September 23 at Shea Stadium. GDFX play Glasslands on October 9 with Extra Life, Pygmy Shrews and Mick Barr. Greg Fox’s last New York show with Liturgy is October 27 at Irving Plaza with Boris and Asobi Seksu.