Monkeys Taught Me Guitar
CoC chats with Nate Newton of Old Man Gloom
by: Paul Schwarz
Old Man Gloom just recently simultaneously unleashed their second and third releases onto a pretty unsuspecting public. Titled _Seminar II: The Holy Rites of Primitivism Regression_ and _Seminar III: Zozobra_ respectively, these "albums" are probably sonically representative of the whacked-out concepts and ideas which are -- sort of -- presented in some of the words lining of the CD booklets to each. However, I haven't spent hours comparing words and sound waves one-for-one, so I guess I shouldn't really be saying things like that. I found _SIII:Z_ and _SII:THRoPR_ to be a mighty breath of fresh air. I have a pile of "albums" sitting next to me, and pretty much all of them are rule- and convention-governed -- different rules and different conventions abound, but sets of rules and conventions govern the behaviour of pretty much all the musical recordings sitting in said pile. And if, like me, most of the albums in your CD collection consist of 8 to 10 songs written in one central "style", _SII:THRoPR_ will, at first, probably be hard -- and possibly disorientating -- listening. For many of you reading this, if you went out and bought _SII:THRoPR_, brought it home, played it through once and then downloaded your first impressions from your brain, they'd probably consist in enjoyment of some the bits of "music" -- of tracks like "Bells Dark Above Our Heads", "Hot Salvation" or "Rape Athena" -- and bemusement at why so many tracks consist only of long sections of "noise". If that -is- -- or -was- -- your first reaction to _SII:THRoPR_, then I suggest you go back and listen to it a few more times, and while you're doing so, consciously try to prevent yourself from categorising what you hear in terms of the structural norms for what "songs" and "albums", "should" consist of. I have no interest in describing _SII:THRoPR_ or _SIII:Z_ to you in greater detail here. However, I do highly recommend both releases: start with _SII:THRoPR_, and move on to _SIII:Z_ if _SII:THRoPR_ leaves you hungry for more OMG. If that paragraph didn't convince you to check out these new OMG releases -- and let's be fair: why would such a scatter-brained diatribe convince you to part with your hard-earned cash? -- then this next one might do the trick... OMG consists of Aaron Turner from Isis, his old school friend Santos Montano, Caleb Scofield from Cave In, Nate Newton from Converge and Luke Scarola (from somewhere, I assume). Additionally, Jeffrey Caxide of Isis has also lent a helping hand, as has Kurt Ballou (apparently from "the God City Centre for audio manipulation"). J. Randall, who works with Agoraphobic Nosebleed, assisted in making these two releases what they are, as did J. Hellmann from "Disposable Heroes Inc.". When I wrote to Old Man Gloom by e-mail to ask if they'd be up for answering some questions for an interview, main band "spokesperson" Aaron Turner said that they liked interviews "as abstract as possible", and encouraged me to "go nuts". So when I sent questions to Nate Newton, I did... and he did so in turn.

CoC: If I called you a "damn dirty ape", would you take it as a complement?

Nate Newton: Well, that depends. If I punched you in the nuts, would you cry like a little girl?

CoC: Is there any connection between OMG and the film "2001: A Space Odyssey"? [I ask because though I know that the name Old Man Gloom (the translation of "Zozobra") was chosen in relation to the new Mexican practice of burning a huge Zozobra puppet, when I recently saw "2001" (for the first time!) -- after having had Seminars II & III in my possession for a few weeks -- I noticed "OMG" written in identical typeface to the one you use on some of the video screens on the ship controlled by Hal, the Jupiter probe, I think it's called.]

NN: I can't really speak for the rest of the members of Old Man Gloom, but I can say this: It is absolutely imperative that you 1. stop watching so much tv, and 2. stop smoking so much pot that you actually find these correlations. But to answer your question, there is a connection to everything through Old Man Gloom because to put it bluntly, Old Man Gloom IS everything. Now on a completely different note, how the hell did you go this long without ever having seen that movie??

CoC: Since you've said there are connections between OMG and "Planet of the Apes", would you say there's also a connection between your minds, and ways of behaving, and the Sixties (acid?) culture which spawned so many whacked out films?

NN: I have never had to answer such introspective questions before. I don't think there is any connection between our behaviour and the Sixties. I mean we haven't gone out and made a record inspired by bell bottoms. Really, the deeper issue here is this: were the Sixties inversely influenced by the simple idea that someday Old Man Gloom could actually exist and come to fruition?

CoC: Do you think it would make for interesting viewing to make a follow-up to the "Planet of the Apes" series called "Planet of the Clams" (it would be a strange world, where lobster is slave to clam!)? [I must confess, all credit for that idea goes to Matt Groening or whoever it is that helps write "Futurama" and thought of it -- Paul]. Would you write the soundtrack?

NN: I think I saw a porno movie called planet of the clams once, but the soundtrack didn't sound like us so I don't think we did it.

CoC: What do you think of cliche UFO theories, such as those offered in programs like "The X-Files", or such as were thrown about around the time the "Roswell" alien autopsy "footage" turned up? If you would agree that most of these ideas are a bit coy, how would you say yours differ?

NN: First and foremost, we simply believe in alien apes. We believe in alien apes because said alien apes taught us how to play guitar. They could all put The Nuge to shame ["The Nuge" is Ted Nugent, famous for all-American rock antics over a long and degraded career which survived the Eighties... sort of... -- Paul]. The alien apes aren't very good drummers though, so that is why we have Santos. His steady diet of pinto beans has made him quite a terror behind the skins.

CoC: Old Man Gloom has a noise component and a noisy music component. Which is the "central" sound of Old Man Gloom? Which are the songs and which are the intros -- or is my feeble, ape-evolved brain failing to comprehend the synthesis of the two as a single sound?

NN: I have said this before. NO human can fully comprehend the magnitude of creative genius that we have realized. So don't feel bad, you are not alone in your naivete'. The central sound of old man gloom is not even audible to human ears. It's an extremely high frequency sound emission that when played at full volume sends a message into the cosmos saying "PANOCHA, HACHE' EN MEXICO"

CoC: Was Darwin an ape or an alien?

NN: I was under the impression that he was a small metal fish with adhesive on the backside.

CoC: What about Desmond Morris?

NN: What?? How do you know about Desmond Morris?? I took her to junior prom. She put out on the first date.

CoC: If you want to turn into an ape, should not your first step to be to remove your clothes, since apes have no shame not having eaten the fruit of knowledge in the garden of Eden? Or is the "Genesis" a steaming mound of ape jissom prematurely evacuated from the mouth of an unkind and unthinking alien race doomed to failure? Or option 3?

NN: Shrude thinking indeed. Apes don't have clothes on. You are very smart. What you are beginning to touch on here is the concept of infinite regressionism. If you want to turn into an ape as you asked, you would first need to find Superman. Once you find him, you must then convince Superman to fly around the world backwards multiple times, thus causing the earth to rotate on its axis in the opposite direction. This may be somewhat difficult because Superman drives a hard bargain. Maybe you could buy him good drugs. Now, if you have gotten this far, you will notice that as Superman flies backwards, and the world turns the wrong way, time is now going backwards also. You will be able to walk, run, jump, swim, and talk backwards with the greatest of ease. If you bought Superman enough good drugs then he will keep going until the world has regressed back to its primordial state. No buildings, no jets, no Seven-Elevens, no Telemundo, just you and the jungle and voila, look down at your feet. Dear god, you have turned into an ape. Thank you Superman!!

CoC: How does the creative process for Old Man Gloom function, how is the "noise" and the "music" synthesized?

NN: There really isn't a creative process for Old Man Gloom. It kind of just happens when we decide out of the blue that we want to practice. In my opinion everyone in this band are very talented individuals, and when we do find the time to get together, good ideas and good music seem to just flow out of us like diarrhoea. The "noise" and the "music" aren't really looked at as separate entities. To us its all the same. They are all tools used to get the same point across.

CoC: How will the (at least) two-tiered nature of the albums translate into the live setting?

NN: That is a question that only Yahweh himself can answer. We have a very hard time finding the time for Old Man Gloom to play shows. Us being the suave playboys that we are. The songs that we have played out thus far have all come across well. I think it would be hard to do some of the same things we do in the studio on stage. But I would hope we would make up for the lack of talent with an over abundance of male nudity.

CoC: If you could train them to do it, would you teach monkeys to play your instruments, and your songs, and send them onstage for the ultimate experience in simian insanity? Or would you be worried they'd get all the girls and sign your band away to Sony?

NN: We already have that problem with the girls... Caleb gets them all. Listen to our music and tell me what would make you think that anything female would at all be attracted to any of us. As far as the monkey idea, yes of course. We already did that. The monkeys have played three shows. Two in Boston and one in Switzerland. They were really good.

CoC: Could thousands of humans sitting at thousands of typewriters eventually come up with a mathematical formula to figure out how to grow a prehensile tail, 'cause I want one?

NN: Again this sounds like a job for Superman. Typewriters wouldn't help anyways, they would need protractors and the xpm587 precarmfabulator [Remember Marvin the Martian from "Duck Dodgers! In the twenty-fourth and a half century!" No? Then you won't know what Nate's talking about. -- Paul]

CoC: Where are some of the samples on II and III taken from?

NN: There was a tiny microphone hidden in your toilet. All the samples, with the exception of the actual space ape transmissions we have intercepted, are actually sonically mutated recordings of your ass.

CoC: If Old Man Gloom and Isis got in a fight, who would lose, who would win, and who would look more like a martial arts film doing either?

NN: Well, being friends with Isis I really don't want to choose any sides, but Old Man Gloom would definitely kick their asses. They would all be too hopped up on drugs to fight back. Not to mention that we have angry Caleb Scofield on bass. Santos is Mexican, so of course he's handy with a blade. But Aaron would have to fight himself, and that would look fucked up. Actually, that is why we would win, because Isis would be high and see Aaron fighting himself, so they would start laughing uncontrollably as Caleb, Santos, Luke and I would bludgeon them with bicycle chains (and monstrous riffs) while in between laughs they would say: "Hey man, watch the joint man, I mean like I paid for this stuff man..." Aaron Harris might cause us some trouble, though.

(article submitted 12/8/2001)

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