Interview with with Xylon Genesis Otterburn a.k.a Lacanthrope

FLON: Where did your journey as a musician begin, and what is it about experimental noise that draws you to create it?

XYLON; I was named after Genesis P-Orridge from Throbbing Gristle and my parents were both punks who were into Industrial and shit so I started out from the jump with a lot of weird and maximal textures. Sampling, abrasive vocals, & heavy percussion all kind of were there from the beginning. As I got older I pursued a pretty consuming visual art career in art and comics that ate up most of my teens but I tried to occasionally be in bands. Was into early Emotive Hardcore and Skramz, and living in Richmond, bands like City of Caterpillar and Pg. 99 meant a lot to me. I had no real musical talent beyond playing a very small amount of bass so I often just tried to write lyrics and do vocals in these bands and see what I could do with no actual skills.

Around the end of High School a friend started taking me to Noise shows in Richmond and after a period of trying to graft more experimental textures onto an already active band I was in, I started to buy some gear and do solo sets with a few pedals and “preparing” my bass. 

I think in a lot of ways, I was in really dark place in my life and drawing all day was an actively alienating and lonely creative outlet to have, so to have a practice that allowed me to go hang out with people and get feedback on a weekly basis encouraged me to keep going as my visual art career slowly fizzled for a few years. I looked at myself one day and realized people didn’t even know I wrote or drew they just knew I made music ’cause that’s all I did anymore. I do a lot more of both than I ever have but it was really organic how it took over my life.

It was also vastly wild to me at the time to find a whole world of people who knew about TG and Genesis. It was like I was named after Mick Jagger. Really surreal. I make Power Electronics I think because it is all of what I loved about Skramz and Industrial and genres like that but distilled and incomparable. At the end of the day, it’s tension and abrasion and it’s someone screaming in a room and for moment everyone has to listen.

FLON: Do you like the tension and abrasion on a purely aesthetic or conceptual level, or do you find it cathartic in some way? 

XYLON: Oh absolutely cathartic but I don’t know if Noise is capable of monopolizing that release. I get it when listening to lots of things and imagine I could also get it from making other types of things one day.  I mean, I think about this a lot but there aren’t a lot of ways 90% of “Noise” differs from “Music” beyond timbre and texture and as we move forward, I think it’s hard to make a case that too many dissonances are becoming exclusive to “Noise”. 

Power Electronics is my primary outlet because it allows me to bring a certain abrasive palette to a narrative urge that I have. I like story, or at the very least, conceptual arc. I like for tension to build and release, in the media I consume as well as the media I make and so I’m exploring what it means to do that for other people. I am also actively trying to make work outside of the Lacanthrope moniker that works against those impulses. I am beginning to try and make work that simply exists and doesn’t give any satisfaction, but even that has a long tradition and I’d say that even this sort of work is imbued with an aesthetic pretense. Maybe that’s inescapable.  Lacanthrope has been my main outlet because it exists at the intersection of word/text/feeling and sonics. I am trying to communicate something both in text and beyond it. It’s a great release for me and whatever the other person gets out of it is valid as well. It’s where I get to tell stories even if you don’t fully get to hear them. 

FLON: You’ve done some traveling lately. What’s it like performing in another part of the country? 

XYLON: I had never been to the West Coast until the tour I did in October. It was pretty wild especially to see friends and artists I cared about across the nation more in their element at home. It’s hard to think of someone like Jon Borges from Pedestrian Deposit or Jonathan Canady of Deathpile fame as a local in some other town, but they are and that was humbling. It was great to have whole crowds that generally had no idea what to expect and see how it played with their expectations. I am bald and read as male so a lot of people expect, I think, a sort of militancy from me and I try to remain intense while also subverting those expectations. 

People seemed to really enjoy it and for that I am forever grateful. It was also crazy to see what sort of cities are big on buying tapes and merch and shit and which ones aren’t. You’d think there would be a mixed bag everywhere but there is totally a presiding culture of consumption from place to place.

Every night I tried to mention that I am from Providence, RI but was born and raised in the South. I feel like I take North Carolina and Virginia with me everywhere I go. My southern identity took a long time to reconcile as a leftist and a queer but a few years back I just realized I was never gonna be from New York and made my peace with it.

FLON: Can you talk a little about how you discover and manipulate sounds to get what you want? Can you describe your instrumentation for those who’ve never seen you perform live?

XYLON: As I move forward I’m constantly incorporating new elements, and techniques and sets and records vary in instrumentation, but to describe the process/instrumentation for Lacanthrope of late a little:

All of my work typically begins from an aesthetic or noumenal space. I’m constantly trying to tie something down to mere objects. Get my hands around it. So typically I write and revise until I find turns of phrase that work for something. If something doesn’t begin from a lyrical place it normally begins from field recordings. I do a lot of field recordings and have been spending the greater part of three years recording specific phenomena I find interesting back home in North Carolina. I have a few tapes all pertaining to the American South out this year. The first of which just came out, Scarcity Vow

A lot of field recordings I will let sit for months at a time before I go in and chop into loops. I typically cut field recording materials to a variety of tape for playback and manipulation. Sometimes just cassettes but occasionally microcassettes and reel to reel. Other samples I run from my Octatrack. Most of it is just built for atmosphere. I try to make tracks that have dynamics and an arc without synths. I will do a few vocal runs with just multiple types of sample playback and then build synth rhythms to accentuate that cadence. Never interested in making heavily rhythmic music, not because it doesn’t work but because I almost resent the fact it works. I’ll also typically amplify objects for a more tactile sort of noise (calling back to the midwest style of scrap metal abuse). Right now I use a contact micd pouch full of chains and bearings from an old bass I played in high school and in early Lacanthrope performances when I was 19 or so. I love that I can get my hands around it. Most of this project has been me trying to get a grip in one sense or another, I think.

FLON: Great, well anyone near Greensboro, can check you out live at Somewhere Else Tavern on January 22nd, 2018.

Find out more about Xylon’s label at perfectlawreleases.com and check out the latest Lacanthrope release at contradictiontapes.bandcamp.com/album/scarcity-vow

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s