A Darker Figure #67: Self-Destructing Technologies

Hello and welcome to A Darker Figure #67 where I have had a short week (due to the holiday) that has seemed much, much longer. I am not allowed to really talk about it, but when you work for a corporation you have to explain a lot of really simple things to a lot of people who try to think at a level that is way above where they need to be about a problem. Engineers, am I right? I actually don't have problems usually because the engineer that we work with for Fire Protection is great and a personable guy. This had more to do with my direct company. Oh well! I was supposed to work tomorrow (Saturday), but now I don't have to, so things are good again. 

I have been thinking a lot about self-destructing technologies - specifically something that I could incorporate into a music release - and have been really on the fence about them. On one hand you have a piece of art, in this case a small EP, of one-time listen music. Exclusive. Not digitally offered. One time and then it is done. Forever. You can choose to listen to it or save it for another time. Or never listen to it at all and just stand in wonder forever. On the other hand though you have a whole lot of wasted plastics (in this case I would be considering a Cassette), time, paper, and other materials for something that is a single serving. While I think that art is made to be expressive, even if the expression is an exclusive wondering that may ultimately turn out to be not-for-me musically, I think that we are living in a time where creating mounds of waste - even small ones - is pretty selfish and that maybe it can be done another way. 
I need to look into this more. There is something there, but I don't know what. At any rate it needs to be responsible and appealing at the same time. Also there needs to be an audience first, haha. 

I'll be going back in the studio sometime in the middle of this month to re-record some vocal sections for the new The Blood of Others split. Some of the re-worked tracks didn't fit in the timing of the vocals anymore. Should be fun. I'll be working with Patrick Champaign again, which is exciting. 

Last weekend the neighborhood two streets from ours was on lockdown by the police because a man was spotted carrying a gun around at 630 in the morning. Full ordeal: helicopters, swat vans, communication RVs that block entire roadways, the news, people just casually walking by one street over not knowing that there is a large operation going on. I was on my way to the cat shelter to volunteer and was stopped in a weird we-are-blocking-this-road-but-not-really-so-you-can-go-I-guess. So Sophie and I stayed inside until the stand down at 4pm. 
The day before we went to the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, so the weekend wasn't without romance! 

Sophie wants me to tell you that we are getting matching tattoos tomorrow. We are getting matching tattoos tomorrow. 

Things that you should check out! 
- Movie (French/Netflix): The News From Planet Mars  (trigger warning: pet death) 
- Live show: Planning for Burial (noise/doom/metal/synth) - saw Planning for Burial on Sunday here in Portland and it was pretty great! 
- Music: New Hante. record came out! "Between Hope & Danger" is up on bandcamp and it is damn good
- Newsletter: Sean Bonner's Newsletter is my favorite. Warren Ellis is who got me hooked on newsletters, though. 

Things that I have coming up! 
6/10: I will be doing a Sky Symbol Rituals set at Volt Divers here in Portland at The Lovecraft
6/11: Technophobia, Pleasure Curses, and Neybuu with live video stuff from Carri Gummer here in Portland at The Lovecraft. (please bring your friends, it is an early show!) 8pm | $5 | 21+ 
7/7: The Blood of Others (feat. Sophie! on bass keys) in Seattle, WA at The Highline opening for Jihad

Listen to my podcast: Talking to Ghosts
Listen to my music: The Blood of Others / [product] / Sky Symbol Rituals
Go to my website: I See Bad Spirits

A Darker Figure Newsletter #66: Shows, Review of "Shelter in Place," and Being Someone's Something

Hello and welcome to the A Darker Figure Newsletter. Did you know that I have a website where all of my different projects get posted with fun little blurbs and listenable links? Talking to Ghosts episodes, new music releases, upcoming projects, shows I am playing or producing, everything. 

We played a show last night with LA band HAEX and it was awesome. They don't have an album out yet, but it is closed, so keep an ear out for it! If you are in Everett, WA or Vancouver, BC you can go see them this weekend! Everett I believe is tonight at Obscurus. 

Review of Alexander Maksik's Shelter in Place 
(if you are going to read this already, skip this review and save yourself because it is a great book) 

This week I finished Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik. This was an extremely enjoyable read on a morose topic. I saw a review of one of his earlier books that said that his writing was almost philosophical and I believe that this applies to Shelter in Place as well. The book is centered around the question of "is violence the answer to violence?" There is much, much more than that in the book, but I believe that it all boils down to this in the end. From the very beginning of the book we are confronted with murder. It is not a crime thriller or a detective story, it is just there as fact. Here are the opening chapter of the novel: 

     In the summer of 1991 my mother beat a man to death with a twenty-two ounce Estwing framing hammer and I fell in love with Tess Wolff. 
    Now, many years later, they have both disappeared and I am alone here on this pretty clearing in the woods. 
    Alone, save for the tar and the bird and the other things, for which I have no name. 

The entire novel is constructed in short chapters. Sometimes this is a device used to connect a series of short stories into one larger picture, but for Shelter in Place it is more a construction of memory. The timeline jumps, but it is intimately connected as if someone where just free-writing the story from a memory they were recalling to someone. This, to me, is interesting because this 2011 article from Jezebel found that Maksik's debut novel, You Deserve Nothing, was based on the real story of how he was quietly let go from a school in Paris after an affair with a student. The student has come out to say that that is literally her story written down in places and that some of the things that are included in the book were told in confidence. Some things were made up to fill the story in and make it more readable, but a lot of the students have said that it is pretty much exactly their experience with Maksik. This makes me wonder if some of the scenes in Shelter in Place are real experiences because they feel honest and heartbreaking in places. There is a through line of depression that takes form as bi-polar disorder - the tar and the bird from the first chapter above - that is real. It is crippling and it is a void that anyone with a tendency for depressive states will recognize. 

All in all, it has been my favorite book this year. It was compelling and really well written. The short chapters make it a thrill to read because you know that you could probably fit in a few more pages every time you go to stop reading. 

photo by: lain

photo by: lain

Our Everett show last weekend was great! It is always fun to play some of those [product] songs, especially the older ones because they are full of energy. The Blood of Others is an emotional experience to play live and I love the feeling of it because it communicates the way that I feel a lot of the time and the things that I want to say. But [product] is just plain fun. The message is brutal and immature compared to The Blood of Others, but jumping around and screaming is a nice release sometimes.
There was a younger person at the show, who is also in a band that is very good called Chrome Corpes, that told me that my demo ...and the connection fails was a really important album to him. And that is crazy. I know exactly what he means because I have a few albums that came into my life at the right time and changed some things around for me. It is hard to hear this sort of thing about something that you have created though because it brings out the imposter syndrome. I wrote that demo before I was 21. Before I was straight edge or vegan or even being honest with myself. So it feels to me now like a frustrated younger self trying to say the things that I believe now, but not quite knowing what was going on. He asked me what the album was about and I wish that I had given him a better answer. I was flustered by the statement and the question, and his own nervous energy, and said that it was about nolongerhuman and the breakup that Clint and I had, which were the first stepping stones of me being straight edge. Which is true, mostly, but it is more about me being confused about what I wanted and trying to find it. Either way it was very strange for me and I really appreciated it. 

Last week was kind of a long one so I will leave this here for you. 

The next The Blood of Others show that I have coming up isn't until 7/7/17 in Seattle, but if you are into electronic music and want to come out to a show that I am producing here in Portland, please come see Technophobia, Pleasure Curses, and Neybuu at The Lovecraft on 6/11. I am also doing a Sky Symbol Rituals set at Volt Divers on 6/10. 

A Darker Figure #65: A personal [product] music history

Welcome to A Darker Figure #65! Before I get into the personal history self-satisfaction bullshit, I have a few things going on: 

[product] and Sky Symbol Rituals in Everett, WA tomorrow! 
- Next Thursday The Blood of Others is opening for HAEX here in Portland at The Lovecraft, if you live in town please come out! They are a newer band and one that I enjoy, so I think you will too! 
- June 10th, I will be doing a Sky Symbol Rituals set for Volt Divers. I am working on some new stuff for this one that will connect to the original 30 minute set, which was released here
- I am about half way through Alexander Maksik's Shelter In Place and I highly recommend checking it out. It is written almost directly to my taste. Really well done. 

Okay! Here is a personal [product] history, from my extremely biased point of view, of the music projects that I have been in / produced solo. Why you ask? Because I was going through a lot of the tracks this week trying to find fun songs to play live in Everett tomorrow and I realized that I am still a fan of a lot of the stuff that I made! And sometimes it is good to just go back and see what happened. P.S. No one asked for this. :)

"Ensemble of Sirens" from the demo placement

Heavily influenced by bands like Tactical Sekt and Psyclon Nine I started to make aggrotech music under the name [product]. The goal was to be screamy and fast and dance-able. Some of the things that I took from the bands that I loved were the high and fast synth lines that were just layered until it became kind of a mess of melodies. The earliest demo, placement, and the first songs that I wrote solo - after spending a few years developing a band called [injekted] in high school - are some that I still go back to with fond memories. The only thing that I kind of cringe at are the lyrics, which were/are shallow and dishonest in a way that I can tell is just trying to fit the things in the places where I thought words should go. It is funny going back and reading the lyrics now because they fit pretty well in the music - cadence-wise - but the themes are all over the place. "Ensemble of Sirens," which is the first song for [product] and one that I still really enjoy playing, is some jumbled mess of a murder story? I am not sure.

"The Principal" from the demo reassignment

I was under the impression at the time, and I still am in a way, that you had to hit it hard right away. Whether you were playing live or putting out a demo, you have to go in from track 1 and put your best stuff first. "The Principal"like "Ensemble of Sirens," is the first track on the second demo. I believe at this time I was sneaking in to a club night in town called Hive, which had an outside area that I could just blow passed the bar and hang out in. I remember giving a physical copy of this demo to one of the DJs, who played "Mechanical Fear" in mono and it completely fell apart. That was way before I knew how to mix anything and I am surprised that they still sound this... together? I found a server online that had a shit ton of Twilight Zone samples for free download and would pretty much go through those for days and find super sad or weird ones. It was awesome. I still haven't seen all of the show. It was less about the moments in the show and more about the words they were saying. I think that Clint from nolongerhuman helped me with some of these tracks. Just tips and tricks talk. We used to hang out a lot and I was trying to remember when that fell apart but then saw that the next thing in line was the Drown The Horses EP, which is a song entirely about how things broke between us and has the first strands of the straight edge themes that would come later. 

"Fuck The Club" from the EP Drown The Horses

This is an interesting EP because it has one of the first tracks that reflected the first signs of oh, I hate this bar scene thing and the track "Fuck the Club," which is about just wanted to get drunk and dance to forget your problems... Which I would love to claim is a satirical look at the themes above, but they were not. I had just turned 21 and was very confused about what I wanted to do with myself. After a long time of standing outside, waiting to be 21, and smoking cigarettes with all of the adults, I was finally in! I was finally part of the scene for real. It was kind of a disappointment. I think this track both reflects the time and headspace that I was in, and sends a dumb message. It is a track that some bandmates bring up when they want to let me know that I wasn't as sound in mind/lyric when I was younger. This is also the first time Wes remixed my stuff as reakt[ion], which I think he recently started after changing from the name Necessary Noise. 

"Faded Youth"  from the demo ...and the connection fails

This was the first track where I was super influenced by a documentary that I saw and immediately wrote something. Like the second it was done. I was so upset and sad at the world. The documentary was about children on medication and how it was causing them to kill themselves. This hit home super hard because a lot of the people that I knew in middle school where in the first wave of the ADHD/anti-depressant drug push and it just wiped them. It completely fucked them up in really bad ways. This was also the first track that I sent to COP International Records and eventually led to releasing with them. We had a release party for this demo at The Fez ballroom, which is no longer around, and it was just... shitty. The opening band was one of my favorites at the time and he just got super drunk and fought with his girlfriend, who later turned off and then tried to take one of the power strips we were using on stage. I also had a pita pit... pita... before we went on and an energy drink and thought that I was going to die. I was so sick. 

"Lungs Full of Water (Distorted Memory Remix)" from the digital only EP I Hope You Choke (COP int.)

Distorted Memory was/is one of my favorite bands and this was really the first time that I reached out to someone who I thought was much, much better than me. I remember he wrote back and asked if it was okay that it was going to be a slow and more atmospheric remix, instead of the upbeat dance stuff he had been doing at the time. Little did I know it would be the best fucking song. This was right before the Temple of the Black Star release. So good. 

"The Last Battle" from the debut album I, Omega (COP Int.) 

Right before I was signed to COP International, I remember Clint sending me a message saying that I would never get signed and that I was a piece of shit... or something like that. So, as a little bit of spite and a little bit to prove that I could, I submitted to, and was signed to, the label that he was (and is still) on. Little did I know that it would be a kind of lacklusted experience in which I would do all of the promotion and not really understand what the responsibilities of the artist and the responsibilities of the label were. I still don't know really. It taught me a lot though. It taught me how to go out and just promote myself regardless of what someone said they were going to do. Nevertheless! It was an exciting time. I finished something. Had it mastered and released on a label. This album was mastered by Jan from X-Fusion, who I admired and would master everything from here until The Blood of Others album. 

"Awaken The Alchemist" from the self-released single Awaken The Alchemist

So many things happened right here! I discovered Witch House and my whole world changed musically. It was crazy. This is the first track that I "sang" on instead of screamed with a lot of effects. It was the first slower track that I had done. This single had remixes from two of my favorite artists. I was able to convince Vendetta Music to sign me after saying that the next album would be like this, but heavier and louder. This is the music that I really wanted to make and what would eventually become The Blood of Others. 

"So Lost" from the 2nd Full Length album Shallow Graves (Vendetta Music)

After going from Witch House to being extremely obsessed with Chrysalide, Shallow Graves came back to being super mad and heavy. The hardcore influence was never more strong. So many breakdowns and different screaming styles came out in this first track. A lot of the reviews for this album said that it sounded like Combichrist and I remember being so mad about that. I think that it was the lower scream... but still... Not good. This song is 100% a straight edge song. I was full in it at this point. "So Lost" is straight edge, "Giving Water, Taking Ash" is anti-animal testing, "Voluntary Extinction" is child free by choice... so many views. I still hold all of these views, but it is just kind of funny to hear them in these songs. We are performing a mostly Shallow Graves set when we play now. Also, the iVardensphere remix on this album is crazy good. I remember getting it back and being a little upset that it was so fucking good. There was also a W.A.S.T.E remix that was given away with the pre-order that I like a lot. 

"To The Wind" from the self-released EP Her Ghost

Back to Witch House! "To The Wind" is still the best track that I have ever produced, in my opinion. It was so much about the time and place and capturing the atmosphere that I had in my head when this EP came together. The idea materialized pretty quickly and then the whole thing was done. I was working for a little bit on the lyrics for the fist two tracks and then boom! At the time I was having this recurring dream - and I still do sometimes - that was completely out of a gothic romance that I fabricated from so, so many Cradle of Filth albums. This is what really made The Blood of Others a thing that I was set to do. I was done with the dance-heavy stuff and was pretty board with the style. I definitely needed a change in a lot of ways. We were performing this stuff as [product], which is crazy to think about now because it was so much of a departure. I would still be producing under [product] if Audiotrauma hadn't asked to change the project and separate from the previous releases. This though, marks the first time that I felt that I was making the music that I truly wanted to make. I didn't know how to do it before. Or I was scared that I wouldn't know how or something. It was weird. 

Then The Blood of Others happened. I've talked about that a lot in this newsletter. It is still happening. I am still loving it. 

Thanks for reading. It will be back to the normal thoughts and current event stuff next week. This wasn't edited or re-read because I spent too much time on it and got lost in the memories.

A Darker Figure Newsletter #64: Jeff VanderMeer reading, Terminus Set Times, and upcoming shows

Welcome to A Darker Figure Newsletter #64! This week I went to a reading at Powell's, have an interview lined up for tonight, and am excited about some shows that we will be playing this month! For more detailed posts about events or podcast episodes, please check out my new website: www.iseebadspirits.com

Jeff VanderMeer is an author, but also an environmentalist with a strong leaning towards dystopian futurism, philosophy, and portraying characters as changing beings. The Southern Reach Trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance) was a great set of books that I highly recommend you read! I have reviewed most, if not all, these books in this newsletter before, and am guilty of pushing my own copies of the books on to anyone who has the slightest interest in any of those subjects. I think that it is a mistake to call his books science fiction because it is only slightly accurate. Some of the characters are weird, and alien, and some of the environments are strange, but the topics and the philosophies and the questions are human. When asked last night, by an audience member, if he thought his books were about the future: VanderMeer and co-speaker Lydia Yuknavitch had a conversation about science fiction being closer to current reality than we think - mentioning that even The Handmaid's Tale, whose technology is now outdated, has concepts that are still ahead of their time, and feel present now - after a few more related questions, the conversation ended with VanderMeer stating: "Memory, for some people, is all they have of the future because it is all they have left of the past." 

He also said during the conversations that he likes to give his characters unreliable memories because that seems closer to what life is actually like for most of us now. That authors usually use memory as a device to describe the past in a narrative and that he likes to use it as a tool to make a character seem real, but also flawed. I'm elaborating a little bit because I don't remember the exact words, but I think that this is an interesting way to write, and interesting way to think about memory in general. I recently wrote a very short story as a stream of consciousness/journalling exercise in which there were a lot of real, hurtful, and sad memories that came up when I let my consciousness take something that happened and just run with it until I was done writing. I am still working on it. Sophie is, of course, helping. She is a master editor, she just doesn't know it yet. 


If you haven't listened to last Monday's Talking to Ghosts interview with Andy McMillan, I highly recommend it. It was very inspiring. It made me want to quit my job and do something creative. Maybe next year, who knows! (Sophie is scared about this, rightfully so. I keep mentioning it.) 


If you are planning to go to Terminus Festival in July, you should definitely get there for the first band on the first day of the festival! (because that is us.) 

Daily schedule:

Friday, July 28 (Doors 5 PM/ First band 6 PM)


Saturday, July 29 (Doors 5 PM/ First band 6 PM)


Sunday, July 30 (Doors 5 PM/ First band 6 PM)


Weekend passes are on sale NOW for $180 on our website at www.terminus-festival.com. Limited single day passes will be on sale shortly for $70.


I also have a show that I am producing next month with Technophobia from Washington, DC. I am very excited about this one. You can check out more details on my website: www.iseebadspirits.com 


I just started reading Alexander Maksik's Shelter In Place, after reading the first page in Powell's the other day. This book also has a recommendation from Lauren Groff, who wrote the book Fates and Furies that I enjoyed quite a bit. But it doesn't need it. The writing style is unique and charismatic. The narrator is extremely flawed, but honest to the reader about it. I can't say much more because the last book that I recommended to Sophie, I spoiled accidentally. But you should check out this book. It is very good so far. 


Tonight: Boy Harsher, Koban, Soft Kill, and Vacant Stares at Analog Cafe in Portland, OR
5/20: Sky Symbol Rituals and [product] perform at Obscurus in Everett, WA
5/25: The Blood of Others opens for HAEX at The Lovecraft in Portland, OR
6/10: Sky Symbol Rituals set for Volt Divers at The Lovecraft in Portland, OR
6/11: Technophobia, Pleasure Curses, Neybuu and Carrie Gummer on Visuals at The Lovecraft in Portland

As always, thank you for reading this newsletter. Stay safe out there. Read more books. It'll help. 
If you need a recommendation for something to read or if you want me to send you a random book from my shelf, feel free to reach out! I'm down. 

Talking to Ghosts - Episode 81 - Andy McMillan

This week on the Talking to Ghosts Podcast we talked with designer, and general doer, Andy McMillan. Andy started the Build conference in Ireland to make up for a space that he saw lacking in the tech-conference community. Build aimed to get down to the people and the philosophy behind design and not the corporate seminars. After starting Build Andy went on to launch The Manual, which is basically the printed version of the Build conference. I picked up the 4th edition of The Manual before our interview and have been really enjoying it this weekend! After moving to Portland, and partnering with Andy Baio, Andy started the XOXO Festival to give independent makers and designers a place to share their thoughts and stories. 

We talked to Andy about the first websites we designed, starting out as an independent maker, and quitting college to start working for yourself. We also talked about his new venture: a grant program to help support independent makers, give them healthcare, and teach them how to build a business.

Check out Andy's website for more of his projects! 

A Darker Figure Newsletter #63: iseebadspirits.com

If you want to subscribe to this newsletter, and receive it in your email every Friday, please click here! 

Welcome to A Darker Figure Newsletter! I have started a website to collect all of my different projects. There were a few places recently that asked for a EPK - which is an Electronic Press Kit for bands - and I think they are outdated and kind of dumb in today's social media climate, so I started a website instead. It is not quite the same, but if I can capture all of the info that is normally in a EPK on there, for each of my projects, then I will be happy with it. Right now it is all bare-bones info and a little bit of design. I am still working on it. It has been awhile since I've had a for-real website that was something that I made. Wes did all the legwork for the Talking to Ghosts' site and design. 

This week we talked with Andy McMillan of the XOXO Festival, The Manual, and Build Conference in my studio apartment. Andy was a great guest and that episode will be out on Monday, so I won't go too much into what we specifically talked about other than to say that it is all very inspiring. Andy is a do-er. He is a producer and events coordinator, but first and foremost he is a do-er. He gets high level shit done and that is inspiring to me. Something that Andy is very outwardly good at is presenting only what he knows is a high level, good project. I am curious to know, but failed to ask him when he was here, how many projects he has worked on that just fell apart somewhere along the way. Projects that no one knows about. 

Today is Cinco De Mayo, which was the day that the Mexican forces defeated the filthy French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, but in America it represents a date to celebrate Mexican-American culture, but somewhere in the 00s it became a day to celebrate partying and drinking too much, just like 4th of July or New Years Eve but closer to Mardi Gras (this is a gross simplification, but that is how I feel.) The bar across the street from my house is having a free tequila tasting all night which means that I am going to do everything in my power to leave town tonight. Sophie is looking for a romantic evening, so I need to do some digging into where I can go. It is pleasantly warm in Portland and we had a really great lightning storm on the way home last night. 

I lost the filling on my front tooth this week, on Wednesday, and was briefly a hillbilly with a cracked front tooth. It is fixed now and feels super weird. I wrote a piece about it, but it is more of a free-association journal entry that went to some pretty crazy places. Maybe when I finish that piece I will share it. We'll see! 


Comics to recommend: 
Injection Warren Ellis, Jordie Bellaire, and Declan Shalvey
Saga (of course!) by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Revival by Tim Seeley, Mike Norton, and Mark Englert
(also, you should by them from your local comic book shop, not Amazon - I was just lazy and wanted to get you to the right books... but don't be lazy. Go to the shop and support the people.) 

I also started reading Someone Else by Tonino Benacquista, which is a book that Sophie bought for me a long, long time ago. It is pretty good so far! The book starts with the idea: What if you could be someone else entirely. The main characters meet at a bar after a tennis match as strangers and agree to meet up 3 years later at the same bar as completely different people: the people that they have always wanted to be, or fantasized about being. 


Also, new Saltillo! It is super good. I wrote about the first Saltillo releases on the original A Dark Figure blog way back when, and this comes quite a few years later, but is still really, really up my alley. If you don't know, it is the artist Menton3 who does all kinds of great work. I heard the music, loved it, looked up the art, and have supported all of his kickstarters and projects since. 


Upcoming shows: 
Tomorrow! (5/6): Horror Vacui, Vice Device, Bellicose Minds, Fleshh, Vacant Stares at Black Water
5/12: Strangeweather, Barrowlands, Satanarchist, Nick Superchi at Tonic Lounge
5/13: Volt Divers (feat. the best of the best, really. Paul Barker and Terror Apart and Eat My Shit. So good.) at The Lovecraft

Technophobia / Pleasure curses / Neybuu in Portland, OR

I am producing a great show in Portland, OR at The Lovecraft Bar: 

Technophobia from Washington, DC is a wonderful female-fronted Darkwave/EBM band that uses hardware and analog synthesizers, and of course, some heavy sampling. They have a full-length album out now on Working Order Records called Flicker Out that I highly recommend checking out.  Working Order Records is a non-profit that works to "bridge the gap between musician ideology and social impact. Created by socially-conscious music lovers, vinyl collectors, and musicians." 

Pleasure Curses, originally from Washington, DC - now live right here in Portland - are a dance/electronic group with a great new EP out on May 16th called Screens. 

Neybuu I saw do an incredible performance at Volt Divers here in Portland and knew that she would be perfect for this show! 

I have also added Cari Gummer as a video projection artist to this show!