Saturday, December 31, 2011


"..automatonic seductive sadism.."

(Photo credit: Amina Nolan)

HTRK (#1 album of the year.)
Suggestive Requiem

bassist Sean Stewart met guitarist Nigel Yang through music school in Melbourne. Inspired by David Lynch, protopunk and noise, they dropped out and decided to start Hate Rock Trio. Art director Jonnine Standish noticed Stewart’s good looks at a bar one night and charmed her way into band rehearsal. This was 2003.

Their first release in 2004, the Nostalgia EP (self-released, reissued by Fire Records), has since been used as a soundtrack for live suspension hangings by performance artist Kareem Gnoheim, and described by Allmusic (in a four-star review) as “an agitated haze of addictive ambivalence instead of the swagger and violence of their influences, the overall feeling is of beautiful disharmony”. Their strangely detached live shows caught the attention of post punk legend Rowland S. Howard (ex-The Birthday Party), who invited them to record their debut at Birdland Studios. The result, Marry Me Tonight, was their ‘pop’ album, designed explicitly for teenagers and described by brainwashed as “an almost purely emotional experience… a wet dream”.

They moved to Berlin in 2006 and cut their teeth touring Europe with Liars. They’ve played Glasgow’s famed Optimo club, the unfamed but equally as

potent London anarchist squat party Behind Bars, and toured Ireland briefly with Shellac. They half-moved to London, signed to Blast First Petite and played with personal heroes Alan Vega, Lydia Lunch and Martin Rev. Their slick DJ sets at Dalston club ‘Faction’ further revealed their talent at creating (and sustaining) a mood; their mixing of Vangelis and Coil with choice cuts from Basic Channel, Sahko and Muzique gave hint of their new synthetik direction.

Marry Me Tonight finally got released in 2009, sans hype, but got listed in Wire magazine and NME (8/10) and somehow found its way into the hearts and bedrooms of the disaffected youths (and young at heart) they were aiming for. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs took them on tour, as did The Horrors. In January 2010, wanting to start something new, HTRK organised a “tech-noir” party at Cargo London with Factory Floor and unsung electro genius Andrea Parker.

After years of living on a slippery slope, Stewart committed suicide in March 2010. Standish and Yang’s resolve strengthened. They completed their album in the months following and played a comeback show at the ICA described by the NME as being of “purging redolent beauty”. Stewart’s death will not help HTRK shake the common description of them as dark, despite their intentions. But the new album Work (work, work) is a record of heartbreak, finding another world, with soft allusions to the future. Darkness has been overplayed; it’s too representational now. HTRK do not aim for pitch black or lights off… it’s a murkier, more mysterious, heavy space.

Hello, how are you?
JCS: Moody, just woke up, had a dream last night I fell out badly with Nigel in the Church of Peter Christopherson because we couldn’t decide on how to answer the last question on living your dream.

What are you currently listening to?

NY: I am picking out the sweet 'robot-winding-down' sounds in Rolf Julius' "Wet Speakers" and Oneohtrix Point Never's "Replica". Africans with Mainframes' "Rock the World 12"" is on rotation too.
JCS: Yeah Oneohtrix Point Never’s “Replica” and the Blanck Mass album... getting a little more into the Christmas spirit with Curtis Mayfield’s “Sweet Exorcist”.

Congratulations on an AMAZING year in music! Your album "Work (Work, Work)" is EIC's top pick for '11, would you mind sharing all the details about it; recording process, theme(s), secrets, final thoughts, etc..?
NY: So much went into this record. We worked pretty steadily through the London summer of 2010 at our studio in London Fields, in this really unique headspace that is hard to describe.. a vague and complicated sense of loss over Sean mixed with this hyper-aesthetic mindset, as well as a heightened libido, which apparently is a common occurrence when in mourning, as we read later in Darian Leader’s book "The New Black" (which is a nice companion piece to Work (work, work)).
We took influence from disorienting (and hence beautiful) atmospheres that we’ve experienced over the past four years, like the overwhelming plunge into darkness when entering Mat Collishaw’s Submission show at Haunch of Venison in Berlin (even more than the exhibition itself, that split second you walked in and lost all your bearings), scenes and emotional effects in the films of Philippe Grandrieux, portrayals of damaged sexuality in End Of Evangelion, as well as eerie stock photography (i.e. Shutterstock), personal tales of corporate life, the history of Industrial music and culture, the extreme beauty of youth (see The Fourth Sex: Adolescent Extremes), and a lot more.
The three of us have quite incongruous personalities and different life experiences and the challenge was to coalesce our disparate energies into an album that is meant to become highly addictive after a few listens. The major themes are work, drugs, sex and death, rendered in a purposely flat, hazy style, which really has turned people off if they prefer their music to be morally sound or high contrast. We just love ambiguity and are happy that all the emotions, moods and feelings conveyed by this record seem to resist easy description and lazy thought. The more you are open to gaining pleasure from something unexpected, be it in life or in our music, the more we think you will enjoy it.

How were you introduced to Ghostly?
NY - Sam (Valenti IV, founder) got in touch (after hearing Marry Me Tonight?) in 2008 and we spoke occasionally over the years, finally signing in 2011. Been fans of the label since they began so we know we are in very good hands.

How long were you guys a group before you released your first album?

JCS: We got together in October 2003 and self-released Nostalgia in January 2005, so just under a year and a half. That album was done in one take. Marry Me Tonight was our first studio album and although it was recorded in 2006, it only got released five and a half years after we started, in 2009.

What is your favorite HTRK track?

NY: Not fussed

If you could tour with any two bands of your choice whom would it be with?

NY: Not sure, maybe we can agree on Pan Sonic (even though they don’t really exist any more). Tropic of Cancer.

What's next for you guys?
NY: A couple of short soundtracks, and recording sessions in a new friend’s private studio in a hot and obscure location.

You can only keep/listen to ONE album for the rest of your life ..which album would it be?

JCS: "Teenage Snuff Film" by Rowland S. Howard

Are you living your dream?
JCS: I told Nigel in my dream last night (in the church of PC) that in my fantasy world, singing and lyrics come to me much easier without the guilt and vulnerability and Nigel yelled at me, “that’s important”.
Then I ripped off my pubic hair and taped it up with sticky tape into a ball and threw it at Nigel's head and we got escorted out by church security guards.

Thanx Jeff & HTRK!!

HTRK are currently catching their breathe(s) a little bit, but they've got something (a few things) awesome in the making;)...

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