To set the scene, Portland’s avant-sludge titans The Body have just released two collaborations, one with Thou and the other with Bobby Krlic, a.k.a. The Haxan Cloak and, as of about an hour ago, destroyed Glasgow. While one half of the band sadly didn’t make it over here, with drummer Lee Buford remaining in the States, I found myself in the van at the end of the night with vocalist/guitarist Chip King, Pissgrave’s Matt Melon, who was filling in on drums, and their driver, the enigmatic Jan. They were kind enough to share their beer with me, as well as their thoughts on America, misanthropy, beer and the New Scottish World Order.
So, have you been digging Europe then?
Chip: Love it.
The cheap beer?
Chip: I know. I love it.
Jan: That’s not what you love about it, man.
Chip: I love a lot of different stuff about it. I like that it’s different.
Matt: Yeah, every different place has its own particular vibe.
Chip: I don’t know; it’s all pretty good.
So where else did you play? I heard you had a good show at Roadburn.
Matt: The day after Roadburn we played Doom Over Leipzig and that was really fucking cool. It was pretty fun.
Chip: Yeah, at the UT Connewitz. That was pretty incredible; it’s just a beautiful venue. Then sweet, sweet Prague. Prague’s awesome and I had a pretty nice time there.
So, how was it that Lee couldn’t join you? I heard that he has problems with flying and that you guys had tried to get a boat over instead.
Chip: It’s like an illness; it’s not a fear of flying. He gets a vertigo attack and then that compounds itself with his inability to change his situation because you’re on a plane, or on a boat. It’s like a panic attack on top of his inability to focus on anything. He used to get it in the car and he’s been treating it and stuff, but once he was on the ship, it was the constant motion. Once we got out into the ocean, into the deep, he couldn’t handle it. It was a real bummer but we got ushered off the boat onto another smaller boat which took us to shore. It was a stinker but we had to find out if we could salvage the situation in terms of money and effort that had been put into it, so we called up a couple of friends and luckily one of them said yes. And here’s Matt…
Matt: On the road, in Scotland. Drinking beers in the van.
Chip: I can’t think of much better things to do. And we met our new, great friend Jan. You think he’s your typical “tour driver” but he’s also a great tour guide, ass-kicker and explainer of cultural differences, with a laid-back style that I can admire.
So, how did you guys end up moving to Portland?
Chip: I don’t know. I guess I just got tired of living in Rhode Island. I think at one point I just decided that I had to leave Rhode Island and even though I have a lot of love for it, and a lot of people there, I was, like, “This isn’t where I want to be. I have to leave now, before winter comes,” because I didn’t want to have to go through another winter there. So I moved down to North Carolina, and then a few months later we did another trip and Lee ended up living there too. We thought we were going to end up living there a lot longer but we ended up moving the next spring. Portland was just an easy choice, because it’s an easy place to live in. A lot of nice folks there. It’s also one of those places where people would say, “You should move here!” And you’re, like, “People want me to move here? Okay.” It’s kinda nice to have people psyched about you being there.
You must love all the breweries that they have there.
Chip: Oh God, yeah, but everything’s too strong.
Matt: Yeah, it’s all 12% beers. You drink two of them and then you feel like crap.
Chip: It’s this whole thing with America where everyone says it’s ‘the strongest’, or ‘the most hoppy’, or ‘the bitterest’. Just make a fucking beer that tastes good!
Matt: I don’t want to sit down and have a beer then immediately have a headache and be fucking wasted. You’re not enjoying yourself at that point and you also feel like an asshole buying a beer that costs, like, ten fucking dollars.
Chip: Especially when I can get a pitcher of Pabst for about three bucks. That’s four beers. You can’t argue with that kind of math.
So is that you part of the Portland doom fraternity now?
Chip: I don’t know. I feel like sometimes people are giving us those sidelong glances in terms of that. We’re friends with all those people but we try not to play out there too much anyway. It’s weird. The music scene out there is real striated; cliquish. There’s the punk scene, the crust scene, the metal scene; it’s never together.
Matt: Yeah, there’s no crossover at all.
Chip: That’s one of the things I was used to. The thing I miss, except for the friends whom I dearly love, about Providence is that open scene. There’s a lot more mushing together of everything so that’s why there’s a good history of bands from out there.
I guess you guys are outliers anyway.
Chip: I think we have a lot of appreciation for a lot of different stuff. We’re interested in so much so I feel like a lot of it becomes part of what we want to do. I’ll listen to a Tanner Swift song and be all, “I like that.” We were listening to that pretty heavy one weekend and tried to cop a little bit of that vibe on the last record and it came out pretty good.
So what sort of music were you raised on?
Chip: Raised on? When I was pretty little, my mom only liked stuff like Rod Stewart. She’s a fan of all these older pop musicians like Cher and Michael Bolton and all that, which is good for her. She loves it. But I got into the metal phase pretty early. Ratt, Cinderella, stuff like that back in the ‘80s. Then I was really into hip-hop for a while, like The Fat Boys. Like, I really loved The Fat Boys for a long time.
Jan: ‘All You Can Eat’?
Chip: Aw dude, ‘All You Can Eat.’ ‘The Fat Boys Are Back’. ‘Disorderlies’ is kind of where I stopped but I don’t know; I’ve always liked tons of shit. And then Lee just gets obsessed with different stuff over the years, which is always exciting. Like, I’d probably never really listened to The Beach Boys beyond…
Matt: Pet Sounds?
Chip: I never even heard Pet Sounds. I mean, I’d heard songs off of it, the hits, but Lee and one of our old roommates got real obsessed with them in Rhode Island and so I started to appreciate them. Like, “this is really awesome”. And then I learned all the facts about a band I never even knew I needed to know… It’s pretty cool, though. Anything from black metal, to doom metal, to hardcore punk stuff; there’s stuff that’s just real good and you just can’t ignore it. I can’t really say no if it’s good. If I choose one genre at a time, I think, “Damn. Half of this stuff sucks ass.”
So do you try to pull that into what you’re writing or do you make an effort to keep them separate?
Chip: I just feel, like with anything, that it’s all influence. It’s how you put that into what you’re doing. Also, a lot of our stuff is very spur-of-the-moment. We won’t practice for about six months and get together and write a few songs. I don’t really try to sit and write stuff at home because I feel like it feels forced, to me. When I get down in front of my stuff and start playing, I’ll start thinking about how things should sound or Lee will come up with the part, and say, “Well, I’m thinking it should go something like this” and then we’ll just jam on it for a bit. If it seems good then it’ll come easy. If not, we’ll just go on to something else. We’re really fluid. We’re both pretty laid-back so it kind of lets itself happen.
Do you think that’s why you work quite well with collaborations then?
Chip: Oh, 100%.
So how did the two current collaborations come about then? The Haxan Cloak and Thou.
Chip: Thou was just because we did some tours with them and then everything gelled into place. We just became instant friends. I was just blown away by their live shows; they’re amazing live. We had fun touring together and we’ve done it a couple of times so it just came naturally that we should do some shit together. Then we pulled a fast one on them and made them cover that Vic Chesnutt song. They were, like, “What is this song? Holy. Shit.’ It was awesome. And then with Haxan Cloak, a friend of ours asked us if we wanted to do the record – Matt from RVNG. He’s an old friend of ours from Arkansas – and we said we’d love to do it. Then he had the idea to have someone else take what we were doing, send it off and have them mix it and interpret it in their own way, and it ended up that Bobby from The Haxan Cloak was really excited about doing it. We didn’t finish the songs like we normally would because we wanted to see what he came up with, and the rest is platinum record history. I was pretty stunned when he sent back what he’d been working on. We just thought it was absolutely perfect. It was enough of us that you could tell that it was us, but he just tore it up and made it amazing.
I saw that when it was put up for streaming on Pitchfork you had looped movies and stills accompanying it. Was it you guys that had come up with them?
Chip: What were they? I can’t even remember.
It was stuff like someone burning photographs.
Chip: I think Lee might have put them together, just for that. I’m not sure. I know all the videos coming out are from our friend Bo (Rankin) and then our other friend Alex (Barton) did the one with the painting (for To Attempt Openness). We’ve just had a lot of friends, mostly through Providence, that were kind of like-minded, who were psyched about what we were doing. Like, our friend Bo wanted to do a video, so we said, “cool.” Then he filmed that first one and we thought it was incredible. Then, every couple of months he’d call to say he’d made another one and ask if we liked it. They’re all incredible. I love it that he’s always unsure of whether we’ll like it or not.
Matt: What’s cool is it that it all seems kind of like found footage.
Chip: Yeah. I really love the underwater one, with the people drowning. But then he’d ask, “Do you like that one?” “I love that one.” “Oh, I don’t know…” I guess it’s kind of humbling to have all these friends willing to help us out.
So how do you feel that you guys have developed throughout your career? When you go back and listen to your self-titled album, it almost sounds like a different band.
Chip: It’s a totally different band. At that point, before we had ever recorded, we were kind of an abrasive, treble-bass, fast band. We’d wear these burlap sacks and hang ourselves from nooses while we played. It was all just to throw ourselves in peoples’ faces, to jar them. I think we were both kind of annoyed with music, and then over time we started enjoying playing together more and started doing what we wanted to do. I wanted to play slower, with more rhythm, and so we started getting into that, and it became real riffy. Like, repetitive riffs, and over time that became what people were doing and I just got tired of it. I really hate riffs. I never want to write a riff. I just want my guitar to sound like an amplified toilet, or like a jet engine, and I’ve been working towards making it as toneless as possible with a lot of that faster playing, but it still has that guitar tone. I just want it to be abrasive. I find myself questioning how much I appreciate playing guitar. If I could find another instrument that would sound exactly like how I wanted maybe I would do that but I’m so comfortable with the guitar by this point that I’m just trying to make it sound like something else. When we go to the studio now, Lee’s playing drums but I think he’s at the point where he likes to program drums more than he likes playing them on the record. So, we’ve been having fun sampling our own drums and then aligning them in the way we want. It’s become totally different but it’s all towards the same end.
How do you go about choosing the samples? There are some great ones in there.
Chip: Lee does a lot of searching for stuff so I’m really not that heavy into the sample game but I’ve been using some stuff, like quotes from my favourite movies. That’s what comes through my guitar amp at points. Just trying to effect that, distort it and kind of have it peak out as my guitar fades out at the end. But mostly I’m just recording shit like waterfalls, or the engine on the airplane that we flew on, and using them to create different tones, make tape loops out of that and sample that. Shit that other people did twenty years ago, I’m just catching on to. It’s fun to do, and I feel like trying to mash it all together is kind of the hard part live but it’s kind of become the rewarding part.
Do you still try to draw upon the same source material and emotions for your lyrics. I remember when I first saw press photos of you, with your rifles in a cabin, you had this backwoodsman vibe. It was pretty post-apocalyptic.
Chip: Oh yeah, we’re still in that zone. It’s kind of the same theme lyrically and visually, it just progresses a little at a time. It’s like a vision where you want to separate yourself from society, and culture in general, but you can’t. It’s impossible to. It’s like a symbol of these militant separatists. It’s the world, I guess.
I think America seems to have this apocalyptic mindset at the moment, where everyone’s awaiting the rapture.
Chip: I think that it’s America not coming to terms with the fact that it’s no longer the world’s major power and a lot of people don’t understand that. There’re still a lot of people looking for the good life. For an idealised 1950s utopia that never existed but, in their minds, that’s the ideal, because the dominant generation growing up were told by their parents that that was perfect. Was it? Everything is shit and everything will always be shit. You always look backwards to when you thought it was all cool because someone else was in control. I think, in general, we’re looking at a real eye-opening experience in the next couple of years. Our debts from our countries will start to be called in. It’ll be interesting.
So what’s next for the band?
Chip: Probably vacationing for about ten years and then do a reunion tour. That seems to be the new thing. Then we’ll make shit-loads of money. But we’ve got so much shit that just came out in the last six months, and I just feel like we have to stop doing stuff, though the Thou collaboration was recorded just over a year ago and it just came out because it took a while to get it to where it was acceptable-sounding. Then we recorded Christs, Redeemers, the RVNG record and an LP that’s not even out yet. That’s a collaboration with Lord Imperial from Krieg, and that comes out this summer, I think, plus we’re doing another collaboration with Thou at the place where we always record, at Machines With Magnets in Rhode Island. I guess we’re not stopping then.
Matt: You should do a collaboration with TRTRKMMR.
Chip: I’ve put that out there a million times. Our friend Brad has this band TRTRKMMR and they’re probably one of the best bands in the world. He was on ‘All the Waters of the Earth Turned to Blood’, where he did the low vocals section on ‘Lathspell, I Name You’ – the distorted vocals and heavy noise. That’s fully him. We made a breakdown and he said, “Here’s a part I made.” “We love it. We’ll put it in.” There’re a lot of people I’d do anything to work with.
Christs, Redeemers is out now via Thrill Jockey Records (available HERE) and The Body‘s recent collaboration with Thou is also out now via Vinyl Rites and available HERE, and you can also read Dave’s review of The Body gig from Glasgow right HERE.
Interviewed by: Dave Bowes
Photo Credit: Megan Holmes (promo) | Alan Swan (live)