Friday, September the 20th. My Canadian friend Brian Damage, previously with Musicus Phycus writes me an e-mail in the afternoon telling me he’s gonna perform with his new experimental/ambient moog/theremin-based duo The Unireverse at a small venue in Brooklyn called the Local (351 Kent Av. at S. 5th Street, just under the Williamsburg Bridge) together with other guitar noise bands for a Grenadine records night. I go to the club to say hi to Brian and check out his new band, which by the way we will talk more about in the following weeks, as soon as I get a copy of their new CD to review it and possibly do an interview… Right after the Unireverse wrap it up, this guys goes up on stage, all alone, with a cheap yellow portable CD player in one hand and a mic in the other hand… He starts wacking about who’s in the house and who’s not… That’s when I realize nobody else is setting up any other instrument to play with him, so I get curious and decide to stick around. The dude presses play and this furious full blast powerful ultra-fast broken-beat breakbeat distorted psychotic electronic music starts going as he begins to violently scream on top of the music… I was really impressed with the amazing beatz, the noisy but perfectly lucid pieces and the energy they delivered. Not happy with all the calories he was burning he decides to fearlessly walk straight into the crow (the stage was only about 10 inches) stepping on people’s toes and knocking fans down… As drunks as he looks he keeps floor-diving on us poor bastards and tackles some victims, who eventually respond engaging in peaceful fights which quickly turn into wrestling matches that will definitely save the waitresses some floor cleaning in the stage area… At this club Local the women’s bathroom is right behind the stage so the chicks have to pretty much walk behind the drum set to go. After the first couple of lucky gals courageously and carelessly walk through, Frank Musarra decides nobody walks through the Hearts of Darknesses without paying a price, so he squats in the women’s restroom with his microphone, shuts the door with no thoughts for the poor mic cable, turns off the lights and starts screaming… As we would all laugh and hope that the girls didn’t piss their pants (’cause pissing your pants when you are already in the bathroom is really embarrassing!) I make up my mind and decide that if he is lucid after the show I will invite him to an interview… Frank has been doing this kinda stuff for quite a while now and has recorded under such names as "The Crack Factory," "The Hearts of Darknesses" and "MC Uncle Jesse Katsopolis and DJ Tanner." Those who are unfamiliar with these releases might remember his lauded female background vocal appearance on Positive K’s call & response styled party hit "I Gotta Man". Allegedly some hippie-raver girl ran away from one of his college shows proclaiming that his music was "disrupting her soul".
Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you Frankie:
Chain D.L.K.: So how was the show? Did you like the people? the atmosphere? the venue?
Frankie: The show was rad, I like playing with rock bands cause the crowds are way more energetic than at laptop shows. But those can be fun too cause its fun to yell at people that don’t want to be yelled at. These people in the crowd were good sports though…
Chain D.L.K.: Are you local or do you come from somewhere else?
Frankie: I’m from Cleveland, but I go to school at Bard, up the Hudson a bit. I’m in New York a lot and I’ve played some too, but this was the first time with the Hearts of Darknesses…
Chain D.L.K.: You said this was the first time with the Hearts of Darknesses… Do you play in other bands? Tell us about them and about what music they do…
Frankie: Yeah I was in two bands that kinda toured a lot, Catch a Fly and Teenage Piss Party. Catch a Fly, I was the drummer, it was a good band. Teenage Piss Party I was the drummer too, but I had a big hand in writing the
songs. Both of those bands kinda fizzled last summer. Then I joined this new band that used to be called Oblongata as the singer for a minute. Right now I’m playing drums again in this new band called The Orphans of the Storm. It’s me and some good friends that I love playing music with.
Chain D.L.K.: You mentioned at the beginning that there is usually other people… were you just bullshitting or do you actually use to play with a band?
Frankie: Never a live band, I’ve thought about it, and it would be really fucked up, but it might be cool to try sometime. At one show my friend Tonio played guitar and screamed over top with me, and that was interesting. He was supposed to be at this show, but he didn’t show up because his ex-girlfriend is from Brooklyn and he didn’t want to see her.
Chain D.L.K.: How is it to sing to a CD? Especially, singing to a CD where your voice is already recorded on must be weird at times…
Frankie: I’m really into showing up with a Discman and a CDR and a cord cause I think that its funny. I don’t waste any time taking my voice off of the tracks to sing over or anything. I like to think that it makes my voice sound super-epic and rockstar doubled. Anyway, its cool cause I don’t have a laptop, so bringing a Discman is more convenient than bringing my whole computer and I kinda get to feel like a laptop kid anyway.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you prefer singing live or in the studio?
Frankie: Oh, it’s really weird for me because I have a really unorthodox way of doing vocals in the studio. After I’ve made some music on my computer, I just record myself screaming, but not really to the music, just to whatever. And then I load that into my sequencer and chop it up and make something completely new. So when I do the songs live, I have to have listened to the song a bunch of times to memorize how I arranged the vocals on the computer. It’s strange doing the vocals live, but I’ve gotten really used to it.
Chain D.L.K.: Your performance is very involving and violence seems to be part of it too… What is your relation with this positive violence and your outburst of energy?
Frankie: I try to do anything to stir up the crowd, so that usually includes running around and knocking things over and stuff. And it’s great to yell a lot and get out all the energy, but it’s ultimately really hard on me physically. Cause, as you saw, everybody decided it was ok to jump on me and tackle me and stuff, and it’s cool, but it makes me sore for the next couple of days. But I guess it’s worth it.
Chain D.L.K.: Have you ever had complaints or have you ever been beaten up by somebody you dragged on stage or you jumped/walked on?
Frankie: I was pretty scared when I ran into the girl’s bathroom, I wasn’t sure what to do, so I turned the lights off and started screaming. So I thought that girl was totally gonna beat me up, but she was actually pretty into it I guess because, as you may have noticed, she jumped on me and tackled me when she came out of the bathroom. But generally I try to only mess with people who I know in the crowd because they’ll probably be less mad at me.
One show in Ohio though, I was really drunk and I was messing with other people’s equipment and everyone got really mad at me, and then it was my turn to go on stage, and I was like falling over, and I knocked the mixer over, and they got a big bald bouncer guy to stand behind me while I performed and make sure I didn’t fuck anything else up. And I stood there screaming and he was holding me up and all the other dudes that were mad at me were right in the front looking at me and I just had like my middle finger in their faces and tried to provoke them more. So I totally thought I was gonna get beat up, but they ended up getting over it and asking me to put out something on their label. So that worked out nicely…
Chain D.L.K.: Give us some background info about The Hearts of Darknesses…
Frankie: Well, it’s a really hyperactive project done in just about the laziest way in the world, all on the computer. I’ve always wanted to integrate the computer music I do with the rock music I do, and I never got around to it. Playing in rock bands and playing computer music had always been really separate for me. But last April I made a bunch of songs all of a sudden and then I started playing shows around with them. It just took me sitting down at my computer and yelling a lot.
Chain D.L.K.: Tell us a little about your CD… Was it self-produced? Self-released? Where can people find it?
Frankie: Yeah the CD is self-produced, I did everything, all the sequencing and singing and everything in my house. And then I started giving out the CDRs and some labels were really interested in it. Right around the beginning of next year I’ll have a CD coming out on the Schematic Music Company, and I’ll have a split 12" coming out on Zod Records. The other side of the Zod one is a collaboration between this dude from San Francisco and this dude from Japan, and I guess it’s computer screaming-ish stuff as well. And there will be a hand full more coming out as well, but keep an eye out for those releases in the coming months.
Chain D.L.K.: What about sound sources? Are you a sampling artist or are you creating all your sounds from scratch?
Frankie: I used whatever I felt like on the CD. I am definitely a sampling artist and this was kind of my attempt to do a little of both. But everything that I played live, I recorded straight onto my computer, and then chopped up and processed and sequenced. So there are live drums and bass and guitar all over the record, oh yeah and vocals, but it is all step sequenced, which is really stupid and funny. No real big secrets, I have some synths and modified pedals and I have some cool programs on my computer too, so that’s how I got a lot of weird noises. And I sampled a lot off of other CDs when I first started the project, cause I was too lazy to get out of my chair. So I’d grab CDs that were near by and take stuff and process it. I think there are at least two songs on the CD that have Cabaret Voltaire samples in them, but you’d never notice it. I really try to balance what I do because I love sampling stuff and making new things, but I also love instruments. I want to use my cello a lot more in newer songs.
Chain D.L.K.: Some sounds and beats are incredible and at times very close to Aphex’s fastest and most violent compositions… Is he part of your influences or are you more into the whole noise thing??? Who inspires you the most?
Frankie: Hmm… I think my biggest influence has to be Nirvana, cause they’re the best. I got into Aphex Twin when I was first doing computer music, like 8 years ago. But I think I was more influenced by like old Meat Beat Manifesto at that point. The only electronics I’ve really been into or influenced by in the past couple years has been coming from the Schematic label, like Richard Devine and Otto Von Schirach, so its supercool that those guys are putting out my record. But mostly what I really like that’s going on these days is weird rock stuff like Arab on Radar, Melt Banana, Erase Errata, Lightning Bolt, Wolf Eyes, Blood Brothers, Hair Police, Party of Helicopters… Oh, and I’m really into old 90s shit like Brainiac, Jesus Lizard, Helmet, Shellac, the Melvins, that kinda stuff… So yeah, if you had all those bands fighting over a girl that lives inside my computer, I’d say that’d sound pretty much like the Hearts of Darknesses.
Chain D.L.K.: Your screams make it a little difficult to understand your lyrics, but I noticed you mentioned war during the show… Do you consider yourself a politicized artist? How much is politics important in (your) music?
What are your lyrics about?
Frankie: Yeah, war is bad and I’m a college kid at a really politically active school, so I’ve been to protests and stuff. But as far as music goes, I’d like to attempt to make some sort of effect on the politics of art and the art world. Basically, since my music is so fucked up and weird, hopefully it can challenge people’s ear for what music is and how they interpret it. I’ll be the first to admit that the Hearts of Darknesses is irritating as shit, but it is an expression of a very particular aspect of my musical interests, and I think people are liking it because it is quite unusual sounding. So I guess we’re more into the politics of what is art. I like art and politics and screaming. I don’t really have any lyrics, per se, as its mostly nonsense screaming chopped up into a big onomatopoetic conglomeration, but here’s a list of some words and noises I’ve used: back, box, bug, beat, three, eleven, positive, got, here, bionic, busterbrown, oh, uh, ow, yeah, take, fuck, fucking, fuckity fuckles, pizza, sid, eh, fah, uhuh, bleedout, good, feel, fun, things, world, hate, travel, lite, boy, friend, hearts, place, that, its, ok, monopoly, gay, antidisestablishmentarianism, ice cream, icing, iceskating, isotope, atheletes foot, car, boat, say, wanted, jerk, party…
Chain D.L.K.: Any future plans you’d like to share?
Frankie: Yeah, I’d like to tour a lot more and to go around a scream and run around on stages all over the place and see if people like it.