I recently took some time to speak with Andy Grant, who may be better known as The Vomit Arsonist; one of the best power electronics/death industrial/noise artists in New England, if not in the country. His dark, desperate sounds just bleed raw emotion, making the listener all but sick upon listen, but in that way that makes you want for more and more.
Chain D.L.K.: First and foremost, I’ve got to ask: is there a story or meaning behind the name The Vomit Arsonist?
The Vomit Arsonist: I have a feeling this will eternally be the first question in every interview I do, haha.. But no, there’s no real meaning. It was a stupid name I came up with 10 or so years ago, when the project was supposed to be nothing more than the most unlistenable garbage I could come up with. I did just that, and people liked it, which confused me, but I ran with it. I started taking the project more seriously, and now it’s what it is today.
Chain D.L.K.: Your new full length ‘Go Without’ has finally been released. I understand there were some issues and delays involving the Chinese government? Can you elaborate a bit on that?
The Vomit Arsonist: I’m not 100% sure on the details, but apparently there was some kind of copyright crackdown on all the CD and vinyl pressing plants in the Hong Kong area. I think they were making sure nothing was being manufactured illegally, counterfeit releases and stuff like that. I’m pretty sure that forced all the plants to stop pressing until they were done. I really don’t know much more than that.
Chain D.L.K.: ‘Go Without’ is quite an impressive listen. It’s going in a slightly different direction than many of your past releases, with a bit more of the Death Industrial influence. What took you this route this time around?
The Vomit Arsonist: Thanks, I’m glad you like it. Simply put, the reason it sounds more death industrial than previous releases is because I was listening to that stuff a lot while I was writing it. Brighter Death Now, IRM, Atrax Morgue, MZ.412, Institut, stuff like that. I’ve always been a huge fan of Cold Meat Industry and acts that have that really heavy, dreadful sound, and I wanted to do something like it. To me, the tracks on “Go Without” are pretty repetitive and monotonous, but that was intentional. I wanted to pay homage to my various influences, as well as match the music with the lyrical content of the album.
Chain D.L.K.: How different was the writing/thought process on ‘Go Without.’
The Vomit Arsonist: It was a long process. I mean, “Wretch” was a really long process too, but on that disc, the music just kinda flowed out of me. I really had to pull at myself to get some good sounds down for this one. I spent months re-working the album; each time I said it was finished, I’d listen to it and say “ahhh this needs to change, this part sucks, I don’t like the way this sounds…” So I’d go back and make all these small changes that no one but me would probably ever notice. As far as the lyrical content and thought process is concerned, that also took a lot of time. It took a lot out of me personally and emotionally, but that’s what I’m about. “Wretch” was an album about a specific incidents that spanned a few years time– It was a story. “Go Without,” however, is more like me looking in a mirror and letting myself know the honest truth. I was thinking and reading a lot about suicide, nihilism, and what the point to life itself actually is. I tried my best to reflect these topics in the lyrics. As it is with all of my material, I did this album for me and me alone. It’s a way to try and exorcise certain demons. The fact that other people want to hear it is just an added bonus.
Chain D.L.K.: While your releases are always a little different each time, they always retain that bleak, depressed, desperate sense of chaos and destruction that is a solid backbone of TVA. How do you keep things so different yet so unmistakably TVA every time around? Is it a conscious effort, or is that just how your thought/writing process tends to go?
The Vomit Arsonist: It’s good to know that what I’m trying to put across is actually coming through! Honestly, I don’t think it’s really a conscious effort, I just do what I do. I like to think that after all the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve finally found “my sound,” so to speak. And a lot of it is just who I am. The “bleak, depressed, desperate” sound is what comes most naturally to me when writing music, so I suppose that’s why my releases, while different, have that blanket sound that makes it mine. I’ve got a lot of shit in my head, and this is the best way for me to get it all out. It’s the only way, really.
Chain D.L.K.: How have things changed from ‘Loose Girls Make the Best Wives’ to ‘Go Without?’ [And this is a very open-ended question, interpret as you wish. Equipment… Production… Writing… Thoughts… Mental Status… Gear… whatever you’d like to mention.]
The Vomit Arsonist: Man, it’s been a total transformation from “Loose Girls…” up to now. I mean, pretty much everything has changed. Almost none of my equipment is the same; I started out with a radio, a microphone, and a couple of pedals. All the beat oriented stuff was programmed on my PC, which is actually something I still do, but I attack it from a totally different angle now. The early material had almost no structure… I mean, yeah, a lot of it was straight harsh noise, and unstructured tracks aren’t out of the ordinary in that genre, but now I sit down and try to write actual songs. Even the noise parts I do now are more structured. My mental status has never been very good, really, so I guess that’s about the only thing that’s stayed the same. I’ve always had a compulsive urge to do this, and I honestly don’t see that changing any time soon.
Chain D.L.K.: I know you use both analogue and digital processes, i.e. live improvisation/feedback/in the moment noise vs. more thought out and constructed work. Which (if either) do you prefer to work in, and how do the thought processes differ for these two styles of creation?
The Vomit Arsonist: Whatever happens happens. That’s usually how I work. Sometimes I’ll sit down and start programming stuff, start writing synth lines, shit like that. Other times I just plug-in everything and go for it. It doesn’t really matter to me, as long as I get whatever sound I need.
Chain D.L.K.: How do your gear setups differ from live performances to in studio? Also do they evolve a lot from performance to performance or do you tend to have a ‘go-to’ setup that you use as a staple and work from there? If you don’t mind, talk about some of your favorite pieces of equipment and/or software.
The Vomit Arsonist: The live setup is really simple: a sampler, a few pedals, a mic, some junk metal, and, more recently, a Walkman with some kind of backing track. That’s usually it. In studio, it’s a whole different beast. I’m obviously not going to bring every piece of gear I own to a show, but I have access to everything I need in the studio.
Chain D.L.K.: Speaking of live performance, there are a plethora of noise acts out there that while are very listenable, tend to repeat themselves a lot, especially live. Sometimes its hard to tell artist from artist, let alone performance to performance. How do you keep your live shows fresh and different each time?
The Vomit Arsonist: Over the past couple years, I’ve tried to have a new set for every performance. There are exceptions to this of course; if I’m doing a bunch of shows in a row on tour or something, I’m not gonna have something new every day. But since I usually only perform live once every couple of months, it’s easier. I can take my time writing new stuff. Sometimes I’ll write material intended for a release and I’ll perform it live, sometimes it’s the other way around. That’s happened a lot, actually; performing something for the first time in a live setting, recording it, and taking bits and pieces (or the entire thing, if it isn’t total shit) and throwing it on an album.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you ever perform pieces from your catalogue or do you strictly do improvised sets? If you DO play existing songs, how much and how often do they vary from the originals?
The Vomit Arsonist: When I first started playing live, about 8 years ago, my sets were almost completely improvised. Once I started writing material for “Wretch” around 2008, my live show became much more structured. I realized that I was writing actual songs, they had messages and meaning and importance, and I wanted that to come through. I didn’t want to phone it in live. That said, what you hear on an album versus what you hear live won’t be the same. They’re the same song, same lyrics, same general idea, but I always leave room for improvisation in a live setting.
Chain D.L.K.: Do live improvised works ever inspire you to work them into those more constructed studio works?
The Vomit Arsonist: Absolutely. I try and record every show I play, even if it’s just so I can critique my own work. A lot of songs I’ve done live have appeared on releases unaltered, other times I’ll take clips from a performance and build something new around it.
Chain D.L.K.: You are a part of an almost endless number of other projects both musically and otherwise. How do you manage to contribute/perform with all of these other projects and still manage to release your own material and run a label?
The Vomit Arsonist: I have no idea. I’m balancing several different bands, most of which are different styles of music, and all of which I have a different role in… it’s tough sometimes. There’s been a few times where I’ve double booked myself, where I’ve gotta be at this venue by this time to play with this band, then I have to leave immediately so I can make it to this other venue across town to play at this time… But I like it. I like being busy to the point of stress. I’d be bored if I didn’t try and run myself ragged. The label, Danvers State Recordings, isn’t all that hard to manage. I do almost everything for the label in house, short of printing. It’s actually a good way to relax, I just throw on a movie and dub a bunch of tapes. I like it.
Chain D.L.K.: What is (are) your favorite project(s) outside of TVA to work with/be a part of?
The Vomit Arsonist: That’s a good question. I really don’t know. BEREFT is fun for me to do, because although it’s in the same vein as my solo work, I get to focus more on the music and production, rather than being front and center. It’s good to have another person’s input, too. WHITE LOAD is always a good time; we really just get drunk and play fast, sloppy hardcore while assaulting the audience. I play some bluesy rock type stuff with a band called THE WOLFBANE BLUES, I play bass in that one. I love playing with that band because the other two guys are super relaxed about everything, they don’t want to tour or anything stressful like that. We’ll record a disc in the drummers garage and hand them out in bars and stuff. We don’t even really play live all that often, we just get together every week or so and play whatever we feel like. It’s a good time.
Chain D.L.K.: Talk a bit about your influences. What artists/bands are responsible for you giving birth to TVA?
The Vomit Arsonist: I was 16 when I attended my first noise show, and I was blown away by it. I didn’t know this stuff existed. I got into PINE TREE STATE MIND CONTROL, IMMACULATE:GROTESQUE and some other local acts… then I saw EMIL BEAULIEAU play live. He’s the fucking master. Through EMIL I obviously discovered RRRecords, and I’ve been into noise ever since. PRURIENT is one of my biggest influences, although that may not be readily apparent when listening to my material. I saw him play live in Providence, RI after he’d moved to Brooklyn, I think it was his first show in the area since he’d left. It was right around the time “Pleasure Ground” came out, which I hadn’t heard at the time. But man, he played two songs off that record and I was fucking floored. That’s when I got into the really synth-heavy PE stuff. And although I was familiar with the style before, that was the time when I got into all the European PE and Cold Meat industrial stuff. That’s what I like the best, and it’s what I want to create. To create a list of my actual influences would take a lifetime…
Chain D.L.K.: What can we expect from The Vomit Arsonist in the next 6 months to a year?
The Vomit Arsonist: I’m working on a few releases for various labels; Hate Mail is putting out a split 7″ between me and THE BLACK SCORPIO UNDERGROUND. I’m doing split 7″ with REGOSPHERE, which doesn’t have a label yet, I don’t think. Currently, I’m collaborating with THEOLOGIAN for a pro CD-R release called “Nature is Satan’s Church” (available March 20th 2013), based on the ideas and themes in Lars Von Trier’s film “Antichrist” … Oppressive Resistance is putting that one out, and it should be done by the end of the year, I think. I’m really excited about that one. Beyond that, I hope to tour the US again sometime soon, but that’s always tough with work and real life getting in the way. By this time next year, I may be touring abroad… But I won’t say where or with whom, because it’s just an idea right now, and no real details have been discussed. But it’d be fucking incredible if it works out.
Chain D.L.K.: Anything you’d like to say? Shoutouts? Random thoughts? Etc?
The Vomit Arsonist: Thanks for taking the time to send these questions, I appreciate it. Obligatory self promotion: Contact me for booking/releases/info/death threats at thevomitarsonist at gmail.com, or go to http://thevomitarsonist.wordpress.com. TVA is on Facebook too…. www.facebook.com/thevomitarsonist. Check out Danvers State Recordings at danversstaterecordings.blogspot.com … Oh, and listen to any and every industrial/pe/noise act you can possibly find from the midwest. CUSTODIAN, GNAWED, DETERGE, HATE BASEMENT, MACHISMO, GRAIN BELT, THE THIN WHITE PUKE, BLESSED SACRIFIST, NYODENE D, WINCE — all of those acts are fucking intense. Easily some of the best noise and PE currently operating in America come from the no-coast scene. Do yourself a favor and check them out.
Check out the artist online at: thevomitarsonist.wordpress.com