Controlled Bleeding was yet another very important musical force in my life, when my ex-girlfriend in VA, Abby Vines (whom I owe my musical existence to), got me into them. I picked up on "In Penetration" first, leading me into a fine intro for industrial music and for one of the bands that would lead me into the genre. Further down the line I picked up on their more ambient work, finding yet more diverse and powerful elements to the mix. While still a major fan of their industrial work, they are still to me one of the finest examples of electronic experimentalism, alongside Haujobb and Coil. Paul Lemos also has to be the most humble man on the planet; a modest schoolteacher oblivious to the fame of being an inspirational force in all sections of experimental music. He is a definite pleasure to interview. And here he is perhaps the most thorough and comprehensive Controlled Bleeding interview ever. Enjoy!
Chain D.L.K.: So how has the state of music changed since you started nearly 20-odd years ago?
Paul: Well, it’s a lot harder to sell experimental music to distributors. When I did Knees and Bones distributors, knowing nothing about the group or LP, would take 50 copies and see how things went, but these days if a product is unknown with no publicist behind it, it’s very hard to distribute. Today there’s such a flood of music of all genres in the marketplace, that it seems much harder to sell and get some response. The state of the mainstream is at its worst since I’ve been a live. Thankfully, it seems all that will change with a new set of bands bubbling in the underground that will at some point explode. Of course at that time, noise was a novelty… so it was relatively easy for me to establish myself. But now noise is just another overcrowded genre… Still, bands like The Locust, Black Dice, !!!, The Rapture are making music exciting again.
Chain D.L.K.: Where did the title “Can You Smell The Rain Between?” come from?
Paul: My wife said one day… “Can you smell the rain between my legs?”. I went with the abbreviated title… ending with the preposition sounded kind of nice.
Chain D.L.K.: What got you started into the music scene, especially into one which at that time was just starting?
Paul: I was always a record junkie, still am. So it was a logical progression for me to start actively playing on some level, since I was always so consumed with music. I just sort of stumbled into doing extreme noise after pursing a fairly regular band for some years and seeing it implode. After devoting so much energy and emotion into that group, it was just sort of primal therapy to separate myself from other musicians and scream my fucking lungs out… Doing these high volume noise experiments was liberating, but initially, they were not meant to be heard beyond a small circle of friends. Over time a fellow who was putting out the early noise cassette series "Swallowing Scape Metal", heard what I was doing and gave me the encouragement to continue, and to make the stuff public… so I took it from there. Sadly, it didn’t take long for this to evolve into something more musically conventional.
Chain D.L.K.: What has inspired the group’s changes and feel for experimenting over the years?
Paul: Well, it has never really been a unified group, but more of a recording project that I would get going. Often the tone would be defined by the different players. But generally, the music follows my inspiration and short attention span. These days I’m listening to a lot of early experimental jazz, and that has inspired me to move into new musical places. I give a lot of credit to guys like Merzbow who retain such a pure vision through 20 years. I get bored doing the same kind of thing. I suppose that experimenting always came natural to me, because I basically hate dealing with rigid structures, it’s too much work. For the totally undisciplined person… experimenting is the only way to go.
Chain D.L.K.: What caused the break after the "Poisoner" CD was released?
Paul: "Poisoner" was pretty much a solo album, and I had just completed a group album of "songs", "Gilded Shadows"… This was a point of creative blow out for me. I had done what I considered the best I could or would do with these two records. So, I felt that I had nothing more to say musically, and was ready to just disappear. Then a year and a half ago or so, I was again inspired in the same way I was when I had started doing purely experimental music. This time, all the electronics had to go, and two new groups began: The Breast Fed Yak and The Fistula. The former will have an album out in the late fall, and the latter will issue music in 2003…
Chain D.L.K.: What caused the reunification of Controlled Bleeding, and the addition of the "The" to the name after just being Controlled Bleeding all this time?
Paul: Controlled Bleeding never broke up. As mentioned it was never a band in the traditional sense. I just had the desire to finish a record that I was obligated to do. In starting up again, I felt as if I had reinvented myself musically. Adding THE to the band name was an attempt to link the new to the old, to the inspirations of great 60’s experimentalists like The Fugs and The Godz.
Chain D.L.K.: Were "Poisoner 3" and "Poisoner 4" b-sides to the "Poisoner" CD or a continuation after the "Poisoner" CD was released?
Paul: Poisoner 3 and 4 are really remixes based on the tapes of the original parts. I always wanted to create shortened versions of those pieces, and they work nicely as interludes on the new record.
Chain D.L.K.: After being in the noise and industrial genres for so long, did you ever expect to have inspired so many bands and new forms of music?
Paul: Honestly, Shaun, I have no idea if we have influenced other bands… I just do what I do in a very sheltered environment and work a job as a school teacher. I would be deeply flattered if my music inspired others…
Chain D.L.K.: What is the news on the side projects you have, which, last thing I know, were still unnamed?
Paul: As mentioned above, the two new bands are actually my main focus. I don’t know when/if another Controlled Bleeding record will appear. The Breast Fed Yak is a sprawling free jazz ensemble, that creates quite an intense racket… very similar in tone to the last piece on "Can You Smell the Rain Between". The Fistula is a power violence, freak out project. Think of Hellnation combined with Cecil Taylor and a few scat singers… Freejazz speedcorescat??
Chain D.L.K.: Tell us about the inspiration and theme of "Can You Smell The Rain Between?" and about how it came to life.
Paul: Well, the record is kind of split into two periods. It started not long after "Gilded Shadows"… Thus there are some dub things in there, and some tracks from the "Poisoner" period. Then I started working on other pieces last year… the noisy, free music stuff like Felch Space Scan, When the Music’s Over… Thus the record has that schizophrenic feel that I like so much.
Chain D.L.K.: Any plans to tour for the CD?
Paul: No, I have no plans to tour. It would be nice, but there are just too many hassles involved, and since I work as a teacher, it’s hard to find time for touring.
Chain D.L.K.: I read in an interview where you stated "Sadly we will always be related to the dance/industrial scene". Is there any regret in your past work (I am a huge fan of the old work, as well as the new!), or was it a stage of progress and growth?
Paul: I don’t really regret any of the stages of our past. It was all a learning experience. I do regret issuing music that was not as fully developed and complete as it should have been with records like "Curd" and "Between Tides". The dance stuff just seems like a period of prostitution to some degree. I mean, we were excited about the music we were doing at the time, but we got caught up in the desire to earn fame and $$ from music, which was never much of an interest before that point. I lost interest pretty quickly in doing that music, and that was the point at which Chris and I stopped collaborating for the most part. Some of the songs we did for Wax Trax and Road Runner still stand up pretty well, but for the most part that music seems kind of forced to me. And since it was the most commercially viable stuff I’ve ever done, Controlled Bleeding will forever be associated with dance industrial music, even though most of the music has been of a more experimental nature.
Chain D.L.K.: Where did your fascination with jazz come from?
Paul: Strangely, I think my interest in jazz developed when I was very young, hearing my father’s Brubeck records playing all the time. Later, I started enjoying the early ECM stuff, like Terje Rydal and Eberhard Weber… For a very long time I despised free jazz, and then one day it just clicked. I fell in love with this music. I guess I finally understood and felt it. But it took years to get to that point. I was always way more into rock and modern classical music.
Chain D.L.K.: What is the emotional aspect of the new CD? Anger, joy, melancholy, etc.?
Paul: Anger hasn’t fueled any of my music since Chris and I did Skin Chamber in the early 90’s. The new CD was recorded at different times over 4 years, so it possesses a fractured feel that I really like. I think most of the music was made during pretty content times. The jazz stuff is definitely an outgrowth of happier moments. Some of the darker sections were made in times of occasionally emotional upheaval, but overall, it’s not an unhappy record.
Chain D.L.K.: What inspired you to cover Brian Eno’s "Here Come the Warm Jets"?
Paul: Eno was always a big influence on me, and "Warm Jets" was a personal favorite of his albums. We had this version of the song lying around for a long time. Initially we had hoped to use it on an Eno tribute album, but someone had beaten us to it, so we just sat on the song. It seemed an interesting way to end the album (or falsely end the album…).
Chain D.L.K.: So you teach high school and run the band at the same time. Does this cause a struggle for time? Is there any inspiration drawn from teaching?
Paul: It has always been a battle finding time to do both things well. But if I made my living solely from music, I would have to make recordings that would sell, stuff that I probably wouldn’t want to do. I don’t like the idea of having to depend on music for my livelihood. Working gives me independence in a weird way. Teaching has taught me a lot more than I can explain, It has always kept me in the real world and has given me a true understanding of love that I would never have found otherwise. I do play a lot of music in class… A bit of John Zorn or the Shaggs or Francisco Lopez… Flaming Lips. Just to keep things fresh.
Chain D.L.K.: Any plans to leave teaching and go even more full force with CB?
Paul: No, I wouldn’t leave teaching, but I would leave music. Controlled Bleeding exists day to day, record to record. Inspiration comes and goes.
Chain D.L.K.: What are some of the bands you would recommend?
Paul: As far as rock bands go, Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev continue to amaze me. I also like the Heavy Blinkers (from Nova Scotia) a lot. Ruins, The Locust, Lightning Bolt, Black Dice are all really good. I also love the work of Helmut Lachenmann, who I recently discovered. I still get a lot of inspiration from the old bands like Magma, Henry Cow, Faust, Velvets, This Heat, early Stooges… "Funhouse" is for me, the single finest moment in rock n’ roll…
Chain D.L.K.: OK, Cabaret Voltaire and Controlled Bleeding playing together. Could it ever happen and what would be your response?
PAUL: I’ve never been a Cabs fan. Nor did I ever much like TG. I don’t really relate to that music. My industrial inspirations came from Brubauten and Whitehouse in 1980 or so. Cop era Swans was also a powerful influence.
Chain D.L.K.: Any plans on ever trying industrial again?
PAUL: Sure I would do “industrial” music again if itexcited me. It seems a remote chance, but I get boredeasily!
Chain D.L.K.: Any words of wisdom for us out there? I’m still hoping to acquire wisdom at some point…
PAUL: I feel that I’m only just now starting tocreate the sort of music that is meaningful and fullysatisfying. As for advice to others, I suppose it’sall about focusing on that which drives you. Creatingmusic that is honest and not motivated by anything beyondcreative need. I still feel like a novice. By the way,"The Breast Fed Yak" CD won’t be out tillJanuary. "Fistula" might appear in Spring of2003.
[interviewed by Shaun Hamilton]