Apostle Of Hustle Eats Darkness And Steps Into The Light

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Inspiration is a funny thing—a remarkably capricious beast to try and pin down. If one asks them, most musicians tend to make one particular sound the focal point of their interest; it inspires them, consumes them, drives them and acts as a springboard for their own work that, while it might incorporate other sounds in its periphery or grow in other directions, simply could not have existed were it not for that “one thing” that overtook their imagination initially. The list of inspirational possibilities are endless; Woody Guthrie, for example, his spirit and the working class music he made was (and remains) a potent force and was the one thing that first captivated Robert Zimmerman and ultimately turned him into Bob Dylan; Robert Johnson “got” Jimmy Page; Chuck Berry was essential to both The Beatles and AC/DC and (by his own admission) were it not for The Pixies, Kurt Cobain wouldn't have had the lick to borrow to write “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” All of those lauded bodies of work can be traced back to a previous singular entity and there's nothing wrong with that—the music has often benefited from that process—but unusual and fascinating is the work that comes from a less obvious or tangible spring and even more commendable is that work which opens its scope to incorporate many inspiring sources at once. In each of those cases too, what might have started out as a very small (but not necessarily simple) idea ended up growing quickly once the template was set and more ideas were inspired.

In conversation with Apostle Of Hustle singer/guitarist Andrew Whiteman, it becomes apparent that a far less tangible muse gripped him before he began to make Eats Darkness and, once the ball got rolling on the proceedings, the whole thing quickly snowballed into an album that is unquestionably their finest, most thought-provoking, accessible and song-structured work to date in spite of the fact that so much of the content is deliberately jarring in its approach. Opening with “Snakes”—a sound collage that includes fully automatic weapon fire, the sounds of urban decay and crass sentiments—the album treads a harrowing course through treacherous sonic currents into the stark, percussive rave-up “Eazy Speaks” that somehow manages a certain profundity and captivate listeners on the strength of each track's sprawling nature above all. Like the results that came from a late night jam session including members of Sonic Youth, Nine Inch Nails and Negativland, Whiteman, bassist Julian Brown and drummer Dean Stone ensnare listeners with their stringy cacophony and manic stylistic changes that include any and every sound that seems to fit but each lodges itself in the memories of anyone that hears them. A good example of how this worked before was the soundtrack for Natural Born Killers except that, here, these tracks are designed less to shock audiences and more adorned to rattle the notion that experimentation is impossible in the album format; in this case, none of the tracks adhere to the constructs on songs, vignettes or any other kind of organized sound on a compact disc and yet, while you weren't welcomed at all at any point, listeners end up walking away with an unexplainable feeling of elation as “Blackberry” sputters to a close and the album ends. As is so often the case with Negativland, Sonic Youth and the less radio-ready end of Nine Inch Nails' output, the feeling comes from the idea that, while not every second of what you've just witnessed was totally comprehensible to you while it was happening, there are secrets and riddles to decode in what you just heard and the promise of them will have you reaching to play it again. Such an ambitious assault begs the obvious question of what instigated such an undertaking but, when asked, Whiteman's answer implies that he's unclear on how anyone could not be feeling the same way he was when he was making the record.

Bill Adams vs. Andrew Whiteman, singer/guitarist of Apostle Of Hustle

AW: Hello?

BA: Hey Andrew, it's Bill Adams calling.

AW: Oh hi Bill, how are you?

BA: I'm fine thanks. How are things on your end?

AW: Great.

BA: That's good, obviously you're at your label's offices right now, but are you from Toronto too?

AW: Yeah.

BA: Ah, okay. Now, have you already started doing shows behind
Eats Darkness?

AW: Nope, not yet.

BA: Have any of the tracks already leaked online? Have you gotten any early response?

AW: I may have. I'm not sure because I don't listen or pay attention to any of that stuff.

BA: Oh you don't at all? I guess that makes sense if you don't want even your own opinion of it colored or anything. I did want to say congratulations on it though, I've been running through it over the last couple of days and, while I don't think it's an enormous jump from what you've done previously, it's certainly much cleaner, fine-tuned and poignant.

AW: Oh well thanks. It's a pretty conceptual thing and really hangs together.

BA: That's kind of what I noticed, but the tracks that really jumped out at me were stuff like “Perfect Fit” where it sounds a bit like Negativland—which I kind of got a kick out of.

AW: Oh really? Someone else said that too actually.

BA: So what was the plan when you went to make the album?

AW: Well, when we started, we had these songs and ideas that were really centered around battles and conflicts and we had planned to put these little bits—like on a hip-hop mixtape—of different sounds like gunshots and sirens and spray paint and stuff like that between each song to try and irritate people and keep the attitude high or whatever. Then, when I went to start making those little in-between bits though, I was just having too good a time so they sort of expanded into full songs; I took a bunch of sound effects and battle sounds and poetry and all sorts of other things and just started building them. There are three more of those segues that weren't used and we edited some down and didn't use the original samples I had intended because I would have had to pay too much money [chuckling] and I think now that I might sew them all together and do a ten or twelve-minute collage piece of all of them together. I actually think that I might release it later this summer, but I just couldn't use some of the samples I had intended because it would have cost too much to get the rights to do it; [chuckling] there's a reason not every hip-hop record has Sopranos samples on it. It's funny too that, when I started making it, I didn't think it would be a full release; I thought it was going to be more of a viral kind of release that ended up flying under the radar so, initially, I stole samples from HBO and anywhere else that I wanted. After it was done though, Kevin [Arts & Crafts president Kevin Drew –ed] listened to it in September and really liked it so we ended up changing course and elected to do a full release but, when it got right down to brass tacks, it became pretty apparent that I couldn't have Paulie Walnuts on my record or Al Swearengen from Deadwood on there so I took them out and basically changed a couple of the speeches and re-recorded them.

BA: There are moments on it that sound almost deliberately angled to New York too—like there are moments that sound a bit like Thurston Moore's side of Sonic Youth which has somehow been crossed, as I say, with Negativland.

AW: Oh cool! You know, I've met Thurston and I'm pretty sure that we share a similar reading list so that's kind of cool, but not really surprising. Still nice of you to say though.

BA: Now, was the overall sound of the record a result of the conceptual nature of it? It sounds a lot different from previous Apostle Of Hustle records; the previous ones seemed to be more constructed of textural sounds but, while there are the elements of collage to it, it does seem to be a little more songs structured. Was that a conscious move?

AW: I don't think so, no. The only conscious move in terms of music was that we had come off of a year of playing together and I think we had a bit more of a live attitude doing this album; we cut more things live right off the floor. It wasn't 100 percent that, but a lot more than on previous records. In terms of capturing the sound and the performance of it, it was very much at least closer to a band effort; there were far fewer overdubs than there ever have been before. We didn't want to take too long making it this time.

BA: How long grand total?

AW: Uhm, recording an Apostle Of Hustle record is usually a two-tiered approach—a lot of it tends to happen in the basement of where I used to live in Toronto and I'd do a lot of chopping as well as coming up with things when I was super-stoned and then Dean would come over and play drums on top of it and there would be more chopping and editing after that. So often, there's a whole shadow record behind the actual record and then we take what we've got on a hard drive up to Marty's [Sound manipulator Martin David Kinack –ed] place which is on the edge of a provincial park in northern Ontario. While we're there, we play all of the stuff live and see if there's anything we want to keep from the shadow record or if we just want to do the whole thing over again. After that, we do a few little overdubs—but not too many—and then release it.

BA: Just on the strength of the finished product, I'd be really interested to hear that shadow record.

AW: [laughing] There's some good stuff on it. I think I might put the demo version of the song “Whistle In The Fog” out on the summer sampler that Arts & Crafts is putting out.

BA: Okay, now this is a total drooling fan-boy question [Whiteman laughing] but, has there ever been the inclination like, “Well, we've got these shadow records, why don't we release them all as one set?”

AW: Eventually, we might do that actually, because some of the stuff is really great. Often, a lot of those demos have a certain spontaneity, charm and seductiveness that sometimes the finished products just don't have.

BA: Yeah—like Paul Westerberg said, “Sometimes the first take is just the best take.”

AW: Exactly!

BA: In that regard and keeping what you said about the two-tiered process in mind, is the first tier always more stripped down?

AW: Actually no – sometimes that first pass through it has about fourteen thousand drum parts on it—like this huge, low-fi percussion orgy or keyboard orgy or guit-orgy or something and then those things get peeled back afterward.

BA: So a lot of editing tends to happen in the second pass?

AW:In the case of this new record, that was absolutely the idea.

BA: So what happens now?

AW: We're just doing a little Ontario swing in June, then we're going down to the Northeastern US for a couple of weeks and we're doing North By Northeast. We've only got a few shows over the summer—a lot of Broken Social Scene stuff is going on—and then we'll do the major, cross-Canada thing in September and October.

BA: Oh—before I forget, you were talking about there being a lot of conflict—or discussions of it—in the songs on
Eats Darkness, where did all the conflict spring from?

AW: Uhm, just observations as an artist really, you go through cycles of perception and mine was kind of focused on that sort of mindset of conflicts and battles—from the personal to the political. I'm not sure, but I guess it's possible that I was in a bit of a besieged mindset for a while and, when you're stuck inside like that, eventually you just say, “Fuck it all” and go for it you know? Get out of the trench and make a run for it.

BA: So
Eats Darkness is your way of going AWOL?

AW: [laughing] Sure! I'll go with that for now.

Apostle Of Hustle online

Apostle Of Hustle myspace


Apostle of Hustle – "Perfect Fit" – [mp3]


Eats Darkness is out now. Buy it on Amazon.

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