Track Marks is a new weekly music questionnaire for people who make and or love music. The people change but the questions remain the same.
This week we check in with Tyler St. Clair whose noisy electronic music project Stagediver takes heaps of samples and reconstructs them into something dark, aggressive and highly engaging. He's working on a new record to be released this year and also runs Radiograffiti a record label that he launched in the mid-'90s.
St. Clair paused occasionally while expressing his general contempt long enough to answer a few questions and talk with OnMilwaukee.com about why he hates contemporary music, his fond memories of his nude babysitter, and growing up in record store bins.
OnMilwaukee.com: What was the first tape/CD/record/8 track you ever owned?
Tyler St. Clair: I was the child of an Italian ballerina and a punk-rock runaway who happened to be something of an avid record collector. Music appeared in my lexicon at a very early age, so I had cultivated understanding of what I liked by the time I was old enough to comprehend what music even was. When the time was right, I was given five albums: "The Man Machine" by Kraftwerk, "It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back" by Public Enemy, "Reproduction" by Human League, "Twitch" by Ministry and "Fun House" by The Stooges.
I had owned hundreds of releases growing up and literally spent most of my infancy in record store bins--my father would set me in empty bins as he picked through the records-- but these five albums set a clear creative blueprint and shaped my interests.
OMC: What was the first concert you attended?
TSC: As my father played with various groups in his twenties, I had been going to shows with my parents since I was able to walk. I barely remember these. I'd like to earn my indie-cred by saying the first show was at The Palms (not to be confused with Palm Tavern), Starship (not to be confused with the clothing store) or Zak's, but I honestly cannot remember a whole lot from this era. I'm starting to namedrop like a total d*ckhead; sorry.
My schooling/familial upbringing here in Milwaukee allowed me the freedom to explore music in ways not a lot of people could. I had been going to underground electronic events, Latino-house in-store DJ performances in places like "Spontaneous" and "Envisions" and one-off Drop Bass Network parties as a teen.
Rave parties were commonplace and basement metal shows were everywhere, so I'm not completely sure what my first "concert" was; however, one that sticks out is Atari Teenage Riot with Ec8or, Shizuo, Doormouse, Jethrox and others on November 30, 1997. It was a mess. Most of the lights were out, there was no security, it was freezing and people kept throwing beers at this foreign woman who thought it was a great idea to flash her vagina on stage repeatedly. And I absolutely loved it. I skipped school the next day, went to Massive, Rush-Mor and Atomic and bought 15 electronic hardcore records.
OMC: What was the last concert you attended?
TSC: Do your own shows count? If not, Kraftwerk? Possibly Juiceboxxx? I honestly don't remember. I also don't care.
I usually try to get out to see what Juiceboxxx and the gang are up to – he's insultingly overlooked here in town. The Juicer manages to bring in and play with acts that continually blow my mind...everything from Nintendo hackers at General Store to the animators who now work for Cartoon Network, performing at Darling Hall. I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing more from him and the guys at Vicious Pop.
OMC: Who is one popular musician or music act you just can't understand?
TSC: Popular? I guess that rules out the few local indie acts I have in mind. Admittedly, I don't listen to the radio, I don't own a television and I cannot stand these hipster-gatekeepers like Pitchfork who tell you what to listen to when their own musical interests are very obviously swayed by money. Yes, I did just pull the I-don't-own-a-TV-and-hate-Pitchfork card.
I need to come clean though, I'm not sure I can answer this question fairly. If I want to hear something, I make it myself. It offers a creative challenge that's exactly what music is missing – challenge! Music is too godd*mn polluted – even if we're talking basic song structure, humans reached the apex of creative expression in the mid-90s. Deconstruct everything available, with the technology available, in order to move forward.
I guess it's just safe to say that I can't understand any musician who wouldn't want to consider a good challenge, to themselves and the listener.
OMC: Musically what are you into that you're embarrassed to admit to.
TSC: Nothing. This would mean I give a sh*t what others think about my own tastes. The musical tastes of others is embarrassing enough for me.
OMC: What are you listening to right now?
TSC: At this moment, the sound of my stomach. I took what little food money I had left and put it toward the next Radiograffiti 7-inch; released February 1. Never heard of Radiograffiti? That doesn't surprise me. We don't cater to the local group-think, so I have a feeling our record imprint will continue to be ignored. These responses aren't helping much either, I'm sure.
As far as what I'm listening to in general, I rediscovered Anthrax's "Among The Living" and Human League's "Travelogue." I'm also listening to the Mega Man 3 OST & Silver Surfer OST for the NES as well as the Mortal Kombat OST for the Sega Genesis.
OMC: What song do you want played at your funeral?
TSC: "Kill More People" or "C*ntface" by Nasenbluten. Maybe a "Kill More People, C*ntface!" mash-up.
OMC: What artist changed your life and how?
TSC: I had an art school student babysitter in the 80s, and as a child I saw her nude a few times. That had an incredibly huge impact on me. True story. Didn't change my life though.
Walking into Massive Record Source for the first time, realizing there were others in the same city as me who had similar tastes, who happened to be doing some pretty incredible things on a global level, was pretty damn poignant. Addict Records, Drop Bass Network, it was all pretty f*cking mind-blowing, because for all intents and purposes it shouldn't have worked. It did though, and I'll always hold those movements in high regard.
Another life-changer was finding my first music computer, on accident at a gun-dealing, (now closed) illegal pawn shop for $6 in West Allis...from a one-armed vet no less! All of a sudden I could create music that I wanted to hear, and it's a good story.
I also remember hearing the music from Mega Man 3 for the NES as a child and feeling something inside of me click. It was then that I decided I wanted to write music, but by unconventional means, in unconventional ways. A lot of this thinking came from my grade-school, which happened to specialize in music-technology. Video game music was dreadfully annoying to my parents, so that was a huge appeal. I was fascinated by the ability to write songs catchier than traditional pop music, using only five tracks of audio (or less) which would more or less be subliminally pumped into your head as you were playing the game. The idea still influences me.
OMC: If you could see anyone perform past or present who would it be?
TSC: Perhaps a late '70s Human League or Fad Gadget? A mid '80s Anthrax or Slayer? A mid '90s Public Enemy? I'm not totally sure. I certainly don't care much for the current musical climate.
OMC: If you could spend one day with any artist living or dead who would it be?
TSC: Probably an early-youth Kevin Poulsen or the 414s, but these would be artists of a different sort. Musically, a mid '80s Bomb Squad or an early 90s Trent Reznor. I'm drawing a blank and I think I'm done typing for the night.
OMC: If you were stranded on an island with one record for the rest of your life what would it be?
TSC: Your mom.