“No, no, yes, maybe, no, no, all humans are despicable. Peace.”
The Body will always hold a special place in my heart because they were the first band I heard who showed me that “metal” or “whatever” isn’t limited to fast minor guitar riffs and double kick pedals (no offense intended to the proponents of aforementioned). I got the chance to ask Chip King and Lee Buford a few questions after their most recent show in Philly, which diverged from their past guitar-and-drums sets into borderline harsh noise territory, which was SICK despite a thoroughly ambivalent response from the blackgaze crowd waiting to see Alcest. This is also the first time I’ve ever tried to interview a band so I apologize for any weird stammering below.
[Interview by Ross Griebenow]
[Edited for clarity and conciseness]
Ross (WKDU): How’s your tour going?
Chip King: It’s been great.
Lee Buford: It’s been fun, everyone’s been really really cool.
R: How long of a tour is it?
LB: It was like a month with these guys [Alcest], and then tomorrow’s our last show with them and then we got a couple more shows after that.
R: Your set was not what I expected at all, I was expecting guitars and drums.
LB: This is the first tour we’ve done it without that.
CK: this seemed like a good time to do it. Rough crowd tonight (laughs)
R: Yeah, I noticed that, they were not into it.
CK: The whole front was just like nope.
R: You guys are known for your collaborative work with other bands obviously, so what do you look for in collaborators?
CK: Friends whose music we think is good, then, you know, it’d be interesting to see what happens.
R: Is there a difference between doing an album collaboratively with another band vs. having other people on your album?
CK: Yeah. I mean, the kind of nice thing about the collaborations is that you’re not the one person deciding we have to do it like this, it’s just nice to work together with people and see what happens. But our records are like, we know what’s going to happen.
R: What do you get out of collaborations that you don’t get out of solo records?
LB: I mean, I think when we do our own records it’s like, pretty intense. I mean it’s like thought out a lot more. And collaborative stuff it’s like whatever happens so it’s not as intense. The pressure’s off.
R: so is it more fun to do it collaboratively?
LB: I mean, it’s fun. But I don’t know, I don’t get the same out of it creatively.
CK: I agree.
R: in your writing and recording how much is spontaneous vs. deliberately planned out?
CK: Increasingly more spontaneous. We talk about what we want to do more beforehand. We used to come to the studio and have everything written out. And the process of recording informs what we’re doing more lately. We’ll have ideas of how we want shit to go and we get in there and it kind of builds on itself which is nice.
LB: Yeah, even recording we don’t write anything beforehand. We’ll have ideas so it’s still spontaneous when we’re recording.
R: So if you’re moving in that direction, is the sound going to change?
LB: I think it’ll be like it was tonight.
CK: We’re trying to get stuff to sound like the recordings, we’ve never been able to play some of the songs from the last records because they’re just based on playing electronically whereas playing with guitar and drums we didn’t have the space to do layers or the ability. Unless I sprouted a new arm.
R: So when you have just guitar and drums are you still just trying to emulate the recordings or are you doing something different?
LB: There’s certain songs that are more like guitar and drum songs and those are the ones we play then, but as the years go on those songs are getting less and less on the records so we end up playing songs that are real old. So there’s like two sets of songs, but as time goes on all of it’s gotten so many overdubs and shit that everything’s in the electronic category kind of.
CK: One of the things I’m playing now is a sample of my guitar through my keyboard with more distortion and it’s sounding more like what I wanted my guitar to sound like than my guitar sounds. So I’m happier with the sounds of that because it’s more like my vision for how I wanted my guitar to sound in the first place.
R: I read one of you talking about trying to make a guitar not sound like a guitar.
CK: Yeah that was me. But it’s hard to make a guitar not sound like a guitar. Until you run it through the distortion and put in a keyboard and blast it and just redline everything. (laughs) All I want is the distortion and the attack.
R: I come from liking more electronic stuff so I love that.
LB: Me too. I mean, honestly, I don’t listen to any like new rock music at all. Can’t even think of like a new- maybe like Radiohead or something- where I’ve been like, this is cool.
CK: The only like, modern stuff I like that’s metal-ey or hard or whatever is like Full of Hell. They’re kind of pushing shit in a way, you know. Is Judas Priest a modern band? I like their first few records. (laughs) Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion, that’s a modern record, I like that. That’s the metal-est record out there.
R: In your music is it more important to be expressive or original?
LB: Kind of both, I would hate to do the same thing over and over again.
CK: I think we haven’t done that.
LB: I would hate to do something someone’s already done better.
CK: But it’s not like we’re ever like we have to make this different, it’s just the way we do music I think.
R: What motivates you to keep trying new things and combine different things when you tend to get roped into a genre that’s pretty static?
LB: What makes us keep trying stuff? I don’t know, I mean, I feel like anybody that makes anything has something to say to some degree. A problem I have with lots of people musically is they’ll be like oh, I like this kind of music. But it’s like if you’re trying to get a point across it doesn’t matter what kind of music it is as long as there’s a point. To me, what you’re trying to get across is more important than how you get it across. And so I think that’s what we do is try to get the same point across but in different ways.
R: So is trying different things just a means to the expressive part?
LB: Yeah but it’s also for us too, it’s interesting to be like oh let’s try this, oh that worked, or this didn’t work, that is more interesting than being like oh we know we can do this, we can like play guitar and drums in a doom way and people will like it, we can just keep churning that out.
CK: For years it’d be like the craziest thing I can do is play this guitar, or I can play it this way or I can play it louder or I can add amps or add bass amps and it got to a point where it was like I don’t think I can go much farther with that and it’s like I don’t have to prove anything to anybody about it, I feel like I’m just like a hack job at guitar because I’m not pushing any boundaries, I’m just bored of it and it’s like, I could try this different thing and it went along with what I enjoy and what I like.
LB: And plus we listen to a lot of music and it’s varied, and you get those influences from stuff so it’s like it’d be cool to take this thing and this thing and this thing and mash them all together. I think that’s part of it too.
R: For me your music is like bleak and brutal but there’s also an intensity that’s kind of outside of that, so I was wondering if you think there’s a relationship between normal heavy negativity and stuff and just some kind of abstract intensity and if either of those are a goal for you.
LB: I mean especially starting out I think a lot of our stuff was like oh, I want to be loud as fuck as a way of getting an emotion across, just pure brutality style. But it’s just different ways to say the same thing kind of. And like a lot of it, I think the bleakest songs are not “heavy”. That’s the great thing about music, you can say so many different things so many different ways.
R: Are you working on anything new right now, or do you know what direction you want to take next?
LB: We’ve got another collab with Full of Hell done and we’re working on our full length slowly, in a couple days we’ll go back to the studio and work on that. Gnaw Their Tongues, we’re doing a collaboration with him.
R: Cool, that’s all I have, thank you guys so much!