NSB interview with Hernan Muleiro of La Jornado Mexico

NSB interview with Hernan Muleiro of La Jornado Mexico

about the band in the context of Luigi Russolo

and the release of the first Spanish edition of his 1913 book The Art of Noise.

October 18 2019

1) when did you first heard and got the book?

I first heard of Russolo and his ideas about noise in 1964 while I was a university student in London, Ontario, Canada. I found him and his Futurist colleagues interesting as artists and thinkers, but I did not think deeply about the subject of noise until after my friends and I formed the Nihilist Spasm Band the following year,

2) What was your impressions on the book and the reactions caused by Russolo´s music?

I found the book fascinating, but did not at that time give it deep consideration, possibly because I was not a musician, but a painter.

3) Did it have an influence on the nihilist spasm band? or did you read it later and found something that resonated with what the band did?

I do not believe it had a big influence on our band because we were a group of 8 friends with very different interests. Some of us knew nothing of Russolo, while some of us knew a great deal. But we did not think about the theory of what we were doing. We were too busy learning how to play together. I remember thinking that it was important to consider the full range of sounds outside of the area of concern of music. What we were doing was in some ways a parody of conventional music. As we evolved we developed a wind section (kazoos and a slide clarinet), bass (a gut bucket), strings (guitar-like instruments and a violin-like instrument), electronic (ring modulator and a Theremin), drums (an old Salvation Army band bass drum, a snare, garbage can lids, etc.), vocals (lyrics and screaming with megaphone and microphone). We focused on non musical sounds mainly because we had no musical skills or specialized knowledge, and because we were very creative people who sought original solutions to sonic problems as opposed to memorizing and mastering existing musical methods.

4) A good point in common is that Russolo tried to free the sound from the dictatorship of music, when you tell me that you didn´t have a particular rule about where to start or end an improvisation i find that interesting, because lots of times musicians that do improvisations but come from a more academic background seem to have a more limited concept of what improvisation means.

Some of us were aware of improvisational musical forms such as New Wave free jazz, but we always disagreed with each other about almost anything. We could never agree on a common approach to improvisation. So we tended not to discuss what we were doing and to just do it. We gradually developed ways of interacting that seemed to please us, but we never attempted to do things the same way twice. We found that when trained musicians tried to sit in with us, even people from a jazz background, they couldn't do it. They always fell back on conventional musical solutions. They were trapped by musical conventions. We preferred true creative freedom.

About nihilist spasm band

1) When i heard the "no record" album for the first time i thought it was an original and unique lp. how did the "destroy the nations " idea came about, because there is humor in it but also seems to come from real anger.

Canada, like Mexico, exists next to and under the often bullying influence of the United States. We also share a colonial history, in our case under Britain and France, and now under the U.S. Some of us were concerned about this and we used humour to mock the acceptance of the colonial mentality of so many of our countrymen and women who were too busy profiting from this subservient mind set. But I think we tried not to take ourselves too seriously, and humour and satire made what we did more enjoyable for us.

2) How were the reactions when the band started playing live shows?

There was great curiosity when we started because nobody had heard anything like us. We were asked to appear on some national television shows about the arts. Some national and international magazines wrote articles about us. We were Canada's official music team at the Paris Biennale des Jeunes in, I think, 1969. We played in a pub in London, Ontario, our home town, every Monday night for 7 years, and usually the pub was full of curious students or visitors. But very often we would encounter hostility because people could see and hear that it was not pleasing familiar music. Many times entire audiences would leave a theatre within 15 minutes. In the 1980's we played in Quebec, the French speaking province in Canada, and audiences liked and enjoyed us. I don't know why this change happened, because our music had not changed.

3) How did that group of people with diverse shows came about? how do you think the different perspectives helped the band?

All of us were friends. Greg Curnoe was one of Canada's greatest young visual artists, and he had a large loft studio downtown where we tended to hang out and listen to music and argue about many subjects. Greg made a short film about his friends in London, and he wanted to make a sound track for the film. At that time one of the topics we were interested in was Nihilism and Anarchism, and one of us happened to find some red and black (the colours of the Anarchists) kazoos in a store. Someone suggested that we play kazoos for the duration of the film and that could be Greg's sound track for his film, No Movie. A group of 10 or 12 of us did just that. Almost immediately one of us found a truck horn to attach to his kazoo to make it louder, and the idea of making enough instruments to make a band was born. We knew about Spasm Bands in the American south and in the West Indies where poor kids made their own instruments, so we called ourselves the Nihilist Spasm Band. At the time I said jokingly that we wanted to destroy the chambers of our minds in the hope that something better would grow out of the ruins, paraphrasing the Nihilist theory. It is important to note though that every member of our band has a different idea of what we are doing. We almost never agree.

4) why was there almost 10 years between your first and second album?

We never dreamed of fame or fortune. We only played for our own enjoyment. We never promoted ourselves or had a plan for success. It was only when someone asked us to make a recording and agreed to pay the costs that we did it. The first recording was a flexidisk for an art magazine called Artscanada in 1967. Then Allied Records, thinking we might be the next Frank Zappa asked us to record. That was No Record. Then, when we didn't become the Canadian Frank Zappa, they lost interest. It was 10 years before The Music Gallery in Toronto asked us to record again. This was fine with us. We still operate the same way today. We just got back from the LUFF festival in Lausanne, where we did a re-enactment of the recording of the sound track for Greg's film. I don't know how the LUFF people found out about us. But that's the way it goes.

5) Was it a band that made music in asolation or a band influenced by other people making music at the time? what would you say was the musical context when you started?

We definitely made music in isolation. Because our musical tastes were so different from each other, no one idea or musical tradition could dominate our thinking. We knew of no other bands that were doing totally original things. New York or Canadian artist bands tended to start Jazz or "experimental" bands, nearly always derivative of famous bands. We were just interested in discovering what the combination of our disparate personas would create. We slowly realized this might be the key to creating a new genre.

John Boyle, Nihilist Spasm Band