November 10

Q&A with Bitcin Bajas of Drag City


Q&A with Bitcin Bajas of Drag City

Contemporary music of experimental origin is endless in scope now with genre fusion and conceptual foundations coagulating into a grid of oneness. The parts and dynamics may be different to each individual unit but the underlining sense of self exploration and a lack of interest in what marketing schemes dictate has made this generations legacy in music something all its own. Bitchin Bajas are a duo that we feel fits in this mold naturally and now powerfully, creating the type of elongated forms of music that we thrive to absorb in waves and full attention given. Expansive ranges of texture and dynamics spring forth with life in their stationary environments, playing into a grid of analog based worlds that hits the mind with a warmth and depth that resonates far after the listen is over.

Setting off on their maiden voyage with the influential independent label Important Records in 2010’s Tones / Zones, the group has now found a comfortable home with Chicago’s Drag City. Bitchitronics was last years first offering for the label and they are back this year with a new self titled 2LP on the imprint. Using primarily a Acetone organ, a Crumar DS-2 and sax / flute, the depth of the new record is astounding considering the minimal usage of instrument types and hefty length of 70+ minutes. I feel connected to something far deeper then just an album and it’s been interesting to experience the mind sets of those creating the music with our exclusive interview. Check out the modular synth project the group released in conjunction with Nick Ciontea and the album before diving into our exclusive interview with Bitchin Bajas.

Erik: Hello, I wanted to first say thank you for the musical experience of your latest Drag City self titled LP. Kathryn had one of the PR agents we work with send it over a little bit ago and it’s been an overwhelmingly joyful experience. When listening, one of the first impressions I got was you are more concerned with texture, dynamics, depth, space and exploration then the more formal pop song structures that many artists are writing in across all genres. How fulfilling is the experience of making music in this mode for you? What challenges, if any, does it present that really push you as a musician and artist?

Bitchin Bajas: Basically, this record was us pushing a 1 inch 8 track tape machine as far as we could. Every song is just a collage made from tapes we recorded in a period of about 6 months, so I guess our process just lends itself to focusing on textures and dynamics. Though obviously it’s not impossible to create music with formal pop song structures this way. But no song was ever written before hand, we would just string together and overlap sections that were sonically pleasing. Since there is no ‘song’, we are trying to capture what makes being in the studio fun, because once we decided on a tonal center we could put anything we wanted into the tracks.

Erik: The blending of acoustic and electronic instruments is a sublime feature to the self titled album. The transition between worlds is seamless and I feel left in somewhat of a hypnotic state when really giving myself to the album. When constructing the album, was there an intention of blending both worlds in this form or did this happen out of the stream of activities that occurred with little thought put to the equation? Did the music have any type of unique affect on you when creating it?

Bitchin Bajas: So, doing things in this tape collage method, we never really thought about sounds in terms of acoustic or electric. Nobody ever said either of those words out loud. Everything was just a piece of tape to us. Not to be coy or anything, but there are many acoustic sounding things that are actually electronic and vice versa.

Erik: We are fascinated by the quality of the mix you were able to capture on the new album. The music is very immersive, thick and resonate, yet it has a sense of space and separation between the layers that really allows everything to breath. It sounds panoramic yet minimal, something we feel bridges a lot of the pivotal 60’s and 70’s pioneering music with your approach. What type of recording process was taken when capturing the material and how did the album transform through the mixing and mastering process?

Bitchin Bajas: Wow! Thank you for giving love to the mix. We aren’t analog purists, but we find that di’ing an organ and a synth into to a tape machine gives you pretty solid foundation to work with. And Rob can make his flute or sax just sound good to anything. That certainly helps. As far as it sounding like “pivotal music of the 60’s and 70’s”….I sort of see what you are implying, but for me the approach comes from Les Paul and Mary Ford. I bought a Les Paul and Mary Ford cassette in 1996 and have been chasing that sound ever since.

Erik: The perspective wasn’t in comparison to how things sound in the tonal sense but was more reflective of those who created on a commercial level without formal pop structure. That mind set began in the 60’s and 70’s, sorry for not phrasing it a little more properly. The length of the self titled is incredible for me as I am an individual who loves to fully absorb into an album for long lengths. I have always been fascinated with albums that stretch into the 70+ minute mark and how that journey feels as opposed to something closer to the 40 minute range. Was the length created out of necessity in having a large body of material to choose from or did you guys have to really pull deep into your reserves to achieve the length you did?

Bitchin Bajas: Haha! Yeah, making really long songs/releases is not a problem for this band! We put out a live triple cassette on Bathetic Records this year in addition to this double LP on Drag City. But since our songs kind of just explore one vibe at a time, it becomes a thing of how good are we at being in this vibe and how long should this vibe be explored. There is a window where songs without chord movement are the most effective. Too short and it’s nothing at all: too long it becomes the most boring thing you have ever heard. Just let the song decide how long it’s supposed to be.

Erik: We are very fascinated by the usage of analog, modular video synthesizers for the creation of your first video on the new LP, “Bueu.” How did the collaboration with Nick Ciontea and the group take shape and what does the video bring out in you when you watch it?

Bitchin Bajas: Nick is friend of ours and someone we have worked with on live visuals, so it was natural to work with him on videos. In fact, he’s making a video synth piece for every song on the album. It’s going be a thing Drag City does for the digital release of the album… But as an synth player I am fascinated by the almost synesthesia quality of it. It’s the same basic on/off information being interpreted by two different mediums.

Erik: Can you tell us what drew you towards the video concept and a little background of what an analog modular video synthesizer is for those out there who might not know?

Bitchin Bajas: To be honest, I have no idea how a video synth works. That’s what draws me to them.

Erik: We are eager to dive into both the acoustic instrument side of the new LP and the electronic side with you. Can you give us a little run down of the instruments you utilized that are acoustic in origin and why the tonality of some of them is very important for your sound?

Bitchin Bajas: Almost all of the sounds come from an Acetone organ, a Crumar DS-2 and a sax/flute. We add flourishes, but that is our core. We just cut the highs because we can’t hear those frequencies anymore.

Erik: In what type of environment would you recommend listening to the new LP?

Bitchin Bajas: It should be listened to in one’s natural environment.

Erik: With the new LP serving as the second for Drag City, do you see the group staying with the imprint for awhile?

Bitchin Bajas: Yeah, we love being on Drag City. Being a Chicago band and having Drag City put out your stuff? It’s great…. They’re friends. We all had BBQ last month!

Erik: For our last question, we wanted to ask about the live presentation of your music and particularly the live shows coming up in the States, the UK and Europe. What type of live shows are you putting together in terms of the visual aesthetics and how excited are you guys to get on the road for the shows?

Bitchin Bajas: We are always happy to be on the road. We will probably try to incorporate Nick’s visual stuff into the live set. Depends on what the venues can handle…Tour is tour. You can plan it all you want, but it kind of just happens. I’m excited to go back to Bueu.

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About the Author

Glen Campbell

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