FLUX INFORMATION SCIENCES | INTERVIEW
How did Flux Information Sciences form and what was the general idea behind getting started?
Crouton Music: How did Flux Information Sciences form and what was the general idea behind getting started?
Tristan Bechet: Seb and I were attending art school in Marseilles, France. We had been playing in a noisy, decadent, drunken lounge band called TWA for a couple years. On our own, we started to experiment, looking for something else. We wanted to achieve something radically new. One day, we found the annual report of Volt Information Sciences, a multinational that sells information technology services. The corporate language of this document was impersonal, threateningly efficient and powerful. We took the name and logo of the company, made music under its aegis, and then decided to go to New York to meet them and make a deal. We proposed a joint project to Volt for a performance in which we would promote the image of the company through a presentation of its functions and technologies, in the form of a concert/infomercial/art performance. We wanted to marry media, genre, the "arts," the spheres, their lawyers, etc...Obviously, they rejected our proposal, fearing that we would misrepresent the company and devalue their stock shares. Hmmm? I must add that we took this project rather seriously and with an infiltrative conviction that this was "it"... It was a very inspiring and dramatic start, with mythical and utopian dimensions. We found ourselves in NYC without a deal with Volt and decided to take matters into our own hands. We released our LP dedicated to this project under FLUX INFORMATION SCIENCES.
CM: Talk a bit about your interest in the existence of, or concepts of, corporations. In the case of Volt, it was something that attracted you and you pursued them with serious intentions. Regardless of the outcome, what about the 'idea' fueled you?
TB: At the time, we were interested in duality and the marriage of purpose and genre. Volt, specifically, functions like a powerful socio-economic motor but remains invisible to the individual. Because of this, it could be qualified as "underground." This duality between a concrete functionality, powerfully implicated in the market world and a diffuse, discreet mode of existence fascinated us. The project was to combine, in one event, different media, such as a technological demonstration, publicity, a musical concert and an infomercial. In collaboration with the company, all this was designed to give Volt image, and it was the union of the whole of which the work consisted. Our collaboration with Volt was, then, the opposite of "art for art's sake." We used the company's annual report as a script for our performance. A year prior, a similar collaboration with the Italian clothier Benetton, for example, allowed a photographer to endorse the company's logo while capturing images considered in themselves of artistic value. The interest in this case was not the imagery alone, nor Benetton, but the union of the two. The result was art by Benetton, or art for Benetton, or artist representing Benetton, or advertising art or perhaps nothing at all. Similarly, we wanted to be "artists working for Volt, " endorsed by Volt and endorsing Volt. We were fueled by a fascination of Volt's anti-image and fucking with the contexts of art, advertising and the corporate sphere. We have not exhausted the possibilities of these ideas. Our current dynamic, though, has shifted to the more autonomous existence as a live band, where all of these concerns can only be shown implicitly through our stage performances.
CM: What instrumentation do you use most and how do you feel that is the most effective for your music?
TB and Sebastien Brault: To this point, electronics, from the very low-tech (e.g., shitty radios, cheap pedals, toy keyboards) to the more sophisticated (Seb has a fancy synthetizer), have enabled us to manipulate ideas on the recording front. In a live context, electronics are exploited relative to their immediate playability. It is more fun to hit a bass with a stick than sit in front of a laptop.
CM: Talk about the themes and ideas present on your latest record "Private/Public" and how your approach/concept has been similar or different in the past.
TB: Flux Information Sciences has always been a live band playing in the City. Recording and releasing our LP, as well as our two self-produced CDs, was each time an introspective work of redefining the band conceptually. This work concerned the aesthetic of packaging a product as much as the music. For the LP (first release, 1998), the idea of dedicating our music to a big private corporation that doesn't deal with individuals was interesting enough in itself to inspire the music. In other words, it was a soundtrack for a corporation resulting in a noisy, lo-fi experimental collage... sometimes ambient, sometimes Wagnerian and explosive.
For SERVICES (second release, 1999), we turned to the idealistic imagery of what cruise vacations promise. That was what inspired the music, the titles and the whole packaging of the CD. The title, "SERVICES," came before the music was an umbrella concept that best described our inspiration and our idea of modernity, in the same way that "industrial" did for others a generation ago.
We recorded SUMMER (third release, 2000) during the summer, with little care for the concept. It was a collection of isolated experiments that we did mostly apart from each other during breaks in the studio. We allowed the title to give us direction as to what we were going to collect and how to package the CD.
As for PRIVATE/PUBLIC (released on Young God Records, 2001), we recorded our live repertoire for the first time. Michael Gira saw Flux play at a dive in Hell's Kitchen, a show that ended in utter chaos, and he offered to produce us. We recorded the album in three days in a live atmosphere of urgency with almost no overdubs. The order of events, in this case, was opposite to the first three releases. The music was there first. Then we shot a cover photo and finally picked a title. In that sense, this was not a conceptual album. Then, if you call it Private/Public, it becomes conceptual. It is an extension of the ideas and themes we explored before.
Thematically, PRIVATE/PUBLIC is a philosophical question. Musically, the approach was immediate and menacing. The theme "Private/Public" is a dichotomy, and it also felt like the contrast between the previous introspective/independent recordings at home and releasing our live music on a label. We chose to put together a photo shoot for the cover and to be in the picture, as opposed to cutting out ads from magazines or endorsing a corporate identity. The title PRIVATE/PUBLIC seems to be appropriate to address these concerns. You put it together with the cover picture and it becomes even more intriguing. It adds something visceral, a dark dangerous charm, and I think perhaps, like most art, something autobiographical.
CM: What changes for live performances compared to the recordings? What do you want the live performances to communicate to the audience?
SB: PRIVATE/PUBLIC is the first recording that represents what we do on stage (or what we used to, since we now have a new repertoire.) Before it, our approach to recording was very different from live performance. The difference is obvious between what we can do in real time on stage and in the process of recording at home, where thoughts, judgments and the erase/cut/copy/paste capability of recording tools can stretch time in a more analytical way.
The A side of our first LP was recorded on a 4-track in Tristan's living room in Marseilles, France, and we had to put pillows on top of the mic and basic instruments (i.e., radio, sampling pedal, tape-player and keyboard) so as not to disturb the neighbors at four in the morning. In that respect, it is very low-fi. Then, we upgraded our 4-track for a more sophisticated digital workstation that we still refer to as "THE MACHINE." This technology gives us so many options, but always leaves us alone in front of The Choice. The overwhelmingly practical and flexible functionality of that tool led us to concoct a dense and laborious conceptual piece: "SERVICES." The vacation cruise brochures were an omnipresent source of inspiration, clashing in a personal crisis with the difficulties of our life here in New York.
Then we recorded SUMMER just as easily and unexpectedly as becoming a father if you don't use condoms.
SB: Someone said that to see us play live inspires him to act and fabricate, as opposed to romanticizing or feeling nostalgic. The live performance communicates something visceral, like a construction site. It can be offensive and hard. Lately, Tristan has been assaulting a little toy-keyboard on stage rather than playing the guitar. I have started recycling my samples, rather than making new ones, so that the sounds get narrower and the idea more incisive. Chris and Siobhan, on bass and drums respectively, also came along with a strong sense of immediacy, and our shows are now more spontaneous and shambolic.
CM: What are your thoughts on the state of music in general in this millennium?
SB: I have a classical formation-- I played the piano at the conservatory for 7 years-- and came to other kinds of music late, skipping the rebellious teenage love-and-emancipation affair that people usually go through with Rock/Pop music. I used to love The Residents, as they represented a critical alternative to Pop-culture to me. Now, that critical/cynical approach seems annoyingly discursive... a little vane and outdated to me. I am less interested in commentary on the silliness of pop-culture brainwashing than in many singular acts that forge their own path of expression and neither criticize nor emulate a trend. I could name some, but one has to find them on one's own; that is what is new and positive now about the "state of music in general" these days. For people who like to search, there are more and more singular acts to be found. For people who like to follow, there are more and more community and attitude-defining niches, targeted with more sophisticated dis! cernment by the industry. Both directions are interesting... the first for its own sake and the second for its social relevance. By the way, Stravinsky was always a great source for samples.
TB: Bands will have just one song. And it will make no sense at all.
CM: What has influenced you historically?
TB: In Camoes' "Lusiadas," he writes about the Escola de Sagres... the school of Portuguese explorers. When they set sail, they thought that they were going to fall off the end of the Earth or be devoured by giant sea monsters. They had no idea of what to expect. And they ended up discovering South America.
CM: Do you work in other mediums besides music? What role or connection does this work have in relation to Flux Information Sciences?
TB: The packaging of our recordings, our flyers and posters and the aesthetic on stage has always been a statement along with, and in some cases prior to, the music. This is a whole extra-musical work in itself.
CM: How did your move from Europe to the U.S affect your music and ideas?
TB: Different places come with different people. I was living in a part of France where things moved slowly. I probably would not have this release on YGR if I were still in Marseilles. The projects I was involved in there, however, were just as ambitious as others anywhere else... with less of an audience. Perhaps the fact there wasn't much of a "scene" propelled me to get in gear, as much out of frustration as anything. This resulted in an intensely varied and ferociously productive part of my life. Everything was so much "smaller" and contained. I could never have bombarded a medieval town with a 1940's iconic image here in America (i.e., the WINNIE WINNIE PROJECT.) There are strong differences between Europe and the US. America is plagued by consumerism and yet is a fascinating country for it. Europe plagued by inefficacy in cultural development relative to the US. However, Europe's lag yields a reflective and analytical fecundity that can't be found anywhere! else. I appreciate them both.
SB: I never thought of myself as having a national identity because I never identified with France. But there was a cultural clash when I came here. Girls are very different in the US. There is a very different awareness here about gender, where girls and guys seem to be part of two different social groups in competition with each other. When I first arrived, it felt like war. Also... here, doors always open to the outside, while in France they open to the inside. And when you play pool, here you have to call your shots... there you don't. There, the service is included; here, it's your responsibility to tip. All these subtleties are deeply rooted and add up to very different mindsets that are difficult to embrace at one glance. I also realized I could not stay in the US just because I wanted to without becoming an "illegal alien," and that gave me another view on how nationalities dictate their interests over people's heads. It feels like such a basic violation of i! ndividual freedom, but you look at the world and you understand that the mess is too frightening to open up the borders. Nobody's ready to even think about it.
TB: Seb is so French.
CM: Service is held as a pretty high standard in America, although fails on many levels. Music and other forms of art and entertainment are probably considered a form of service by some. Explain how Flux Information Sciences interprets this condition. SB: Services have become a prominent force in the most developed countries, and their influence goes way beyond economic importance, as they represent a society's state of mind. When music becomes entertainment for example, it plays the role of a service rather than a creative force. It fills the void. And the society of services tends to trivialize and make banal every aspect of our life.
In advertising, we were mostly attracted to the "generic" kind, such as stock photography, that the service industry typically adopts. In this realm, every situation from our lives and its emotions is appropriated and idealized relative to the excellence of some service, creating a canonical picture of life. It functions as collective dreaming. But the commercial motives of these images and their underlying manipulative functions, when decontextualized, give to the Dream a dramatic dichotomy, between the beautiful and the terrible.
Look in any brochure, catalogue or stock photography book. These are images of "services." They are everybody's image, promoting the ideal. They are anonymous, representing anybody/everybody. They are fictional. There is nothing to interpret because there is nothing there but this idea of EXCELLENCE! - a generic representation of a general state of modern existence. They generate a vision that has no actual manifestation beyond its omnipresence. This is like going to the human zoo. Look! That's it.
All these beautiful people, delighting themselves with each other, all too calm, all too peaceful. All smiling and laughing. This is the power of these pictures: showing humanity, in itself, as an end. These people, in the midst of fun, are a picture of bliss... these pictures, where the ocean pets the sand, when the sun joins the sea, in the trading of day and night... families, couples and friends. Happiness, love and sharing. These pictures are not documents, and they are not art. They are a new genre of image, and a new vision.
We worked with this kind of imagery for several reasons. First, these images are beautiful and strange... powerful. We also found that their generic quality allowed us to reapproriate them, as they appropriated our lives. It was a well-deserved roundabout. They fit our music, which is REALLY idealistic. Our music doesn't try to avoid the trends and the mainstream but distances itself from them as we only aim for the ideal that we need.
CM: Currently, what would you consider to be the most precise description of Flux Information Sciences' concept and ideas?
TB: There is a lot to say about the conceptual gestation of the band, and in comparison we have discussed very little about the current state of Flux Information Sciences. These days, our music as a live band is in the forefront. The performances are about propulsiveness and construction. The conceptual background has been digested and it is now time for action.
CM: What will Flux Information Sciences do next?
TB: Another album, as soon as the right opportunity comes along. And we're gonna be touring in March. Here's our schedule so far:
8th: Youngstown, Nyabinghi Dance Hall
9th: Columbus, High 5
10th: Milwaukee, Cactus Club (w/US MAPLE)
12th: Chicago, Empty Bottle
13th: Knoxville, Pilot Light
15th: Memphis, Hi Tone
17th: Austin SXSW, The Ritz
18th: Denton, Johnny Law (in-store), and RUBBER GLOVES (club)
19th: New Orleans, Circle bar
20th: Tallahassee, Cow Haus
22nd: ATHENS, Caledonia (with The Melted Men)
23rd: Ashville, Vincent's Ear
24th: ATLANTA, The Earl
25th: Chapel Hill, Local 506
27th: Philly, Kyber Pass
April 12th NYC, Brownies