Thursday, February 12, 2009

Band Interview: Mass Games

Joseph Weber is creating catchy electro pop under the moniker Mass Games (MG). He introduced himself to us a few days ago, and then sat down to answer some of my questions:

f/k: So I'm under the impression that you're in Thailand, but you're MySpace says you're in New York. Where in the world is Joe Weber?

MG: I am really in Thailand! I've been living in northern Thailand (up near Myanmar and Laos) for about a year now. I didn't want to be part of the "MySpace Thailand" feature so just thought it would be easier to say 'Brooklyn' for listing purposes. I lived there for a long
time, maybe it's my "real home"? I do not know.

f/k: How is the Thailand music scene in relation to the one in the U.S?

MG: Well, there isn't really a legit music scene at all! Maybe in Bangkok it's a little different, where an "international" DJ will make their way to one of the cheesy clubs. But in northern Thailand, you'll see a lot of reggae bands, cover bands playing The Cranberries 'Zombie', and awful imitations of USA "rock music." I've heard some more traditional Thai music though, and that sounds really cool - especially the hissy old vinyl recordings.

I must say the band names here are incredible. There's a band called Big Ass, another called Calories Blah Blah, and then there's Potato! I am not joking. BIG ASS, CALORIES BLAH BLAH, and POTATO - and I'm pretty sure they sing love ballads...

f/k: You say you're music has "samples pulled from learn-to-speak-English tapes." What gave you that idea? Are the tapes any good?

MG: I came across the learn-to-speak English stuff through teaching. Each textbook will have an audio tape/cd that accompanies it. It's so incredibly hilarious to hear someone say "I like dance music. Do you like dance music?" completely out of context. Reminds me of my old Spanish classes. "Donde esta la discotech?" Like c'mon! Each textbook has a certain idea of what "children" are, and it's funny to hear those audio projections, and then put them in a very unintended context. I've been surprised at how creepy it can turn out.

f/k: If I'm not mistaken, the Mass Games are performed these days in North Korea. Knowing that they're a communist state, what made you pick that as a name?

MG: North Korea's Mass Games are incredible, a really insane spectacle. Being in Asia, I just became more aware of the history of the countries close by. The Mass Games performance is very human but also mechanical and robotic, beautiful but essentially evil in my opinion. It's like the essence of electronic music. In a musical context, the name "Mass Games" is very appealing and strange. The idea of a "game" - what is game? Aren't all games "mass" games??? It's a loaded set of words, and I was definitely attracted to the different levels of meaning. There's music in the words.

f/k: What kind of equipment are you using and/or what software on the computer?

MG: I use a combo of reason and logic, and also the software programs Reason and Logic :) I tried Ableton for a while...but then I stopped. At one point I had a whole 'mini studio' of actual
instruments. But my setup now is just so much more economical and sleek!

f/k: You say an album is in the works. Any idea when it'll be ready?

MG: Well I have a lot of bits and pieces at the moment, and there's gonna be vocals too. I have the picture in my head, but I'm still waiting to see what takes shape. Everything is crazy in my life right now... It's going to be an ugly album... I really like what Of Montreal did on 'Skeletal Lamping', sort of an extension of 'Alien Lanes' but in a very different way. I don't feel a need to make "dance floor" or DJ-ready music anymore, or have a song be a certain length or anything. So it'll be interesting!

f/k: As a big fan of Mr. Oizo, I was delighted to see that you listed him at the top of your influences. However, as a huge fan of Radiohead, I was also a little saddened to see you list them as your "nolikes." Not a fan of Yorke and the gang?

MG: Yeah I love Mr. Oizo! Just kinda happy that he exists and there's an audience for his stuff. When 'Moustache (Half a Scissor)' came out on Mute, I don't remember people saying much about it... it was a crazy album, one without any 'hits' or "Uffie appearances." Maybe not a USA kinda thing? I guess his people are in Europe?? I don't know, all I know is that he is the best.

The Radiohead nolikes is sort of a joke. When you're trying to spread the word about your band, and no one knows about it - you have to say what your 'influences' are or say things like "for fans of....blah blah blah"... just stupid stuff. So I think it's funny to have a whole list of influences and just one band you just don't like. I really tried listening to T. Yorke! When I play one of his tracks on my iPod, I just start thinking about other stuff I should be doing, like watching "Spanglish" or something.

f/k: Are there any lesser known bands that you think should be getting more attention?

MG: A1 Bassline!!! (A1 Bassline MySpace) Also, my friend sent me this link to a singer-songwriter called Huey Lewis. He's gotten some blog buzz recently. I've been listening to his jam about wanting new drugs. Not sure if it's a remix but I'm really digging the 80's vibe. Oh, and The Hipster Runoffs! (Hipster Runoff MySpace) I think they've signed up to score "Slumdog Millionaire 2: Back to Bombay" starring Adult.'s Nicola Kuperis in a Mickey Rourke-style comeback performance. My Hollywood source also tells me Alice Glass is considering playing "the Indian boy," although it's not confirmed....yet.

f/k: Finally, you have to eat a steak with either just a fork, or just a knife. Which one do you pick and why?

MG: Knife, man! I could more easily stab the steak and then turn it upside down and pretend it's a lollipop, corn dog, or rainbow cotton candy.

Mass Games- What's Your Favorite Music?
MG: I made this song relatively quickly, after one of the worst weekends in my life. It just sort of popped out, like it was hiding somewhere just waiting to come out. It's pretty rudimentary compared to other songs I've made. The accusatory sample "What's Your Favorite Music?" reminds me of the BBC reporter in "I'm Not There", kinda the distorted echo of the music critic, the interpreter.

Go check out Joe on the Mass Games MySpace page here.

Purchase his EP from Insound here.

Thanks Joe. And everyone keep an eye out for his full length effort.


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