Interview: Mirrors For Psychic Warfare
I’d rather be broke, but free than work for some fucking asshole. I haven’t had a boss in 20 years and I want to keep it that way.
Sanford Parker has been involved in Corrections House, Minsk, Buried at Sea, Two from the Eye, Bloodiest, American Heritage, Circle of Animals, The High Confessions, Nacht Mystium, Twilight, your solo project, producer, mixer, recorder,….and the list goes on. Together with Neurosis’ Scott Kelly, he is also making music with Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, who are currently on tour in Europe. When they played in Antwerp recently our writer Dave Mace caught up with Sanford to talk about making music, playing live, touring and much more.
(((o))): Where do you keep finding the energy?
Sanford: I don’t do anything else actually, you know what I mean. I don’t have any other hobbies than music.
Either playing, writing, recording or producing. I’m having a hard time sitting still. I always have to be doing something. I always have to be moving. It’s like on a vacation, I cannot even relax then. Hell, I even eat standing. I always have these ideas that I want to work on. I love all sorts of music. I’m getting inspired by different bands and genres.
When I hear something cool and I think: “Oh wow! I want try this or maybe add that”. At the moment I’ve got like a 100 of bands in my head that I haven’t been able do yet. Or it’s me and a collaboration with a person or it is just an idea that I get. I start working on it and then it becomes something. There is a lot of stuff that I have done that never became anything. But I have this drive that I just have to be doing something.
(((o))): Like exploring and combining different aspects of genres?
Sanford: Yeah, you see that is the cool thing. Being a producer you get to work with other musicians all the time. I am constantly watching them and picking up on things they do. Picking up what the guitar player does, the way they set up or play.
Then I think: “that is a cool idea. Maybe I take that and put it into something I do”. That is how Circle of Animals started. I was fucking around with bands, taking a four bar loop and keep on looping it in a repetitive way [makes drum loop noises] and then I thought: “this could be a new song”. That is how I did it. I took some drummers where I worked with, started cutting up their songs into loops .Then I would arrange them and make a song of it. So actually the drums for Circles of Animals are all pre-recorded drums that I re-sampled.
(((o))): There is such a wide spectrum of projects where you are involved in, that hasn’t been done before.
Sanford: See that is the thing. I am a fan of everything and doing the same thing over and over again doesn’t interest me. I am always looking for new stuff to do.
(((o))): Is that your life’s philosophy?
Sanford: Pretty much yeah. I am happier when I’m creating something. Pushing myself, putting myself in unfamiliar situations and then force myself through it.
(((o))): I think your solo project is a perfect example.
Sanford: Yeah, the solo thing is cool because I can do anything I want. There are no limits or boundaries. I wanted to create a project based on hip hop rhythms, but all the other noises were industrial based.
(((o))): I also felt a certain Godflesh, early Scorn vibe on the track ‘Your Feral Blood’, which is on your solo album. Are they influences?
Sanford: Oh yeah, Mick Harris is a big influence for a very long time. I am also a big fan of Kevin Martin, Adrian Sherwood, people like that are my main influence for the solo record.
(((o))): Are you also into techno?
Sanford: No, not so much. I have been to the parties, but that is not my scene. I am more into down tempo hip hop, dub and also some dubstep is involved. I am not so much into the typical 4/4 stuff. But with Corrections House you can definitely hear techno influences, only not during the whole song.
(((o))): How does your overall creative process work?
Sanford: It all starts with an idea in my head.
With Mirrors for Psychic Warfare it went different. See, normally Mirrors was only a Scott project. When we were on a Corrections House tour he was working on some of the tracks during downtime. It got too big for him to do it all by himself. So he asked me to get involved. He basically send me all the tracks he had to that point and I took it from there. Pretty much he sent me the base and the arrangements of the tracks. Those were all his work. That makes Mirrors different than all the other projects I am involved in. Now getting forward with Mirrors it’s more of a 50/50 collaboration. We are working on some new tracks and hopefully by the end of the year I will finish the new album. Having only two people involved makes the whole process a lot easier. We just have to fit it into our schedules.
(((o))): How did you find each other, got together and started? Musical chemistry?
Sanford: I started because of a mutual friend. The other guitar player of Buried at Sea lived with Scott at the time (late 80’s, early 90’s). The first time I talked to him was 2002 I think. When a buddy of mine ran a magazine and wanted me to interview Neurosis. It would be an interview with Scott or Steve. I have only done 2 interviews in my life. The first one was with Scott and the second one with Justin K. Broadrick. I told him that I was in a band with Jason and shortly after that we first met when they were recording in Chicago. A few years later we started to meet more often and then the Corrections House thing started.
(((o))): So there was a certain musical chemistry?
Sanford: Yeah totally man. Musically we are so on the same page. It’s insane. When I say let’s do this, he says great! We share the same ideas. It’s perfect.
(((o))): What would be a collaboration you would like to do in the future?
Sanford: Well Justin Broadrick and I are talking about making something early industrial. (Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle). The problem is getting together and drop all the other things that you are doing is difficult. But yeah, that would be something I look for. I got to work with, Alex Hacke from Einsturzende Neubauten and I would love to work with cEvin Key of Skinny Puppy. That would be a fucking dream.
(((o))): What are you experiencing/feeling when you are on stage with Mirrors for Psychic Warfare?
Sanford: I just kinda trance out. I just go with the repetitiveness and the drones. There is not going on in my head at that moment [laughs]. Which is nice because it’s the only time there’s no activity in my head. That is a moment where my brain can take a break.
(((o))): A question for the gear heads. What kind of gear do you use on stage with Mirrors?
Sanford: I always use the same gear. It’s all based around Ableton. In most of the projects I use the same gear. Sometimes I add a synth or a few synths or another sound source. But all the rhythms are programmed in Ableton. Mirrors and Corrections are different from others since there is a song structure. With my solo project there is the a basic structure that is on the record. When I have a live performance with my solo thing live I remix that basic structure on the fly. It will sound different every time I play it. Which is cool because I can change the set according to my current mood and the audience.
Eventually my idea is to have 3 different sets that I can choose from. A chill set, a hard set and something in the middle. So I can vibe off the crowd or what I am feeling at the time and change my set on the spot. I will have more variations and take it to more and different venues. I’ve been playing this set a lot and when I get home I will make sure there will be more variations possible. I’m already working on 6 or 7 new tracks and I am hoping to finish my new solo record by the end of this year.
(((o))): It’s like you said, you cannot sit still.
Sanford: [Laughs] No, I really can’t. It’s impossible.
(((o))): You already mentioned working on a new Mirrors for Psychic Warfare album. Will we hear a new track tonight?
Sanford: Yeah we are going to play a rough sketch of one of the new tracks tonight. We had an idea and we put it in the set tonight, but if will sound different every night.
(((o))): What are the things in life that make you happy?
Sanford: I get that asked a lot. Recently I had an email interview and that question also popped up. I understand why it’s been asked, but I never think about it. That thought never enters my mind. Also the question: “how do you feel after the release of an album?” We just make the music for ourselves. Something that we like. I don’t think about what others think or like. If they dig it: RAD! If they don’t, I totally understand. Mirrors for example is hard to swallow. It is challenging. It’s not something for everyone. We make the music we like and we don’t let opinions influence that.
With Corrections it was the same. Not once one of the four of us ever said: “hey, let’s make it sound like this.” No, we were just four guys getting together and formed a band. The music just came out of it. There is a natural flow. I’ll try this.. hey cool, I will do this… wow that sounds fucking weird and we liked it. It all started coming together and fell into place.
That is also sort of how all my projects end up going. I get an idea and I go with that. The song will write itself. Once you start rolling the ball, the song will take it where the song wants to go. In my solo project it starts with having an idea that I take from there. In the end it might sound totally different, which is fine. In that case, it’s the way it was meant to be.
(((o))): Can you force yourself to go into the studio and start composing? Or do you have to be in a certain zone for that? Caught by a vibe?
Sanford: Ideally I would like to be caught by a certain mood. But that is not always the way it goes down. Sometimes I only have 3 days in between 2 albums that I’m working on, so I have to get something done. On moments like that I have to force myself which is a completely other way of writing. It’s interesting and it is just as effective, but it’s weird. It is hard.
(((o))): What do you value most in life?
Sanford: Freedom…. to do whatever I want. No bosses. Nobody telling me what to do. I’d rather be broke, but free than work for some fucking asshole. I haven’t had a boss in 20 years and I want to keep it that way.
(((o))): What are the most precious gigs you’ve played?
Sanford: Every time I play at Roadburn! It’s amazing. Hell I would love to play there every year if they would let me. I think I have played Roadburn 5 times with four bands in 6 different shows.
(((o))): How is the tour going so far?
Sanford: Great! This is our fourth night over here. Touring over here is so different than in the States. Europeans appreciate music on a whole different level you know. The venues treat us way better than in the US. We always get to do a soundcheck. We get a place to stay after a gig. We are getting great food and people are taking good care of us. In the US we’re happy if they serve food… and if we get it with a discount. Complete different story in Europe. In the US you are on your own. You just show up and if you are lucky, you will get a soundcheck.
(((o))): So touring in the US is an investment for you?
Sanford: It is! Over here we could rent a van, book a flight and everything and still make some money out of it. But not in the US. On this tour of, I think 23 days, we have 2 days off. One of those days is a 10 hour drive day, so you can imagine that this will be a hard day for me. Sitting still all day long… being forced to be in a passive mode. That’s also the part I hate of touring. I can’t work on music and shit like that. Just staring at the window and trying to sleep. Sitting and waiting. I hate that.
(((o))): Luckily you can release that internal beast of boiling energy on stage the evening after that long drive.
Sanford: That is the thing that makes it all worth. That 1 hour, 1.5 hour on stage is the reason why I do it.
(((o))): Will we hear some of your vocals on the new upcoming album?
Sanford: Maybe. They don’t really sound like vocals, but we have some recordings.
(((o))): Where are the Mirrors for Psychic Warfare lyrics based on?
Sanford: The idea of MK Ultra (the government’s mind control project), experimenting on animals… that’s all started it. I didn’t stick with it. But most of the lyrics are based on that.
(((o))): So the lyrics are actually based on the name of the band: Mirrors for Psychic Warfare?
Sanford: Yeah [laughs]. They basically are.
(((o))): You’ve mentioned experimenting on animals as a lyrical theme. Do you have a favorite animal?
Sanford: Well, I love my dog and I think owls are fucking awesome. They’re rad. One of the species has eyes that look like a galaxy. That one is the shit!
(((o))): Thank you so much for helping me losing interview virginity since you were my first one.
Sanford: [laughs] I know how you feel. I did my first one with Scott and I was nervous as fuck. Thank you for this face to face interview. I never liked email interviews. I always question my reactions and then delete my responses and type them over again. It doesn’t read very well so I really prefer this set up. Thanks for this man.
Short live review of their show at Het Bos in Antwerp:
If the album speaks to you, you really have to see them live. There are no words to describe how intense a show of Mirrors for Psychic Warfare is. You just have to feel and experience it.
My heart was still pumping like crazy from excitement of the interview and at some points during the show I even thought I would get a heart attack. The bass was so low. Cutting its way through everything. I felt my shirt and pants shake to the rhythm of the repetitive drones and drum sounds.
Over and over again. Layer on layer working its way to a certain climax. You could feel it coming. You could tell when hell would break loose as soon as Scott turned his back to the audience and headed towards his amp to create feedback.
Strobes started kicking in. If there were epileptic people in that venue… We could have spotted them on the floor.
Job well done Sanford and Scott. Thank you for this experience.
Photography credits go to Koen de Gussem.