The Exchange is a periodic in-depth look at the artistic motivations of musicians and collectives. We try to approach this from a more cultural and societal perspective, aside from the necessary musical one, because we cannot deny the influence of modern age bringing ideas from all over the world which broaden our horizons. It is a fact that we can learn a lot from movements that are foreign to us.
J. Carter, New York
USA and underground electronic music niches. Two things that go hand in hand, of which I have become fully aware of only when meeting and conversing with Divorce Ring (Kelby Clark), a very good friend of J. Carter (Jeremiah Carter) during his solo tour in the EU. It’s not hard to imagine a vast array of flavors in noise and ambient in a country composed of 50 states, together roughly as big as whole continent of Europe. Hailing from Tennessee, where the scene is formed and dictated by the close bonds of friendship and brotherhood, Jeremiah more recently took the plunge and moved to New York.
We can connect this step away from the tight bonds forged in the South to his more recent output (for example on Male Activity, a Canadian label) and his plans to tour the EU together with his friend Kelby, presenting a specially designed live performance sparked from a field recording piece they did together over a year ago. In this Exchange, we speak to Jeremiah about spreading your wings, the importance of friendship and love in the act of creation, curious cases of touring the US, and future plans.
Z – Hi Jeremiah, thanks for this Exchange. As already sketched, there has been a lot going on in terms of movement, from place to place, but also on personal levels surely. What was the drive to move away? What bonds will you keep on revisiting, even when physically in New York?
I’ve always had a childish fascination with New York City. I think it’s my innate craving for a community and in NYC community becomes easily available simply through proximity. Even when you are just enjoying a book on the train to work, or through the idiosyncrasies you create by going to the same corner store every day, there is a presence. NYC also has a history, a much different history than the south, but one I felt was worth exploring. But, to be a bit more specific, I lived in Nashville, TN (aside from a short jaunt in Buenos Aires) for 25 years. Thus, a change in scenery became necessary. Through that, there are friendships and a sense of familiarity and freedom what will be difficult to achieve anytime soon. Nevertheless, I felt it would be unhealthy for me to continue down that path of evading the unknown in hopes of bettering myself. We’re led to believe that being comfortable leads to happiness but it seems to me that that only works in favor of your boss, politicians, and other institutional powers. Being comfortable is nothing more than a semblance of financial stability—a suspension of the precariousness of living in a society ruled by capital.
If anything my ties to the south have only grown stronger since moving to the Northeast. At first, I felt a sense of loss and really dove into some music that while growing up in the south seemed cliche. You grow up thinking that rebellion is a rebellion against country music (because of its pervasiveness), or, most recently, you are surrounded by people from LA via Ohio or wherever else that moved to Nashville create a dry and emotionless “Americana” and cosplay as cowboys. I was guilty of a contrarian attitude that I have never been fond of towards this and it led to me ignore folk, country, and the like for a long time.
When I was younger 80’s hardcore punk and early black metal were the first “genres” (or, to be precise, the history of their scenes) to take me by storm. Then for me, it was hip hop that changed my trajectory for a bit. (I mean this as someone who was viewing a scene from a historical perspective—the height of those scenes had been over for many years). Consistently these various scenes realigned what I thought was possible in music while simultaneously exploring a certain realism that I’ve always felt an affinity to. But recently I’ve been spending a lot of time with Emmylou Harris, Guy Clark, Waylon Jennings—as well as others from that epoch—and you begin to realize that the sentiment, the emotion, the spirituality that these artist present isn’t so different from elements of early black metal, but even closer to hardcore punk from the ’80s and hip hop from the ’90s. More so though, despite my own personal history, something I will always revisit in my mind is the freedom an underground scene in the south can have precisely because they can be so isolated. Or just that other scenes in “big cities” seem irrelevant to those who dwell in the south. Comparing a noise scene in Johnson City to a noise scene in NYC is nearly impossible, and the power of the former and the weakness of the latter resides in this fact.
Z – Going a bit into detail on the topic of ‘movement’, I can see that you incorporate wordplay, physical movement, and various takes on bodily/emotional limits in your audio/visual work. Could you elaborate a bit on your fascination with this field of tension?
As mentioned above there is a realism I’m interested in. Physical movements are something I experience every day and lead to a topology of emotions. When I began to use my own given name for my musical output it was an attempt to explore these personal spaces rather than creating projects based on “concepts” external to me. This isn’t to say that each of my albums isn’t “conceptual.”
It’s important to me to maintain a narrative. Perhaps it’s just a lack of imagination—but I find it difficult to create a coherent narrative based on external input. To explore everyday life, and the emotions it elicits, is to explore the subjectivity of living life. Especially in a world where tomorrow isn’t a guarantee, it seems to me that to explore themes of the life of a serial killer or a fetishism one doesn’t even partake in, or a fascism that today seems so normal, lacks urgency. My hand pressed against my lovers’ back, a long embrace from a new friend, the scent of food, skin collapsing into another, fucking, a neighbor singing, the way two dogs amidst a friendship grip onto each other’s necks, and the sensations of the aforementioned are much more inspiring to me than a life I couldn’t live and have no part in. And to think that only in the extreme one could be exciting is to ignore the history of extremism.
Furthermore, to be blind to the extreme in the everyday, to chase sensationalist journalism, to only see moments of autonomy or excitement in things one has never, and has no intention of, experiencing is to ignore a realistic extremism—the fact that perhaps minimalism is extreme, to see a tomorrow is extreme, to simply, within the context of capitalism, refuse to live a life under the rule of economy and live the life of unfettered desire, is extreme. For example, there is nothing extreme about fascism anymore. It is only the art of contemporary life. Living within each of us is fascism. “…not only historical fascism, the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini—which was able to mobilize and use the desire of the masses so effectively—but also the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.” What makes that worth exploring? There is a guilt embedded in extremism. I do not feel guilty for living life.
Z – Could you shed some light on your past activities while in Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida? Which musical collaborations have been seminal? How have the mentioned notions of brotherhood, friendship, and love seeped into your compositions?
This is a complex and long story and one I don’t skim over too quickly. I say long, but in actuality it happened over a 2-3 year period. So just complex…
Although Kelby Clark (Divorce Ring) is from Georgia, we actually met at a fest called Leaky Sockets in Chattanooga, TN curated by Jerry Reed. There, after watching each other’s sets, we felt a connection. There was a moment, despite the chaos and profane tropes that filled the room, that we were one. We kept in contact and then decided to do a split which then led to a tour. Through touring with Kelby I got acquainted with Florida. Where Kelby was living at the time was close to the border of Florida and he has always played a lot of shows down there.
Through playing shows in Florida I met Matthew Moyer who curates the label Popnihil and has a very extensive catalog and is an endlessly supportive and erudite friend. After a set I played in Orlando he asked to release a live tape of mine. Luckily Kelby and I had been recording each other’s sets on that tour and that’s what became my “Live in Chicago” release on Popnihil. All of this culminated into me playing the International Noise Conference in Miami founded by Rat Bastard and meeting Sarah Valdez.
At INC (and its northeastern counterpart Savage Weekend curated by Ryan Martin who also does the project Secret Boyfriend) you have a strong sense of community that is both historical and progressive (progressive primarily in the sense that it continues to develop and welcomes the ebbs and flows of artistic scenes and communities). These scenes, which are truly just an extension of or stronghold for the many scenes I’m proud to be involved with along the eastern coast of the United States, have played a role in the burgeoning of not only my own compositions but countless others.
Prior to all of this, I was using a moniker. So perhaps prior to meeting Kelby my compositions were focused on the search for friendship which often times leads to love. Meeting Sarah was when that search ended—or the breathe of a new life began—and love became the focal point of my compositions. Composition is completely focused on this non-binary movement, a tension that attacks from all sides and thus defends asymmetrically. A composition is not only constructed but also deconstructed. In this sense, wordplay is drawn in again. Composition is the way one flirts, the way one lays with a lover, an uneasy sleep, or the way smoke collapses onto a table in a smoke-filled room. And, alternatively, the way one evades an enemy, surrounds them, or ignores them. The way Deleuze is famously known for claiming that concepts are like bricks. Wind, a kiss, a wave towards a friend: all of this affects future movements and tones, attitudes and conversations. Or, for example, the way a track can use stereo to create a dialogue.
Z – And, what tour memory are you the most fond of? Have you interacted a lot with local music communities while touring and what experiences have you drawn from these exchanges?
Tour led to everything aforementioned. But to be concise, it led to challenging myself in ways I would never have imagined. My sonic work saw its first live incarnation as almost “anti-performative.” I preferred to play with all the available lights off in whatever space I was in hopes of immersing the audience into a purely sonic atmosphere. One that would allow everyone’s own subjective experience run wild. But my work began to create an environment rather than allowing space for one and I felt that was worth excavating. That is where on a tour Kelby and I found ourselves in a similar mindset and wanting to explore more performative aspects of our music. We encouraged and pushed each other to accomplish our goals and that specific tour became more and more intense and also comfortable as it progressed. For me that tour was a precious experience.
Beyond that though, a major part of tour for me is meeting new people and trying to learn as much as you can about the scene that you have either admired from afar and are now a part of, or learning and creating friendship within a completely new scene that you never expected to stumble across. There are also countless moments during tours that I hold dear and that helped create the trajectory of my life—but those are only for me and those involved.
Z – Preparing yourself for the EU tour starting March 2019, how do you find the new environment of New York influencing you? How does this repositioning affect transnational alliances with labels like Vaagner and Audio.Visuals.Atmosphere?
In a logistical way it’s much easier to tour the EU from NYC and I’ve met many more people here that have toured the EU before so it’s easier to get advice. But had it not been for Kelby pioneering and touring the EU last year, it would have been more difficult to connect with the various “ambient” scenes that are established there. It seems to me that there is something unprecedented happening—probably partially due to the internet age as well as a nearly ineffable exigency—that has led to like-minded artists connecting and exploring a plethora of mediums that touch on similar thematics. Through this I have come in to contact with labels such as Vaagner, Holy Geometry, AVA, Vienna Press, Male Activity, and Perfect Aesthetics. Although I’m not sure my new home in Brooklyn has much to do with those connections and was likely something inevitable despite our locations. Communities, scenes, movements, etc., tend to find each other like one finds truth. It’s insurrectionary and then either dies or blooms.
Z – Aside from the tour, could you elaborate a bit on your future plans for 2019?
Around the same time as tour I’ll be releasing an EP tape with Holy Geometry, a full-length tape with Vakner (Vaagner’s sister label that releases cassettes) and a split tape with Divorce Ring that will only be available in the EU. Further into the year I hope to begin working on a release for Perfect Aesthetics as well as Plush Organics. Vienna Press will also be re-releasing Sarah and I’s “Letters of Affection” EP from “The White Madonna” compilation with some additional tracks. We’ll also be slowly working on a release for Purple Tape Pedigree based out of NYC. I also just finished the album artwork for Dis Fig’s new release “Purge” and have a few other visual endeavors I hope to be able to announce soon. Beyond that I hope to prepare to garden this spring, take Sarah and I’s dogs on longer walks, and make more time for cooking at home.