“Making music, I guess like making anything, contributes something to your world and I’d like to think this is making my world better.” – Ian Maleney talks labels, touring and positivity with Eric Copeland of Black Dice.
Black Dice are one of the longest-running and most well respected groups to have come out of the Brooklyn noise scene around the turn of the millennium. Counting the likes of Animal Collective and Battles as close peers, the group (now consisting of brothers Bjorn and Eric Copeland and Aaran Warren) have wandered all over the sonic map in their sixteen years together, from the harshest of post-hardcore noise to almost ambient explorations to twisted and quirky electronics. On their new album, Mr. Impossible, the three piece continue apace on their journey to the heart of weird. It’s a typically idiosyncratic effort from a group of guys that have long avoided any kind of categorization.
I guess tell us about the new album. What kind of ideas were you thinking about when making it? Where’d the title come from? Mr. Impossible is the new record. I think we were trying to work a little less broad, maybe make something a little tighter, easier, dumber in some ways. At this point in Black Dice we knew what was in the future for the record: tours, vids, local gigs, so we also needed a portable, versatile set. Nobody wanted to be weighted down at this point. The title came early, obviously with a smile.
Around the time of Repo, you talked a little about positivity and working to feel good. Is that still the way things are? Things probably haven’t improved a whole lot socially since Repo appeared and Mr. Impossible is a pretty fun album to listen to, was it fun to make? Positivity, hmmm. I think it was more escapism with Repo, as shit wasn’t great in Dice camp at that point. Shit’s not much different now, better, but I think Mr. Impossible serves a similar purpose, for us at least. Making music, I guess like making anything, contributes something to your world and I’d like to think this is making my world better. I hope. And to answer your question, yeah, it was a fun record to make; long in writing and fast to record.
You’re doing your own screen-printed editions of the record, how did that come about? It’s kind of strange (but really cool) to see a band with distribution and reputation like yourselves doing that. Ribbon Music wanted us to make some edition thing. We were opposed to it as we feel it contributes something “not good” to the music world (greed, snobbery…). The only way we could get around our feelings was to do the work and not feel like we too were paying for something unique. Maybe it doesn’t bypass the problem and we all suffer from a martyr-complex but they look good. And we screen a lot of our own stuff, mostly shirts and books.
What’s it been like working on Ribbon Music? You’ve worked with a lot of labels in the past so how important is that relationship between artist and label to you at this stage in your lives? It’s good. My own opinion is one of distrust with “the game” (so to call it), so I imagine I am harder to work with than they are. But I can’t always ignore my 16 years in Dice and the experiences that have come with it. Something I just don’t believe in the machine or how Dice roll in it but they have been respectful and are doing a real good job I think.
How is touring for you these days? Is it important to you still to find new places to play and new environments to play in? Do you still play basement shows and things like that? Dice haven’t toured for almost three years I think. I have toured by myself a number of times in that period and feel like shit’s done changed out there in the States. Younger kids, weirder venues, more fucked aesthetics… We like to play strange venues, get a little more loose, but clubs are good too. Our last gig was here in Brooklyn at a Chinese restaurant and early next month we are playing a blue-collar cafeteria/deli in Brooklyn. So yeah, I guess it depends on the city and what’s available. And what’s best, you know what I mean? Like, here in Brooklyn, it doesn’t make sense to only play clubs; most of our audience wouldn’t want to go to something like that. But maybe in Tuscon, that’s the only option right now. It’s always feeling it out, seeing what works for us and what we can work with.
The scene you guys originally kind of came out of doesn’t really seem to exist in the same way anymore. Do you think it’s easier or more difficult (or both) for new, weird bands starting out now? I don’t know if you saw the AIDSwolf breakup statement, but that paints a pretty bleak picture so how is it for you now and what kind of challenges face younger bands who want to do similar things? I think there’s been a lot of groundwork laid for “new weird bands” so I would imagine it’s easier to start, play, release and tour. And there is an easier-access-network online to make connections and feel your way across the country. I’d never read the AIDSwolf statement so I checked it out. I can not criticize the way they feel and I’ve shared those feelings at times, mostly out of frustration. But I don’t feel like I started or have continued making music to “make it”. It’s always been somewhat in opposition to popular trends and that’s been part of the M.O. the whole time. So I don’t know, if you want to “make it” with challenging ideas, best of fucking luck to you! There’s probably no easier time than right now but if you’re continually changing and developing what you do, then maybe you just have lower expectations? I don’t know. For us, we’ve always been pretty far on the fringe so any accomplishment has felt pretty well earned.