Listgeeks Feature #11 – Bruno Pronsato

Steven Ford (aka Bruno Pronsato) is a post-punk inspired techno artist who has been releasing electronic music on various labels ever since his 12″ debut, “Read Me/Silver City,” in 2003.  Originally from Texas, Pronsato spent several years in Seattle before moving to Berlin in 2006 to concentrate on playing music full time.  He has since crafted some of techno’s most imaginative and intriguing releases, continuously raising the bar as both a prolific producer and a restless live performer.  Apart from his own releases, Pronsato also worked on various side projects, cooperating with Daze Maxim as Others, Sammy Dee as Half Hawaii, Ninca Leece as Public Lover, Sergio Giorgini as NDF and performing alongside the likes of Ricardo Villalobos and Perlon boss Zip (in their laptop super-group, Narod Nikki).  In May 2011, Pronsato finally released his long-awaited third album “Lovers Do” on his own label, thesongsays. We’re happy he found the time to answer a few questions for us.  After you read the below, be sure to check out his lists.

Listgeeks: One thing I always enjoy about your music is that things tend to be just a little bit “off.”  Can you relate to that in any way?

Bruno Pronsato: I think working in techno/house (or whatever form of dance music you call your own), you’re pretty limited as far as looseness is concerned.  Mainly, the object is to make people dance, and to make that happen easily you need to make your tracks “tight,” so that the DJ doesn’t have a difficult time mixing your track with the others.  I have never really subscribed to that idea – I’ve always put a bit more importance in making what I make musical – at whatever expense.  Being a drummer, a lot of the fun in creativity is making rhythms a tad different than the expected.  A skipped beat here, a slightly misplaced snare there – coming from a rock background I’m not so tied to the idea of completely making things easy for a DJ.

Bruno Pronsato – “Trio Out”

LG: Before you started releasing electronic music as Bruno Pronsato you actually played drums in a number of punk/hardcore bands and were strongly influenced by experimental indie music.  Would you say you still draw inspiration from your musical past?  What other sources of musical inspiration influence your sound these days?

BP:  I still visit my punk roots, though it is a bit difficult to get into some of the hardcore I once enjoyed –  I guess I’m just not that angry anymore.  I still very much enjoy the more no wave/experimental stuff (if you can call it that) Gang of Four, DNA, James Chance, etc., and of course the sounds of My Bloody Valentine and the noisier side of 90s rock.  These days, though, I’m listening to a lot of classical stuff – I’ve been really into listening to these gigantic arrangements and focusing on themes more than straight four bar melodies –  I would like to get to a place like that some day.

LG: How would you say moving from the U.S. to Berlin has affected the way you work?

BP:  Well, I think having such a huge amount of support from the European side (in general) has done a lot to advance whatever musical vision I might be chasing –  Berlin has such a gigantic support system.  I guess I have felt more of an ability to experiment.  When you are in the U.S. making this music, you tend to look at what is ‘hype’ to sort of make out the direction of club culture, and that’s not really a good thing.  Berlin is sort of it’s own world, and in many ways, the world now sort of looks to Berlin for the direction of club music (or it used to).

Bruno Pronsato – “Winter Music for Summer”

LG: It seems like the human voice (not singing necessarily) has grown to be a key element of your signature palette. Would you agree?  How would you describe your use of the human voice in your music?

BP:  I would definitely agree.  I think I am trying to use the voice more as an element to slip in between spaces: fragments of words, breaths and on occasion full words and maybe a note or two…when I’m feeling really adventurous.

LG: You have worked with a number of different labels in the past (Telegraph, Hello? Repeat, Orac, Philpot, Perlon, DFA among others) – what led you to decide to start your own label, thesongsays? From all I’ve heard I thought record labels are dying?

BP:  Well, labels are dead.  I mean, if you have a label these days it’s a labor of love for sure.  My main reason for starting the label was because of a track I did in 2009.  It was almost 40 minutes long (divided into 7 parts) and I just knew that there was not a label around that would bother with such a thing.  In fact, I didn’t even ask any of the people I knew running a label to release it.  It was pretty much right at the moment where vinyl sales went absolutely awful – and they were already pretty nonexistent.  This was almost extinct style.  So, I spoke to my friends at wordandsound and they were like, “sure.”  Well, I was shocked…but we did it and it went as well as we could hope for such a track.

LG: Apart from your most recent album, “Lovers Do,” which only just came out, what other projects do you have in the pipeline?

BP:  Well, actually I just finished an album with my girlfriend Ninca Leece under our Public Lover moniker.  We’re gonna spend the summer working on getting that some exposure and getting it out in November some time.  Also, I am working with Sammy Dee on our Half Hawaii project this summer – hopefully getting something together for a December release.  Bruno’s sort of on hold aside from live shows – maybe that’s a good thing…

Bruno Pronsato on Listgeeks
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Listgeeks Feature #10 – Kathleen Hanna

Kathleen Hanna is an influential NYC-based musician, writer, and activist. Both through her work in the bands Le Tigre and Bikini Kill, and as a vital voice in the punk/DIY-infused Riot Grrl movement in the early/mid-90s, Kathleen has played an important role in shaping a feminist dialogue that continues to inspire, empower and educate. Last year she donated much of her archive, including a significant portion of her own personal writing/journals/zines, to the Fales Collection (housed at New York University’s Bobst Library), for a collection they’re curating which chronicles the Riot Grrrl movement.  At the moment, Kathleen and her new band, The Julie Ruin, are recording a full-length album (they hope to release a 12″ in August) and Oscilloscope Laboratories has just released the DVD “Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre On Tour,” which chronicles Le Tigre’s 2004/2005 international tour. We’re really happy that Kathleen agreed to answer some questions from Derick Rhodes, one of the Listgeeks co-founders (and a huge fan of her work).  After you read through the below, be sure to check out her lists!

Derick Rhodes/Listgeeks: I’ve been thinking about the impact of your work, and concepts like “nostalgia” and “legacy,” and I wonder if, for you, it feels like the issues you and others were addressing have changed significantly, or if you feel we’re still dealing with the same fundamental problems/tensions?  In the recent NYTimes piece, there’s a sense of looking back on the riot grrrl days almost as if a set of conclusions were reached collectively, somehow, but it also feels like the work resonates today as much as it did at the time, and that there’s still such a long way to go.

Kathleen Hanna: I think RG stuff IS really resonating for girls/women today in a way it didn’t five years ago. I am guessing it has something to do with kidz being into “the 90’s” and that opening up the Riot Grrrl door to a new audience. I am happy when people get interested in feminism however that happens, nostalgia style or whatever. I am most excited about these girls who’ve been doing this project called International Girl Gang Underground because they are trying to use RG stuff as a platform to build something new for their generation that is smarter and better than what we did, rather than just fetishizing our clothes or our records. I do feel like things have changed, especially when I go to shows and it seems normal to see women on stage and in the audience.


Bikini Kill – “Rebel Girl”

DR/LG: As a father to two young girls, I spend a lot of time thinking about their exposure to different models/potential sources of inspiration.  I feel like they experience a broad range of positive female influences, from all-girl teen pop/punk bands like Care Bears on Fire to compelling, DIY artists like Robyn and Khaela Maricich (The Blow), but at the same time they’re also clearly drawn to more manufactured pop music/singers (Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, etc.).  It’s a little disorienting at times, because I want to both support their interests/expose them to a wide range of things and encourage them toward things that feel more healthy (especially in terms of body image/sexuality) at the same time.  I realize you’re not an advice columnist, but . . . any thoughts?

KH:  I played with Barbies till I was 15 and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. What damaged me most was not being able to tell the adults in my life the creepy shit that neighborhood boys/older men did and said to me. I think the important thing is having your kids trust you and want to tell you when they are happy/angry/upset because they know you are interested in what happens in their lives, the good, the bad and the ugly. To me having good communication with them is way more important than what music they listen to. I mean if they like Katy Perry that’s what they like, it doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. But I played with Barbies till I was 15 so do you really want to listen to me?

Le Tigre

DR/LG: Oscilloscope Laboratories released “Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre On Tour” (directed by Kerthy Fix), which chronicles Le Tigre’s 2004/2005 international tour just last week, and at the moment you’re making your first post-Le Tigre album with your band The Julie Ruin.  How far along are you in the recording process at this point?  Could you describe some of the differences between how it felt to work/perform with Le Tigre and how it feels to work/perform (so far) with The Julie Ruin? Are you enjoying being back in the studio again?

KH: We have the basic instrumental tracks to like 13 songs done and one song has vocals on it and is almost all the way done. We might put a 12″ out with the new Oscilloscope Laboratories record label in August, which is super exciting. It’ll be one song and hopefully a remix. We still need to do final vocals, mix and record maybe 3-4 new songs from scratch. It’s really easy for us to write songs together which is a blessing and curse because we really could just keep writing into oblivion. It feels great to be singing with live drums again and I really like how Carmine, our drummer, plays. He is always ready with a snare roll to let me know when I am supposed to jump into the song. It’s different from Le Tigre because Le Tigre didn’t “jam,” we were electronic, which meant a lot of singing into a computer, which is super fun but a different animal. The main difference is that when we play live now we can change the songs in the moment, create longer intros etc…whereas in Le Tigre we played with backing tracks so you couldn’t just change things on the fly.

DR/LG: How does this version of The Julie Ruin relate to the earlier album you did on your own in 1998, which eventually led to getting Le Tigre together?

KH: The Julie Ruin solo record I made in ’98 sounds more like demos or sketches for songs than a complete album to me. So I guess what we are doing with this record is fleshing things out a bit. I’m writing from the same personal place and starting with loops and melodies just like the first record and then we work together to fill out and expound upon the ideas.

Le Tigre started because Johanna and I wanted to play the Julie songs live and we just ended up writing new songs. This band started in a similar way. We learned how to play almost the entire Julie Ruin album and then started writing the follow up. Transforming the original songs into arrangements for a 5 piece band really showed me how much this project could open up my songwriting. Hearing a new take on the songs I wrote solo style in my apartment so long ago was a revelation! They became brand new things but with the same basic ideas in tact. I think that’s what the album in turning into, it’s like each song starts as an empty room and then we decorate it as a team. Sexy rockabilly guitar is figured prominently, which makes me pretty happy!

Kathleen’s Blog
The Julie Ruin Homepage
Le Tigre Homepage
Kathleen’s Listgeeks Lists

We’re Hiring!

Listgeeks is Looking for a Programmer/Web-Developer

Believe it!  We’re looking for somebody with serious skills to help us take this project somewhere special on a freelance basis, ideally based in (or near) Hamburg:

Requirements:

+ Object-oriented programming mit php5 / mysql
+ Experience with MVC Frameworks, particularly CakePHP
+ HTML 5, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery

Also ideally:

+ Git, nginx, backbone.js, AWS
+ Optional but desired: Experience with node.js

Email us at danger@listgeeks.com if you’re interested!

Listgeeks Feature #9 – Emily Keegin

Emily Keegin is a fantastically compelling, Brooklyn-based photographer who grew up in San Francisco and studied in Vermont (at Bennington College) and in London (at the Royal College of Art, where she earned an MA in 2009).  While the focus of her work has shifted greatly since she first started taking pictures, a few threads recur consistently: the spaces between public and private realms, the quiet elements and artifacts of domestic life (and the secrets they reveal), and the ongoing complexities of American girlhood.  Emily’s work has recently appeared in the “Humble Arts Collectors Guide” (Chelsea Museum) and in the “Women in Art Photography UK” exhibition (Taschen Book Store, London UK).  After you’ve read her interview and checked out her website (note: features potentially NSFW artful nakedness) be sure to take a look at her lists.  Otherwise, we’re thrilled that Emily has allowed us to show three brand new/untitled images for the first time! They’re the last three in the below article:

Emily Keegin - "Dallas"

Listgeeks: What first inspired you to take pictures?

Emily Keegin: My parents were fantastically rigid in their whole-grain anti-pop aesthetic.  As a reaction, I became obsessed with American cheese and fast art.  The camera is the world’s greatest tool for making pop art.  It’s forever linked to its other role as a lowly household appliance, and yet: SO SHINY! And – as it happens – I’m a terrible draftsman.  Those who can’t draw take pictures.

Listgeeks: What was your first camera?

Emily Keegin: A 1987 purple 110 Vivitar, which I got at age 7.  Vivitar is a terrible gateway drug.

LG:  It seems like much of your early (pre-MFA) work revolved around mostly domestic themes – people and places close to you, perhaps – but that you were also mostly interested in depicting their less obvious aspects. Does that make sense?

EK: Photography was invented to capture the moment between moments, to stretch the human second and preserve the otherwise overlooked.  Even though much of my work (then and now) is staged – or at least “still”- I remain linked to the intrinsic nature of of the medium.  Also, it’s true: I’m a snoop.  I like the stuff that’s under the bed.

LG:  In the “Homeland” series, which was part of your MFA program at The Royal College of Art, you incorporate and juxtapose typically American and typically unAmerican things.  How did being in London while you were making those images shape how they turned out?

Emily Keegin - "Bringing it All Back Home"

EK: Working outside of the united states was crucial for the construction of “Homeland.”  The newness of London forced me to take aesthetic risks I wouldn’t dared to otherwise, and the physical distance allowed for a distillation of the American culture I was so keen on analyzing. I am easily overwhelmed by the largeness of things.  Being outside of the states allowed me to deal with it in small, digestible pieces.

Emily Keegin - "Bless This Mess"

LG: Does the newer, post-London work you’re currently featuring on your site deal with some of the same themes as “Homeland?”

EK: Totally. I’m still working through the same ideas I was in “Homeland”- the fame, failure & aging of American girlhood – but am now using a slightly different vocabulary.  I think this is due primarily to a very short haircut I gave myself right before leaving London. With short hair, the self portraits I had come to use as totems in my work didn’t have the same zing.  In their stead, I began working in still life and the occasional sculpture.

Emily Keegin - New/Untitled

LG: On your blog you document a seriously wide range of images and projects that seem to inspire you in one way or another.  Are there specific photographers or artists who have been especially important to you lately?

EK: I love the work of Liz Deschenes – though finding her images online is not so easy.  Lucas Blalock and the rest of the common language guys are excellent tightrope walkers (commercial meets art meets meats).  Viviane Sassen makes perfect portraits.  Walead Beshty makes art that’s good in all ways.  Always and forever: Ed.

Emily Keegin - New/Untitled

LG: Finally, your images (both from “Homeland,” so far) have adorned two vinyl singles covers from the NYC-based band Cookies (fronted by Ben Sterling, formerly of Mobius Band).  Does relating them to music give you a different sense of what the images are about?  Is the feedback to them in that context very different from the kind of feedback you’d get in a traditional gallery setting?

EK: Strangely, the boombox image was created in the midst of a body of work about pop music and memory.  The photograph was in every way an accident/a slow Saturday messing around in my studio/a film-test-gone-interesting/the kind of accident that you pray for.  It was through the creation of this photograph that I began to shift away from music and toward a larger discussion of pop media and femininity.  It seems very tidy that the subsequent body of work has found its home on album covers.

Emily Keegin - New/Untitled

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