While the earlier part of this new decade was full of hope, soundtracked by the dreamy, nostalgic feelgood vibes of Memory Tapes, Toro Y Moi and Washed Out; a darker mood has descended on the music scene now, courtesy of the gothic, woozy beats of Salem and the movement they’re calling “witch house” or “drag”. It would seem that with Eyjafjallajökull erupting, the oil slick and fears of “double-dip recession”, we don’t have much to be happy about after all. “Drag” took its name from the syrupy, chopped and screwed hip hop of Houston-based DJ screw – vocals are timestretched to infinity (once memorably described as the sound of “Nick Cave smoking midnight cigarettes in slow motion”) and spooky synths and samples drift in and out of the flickering spotlight creating a Lynchian sense of unease and disquiet. While Salem released their monolithic sounding debut album, “King Night” in the fall, there are a host of other disparate artists lurking in the shadows, putting their own unique slant on this exciting, haunting new noise. Many of the bands from Balam Acab, oOoOO and Creep feature on ice-cool new imprint, Tri Angle, founded by Robin Carolan of the influential freak-noise blog, 20 Jazz Funk Greats. On his eponymous EP, San Francisco-based producer, oOoOO (pronounced “Oh”) takes the distorted, ghostly bones of hip hop and infuses a new sensuality and pop sensibility, reflecting his love of the boundary-pushing end of Top 40 fodder from Nicki Minaj to the sparse robotic funk of Britney Spears’ “Blackout” album. Quite simply, it’s the sound of the apocalypse set to a disco beat.
Dazed Digital: Who are you and when did you first start making music?
Chris Dexter: Really wanted to remain anonymous forever but since my name's already out there, just wanna set the record straight: "Christopher Dexter Greenspan" is the name I use to sign legal documents. That's about it. I've never given an interviewer my full legal name, let alone asked to be referred to by it. Don't even know how anyone knows it. Every time I see it in print I think how pretentious people must think I am going around calling myself that….I started playing music around 4 or 5 years old. oOoOO's been around almost 2 years now.
DD: Your band moniker is ungoogle-able and it’s difficult to find out information about you which makes such a refreshing change in this Internet age – was it a conscious decision to keep some mystery?
Chris Dexter: I really just don't like band names and didn't want to have one. But it kind of backfired on me because everyone's always asking me about the name. John from Salem told me I should just call myself Lil' O, but I think there's a pretty well known rapper form Houston called that. Lil' O could be a name for a child of O from "the Story of O." Or oOoOO could represent all of her offspring.
DD: There is a nightmarish quality to the music – do your dreams inform the music you make? Can you describe any for us?
Chris Dexter: I don't remember my dreams much. I'm a terrible sleeper and am probably never asleep for more than like 45 minutes at a time. I'm pretty sure my waking life is very dreamlike compared to what most people experience though. I can just walk around aimlessly looking at doorways (San Francisco has the most beautiful, tiny doors) and listening to traffic all night. But I'm not really into nightmares or horror so much as I think sounds that are kind of unsettling or melancholic are good backdrops for beautiful melodies. They seem more desperate and sweet by contrast.
DD: Please name some inspirations – musical and otherwise?
Chris Dexter: Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion. Laura Dern in INLAND EMPIRE. Fire escapes are really exciting to me right now. I'm inspired by any music that sounds good on a fire escape in the middle of the night in the middle of the summer.
DD: Do you find any affinity with Salem and the other bands on Tri Angle? What do you make of this “drag” or “witch house” movement?
Chris Dexter: Fuckt is one of my favorite records, for sure. And Balam Acab is amazing, too. But I feel just as much of an affinity with Kylie Minogue. I like to think maybe at its best, my music is something like pop music for the unconscious…Many of the aesthetic elements people are attributing to "witch house" - spirituality, paganism, symbolism - I have no interest in.
DD: There’s this misconception that makers of “witch house” are drugged out Satanists - what might people be surprised to learn about you?
Chris Dexter: There's actually a beautiful, long wooden rosary hanging upside down from a nail in the wall in our living room. But that's less about actual Satanism than something I keep to remind myself of how much I've progressed in getting over my inner Catholicism. Until I was maybe 14 - even though I no longer considered myself a Catholic - the sight of the symbols of the Church being perverted could make me nauseous.
DD: You remade a Lindsay Lohan track for Tri-Angle – what fascinates you about her?
Chris Dexter: Lindsay is interesting because so much money is spent trying to make her look like a sterile, Hollywood zombie-type, but she's just so intense and emotional and no matter how hard her management tries to cover that up, it seems to come out in violent, self-destructive, beautiful ways.
DD: You use a female vocalist, Lisa on tracks – is it as an homage to the Top 40 pop music you love like Britney and Christina?
Chris Dexter: Yeah, kinda, that's part of it. But I really don't like how male singing voices feel - at least not most of them. 9 times out of 10 if the first 20 seconds of a song sound good and a male voice comes in singing, its ruined for me. But I sing on a couple of my tracks though, and I'm thinking of doing it some more.
DD: What are you excited about for 2010? Besides releasing the EP, what else are you working on?
Chris Dexter: I've been doing a lot of remixes the past month. I'm doing one or two more in the next couple weeks, but as soon as it starts raining here and gets cold I'm locking myself in the house and I'm just gonna write and record new material all through the late fall and winter.