steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

20 questions
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with scissor shock's adam cooley

Scissor Shockís Adam Cooley is unlikely to ever garner the sort of underground legend status allotted to Merzbow or The Haters, although his unusual assemblages of sound have led to a dedicated following amongst lovers of unconventional music. With releases out on several noteworthy microlabels, as well as a whole bevy of compilation appearances, Cooley has proven himself an enormously productive and continuously innovative sound sculptor. As his Scissor Shock outfit nears its end (at least for the time being), Cooley reflects on his past musical meanderings and answers our incisive, insightful, and occasionally grotesque 20 Questions. Read on...

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1. Scissor Shock's sound has changed considerably over the years, and awhile back you cut ties with the egrind scene. What sorts of genres and sounds have you been experimenting with as of late, and what would you like to try in the future?

First of all, thanks for the interview. I get interviewed about once a year, and this interview has the most interesting questions I've been asked yet! Anyway, I never felt a part of the egrind scene; when I was first making this music, I was the only one making it that I knew of. I mean, I was doing what is now called egrind back in my band Stagedive Suicide when I was 12 (approximately a decade ago), before I knew Libido Airbag or SMES or whoever ended up becoming the egrind "originators". It just seemed like a natural fit. Somewhere along the way, a thousand dumb kids started screaming over Fruity Loops and people suddenly started appreciating the music I was making. By that point, I REALLY wasn't interested in making it. I never called my music grindcore, to the best of my knowledge, though I did scream, and there was a drum machine. I was more interested in no wave music and stuff and the idea of a drum machine being arrhythmic, a style I still explore a bit. Also, don't get me wrong, there are some egrind bands I love (Kindergarten Hazing Ritual, Gigantic Brain, It's Okay We're Chainsaws, Bubblegum Octopus though he's a bit too poppy to be labeled "egrind".... and a few others), but I feel like there is just too much crap out there nowadays, and I always felt a bit "outside" of that, even though I've obviously done splits with some of those bands and some people in that scene have helped me get to, uh, where I am today, I guess. The point is, when I started making this stuff, I was just trying to do something different... making music no one else was making because I wanted to hear it. And I've pretty much changed my sound dramatically with every album, because there's no point in repeating myself. In the process, it has alienated potential fans and record labels and such who want me to release something that sounds like something else I'd done. Which always makes me curious, because I have no idea what albums of mine people have actually heard and what sound I'm associated with... for all I know, people could be basing my entire project from the songs on myspace. Basically, the stuff I'm writing at the moment sounds like Jandek, with actual riffs, doing a prog rock western, in collaboration with Captain Beefheart. I guess.

2. What is there to do in Columbus, Indiana? What's the music scene like?

I live in a town of 50,000 people, and for whatever reason, there has been an active and interesting musical scene here; lots of creative and even like-minded musicians and LOTS of bands, usually started by some combination of the same handful of people. I mean, garage surf bands, psychedelic bands, lots of experimental punk and electronic bands, even a band that sounds like Goblin (frequent Dario Argento collaborators). Lots of intelligent, open-minded, talented people have come and gone here. The problem is, there are no places to play... we played a few shows here but got kicked out because even though there are some open-minded people, the MAJORITY of people are ignorant fuckheads. We pretty much have to drive 30 miles away to play a show nowadays. But that's okay. I don't really connect with most people around here, though the few I do connect with... I wouldn't trade them for anything in the world, and I often collaborate with them.

3. What's on your stereo as of late?

I mainly listen to drone, actually. Drone... and the old stand-bys: I always tell people they need to get the entire discographies of John Fahey, Thinking Fellers Union Local # 282, Sun City Girls, Slowdive, Jandek, Captain Beefheart, Cerberus Shoal, and a few releases by Boredoms, Jim O'Rourke, and Merzbow. That's all you really NEED in life, though obviously my musical tastes reach a little further beyond that.

4. How much attention do you pay to reviews of your releases?

I think they're interesting, because I'm basically sending albums to people who probably have no idea what to make of what I'm doing. I don't even know if my music is that GOOD, I don't ever listen to it, but I know what I'm doing is at least INTERESTING. And certainly most reviewers say things along those lines, "Unique! Innovative! I never want to listen to it again though!" I'm fine by that. I pretty much agree! Sometimes, it's more important to influence a lot of people than to actually be consistent all the time. When you're doing something that is clearly "experimental", you're going to REALLY divide people. But I know I have a few fans who aren't reviewers who love everything I've done. So... whatever. The music is out there, people can do what they want with it, you know?

5. Your lyrics and song titles are bizarre and often quite shocking. What inspires themes such as apocalypse and misogynism?

I dunno.

6. Digital music versus tangible, physical product. Discuss.

Doesn't matter. There won't be much physical product much longer. One year, I sold a whopping 155 physical CD's.. that was YEARS ago, maybe 4 or 5? Nowadays, I sell maybe 20 in a year (myself; I have no idea what the labels sell off of me, probably not much). Why is that? The interest in my music has definitely only gotten bigger, I've made way better music, and I've released stuff on some respected underground labels. I get new fans all the time. So... I just think people are starting to lose interest in physical product in general. Which is fine by me to an extent, I never made money off of the physical CD's I sold, anyway; I sold them for the price of shipping and handling. The only problem is, I LOVE physical products, and I love all these little labels, which feature plenty of smart, open-minded people working impossibly hard for releases that'll only be heard by maybe 50 people. So, I hope it doesn't die, and I think it won't die out COMPLETELY, but it's certainly getting to that point. I just want people to hear my music, in whatever form. I'd be doing this stuff anyway, even if I had no audience whatsoever. I just wish some labels would get more appreciation for their hard work and effort.

7. Would you rather drink a pint of diarrhea straight from the source, or a pint of garbage juice fresh-squeezed from the truck?

I guess it depends on what the garbage and the diarrhea are made of. Generally, I'd like to think diarrhea is a little healthier than garbage... garbage is a broad term, right? I mean, that could include oils and other weird chemicals... yeah, diarrhea, definitely.

8. Your "influences" list on myspace names about half the bands on the planet and spans quite an array of genres. Are there any genres you don't like at all?

No. I tend to find something good in everything in life. Even if it's something I hate, I'll try to pick one element that appeals to me. I like quite a bit of mainstream pop, country, rap. There's something cool in everything, even if it's just a silly 2 second slide guitar part or some weird synth tone. Whatever.

9. Lately you've had a string of releases on Jay Watson's Placenta imprint. How did that happen and how has it worked out?

Jay is a great guy, very friendly and easy to work with. He sent me some Placenta stuff, including DENTAL WORK who are excellent... and he got very interested in my band for whatever reason (I have no idea why people like the stuff I do), and he wanted to work with me for a while but I played hard-to-get, as I usually do with labels for a bit. Haha. But yeah, I decided to do a clearing-of-the-vaults album and throw together all these weird rarities from the past 5 years. He did a great job on putting that release together, and I think it's a good album for people just getting into Scissor Shock and also, strangely, since every song sounds SO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT, it also may be one of the weirdest albums ever made. It sounds like 20 different bands, really. Anyway... I plan on putting out the next full length through him if he wants me to. It's up to him.

10. You've been a part of many bands and have also formed several solo projects. What are some of the highlights?

I donít know. Haha. One of my favorite things to do was with Steev (ex-xdiedenroutey label owner, Warmth/Roxanne Jean Polise/etc), this thing called "fragment" which was 80 minutes of nothing but very short clips of low and high frequencies. Excruciatingly painful but very minimal noise glitches, unlike anything I've ever heard in the field of extreme music, and I don't think many people have heard it because we both kind of made a pact not to send it to a lot of people and to have no samples of it online or whatever, but I loved that album. I pretty much collaborated with whoever wanted to collaborate with me for a while but at this point I'm pretty busy, since I mainly just focus on my other band, Robe., when I'm not writing new Scissor Shock songs.

11. Where do you keep all your archival recordings? How often do you go back and listen to your old stuff?

I never listen to them. Anyone that wants to hear any album of mine can go to www.last.fm/music/Scissor+Shock where I have 'em all up for free except for some of the split songs and the current rarities release. I'll put those up there sometime in the future.

12. How did you become connected with xdiedenroutey?

I think I met Steev through a Mindless Self Indulgence newsgroup or something. We both thought each other was brilliant and we decided to work together on some stuff. Very fun. I miss Steev (I never talk to him anymore) and that label.

13. How does your OCD interact with your music production? Your songs are often quite random and "all-over-the-place," which to me is quite different from the typical OCD mold. Is music your outlet?

Yeah. I actually have OCD, according to a doctor 5 years ago, and I was on pills for it, and it didn't help. But it doesn't really affect my life. Basically, everything I own is alphabetized, all my clothes are color-coordinated. I'm obsessed with order. Though my songs seem all over the place, to me there are some sounds and themes that run throughout the songs I constantly go back to. Though it doesn't seem like it, my songs are very structured, probably too structured, and I'm trying to get away from that for the next album, but no matter what I do it still has a distinct sound. Either way, I haven't really thought about how OCD has affected my music; certainly, I'm a perfectionist, my music doesn't SOUND technically perfect, but it's perfect based on how I WANT it to sound, if that makes sense. But even on the next album, I'm going to have someone co-producing it for the first time ever (!), just because I want to do something completely new.

14. What sorts of movies do you enjoy? Any favourite films or directors?

Oh, that's a loaded question. Movies are my life. I review movies for Netflix, and I'm actually currently #155. Of all the people on the site reviewing movies, I'm ranked #155. I'm a big movie dork. I really could go on and on all day for this one, but let me just list a few of my all time favorites: Hana-Bi, Eureka (2001), Sonatine, Dolls, Violent Cop, Period Piece, Touch Me in the Morning, Garbanzo Gas, Everlasting Pine, Bride of Frank, the Corndog Man, Reflections of Evil, the Killer, ZERO, Migrating Forms, Back Against the Wall, Combat Shock, Fatty Drives the Bus, Maniac Nurses Find Ecstasy, Izo, Maniac, The Gates of Hell, Tenebre, Beyond the Darkness, Stalker, Bad Lieutenant, Night Train to Terror, Visitor Q, Pinnochio 964, Tetsuo, Videodrome, Dead Ringers, Dead Zone, Tokyo Fist, Death Powder, Mulholland Drive, Wild at Heart, Blue Velvet, El Topo, Long Live Death, Holy Mountain, Once Upon a Time in the West, Dog Star Man, Fallen Angels, Fulltime Killer, Eli Eli Rema Sabatchthani?, Lucifer Rising, Chungking Express, Survive Style 5+, Clean Shaven, Pistol Opera, Bullet Ballet, Liquid Sky, Doom Generation, Totally Fucked Up, The Living End, Nowhere, Taxi Driver, Possession, Blow Out, Koyaanisqatsi, Sombre, I Stand Alone, A Clockwork Orange, Man Bites Dog, Heart of Glass, The Beyond, Happiness, Last Life in the Universe, Riki-Oh: Story of Ricky, Brain Damage, Begotten, Home Alone, Deep Red, Barton Fink, Freddy Got Fingered, King of Comedy, Casino, Hard Boiled, Aguirre: Wrath of God, The Untold Story, Body Double, Obsession, Dressed to Kill, All About Lily Chou-Chou............ jesus. I'll stop now. My favorite director is either Giuseppe Andrews or Takeshi Kitano, though I also love Dario Argento, Larry Cohen, David Cronenberg, Brian DePalma, Abel Ferrara, Shozin Fukui, Lucio Fulci, Stuart Gordon, Frank Henenlotter, Werner Herzog, [early] Peter Jackson, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Lloyd Kaufman, Ki-duk Kim, H.G. Lewis, David Lynch, Takashi Miike, Gasper Noe, Chan-Wook Park, Martin Scorsese, Jan Svankmajer, Shinya Tsukamoto, Brian Yuzna, John Waters, John Woo... and the Coens. Whoo! I am in the early process of making a film but right now I'm too busy absorbing all the films I've been meaning to see but haven't gotten around to yet. I have approximately 150 old movies to watch and I've officially seen every film that I've ever been interested in in the least. Then, I can just watch new films!

15. What's your day job?

I stock 3rd shift at Wal-Mart, doing frozen foods... Heh. Real spectacular answer, eh? One day I want to be a secretary... I forgot to list "Secretary" as one of my favorite films. Anyway, I can type 149 words per minute. So, I'm good with my fingers. That wasn't a joke.

16. Allegedly, your live performances are infrequent but spectacular. I've seen the pictures! How does Scissor Shock music translate to a live setting?

Ah, yeah, live performances are infrequent, mainly because there's nowhere to play! But I just try to make every show different. There are some videos on Youtube of live shows with more coming soon, if anyone's interested. Sometimes they're noisy and, uh, "free", sometimes they're a bit more structured. I donít know. I just try to make an impression.

17. What would you consider the highlights of your discography?

I dunno, I think every release is better than the one before it. So, the next one, definitely! I'm a bit embarrassed by the early stuff, but that's most people's favorite. Hmm... A lot of people's favorite is THE MARS TRAVOLTA, but I know a few fans of mine who hate it. TEASE THE SKELETON was well-received. Hell, I don't know. I don't care. Just, everyone: Get every release, delete the ones you don't like, and share the rest on Soulseek. The end.

18. What would you do with a million dollars?

Not much. Get a better car. Probably not be much happier than I am (not) now.

19. What is your favourite colour? Justify your selection.

Glow-in-the-dark green. Because.

20. What's next for Scissor Shock? Also, do you have any words of advice for the young'uns?

Well, I'm going to record a new album called SHRINE TO SALVAGED JUNK. There are a few unfinished songs on the myspace for it now. It's probably the last Scissor Shock album... if not just for now then definitely for a looooooooooong time. My main focus is my drone/doom/experimental band, Robe. (http://www.myspace.com/robetheband)... I'm much more interested in that musical world, and I can actually re-listen to it without cringing, so I'd consider Robe. my main band now. It took some time to get to that point in my life, since that music is so dark that I didn't always connect with it, but I feel like the music I make in Scissor Shock is going to start resembling Robe. If I don't stop now, considering that's the music that interests me. So, why not just put all my creativity into one band instead of doing two similar ones? So, perhaps when I'm feeling saucy in the future, I'll do some new and weird Scissor Shock stuff. But it'll be a lot more interesting for me to keep calling the next album the last one I ever do, regardless of whether or not I change my mind. Hah. I have secretly ended Scissor Shock a good 4 or 5 times but ended up continuing it. So, we'll see. Sometimes, I just don't see the point in continuing it. Perhaps this whole paragraph could be considered words of advice. Don't end up like me.

Thanks for the interview, Matt!

interview conducted by Matt Shimmer
March 2009

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