Bassett's history in the Hototogisu, GHQ, and Double Leopards hardly
needs elaboration, although her growing legacy under the Zaïmph
moniker has been rapidly amassing respect from the underground
experimental scene. I first caught onto her work with 2006's sublime
Sexual Infinity, an ebbing, growing work whose sheer grandiosity has
led me to dub it "orchestral noise." Since then, she's put out a wealth
of new releases, including 2009's Serpent's Bite LP on her very
own label, Heavy Blossom.
What attracts you to noise?
Which wave of noise are we
on now? I feel bored by that term—or maybe I’m just bored in general.
“Noise music” gets lost in its own 21st century feedback loop. I’m into
creating sounds that enable me to go some place. It is like entering
into a tunnel that suddenly branches off into multiple passageways. When
I was young there was an abandoned concrete fort that was a relic
leftover from WWII that I used to climb around in. The fort itself sat
halfway on the beach and halfway over the water. It seemed labyrinthine
at the time; exploring the interior with the waves crashing below. The
place was really black—pitch black until the eyes adjusted. That caused
all sorts of visual hallucinations and heightened awareness. It was like
the best haunted house ever. Distortion of the senses can be reached in
all sorts of ways; I try to get there through sound–it allows me go
“into” something else—somewhere unknown.
"Zaimph" comes from
Flaubert's "Salammbô." Why did you choose to use it as the name of your
project? Also, is it Zaimph or Zaïmph?
It is the latter: Zaïmph.
Flaubert fabricated the word. I liked the word—the spelling, the sound,
and I was attracted to what it symbolizes in the novel—a taboo--a sacred
3. How did you first become
involved in unconventional music?
I grew up mainly listening
to rock music –I guess I was pretty fortunate that my parents had a
fairly decent record collection that I dug into, because there was not a
great record store in the area and then I had a tendency to gravitate
towards people with good record collections who exposed me to
underground/obscure stuff. So some of it was through exposure and once I
had the taste, it was fairly easy to seek out.
music? I feel I have always had that interest. There are a lot of rock
elements to my playing mixed in with a bunch of abstractions. I’m into
the process of inventing/discovering sounds in the moment. When I am
making a release I usually go back and do a lot editing/listening to
these ‘captured’ sounds and then work on laying them out for the
4. Describe the setting in
which you envisage your music being listened to.
I don’t. It really could be
anywhere any place any time.
5. If we go by discogs.com,
some of the first releases you were a part of were under the Un moniker,
with two records out on Siltbreeze. How do you see those recordings now?
Do you ever listen to them?
Sometimes I go back and
listen to them—more when someone is around that wants to hear the
recordings. I hold most of the un archive. One day, I may find some time
to sort through and select material for the 2nd LP that never came out.
We had an LP with 2 or 3 versions ready, but things just fell apart and
it was never released. To go back and make the decision to release the
“2nd album” I’d have to dedicate a lot of time to listening to the
original recordings, think about arrangement, selection process, discuss
with the other members, etc. etc….Perhaps this will happen one day but
that time is not right now.
6. I feel there's a general
notion that the music you've been involved in is fundamentally different
from a lot of other noise releases (particularly older ones), which
emphasize raw harshness instead of a more listenable completeness.
"Orchestral noise," if you will. Would you agree? What are your opinions
on the more brazenly abrasive noise music that's out there?
Yeah if you are talking
about “abrasive noise” I agree my stuff is different. Although my
perception of abrasive I’m sure differs from the next. It is all
relative. “Noise” as definition gets a little fuzzy, like indie, rock,
experimental, etc. “Noise” doesn’t really describe the music. Basically,
I enjoy exploring my own path, wallowing around in my own grime and
7. Are you as serious a
person as your music might suggest?
What is serious? I’m serious about my music,
what I do, yes.
8. I've read another
interview with you in which you describe how you meticulously map out
the arrangement of your releases. On the other hand, a lot of
noise/experimental artists seem to largely improvise their recordings.
Well, I was talking about
placement of pieces on a release, not meticulously mapping out how the
piece would sound before it is played. Arrangement of work after it's
executed is different than arrangement during the process.
How important is
improvisation to your music?
I mostly improvise.
9. I've seen one video in
which you incorporated visual elements into your performance. Do you see
your music as accompanying visual images, and do you ever get involved
in creating multimedia elements for your live appearances?
Yeah; I really like playing
with the right visual elements. The problem I run into is finding a
projector, the set-up, etc., all the details that can ruin the space of
focusing on the music-end of the performance, so a lot of times I don’t
bother with that. If the equipment is there & it is not too much of a
hassle I will take the opportunity though.
Sexual Infinity, on Hospital Productions (2006)
10. Perhaps the most
prominent project you've been involved in is The Hototogisu, along with
Matthew Bower. What is the recording dynamic between you two? Do you
just jam together, or do you discuss and plan?
We discussed and planned.
What are the fundamental
differences between your musical approaches?
We are different people. We
have different approaches. I feel I don’t have to map that out for
11. Does the amount of
interest and attention directed towards The Hototogisu (as well as your
other projects) ever surprise you?
Surprise? Not really. Then
again interest was not huge. I wish more people had been able to
experience Hototogisu live. And thanks to anyone reading this that did
come out to the shows—that goes for all the projects.
12. CD vs. cassette vs.
vinyl - compare and contrast.
CD – my least favorite. But
I do like that it plays for up to 80 minutes. And they turn off without any
effort on my part.
Cassette – I like them. They
are inexpensive and can be really short or long BUT they wear out. I
have some great cassettes that warble and flutter adding another
dimension to the sound.
LPs-I’m a vinyl person.
13. You've had releases out
on countless prominent experimental labels. What are some of your
experiences, good and bad, with regards to the process of putting out
releases on noise labels?
Well, some of the labels
I’ve worked with have a more specific focus than others, but I would
allow for time to see if that focus shifts in other directions and
branches out. At any rate, I haven’t had any problems.
14. What is your strangest
They are all strange and
normal at the same time.
15. What inspires the visual
design of your records?
Me, my art. It is all very
personal. I hope that the public finds a connection between the art and
16. What sorts of films do
you most enjoy?
I really like a lot of the
visual experimental films that were made by Jordan Belson, Paul Sharits,
Whitney Brothers, Stan Brakhage, Harry Smith, Maya Deren, etc. etc., the
list goes on. I’ve had the advantage of seeing a lot of experimental
film at the Anthology Film Archive & other venues in NYC. The real
advantage is to actually see the film projected on a screen. I’m a big
Herzog fan. I’ve been very into Michael Haneke films, Nicolas Roeg…I’ll
stop there. It will just turn into a big list.
17. Where is the line drawn
between noise and drone?
I don’t draw those kind of
lines. It is not important to me to make those distinctions. I think
that my recordings are evidence of that philosophy.
La Nuit Electrique, on Utech Records
18. Which of your records
are you particularly proud of and why? If you could choose one that
everyone in the world would listen to, which would it be?
I wouldn’t. People that want
choices made for them most likely will not be traveling in my neck of
the woods. I believe that people that listen to my music sought it out
because they like to make their own choices. Maybe my record will be
that one that someone pulls from their pile and plays it for someone
that has never heard it before, and they in turn will go find their own copy. Or maybe it will be found in thrift store and
someone will buy because it is cheap and they like the cover. At any
rate, I imagine that my releases are purchased because a person chose to
find it. It really shouldn’t matter which recording I’m proud of.
Truthfully, I’m proud of them all.
19. What is your favourite
colour? Justify your selection.
Oh the favourite question…
The sky descending into the silhouettes of buildings, streets,
trees--Lights with electricity auras that slowly burn. A beautiful
bruise on the horizon – yellow green purple blue black.
20. What does the future
hold in store for Zaïmph and your other projects?
Right now, I plan to
continue recording, collaborating with people, going out on short tours,
conducted by Michael Tau
published October 2009
photo credits: top image modified screenshot from
[ayal senior cameraman]
album covers courtesy of
Hospital Productions and