In about a month, all of the bigger cities in the region will be visited by one of the currently most important noise rock bands – A Place to Bury Strangers. This will be their second performance in Belgrade, after their brilliant 2013 gig. Oliver Ackermann, the guitar player, singer and the leader of the band told us about “Transfixiation” album, amazing energy that they have live and his company Death by Audio.
Balkanrock: This will be the second time that you are coming to Serbia. What kind of impression did Belgrade and the Serbian audience leave on you after the concert of 2013? Have you had an opportunity to see the city before or after the concert?
Oliver: We had a really great time. I was instantly transported back to the days of art school parties. The people were cool and it makes us really excited to come back. We saw a some of the city hanging out last time but would obviously love it if anyone would want to show us around to see more.
BR: In September and October you will be in America, in November comes Europe, touring for the second time to promote your latest album. What were the audience’s reactions during the first tour at the end of the last and the beginning of this year?
Oliver: They were great. We really have been bringing out some crazy things to make the shows even more fucked than before and I think that has been really good for us. At some point last year I realized I get a little bored going to shows so we have been turning them inside out and doing things differently.
BR: How important to you is the title “the loudest band in New York” and do you know who gave it to you?
Oliver: I can’t remember who gave it to us, maybe the New York Times? But it is easy to do. I have designed equipment which amplifies frequencies by aligning the phase of our signals to be louder and more pure than other people care to use because it is dangerous to public address systems and the human body.
BR: Does this title help or is it the opposite? Or maybe you don’t pay much attention to what people write about your band?
Oliver: I try not to pay much attention to it and live in a little bubble of delight. I like the music that we create and like thinking that no one else cares so it can be pure. Its back to the days when I wasn’t making music for anyone else but me and my friends. I think that keeps it real. And reviews usually just rub me wrong.
BR: It’s common knowledge that among your major influences are Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, etc. Which bands had the most impact on your live performance, or better said on the loudness of your performances?
Oliver: Dinosaur Jr was crazy loud at one show and it was a wicked awesome show from my youth. I think also Force Field from providence that was insane and Lightning Bolt for sure with that raw power in your face. Mostly though I don’t love super loud shows unless I absolutely love the bands so it usually isn’t a good thing.
BR: The audience mostly pays attention to your music and the way you play it, but they rarely mention the lyrics. Do you think that the lyrics are as important as the instrumental part and what role do they have in your songs?
Oliver: I think they are extremely important but they are also not the most pop lyrics and the voice isn’t always audible as to what is being said so there is less focus on that than a lot of other music. But that’s what I like aesthetically. It’s probably easier for me mixing the music because I know what the lyrics are. But for me they are critical to what is going on.
BR: You recorded and produced your latest album by yourselves. Are you satisfied with the final product, and do you think that this decision was better for the band than hiring a producer?
Oliver: It captures that moment in time from us. It is real. Part of our music is manipulating with sounds and being there at a moment. If we were someplace else it would have been something completely different. The songs on this record were even sometimes realized right on the spot so it was important to be in the creative space we were in. I also don’t know if a band even knows what they are doing if they don’t record even some of their music. So much is manipulation from other people these days its hard to say you even like some artist without actually talking about their sound man and lighting guy and designer and label and record producer etc. It all sometimes seems like its not artists creating work after a while but some big machine with no vision.
BR: Robi Gonzales is the drummer for the Transfixiation album, which is his first album with APTBS. Since you have changed several drummers, are you now satisfied with what Robi brought to the band?
Oliver: I am and have loved the past drummers we have had as well. Time goes on and the drummers for this band don’t get much rest. Robi is physical and beats the shit out of his drums so it is really cool to play with him.
BR: That album has a bit of a darker side than the previous ones, it has many goth tones. Are you planning the same darker tone for the next album, or was this just a one time thing?
Oliver: I don’t exactly know where the next album is going but I think it’s going to be very machine driven from what I’ve been recording in my spare time. Lots of quick ideas coming together and some really simple things as well. A lot of ideas are going around so it really could go anywhere.
BR: The music video for the song So Far Away was made from photographs made with the Hipstamatic app. Was that maybe some sort of ridicule for this visual trend which is still very popular or did you simply like the way the video blended with the song?
Oliver: At the time I just saw the possibility to make an animation at no cost to me and very easily by just photographing lots I came in to contact with over a couple of months. I don’t really take many pictures anymore so perhaps I was just following the trend and excitement and then beat it into the ground and am now bored with it. Things like that are a nice flash because you remember some of what was so great about the intricacies of those real cameras but then it gets totally crushed by the mass accessibility. But I think that is a good thing. It makes more about a really strong good creative idea and everyone has the means to do or create whatever they want with that. At least for $1.99 at the app store.
BR: In 2007 you were on tour with the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. What was this experience like for you at the time and do you think that the tour, besides the positive reviews of you debut album, helped you make a breakthrough?
Oliver: Those guys are great and such a rad band it was a really good time touring with them. I think them being so cool to us was really inspiring and when given the opportunity like to do the same and help out any bands as much as we can. That tour helped but I think the album reviews really brought us the biggest jump in popularity. People really went crazy for the first record really quickly and that was a big surprise for me because I almost didn’t want it to come out. I wasn’t sure we were doing the right thing having it be a home recording and everything but I am glad that we did and that has given me confidence to continue on that path since then.
BR: Transfixiation and Worship was released by the record label Dead Oceans. Do you like the way your cooperation is going? Are you planning to release your next album with this label?
Oliver: We are going to release the next record with Dead Oceans if they’ll have us as they have been really great to work with. They are serious and fun and also let us do anything we want. They are also independent and I like that. No corporate backers or anything so they are most concerned with inspirational artwork and that is what I am into, too.
BR: A guitar pedal making company by the name Death by Audio is connected to the band A Place To Bury Strangers. What is the origin story for this company and which are the bands that use their pedals today, besides APTBS?
Oliver: It is a company that I started in 2001 while I lived in Virginia. I was doing a lot of custom equipment building at the time and it just grew into building a lot of effects for people and then the company grew more and more and we have been able to employ and work with a lot of good people. Besides APTBS lots of people use them like Wilco, The Flaming Lips, My Bloody Valentine, U2, Trent Reznor, Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall……
BR: Besides the fact that they make pedals, Death by Audio is also a place where bands perform. Is there a band or performance which you would single out, one that really delighted you?
Oliver: Yonatan Gat. Always unpredictable and unbelievable.
BR: For the end, do you know, how many guitars have you crashed in a live gig? :)
Oliver: Oh geeze, I don’t know. A lot.