1962: Clipper Cowbridge

1963: The Swiss Invasion

1965: Marilyn Kaye

1969: The Fold

1970: Yorgi

1971: Devon Shire

1972: Sandee Saunders

1976: Rockfinger

1978: The Spooky Bunch

1979: Decoupage

1981: Bleep

1984: Tiger Love

1985: Laryssa Foxxx

1986: Smasher of Things

1987: Suthrn Cuzn

1989: ~pianogirl~

1990: Razorflesh

1995: Breaker Bear

1996: Action Plus

1998: J Lounge

2001: Eesk

2004: Lazarus Project

The Sorcerer of Samplers: Razorflesh’s Nhoj Arpendahl

By Edwina MacFarlane

[From AudioActive PROfiles magazine, July 2004. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.]


Who do you consider your influences?

It’s not so much who as what. Music and noise are equal. It’s not like some Beethoven symphony is “better” than the sound of a broken air conditioner just because the symphony has all this history attached to it. Chances are the air conditioner has more nuance and pathos. It’s not all used up, the way Beethoven is.

Do you feel you’ve been at a career disadvantage because you don’t fit into the standard industry formats?

Well, it seems like in some ways the “standard industry formats” kind of followed in the wake of what I was doing. Especially with an album like Dermatitis Artefacta, which you hear all kinds of people saying was really important to them musically. Like Danny Dinmont from Smasher of Things, he’d be the first to tell you he borrowed a lot of ideas from that record, especially guitar stuff, when those guys switched over to being Thingsmasher and recorded Shrug in ’91. Not bragging or anything, but it is nice to hear that kind of shit from other people.

Tell me about your relationship with Tessa Baskin, a.k.a. ~pianogirl~. How did you meet?

We were both students at McGill University in Montreal, and just kind of kept crossing paths. She swears we met at music camp a few years earlier, but I sure as hell don’t remember her from then.

The two of you have never made music together. Do you think you’ll ever collaborate?

Nhoj Arpendahl of Razorflesh (Clubbo Records)

Not likely. We almost broke up the one time we tried it. I mean, she can be pretty insufferable when she’s got her little muse hat on. I don’t really think collaboration works for some people. We both like to be in charge, and we both know the “best” way to do things, which unfortunately isn’t always the same way.

What should a song accomplish? Do different songs have different purposes?

A song should move your bowels, or make you want to vomit, or fuck, or cry.

When you sit down to write a song, which do you work on first: the melody or the words?

It all starts with the groove. Once I get that going, the words fall into place next, because they’re more about rhythm than anything. Melodic stuff is fun to come up with too, but that kind of goes on top, like skin over the skeleton.

How involved are you in the recording and production process?

These days I do almost everything myself, or have one of my disc turtles do the bonehead stuff for me. I like to think of the studio as a factory, or maybe more like a blacksmith shop. I’m the main guy working with the big hammer and the anvil, but there’s other guys pumping the blowers and making extra parts off to the side, and then the apprentices in the back of the shop making screws and handles and bolts and shit.

I’ve worked with some “top” record producers, especially on a couple of the earlier records, and it sucked ass. They always have the wrong idea about what your music should sound like — they want to dress it up in all the wrong clothes. Like when I worked with Tony Armstead on Lickspittle in ’88, the songs all came out sounding like they were in drag. And not cool drag either, but tacky suburban shit, like some middle-aged closet queen who puts on his wife’s ugly dresses when she’s out. Which sort of makes sense, given what Tony’s about.

The point is, I know what my songs should sound like, and I know how to make them sound that way. I know more than a lot of those guys these days, especially on the software end. So why give three to five points to someone who doesn’t even know how to access the hidden parameter menus in Audioactive Pro?

Razorflesh's Lickspittle LP

Yet those earlier records — Lickspittle and Dermatitis Artefacta in particular — became hugely popular and influential, so something must have gone right.

Whatever. I’m just saying, I’ve moved beyond that point now. I don’t need an expensive babysitter to show me what to do in the studio.

If I’m lucky enough to interview you in five years, what will we talk about?

My next amazing album, maybe. Shit. I don’t know.

What about branching out into visual art projects?

Yeah, you know, most every musician I know starts foaming at the mouth with excitement when you mention visual art. What the fuck? Is visual art better than music or something? Or are they just not that committed to the art of sound? Why does everyone who ever farted and burped at the same time think that makes them into some fucking kind of Renaissance man?

Any advice for aspiring musicians?

Watch out for producers — they’ll make you forget what you were trying to say!