Ambient Gurus of Boston
by Tal Gunn
Tribal Gathering editors Ian and Brad spoke with Chris Green of Massachusetts outfit Bionaut through our preferred medium of electronic mail transfer. His partner in crime Paul was conveniently unavailable for comment.
TG: What types of music did you listen lo growing up?
Green: I started with Iron Butterfly and Cream in nursery school. From there I pretty much progressed through a steady diet of obscure70's metal/psychedelia/punk music - everything from Sir Lord Baltimore to Slaughter and the Dogs. Looking back the important stuff was Havkwind, Stooges, Klaus Schulze, 1976 era heavy rock, 1977 era punk.
TG: Did you ever play in any non-electronic groups prior to where you are now?
Green: My first band was a punk band called "The Droids". We sometimes played out as "The Greatest Death". Our hit single was"Mental Midgets". I played guitar like Ron Asheton. My guitar days sort of terminated when I left "Architectural Metaphor" years later. Iplayed a Fender Stratcasler, a Twin Reverb, and a Big Muff when I joined Arc Met, and when I left I was playing synthesizer and making samples.
TG: Whal instruments are you capable of playing?
Green: Don't know that I've ever been all that capable!
TG: Where does your creative inspiration come from?
Green: It comes from places I could never imagine. Sometimes I hear something said, or read something, or see something that triggers the creative process. Other times I feel something intense emotionally either in the moment, or from a long time ago and that triggers the process. Attitude and environment both play a big part in shaping the music. When we began recording "Au Naturel" our first session took place in an unheated barn in the middle of Jamuary. It was aboul nine degrees Farenheit. We had one shitty littte space heater blowing into a Moog to keep it tuned. It sounds lousy, but we ended up getting nearly half the disc done in a few hours (Moogz Freakzendroogs, Barn Modulaled Trance Dirge, Astral Unraveler). We were challenged to record the best music we could, and we did.
TC: How much transformation takes place takes place over the course of designing a track?
Green: Our tracks design themselves. Take "Born to Goa" from "Au Naturel". Like all the tracks on our first disc, that one is the first live take ever played. We have never even TRIED to play it thc same way since. It just keeps evolving of its own volition.
TG: Where do you pool samples from?
Green: My favorite sources for sampling are sounds from nature (birds, water, etc), sounds found in my environment (tools, hand instruments, guitar riffs that I play and movies. I love grabbing obscure dialog from cult movies. "Moogz Freakzendroogs" has a movie originated sample in it. "Odinsrune" is a looped sample from my guitar. "Astral Unraveler" has a bird call running through it that I recorded with gear on loan from a field biologist friend of mine.
TG: How much preparation does it require to t ake your act out on the road?
Green: Its all in the mind. I used to roadie for a local band that was your basic four piece rock and roll band. Bionaut has way more gear to load in and out than they did and theres only two of us! But, since we pride ourselves in our ability to play live, we get it done. For example last September we played at the Burning Man Festival in the Black rock Desert in Nevada. We drove 6700 miles round trip nearly nonstop. For some reason we had the idea that it would be fun to drag a truck full of sensitive electronic equipment to the middle of an alkaline dust storm populated by a large assortment of DANGEROUS and unpredictable human beings perpetrating some sort of mass pyrotechnic thrill fest. It was. What have you lifted lately?
TG: Most musicians jam when they practice together. What do you do when you get in the studio to 'jam'?
Green: We record! That's how "Au Naturel" was done. Every track on the record comes from a live 'jam session'. We've recorded some songs multiple times, but it seems impossible to best that initial moment of creation. Parturition is never workmanlike.
TG: Do you remember your first gig? When? Where was it?
Green: The first Bionaut gig that I remember was at a Summer Solstace event held by some black magic people in an art gallery. I remember that Paul was nearly devoured by demons, and I had had to do most of the set by myself.His shit was talking backwards to him or something.
TG: Do you have a most memorable gig? Good, Bad, Funny?
Green: Playing at Burning Man last Labor Day was by far tbe most memorable. We played two nights, both were incredible. The second night we played inside of a structure namedd "The House of Doors".Some people from San Francisco had erected an irregularly shaped room using maybe 100 old doors. They were all screwed together and no one would tell you which two or three would actually open. I remember people wandering around the inside and the outside of the place trying door after door trying to get in or out. There was no roof and the desert floor was covered with rugs. One time I looked up at the audience and I saw this guy uilil a big green head doingg some sort of tightrope act in the middle of the rooum. People were backed up to the walls because this guy was using a broad sword for balance and.... he wasn't doing too well. The next time I looked up the broadsword guy was swordfighting with another lunatic with a silver head. I didn't look up again because my keyboards had all started bending up into 'U's and I had my hands full. After we finished up and loaded out...they burned the place down.
TG: How would you describe your experience live'!
Green: Bionaut is best live. We are very adventurous and we never know what's going to happen. I don't think I have ever played a gig with the same equipment twice. I have been known to tear apart my gear an hour before the set and rewire everything because I had an 'idea'. The fact that the idea doesn't always work out the way I planned only adds to tbe excitement.
TG: In a typical set, how much is actually knob twiddling, aud how much is pre-recorded?
Green: Well, we certainly excel at twiddling our knobs. There's nothing on tape.
TG: What type of selective process do you use when programming your tracks for a live performance?
Green: We yell at each other while we're playing. Sometimes we write a set list and then forget to look at it. Often we don't know what we've played when we're finished.Usually we'll agree on something to start with and then see where it goes from there.
TG: How do Ihe crowds receive your music live/on disc, and do you have a strong following where you are?
Green: I would say that our most successful sbows have tbem lying down snoozing en masse. Really, when we've been playing for a couple of hours and it's going well, people can lose control of their consciousness.
TG: Have you used drugs, and have they influenced your work?
Green: I have never been an advocate of drug usage. I have also never been much of a pioneer in the field of drug research either. I would say that drugs have had an influence on the music, but so have a lot of other things....sleep deprivation for exaunple.
TG: What are your staple pieces of electrouic equipment? Any recommendations?
Green: Stuff I will probably always use include the Rolaud SH101,RS 101; Micromoog. Oberheim Matix 1000; Alesis MMI 8; Peavey PCIG00; Akai ME20A. I currently use several other pieces of equipmenl, but they are all subject to replacement.
TG: As an artist who is currently considered "indie", do you see yourself becoming a majorl abel artist as electronic music grows in popularity?
Green: Absolulely, We just want the life of Kiss!
TG: Do you have any live shows in the near future and upcoming events?
Green: Yes, Bionaut will be doing live shows in the near future, although there is nothing carved iu stone at the moment. I have spoken to people aboul doing shows in Boston, NYC, Baltimore, Philadelpilia, LA, San Francisco, and other places. People can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org for updates.