Features I by I 15.04.15

Not A Part Of Me: Cloud Nothings and friends reveal the stories behind their remix album

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In anticipation of Cloud Nothings’ upcoming Record Store Day remix album Here And Nowhere Else (In Wingdings) we asked remixers to talk about their process while the band react to the new versions of their songs.

Last year, the Cleveland band released their third album Here And Nowhere Else. Over eight songs the band bashed ear-worm guitar hooks and caustic noise rock against the barely-hanging-on desperation of Dylan Baldi’s lyrics. Though it just breaks the 30-minute mark Here And Nowhere Else burns by in a breathless, hysterical fit, building tension until its relieving finale ‘I’m Not Part Of Me’.

Now for Record Store Day, Cloud Nothings have worked with Northern Spy Records to craft Here And Nowhere Else (In Wingdings), a record that has invited some of Ohio’s best experimental musicians to remix the album’s eight tracks including kosmische-worshipping Outer Space (the project from John Elliott of Emeralds), sound mangler Khaki Blazer, and Bee Mask (who himself received an ambitious remix treatment courtesy of Donato Dozzy).

Much like Dozzy’s LP of Bee Mask reworks, Here And Nowhere Else (In Wingdings) has a lot going for it beyond the standard remix album. It’s an experiment in remixing music that doesn’t easily lend itself to the form, a sometimes hilarious avant-garde inversion of a rock band, and in some moments, a staggeringly beautiful extraction of the soul buried in the original album. Most of all it’s a lovingly-constructed snapshot of a tight knit music community that Cloud Nothings remain a vital part of. It was clear from the start that this was a passionately produced project and it didn’t feel right to stream it without letting everyone involved tell their story.

So, as you move through the following pages you’ll be able to stream each of the songs that make up this new version of Here And Nowhere Else. You’ll also find each remixer talking about the song they chose and how they ended up with their version along with some track by track commentary from Cloud Nothings drummer Jayson Gerycz, who played a big part in recruiting everyone. But first, head to the next page for an introduction from the band.

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Cloud Nothings

Cloud Nothings

Dylan Baldi (guitar, vocals): I’m writing this little monologue during a quick break from packing all of my belongings into poorly folded cardboard boxes, preparing to move to Western Massachusetts from my lifelong home of Cleveland, Ohio.

The most labor-intensive thing to file away and pack is, of course, my record collection. But this move has given me a chance to take a look through every one of my albums and think about some patterns in my obsessive collecting. One thing I noticed? No remix records in the bunch. Not even an album with a remix on it. The remix seems to be a phenomenon that has passed me by entirely, left me completely immune to its promise of, well, something. The thing is, I’m not really sure what the purpose of a remix is. I never have been, and I certainly can’t say I am now, even after releasing an album full of them under my band’s name.

One thing I can be certain of is that there are a lot of records in my collection that were made by friends of mine. People I’ve toured with, people I grew up with, people I met from going to shows in Cleveland and from playing shows in other places around the world. Ever since I started Cloud Nothings my life has been filled with amazing, talented people from every corner of the earth. But some of the most exceptional are from where I’ve been all along – here in Cleveland.

To be able to release a record like this is an honor, and I hope all of the people featured on this album know I think of it as such. These are not remixes as much as they are completely new songs, using our work only as the most skeletal outline and filling out the body with the utmost individual personality and creativity.

It means a lot to have people as gifted as these eight guys give their own treatment to my band’s songs, and it means even more that I can count most of them as friends of mine. I look forward to continuing to learn from them via their music and conversations, and I hope this record can shed some light on aspects of Cloud Nothings that have been hidden and under-utilized on our recorded output so far. And I also hope that Khaki Blazer becomes rich and famous beyond his wildest dreams, because that track made me laugh more than anything else I’ve heard in 2015. And now it’s time to get back to packing.

Jayson Gerycz (drums): When Northern Spy first asked us to make something for Record Store Day, the last thing I thought we were going to do was have our entire record remixed by our friends. I’m extremely happy that we did so and stoked on the final product. I’m not really into the idea of a remix for a rock band as usually they don’t turn out very well and don’t seem necessary. Every time we release an album we end up having one or more of our songs remixed by some random dude. When we first finished Here And Nowhere Else I started brainstorming trying to think of an artist that I would actually be stoked about doing a remix for us.

At that time I was (still am) listening to Donato Dozzy Plays Bee Mask a lot and around that same time I had the privilege to spend some time with and get to know Chris Madak. After being around Chris for one day I was completely blown away with his knowledge and understanding of music, I knew for sure that’s the guy I’d love to have remix one of our tunes. Asking the other guys to remix the rest of the album just naturally made the most sense, they’re all friends and some of the best jammers around. Those are the kind of people I’d trust to bust a remix.

TJ Duke (bass):

A. A violent order is a disorder; and
B. A great disorder is an order. These two things are one.

-Wallace Stevens

Though seemingly obtuse, this quote from the “connoisseur of chaos” puts into focus the reason this record has become so important to me. Since the creation of h.a.n.e. was one of near recklessness and immediacy, when the idea of turning it over to a flock of bona-fide weirdoes and visionaries came in the form of a remix album, we immediately began it’s pursuit. Within a couple of weeks the tracks started to surface and the result was astonishing. Each one was thrilling to experience — our music distilled to its elemental state and rebuilt into a genuine expression. It quickly became clear that not only did these tunes stand on their own, but they worked together in unexpected harmony as if they all conspired to create some hallucinatory redaction of our record. I am as proud of this release as anything we have done as a band, and with the help of our friends I think we’ve created a record that pays respect to a few of the artists that have inspired us to open our heads and grow, it’s my sincere hope that it will do the same for the fans of Cloud Nothings. Enjoy.

1. Sam Goldberg – ‘Now Here In’

Sam Goldberg

Jayson Gerycz: Sam Goldberg is a great friend and has been a supporter since Cloud Nothings first started in 2010. I actually remember Sam booking one of our first gigs at his house. I recall the lineup being Cloud Nothings opening for Daniel Higgs and Mark McGuire. Only Sam could do that. Sam’s remix really helps set the pace for this.

Sam Goldberg: Remixing music is still really strange to me. For lack of a better way to explain it, to me, it seems like most of the time, remixes fall into two zones. Either it’s a remix to promote and create internet buzz or for the purpose of modifying source material to present in a dance atmosphere, the more purposeful zone. The Cloud Nothings album doesn’t seem to fall into either of those categories. Also, having total weirdos remix it rather than an indie EDM act from the PR world makes the release actually something interesting. Hearing some stabby synth club remix of Cloud Nothings would just be too damaged and would likely end up in the world’s overfilled trash bin of unnecessary remixes. None of the acts here are really remix heads, each is first and foremost an original creative project or being, and I think that’s why this plays less like a remix compilation and more like a regular album.

The song had a few different hooks that I could sink my teeth into. I wanted to at least include a shred of the Cloud Nothings sound while presenting something that would come naturally from me. As I listened through the guitar, drums, and bass tracks, I chose the real hard-hitting hook that I thought could juxtapose a mellow pad zone that I could create. I wanted to do something kind of simple that could be used as a transitional piece. I wanted to give them something that could make the album somewhat more album-like.

2. Khaki Blazer – ‘Quieter Today’

Khaki Blazer

Jayson Gerycz: Pat Modugno (Khaki Blazer) is one half of the legendary Kent, OH based group called Moth Cock. Pat’s Khaki Blazer project is so awesome and if you dig his remix you should scope some of his mixtapes because they are straight fire. To say the least it was an honor having Pat bust a remix.

Pat Modugno (Khaki Blazer): My track was ‘Quieter Today’. I had never heard it until Jayson asked me to remix it. I don’t know the other dudes in the band all too well, but I got to know Jayson pretty well through various shows in Cleveland. I’m honestly not into any kind of modern rock band. With that said, I was a little unsure as to how I should remix something that’s sort of uncharted territory for me. I felt even more unqualified when I received the stem tracks. The files were too big to fit on my shitty phone, and I had to load them on to a borrowed laptop. There were like 25 stems all for one song. This blew my mind. I’m used to using sub par gear and have no experience in studios. I don’t even use a mixer.

There was a strong feeling that a well crafted project was being handed to an inexperienced scum bag. It was also funny doing a remix of a song that isn’t dance-y or funky. If anything the original song is emotional. That’s something I respect in artists but won’t do myself. As Khaki Blazer, I work off of dumb and passive vibes. I usually take samples from old recordings from failed projects, funk records, Vine etc. Using Cloud Nothings’ stems as a sample source was a hilarious change of pace. I added some of my own percussion and synth. Aside from that, I mostly built the track on Jayson’s drums and various vocals that they gave me. It sounds nothing like the original song. I was happy with it. It’s really not that different from my own stuff. I think my track is the only one in mono too. I didn’t even know I recorded in mono.

3. Factorymen – ‘Psychic Trauma’


Jayson Gerycz: I had no clue what to expect from Steve [Peffer] when I asked, but I did know that I like all of his bands. We had the privilege of taking one of his bands, Pleasure Leftist, on tour with us in 2014 and that was a real nice time and they’re a great band. I didn’t know what to expect from his remix, but I did know he would deliver something incredible, which he did. If you’re ever in Cleveland make sure you check out his record shop Hausfrau.

Steve Peffer (Factorymen): Cloud Nothings gave me probably their most accessible tune. In essence, a pop song. The reimagining that came out is understandably a challenging listen. It’s the deconstruction of the three waves of a dream. My dreams generally flow in three waves, so that was my approach to this song – a dreamer’s warped deconstruction of a pop song. And since imagination is king and rule, any sense of traditional song structure do not regulate in dreamland, I was able and motivated to let my paranoid subconscious run hogwild with the tune and we’re left with a not untypical dream’s end. A closing without closure.

4. Adam Miller – ‘Just See Fear’

Adam Miller

Jayson Gerycz: I first met Adam Miller around the time we were first working on Here And Nowhere Else in the basement of my old house on Fowles Road in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. He would come over, post up with his synths and jam for hours. He’s another brilliant jammer and runs a sick tape label called Overview.

Adam Miller: The original track is really fast and direct, so I tried to follow a similar pace for my version. Besides that, I had no idea what to do for this, since the Cloud boys’ definition of “remix” could mean a million different heady things. I decided to make a track based around loops of the source material, with the end result sounding a lot like the stuff I made when I was staying in Middleburg Heights all the time. Except instead of Weetzie stealing my chair every five minutes, I had Buster and Bob laid out on my bed (Weetzie, Buster, and Bob are cats). While I continued to work on the track, memories of the house ended up influencing the direction way more than I had anticipated.

5. Outer Space – ‘Giving Into Seeing’

Outer Space

Jayson Gerycz: Having John Elliott and Drew Veres remix one of our songs just seemed like it made the most sense. John and Drew both are very close friends of mine and have always showed support for Cloud Nothings, especially in the last 3 years. I lived with John on Fowles Road and got to hear him and Drew create so much incredible music. After hundreds of hours watching damaged movies and listening to amazing records together I knew they would create something very fitting.

John Elliott (Outer Space): I feel like a lot of the people making music in Cleveland are pretty tightly knit. The thing that’s great is that it doesn’t really matter what anybody is doing, whether it’s a rock trio or a guy DJ’ing, if you’re striving you end up around the right people. Cloud Nothings are no exception, so we didn’t hesitate to morph their music in a way Drew and I would for an Outer Space track. The end result isn’t far off from what they actually do, at least in our minds. Even since Attack on Memory there have been some more motorik and repetitive parts that are really great, we just made a salvia-styled time loop of a part we really liked and put some drum machines and electronics on top. We knew they’d like it and we’re pretty happy to be a part of it.

Drew Veres (Outer Space): When Jayson initially asked us about working on this we were pretty excited. John and I both were already big fans of the album, and hadn’t worked on a remix like this before. I couldn’t say what really led us to the final product. We spent time experimenting with different parts of the original before settling on what became the core of the remix.

6. Quicksails – ‘No Thought’


Jayson Gerycz: Ben Billington (Quicksails) is an amazing drummer who makes killer electronic music. I was actually listening to his album Silver Balloons in Clusters when I was trying to come up with the last couple remixers. I’ve seen Ben play psych/jazz/noise/rock so I felt it was pretty safe handing our jams over to him.

Ben Billington (Quicksails): When the band asked me to remix ‘No Thoughts’, I believe I had only heard the song in a live setting here in Chicago. I listened to the full song once all the way through, and then that was it before going to work on it. It was important for me to approach this remix in a different working method than my usual Quicksails composing style, so I experimented with ‘sampling’. I took a very short few seconds of the bass line, few seconds of guitar, and a few seconds of the lead vocal, and then used those few elements to compose the frame of the track. There is an upright piano in my house so I got a bit of that in there, as well as a bit of tabla and synthesizer. I thought it ended up sounding pretty psychedelic but also spacious, which was the intention. It was a really fun experience!

7. Forest Management – ‘Pattern Walks’

Forest Management

Jayson Gerycz: John Daniel is such a kind spirit. John’s minimal drone music is so beautiful and moving. When I first asked John if he was interested he got back to me right away asking what song. I didn’t know John even knew our album at all, but he did, and requested ‘Pattern Walks’ which was probably the most fitting tune for him to remix. It’s amazing that he turned our longest and very aggressive tune into a beautiful drone track using Dylan’s guitar and vocals. John was one of three remixers who knew exactly what track they wanted along with Outer Space and Bee Mask.

John Daniel (Forest Management): I wanted to capture the power that I hear in Cloud Nothings’ music. ‘Pattern Walks’ is unique in its duration and sense of space, and there is a certain tone that you don’t hear anywhere else on the record. Dylan’s guitar seemed very fitting for my usual approach in creating drone music, so I used it for the foundation of the remix. It didn’t feel complete, though, and sticking with just the guitar didn’t seem right. I started experimenting with looping Dylan’s vocals, and eventually managed to capture this continuous line of “I thought, I thought, I thought…”. This really completed the remix for me. It highlighted a certain emotional aspect of Dylan’s vocal line, which was an unexpected element. When I listened back to the completed remix, I felt a much deeper connection to the song.

8. Bee Mask – ‘I’m Not a Part of Me’

Bee Mask

Jayson Gerycz: Chris Madak is a complete fucking genius. I have no clue how he makes the music he makes and I don’t understand how he turned ‘I’m Not Part of Me’ into what it is, but I’m certainly glad he did!

Chris Madak (Bee Mask): When Jayson asked me about remixing something from Here and Nowhere Else, ‘I’m Not Part of Me’ was my immediate choice. The decision was an intuitive one on my part (I’m as much a sucker for a bulletproof hook as anyone), but now that I’ve had some time to think, it makes a particular kind of sense. ‘I’m Not Part of Me’ feels like the moment at which the record becomes conscious of itself as such, when, after seven tracks of sustained forward momentum, Cloud Nothings pause to wink at the idea that as they’re performing, they’re inevitably, well, performing — hiding as much as they reveal by virtue of the very nature of the game. The tone of the record, which up to this point has been dominated by bile and pessimism gives way to forcefully declaimed, fake-it-till-you-make-it serenity. Sure it’s affected, but it reflects a striking understanding of the power and inevitability of affectation.

Had it (for example) opened instead of closed the record, ‘I’m Not Part of Me’ would still be a killer song, but in some small way, Here and Nowhere Else would be a more average record. By virtue of this performative coming-to-terms showing up at the curtain call, it slyly acts out the way in which the synthesis and aestheticization of experience is always partial and always aspirational. In its own way, it’s meta-songwriting as much as, say, Harry Nilsson or U.S. Maple.

That Cloud Nothings’ understanding of craft extends beyond the construction of individual songs to the ability to carry off these sorts of subtle formalist tricks is a huge part of what I like about their work, and because my own productions are very much a matter of making records that really aggressively foreground their constructedness and playing around with the ways in which the sensation of inevitability can be produced as an aesthetic effect, I suppose that there was something in ‘I’m Not Part of Me’ that I related to and which showed me a way in when I started working on the remix.

Where the specific direction in which I took things is concerned, there are a few factors in play. When I do remixes, I’m always conscious of the fact that I’m essentially being asked to do my idea of someone else’s idea of my style. There’s an element of self-parody to it, which is probably a healthy way to look at the situation, because otherwise it would be too easy to turn in the sort of grim, assembly-line version of your schtick that characterizes remixing at its least interesting. So I’m always looking to deliver something a bit over the top and outré, looking for challenges and opportunities that I might not get out of sitting in my studio slogging it out on whatever else I’d have been working on, and looking for the chance to take some aesthetic or technical thing that I’m dealing with in my own work, see how it works in a different context, and inflate it to the point of absurdity.

In this case, I was hugely stoked to have really comprehensive multitracks of nicely recorded drums and guitars. I don’t often get to work with those sorts of sounds and I specifically requested that I get every individual mic’d element as opposed to submixed stems so I could go nuts making like fifty new versions of every snare hit, for example. When I started in on this remix I’d just had my head totally done in by reading Iannis Xenakis’s Formalized Music and had spent the last few months developing a group of probabilistic sequencing patches for use in my own material. One feature of these sequencers is that they have a particular way of controlling and modulating the degree to which a group of otherwise quasi-random processes appear to be correlated, and when you apply this correlation to more conventionally “musical” material, the result is really hilariously unsettling and uncanny. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to push those techniques into totally inappropriate insect-prog territory, and indeed a lot of the finished track was made through painstaking hand-editing of that kind of algorithmic vomit. Not everything made the cut — one working draft had an entire “Owner of a Lonely Heart”-sounding verse, for example — but quite a lot of it did in the end, as you can probably tell.

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