Monday, May 16, 2011

Interview with Custodian's Jon Engman

Custodian Interview

Joe/Cryptic Inscriptions:I like to thank you Jon for taking the time to do this interview. Give the readers a brief history of when and why you started Custodian, also why did you choose the name?

Jon- Thanks for the questions. I started listening to noise in 1997 after I read an article in Relapse's RESOUND zine/catalog called "the current state of american noise" written by Joseph Roemer of Macronympha. I was already ordering a lot of records through relapse so after I read this article and paged through the titles in their distro I became extremely interested in the genre and started ordering stacks of releases by Killer Bug, Incapacitants, Masonna, Atrax Morgue, Brighter Death Now, Merzbow etc. Comps like The Japanese American Noise Treaty, Release Your Mind series, Esthetiks of Cruelty, Absolute Supper, and American Noise all blew my mind. I started recording my attempts at harsh noise soon after. I continued to record on and off, to varying degrees of intensity and styles, until late 2007 when I feel I started Custodian as an actual project.
As for the name: Honestly, the word itself first caught my interest while watching an Aeon Flux animated short, although it's not used in reference to that. I just liked the sound of it. Coincidentally I work as a 3rd shift janitor/custodian at a shady downtown parking structure, so Custodian was perfect...and in retrospect, painfully obvious. I wanted a name that "sounded cool" and that could somehow relate to my life in an everyday manner.

Joe: When I listen to Custodian I get a vibe of anger, aggression, depression, solitude. Is this what you’re trying to convey or is there a deeper meaning to the noise ridden soundscapes?

Jon: Those are definitely apt descriptions, but I'm not aiming for that necessarily. The tracks are recorded on the fly and being that I'm disappointed/frustrated with life in general, they always tend to sound bleak. I try to keep focus on severe sounds, not on concept.

Joe: The one thing I really like as far as Custodian is concerned is the fact that you seem to mix sounds to make the soundscape interesting where sometimes a lot of noise bands lack on this, and only rely on one sound. Do you improv everything or do you sit down and decide what types of sound you’re going to use?

Jon: Tracks are for the most part improvised. I usually have no preset structure besides a certain mood in mind or sometimes just a loop to start with. Everything so far has been recorded with 2/3 different pedals, a shaker or mic, lots of gain, and the occasional random metal junk object. Maybe opposed to some wall noise, drone, and truly minimal acts my sound is varying but compared to other harsh noise acts I think custodian is pretty strict.

Joe: I know you have a pretty minimal setup as far as equipment is concerned. Not only for Custodian, but for some of your previous bands as well, i.e.: Foetopsy. Do you feel less is better? Explain your setup as far as Custodian is concerned, and also which piece of equipment could you not live without as far as Custodian is concerned?

Jon: I always keep my gear down to essentials. It forces me keep focus on each track and the project as a whole. The setup as of right now is a shaker, boss rc-2, eq pedal, korg px4d, and mixer. Other than that I have a netbook with that I record on live to one track. I could probably live without the eq in the current chain I have going but everything else is necessary.

Joe: I really like the dark dreary vibe of the artwork. Does the theme of the art go together with the titles of the album? Or is that entirely different?

Jon: For my first handful of releases the art was just visual references to the sounds. The last few releases were more thought out where the title and artwork were related. I only started using titles because it was odd keeping track of everything using just numerals, and it's also not a very original or compelling idea. The titles add a bit of guidance into the artwork and sounds that I think was lacking for the first few releases.

Joe: In your opinion what makes Custodian stand apart from other noise bands?

Jon: With every project it's about the individual so what makes Custodian stand apart from other projects is that it's my take on harsh noise. The sounds, loops, timing of cuts etc make it just a touch different than other acts working in the same field...I'm not doing anything too original and am 100% fine with that.

Joe: I know you did a few collaboration releases recently; will there ever be a live collaboration with Custodian and any of the bands you did collaborations with?

Jon: So far I have collaborated with Gnawed from Minneapolis. We released a 3"cdr titled "loathsome" but have not performed live together yet. Then there’s the project known as DeathJenk...a 3 way collab with Gnawed, Grainbelt, and myself on loops and mixer. We have done two live sets and have recordings completed that will eventually end up being released. I've also done one set and collabed on a couple tracks for Disgust (Chicago).

Joe: Would you describe Custodian as a natural disaster decimating civilization or an angered stampede of animals trampling someone to death?

Jon: I would describe it as me being disgusted and relating it to harsh electronic noise.

Joe: Do you have any other projects you’re involved in? Will there ever be a Foetopsy reunion?

Jon: As of right now, Custodian is the only project I'm active with and into doing. No plans on a foetopsy or brodequin reunion, sorry.

Joe: If a painter listened to Custodian and then was told to paint a portrait of what he perceived from listening to your soundscape what do you think he would paint?

Jon: Probably something dark or abstract. I'd like to see what someone would come up with.

Joe: Thanks again for the interview Jon, what’s in store as far as Custodian is concerned recording and live?

Jon: Thanks for the questions! Coming up next is a split LP on No Visible Scars, and a c30 for Housepig, then there’s a few labels I need to get back to. As far as live sets...May 27th in Chicago, and June 3rd in Milwaukee are the only things lined up at the moment. I'm also hoping to have an official and thorough .com up soon. I'm not really into using the BlogSpot so expect a change in homepage within the next few months.
Joe:Any last words for the readers?
I guess just check out my BlogSpot for (limited) news and info, and soundcloud page for streaming audio. Thanks to the few who've been listening.

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