‘Build With Erosion’, doesn’t pertain to any set form or principle. It’s a challenge: a deeply experimental and infectious third album from The Berg Sans Nipple, combining devastating melodies and a mind bending rhythm section informed by disciplines as diverse as gamelan, dancehall and DC Hardcore. THE BERG SANS NIPPLE is Lori Sean Berg and Shane Aspegren.
What was the last thing that inspired you?
S: That’s a hard one to answer. As time goes on, it’s a lot harder to be really be blown away by things. We just did the project with Le Musee Du Quai Branly in Paris and had the chance to dig through their audio archive. This was really refreshing to work on to discover new sounds from around the world. Also, Lori and I saw the Anish Kapoor installation at Le Grand Palais together and that was really amazing. It was something that you needed to spend some time inside to appreciate the full effect. I suppose we like things without immediate gratification.
Can you remember a particular inspiration for your latest album BUILD WITH EROSION?
S: The record was created over such a long period of time that there were so many things that were poured into it. In the end, the theme of erosion was really important.
L: We use a lot of eroded musical equipment. I’m not sure how to say it? We love dust!
S: In a way it’s always been a theme of the band… using instruments that are on their way out, or loving the sounds that came from pedals with dying batteries…
Is the concept of “erosion of instruments” something that interests you conceptually or is it the frailty of sounds created?
S: I guess it’s both of those things. There’s always been a balance of harshness and beautiful sounds in there. Also, lyrically, it all ties in together, but that’s all there for people to digest as they’d like.
L: I love instruments on their last legs. I want to give them a second life
Tell us a little more about why you work with concepts. In advance of the album release, you set up a site for BUILD WITH EROSION incorporating the surrealist concept of the exquisite corpse. You used this concept again for the promotional video for Change the Shape. Why?
S: A band that I was part of back in the late 90’s used to make exquisite corpses in the van on tour and, at that time, I was really into the Surrealists. I’ve always wanted to do a project like that and it worked really well with the “Change the Shape” theme. It also gives a different energy to a project when you can get a bunch of other artists involved.
L: Although “Build with erosion” is not a “conceptual” album…
S: Maybe not conceptual in the sense of advance planning but, in the end, it developed into a unified concept. Things become what they are and it all makes sense together.
One of my favourite tracks on the album is DEAD DINOSAURS RULE THE EARTH. How did that track develop?
L: From Zari!
S: Of course, the title came from my daughter and I jotted it down in a notebook. We had a bass line and drumbeat in a tape full of improvs that we had done together and I thought that the title was perfect for the bass line. As always, it went through a lot of transformation to get to the end of that track, but it all stemmed from a child’s mouth and an improv.
L: An old old idea. Probably recorded from my minidisc.
S: Yep, that wasn’t one that we created from opposite sides of the world. Apart from the lyrics, it was worked on in an old fashion style, when we were together. I think even all of the kalimba lines were from that minidisc!
Lori, you live in France and Shane, you live in Nebraska. Do you work together while living apart by exchanging ideas or do you tend to do most of the work in the concentrated periods when you are actually together?
L: We really need to be together for “the moment “. But maybe we could do a conceptual album through skype next time?
S: It’s really combination of the two. The best stuff comes out in the concentrated periods of being together though. The brooding and frustration comes at the other points, but then gets weeded out when we meet up again.
L: That sounds agonizing. But when were together we have a lot of fun, we play pinball and drink wine and champagne.
S: visit caves…
L: and meet cavemen…
S: Cro-mags from the perigord noir!
The Berg Sans Nipple is known for its amazing live shows. How do the two of you go out there and recreate the complexities of your sound?
S: We started as a live band. In fact the first few shows we did, we never repeated any of the music that we made, but were really just writing a set of music to perform live. Now thing are a lot more complicated in that we’re writing in the studio and then trying to figure out how to transform that into a two person live setting. I love both sides, but it’s become more challenging as things have evolved.
L: It’s always a “casse-tête chinois” when we play shows! I think it would be much easier for us to simply work in the studio. But it’s important for us to play live music… to be connected with people.
S: We’ve always tried to make a connection between each other, even through sampling each other live and setting up face-to-face. I think that was our first goal in playing with each other. So the idea was the inception of the band. And hopefully that’s how we connect with our crowd.
You both work outside the band, including work in film and photography. Do you have any favourite photographers or visual artists?
S: I have a hard time pinpointing favourites of anything. I was really into Robert Frank and Duane Michaels and photographers like that when I first started taking photos, but there’s a lot to love about so many things. I like colour a lot more now. But speaking of visual artists, we’re really lucky to have been working with Cody Hudson and Stephen Eichhorn (who were responsible for the artwork for “Build with Erosion”).
If THE BERG SANS NIPPLE could work with anyone who would it be?
L: Johnny Cash.
S: That’s interesting. I feel like it’s always the thing that’s the most exotic that interests both of us, which is maybe why the trans-atlantic game works for us. I’d probably say that scoring something with Ennio Morricone or maybe even moreso, Bernard Herrmann. It wouldn’t necessarily be a film though… maybe something in a public setting. Or we could score Johnny Cash’s life.
In what direction do you see THE BERG SANS NIPPLE developing into in the future?
L: Pinball sound design. That is the future for me!
S: If Lori is going to go off on his own to get lost in pinball world, then I guess that it’s, the end! We’re trying not to focus too much on the future but to work on the present as much as possible. We’re starting to do a lot more film work together and that’s what we’re really interested in. I don’t see us ever stopping making music together, but we’re also ready for another step into other things. We’ve got another project in the works as well… a new record with a different concept that won’t necessarily be the BSN, but will still be in the same spirit.