Q: Explain to us how +Passover- came about?
A: Following the successful release of Beyond the Mauve Zone (Mauve Zone Recordings’ second compilation album and the label’s 40th release) last December, it was my intention to put the label on hiatus for awhile to focus on my writing career, as MZR has been quite active these last few years and was becoming a bit of a distraction. But I find that when the writing isn’t flowing (this is sadly a common occurrence) I turn to working on music as a way to chill and pass the time, and I began working on new music that had quite a different feel to, say, the stuff I’ve recorded under the Sypha Nadon banner. So I thought it would be interesting to start a new “band,” only one that was more organized than official than Sypha Nadon (with a uniform look and style), in that I wanted there to be proper singles, official release dates, promotional material, interviews, and so forth. The album itself was recorded over a 7 month period, from December 2016 to early June of this year.
Q: How would you describe the band’s sound?
A: I would say primarily experimental electronic post-punk dance-rock with industrial noise and guitar rock flourishes. Dance music for deviants? The first song recorded for the project, “Rubble Landscape,” kind of set the tone. But it was the first single, “Menacing Earthworks,” that let me know I was on to something exciting. That song was done in March. I stepped out of the shower one night and I just heard the song’s riff playing in my head. So I kept looping it around until I was able to get to my computer and try to set it to music. To my surprise I was able to program a riff that sounded almost exactly like the one I had heard in my head, which is something I wouldn’t have been able to do 17 years ago… maybe not even 10 years ago! A sign that I’ve grown better at this…?
Q: It could be assumed that the band is titled after the Joy Division song of the same name? Also, why the plus sign and minus signs flanking it?
A: +Passover- was indeed named after the Joy Division song you mention, and I won’t deny that Joy Division is a big influence for +Passover-, not only in terms of sound but also in terms of visual presentation, which I feel is very important and sometimes overlooked (and Joy Division certainly had striking-looking albums). The use of the plus and minus signs is both a reference to the title of Joy Division’s 2010 singles box set (to say nothing of their “Atmosphere” video) and also is meant to make one thing of a battery, which is apt because the band’s music is very electronic… entirely electronic in fact. You could say that the plus sign represents the band’s more conventional elements and arrangement and the minus sign represents its more noisy and unconventional side.
Q: What were some of the band’s other sonic influences besides Joy Division?
A: I would also say that Nine Inch Nails, Swans, Depeche Mode, Chris & Cosey, Big Black, Sonic Youth, Throbbing Gristle, Siouxsie & the Banshees, New Order and Ladytron were very influential to the band’s sound and design. I’m sure I’m probably leaving a few out there by mistake…
Q: Why have you decided that +Passover- should be an instrumental band?
A: Some of the songs were designed with the idea of vocals in mind, and you can clearly spot the verse/chorus structure in a few of them. While I do love writing lyrics, I don’t really like “singing” or doing vocals because I’m just not very good at it, though I have experimented with vocals on a few of the more recent Sypha Nadon albums.
Q: Could you explain the very unusual song titles?
A: When it comes to instrumental music, song titles are often crucial because they have to evoke the atmosphere or emotion one is trying to capture (which can be difficult when no lyrics are involved). Originally I had planned on maybe naming the songs after Goetic demons, but that seemed too cliché and death metal. Then one day I was reading up on the subject of toxic waste disposal on Wikipedia and that led me to discover the concept of hostile architecture, a term and concept I had never encountered before. As soon as I saw that term I knew that I had found my album title (in some ways it also reminded me of Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine, and I liked the paradox: architecture is generally supposed to suggest harmony, after all, not hostility). Further research led me to discover Expert Judgment on Markers to Deter Inadvertent Human Intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a report put out by Sandia National Laboratories in 1993 (those curious to read the entire 350+ page PDF of the report can just Google the title). It’s one of the most fascinating documents I’ve ever read. Essentially, it involves a bunch of scientists trying to come up with markers to warn future generations away from the lab’s hazardous waste site (operating under the assumption that English might not be the dominant language at that point in time). At one point in the report they give designs for how these markers might look, presenting eight different types of designs with names like “Landscape of Thorns,” “Menacing Earthworks,” “Black Hole,” and so forth. Seeing as it just so happened I had eight songs assembled for my own album, I realized that those terms would make perfect song titles, and everything just fell into place after that. I also ended up using some of the report’s imagery in the band’s first two singles (along with the CD booklet for the LP).
Q: Would you like to discuss the cover art of Hostile Architecture?
A: Just as Joy Division do not have their band name appear on their Closer album, so it was important that for the first +Passover- LP only the album’s title appear on the front cover. The photograph of the Ritz crackers with the words “sex” supposedly embedded in them is taken from a 1973 book entitled Subliminal Seduction (by Wilson Bryan Key) that I read back in college many years ago. It’s hard to make out because I deliberately blurred the image but in the background you can just make out a woman showing off her tits: that’s from Kianna Dior’s porn film “Extra Soapy Busty Asian MILF,” for the curious.
Q: What are the future plans for +Passover-?
A: I think later on this year we’ll maybe see one more single taken from off the album (possibly “Spike Field”) and maybe a non-LP single as well: I like the idea of doing enough singles so that at some point in the future I could release two collections, one of a-sides and one of b-sides, just like Siouxsie & the Banshees (and many other bands) have done. Maybe in 2018 I’ll start work on a second album. Nothing is set in stone yet. And I would just like to say that just because I’m focusing on this band for the moment does not mean I’m terminating the Sypha Nadon project… I’m just given that latter band a well-deserved rest.
Q: Finally, would you recommend +Passover-‘s new album to someone who has never listened to a Mauve Zone Recordings LP before?
A: I would certainly recommend Hostile Architecture as a good entry point for someone who has never experienced a Mauve Zone Recording album.
Q: Thank you for your time.
A: The pleasure was all mine!