Por: Saúl Robles Ríos
Especial para PuertoRicoIndie.com
Oliver Ackermann es el guitarrista y vocalista de la banda nuyorquina A Place to Bury Strangers. También es el fundador de la compañía de efectos Death by Audio. En esta tercera edición de la serie Volumen 11, hablamos un poco con Oliver sobre su proceso creativo al momento de grabar, sus pedales favoritos y Barry Manilow.
Puerto Rico Indie (PRI): Oliver, thanks for taking the time to talk to us! You just got back from doing some shows in Europe… how was that European adventure? You’re starting the US length of the tour in June, right?
Oliver Ackermann (OA): Europe was really great. Maybe one of the best times ever. We have been getting more and more crazy and more and more experimental so everything has been kind of twisting into this new more intense and diverse direction. There have also been a lot more people dancing and going wild at our shows which really makes me want to go more wild and dance so its a win-win for those who like to be pushed around. We aren’t really going on a US tour right now just kind of playing shows here and there while we record and play with a few different drummers. Some shows will be with John Fedowitz who I was in a band with a long time ago called Skywave and the other shows are with Lia Braswell from the Butcherettes.
PRI: A Place to Bury Strangers has the unofficial title of New York City’s “loudest” band. What’s your favorite loudest band?
OA: Geeze, there are so many great ones. I love loud music so My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr., Lightning Bolt, and Swans come to mind. I remember on some tour we did a sound engineer told me the loudest band he ever did sound for was Barry Manilow. I’m down to go head to head with Mr. Manilow and have a Run DMC / Aerosmith contest to settle this once and for all.
PRI: When I listen to A Place to Bury Strangers, it feels like you write songs for the effects and noise instead of adding them after the fact. Could you talk a little about your writing process?
OA: Sure, that is something that got me really turned off a long time ago when working with an engineer who said “we’ll just add the effects afterwards”. You just aren’t playing the instrument you say you are if you do that! For me the sound is important and is what differentiates a piano from a guitar and so you wouldn’t play the piano like you would a guitar or you would be missing the opportunities you have while playing the piano. Same thing goes with a guitar with reverb or chorus or fuzz or whatever on it. It’s different and would be played into differently to play with the effect.
When it’s me and I’m writing, I’m writing for a record. And as I’m recording I’m changing around the songs and the structures and the feels all at the same time. I also master, mix and everything all at the same time organically. It might not get the most polished studio results but the sounds coordinate with mood and feeling exactly. The effects are the instruments and how much I play into the dynamics and equalization as I go so it is part of the pieces of music as well.
PRI: What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term “Wall of Sound”?
OA: Phil Spector. And I always think of the timpani drums first for some reason. I think it’s one of those things that just made my heart melt at an early age –those rolling drum beats. After that I discovered the physical excitement of the wall of sound. This is created with volume and a balance of sounds to really make it take over your body. That is raw power.
PRI: You created Death by Audio Effects in 2001-2002. How did you start creating effect pedals? Did you teach yourself?
OA: I had been trying to build and modify a lot of gear for a few years before then. I was collecting a lot of effects and composing a lot of music. I really just wanted to take things further and explore. This was another method. Learn how effects work. I built a couple of guitars and instruments as well but really got into effects as I love those new sounds of the 70s.
PRI: How involved are you with the company nowadays while all the touring is going on?
OA: I pretty much just focus on design and help with teaching people who work at DBA to build things and make them as good as possible. It is the most important part of the company for me. Make great effects and build them to be bulletproof.
PRI: What’s your favorite non Death by Audio effect pedal?
OA: There’s a lot of them. I’d say some of my all time favorite are the Maestro Brassmaster, Mu-tron Phase II, Endangered Audio Research Gristelizer, Roland Double Beat, Colorsound Suppa Tonebender, Eventide Space, Electro Harmonix Q-tron+, Lo Rez Mona Lisa Overdrive…
PRI: So you always play –sorry, you destroy— a Fender Jaguar with lipstick pickups. Why lipstick pickups? Do they help you better channel the noise and loudness?
OA: They are just ones that I thought sounded good and are cheap. They are some crummy brand called Tone of God and I bought a bunch of them for $10 each a long time ago. At the time I wanted my guitars to all sound similar so that I had an idea of what was going on when playing but now I kind of like things to be more unpredictable so I’ve been sabotaging the pickups I have and putting piezos and such inside the guitars for crazier and more unpredictable sounds. It requires me to always listen very carefully while playing to sort of have a live fight with my guitar and amp to make a song come out.
PRI: A Place to Bury Strangers is a trio. I heard that you use a couple of amps live to create that stereo sound. What’s the magic number of amps required live to bury strangers?
OA: The minimum number is 2 and I always ask for that when we aren’t bring our own equipment. Also the type of amp isn’t important at all. Any amp can sound good you just have to turn the knobs. If we are bringing our own I’ll play out of 4.
PRI: Our last interview was with fLIP Tamez, guitarist for the Mexican band Jumbo. He loves the DBA Apocalypse, and wanted to ask: “I think Death by Audio has been the last company that revolutionized the sound of the music scene … What’s next for you now that are beginning to become a benchmark of the current sound?”
OA: We’re working on doing the same thing again. It’s a slow process and we have a lot of ideas so I hope we get the chance to build them all for everyone to use.
PRI: Puerto Rico + A Place to Bury Strangers = When?
OA: We love to travel and I had such a great time the one time I went to Puerto Rico, so let’s say soon.
PRI: Hey man, I just want to say thank you for giving us a chance to talk to you and for making cool audio stuff that sparks creativity.
OA: For sure man, my pleasure! Thanks for taking the time for the interview.
A Place to Bury Strangers lanzó su más reciente producción, Transfixiation, a principios del 2015 a través del sello Dead Oceans. Mantente al tanto de novedades de la banda a través de su página oficial y para todo lo relacionado a pedales de efectos visita la página de DBA.