Bleep Interviews Stuart Argabright
NYC, 1981 – Ike Yard, the vanguards of NYC’s ‘no-wave’ scene, released their debut EP and and an album followed shortly after. Their unique, ‘outsider’ approach to the primitive electronic style of post-punk elevated them to the cult status that they have today. We caught up with one of the band’s founder members, Stuart Argabright, who has recently reformed the band and released their second album, ‘Nord’.
BLEEP: Can you tell us about the genesis of Ike Yard? Alongside ESG, you were the only other American band to sign to Factory records. Can you tell us how this happened and what it was like to work with such a cult label?
STUART ARGABRIGHT: Ike Yard came together after The Futants fell apart. We were all looking to do something next, found each other and grew rapidly from pre-recording drums on cassette or reel to reel to drum machines and a central MIDI controller.
During that time , we would get comments from other group’s about us ‘doing electronic music’ but after being invited by Suicide to do our first show with them and 13:13 @ Chase Park, Lydia [Lunch] asked us if we would be her backing band.
Once we felt ready and the first and only demo we mailed got picked up by Michel Duval @ Crepescule, we set about doing the “Night After Night” 12″ for them. Soon we were ‘on Factory Records America’, playing with Section 25 and New Order @ The Ukrainian National Home and dealing with the sound man there and at the Studio where we recorded the Factory album .
Tony Wilson popped in while we were tracking, we needed to educate the engineer there about recording our music and utilized some toys to get certain drum machine and perc. processing you can hear on say, “Loss”, “M Kurtz” and “Kino”. It was always a lot of work to prepare for shows, so each one was an evolution.
Someone at Maxwell’s commented one night that we sounded like “dinosaurs making love” – of course that was exactly our plan!
B: You’ve been involved in quite a few bands since Ike Yard began. Can you tell us about them?
SA: Looking back – keeping on the move, literally sometimes without a home, while moving the music forward was a crazed challenge. But in the early ’80’s everything was exploding all around you and you wanted to dive into it all. So a pattern did emerge where Ike Yard, then Death Comet Crew formed and both recorded two records and then looked around to see any reaction, any label or energy that could entice us to continue. Sometimes no one asked for another release, sometimes things fell apart but when you are 24, you just move on.
Always a fan of pop music , after IY I left for W Berlin with the concept for doing the club track “The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight”.
I had been involved with this dominatrix from some last days in Washington DC and once she moved up to NYC, the early morning hours spent in her Apt. set the scene for the Dom. project.
One night @ Dschungle with Christlo Haas and Blixa, Daniel Miller [Mute] came in and walked up to us with these young boys in tow – the soon to be leather and rubber-clad Depeche Mode! Very lucky to have such good friends who helped me survive in Berlin!
Once back in NYC fall of 1983, requests for productions started coming in and I found a new Studio partner to work with – Steve Breck who had worked with Kurtis Blow and The Fat Boys early records.
Together we worked on Dominatrix live tracks (we would do ‘track dates’ comprised of Iggy’s ‘Play It Safe’, ‘Mr. Dynamite’ and ‘Sleeps Tonight’ at clubs like The Copa, last days of Studio 54, Paradise Garage w/ Robert Gorl and Run DMC), programming new bits for DCC [Death Comet Crew] and eventually, the Voodooists project.
The club scene in NYC became diluted with yuppies, copycats and wankers, the feeling of it being a ‘hotbed’ ran down and out by ‘88 -’89.
I had began in punk rock, ‘little Iggy’ I was called in DC’s punk days when The Rudements were banned from The Atlantis Club and we recorded at the then – new Inner Ear Studios where Fugazi and all the DC hardcore went soon after .
So our reaction in ‘89 was to begin forming Black Rain and while finding the final members took a moment, we took things back to hardcore, post-punk combined with industrial. Gigged at Tompkins Sq. Park Anniversary of the riots there and fought the police with our metal perc. and oil drums through to opening for GG Allin’s final show on the LES.
So each of those groups and projects were different, pocket worlds and concepts we inhabited.
Parallel to all this was the development of large scale and tech intensive art projects as Robert Longo and Gretchen Bender’s de facto music director.
Between 1984 and 1989 we did so many things, and worked with artists like Sean Young from Blade Runner and Dune, Bill T Jones (’Fela’ on Broadway now ) and synth guitarist Chuck Hammer (’Ashes To Ashes’ by D Bowie). Thrilling to score and work with Robert and the Rotterdam Philharmonic alongside music by Arvo Part & P Glass in ‘88.
That’s how it ran in the 1980’s.
B: You’ve also worked and produced music for one of hip-hop’s more eccentric characters, the much-missed, Rammellzee. Can you tell us how you started working with him?
SA: We met way back in W Berlin 1983 and DCC made the call for him to join us on “At The Marble Bar” (Beggar’s Banquet 12″ ‘84 ). Rammell rocked it live and we never looked back, continuing to work together through thick and thin, on and off until 2007.
He recorded with DCC and Black Rain culminating with the ‘Bi – Conicals Of The Rammellzee’ LP on Gomma in ‘03 and tracks on the new DCC album after the re-release and shows in Europe & Japan. The Rammellzee stood out in the underground talents pool that brought many things to light during the ’80’s and his legacy in art & sound will roll on.
B: What are your thoughts on hip-hop as it is now?
SA: There was a moment where I found myself contacting Missy Elliot’s people because I just knew I had some bits for her, but quickly there after hip-hop as it was just paled. Got excited about K- Rob producing on an early Jay Z album , dug Timbaland like everyone but looking back, Aaliyah’s passing broke the period’s mood for me. These days I prefer to hear some Kuduro, Kuedo, Jamie Vex’d, Hud-Mo, Mike Slott or Tri Angle Records. Even DCC has moved on into other territories … Might be a little spoiled from working with Z !
B: You compiled the third, fantastic volume of Soul Jazz Records’ peerless ‘New York Noise’ series, which featured some of the most obscure and esoteric music of that period. Boris Policeband, Dark Day and Implog to name a but a few. Was the music that featured on this album part of your collection, or did you know the producers personally from the time?
SA: We all used to do shows together, or at least hung out and knew each other from those days. Boris, Robin and Donny all had unique and hybrid things going on and that made it attractive. If light doesn’t reach some of these artists in these decades of ‘re-release’ , then it may never reach down to really under known creators. I guess it was natural for me though, I was there when it happened .
Many of my own releases have been pretty obscure – and that led me to form REC partly in order to re-release Voodooists and Black rain and more .
B: Ike Yard’s second album, ‘Nord’ has just been released. Why did Ike Yard decide to reform?
SA: Gomma had started things rolling for us with their “Anti NY” comp. The dozens who knew of IY became hundreds and the tracks still sounded good. Once we reformed, toured and recorded new things with DCC, we (Michael Diekman and myself being in both groups) got together up in the New Hampshire mountains to jam. And once we found it did work, wet set about rejigging the Ike Yard machinery.
We had written close to another album after the Factory LP anyway, so there was some small feeling of, “hey, that stuff was great too”, and once that was released on the Acute comp – end of 2006 – the decks were clear to move forward again.
Kind of amazing to work with groups from 25 years ago, and find it can still spark. And for us, it’s been about the excitement of making the music, not about getting up to play your old songs and ‘looking back on the ’80’s’.
B: You’ve been working, recently, with a lot of new producers and there’s also a J.G. Ballard project that you are involved with. Can you tell us about these and what else you are doing musically at the moment?
SA: After working with so many labels, and seeing and hearing so many artists come and go, one begins to develop an Innis mode -
a world and information scanning process. Antennae up in the breeze, anticipating what will work, what is just a face or fad and you just never know when super artists emerge out of the crowds. Now that IY, Dominatrix and DCC have been re-released and done with new works, there is an ever wider horizon of possible musics. Things that just need to happen, have to get done in order to go beyond the same beats, the same thinking.
So hard & soft Sci Fi has always had that appeal …
‘Ike Yard’- a name Anthony Burgess came up with for “A Clockwork Orange”
Death Comet Crew- originally Death Star Crew until [George] Lucas sent us a letter.
Calling up William Gibson in 1984 and beginning a collaboration that influenced that early trilogy and resulted in him asking us to do the soundtrack for ‘Neuromancer’ audio book.
Then Longo’s “Johnny Mnemonic”.
Once I was lucky enough to meet JG Ballard at a book signing and slipped him a cassette. Ex-Live Skull guitarist and synthesist Mark C and I were longtime devotees of the master author and had set about pulling things together to do what is now the JG Ballard nights project when he passed. There are so many ‘children of Ballard’ now all grown up around the planet and I see it as essential that his works live on for the current and next, next generations. So we have been collaborating with Judy Nylon, David Silver and WFMU here, with Jonny Mugwup and Manny Zambrano in London to keep a light on the man’s work…
Nov.6 our new group Outpost 13 brings the night to Porto where we will present for the first time the full Chapter One of Atrocity Exhibition along with Time, Memory And Inner Space. Live soundtracks and video films created with a lot of help from our friends Robert Longo, Adrian Altenhaus, Walter Cotten, Jennifer Jaffe and Patrick Quick among multi-talented others.
Building towards doing it in London and beyond in 2011…
Along similar lines, O 13 releases the ‘Vandal Tribes – Audio Movie EP’ on REC Nov.16 featuring the works of the new British author Luca Davis with big help again from Judy Nylon’s narration. This time our music guest is Jamie Vex’d.
Luca’s words make images we render in sound, he’s like a young [William] Burroughs, but tougher, rough as the end of a stick.
But in the neighborhood of those UK dystopian writers like Russell Hoban’s ‘Riddley Walker’, and the last two Margaret Atwood novels cross cut with boy’s adventure stories and flesh of faded society.
B: What’s next for Stuart Argabright and Ike Yard?
SA: IY is into doing remixes these days – the new Metal Fire ‘Remake’ of the Sistol track on Cyan Halo is the first.
Somebody should also get us to remix the Factory Album. We transferred the tapes and they sit in my closet.
For my part, there are new clubby tracks underway for Nomi – former vocalist and focus for Hercules & Love P,
the Dystopians project EP with x Black rain master bassist Bones w/ guest guitarists Pete Jones & Norman Westberg on REC.
On this Europe tour in Nov. I will be writing and programming an album expanding on what we’ve seen in the last decade or so.
‘Solo’, new collaborations, soundscapes from the Phi Phi Islands before the tsunami and high Himalayas before the glacial lake behind Everest burst,
plus a return to club music because things have gotten a bit staid and stiffened.
I mean , our race had better get it’s *hit together, we have climbed out of the oceans and built a few times only to mess it all up again.
We’re not fucking around here.
Got to run, we mix Atrocity Exhibition downtown in 30m !
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