MEET THE ORCHESTRA..........SHOWS..........RECORDINGS..........TEXTS...........CONTACT...........SIMULUX

Article first published in the Tablet Newspaper #33 12/27/01-1/9/02...................................Tentacle interview





Who the hell is ?


by Leah Gold



Mutant Data Orchestra is a band comprised of twin brothers. John Bain lives in Seattle and his brother Mark lives in Amsterdam; they meet several times a year to work on projects. To see them play together is like watching an important moment in history. Not only is their music lively and constantly evolving, but they play experimental music that's almost danceable, with melodies weaving in and out from dub to Serge Gainsborough, mixed with sound that independently stimulates your body and also forces you to question what exactly is happening. It's aggressive, interesting, and you never know what's going to happen next. The masses haven't caught on yet, but these guys are reinventing music. I talked with the brothers Bain after a recent show in Berlin.

Tablet: Experimental shows are not always exciting, but when I see you guys, it's like sitting down to a feast of a hundred dishes. With all the textures you use, it's hard to get bored.

Mark: This person who saw the show last night was saying how parts of it reminded him of film soundtracks. He was looking at it as these sort of soundscapes.

John: I'm not doing it for the audience, I'm doing it for myself, so if I get bored I just break it down and try to find something new. If I find something cool, I'll leave it going, so it's like this real time dialogue set up with the machines. Last night Mark was playing these cool rhythms I already [seemed to] have in my head. It's not techno, it's not drum and bass, it's not a style; it's just cool rhythms, so we segue into it without any problem getting into a groove.

Tablet: It's refreshing, because when you listen to some experimental bands your mind wants to find things, and that's part of the work. But you give listeners something they don't have to find. You personalize it and you don't need a melody.

John: That's like a deconstructive idea, rewriting the text as you read it. Some of this music gets so dense in layers and frequencies that your mind can navigate through and find the composition.

Mark: For some performances I prefer people to wear earplugs so you can even crank it up louder, so it's more of a body feel. When you deal with the body, it circumvents the intellectual part. I find with a lot of experimental shows that are difficult to listen to, you have to force yourself to enjoy it. After a while it gets tiring.

Tablet: I liked what you did at the end of the show with that single sound that vibrated. I could feel my organs moving.

John: Mark was using this mic, basically a feedback loop and pointed it at the speakers.

Mark: It's a really low frequency mic, so it picks up all the frequencies.

John: He has a feedback controller, so he cuts out all the feedback and cranks the gain. Anything that's not feeding back is just puffy. The way we play is very simple: we have two lines going to the main mixing board, then I feed my mix into John's and it becomes a competition of the sound. I trust his aesthetics.

Mark: I was talking with Voice Crack [a Swiss band that played after MDO] and asked them if they work with MIDI at all. They said, "We don't do that too much," and we said, "We don't do that too much either, except that we're twins and we sort of have this MIDI with the head. We have this mental MIDI."