Cornerstone 2000: Michael Anderson Interview
It’s a safe bet that most of you haven’t heard of Michael Anderson, nor have you heard of BlueSanct, the label that he runs. But perhaps you’ve heard of Low, Hood, In Gowan Ring, lovesliescrushing, or Cindytalk. Michael’s worked with all of them. He’s released a Low live album and video compilation, In Gowan Ring’s excellent The Glinting Spade, played in lovesliescrushing, and has worked with a slew of underground artists as the head honcho at Bluesanct and as a member of various musical collectives.
After seeking some air-conditioned shelter in the Artist Hospitality trailer, I began asking Michael about his various affiliations, how his faith has come to be and flourish, and how he’s been so dang lucky as to release a Low live album. Not only was he incredibly knowledgable and talkative, but he has a genuine vision for his label and the many projects that he’s involved in.
Jason: Can you give a description of BlueSanct and the reason you started it?
Michael: I started it in 1995 as part of an artist collective called the “Day2 Alliance”. It was just a cassette label that was almost specifically designed to make annoying tapes to send to local music magazines. There were four labels and Day2 was primarily the main label, [with] a band called The Stuffings. We sent so many cassettes to these magazines, especially one called The Noise. This was in Boston, by the way.
They actually started reviewing them in terms of like, “Please stop sending these”. Then they started reviewing other bands in terms of, “Well, this band stinks, but at least they’re not the Stuffings”. It was successful.
I then decided I wanted to start doing vinyl and CDs around ’97. A friend of mine had just done sound for Low on their tour and I had done two split 7“s by Drekka, my band. Low agreed to do a live CD for me and that’s when I decided to really pursue it as a career and quickly realized I could use it as a ministry of sorts.
Jason: I was looking through one of the catalogues I got when I bought the Low videos and I noticed there definitely seemed to be a community, or artist collective that surrounds the label. What are all the bands that are involved? You mentioned that you were in Drekka.
Michael: Yeah, well the Day2 Alliance was originally based around a band called The Stuffings, which was members of all different bands from Boston. There was a band called Mistle Thrush that were on Bedazzled at the time. They were like an ethereal pop band. There was Turkish Delight, which was kind of Sonic Youth-ish. Since I’ve moved away from Boston to Chicago, and now I live in Bloomington with Secretly Canadian, there now seems to be a BlueSanct community emerging within the Day2 Community.
It’s always based around a family aspect. We’re constantly doing something. For someone’s birthday we’ll get all the BlueSanct bands to cover that band’s songs. We’ll make a little CD and burn as many as it is that person’s birthday. If they’re 29, we’ll do 29. Yeah, there is definitely a community aspect.
It’s really cool because I don’t have a natural tendency toward evangelism. I just sort of witness by example. So by my example of just being legit and communal with my bands and stuff, God has used… actually, a lot of Day2 people have become born again and so it’s weird, because it was initially a secular thing. It is becoming increasingly a ministry. Not exclusively though. There is no room for Christian seperatism here.
The bands involved mostly, but not inclusively, are Drekka, static films, Tiltmaster, La’brador, Camera Club, [Minmae], the Stuffings, FuscilLage. There’s dozens of bands involving various members of various bands.
Jason: So a lot of the music you like doing are basically just friends?
Michael: Right. The next things I’m going to put out are Tiltmaster, which is my cousin Darryl, who used to be in Turkish Delight and is a long standing member of Day2. He runs his own label called Black Apple, which is a cassette label. When we were 12, we talked about growing up and putting out each other’s records.
There’s also a band called Static Films. I started working with them about 2 years ago. They were like 15 years old at the time. I wanted to show them that they could do anything they want and foster them as they went along. Now we have [Minmae] from San Francisco and the Pilot Ships, which has members of Monroe Mustang, Brian McBride from Stars of the Lid and his girlfriend, Cheree. Hopefully, I’ll get to continue working with Low. We’ve got sort of a roster of 5 or 6 bands.
Jason: You recently put out an album by In Gowan Ring, which is a phenomenal record. How did that come about? I know they have done stuff for World Serpent and under various monikers. How did you get in touch with them?
Michael: Well, when the first In Gowan Ring came out in ’94, a CD called “Love Charms”, I was working on another band at the time called Alizarin, like the color Alizarin Crimson. We were trying to do the same sort of thing, but when we heard “Love Charms”, we were so blown away by how much better they did it than anything we could do that I called up World Serpeant and demanded to talk to B’eirth. They gave me his phone number, actually.
I called up B’eirth and told him he broke up my band. I corresponded with him sporadically until about ’97 when I was in Portland, Oregon recording my Drekka CD, which is going to come out, finally, in February. It turns out that B’eirth [and In Gowan Ring] were living in a loft two houses down. They played on Halloween, and I went to that, which was kind of scary… Bachanalean feast kind of thing. But I got on really well with themand convinced them that World Serpeant was not where they should be. That I could do better with promotion and I have.
Jason: Looking through the catalogue again, I noticed that you put out a lot of cassettes and CDs, but you also put out a lot of print and a lot of video. Do you kind of want to move into the multimedia range? Do you want to put out all forms of mass media, whatever it may be? I noticed you carry a lot of underground music magazines. I ordered “a-MAZE-zine” out of Montreal.
Michael: Yeah, that’s by Marie-Douce. Well, before I even started doing Day2, I helped with a magazine called Tear Down The Sky, which was sort of a goth/industrial, Victorian anthropology magazine. I had fun doing magazines and then Chris Gregory, who started the Day2 Alliance and is a poet, he made little books. I published those, and there’s a book called “The Fisherman”, which I am holding in front of the microphone…
Jason: And I’m looking at right now…
Michael: “The Fisherman” actually embodies the Day2 multimedia aesthetic because we’ve done it as a children’s book and we’ve done it as a marionette play. We’ve done it as a puppet show, there’s a song based on it, and there’s an animated film. There’s also going to be an interactive website eventually.
Yeah, and for 4 years I’ve worked with a girl named Kirstin Grieve, who is a filmmaker. She helped teach me a lot about the physical manufacturing of video. I’ve put out 2 videotapes by her. One being the Low videos she did and one being “shortfilmsbyKirstinGrieve1995-1997”. I’m going to do Volume 2 soon. So, yeah, I want to continue doing that.
I’m actually working on doing a DVD right now of a film by Chris Wallis, Ruby Wallis’ father, from Nurse With Wound. It’s going to be a film starring Ruby Wallis and David Tibet from Current 93. It’s in a real preliminary stage. I definitely want to do DVDs, and web sites. Tiltmaster’s an animator and he just learned Flash, so we might do some Flash sites. I’m going to start releasing free MP3 only singles with downloadable covers for CD-R’s. The first one on that will be lovesliescrushing and Vir, a split single. Vir being Scott and I, and the lovesliescrushing track is actually a remix I did of a song of their’s.
Jason: About your band Drekka. You said you have a CD coming out in February. How would you describe that? What kind of musical context are you working with?
Michael: I usually describe it as “experimental folk music”. It is written from a folk point of view. It has a folk soundbase and then I aggressively produce it in an experimental way. I try to have it as tonal as possible. In a way, it is a noisier version of what In Gowan Ring is doing. There are lots of drones and my intent with it is to try and record what I think it sounds like in my head. I write these songs, and in my head they sound totally different than just playing, so I try to record them that way.
I also try to display the mindset of being a manically-depressed Christian, sort of trying to cope. I’m trying to show people that there is hope, but it’s not an easy thing. It’s not all fun and games or whatever. I just try to show people that despair is a lot easier when you can get a handle on it. I was a lot more miserable before I was a Christian. I’m not miserable anymore, but it’s not always real easy.
Jason: That’s something you are definitely conveying through BlueSanct and all the stuff you are putting out.
Michael: Yeah, and not really overtly, but I would never deny my sprituality if someone asked me, but it’s not like an evangalistic mission. It is a mission and it’s important to me and I do think that the reason BlueSanct has been successful and continues to be is because of God’s grace. He sees that I’m trying to do something. This is something that I can do. If I can help just a couple other kids that are like, “Boy, what’s going on? Why can’t I get up in the mornings?”, then I’m pleased with that.
Jason: So, is there any chance we’ll see a BlueSanct artist here at Cornerstone?
Michael: I hope. Well, I’m playing in Anaphylaxis tomorrow. I’ll be doing the Drekka-ish kind of guitar thing. I was going to play tonight at the Impromptu, but I need to figure out where it is and I wouldn’t know how to tell anyone about it. Yeah, it’s still confusing to me on how to go about it, but I would love to do a full Drekka set with a cellist.
Jason: It’s primarily just you though?
Michael: Yeah, there’s no band per se, but there’s about 20 members that I acknowledge. I just use them as I need them. Before I left Chicago in May, there was kind of a stable lineup of myself, a guy named John on cello, and Mark [from Static Films] on acoustic guitar. We did a couple shows that way.
Jason: Have you ever heard of a band called Lucid? They have a side project called After The Flood, but it’s kind of the same.
Michael: Yeah, After The Flood. My friend Gordon Sharp sang on their last [album].
Jason: Oh yeah, from Cindytalk.
Michael: Yeah, I was going to play with Cindytalk, but I decided ideologically we would probably go head to head. I love Gordon, but being in his band would be a little bit too perverse (laughing). The cool thing about Gordon is that I could talk to him about anything, but he just may not agree with it.
Jason: So how did you come about getting all these underground groups like In Gowan Ring and Cindytalk. A lot of groups that fit like David Tibet or World Serpeant, or into that umbrella.
Michael: Well, through a sort of passion. I went to see the Current 93 shows in New York in 1997, the Halloween shows, and I met B’eirth of In Gowan Ring, and met some other people. There’s a guy named Matt Waldren who’s going to be on BlueSanct who does a lot of mid-period Nurse With Wound-ish soundscape stuff. He does a thing called irr.app.(ext.) [Irrational Appendage (Extended)]. He just did a Drekka remix, or deconstruction of something that’s going to be on lathe cut 7″ with [Minmae] on a Kylie Productions in the UK.
Yeah, I guess I just meet these people because I’m passionate about it. My friend Annie and I, who did the magazine Tear Down The Sky before BlueSanct, we read an article once about Cindytalk playing live in ’95 or something, and it was like the first time we had heard anything of them in about 6 years. So we, as obsessives, we hunted them down and interviewed them. We sort of regenerated his enthusiasm to do it.
Eventually, we even brought them over to the states and set up the Cindytalk tour, which was in ’96 I believe. It was their first tour of the States. I mean things happen. I don’t really talk to the people I set the shows up with but… I don’t know, the more people you meet the more people you meet (laughs).
Jason: Right, everyone is connected somehow. Through the seven degrees of David Tibet or whatever. Well, anything else that excites you in the world today or that’s coming out on BlueSanct?
Michael: Well, I guess I’m really excited about the Tiltmaster record that’s coming out, because that’s my cousin. We’ve been talking about that since we were 12. He’s increasingly interested in God and Christ and stuff. He’s increasingly asking me about it. It’s sort of like a very firsthand pat on the back from God. To have my cousin ask me about this, because he is so close to me. So, I guess I’m just real excited to see how that pans out. I hope I can do him a service and show him.
Jason: One more thing. Do you ever find that, especially working with bands like World Serpent whose ideologies are dubious, and David Tibet who seems to always have a different religion…
Michael: You know, it’s really weird. David Tibet has inspired so many Christian goths in a way. It kind of confuses me how he can acknowledge the divinity of Christ, but then ally Him with the Buddhists. It’s really weird. But, you know, the World Serpent people are actually some of the most open people, because they all accept that they all believe something different. But, it’s all very pantheist and the way of the world, really.