Brooklyn's favorite genre-traipsing live techno band DUST is the high-energy, dogma-free group everyone wishes they could be in. The trio is centered around the electronic manipulations of childhood friends John Barclay and Michael Sherburn, with multimedia artist Greem Jellyfish serving as their frontwoman and screaming shaman.
DUST was initially intended to be a late-Italo and horror disco studio project when it was christened in early 2012, under the spell of Claudio Simonetti, Fabio Frizzi, Goblin as well as synth-laden film soundtracks such as Richard Einhorn's suite for 'SHOCK WAVES.'
Almost immediately, the project entered acid territory and the duo saw themselves pulling influences from sinister acid tracks like Bam Bam's "Where's Your Child?" and Sleezy D's "I've Lost Control," in addition to the steady flow of American techno, Dada absurdism, internet culture, DMT and whatever other flotsam entered their periphery.
Barclay and Sherburn came of age in the swamps of North Carolina where pretty much all they had access to was Pantera and 311. To pass the time and blow off teenage steam, they played in numerous punk and metal bands. On the other side of the planet, Greem grew up in a strict South Korean household where she kept her singing and artistic leanings a secret, but eventually quit high school to express herself and travel. When her trip was done she opted to move to New York.
To escape the fate of North Carolina's swampland dwellers (jail, kids, premature death) and to jumpstart their musical careers, John and Michael also made the move to New York. We all know freaks come out at night, especially in Brooklyn, and the trio were introduced during a steamy summer banger thrown at now legendary DIY space 285 Kent, where the nascent friendship of DUST's members was spawned in the effervescent blossom of Greem's epic weirdness.
Once there were tracks to riff on, John contacted Greem who'd been performing frequently with her no-wave outfit Beef as a screeching drummer but was laid up after breaking an arm. Since she couldn't play, the opportunity to use her voice as the percussive element (à la Yoko Ono) was very exciting for Jellyfish and she leapt at the opportunity. "I love screaming when I have sex. While I am having good sex, I am inspired by my own scream. I think my scream is so primal and loud. The vibration of my vocal sounds so special," says Greem. She instantly applied the same feverish, propulsive energy formerly reserved for pounding into mosh pits and brought it to the world of Italo and Acid.
On the early days, Greem says: "When I first joined DUST, I was playing drums and scream with my other band almost once or twice a week because I had to play my energy out. I was angry. I continued the same performance attitude with DUST. I focused more on my vocals because I didn't have to play drums so my body became my drum. I was inspired by mosh pits. I like hitting a stranger's body. It's not violent nor sexual. It is sacred when the mosh pit is formed well. I loved the boiling energy. The sweat. The scream. The grotesque. Even though I was a small girl who is physically weaker than muscular boys at those shows, I would jump in to the pit, get on the floor, someone help me to stand up, I jump back into the pit again, get bruises everywhere, crowd surf, if someone touches my titties or pussy, I would hit that person and embarrass them."
DUST's feet are firmly rooted in punk. That high-flying middle finger makes delicately caressing knobs onstage pretty difficult onstage and renders producing balding white dude BPM techno an absolute non-option for DUST. Their frantic live energy, occasional emotional breakdowns, and whirl of movement they transmit refuses to be contained by hardware and neither will their gear adhere to any dogmatic, boring, purist manifestos. Forcing themselves to remain open minded and favoring frequencies over trends is their collective end goal.
According to Sherburn: "The most annoying thing about the electronic music scene are people who use the medium to actualize their identity: 'vinyl only' or 'analog hardware only.' As if the idea of something coming before the music automatically gives it substance and truth. [These people] completely ignore that techno is about exploring the future of technology."
Since the release of their first string of EPs, extensive overseas tour, and a recent performance with techno godfather Juan Atkins in Brooklyn, DUST has honed a creative strategy: weekly meetings that act as a pull session for the best of whatever sketches each member has generated. Some months ago during these sessions the group realized they were independently working on melancholic alien soundscapes dripping with jungle noises, so they decided to canonize the sound and their latest offering Paradise Simulator was born on Sci-Fi & Fantasy.
"It's about a depressive experiencing the tropics through virtual reality," says Barclay, while Greem describes it simply as a "mysterious, scary thing." Whatever Paradise Simulator is supposed to be, I know what it sounds like: beautiful, new-level, fully-formed electronica.