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"Noise From the Sweat Lodge": an Interview With Container

A conversation about bedroom shows, tape culture and punk rock.

In conversation with Container, the Rhode Island native whose breakneck transitions are figuring him as a viable crossover between the inner recesses of techno and noise, probably the last phrase you'd expect him to use to convey his sound is "accessible party music". Heavy and hypnotic in its crunching power, the Container project is a rhythmic tour de force: a constant, menacing display built from cassette tapes and analogue synths, so it's hard to imagine "accessible party music" being pencilled onto record store stickers for his 2012 Container LP on Spectrum Spools, or his latter EPs.


His latest release however, Adhesive (via Liberation Technologies, a sub label of Daniel Miller's iconic Mute Records), could see a swell towards this strange, captivating self-analysis. THUMP caught up with Container in the lead up to Adhesive's release; touching on the frantic club spaces of his Providence, RI hometown, and how the decidedly punk rock aesthetic of Container is evolving.

THUMP: Where are you right now?

Container: Just hanging out at home.

Where's that? Providence, Rhode Island?

Container: Yeah, Providence, south side.

Did you grow up there? Do you live in your birthplace?

Container: My parents live here. I grew up mostly in Providence. I moved away for about six years, but I came back in 2012.

What do you like about Providence—besides your parents and old friends still being there?

Container: Well, I don't care much for big cities really. I prefer smaller places like Providence for a lot of reasons. Price being a big one. I can live here for a fraction of the cost of New York City. And still, if for some reason I wanted to go to NYC, it's only three hours away.

How's the infrastructure there for music culture? Are there places that have been relevant to you as a teenager that you still like to go to these days, or do you need to travel to NYC?

Container: The music scene here is really cool. A lot of it is based on warehouse venues that change somewhat frequently due to people moving out of town, or getting kicked out of the space, but it's something that's been happening in Providence for over twenty years now. It's very ingrained in the musical culture of the city.


It's different than what's been happening in, let's say, Detroit lately?

Container: Musically?

No, in terms of the economy. Is it an economic issue, about people or industries moving out of Providence?

Container: No, not at all, in fact it's the opposite. There are a lot of warehouses that were abandoned for a long time due to the collapse of the jewellery manufacturing industry many years ago, but now most of them have been bought up and have been turned into condos. There's really only a couple left that people can have shows in, and those also are under threat of development too.

Is Providence's sub culture slowly running out of space then?

Container: Luckily there is a legally operated venue called Machines With Magnets. That's a great place to play. I'm not too worried about it running out of space or anything, space will be found somewhere new.

I see that you've been in a whole lot of groups. When did you start making music?

Container: When i was a teenager, probably in 2000, or something. I started touring with bands after high school in 2003, and then started focussing mostly on solo stuff in 2007. Container started in 2009.

Was that the most promising or interesting project to you? You've been releasing as Age Wave until 2011. How do these projects differ music-wise?

Container: Age Wave was a short lived project. There was one tape, and one 7" single. That project was mostly me just experimenting with a synth that I had at the time. Container for the first two years it existed wasn't something that I spent a lot of time on. Once in a while when I'd feel like doing something with beats I would work on it, but after a while it became the my main focus.


What machines are you working on with Container?

Container: I use a Roland MC-909, which I send different signals of channels of a 4 track cassette to. I also use it to splice in tape loops. That's the set up that's been used on all my records.

Does the studio setup differ from the live sets?

Container: Everything is composed with live playback in mind. There's a lot of other gear in the studio. I just got a Korg MS-20, and I have a drum machine, guitars, bass, drums, and all types of shitty keyboards and cassette decks. I mostly use that for work other than Container. Maybe I'll sample some of those things, and use them on one of the cassettes I splice into the tracks.

How has the overall response been to Container?

Container: The response from when I first started has been great. One of the first shows I ever did was at this house venue in North Carolina called Meadows of Dan; where you play in what is basically a bedroom. Everyone just, crammed in. That still stands out as one of my favourite ever Container shows. Playing at a place like Berghain is funny; it sounds great and massive and everything, but in a way I feel like you could do anything there as long as you had a kick drum going, and people would be fine with it. The last tour with Ital was really cool. We had some rough shows in Canada, but aside from that it was super fun. Mostly we played a lot of bars and a couple warehouse spots. Not super-club style shows.


Especially that Berghain show. It seemed pretty controversial. There were discussions inside the club forum regarding the set, mostly for being "incoherent" rhythm-wise.

Container: Really? That's interesting.

Some seem to be expecting a straight bass drum, rather than more experimental elements with Container.

Container: I guess that's what I meant. As long as you had a 4/4 thing going on, people in Berghain would be happy.

I guess your music is challenging to most people.

Container: Well, I am trying to make accessible party music, so I find it funny when people remark on that it would be weird or challenging.

It's more about the aggression and power of your Container; there's a physicalness, a roughness, that I think other electronic music lacks. It feels like punk rock.

Container: Usually I'll just be messing around aimlessly, and something will start to gel. I'll expand on what's happened from there. Or sometimes, I'll enter with a very basic idea and try to make it work. Mostly, it's all done through trial and error. Lately I have been thinking more about live drums; about a beat that would be cool to play in a rock band or something, and then trying to program it. It usually comes out totally different than I imagined it would, and that's an idea I've been messing around with lately. The last 12" was definitely more inspired by rock music than techno.

Isn't techno the new rock music anyway?


Container: Oh yeah, I forgot.

The culture and mindset behind techno is somewhat different than it is with rock music, but did you experience changes in expectation throughout the years? Are different people coming to the sets than some years ago?

Container: When I first started playing, it was to the same audience I had been when I was doing more noise stuff. Now there's more of a cross-pollination of scenes going on. If I played a show in Philadelphia all my old friends from the noise scene are going to come out, but there will also be people who might not interact with that scene normally, because they've heard my music through the techno community. There's definitely more people coming to the shows than there were in the beginning, and I think it's nice to mix up the shows and audience musically.

How did your new release Adhesive piece together? Did you already know Paddy O'Neill of Liberation Technologies, or Mute's Daniel Miller?

Container: I didn't know them at all. Paddy just contacted me via email and asked if I'd be up for it. Musically it came together pretty naturally, and much faster than normal. It was written and recorded in the middle of the summer in my non-insulated studio; unbearably hot, sweat lodge style. That might have had something to do with the speed in which it materialised.

Did you meet Daniel Miller ever since? I guess he might have had an accidental musical influence on you while growing up…


Container: I haven't met Daniel yet. It's only been in recent years that I've realised how far back the Mute legacy dates, and how influential it's been. Growing up, I only really paid attention to music that was right in front of me; local bands and labels, and just what people who i knew were doing.

What's in front of you right now?

Container: Well, in the past few years I have been exploring other music more. Going back and checking out older things that I'd just never bothered to seek out before, and keeping an ear to other scenes that I might not be directly involved in. I'm planning to start a new vinyl label this year: releasing records by people I know who don't have any records out, and who I think really need to. When that starts to come together, that will be an example of what I really like that's 'In front of me right now'.

Is the new label and your cassette releases a kind of creative tool? 

Container: I'm not sure, really. Releasing cassettes is more about the art for me. It's like having an excuse to not work on music for a couple days and do screen printing stuff. With the vinyl label, my intention is specifically to release music by people who are awesome, and in my opinion need to be heard by a larger audience. But definitely, most of the inspiration I get musically comes from seeing friends play.

Do you plan on playing more shows again, as well as working on future label material?

Container: I love playing shows. I have to play some more so I can afford to start the label, but this week I'm doing two Container shows in the US. My other band, Form A Log, is doing a new US and some European dates at the end of February and beginning of March, and then when I get home from that Container is doing a West Coast US tour. So yeah, there's a lot of live activity planned. Keep it coming, I say.

Container - Adhesive EP is out now on vinyl and digital through Liberation Technologies.

You can follow Walter W. Wacht on Twitter here: @wwwacht