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In Made Like a Tree, US, March 12 2011. Note: Although it's a bit unclear, this excellent podcast was made by the MLAT staff, and not by Terre.
[Kawasaki, Japan. March 12th, 2011] -- Terre Thaemlitz (who is behind G.R.R.L.) has had no shortage of guest appearance around the world's music blogs.
She has had multiple appearances in prior interviews, reviews, academies, side-bar commentaries, symposiums, dissents, explorations, and even other podcast
submissions. Those of us who have had a chance to chat with him are quite fond of Terre. This podcast/interview is simply taking a look at one of her
projects that doesn't get as much attention as say, "DJ Sprinkles." The G.R.R.L. project does two primary things: by nature of its very name, it challenges
the meaning of gender and the culture of gender roles ("what is a 'g.r.r.l' and what does it stand for?"), and it makes a stand against the economics and
processes of the music industry. The tracks made under the G.R.R.L. guise are deliberately varied and are collectively unclassifiable (they're incapable of
being pigeon-holed). Amongst the many genres available on G.R.R.L.'s self titled CD are "Techxotica & Electrocynicism," "Improvisational Lounge," and
"Abstract Drum & Bass." In an industry that perpetually seeks to "define, package, and sell," G.R.R.L. refuses to join in - G.R.R.L. would not be that
controllable desire you can own. The following is pretty straight-forward; a quality few words from Terre Thaemlitz in regards to elements surrounding the
ideology of G.R.R.L., and a selection of some of her best tracks compiled into a podcast. Be sure to also check out the segment when Terrre spoke
G.R.R.L. is one of the several projects under which you simultaneously produce music and project yourself before what you've identified as a mass cultural issue.
Even though your projects (DJ Sprinkles, K-SHE,
Terre Thaemlitz, Nue Wuss Fusion, et. al.) each have their own vantage point and varying degrees of concentration, they are all directed to and
Would you say that G.R.R.L. - under which you arguably release the most eclectic selection of your electronic productions - is the most eclectic ideologically? How would you single it out?
Actually, I would say the opposite - that G.R.R.L. is the least eclectic ideologically. It's a very literal take on the notion of multilayered and
simultaneous identities. Although the tracks themselves may be very eclectic, the theme is quite singular... and that theme is "diversity." Not in the fluffy, liberal way where people
fantasize about diversity devoid of domination, but diversity as we experience it within systems of domination. Schizophrenia, social disruption, cultural and industrial non-cooperation,
confusion, loss of self...
Its no secret that "G.R.R.L." doesn't even stand for anything; that rather its simply a reference to the phasing
ambiguity, divide, and elusiveness of gender (sexuality) and gender roles (culture) that we are perpetually bombarded with.
Yes, the project name "G.R.R.L." and the title of the first track "B.O.I." are simply meant to beg the question, "What does that stand for?"
What do the terms "girl" and "boy" stand for socially, culturally, physically, etc.? It's as simple as that - again, very straight forward compared to some of my other projects.
All of the other track titles also refer to some role we might take on in a given dance scene. Of course, when you cross genres like this, you become suspect to the people focussing
exclusively in those genres. It's a kind of transgression that can be as socially alienating as sexual or gender transgression. I recall the first tracks I made were the more Techno
tracks like "Gorilla" and "B.O.I.," and I let former Instinct labelmate Taylor Deupree listen. Taylor is a super sweet and good natured person, and I really wanted his honest
reaction as a Techno producer, but he didn't know how to respond because they were produced in a way that he could not tell if I was "joking" or not. And if it was a joke, was
I laughing with him or at him? I never did get any real feedback on the tracks themselves, but I certainly got an honest reaction in that sense. It really typified this connection
between music and identity that I wished to bring to the fore. And like with other identities, "coming out" with Techno or other genres I did not usually work in - or even
criticized and disliked - created similar tensions.
You've always been an outspoken critic of the music industry (and its distribution). The robustly captures the essence of your positions there. Would you classify the G.R.R.L. project as the artistic embodiment of your response to this industry - that juxtaposing G.R.R.L. productions (of which there are various styles) disables the project to be placed in a single category by dance music distribution or shops? On your website you note that "this [very] gesture played into your [own] larger interest in unveiling social processes behind the construction of social identities, and the cultural flow of identity-based information."
Yes, absolutely. The album was released in 1997 - probably recorded in 1996, shortly after I was released from my Artist contract with
Instinct Records. Of course, I had been focussing on producing Ambient at that time, and with "Soil" had all but abandoned rhythm. But when I put feelers out to different
labels, they were all like, "We're doing Jungle now. Can you make some of that?" Or, "Make us some hard Techno stuff!" They totally didn't care what genres I preferred
working in, or what genres they may have released in the past. It was all about sales and distribution, which is always very closed stylistically. If your glass is half
full you might the market became "over specialized" instead of "closed," but there definitely was and is a real refusal to release or distribute materials that don't fit
into the established genres. So I made G.R.R.L. with each track reflecting the flavors of the day. On the one hand, I was giving the labels/distributors/shops what they
wanted. On the other hand, by combining them on a single disc it would be completely undistributable. The system was only set up to distribute projects conforming to a
single genre. And that's exactly what happened - no surprises. [Laughs]
Let's talk a little bit about the
- its built off
a vibrating cache of sensibility, the most (and primary) position being to
"embrace [the movie] Space Jam as a powerful deconstruction of the cultural fabrication of desire, as exemplified by its lackluster appeal despite shameless
over-financing and over-promotion." How seemingly random that must come off at first glance to those new to you, or at least to this project...
Care to elaborate past what you've already touched on in the G.R.R.L.IFESTO?
First, I'm a big Bugs Bunny fan. I'm referring to the original Mel Blanc cartoons from the 1950's. Bugs is a true transgendered star,
always switching genders or dressing in drag as the occasion requires. I've been known to start some lectures with a transgendered reading of "What's Opera Doc?" as a
tale of transphobic and homophobic bashing, and the risks of coming out. But starting around 1980, there was a major cultural shift that I believe destroyed American
animation both stylistically and ideologically. The shift was that all children's programming had to feature children talking to children. Adult or age-ambiguous characters
(such as Bugs Bunny) became taboo, unless the adults were presented as oafs who know less than their children (Homer Simpson, etc.). Also, everything had to be ridiculously
positivist. You don't tell children, "No!" The result was Muppet Babies, Tiny Tune Adventures, Elmo, etc. What this did was condition children of that generation (what was
it, Generation X? I forget...) with an incredible sense of self-entitlement which, I believe, stemmed from this representational strategy in which children learned from
children. It fostered the idea that they know everything themselves and are self-sustainable. This is, of course, problematic and leads to a very peculiar form of egotism.
This childrens' world was a mirror of changes in the "adult world" under Reaganomics; cultural changes that were visually accompanied by animation becoming "3D."
Traditionally flat graphics were suddenly rounded with gradational shading, etc. And today we have things like Dreamworks Animation with its over-the-top bulbous CG designs.
If G.R.R.L. were a band, who would be in it? Or is there only one G.R.R.L. out there?
Well, Chiu-Fen Chen, who did the screaming on, "China Doll (Kill All Who Call Me)," is a member for sure. And my younger brother,
who was living with me at the time, is an honorary member for putting up with the recording sessions of that screaming. [Laughs] I guess Bugs Bunny and Michael
Jordan are members, too. The members would have to be as eclectic and illogical as the tracks.
Economics will obviously never fail to exist in the development of projects - business (ie - the label end), cultural (ie - the music and/or ideological end),
or otherwise. Even though you wouldn't describe yourself as an optimist, could you at least project a reasonable solution (or goal) for the operation/development of music projects (culturally
specific or globally), now or in the near future? How would you logistically treat this industry if you could seriously influence it?
It's never about "getting beyond economics." That kind of thinking is a problem, and we can see it's absolutely a part of music,
art and other media production when we say things like, "a real artist just does what they love." Well, what I love is conditioned by my experiences and education,
which is conditioned by economics. There is no "pureness" to anything we do. And I'm also totally uninterested in "solutions," because my imagination is also enslaved
to desires operating in relation to my oppressions and dominations. I'm only interested in trying to understand those inescapable processes of domination that mutilate
us daily - make their invisible workings visible, for myself and hopefully a few others. It's not about where we go from here. There are enough people working on that,
anyway. For me, it's more urgent to just catch up with how we got here, and what the fuck we are actually doing.
, who do you see G.R.R.L. as bearing/adopting/raising as their offspring?
Hmm, procreation metaphors. I hate those. Pass. [Laughs] G.R.R.L. is all about zero population growth. Okay, switching subject away from audio,
overpopulation is a horrific problem. And culturally, I am disgusted by the egocentrism behind child rearing, especially the ownership of people. There is an incredible arrogance
and selfishness behind the notion that one must leave one's own DNA behind, and that other forms of relating to children are "unnatural." Adoption systems need to be radically
overhauled - not only in terms of who can adopt, but what role adoption has in society generally. Here in Japan it's really bad - they don't have the legal structures around adoption.
It's more like "children not raised by their parents," but the parents remain legally in the picture, so people are afraid to adopt because they worry about the birth parents showing
up at any moment. Of course, Japan is all about blood-line, so there you go... But even in countries like the US, where blood is not what makes one American, adoption still remains
something suspect in the minds of most people - "will the adopted child murder the adoptive parents?" And when adopted children do display social problems, people act like it must be
because they have bad DNA, "well, who knows what their parents were like..." That is fucked up. Clearly above all other influences it is the social privilege around genetic family
structures - within which adopted children find themselves being raised - that is at fault. My family has a long history of adoption. Actually, we don't even have a blood connection
to the Thaemlitz name. My great-great grandfather was adopted into the Thaemlitz family in the late 1800's. If I ever wanted a child (which I don't), I would adopt (which I can't -
I would never be approved on both economic and ideological grounds). Genetic selection, artificial insemination, and all that stuff is problematic on so many levels. But before you
even get into the huge moral ramifications of genetic selection, it seems overpopulation is a very real, material reason for people to get their baby panics under control. Think.
Prepare. Drop the ego. Your DNA is nothing special. Your baby will not look like a computer morphed blend of the cutest parts of you and your lover. And remember, you live in a
country with the privilege of legal abortion - if you are not ready, or believe you cannot handle the burden, or simply don't want to inflict this crap world on another human
being, use that right.
1. Terre Thaemlitz - There Was a Girl / There Was a Boy Declaramation [Mille Plateaux]