The Talking Book -- the debut effort from the team of Faith No More bassist Billy Gould and experimental composer Jared Blum -- is challenging stuff indeed. A collection of vintage vinyl samples inlaid within a series of darkly shifting soundscapes, they combine to form a spectral and uneasy aural atmosphere, one rather far removed from the widescreen metalloid bombast of Gould's once-and-future compadres.
This reporter had the chance to chat with Gould about Talking Book's upcoming show this Sunday night at Slim's for this weekend's Deathstock Festival -- a reunion of '80s rock bands from San Francisco -- as well as another, even more intriguing recent Gould collaboration.
Talk about your collaborator Jared Blum, how you know him and ended up creating The Talking Book.
I met him standing in line on Hamburger Tuesday in the Lower Haight about six years ago, just talking about music! And he sent me some stuff he was working on that I really liked. He has a label, Gigante Sound, and several monikers he goes under: Blanketship, Volcana 68 ... all different from each other, but very interesting. I can't think of a lot of people doing what he's doing right now.
Over the past few years I've helped him with mixes and mastering, and as his output has increased he's gotten a lot better at what he's doing. It just came to a point where, after working indirectly for a long time, it seemed natural to do something together.
And how did the two of you come to create The Talking Book?
I worked on a couple of Jared's other projects more from a production side, helping with sonics. So eventually I said to him, 'If I could take some of the gear I have and threw some stuff in, we could do something really cool -- let's give it a try'.
How would you describe the sounds of The Talking Book?
If you're familiar with musique concrete, or experimental or ambient-ish music, you can hear it in there, so that's probably an easy way to describe it. But it has differences here and there; Jared's pretty proficient at it. I've listened to experimental music for a long time, maybe thirty years, but never really applied myself to it. So I wanted, as a novice in this experience, to bring some of my own aesthetic into something that somebody else does ... and it was a real and true collaboration.
To describe Talking Book to somebody else, I guess I'd say: if you listen to a soundtrack with some of my own creative aesthetic, I guess.
So you feel you know yourself well enough as a musician to recognize that you have an aesthetic, after all these years.
I do, because I can feel it. And when I work, I work with my gut feeling as to when something feels right, and there's certain things that just feel right to me. It's like cooking, and knowing how much spice you prefer. And every cook has their own signature.
So when you decided to collaborate, was there a specific concept for Talking Book that the two of you had in mind?
The big thing for me was trying to feel it out, to see how it felt, and then kind of go backwards to understand the subconscious things I'm putting down, and why. So the concept came from looking back at what we just did, and trying to figure out why we did them that way. And what I got out of it was, we used a lot of old vinyl for samples...
... Which gives the pieces a very noticeable, sort of ghostly quality...
... And we felt that as well, looking back. It's really like a book, painting scenes. Or like looking at old faded pictures, where the memory of something is there but it's decayed and it's kind of been corrupted. And that's what this music is, kind of decayed ... like looking at a dead body in a crypt that's been there for 10 years: There's still some hair on it, and still some semblance of a human, but it's just a lot of bones, too. It's about dead memories, really.
One of the first times we ever spoke, years ago, you explained to me about how the way you see and create music is very visually oriented, almost architectural. How successful do you think you were in applying that approach to Talking Book?
Really well, I think. It probably took us longer than if Jared was working alone, he's been doing it a long time and can work very fast. I kind of slowed things down! (laughs)
With the two of us I think it took as long as a year, because I was kind of new to the format, as this was about layering and architecture with found sounds, which is different from using sounds you create yourself. It was a big puzzle in a way, seeing what fit together, and all the different options you could go.
But, yes, it is extremely visual...and when you to start to see things when you're working on a piece of music, you know you're on the right path.