By Nicholas Jason Lopez
A sonically complex, intertextual work that serves as a response to the first-hand journals of mothers who lost their sons in World War I’s blood-soaked, destructive battles, Bare Wire Son’s ‘Off Black’ album serves more emphasis on emotion than music, but that’s purely by design.
His second full-length LP, the atmospheric 14-track ‘Off Black’ was put out this past May and has rightfully been compared to the likes of Swans, Angels Of Light and Godspeed you! Black Emperor.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with the gothic slowcore act – also the moniker of London-born artist/songwriter Olin Janusz – about ‘Off Black’ and more.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Bare Wire Son – I’m a recluse normally, so being told to stay indoors wasn’t much of a challenge for me. Besides, I have no interest in playing shows and even if I did, it would be a logistical nightmare with everyone being separated by different oceans. The biggest difficulty had been that the borders have been shut down and traveling has been about impossible. With my partner across the border, that’s impeded our plans and been a huge pain in the arse. I’d describe it as being inconvenienced, but I’ve honestly kind of enjoyed some of it. People are less friendly outside. They’ve cut down on the annoying pleasantries and things are quieter in general. While I’m eager for things to return to fully normal, I’m not looking forward to the noise that will accompany it.
Music Bugle – Which of your songs were the hardest to write?
Bare Wire Son – None of this album was personal, which took a lot of the pressure off of me for writing them. Because my emotions aren’t attached to the songs, it was a lot easier to take a “conductor” approach of orchestrating and doing my best to make things line up properly without disrespect. With that said, there is a different kind of weight to “do things justice” and some writings rang out more than others. Anything Kollwitz herself had written carried extra weight for me and required more focus and attention. “The Gore” was probably the most challenging in that regard. It has the most lyrics and I really, really cannot sing, so that one was not very fun to record when it came time to, so I got it from both ends there.
Music Bugle – What would you say inspires you the most musically?
Bare Wire Son – The normal things – other music, films, books and dreams. I’ve been especially attracted to trying to extract timbres from visuals lately, recreating scenes as sounds and trying to make things auditory that aren’t normally. I’ve found that helpful for finding influences for musical sequences that don’t leave me feeling as lazy as taking inspiration from other music. Those scenes can be from books or films or personal experiences, whatever, really. It’s a good practice to stay busy and not atrophy as much musically. As a general theme though, I like stoic things, old things and slow things.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need a break?
Bare Wire Son – I don’t really physically go anywhere. I drink or watch boxing or replay old games that are rendered by time into little mental vacations, passive things that I’m familiar with, so that I can really dissolve my mind for a while. Where I currently live is sparsely populated and very, very dull geographically. There’s really next to nothing to see worth seeing. In the past, I used to take night buses or trains in loops around whatever city they were in, just get on for a few hours and watch the windows. I quite miss doing that and will resume doing it when I move back to anywhere with a night bus or a proper train system. I’ve done a lot of my best thinking on trains.
Music Bugle – What was the moment that made you want to be a musician?
Bare Wire Son – There wasn’t a single moment, really. It was a gradual descent more than anything. I didn’t really pick up an instrument properly until I was about 17 or so and that was mostly just to start a dumb punk band with some of the people I was around because I was so dissatisfied with a lot of the music that encompassed the “scene.” It took a few years of learning, both my instrument and that I can’t be in a band. I didn’t have the right mentality or attitude for it and am not enough of a people person. Once I started branching out and trying different instruments and making my peace with doing everything on my own, I began taking it more seriously and enjoyed it more. These days, I’m quite happy to collaborate with people and hope that I’m better at it than I was at not being an insufferable prick with them – sorry if I am.
Music Bugle – What is the best piece of advice that you’ve received?
Bare Wire Son – In general? I don’t know, man. I don’t think I’ve had a lot of advice in my life. A lot of what I’ve learned has just been observation and trial-and-error. I’ve had to figure out a lot of stuff on my own and the people I’ve looked up to haven’t ever really given explicit life advice. They just made themselves visible for me to see and learn from. I think growing up working class is its own kind of advice and is certainly the one I’m most appreciative of. It encourages a more grateful and open-minded mentality that I don’t think can really be taught any other way.
Music Bugle – What has been your biggest challenge lately?
Bare Wire Son – Imposter syndrome, without a doubt. I’m not a self-confident person creatively and always feel quite apologetic when it comes to talking about my music. For ‘Off Black,’ I’ve had to promote it properly, which has not been comfortable at all. I’m constantly waiting for someone to “catch me out,” as if I’ve done something wrong, but there isn’t anything, so it’s all quite stupid and unnecessarily restrictive.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Bare Wire Son – The latest Lambchop album is fantastic, like an early Nick Cave album directed by Lynch or something, very “them.” Otherwise, I’ve generally been pretty shit with listening to things for a while now. I got so insular because of how long the record took that it became the only thing I heard for months on end. Now that it’s all over, a few albums have crept back in – the first Tram record, some Simón Díaz and Araucanian folk music. I’m also quite fond of that whole Scandinavian drone scene currently. Maria W Horn and Mats Erlandsson are especially wonderful and I look forward to whatever they’re doing. For the moment, I’m enjoying just being a passenger for a while.
Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?
Bare Wire Son – I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know artists that have been very grateful for how social media has worked for them. At the same time, I loathe it entirely and as soon as I get an angle to leave it behind, I will do so. I was talking about this with Mat Sweet from Boduf Songs. He’s got no social media, but still retains a pretty attentive and patient fanbase and I’m pretty envious of that! (Laughs) He earned that by putting out great music and maintaining good contacts. I don’t want to insinuate it was anything except hard work. I think that’s a great position to be in, where the musician just has to worry about the music and leave the rest to the record label. I’m sure there are good uses for social media regarding social awareness and activism, but on the whole, it just feels very narcissistic and I won’t convince myself that anyone should be interested enough in my life to start displaying it publicly – not that I would want to, anyway. I’m really not interested in making any money from music. I’d just like to ensure it reaches the right audience and that’s impossible without either a good label or social media, so until a label comes along, I’m stuck half-arsing unnecessarily formal updates every month to the handful of people who care.
Music Bugle – What is something that people might be surprised to know about you?
Bare Wire Son – I’m incredibly quiet with all aspects of my life. I talk at library levels, I listen to music quietly, I watch things quietly and with subtitles on, I’m constantly being asked to repeat myself. Even in my home, I walk around as if I’m trying not to wake someone up and will shush the cat when it makes too much noise. I think people sometimes expect me to be a bit louder and more outgoing because of the music, but it’s pretty far from the truth.