Reverse Records UK / June 2014
Interview with – Steve Bagman (Stark)
BAND NAME: STARK
BAND MEMBERS: Steve Bagman
GENRE: Purge Electronics
DISCOGRAPHY: “STARK” – Self titled cassette,limited to 13 copies [PURGE ELECTRONICS]
RRUK: Let’s start with your band name, what made you choose it for this project?
STARK: The name “Stark” is in deference to my James Dean obsession (the character Jim Stark appears in Rebel Without A Cause), but also from the meaning bare or blunt/complete or utter/extreme/harsh/grim. I first began recording as “Bagman”,but since that time my inspirations have become mixed up with my own mental problems (I’ve suffered from various addictions,bipolar disorder & OCD for almost 25 years).The “Bagman” project morphed into “[GoneDark]Bleach”,which has now condensed into “Stark”.
RRUK: How would you describe your sound and working process?
STARK: My sound is a mixture of harsh noise & power electronics,often including heavily distorted vocals. I perform & record all tracks live,in one take & with no post production or overdubs.This is an important element of the project:perhaps a hangover from my punk days.I don’t see what i do as music (although it has musical elements),but more a form of sound art;albeit one with a nihilistic aesthetic.Because of this,it’s very much about what i create in the moment,and not about perfecting a song structure. I regard my work as pure expression,and only record in order to have a physical library of my ‘actions’.Therefore,i have coined the terms “Purge Electronics” & “Public Catharsis”.
RRUK: About the instruments and technology you use to produce the sound, do you constantly update them, or are old synths and the like still good for your purposes?
STARK: I stick with the same set-up of…
=MICROKORG ANALOG MODELING SYNTH
=KORG ES-1 MKII SAMPLER
=2x CUSTOM BUILT TONE GENERATORS
=CUSTOM BUILT “S-CAT” MODULATOR
=CUSTOM BUILT SPLITTER
=DANELECTRO TAPE DELAY
=BOSS DS-1 DISTORTION UNIT
=BEHRINGER DS100 DISTORTION MODELER
=DANELECTRO ‘TUNA MELT’ TREMOLO
=BEHRINGER FX600 MULTI EFFECTS [PITCH SHIFTER/DELAY ONLY]
=YAMAHA PRECISION BASS GUITAR
It’s taken a while to put together the equipment i use,and i have no intention of changing it.I personally prefer ‘hands on’ machines to digital programs,and i now have pretty much all i require to create the sonic equivalent of my emotions.
RRUK: Who or what influences you and your sound?
STARK: My material is mostly based around my own personal experiences with mental health issues,addiction & sexual deviance.The darker side of human nature has always been an interest of mine,so i am drawn to the literature of DeSade,Sotos,Bataille,et al. (i’m proud to say that Peter Sotos owns at least three of the albums i recorded under the Bagman moniker).True crime,psychology,Third Reich history & war atrocity have always resonated with me,and since childhood i’ve been a confirmed horror movie/video nasty/extreme cinema addict,so the influence of films like Salo,Snuff 102,Last House On Dead End Street,etc continue to be inspirational.Also,my fascination with the BDSM lifestyle & bondage pornography comes into play quite heavily.
RRUK: With regards to electronic/experimental artists, which band did you discover first?
How did you come across them?
STARK: Age 13/14 i was into punk & grindcore (Crass,’Scum’ era Napalm Death etc.),when I discovered TG,Test Dept & early Skinny Puppy.After reading about those bands in ‘zines,i tracked down a lot of vinyl & vhs video from places like Jettisoundz/Screen Edge.TG changed everything for me…I was about 15. At the time I was a bass player in punk bands,and proceeded to buy various pedals and use feedback & drones to make my sound more & more outlandish.Then,during the breakdown of a relationship in my 20’s,i discovered the work of pre 1983 SPK & Sutcliffe Jugend-still one of the strongest acts working today.
RRUK: A lot of “noise” artists tend to release 30+ albums per year. What are your thoughts regarding this rushed approach?
STARK: I personally tend to record only when i have something to express,and if that were the case for the artists pouring out factory line style releases it wouldn’t be so bad.Unfortunately,the majority seem to be trying to make a name for themselves by flooding the download market,and there is a whole host of meaningless white static inundating the term “noise”.I think social networking has a lot to answer for:it contains both the best & worst elements i have ever experienced,as far as the ‘scene'(awful term,i know) is concerned.On the plus side,i’ve met some amazing people who i’m proud to call friends,as well as discovering a host of strong UK & overseas artists who were almost impossible to contact during the pure fanzine/postal trade days.However,that was a time that felt very exclusive…nothing can replace the feeling of being part of an elite underground.
RRUK: Do you have a preferred format for your work, e.g. vinyl, cassette, CD, download. And is there a format for which you would never use?
STARK: Not especially,although the old school nature of cassette release has drawn me.Vinyl would be lovely,but only if somebody else is footing the bill!
RRUK: Tell me about it! What is your opinion in particular of Power Electronics, Noise, and Japanoise, looking at their main artists like Merzbow, Masonna?
STARK: In short-i think it’s hugely overrated.In my own experience,the live performances of Hijokaidan far outweigh the power of their recorded works,and Masami Akita’s Merzbow mostly just bores me.The majority of it leaves me cold-i’m not sure if it’s just due to the east/west cultural divide that I find it hard to relate.There are exceptions for me,though:for instance,i think Kohei Gomi’s Pain Jerk produces some very strong sounds.
RRUK: Are you interested in serial killers? Do you think they are a typical product of 20th century society, and what is your opinion about in particular American “serial killer culture” ?
STARK: The extreme nature of,and acts by these men(& women)absolutely fascinates me:i’ve felt like that for as long as i can remember.Around the age of 7,i started to read about the phenomenon,and it’s possible/probable that it has affected my outlook somewhat.Serial offence has always been a part of human nature,and therefore with us since the dawn of man.I think it’s only due to advances in technology & communications that have made it seem like a problem purely of modern society.I certainly don’t subscribe to the opinion that it is in any way influenced by the media-perhaps only in the “life imitating art/art imitating life” sense.America certainly seems to have almost epidemic problems with serial murder-but I think it’s only become an actual part of their culture through a constant spotlight being shined upon it.All people enjoy to flirt with that dark side,and most find it safest to do so from a comfortable distance;but how many of us can honestly say we’ve never felt genuine murderous rage? If a person is brave enough to look into their subconscious,they will find extraordinary,enlightening things,but also parts of the psyche that will terrify.
RRUK: I’ve felt the Fuck Rage! If you could perform live anywhere in the world… where would it be?
STARK: In the dungeon of a 16 stone dominatrix.
RRUK: With regards to other sound projects, is there any country in particular that inspires you more than others?
STARK: Germany has the hugely underrated Subliminal & The 120 Days,but some of my all time favourite acts are Sutcliffe Jugend,White Walls,STAB Electronics,AntiChildLeague,The Sodality,& Wertham (English & Italian respectively).Finland has also become a very heavy hitter:Nicole12 & Bizarre Uproar are excellent.
RRUK: Do you listen to different types of music? A secret Elvis collection, perhaps?!
STARK: Hahaha!NO Elvis in the collection,I’m afraid! As well as harsh noise & power electronics I listen to punk like The Exploited,Crass,Discharge;RAC;old Gabba techno;black metal like Xasthur,early Burzum…oh,and of course “Addicted To Love” by Robert Palmer.
RRUK: And not forgetting 😉
RRUK: What first, chicken or the egg?
STARK: Well,I just bought the chicken on Thursday…
RRUK: Anything else you would like to add here?
STARK: Thanks for the opportunity to vent my spleen,mate.
RRUK: Thanks a lot, mate. Great interview! See you soon for Palmer drinking aktion, and cheers for taking part in our Aktion Medical II (Split Album).
STARK – A CAUTIONARY TALE
Interview: Keith Mitchell [RRUK]
2014 Reverse Records UK