Originally published in 2005, Michael Kaufmann (formerly of Asthmatic Kitty Records) did a mini-series of one-question interviews, one of which was with Blevin Blectum. With the reemergence of the mighty Blectum From Blechdom, who have a new album, Deep Bone, coming in July on Deathbomb Arc, it seemed like a good time to get this fun piece back into the world.
Wait a minute…Don’t they know each other?: a multi-part one question interview w/ Blevin Blectum
by Michael Kaufmann
Formerly one half of the Oakland-based digital duo Blectum From Blechdom (R.I.P), and ex-aka-DJ-D84, bLevin bLectum now goes solo (when she isn’t dabbling with the audio/video band SAGAN alongside Lesser and Wobbly). Lives and works in an industrial backwater of Oakland, CA with a flock of odd adopted birds, currently pursuing a Veterinary Technician degree.
Her 3rd solo CD, Magic Maple, was released in October 2004 on the Praemedia label.
I know you love the birds. I imagine them inhabiting your dreams as much as they inhabit your heart. And now you are pursuing a career as a veterinarian. How has the science and poetry of birds influenced your musical language? Are you conjuring your feathered friends dialect through the less flightless creature, your personal computer?
Hmmm.. It’s hard for me to sort out what influences what part of which musical thing that comes out. Everything, including birds and bird sounds, filters down and then when it comes time to sit down and work with sounds, it’s mostly subconsciously directed. But I know avian influences are there; they must be since I think about avian species an awful lot 😉
I spend time with my birds at home every day. They all have their species- and individual-specific vocalizations. The current household includes (this includes foster birds): 2 zebra finches (sound like small laser guns, each has it’s his themes he sticks to), 9 cockatiels (a wide range – one make a single PEEP over and over for all purposes, one says ‘pretty bird’ and a wide variety of whistles including a song-bird imitation that he must have learned when he was living on a porch at a previous owner’s house, two have quiet and varied vocalizations, one likes to wolf whistle 20 times in a room in succession, 4 are very wild but somehow managed to learn to say ‘pretty bird’ also…), a love bird (extremely high pitched “GRA-PEEEEEP!”s and “CHIP!”s when she wants something from me, and likes to ring bells), and two white cap pionus parrots (Keeki, a three year old who talks and sings all the time, a wide and very communicative repertoire; and Chile, a rescued 15 year old who was wild-caught originally somewhere in central america, who only says “HELLO” very grumpily under duress when she REALLY REALLY wants something from me, usually a treat).
I’m working as a volunteer at www.IBRRC.org now. They work with sea birds, especially birds that have been covered in crude oil. Common Murres, Cormorants, many different kinds of Egrets, Bitterns, Pelicans, Gulls, come through there. If they make it through the de-oiling and rehab, they’re returned to the wild. Very different sounds and personalities from the parrots… very different relationship to humans!
As for science, I believe in it very, very strongly with all my heart.
I think birds and computers go quite nicely together 😉 The white-caps love to sit on the computer and snap at the cursor. Nothing specific gets translated when I’m making music/sounds. Even if i intend to translate something directly, it comes out upside down backwards and garbled. So there may be some upside down backward garbled birds in there 😉 I like the computer because it’s fairly transparent to me, unlike an instrument that involves physical skill… it’s a process of changing materials and recognizing and pulling out the compelling parts, instead of dictating from a set idea. At least for me, that’s how it is. Intention usually doesn’t help me that much. Sticking with the flight idea, though, to me making/manipulating sounds in a computer is like manipulating an invisible realm (even more than tactile instruments are). Or moving though an invisible realm (flying, falling, swimming, driving). there’s a good scene in the “Blue Planet” series, of a feeding frenzy going on in the open ocean with sea creatures under the water mixed with sea birds diving in and feeding / flying / swimming, and it’s completely disorienting as to which end is up, who is in water and who is in air, (or if it’s a different medium altogether), and who is flying and who is swimming. Sort of like that.
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