I’m writing this little monologue during a quick break from packing all of my belongings into poorly folded cardboard boxes, preparing to move to Western Massachusetts from my lifelong home of Cleveland, Ohio.
The most labor-intensive thing to file away and pack is, of course, my record collection. But this move has given me a chance to take a look through every one of my albums and think about some patterns in my obsessive collecting. One thing I noticed? No remix records in the bunch. Not even an album with a remix on it, minus a few techno and hip hop singles. The remix seems to be a phenomenon that has passed me by entirely, left me completely immune to its promise of…well…something. The thing is, I’m not really sure what the purpose of a remix is. I never have been, and I certainly can’t say I am now, even after releasing an album full of them under my band’s name.
But one thing I can be certain of is that there are a lot of records in my collection that were made by friends of mine. People I’ve toured with, people I grew up with, people I met from going to shows in Cleveland and from playing shows in other places around the world. Ever since I started Cloud Nothings my life has been filled with amazing, talented people from every corner of the earth. But some of the most exceptional are from where I’ve been all along: here in Cleveland.
To be able to release a record like this is an honor, and I hope all of the people featured on this album know I think of it as such. These are not remixes as much as they are completely new songs, using our work only as the most skeletal outline and filling out the body with the utmost individual personality and creativity. And these people are truly individuals – John Elliott wrote his commentary in orange comic sans font for god’s sake.
It means a lot to have people as gifted as these eight guys give their own treatment to my band’s songs, and it means even more that I can count most of them as friends of mine. I look forward to continuing to learn from them via their music and conversations, and I hope this record can shed some light on aspects of Cloud Nothings that have been hidden and under-utilized on our recorded output so far. And I also hope that Khaki Blazer becomes rich and famous beyond his wildest dreams, because that track made me laugh more than anything else I’ve heard in 2015. And now it’s time to get back to packing.
When Northern Spy first asked us to make something for “record store day” the last thing I thought we were going to do was have our entire record remixed by our friends. I’m extremely happy that we did so and stoked on final product. I’m not really into the idea of a remix for a rock band, usually they don’t turn out very well and really it just doesn’t seem that necessary. Every time we release an album we end up having one or more of our songs remixed by some random dude. When we first finished Here and Nowhere Else I started brainstorming trying to think of an artist that I would actually be stoked about doing a remix for us. At that time I was (still am) listening to ‘Donato Dozzy plays Bee Mask’ a lot and around that same time I had the privilege to spend some time with and get to know Chris Madak. After being around Chris for one day I was completely blown away with his knowledge and understanding of music, I knew for sure thats the guy Id love to have remix one of our tunes. Asking the other guys to remix the rest of the album just naturally made the most sense, they’re all friends and some of the best jammers around. Those are the kind of people Id trust to bust a remix.
Sam Goldberg is a great friend and has been a supporter since Cloud Nothings first started in 2010. I actually remember Sam booking one of our first gigs at his house. I recall the lineup being Cloud Nothings opening for Daniel Higgs and Mark McGuire. Only Sam could do that. Sam’s remix really helps set the pace for this bizarre remix album.
Pat Modugno (Khaki Blazer) is one half of the legendary Kent OH based group called Moth Cock, if you don’t know what that is you really ought to study up, they’re every weirdos favorite band. Pat’s Khaki Blazer project is so awesome and if you dig his remix you should scope some of his mix tapes because they are straight fire! https://soundcloud.com/khaki-blazer. to say the least it was an honor having Pat bust a remix.
Steve Peffer’s (Factorymen) remix is one of my favorites. I had no clue what to expect from Steve when I asked, but I did know that I like all of his bands. If you don’t know any of Steve’s bands again….study up, because they’re all amazing. We had the privilege of taking one of his bands Pleasure Leftist on tour with us in 2014 and that was a real nice time and they’re a great band. I didn’t know what to expect from his remix but I did know he would deliver something incredible, which he did. If you’re ever in Cleveland make sure you check out his record shop Hausfrau.
I first met Adam Miller around the time when we were first working on Here and Nowhere Else in the basement of my old house on Fowles Rd in Middleburg Heights Ohio. He would come over post up with his synths and jam for hours. He’s another brilliant jammer and runs a sick tape label called overview http://overviewltd.com/home . I wasn’t worried at all when asking Adam to do a remix, I knew he’d deliver something awesome.
Having John Elliott and Drew Veres (Outer Space) remix one of our songs just seemed like it made the most sense. John and Drew both are very close friends of mine and have always showed support for Cloud Nothings especially in the last 3 years. I lived with John on Fowles road and got to hear him and Drew create so much incredible music. After hundreds of hours watching damaged movies and listening to amazing records together I knew for fact that they would create something very fitting. If you don’t know about Spectrum Spools..GET WITH IT!
Ben Billington (Quicksails) is an amazing drummer who makes killer electronic music. I was actually listening to his album ‘Silver Balloons in Clusters’ (if you don’t know it check it out) when I was trying to come up with the last couple remixers. Ive seen Ben play psych/jazz/noise/rock so I felt it was pretty safe handing our jams over to him to make a remix. He did such a great job.
John Daniel (forest management) is such a kind spirit. John’s minimal drone music is so beautiful and moving. When I first asked John if he was interested he got back to me right away asking what song. I didn’t know John even knew our album at all, but he did and he requested Pattern Walks which was probably the most fitting tune for him to remix. its amazing that he turned our longest and very aggressive tune into a beautiful drone track using Dylan’s guitar and vocals. John was one of the three remixers who knew exactly what track they wanted along with Outer Space and Bee Mask
Chris Madak is a complete fucking genius. I have no clue how he makes the music he makes and I don’t understand how he turned I’m Not Part of Me into what it is on the remix album, but I’m certainly glad he did! Every time I’m around him and hear him talk on his ideas and thoughts for music I get inspired even though I don’t fully understand what he’s talking about. Man, I wish I had a noggin thats wired as wild as his. When We Were Eating Unripe Pears will always be one of my favorite records.
Its so cool that all of these jammers are originally from OH, and its even better that I can call them my friends. Ive learned so much from these guys and all the other wild jammers in Cleveland. Cloud Nothings certainly would not be jamming the way we do now if these people weren’t apart of our lives, whether its a recording or spending time together these jammers helped provide necessary influences that helped get us where we are now and I can’t thank them enough. everyone should go listen to all of these artists recordings!
A. A violent order is a disorder; and
B. A great disorder is an order. These two things are one.
Though seemingly obtuse, this quote from “connoisseur of chaos” puts into focus the reason this record has become so important to me. Since the creation of h.a.n.e. was one of near recklessness and immediacy, when the idea of turning it over to a flock of bona-fide weirdoes and visionaries came in the form of a “remix album”, we immediately began it’s pursuit. Within a couple of weeks the tracks started to surface and the result was astonishing. Each one was thrilling to experience — our music distilled to its elemental state and rebuilt into a genuine expression. It quickly became clear that not only did these tunes stand on their own, but they worked together in unexpected harmony as if they all conspired to create some hallucinatory redaction of our record. I am as proud of this release as anything we have done as a band, and with the help of our friends I think we’ve created a record that pays respect to a few of the artists that have inspired us to open our heads and grow, it’s my sincere hope that it will do the same for the fans of cloud nothings. Enjoy.
SAM GOLDBERG – NOW HERE IN
Remixing music is still really strange to me. For lack of a better way to explain it, to me, it seems like most of the time, remixes fall into two zones. Either it’s a remix to promote and create internet buzz (which seems really prevalent and dark) or remixing artists for the purpose of modifying source material to present in a dance atmosphere, the more purposeful zone.The CN album doesn’t seem to fall into either of those categories… it’s a complete outlier. Also, oddly having total weirdos remix it rather than an indie edm act from the PR world seems makes the release actually something interesting. Hearing some stabby stubby synth club remix of CN would just be too damaged and would likely end up in the worlds overfilled trash bin of unnecessary remixes. None of the acts are really like remix heads, each act is first and foremost an original creative project or being… and I think that’s why this plays less like a “remix” compilation and more like a regular album… a cohesive reflection of an interconnectedness of a group of geographical relatives.
The song had a few different hooks that I could sink my teeth into. I wanted to at least include a shred of the CN sound that their fans are into, while still presenting something that would come naturally from me. As I listened through the guitar, drums, and bass tracks, I chose the real hard hitting hook that I thought could juxtapose a mellow pad zone that I could create. I wanted to do something kind of simple, that could be used as a transitional piece. I wanted to give them something that could make the album… more album-like. Also, once it started to sink in, I realized that I would try to create something like Cluster meets Lulu… I think I was somewhat successful at that.
KHAKI BLAZER – QUIETER TODAY
My track was quieter today. I had never heard it until cloud nothing’s drummer Jayson asked me to remix it. I don’t know the other dudes in the band all too well but I got to know Jayson pretty well through various shows in Cleveland. I’m honestly not in to any kind of modern rock band. Im into some stuff from the 60s-70s ,but mostly for the trippy aspect of the music. With that said, I was a little unsure as to how I should remix something that’s sort of uncharted territory for me. I felt even more unqualified when I received the stem tracks. The files were too big to fit on my shitty phone, and I had to load them on to a borrowed lap top. There were like 25 stems all for one song. This blew my mind. I’m used to using sub par gear and have no experience in studios. I don’t even use a mixer. There was a strong feeling that a well crafted project was being handed to an inexperienced scum bag. It was also funny doing a remix of a song that isn’t dance-y or funky. If anything the original song is emotional. That’s something I respect in artists but won’t do myself. As khaki blazer, I work off of dumb and passive vibes. I usually take samples from old recordings from failed projects, funk records, vine ect. Using cloud nothings stems as a sample source was a hilarious change of pace. I added some of my own percussion and synth. Aside from that, I mostly built the track on Jayson’s drums and various vocals that they gave me. It sounds nothing like the original song. I was happy with it. Its really not that different from my own stuff. I think my track is the only one in mono too. I didn’t even know I recorded in mono.
FACTORYMEN – PSYCHIC TRAUMA
Cloud Nothings gave me probably their most accessible tune. In essence, a pop song. The reimagining that came out is understandably a challenging listen. It’s the deconstruction of the three waves of a dream. My dreams generally flow in three waves. So that was my approach to this song. A dreamer’s warped deconstruction of a pop song. And since imagination is king and rules or any sense of traditional song structure do not regulate in dreamland, I was able and motivated to let my paranoid subconscious run hogwild with the tune and we’re left with a not untypical dream’s end. A closing without closure.
ADAM MILLER – JUST SEE FEAR
The original track is really fast and direct, so I tried to follow a similar pace for my version. besides that, I had no idea what to do for this, since the cloud boys definition of “remix” could mean a million different heady things. I decided to make a track based around loops of the source material, with the end result sounding a lot like the stuff I made when I was staying in middleburg heights all the time. Except instead of weetzie stealing my chair every 5 mins, I had Buster and Bob laid out on my bed. While I continued to work on the track, memories of the house ended up influencing the direction way more than I had anticipated. Thanks to the Fowles crew for their endless hospitality. (weetzie, buster, and bob are cats)
OUTER SPACE – GIVING INTO SEEING
JOHN ELLIOTT (OUTER SPACE)
My immediate thought when hearing the new record was that it hands down their best effort yet. In fact, when I run on my treadmill, which is nearly everyday, I pretty much only listen to this record and “Tri Repetae”.
I feel like a lot of the people making music in Cleveland are pretty tightly knit. There is a great group of people who have been working for many years and everybody seems to know one another well. The thing that’s great is that it doesn’t really matter what anybody is doing, wether it’s a rock trio or a guy DJ’ing, if you’re striving you end up around the right people. The Cloud Nothings are no exception, and so we didn’t hesitate to morph their music in a way Drew and I would execute it for an Outer Space track. The end result isn’t really far off from what they actually do (at least in our minds). Even since “Attack on Memory” there have been some more motorik and repetitive parts that are really great, we just made a salvia styled time loop of a part we really liked and put some drum machines and electronics on top. We knew they’d like it and we’re pretty happy to be a part of it.
DREW VERES (OUTER SPACE)
When Jayson initially asked us about working on this we were pretty excited. John and I both were already big fans of the album, and hadn’t worked on a remix like this before. I couldn’t say what really led us to the final product. We spent time experimenting with different parts of the original before settling on what became the core of the remix.
QUICKSAILS – NO THOUGHTS
Cloud Nothings are surrounded in the best company and have luckily found themselves entrenched in a sea of amazing friends all over the world, and especially in their hometown of Cleveland. Northeast Ohio is a hotbed of experimentalism in music, and the Cloud boys are right in there. While it may seem risky to take their rock ‘n’ roll tunes and hand them over to a bunch of “experimental music” guys for remixing, this situation was more of a “family compilation”. I believe every person involved are close friends and love each others music. Its a very special thing, and I’m so glad this happened! No better way to explore new aspects of a band than to deconstruct and examine in new light.
I’ve only been familiar with the Cloud Nothings for a year or so, and haven’t heard much of their recorded music. When the band asked me to remix ‘No Thoughts’, I believe I had only heard the song in a live setting here in Chicago. I listened to the full song once all the way through, and then that was it before going to work on it. It was important for me to approach this remix in a different working method than my usual Quicksails composing style, so I experimented with ‘sampling’. I took a very short few seconds of the bass line, few seconds of guitar, and a few seconds of the lead vocal, and then basically used those few elements to compose the frame of the track. There is an upright piano in my house so I got a bit of that in there as well as a bit of tabla and synthesizer. I thought it ended up sounding pretty psychedelic but also spacious, which was the intention. It was a really fun experience!
FOREST MANAGEMENT – PATTERN WALKS
I wanted to capture the power that I hear in Cloud Nothings’ music. “Pattern Walks” is unique in its duration and sense of space, and there is a certain tone that you don’t hear anywhere else on the record. Dylan’s guitar seemed very fitting for my usual approach in creating drone music, so I used it for the foundation of the remix. It didn’t feel complete, though, and sticking with just the guitar didn’t seem right. I started experimenting with looping Dylan’s vocals, and eventually managed to capture this continuous line of “I thought, I thought, I thought…”. This really completed the remix for me, and on a more profound level, I felt like it highlighted a certain emotional aspect of Dylan’s vocal line, which was an unexpected element. When I listened back to the completed remix I felt a much deeper connection to the song.
BEE MASK – IM NOT PART OF ME
When Jayson asked me about remixing something from “Here and Nowhere Else”, “I’m Not Part of Me” was my immediate choice. The decision was an intuitive one on my part (I’m as much a sucker for a bulletproof hook as anyone), but now that I’ve had some time to think, it makes a particular kind of sense. “I’m Not Part of Me” feels like the moment at which the record becomes conscious of itself as such, when, after seven tracks of sustained forward momentum, Cloud Nothings pause to wink at the idea that as they’re performing, they’re inevitably, well, performing — hiding as much as they reveal by virtue of the very nature of the game. The tone of the record, which up to this point has been dominated by bile and pessimism gives way to forcefully declaimed, fake-it-till-you-make-it serenity. Sure it’s affected, but it reflects a striking understanding of the power and inevitability of affectation.
Had it (for example) opened instead of closed the record, “I’m Not Part of Me” would still be a killer song, but in some small way, “Here and Nowhere Else” would be a more average record. By virtue of this performative coming-to-terms showing up at the curtain call, it slyly acts out the way in which the synthesis and aestheticization of experience is always partial and always aspirational. In its own way, it’s meta-songwriting as much as, say, Harry Nilsson or U.S. Maple.
That Cloud Nothings’ understanding of craft extends beyond the construction of individual songs to the ability to carry off these sorts of subtle formalist tricks is a huge part of what I like about their work, and because my own productions are very much a matter of making records that really aggressively foreground their constructedness and playing around with the ways in which the sensation of inevitability can be produced as an aesthetic effect, I suppose that there was something in “I’m Not Part of Me” that I related to and which showed me a way in when I started working on the remix.
Where the specific direction in which I took things is concerned, there are a few factors in play. When I do remixes, I’m always conscious of the fact that I’m essentially being asked to do my idea of someone else’s idea of my style. There’s an element of self-parody to it, which is probably a healthy way to look at the situation, because otherwise it would be too easy to turn in the sort of grim, assembly-line version of your schtick that characterizes remixing at its least interesting. So I’m always looking to deliver something a bit over the top and outré, looking for challenges and opportunities that I might not get out of sitting in my studio slogging it out on whatever else I’d have been working on, and looking for the chance to take some aesthetic or technical thing that I’m dealing with in my own work, see how it works in a different context, and inflate it to the point of absurdity.
In this case, I was hugely stoked to have really comprehensive multitracks of nicely recorded drums and guitars. I don’t often get to work with those sorts of sounds and I specifically requested that I get every individual mic’d element as opposed to submixed stems so I could go nuts making like fifty new versions of every snare hit, for example. When I started in on this remix I’d just had my head totally done in by reading Iannis Xenakis’s “Formalized Music” and had spent the last few months developing a group of probabilistic sequencing patches for use in my own material. One feature of these sequencers is that they have a particular way of controlling and modulating the degree to which a group of otherwise quasi-random processes appear to be correlated, and when you apply this correlation to more conventionally “musical” material, the result is really hilariously unsettling and uncanny. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to push those techniques into totally inappropriate insect-prog territory, and indeed a lot of the finished track was made through painstaking hand-editing of that kind of algorithmic vomit. Not everything made the cut — one working draft had an entire “Owner of a Lonely Heart”-sounding verse, for example — but quite a lot of it did in the end, as you can probably tell.