Music

The Weekly interview: A Place to Bury Strangers’ Oliver Ackermann

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Get loud: Ackermann (right) brings his band A Place to Bury Strangers to Beauty Bar.

You’re touring in support of your fourth full length, Transfixiation. Did you approach this album differently from previous ones? We really tried to capture what it was like to be at a live show and try to write songs together in a fashion that felt like these songs are being written right on the spot. In the end it didn’t really turn out that way. We recorded it right after we were on tour for two months and went right in the studio and were experimenting. We did that for a few weeks and then it started to be too much. We decided to take a little bit of a break and in that break some of the other songs came out and added a really cool dynamic to what we thought we were going to do.

A Place to Bury Strangers is known for being really loud and chaotic. Is that something that’s carefully orchestrated, or does that come about through a lot of experimentation? For this record it was a lot of experimentation. For [certain] songs there’s just something that happens sporadically in one moment and that’s kind of it. It goes all over the place.

Your pedal company, Death by Audio in Brooklyn, ran into a rough spot in November—something about your landlord not renewing your lease. What happened? We didn’t even know they weren’t going to renew the lease until three months or something before the lease was up, so really quickly we had to change things. We planned all these big art shows and parties for the end, so it was just a really crazy, chaotic time to try to move spaces and rebuild as well as try to throw the biggest, craziest parties we’d ever had.

In the meantime were you trying to record the album? We’d actually finished the record in March of 2014, and we were doing that so we didn’t have to rush anything when we were planning the tours coming up and music videos and all of that. But with the whole house closing down and venue and pedal company, it made it so we didn’t have too much time anyway. I think it’s good to give yourself time to do things properly and not rush things, a lesson that I think that we’ve learned over the years. So often you’re just trying to frantically come out with records and have things happen, and sometimes you don’t give it enough time to happen naturally.

So what’s the new space like? We rented this space; there’s a little bit of a recording studio in there, but it’s mostly just the effects pedal shop and there’s sadly no venue there. Maybe this space is just temporary; we’re still sort of looking for other spaces. We just signed a one-year lease. We’d love to have a big space but it’s really expensive in New York so I don’t know if that’s possible or not.

Depression and death are a big part of APTBS and its songs, but you’ve said you’re a pretty happy guy. Where does that darkness come from? I think it’s sort of looking deep into the feelings you have—and maybe it is a little bit of a fantasy or something, where you are at least aware of these really depressing things that are going on … and maybe that makes it easier for me to be happy in my life, to have some kind of outlet for all the things that piss me off or make me bummed out.

Noise rock is meditative for a lot of listeners. What draws you to loudness and makes you want to push those sound boundaries? Partially the meditative thing, but that’s not even necessarily volume on it’s own. It’s this combination of losing yourself in sound. When things are really loud and have certain sounds, you really get lost. There’s that part of it, which is this amazing euphoric feeling, like listening to one of your favorite songs while you’re doing something you like to do, like jogging down the road. Then there’s the way that we create the sounds that we create—it’s sort of necessary for it to be so loud to get these kinds of sounds. There’s this interplay between your guitar and it being cranked up really loud and what sound it makes when that happens and when there’s speakers that are blowing up or about to blow up and all of these crazy things lead themselves to this sort of haphazard, random way that we like to play. You’re kind of almost struggling on the edge to make this show happen and that’s just exciting and thrilling.

What’s the loudest show you’ve ever been to? Dinosaur Jr. at the Boathouse in Virginia Beach. There was this band that played before them—I can’t remember who it was, but they were crazy loud—and me and my friends were trying to scream back and forth just to talk into each others’ ears but we couldn’t do it. Then Dinosaur Jr. came on after that band and they were like 10 times louder. It was crazy.

You’ve mentioned blowing your speakers and amps. Have you ever had to stop a show because you accidentally ruined your gear? Totally. We’ve blown up even sound systems in places where … the club wasn’t very happy. Sometimes you just blow the power and they can’t turn it back on or something. We’ve broken instruments to where you try to play with one string dangling and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. We’ve played and had the fire department show up and had to cancel the show. We’ve had cops cancel our shows before in different places. This one time cops shut down our show in New York and apparently, someone was standing next to the cops, and the cops were like “Let these guys play one more song, these guys are sick.” (laughs)

A Place to Bury Strangers with Creepoid, Close to Modern, Candy Warpop. March 12, 9 p.m., $10-$12. Beauty Bar, 702-598-3757.

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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