Peter Keller interviewed by
Ian C Stewart
Peter, hello. Is there anything you’re feeling particularly mouthy about at the moment?
Well, I am getting older, so I’m getting more tempted to yell at kids to get off my lawn, or to complain about their rock-and-roll and hula hoops. I look forward to getting old, because I can then get away with being mouthier.
Let’s talk about your musical/sonic influences. Who are your biggest influences and why? Who were your early influences?
As for direct influences, the groups I first heard back in the 80’s such as Controlled Bleeding, Nurse With Wound, SPK, Cabaret Voltaire, Merzbow, and the like were obvious touchstones for me. Although I have always had an appreciation for cold distorted sounds it seems; one of my earliest memories I’ve had is being in my crib and hearing the sounds of motorcycles going by. Obviously I had no idea what a motorcycle was, but even then I was hearing how the pitch and frequency of the sound changed in the distance as the soundwaves traveled across the landscape. I was also captivated by the sound of thunder at an early age. It was a sound that terrified me as well as made me awed at its power. If I’m able to project even a fraction of that same feeling, then I feel that to be my success.
Where do you see your music/sound/creation heading?
I have been taking a bit of a break from recording anything new. My project as Bacillus is not dead, so it will pop up again; it’s just not apparent when that will be. But when I do, I may experiment with longer-form releases, something that is as gritty as before, but with more cold atmospheres. I will likely make sounds in the same way as I’ve done in the past; I don’t see myself using laptops and software to construct them. I still prefer the warmth, the messiness, and the hands-on experience of analog.
What’s in your home studio setup?
Everything I use is analog, even today. I use cheap/broken tape players, turntables, an array of pedal effects, a couple of cheap mixers, some homemade circuits, a variety of broken electronics that make sound, a mess of cables, an a workhorse of a boombox that I’ve had since the 1980s that has the delightful idiosyncrasy of being able to play two cassettes at once. My “studio” is basically a junk heap.
What’s your latest release?
Ha, “latest” is quite relative for me. My latest release was back in 2010. Of material I recorded in, I think, 2003 or so. Cipher Productions from Australia has put out Bacillus – “Anthracis” business-card CDR. Probably my briefest release for someone who is known for putting out albums that are 20 minutes or under. This time it’s four tracks in less than 6 minutes dealing with Anthrax (1. Inhalation of Weapons-Grade Spores in De-Staticized Aerosol Agent, 2. Encapsulated for Environmental Resistance, 3. Exotoxin Production Resulting in Hemorrhage and Edema, 4. High Level of Antiphagocytic Virulence Factor).
Can you describe your writing/working methods?
I don’t write so much as I construct/destroy. I take existing music sources and degrade them down to the point of nonrecognition. I scratch and sand down records. I find cassette tape flapping in the breeze on the side of roadways, and make loops from them. I take discarded/free cassettes and pull out the tape, crumple it, expose it to the elements, rub magnets on them, and so on, then spool them back in, sometimes recording over it. I pour glue over records, then peel them off and play the result. I splice segments of these raw sounds together, layer them, and run them through a varying bank of distortion, EQ filters, and such to get a dynamic wall of rough raw textural sound. I basically physically wrestle sounds down to submission.
What else made you decide to start making sounds of your own?
When I saw how simple it was to make a racket. The first time I hooked up a boombox to another cassette recorder and ran a tape (I forget which one. Maybe a Depeche Mode tape) through with all the levels set at maximum, and loved how the overloaded circuits turned a poppy synth sound into an angry spittle of rhythmic distortion. But I didn’t want to make noise for noise sake, as I saw very quickly how many other people were making a racket once I connected with the cassette scene. So I developed a concept that was parallel to the physical degradation of the sounds, one of disease breaking down the body, and focused on applying the ideas of disease, microbiology, pathology, pandemics, and so on to a narrative of sound as infections. That’s how Bacillus came into being.
Are you active in your local music scene?
Very much so, although not so much in the performance realm as I used to. I have played live as Bacillus, as well as under other names for other concepts (Natural Order, The Genitals), but I have been much more active as a nightclub DJ. I do so around town (in Seattle) under four different names, spinning four distinct styles: DJ Misanthropologist (noise, dark ambient, death-industrial, etc.), DJ Coldheart (old-school goth/industrial/coldwave/postpunk), DJ Dubonnet (1920-30s jazz/blues), and DJ Pelvis (1960s mod/garage/fuzz/funk/freakbeat). So I’ve been quite busy doing that and putting my extensive music collection to work.
Who would you like to collaborate with?
In a sense, I collaborate with different musicians every time I pick up one of their records or cassettes to alter. What I’ll probably do in the future is use recordings from musicians who have died from disease.
What other artists are you excited by?
I listen to a wide swath of music, and I’m always digging to find the obscure gems that time forgot. Every week I come away with something intriguing, whether it be rare soul, coldwave, vintage blues, old synth landscapes, or something that’s off-the-wall weird that makes me laugh to hear it. Lately a lot of rare minimal wave has been reissued, so I’ve been enjoying that resurgence in interest. There hasn’t been much “new” that I’m excited about; it all sounds too much like things I’ve heard in the past, and I prefer the original sounds more. I constantly find new sounds by digging around through past history, and I enjoy being able to share them by DJing, so much so that a friend commented that “it’s like having a music historian as a DJ.”
What’s next for you, musically/sonically/creatively speaking?
Music will always be a big part of my life, whether appreciating it or creating it. I can’t say what I’ll be creating any more than I can say what I’ll be listening to. But I’m excited to hear what comes next, whether it comes from me or someone else.
What did I forget to ask you?
“Have you checked your smoke alarm lately?” Yes. Yes I have.
What’s the URL for your website?
My exciting ancient Web 2.0 site: http://www.freewebs.com/bacillus/
BACILLUS on Discogs
BACILLUS on NoiseMP3
Thank you, Peter!