Bloody Panda

Posted in Spotlight by unartignyc on 2010/02/03

An eclipse is an astronomical event that occurs when one celestial object moves into the shadow of another. The term is derived from the ancient Greek noun ἔκλειψις (ékleipsis), which is derived from the verb ἐκλείπω (ekleípō), “to cease to exist,” a combination of prefix εκ- (ek-), from preposition εκ, εξ (ek, ex), “out,” and of verb λείπω (leípō), “to be absent”. When an eclipse occurs within a stellar system, such as the Solar System, it forms a type of syzygy—the alignment of three or more celestial bodies in the same gravitational system along a straight line. [Wikipedia]

Coming to think of it, it’s probably safe to say that I’ve always been drawn to the ‘darker’ side of the sonic spectrum rather than finding much joy in the ‘happy camper’ corner. Like everyone else I of course occasionally do branch out to dip my beak into warmer waters and sunnier soundscapes. Although in the big pictures, the dark, the aggressive, the desperate, the tormented, the raw and the grim ruled my world in various ways from the get go. Consequently it comes as no surprise that with Bloody Panda  it was love at first sight for me. No other band that I saw in the last 20+ years comes closer to being the artistic embodiment of a fully scaled eclipse, complete and utter darkness, cold and mysteriously ferocious. When these high priests of  doom strike their  first chord it feels as if they have the ability to switch off the sun with an organ note or a simple bass string. Yet their earsplitting compositional onslaught defies categorization. It is heavy but not metal, it is dark but not gothic, it is complex but not math,  it is unorthodox but not experimental, it is atmospheric but not ambient. It is, frankly spoken, a monstrous beast on the loose, impossible to pin down, let alone classify with known musical genres.

Having followed the band around New York City since 2006, (((unartig))) is pleased and proud to finally present a  selection of  brutally magnificent performances, alongside an exclusive interview conducted for us by Fred Pessaro, Metal/Punk Editor of  BrooklynVegan. Additional text contributions come from Aidan Baker/Nadja and Jan/Black Shape of Nexus.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

[Fred Pessaro | BrooklynVegan]
There is no shoulder shrug reaction to Bloody Panda.   The confrontational and awe-inspiring live juggernaut always elicits either a “wow” or “not a fan” – nothing between.  It’s an indication of great art, provocation whether positive or negative.

Ever since my first live experience with them, I have aligned myself with the “wow”.  The hoods.  The screams.  The wailing and aching female voice.  The ambiance.  And those riffs! Dear (dark) lord, those down-tuned riffs will rattle your innards, shaking loose anything resembling false/hipster metal.

Excellent tunage aside (evidence of that below), I’ve often wondered about the inner workings of Bloody Panda; how did they arrive at their vision for the band?  I posed that question, and a few others, to Josh Rothenberger, Blake McDowell, and Bryan Camphire.
Fred Pessaro | Brooklyn, February 2010

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Chicken or Egg:  The tiny female lead singer joins a 5MPH doom band, or the 5MPH doom band adds a tiny female singer.
Josh: I played in bands with Bryan for the last 10 years. We teamed up with Blake and decided to explore some different paths: Eastern music, minimalism, expressionism, atmosphere, sloth. At this time we came across an ad in a record store. “Get ready to be in the biggest band in the world ASAP. Play music at the risk of your life.” We figured the ad was placed by some 300 pound bearded, tattooed metal dude. When we found out the ad’s true author was a 100 pound Japanese girl with a fetish for panda bears we became aroused.  Yeah, I said “aroused.”

Yoshiko had this demo of 21 one minute songs. Little explosions. I heard certain things in that demo that made me think she could really be the centerpiece of a band doing majestic avant-garde metal. The marriage was a really fun process. It’s still in the works in some ways.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Josh (cont.): For example, the vocals on Summon were done a bit differently than Pheromone.  For Pheromone the vocals were written simultaneously with the music (for the most part). On Summon only a few vocal lines were written with the instrumentation. Most of the vocal lines come from Yoshiko working through ideas, with me recording and layering various effects. Actually we liked some of this experimentation so much we decided to home record some of the vocal lines to get the exact swirling psychedelic sound you hear on tracks like “Miserere.” We embrace the limits and the boundless possibilities that technology provides. Overwhelming a low-fi recording device connotes the type of the onslaught we aim to bring to every live show.

Bryan: We formed around Yoshiko’s pheromones.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The theatrical element to the band is very strong.  Is there an overarching concept that pits the executioner’s hoods against Yoshiko in short skirts/go-go boots?
Blake: No overarching concept. It was an experiment we tried several years ago and have stuck with because of the performative effect.

What is the inspiration for the theatrical element?  Does that come from Yoshiko’s visual artistry background?
Josh: The masks were part of Bloody Panda’s fascination with the obscure. Smoke and mirrors. Things you can see but can’t quite clearly make out. Sounds you can hear, but can’t quite pinpoint. I’m more interested in the echo of a guitar chord than the actual chord itself. Shadow over the woman it’s attached to. Ghost over the dead body. I love Liz Harris (Grouper) for this reason. Listening to her music is like waking in a dark house with no memory of how you got there, and then exploring the room completely unsure as to whether you are dead or alive or dreaming.

Yosh is maybe taking part in the ritual of obscura in her own ways, hiding her face behind a wall of thick black hair for most of the performance.

We are currently exploring new means of conveying this theme of un-seeable dystopia in our live performances.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

There seems to be a wide variety of artists that you have played with… the sunny happy hippies on Akron Family to Jarboe.  Add to that the fact that your band is not the type to provoke a mild reaction.  What was the strangest audience that you played to?
Josh: Since this band formed we have visited scenes for a night or two and then moved on. We appreciate and enjoy when a scene offers up its bed and a warm-cooked meal, but in the morning we ultimately continue on the journey. Ideas are exchanged within the cozy walls of our temporary homes, we learn much from “the scene,” but we have no intention of making a permanent home there. This nomadic existence we’ve chosen forbids us to become “extreme” in the way fans of certain genres desire. But that type of genre-extremism hopefully is replaced by the utter destitution of a journey with no destination, of an endless road that mandates we remain strangers in every house that welcomes us.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

What is your favorite live show memory?
Blake: The crowd at the Whitehouse show at the old Northsix. A friend added us last minute and I’d venture no one in that crowd had ever seen us perform, or even heard of us then.

Josh: Maybe our first show ever at the old Continental. I remember hearing Yosh scream into the mic for the first time in a live performance. I looked at Richie – our drummer at the time – and we both flashed this same look of “I just shat my pants”.

Now that you have played with a glacially paced doom band, do you only listen to 1000 MPH grindcore and black metal now?  Where does inspiration come from?
Blake: Inspiration comes from just listening. I carry a sound recorder with me almost all the time. Tape, listen, tape, listen,…. a lot of ideas come from sounds that would otherwise go unnoticed. Gamelan music from Central Java is a huge influence as well.

Bryan: Portal’s new record Swarth has been in constant rotation in my stereo.  Theirs is the most sinister unrelenting aural decimation put to tape in recent memory.  Their music is blistering and evil and provides more inspiration with every listen for me.  As for the realm of doom, Fleshpress and Wormflegm carry the torch.  For glacially paced mind-melting mysticism, nothing compares to gamelan music of Surakarta, Central Java.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

[Aidan Baker | Nadja]
Some Thoughts on the Impact of Bloody Panda’s Music on the Citizens of Buffalo

I don’t remember exactly when or how Bloody Panda and Nadja first got in touch…one of us emailed the other at some point. I can say that we first played a show together June 19, 2006 at Tonic in New York City. I remember being impressed by the volume and the intensity of their show. And thinking that we made a good pair; they were almost flamboyant in a self-effacing way, faces obscured behind their masks, and we were the opposite, self-effacing in an almost flamboyant way, exposed but hiding behind our music…yet both of us equally loud and heavy.

We’ve since played a number of shows with them, always on BP’s home turf, yet the one show I remember best — probably for all the wrong reasons — was on one of their first tours: April 17, 2007 at Mohawk Place in Buffalo, NY (also with Beta Cloud and Ocean). Buffalo isn’t exactly our home turf, but we’d played there a few times and it’s closer to Toronto than it is to New York City, so it kind of felt like they were finally playing in our ‘hood…

Mohawk Place is a dive, no better word for it, in downtown Buffalo, which can sometimes seem like a bit of wasteland, especially after business hours. There’s a street sign that greets you out front of the bar that has on it pictures of a handgun and syringe with slashes through them and the caption: SCHOOL ZONE – NO DRUGS OR GUNS. Which we, as Canadians, find particularly absurd. Not that we don’t have drugs or guns in Canada, but we’re either a) naive enough to believe that people will have enough common decency not to bring guns or drugs into a school zone or b) cynical enough to believe that a sign isn’t going to deter anyone who would in the first place.

Anyway, as we were loading in, BP pulled up and tumbled rather dazedly out of a dirty van into the dim, dingy streets. They seemed somewhat non-plussed by the lack of activity and absence of people around and wondered if there would be any audience (a legitimate concern in Buffalo). Well, there’s always the Mohawk’s regulars, we told them…and there they were, hunched over the bar and nursing their beers like the permanent fixtures they were…decidedly unimpressed that a bunch of musicians were about to disturb the peace of their already numbed evening…

In the end, I think we had more people who actually come to hear the bands than there were regulars who didn’t — but it was a close margin. And whether BP took inspiration from those people who wanted to hear them or the distinct lack of interest from those at the bar, their set was particularly fierce that night. The regulars did their best to ignore all the sounds and vocal histrionics emanating from our corner of the room, but I’m sure their ears were ringing the next morning…some tangible impact at least…
Aidan Baker | Toronto, Canada, January 2010

Vodpod videos no longer available.

[Jan | Black Shape of Nexus]
Usually there is some kind of personal approach to the bands featured on this site and that is what I like about it. Sadly I never met or talked to any of the Bloody Panda members and even more sad is the fact that I never experienced them live. So what can I write about them, that could be of any  interest? I first took notice of Bloody Panda after seeing a comment they had posted on another band’s Myspace page. At first I wondered about their band name and honestly I was a bit bored with their comment writing style. It seemed lame to write from right to left, as I thought this was just another foolish attempt by another foolish band to be as evil, kvlt (or whatever) as possible. Sporting an image neither the people behind the band, nor the music could possibly live up to. So I ignored them and didn’t visit their Myspace site. Later on I bought the Kayo Dot /Bloody Panda split LP, of course because of the Kayo Dot side of it. After spinning the Kayo Dot side, I flipped the record and was totally blown away by this slowed down, diverse, somehow haunting stuff with its dominant organ sound and an almost archaic feel to it. Somehow with these two songs, my interest in Bloody Panda grew and my first impression got revised. Suddenly everything felt quite right: Their name, their music and their approach. As I got deeper into their world I got the feeling that they are passionate about what they are doing, but always with an ironic twist. Seeing, that Yoshiko surely has Asian roots even their band name felt like it was chosen with a touch of humor. Or is it a play on the panda-like corpse paint lots of Black Metal bands are  sporting? I still don’t know, but I guess the feeling, that there is something more about this band than visible at the first sight kept them in my mind and made them stay there. With tons of bands floating around on the Internet nowadays, rarely does a band stay stuck in my mind and even less likely will a band get me into chasing down their records. Although Bloody Panda were able to! Checking their Myspace site today, still reveals no European tour dates, but once again confirms the impression they left on me. Because how could a band be wrong, with such diverse top Myspace friends as Kool Keith, Arvo Pärt and Krallice?
Jan | Mannheim, Germany,  December 2009

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: