Dead Voices On Air

Posted on August 1st, by Fishead in 20, Interviews. No Comments

THE UNDERGROUND IS...Some days are good and some days are really good… and some days your tape recorder doesn’t work and you’re left with nothing but the hastily written notes that were meant to make it easier to find the interesting passages from the interview.  Guess what sort of day I had…

On the other hand there are pacifying weapons that can be used to combat stress.  Albums that can draw you away from all those concerns and guide you to a worry-free environment where pressing matters are intangible and you’re able to do attend to some much needed emotional healing.

It’s hard to put into words the contributions that Mark Spybey has made to the experimental music scene.  As a member of the legendary ensemble :Zoviet France he was involved in making some of the most fiercely original ambient music to flow from speakers.  As well, :Zoviet France is credited with being one of the genre’s few acts that were more than capable of proving their mettle on stage.
When the group separated a few years back Spybey ultimately settled in Vancouver, Canada more for the scenery than out of nostalgia for the city’s famed experimental scene.  Having recently experienced Vancouver for the first time it’s not hard to understand…   Still, local musicians have been included in Spybey’s Dead Voices On Air project.  The new album (Piss Frond) features members of 54.40 and Copyright, while previous releases have featured cEVIN Key from Download (a project that Spybey also worked on for a time).  This isn’t to imply that collaborations with artists in other locales don’t occur, as the Fire In Bronx Zoo (with Not Breathing’s Dave Wright) can attest to.  It’s just that they’re done differently, often using a series of tape trades where contributions are mailed in.

Back to Piss Frond, though.  The 2-disc set represents two differing styles.  The first disc contains the collaborations mentioned above, while the second is solo work.  The former is a somber and contemplative work full of striking sounds and lyrics that bring pause from the listener.  The track Sulphur in particular generates an odd mood and is very effecting emotionally.  The latter is instrumental and one of the best ambient discs I’ve heard in a very long time.  Rich and textured soundscapes that can function as background music or as a hypnotic listening experience.  More information, sound clips and liner notes can be found at

Spybey’s current work is preparing for an upcoming tour, which will feature himself, and James Plotkin (Old) supporting former Can members Damo Suzuki and Michael Karoli.  As a veteran live performer Spybey goes out of his way to put a show together.  When asked about the performance Spybey is quick to point out differences between the improvisational nature of ::Zoviet France and his current performing style, which has a firmer base in established material, while still leaving more than enough room to change things up from night to night.  The end product is much more consistent and makes for a more reliable performance, often despite the unpredictability of live situations.

When asked about the sort of instruments that are used on stage I’m somewhat surprised to hear that a lot of them are geared towards children.  Although after some explaining, it all becomes clear.  Ease of play and ruggedness are factors (i.e.: an 8 year old can be harder on a piece of equipment than a baggage handler), as well as an awareness of what works on stage.  Spybey believes that a physical stage show is a necessity, that sitting behind a rack of synthesizers just isn’t going to be as captivating as something kinetic.

On a more philosophical note he likes the idea that other musicians may be shocked or even intimidated to see what his sounds are made with.  It’s all part of his concept to develop abstraction… things that sound complex turn out to be made with simple devices.  This strategy also proves another point that he feels strongly about: music isn’t exclusive, it belongs to everyone… and in the case of Dead Voices On Air, it’s something that we should all keep within reaching distance.

See for discography and further information.