Were you first recordings experimental in nature?
Michael Berdan > They were experimental indeed, but more because of a significant lack of ability than a true desire to create those sounds. I suppose there is a certain naive charm to some of those recordings, though. It's the sound of true ineptitude posturing as well intentioned brutality. You've got to start somewhere, I guess.
What did you want to accomplish with the recordings of Drunkdriver and Veins?
Michael Berdan > I was a broken, self pitied and self loathed, empty individual when Drunkdriver started. To be honest, my best friend (John Sharkey III of Clockcleaner/Puerto Rico Flowers/Nine Shocks Terror) was achieving a great deal of success at the time, and I was jealous. I had tried to start multiple bands, but nobody would take a drunken fuck-up like me seriously so it never panned out. I started Drunkdriver with the first two people who would play with me. Personally, on a sonic level I was just trying to push the envelope of what was already being pushed by doing what was already being done. I was just trying to outdo my peers in intensity. The need to do so was born of profound insecurity and a total absence of self worth. I look back on this as the most selfish, spiritually barren point of my life. I will not begrudge anyone's right to enjoy that band, but for me it is a reminder of a kind of darkness that I would like to leave in the past.
Veins was a much different story. Mark McCoy and I had become close, and one day he asked me to sing on a bunch of songs that he, Ian and Jeroen had recorded awhile before. I agreed, and when I heard the material I fell in love. I feel we just tried to make the best hardcore record that we could. I was dealing with the death of a dear friend and struggling with a number of personal issues at the time, and the songs thematically reflected that. I feel like that record was me coming to terms with my life in an honest way for the first time. I adore and am constantly inspired by all of those involved in Veins. The project ended when it had to. I am still honored and humbled to have been involved.
What is the audience reaction to your sound?
Michael Berdan > Audience reactions to my live performances have varied a great deal over the years. I play to a number of different types of crowds, and sometimes what I do doesn't translate well (or I just plain fucking suck). Generally I get positive responses, though. When I started out, I felt that self harm was the best way to elicit a positive response from the crowd that I wanted to impress. I felt like I didn't have much to offer musically, so I would just hit myself and flail about while screaming my head off and hope for the best. Usually I was too drunk to feel anything. Trying to convince others that they should respect you and your work by expressing hate to yourself physically is not without paradox, and ultimately this style of performance failed me. For awhile, it seemed like at more shows than not that at least one person would hit me and spit at me or throw me across the room. Out of frustration, anger and fear I would hit back. After these shows, the person who was attempting to hurt me moments before would often approach me and say something along the lines of "That was great!!!!!!!!!". Contrary to popular belief, I do not enjoy getting punched in the face.
This has all changed over time and I no longer treat myself or the audience with physical contempt. I am still quite physical, but gone are the days of the crowd and myself doing battle. These days I enjoy the separation between performer and audience. I am far more confident in my abilities than I have ever been, and I just want to connect with myself and put on a decent show. Sometimes, that actually happens.
Are you a studier of the occult? Could you tell us some of the occult writings that you like reading?
Michael Berdan > I do not study the occult, but I hold an admiration for it (as I do for all matters of personal spirituality). Many of the people I truly love and am inspired by are practitioners and students to varying degrees. My path is just different.
Who are some experimental sound recordists that you admire in collage and ambient sound?
Michael Berdan > I've been heavily into Raime as of late. William Bennett continues to impress and inspire me as he evolves. Oren Ambarchi's "Sagittarian Domain" continues to leave me in awe.
Your sound is similar in nature to that of The Haters - were their albums an interest to you?
Michael Berdan > To say that I adore The Haters is a gross understatement. GX Jupitter-Larsen's approach to his work and unbridled courage within it is a source of great inspiration. I have never heard this comparison and take it as quite an honor. Both sonically and from a performance standpoint, he is to be revered.
Do you paint or write as well?
Michael Berdan > I have the occasional flirtation with writing. Once every couple of months I'll outline a new project, get myself worked up and excited and talk about it incessantly, and then never fucking follow through. I think I've landed three writing jobs in the past year that I just never submitted material for. This is particularly sad because I take significant comfort from writing. For my entire life, it has been my greatest tool to get outside of my own mind. These days I am easily distracted and not great at following through. Hopefully that changes soon enough. I can't paint or draw a straight line if the lives of myself and my family depended on it.
Any future projects that you wish to tell us about?
Michael Berdan > My primary projects these days are Believer/Law and York Factory Complaint. I started Believer/Law with Erik Proft (Kama Rupa) a little over a year ago. We wanted to try to take the Wax Trax!/Play It Again Sam -style and aesthetic while drawing from our experience with noise and more aggressive forms of industrial. Sometimes it's strange to make something so dance oriented, but I find the experience rewarding beyond words. Two cassettes have been released on Robert & Leopold and //cae - sur - a// respectively, and we have releases scheduled on Chondritic Sound and Blind Prophet in the coming months.
York Factory Complaint has been an ongoing project between myself, Ryan Martin and Theresa Smith for the better part of five years now. Sonically, it owes more to the Ramleh/Skullflower school of noise than anything else. We have cassettes and cd-rs on more labels than I can remember and releases scheduled on Dais and Chondritic Sound in the coming months.
Also, Sean Ragon (Cult Of Youth) recently joined Believer/Law. We are thrilled at the work he has been doing with us.