Forget everything you thought you knew about the Delta music scene, and meet Curtis Lehr, AKA Argiflex. Argiflex talked to DIME contributor Natalie Long about his new album THROATLESS, record label Bedlam Tapes and the perks of having DIY beginnings.
NATALIE LONG: Where did the title of your new album come from, and where did you get the inspiration to write your latest album?
CURTIS LEHR: The album title is a byproduct of my song naming and composition process. When I compose a song, it’s composed of various pattern sets in my sequencer and ends up with a pattern name like “U15 P16” or “U12 J10-K11-L12″ or something convoluted like that, but it lets me know which patterns correspond with each song. When I’m deciding on which songs to go on a release, I pick and choose which patterns will become songs that will be on the release. So after recording, mixing and mastering each song for the album, I usually come to a point where I realize, “Okay, I really need to name these.” Sometimes I think of random strings of words or even just misspellings that would make good song names, so whenever that occurs I write them down in a giant “Song Name Ideas” on my iOS Reminders app. I’ll then listen through the release while looking through the song names list and decide which names go with which finished songs. Very occasionally I will write a pattern and a definite song name will come to mind for it, THROATLESS and PINK were both named like that, but it’s very rare. When me and the label manager Max were deciding together on which song names to use for each song, we ended up deciding on also using the name of the song THROATLESS to title the whole release.
NL: How did you get connected to your record label, Bedlam Tapes, from Germany? Why did you decide to go with Bedlam, and how have they helped you creatively with your new album?
CL: Max at Bedlam Tapes DM’d me on Twitter soon after I released CYBERSMOG and asked if I would be interested in releasing something on Bedlam Tapes. I had already seen how well Bedlam does promoting their releases (they’re usually sold out within a day of release), and I thought it would be awesome to not have to DIY everything for the release like I normally do so I knew it would be a great label to release through. Throughout the entire process of creating the album, Max was awesome to work with and provided great and concise feedback on how the album was shaping up in its various iterations, and I’m really hoping to continue working with them in the future. Between the national promotional tour, cover art by Keith Rankin, the inclusion of 5 remixes of the album tracks by Bedlam-affiliated artists on top of 5 original Argiflex tracks and a live recording, the project kept growing in scope, and, according to Max, it’s going to be the biggest release on the label yet! Bedlam Tapes normally releases 55 tapes of each release, but this release is getting 120 cassettes and 200 Digipak CD copies, a first for the label.
NL: What bands influenced “Throatless?”
CL: Throatless was inspired by everything I listen to in some way or another. From the ambient acid techno of Carbon Based Lifeforms to the wild rave anthems of early The Prodigy. Electro stylings of 808 State and the harsh abrasive sound of digital hardcore like Atari Teenage Riot and The Mad Capsule Markets. Some of the album sounds like slow noisy trip-hop that you can mosh too, other parts sound like dense humid goa trance. Video game soundtracks have always been important to me, with influences from the Lego Island soundtrack and Neocron 2’s ambient OST appearing in the album.
NL: How has Cleveland shaped you as an artist?
CL: Attending the Delta Music Institute at Delta State University in Cleveland gave me a structured environment to learn music business and audio engineering skills which have greatly helped me, especially the upper-level audio engineering classes. The town doesn’t have too much happening on the electronic music front, usually indie and folk acts are coming through, so I have lots of time to work on my craft instead of going out very often. The DIY house shows my friends and I are able to put on are vital and important in our local music community and allow us to have a way to showcase our friends’ acts and other types of music that wouldn’t normally get booked in this town. Also, the low cost of living here makes it slightly easier to stay alive to keep making art. I also feel like the Delta has influenced me musically by using lots of long-tailed reverbs and echoes to create a really humid-feeling effect on the sounds.
NL: Other writers have described your music as “neo-rave” or “not easily categorized.” How would you describe “Throatless” to someone who wasn’t sure how to categorize your music?
CL: I feel like my music in its current incarnation could be described as “live noisy breakbeat acid techno.” There’s a mishmash of lots of different elements from the music I listen to. There are elements of acid techno, electro, house, PC Music, ambient, electro, trance, breakbeat, jungle, IDM, harsh noise, goa, UK hardcore, rave music and more. The “experimental neo-rave” title implies the reinterpretation and reuse of rave music stylings and techniques while simultaneously bringing in the avant-garde. THROATLESS is also being classified as “hardvapour,” a recent offshoot of the genre vaporwave that is a reinterpretation of rave music and aesthetics that usually sounds like pretty gnarly techno or house with strong ambient and noise flair.
NL: What have you learned so far in the music business that you would like to pass on to other striving musicians?
CL: Don’t be afraid to DIY things. Not only can DIY get the job done, you’re also learning valuable skills too. From designing your own posters and album art to recording and mixing and even mastering yourself to putting a tour together and learning how to promote it all, DIY can be awesome and can keep your costs low. But because you’re learning, be sure to allot yourself enough time to research techniques for your task and to learn the skill so you can put out your best work. And remember that you will always improve your skill-set with time — keep practicing! That way, when you get into a situation where the labor is divided and you only need to focus on a few tasks instead of all of them, you’ll have even more time to create your best work. Always be willing and looking to learn. Use multiple social media platforms, and make sure all of your other platforms can be easily found when the user finds one of them. Also, be sure to learn the ins and outs of Facebook marketing. Facebook is a constantly changing platform and the best promotional techniques on there only seem to have a working life of 3 months before everything is changed again, so it’s important to keep up with the changes.
Download Argiflex’s new album here.