Fallout Shelter Disks is a feature that asks artists which six musical works, one book, and one luxury item they would pick to take into a nuclear bunker. Any resemblances to a certain BBC Radio 4 programme are purely coincidental. Mark Chickenfish is the nom de sound behind Concrete / Field, an electronica artist transmitting edgeland evocations (A Theory of Psychic Geography), scorched-earth black-metal anti-bigotry sonics (Evolved As One), beautiful drone (A Cathedral) and none-more-dark Christmas albums (Bleak).
As the ash-filled sky dims and weird animal calls begin to fill the gloom, let’s retire to Mark’s bunker for a chat about his Fallout Shelter Disks catastrophe selections.
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
I discovered Black Sabbath aged 8 with via my Dad’s cassette copy of Master of Reality in a Stockholm high-rise – life-changing experience right there – but the debut album (which I taped off my uncle) is the consistent winner for me. Early Sabbath are one of those bands (like Joy Division or early Carcass) where each member is bringing something original and important to the mix and I don’t think they topped this as a complete album, though they produced some fantastic individual tracks later.
Godflesh – Streetcleaner
A constant companion since the day it came out. It’s impossible to fathom how an album superficially so minimal repays so many repeated listens. It’s like it’s evolving secretly when I’m not listening to it. Hearing them play the title track live a while back was revelatory in that it exposed the massive hip-hop groove it’s based on and I heard the song in yet another way.
COIL/Black Light District – A Thousand Lights In A Darkened Room
Obviously it’s a tough choice to make – which Coil album will you restrict yourself to? Frankly, I could have chosen just Coil & Godflesh records and still struggled to cut it down to only six, but I’ve plumped for BLD for the feelings it evokes. I would cheat and include the Ptolemaic Terrascope version of The Lost Rivers of London (with John Balance’s reading of Hubert Crackanthorpe’s Vignettes over it) rather than the instrumental, as it is one of my all-time favourite pieces of music and I could listen to it over and over.
Autechre – Tri Repetae
The ones that last with you are usually the first album you hear by an artist, and “Tri Repetae” was that for me with ae. It’s worth taking a spot here for eutow alone (those synths give me goosebumps every time), but the whole piece masterfully combines fidgety, glitchy rhythms with rich synth tones in way that has been ripped-off but never beaten since.
New Kingdom – Paradise Don’t Come Cheap
A lot of terrible crimes have been committed in the name of stitching bits of rock and hip-hop together, but New Kingdom are a masterclass in how to do it effortlessly and with singular style. Producer Scotty Hard plays guitar as well as making killer beats, so knows how to cook up a tasty stew with the gravelly drawls of Sebastian and Nosaj, rather than the horrific sushi-and-yorkshire-pudding-type fusion others have served up. Grungy and heavy, but still cinematic and forward-looking, it’s a timeless classic.
Luke Lund – Kalk
[Artist shamelessly promotes his mates klaxon] Luke’s been a mate for many, many years and I’ve heard his sounds and skills mature over time into a few complementary streams of pure quality. This is from a couple of years back when he released about 5 LPs at the same time across several genres and is a spine-tingling mix of field recordings, guitar, synth & FX which would be perfect for psychically teleporting you out of your bunker into a (presumably now incinerated) countryside of lush beauty. There’s a danger of this stuff descending into new-age twee-ness, but Luke is smart enough to avoid that and injects bits of minor key melancholy to vary the emotional tone.
Book: John Wyndham – The Day of the Triffids
I got my first copy of this as a youngster in a pair with Watership Down through some deal involving breakfast cereal packets or something like that. I have a terrible weakness for apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic stories (it came down to a punch-up between this and War of the Worlds) probably traceable to a combination of natural morbidity and growing up during the Cold War. Wyndham is a thoughtful SF writer and I love books that make you consider big ideas.
Luxury item: It’d have to be a laptop packed with my never-ending collection of wrong-headed audio software and arcane VST plugins, so I could jam away to my heart’s content in the gloom until the power runs out. I have a deep need to make sounds, even if there’s nobody to hear them. To be honest, it wouldn’t be a massive step down in audience numbers anyway…
Ears For Eyes: You were involved in the The Noise in Opposition project, it opposes fascism and other bigotry in the noise scene. Have you noticed any of the prejudice in the scene emboldened by recent events?
Mark Chickenfish: I’ll be honest and say that I don’t really have anything to do with any ‘scene’ at all these days, unless you count a loose assembly of people I’ve befriended on social media. I don’t doubt that true far-right types have been emboldened all over the shop by the mainstreaming of some of their petty grievances. Though I suspect that a major proportion of alleged fascist noise types are the same sort of puerile trolling manchildren that make up a lot of what’s been called the ‘alt-right’, whose politics are not so much based on cherished principles as on a toddler’s instinct to throw a tantrum when asked to share their toys.
EFE: The Ten Second Noise Burst anti-UKIP project was a means of attempting to disrupt their infrastructure. How have you viewed the growth and mainstreaming of far-right expression on social media?
MC: Through the screen of my phone, with gritted teeth usually, haha. I think social media really has exposed a lot of basic flaws in humanity’s intellectual and spiritual evolution as a species. For every marginalised community finding much-needed solidarity, there’s a horde of ignorant xenophobes and trolls. And Twitter really does seem to have weaponised the viral spreading of intellectually dishonest propaganda.
EFE: Do you have any thoughts on how noise / electronica / weird art in general can seek to disrupt this? A V/VM-style acid-wash of a Prison Planet video for instance.
MC: Anything we can do to disrupt the channels of fascist propaganda has got to be worthwhile, by whatever means necessary. Ridicule and turning their own weapons against them are the way forward I think. There’s enough righteous leftist rhetoric out there already, less straightforward avenues should be explored now along the lines of psychological warfare, ‘psyops’, ‘magick’ or whatever you’re personally most comfortable calling it. You don’t generally become a neo-nazi because you feel secure in yourself, so these people are ripe for psychic attack.
EFE: I am a lucky owner of one of the skip-dived editions (the container for the CD was made of re-purposed discarded wood) of A Theory of Psychic Geography. How does the object reflect the music, or the music the object?
MC: Demand actually outstripped supply on that one, I don’t even have one myself! It’s an illustration of the upside of social networks that through Twitter I met Kek who has an almost frightening grasp of where I’m coming from. I think we’re also both cursed with a pranksterish desire to read as many meanings into everything as possible too. So I could regale you with guff I just made up about how the plywood represents the multiple layers of sound and the bits of wire from a BT green box signify my personal heritage as son of a telecoms engineer, but really it was an idea Kek had that I thought was cool. There are probably a whole slew of subconscious influences/references, but they require excavating after the fact, which is how a lot of what I do works. It’s even more explicit with my new band Meat House, with Matt from Wizards Tell Lies, in that we absolutely refuse plans and maps and work entirely on instinct. Fortunately working together comes easily as we’re pulling in the same direction.
EFE: 19f3 has covered the ground of the / in your music, the divide between the false-binary of the two halves of Concrete / Field. What are your thoughts on Psychogeography and how it can be expressed in sound? Your idea that “The open moors can be evoked by a recording of a faulty drinks machine,” would you expand on that? How do the places blur together? How is this conjured in your music?
MC: Poor old Psychogeography has (like Hauntology) become a bit of an over-used and abused word, a Bandcamp hashtag in search of meaning. I guess pretty much any art that deals with places deals with the feelings evoked by them and is psychogeographical by definition. Regarding the faulty drinks machine – that really is a field recording I used and processed which turned into something which generated a completely different atmosphere to its origins when used in a different context. Nothing is what it seems in my music, and that’s how I like it! My favourite compliment is being told by people they have no handle on how the sounds I use are made. Sonic man of mystery, that’s me, haha.
EFE: The music you create in the bunker: how would it reflect your surroundings? Would you engage with or sonically deny the bunker?
MC: Both. I hate being limited and get easily obsessed with concepts and projects which I have to get out of my system. I’d definitely be using everything in that bunker to make sounds with. I’m completely unable to resist experimenting the sonic properties of any objects I come across: rubbing, tapping, scraping, rattling – everything is an instrument.
EFE: If you emerged from the bunker after a number of years to find a band of cultists obsessed with your music awaited you and your leadership, what society would you build with them?
MC: One that didn’t need leaders.