Controlled Bleeding, Continued...
Paul Lemos: Brian Setzer and I were best friends in high school and we often played together in different configurations. I would turn him on to music I was listening to, and I think he saw me as some odd novelty. He loved my primitive, chaotic approach to playing the guitar, and definitely inspired me to continue... The early duo lineup of Controlled Bleeding would open for his band Bloodless Pharoahs at CBGBs, etc...
Brian was a masterful progressive guitarist when he was young, inspired by the stuff we loved, namely King Crimson, Roxy Music, En,o etc...When he was planning to go to Europe with the Stray Cats he invited me to play drums, but I chose to remain in college. Over time we lost contact. Itís been more than 20 years since I last spoke with him.
HG: Most people who listen to either Punk or Prog Rock find the two genres to be mutually exclusive, but somehow you managed to combine them. What similarities did you see between the two genres and how did you make them fit together to form your vision?
Paul Lemos: It's true that punk and prog were pretty far apart on the musical spectrum, but I loved both genres. Stuff like Fripp and Eno's No Pussyfooting, Crimson's Larkís Tongues In Aspic, Henry Cow's In Praise of Learning, Mahavishnu Orchestraís Inner Mounting Flame...These records were highly experimental in their day even though they would later fall into the ugly genre labeled Prog. And the guitar parts were fucking incredible, so for me it was pure inspiration to play like John McLaughlin, Robert Fripp, Terje Rypdal and Fred Frith.
At the same time I always had thrived on the physical head punch provided by groups like early Dictators, early Blue Oyster Cult, Stooges, etc. You know, young males will always need that sort of outlet for their frustrations...Interestingly enough, a lot of great newer bands like Dillinger Escape Plan, The Locust, Daughters, Psyopus, Normal Love, Orthrelm, Blood Brothers combine these same elements with staggering levels of technical prowess.
HG: How did audiences react to Controlled Bleeding in these early stages of the group? Were "punks" as narrow-minded then as they are now?
Paul Lemos: You know Chuck, in the early days of Punk, people were very open to musical ideas. So, Televisionís eight-minute guitar solos, The Crampsí primal voodoo camp, or Pere Ubu's Beefheartian darkness sat comfortably next to The Ramones and Dead Boys primal aggression. Because we were doing instrumental music, somewhat after the first wave of bands, I think we bored people. I just don't think our music was that challenging or interesting. And in retrospect, it truly pales compared to so much of what was going on at the time.
HG: Your liner notes mentioned an early incarnation of Controlled Bleeding as "an experimental multi-media project with friends in Boston." Can you elaborate on this version of the band?
Paul Lemos: The very first lineup of the band was assembled in Boston after I was thrown out of my house here in New York, forced to quit school and go it alone for a while. I found refuge up there with my oldest friends, one of whom, Jack Salerno, was a true innovator and masterful drummer, but a crazy, difficult son of a bitch. Jack was way ahead of his time...He introduced me to free jazz and really fractured psychedelic music that I could not understand at the time, but came to love much later...He thrived on stuff like the early Godz, The Fugs, Wildman Fischer, early Mothers of Invention, Moby Grape, Hampton Grease Band -- Music to Eat, a true classic -- early Beefheart...a lot of the music that influences me today.
Meanwhile, I was into the first wave of Punk and early Prog, so we recruited another guitar player and bassist. I couldn't play for shit at the time, so I was the experimental factor that would fuck things up, playing prepared guitars on tables, writing dopey lyrics and attempting to sing, which was pretty horrible. But Jack was writing some wild shit and driving us with an iron fist.
Later, the project mutated into something closer to Throbbing Gristle, where we planned to perform long drone pieces on a dark stage, the band unseen -- only a huge rusted machine would appear under a naked, dimly lit yellow bulb. We were completely inspired by the film Eraserhead at the time, which had just been released. I suppose that was the beginning of my desire to move into more experimental areas.
HG: When you discovered the Einsturzende Neubaten Kollapse LP, what was it about that early Industrial noise that appealed to you?
Paul Lemos: I came upon Neubauten's Kollapse by accident long before the record would surface as an industrial classic. I was stunned when I first listened to it because these guys were creating their own musical vocabulary using the tools of industry, creating something much uglier than anything I had encountered. The music again possessed the same visceral intensity as stuff like The Stooges, but presented a totally different aesthetic, not so different from what Lynch captured in Eraserhead. After playing fast, disciplined instrumental music for a long time our band finally imploded and I just needed a new means to vent. With Kollapse, I realized the means by which I could bypass all convention and unleash the purest form of musical violence.
HG: Did you see distinct correlations between Punk Rock and that first Industrial wave? What were they?
Paul Lemos: For me both Punk and early Industrial music were pure expressions of emotional violence and confusion, delivered without the restriction of technical skill. It was the tearing down of convention, the pure PRIMAL SCREAM...
HG: What music currently inspires you?
Paul Lemos: A lot of music inspires me today. People like Cecil Taylor and Barry Guy still create the most killer free music on the planet, as old as they are. But then groups/people like Dillinger Escape Plan, Hellnation, Aids Wolf, Arab On Radar, early Locust, Lightning Bolt, Fat Worm, Daughters, Normal Love, Weasel Walter have taken visceral music to another level which still really excites me... I also really enjoy a lot of quiet, sad music like my favorite artist, Richard Hawley... Mark Kozlek, Mark Eitzel, as well as the modern classical abstractions of composers like Helmut Lachenmman, Olga Neuwirth and Iancu Dumitrescu.
HG: What is the future of Controlled Bleeding?
Paul Lemos: As far as the future of the group goes, it's hard to say. In my mind, I have a lot of music I would like to actualize, but when it comes down to recording itís way too much work. I'm hoping I can record at least one more new record. But I have no idea what musical direction it will take. I am also determined to develop a solid live group to perform in the fall/winter. Generally, I have to take it week to week. Lethargy has been my main problem for a while now, but I'm hoping I can turn it around this year.
HG: Is there anything you haven't done with Controlled Bleeding that you would like to do?
Paul Lemos: Controlled Bleeding never did a proper tour of the U.S., so I would like to play more extensively in the States and maybe get back to Europe for one more extensive tour. I also want to develop our ultimate Dub statement, as well as record a definitive Controlled Bleeding album with Mr. Yoshida from Ruins and Weasel Walter from Flying Luttenbachers, two of my very favorite drummers. X