Having ended Chem Lab in 2012, Jared Louche is back with a fantastic new project called Prude. While still highly electronic, Prude leans heavily towards a glam/punk sound. It’s intense, but with an undeniable sense of fun. Prude really don’t sound like anything else out there, but the strong melodic component makes it instantly accessible. The group is rounded out by Matt Fanale (Caustic), Marc Plastic (Plastic Heroes), Phil DiSiena (Cyanotic) and Christophe Deschamps. In September 2014, Prude released their debut album, “The Dark Age of Consent,” which was produced by Howie Beno (Blondie, Depeche Mode, Ministry.) In an email interview, Jared goes into great depth about the formation and process behind Prude.
Chemlab had gone through many line-up and stylistic changes over the years, with you as the only consistent member. What made you move on to Prude now, as opposed to another incarnation of Chemlab?
“I wanted something new, something that came to me naked and to which I came naked as well so that when we fucked we’d make something unexpected, pure and relentless, something that would burn away everything else that doesn’t matter. As mutative and pliable as Chemlab may seem to the outside observer there are actually a whole host of creative limitations that are imposed both in exterior as well as from me. There’s so much expectation-baggage that the band drags behind it throughout its history, so many notes that each new note gets compared to, each having to fight harder and push clear of. There’s absolutely no way that Chemlab could have done a song like ‘sniper’, or if there is then I’m too blinded to see how that would have happened though I can certainly imagine how it might have played out in the public’s responses to it. All I need to do to set the stage is to recall the reactions that I got when I released ‘Covergirl’ and the scene’s set perfectly, draped in profound revulsion and disinterest. ‘Well, he’s passed it. What’s next?’
“I’ve always wanted to do more than what Chemlab were doing and have always felt that there wasn’t the room within that construct to do it. East Side Militia was a departure for us that afforded us the ability to experiment a lot and plunge into some song writing that was pretty far outside the parameters of what one would expect to hear from a Machine Rock band in the 90’s. We weren’t really out beyond the pale by any extreme degree, but the reception was mixed, and in some fundamental ways I think that that was where a large chunk of my audience decided that we were a one-trick pony of sorts and those people have never returned. Fuck ‘em. It can also be argued that those were the people that would only have been happy had we stuck to our Burn Out blueprint and just Xeroxed ourselves ad nauseum, but that’s all just academia monkeyspank in the rear view mirror.
“All that being the case, whatever case it may be, something new was in order. Plastic and I had been talking about working together on a record for a few years. When Matt and I started bouncing around the idea of writing machine-punk songs using side 2 of ‘Funhouse’ as the jumping-off point, instead of going back to the old neighborhood it just seemed right to set a course for new terrain instead. There are countless pluses to it though it inevitably carried a few minuses as well though they’re tempered. The main drawback to this band is distance.
“We’re scattered all over the globe and that makes decision-making and performing together really challenging. The kinks in the decisionmaking aspect of it have all been worked out by now, but now we’re in the process of confronting how we go about getting the band on stage. There’s more about that later on, but as I said, the pluses are legion. I’m working with some incredibly talented musicians and make music that seems not to care about what it calls itself or what song was written last in reference to what should be written next. The energy and willingness to ignore all boundaries and all conceptual frameworks as well as ignore everything that we’ve each done before in our previous bands is incredibly intoxicating and transgressive. It’s an open, conductive atmosphere that’s magnetically attractive and makes me want to be constantly subsumed by it. There may yet be that last, fabled Chemlab record “Machine God Down”, but at the moment I’m having Prude sex and don’t want to stop, so I’m not going to.”
How did the Prude line-up come together?
“As with every facet of this band, the tale is complicated, unwilling to easily give up its gifts. Plastic and I have been symbionic for years. He’s an amazing musician with whom I have easily the most vibrantly fecund and strangely interlaced working relationship, speaking with no tongue or word. Matt and I met a few years ago after a Caustic set at the Black Sun Festival where Chemlab was playing too. We immediately started talking about remote targeting, mimetic poly-carbon fibers in The Stooges ‘Funhouse’. We were pretty hooked on the idea of machine rockers building a record with that disc as the genesis seed. So the three of us wrote a broad selection of songs together for a year or so, ‘airlock’, ‘cigarette burn heart’, ‘knife on mars’, when a von-Neuman 6 model named Phil dropped through our portal and into the middle of ‘darkroom’ altering its construct, and ours, forever. He brought a sordid series of bass trigger ground-lifts, pilot error recordings and steel-tongued guitars to the process and the music expanded exponentially as he flexed his steel-belted groove-boxes. He’d been out on tour with Chemlab in 2010 so it just made sense to fold him into the churn. Howie’s an old friend and I wired him when we needed to start calculating our final approach trajectories. We met years ago at Chicago Trax during the sodium haze days of Chemlab and I’ve always had boundless respect for his writing and his work behind the SSL. As soon as he heard ‘sniper’ he was hooked, and anyone that likes that song right off the bat must have something dark-kinked in their wiring, so we knew he was fashioned of the right materials to add everything we didn’t know was missing.”
Was the musical direction and identity of Prude fairly well defined from the start? Or was it more about this group of musicians collaborating, and then seeing where it went?
“Nothing was set in stone when we caromed out of the starting gate as flaming asteroids heading into the abyss. We were hungry to play around, to make a huge and irredeemable mess of biblical proportion as well as have some fucking fun already, and that’s really been the guiding light of everything we’ve done throughout. We didn’t approach making music with any particular frameworks or dogmas. As I mentioned before, the bands that we’re all in are already proscribed, defined, machine gun towered, electric fenced and gated and guard dogged and we all know pretty much everything that’s going to happen on the premises. What we want with Prude is to go elsewhere, where we haven’t been before. We knew we wanted to splice rock’n’roll and noise and dance grooves and sleaze with machinery breaking and robots fucking. Beyond that we figured it would all pretty much work itself out as we worked it out. There’s always time to talk about what it is after it has become what it is, but too much talking when you’re in the process of making it kills the blood flow. When you start to intellectualize about “what it’s all about” while you’re doing it you move too far away from the heart and the hips, away from the immediacy of what matters. Rock’n’roll becomes desultory mush and has no real reference to anything true. when it takes itself too seriously because rock’s not about seriousness. It becomes instead a pabulum exuded for radio ready consumption with an eye glued to the bottom-line. To my mind, rock is sex and death. It’s a laugh and it’s a threat, precarious balancing act between revolt and stupidity. It’s a revolution and it’s a fucking joke and if you can’t laugh about it and laugh at yourself then you might as well quit, become a banker and make some more room for me because I know how to laugh at myself. Just look at all of the laughable material I’ve amassed over the years, but I digress.
“Hopefully Prude’s identity will be in perma-flux as there’s always new stimuli pouring in from all angles. We’re not really interested in penning ourselves in, making of our surroundings some insular noosphere into which nothing new may ever enter. The more we perform the more the band will evolve. The more we write new material (and we’re doing that already), the more we will alter, transmute and metamorphose. There’s nothing sexy about standing still like a target waiting to get shelled into inconsequence by the watchers and critics. As with Chemlab, and all of the unknown bands that I was in before, we’ll always be on the move and the next album will be different again because, as an artist, if you’re not absorbing new ideas and taking new chances then you’re dead. So, you’ll recognize us in the tainted, mottled glass, but we’ll be in motion. You will be too whether or not you’re aware of it, and maybe we’ll luck out and move forward together.”
I can hear a definite 70’s glam influence in the sound. Was there a particular essence of that style you were trying to bring into Prude?
“Nope, we’re just doing what we most want to do as a set of musicians working together. We’re trying to be free, unchained. Though we started from a particular set of creative, intellectual and conceptual long-lat grid points they were simply references not proscriptive perimeters. What’s important to me, to all of us in the band, is we’re not to trying to be cool, to ape some attitudes or to assume some mantle that we think will sell the record well or will make us more palatable to the mass public (un)consciousness. What we’re doing is exactly what we want to do. We’re trying to make something pure and real, not force anything or create artwork that doesn’t kick us in the gut. I’m too old to give a fuck about what’s supposed to be cool. I can’t fake that orgasm, so what I’m bringing is what we’re all bringing, and that’s the unadulterated us, unvarnished and unmediated. There’s nothing hidden, no façade. That there’s 70’s glam in there is because those sounds are in us much the same as there are black noise rends and stomping beats and plastic grooves and hedonistic release in the songs because Prude’s reflecting what’s inside us.”
How would you say Prude has evolved from inception to what we hear on “the dark age of consent”?
“The band’s become more of what it naturally is than when we started out, but tracing that process, analyzing it is practically impossible. It was a state of possession that we functioned within that allowed for heightened communication, that fed primitive urges and at the outset that electrical flow was more slender than it is now. To explain these currents though is as defeating as capturing lines in the sand before the waves. I suppose that having absolutely no interest in pleasing anyone but ourselves is a huge part of it. Everything we do reinforces the essence of Prude as itself. We’re not so much evolving as solidifying and the trance state becomes natural, normal, our functioning nature, automatic channeling. Our dialogue is more compact and requires fewer steps to get to where we want to be. There’s a creative shorthand that’s evolved that cuts out some of the requisite steps, but in the final analysis it’s impossible for me to really explain this part of it because so much of it transpires in possession and out of sight. I can go toe-to-toe with any pretentious fucker and talk a stream of undifferentiated, rococo bullshit about music and art, but even my Olympic skills are no match for what’s required here.”
What is the creative process like within the band? How collaborative is the songwriting?
“The songwriting process is profoundly collaborative, everybody playing off of what the person before them has done, retrofitting, reworking, ruining and rebuilding and then firing off the resultant inchoate mass to the next offender. We’ve all thrown shit into the fire to see how it burns, and anything that’s left over at the end of it all might get slagheaped or recycled into something else. I tossed ink-stained books of my writing and pens and ink pots and scarred teeth and one of my ribs and reels of cassette tape unspooling onto the fire to watch the animal flames turn bluish green as the acetate layers burned off. Marc launched a clutch of vintage Moogs, a 12” stiletto from Tijuana and a valuable collection of guitars into the hungry bonfire, guitars that Paul McCartney and James Williamson gave him one night at a drunken party in West Hollywood. Matt heaped on the raging fire a pile of broken keyboard controllers, stomped-on motherboards, a flight case loaded with broken glass shards, a pink unicorn covered in shit and a mysterious pair of Hawaiian-print boxer shorts that he still refuses to explain. Crackle, hum, fuse. Phil extracted some of Plastic’s guitars and welded on random segments of T2 plating, unbolted the restrictor plates on everything so they’d blaze, sacrificed a bevy of scantily-clad dancing girls and pretty boys all covered slick in rainbow oil and battered sequins, blowtorched the whole mountain with a fountain of liquid fire and shoved that seething, heaving, moaning, grinding mass into the now pulsing pyre. Howie poured whispering gasoline, dripping kerosene and liticreted pyrosene, tossed in cakes of Semtex, typewriter keys, spools of rusted piano wire and battered bass bins and then synthesized every scratchy sound, every howl and unstitched screech, every thud, hammer, pound and razor rip, emphasized every pop and crackle that would have elsewhere been smoothed over and deleted making them instead most prominent. We each, at various times and in various ways, extracted elements from the shearing, splintering, churning, imploding mass and welded, spliced, dissected, retrofitted and reverse engineered molten slag, whipped-to-glowing liqui-glass and thrumming cores, passed shining particles and ticking ‘101-combines’ back and forth with glee until we had finally fashioned what you run from now, the ‘dark age’ crawling out of the iron city with its horrors and hungers in tow. Then we took it to Abbey Road where they said we were insane, but they mastered it anyway, Sean Magee setting the controls for the heart of the stun. We’re a team in other words, a gang, a brood, a band, so it’s all done together for better or worse.”
Was “Prude” always the obvious choice for the band name?
“Honestly, there was nothing obvious about this record from splintered top to fetid bottom. There were a few other options, but when Prude got mooted it seemed perfect in a very sarcastic way. There’s nothing more ridiculously ironic than this band of wizened, road-weathered, addicts of post-everything being called Prude. In some seminal way, the name for me is a perfect illustration of what the band is all about: contradiction. Nothing seems like it should fit together the way that it does and nothing about the record makes sense on paper. As a “career in music” path this would be deemed an unmitigated failure, but as a passage towards truth there’s no restrictor plate screwed down on this ride. Besides, contradiction is one of the best ways to work out who you are and what you really believe in, it’s a powerful alchemical formula for truth.”
Is the live line-up the same as that appearing on the album?
“Live is a tricky thing indeed. Because we’re scattered all across the globe like shards to the four corners it makes playing all together almost impossible. At this stage of the game the easiest way for Prude to perform in its purest form, the line-up the line-up that recorded the record, we’ll need to tour the States as that’ll only require that Plastic and I fly over from London as opposed to getting Matt, Howie and Phil over here. For the shows that we’ve been doing to support the launch of ‘dark age’, we’ve approached it two ways. For some of the shows Plastic and I have been backed up by the re-engineered backing tracks. That’s been insanely vicious, a well-honed switchblade that’s lean and mean and I’m pleased with how well it has worked so far. We’ve also done shows with Christophe, the drummer who played on the record. He flew in from Paris for the most recent shows. He’s easily the best drummer I’ve ever played with (and his competition’s serious as Fiendish, Servo and Continental are all superb drummers who drove Chemlab hard) and he added so much muscle and color to the gigs it’s unbelievable. He’s a machine yet retains such panache that it makes for supercharged shows. He’s been so much fun to have with us. He’s one of the three most sought-after drummers in France, but most of the bands he’s hired to perform with are Jazz or Nu-Blues, all of it lacking any teeth or claws. He’s also never really spent any time in the Rock world, so his whiplash satori quotient has been sky high as he absorbs the Prude experience, all orifices quiveringly open. Fortunately for us he’s utterly entranced by it all as opposed to repulsed as anyone else from his set would be. However, as we’re planning to perform a lot more here as well as across Europe, we’ll need to incorporate some other musicians if the rest of the band can’t come over. The politics will be demanding, but we’ll work it all out as performing this material is essential. Hopefully it’ll all come tight in due course as having us all destroying these songs live will be a splendid black eye of untainted ecstasy.”
A lot of electronics can be heard on the album, yet none of the songs seem like they would suffer or require much re-interpretation if it was all stripped away. Was this something you were consciously striving for?
“Interesting observation. No, in fact it wasn’t specifically what we were trying to go for though it’s a positive saucer-load of gravy that it has worked out that way. When Matt and I were first engaged in talking about the thing that finally evolved into the record, our inspirations were the second Stooges record, “Funhouse” It’s a very ‘live’ record, despite being recorded in the studio it retains all of the immediacy and muscularity that comes with the best live performances. One of the things that has always irked me about Chemlab is that the songs are locked in amber, always the same length no matter what. I come from a background that’s much more flexible than what the backing material allows for and I’ve always wanted Chemlab to be able to be far more of a mutable machine than it ever was. What I’m shooting for is to get the live interpretation of Prude to be able to respond to what we’re feeling on stage every night so that we able to play shorter or longer versions of songs at our behest as opposed to being enslaved by the prerecordings. While we were making the album though there was very little talk of how the songs would evolve live. Mostly we just got excited about what a blast it will be to play these songs live.
“Prude’s every inch a binary rock band though: organic and electronic. I want it to be powerful and to hit you in the gut from the start of the set to the last note, coming right off the top rope, and there are a number of ways to get to that place. The electronics are essential for the music to be as full as it possibly can be, they allow for deeper and richer dynamics and textures making the music more of a frontal attack and more demanding. When the band comes out live I think it’s critical for the electronics to feature as much as the rest of the instruments and I’ve always felt that way otherwise what’s the point of having the programming in there in the first place. The sonic energy of bending motherboards and shrieking arpeggiations as evocative and propulsive as the air hammering out of a Marshall stack and slamming into my chest. I just don’t want us not to be able to execute the show if the keys die and can’t howl. I want to peel my skin off and rock no matter what happens, let nothing stand in my way, exploded amps, imploded drums, corroded keys. So, the songs weren’t engineered so that the electronics could lift right out, but I suppose that that could be a bonus in a crisis. The material wasn’t written originally on the acoustic guitar with the programming left as some sort of after thought either. A lot of them were powered by skeletal riffs from Matt or Phil and a handful of them came from Plastic and me, and we want very much to retain as much of that electronic-organic collision as possible live, yet underneath it all lies a rock n roll animal too. Contradiction again, lovely, ain’t it?”
What are your plans for the immediate future? Will you be touring in support of the album?
“Touring plans are only now starting to form. Because we’re spread out across the quivering, polythene membrane it’s hard to get us together to rehearse or tour, but we’re starting by playing shows in London. We’ll then branch out across the UK and into Europe. Hopefully we’ll be bringing the contradictory beast across the waters to the States in the not-too-distant. Stay tuned because the future holds as much mystery as it ever has!”
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