Chromatics Interview (Part 1 of 2)
The Portland-based enigmatic band, Chromatics, has been around in some shape or form since circa 2000, playing an also every-changing style of music. Currently, the band is with Troubleman Records, prepping a single and album, both of which will be released ... later this year.
Stylistically, Chromatics sound like heavily dubbed punk trax mixed with post-punk atmospheric qualities and dark, swirling dirges that hypnotize you and never let go.
Read on for a very forward and direct interview I had with Adam Miller, one of the few members in the band who has always maintained a presence.
(1) Okay, you've got a little bit of clearing up to do for me here. I remember vividly listening to Chrome Rats vs. Basement Rutz when it came out in 2003 and being so thrilled by its lo-fi gritty aesthetic. I hadn't really gotten into No Wave stuff at the time (old or new), and I'd not yet really heard any of groups that were supposedly similar to you (i.e. Erase Errata, Hot Snakes), so it was a totally fresh experience. But your line-up changed and you started releasing singles on Troubleman ... what exactly happened there?
IN AUGUST 2004 THE BAND UNDERWENT ANOTHER CHANGE IN OUR LINEUP.
WE BEGAN WORKING AGAIN WITH JOHNNY JEWEL (HE PRODUCED “CHROME RATS VS. BASEMENT RUTZ”).
FROM THAT POINT ON, WE DECIDED TO PLACE MORE EMPHASIS ON THE BEAT AND VOCAL ELEMENTS OF CHROMATICS.
AS MUSIC FANS WE REALIZED THAT THESE WERE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF SONGS WE HAD ALWAYS BEEN DRAWN TO BUT HAD NOT YET FULLY EXPLORED IN OUR MUSIC.
ALL THE MUSIC WE LOVE, FROM CAROLE KING TO R. KELLY TO THROBBING GRISTLE TO HALL & OATES PLACES SO MUCH IMPORTANCE ON THE VOICE AND THE PULSE.
IN THE PAST THE BAND HAD RELEASED ALL OF OUR RECORDS ON WEST COAST RECORD LABELS (K, HAND HELD HEART, GSL, NFJM) WE WANTED TO TRY PUTTING OUT ONE WITH TROUBLEMAN BECAUSE THEY WERE BASED ON THE EAST COAST AND THOUGHT THAT THAT MIGHT HELP EXPOSE US TO A NEW AUDIENCE.
MIKE SIMONETTI (PRESIDENT OF TMU/ITALIANS DO IT BETTER) DJ’S ALL OVER THE WORLD, WORKING WITH HIM WAS A GOOD COMPLIMENT TO GO WITH OUR SHIFT IN DIRECTION.
HE HAS OPENED UP A LOT OF DOORS FOR US.
(2) One thing that I find so great about your stuff is that it seems pretty timeless. You've certainly got influences all over the place (No Wave, punk, early techno), but your current style is so full of subtleties and minimalist qualities that it's hard to pinpoint any one style. Which is really great. What do you think you draw from, and where do you think you fit in now?
THANKS, THAT’S A NICE COMPLIMENT.
THE CONSTANT IDEA BEHIND CHROMATICS HAS ALWAYS BEEN TO STRIP OUR MUSIC BARE AND LEAVE ONLY WHAT IS NECESSARY FOR THE SONG.
SOMETIMES WE HAVE MUSIC THAT WE’RE REALLY PROUD OF BUT IT DOESN’T ADD ANYTHING TO A SONG SO IT ENDS UP NOT EVEN BEING USED.
IT’S COOL THOUGH BECAUSE EVENTUALLY THE MUSIC WE MAY HAVE DISCARDED WILL WORK IT’S WAY INTO ANOTHER IDEA... WE TRY TO LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN FOR ANYTHING.
WE DRAW INFLUENCE FROM OUR LIVES.
FOR MYSELF LATELY I’VE BEEN REALLY INTO PLAYING 80’S SINGLES AT 33 RPM INSTEAD OF 45, MEN’S FASHION MAGAZINES, MY CO-WORKERS AND THE IMAGES ON THE SIDES OF PRODUCE BOXES, AND TOP 40 RADIO BUT THAT ONE HAS ALWAYS HAD A HEAVY INFLUENCE ON ME.
OUR GOAL IS TO STAY CURRENT.
I WANT CHROMATICS TO SOUND RIGHT ON TIME.
TODAY IS WHERE CHROMATICS FIT IN.
(3) A couple dumber questions ... firstly, where'd you get the name Chromatics?
CHROMATICS IS SHORT FOR MONOCHROMATICS.
MONOCHROMATICS ARE THE DIFFERENT TINTS AND TONES OF A COLOR.
A FITTING NAME FOR ALL THE IDENTITIES THROUGHOUT THE HISTORY OF THE GROUP.
EVEN THOUGH THE SOUND HAS CHANGED DRASTICALLY SINCE CHROMATICS STARTED THE MUSIC IS STILL COMING FROM A SIMILAR PLACE IT ALWAYS HAS.
(4) And secondly, how'd you hook up as a band? As I understand it, you used to be a quartet, now you're a duo ... what was the development there?
SINCE 2000 CHROMATICS HAS BEEN A SOLO GROUP, A DUO, A TRIO, A QUARTET, A DUO AGAIN, A TRIO AGAIN, A DUO AGAIN AND THEN A FEW MORE TRIOS.
IT WAS JUST THE WAY THINGS WORKED OUT.
I NEVER WANTED THIS BAND TO COME TO AN END BECAUSE PEOPLE WERE UNABLE TO COMMIT TO IT.
THE BAND HAS ALWAYS JUST KEPT ON GOING.
RIGHT NOW CHROMATICS IS A TRIO AGAIN CONSISTING OF RUTH RADELET ON VOCALS, JOHNNY JEWEL ON SYTHESIZERS/THE BEAT AND MYSELF WITH THE GUITARS.
EVERYBODY ADDS SOMETHING SPECIAL TO THE SONGWRITING PROCESS.
WE ALL CHALLENGE EACH OTHER AND OURSELVES TO STAY RELEVANT.
THREE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER.
(5) I've always liked your mysterious edge. How you'll release a few singles, never really pop up in a big way, and then die back down for a little while. How much planning goes into this or is just something innate?
THAT’S A GOOD QUESTION.
NO PLANNING HAS EVER BEEN INVOLVED IN THIS, IT’S JUST THE WAY THINGS HAVE WORKED OUT FOR CHROMATICS.
BUT I AM GLAD IT HAS WORKED OUT THAT WAY BECAUSE IT HAS ALLOWED US TO MAKE MISTAKES AND GROW FROM THEM OUT OF THE SPOTLIGHT.