Through Darkness and Through Light with STCLVR

STCLVR (pronounced streetcleaver) is the harsh industrial pop act of non-binary visual and recording artist g. mor. An active force in the noise and industrial scene over the last 5 years, STCLVR has been carving away and honing in on a sound that is fully realized in their new album Lovers, a story about grieving a significant loss of love in isolation and rebuilding yourself from that.

Can you tell us about your new record Lovers and the inspiration / ideas / concepts that went into it?

To break it down conceptually I guess it’s sort of a spastic, grindy electro industrial pop record about the after effects of years of codependency, distrust, and trauma bonding through an isolated narrative. This is something that just kind of flowed out of me quite forcefully in about 3 weeks time when I wasn’t in the best mental state so there’s a sense of urgency and animosity there, but it all felt significant to get out. My previous album Coward was more or less an unraveling in real time, and while there are a lot of parallel themes because I found myself in the same scenario mental health-wise once again, I wanted it to sound more harnessed and stronger rather than repeat the same ideas. I also wanted to experiment a little and make it kind of darkly bouncy and upbeat, because I wanted it to sound like someone who’s been through some shit and survived, but won’t let it happen again.

Everything seemed to be collapsing and shutting down around me. Life was a mess, and I definitely felt like dying for a couple months but I absolutely needed to create something out of it. That fire kept me going, but I was still struggling most days.

You mentioned that the album deals with grieving a significant loss of love in isolation and rebuilding yourself from that. Could you take us a little further into this?

To make a long story somewhat short, early in the year I unexpectedly crashed face first into the inevitable end of a very unnecessary 3rd act of an on again/off again relationship that had run it’s course after 5 years. I knew things weren’t great and a lot of pain had already been caused on both sides, but I thought there was still hope and time to work through it. The damage proved to be irreparable though and they had other plans. This is a tough thing to process on its own let alone accompanied with mental illness and previous traumas still freshly stinging, so it hit me pretty hard. My March tour with Komrads was cancelled shortly after that, and I lost my job a couple weeks later due to covid-19.  Someone close to me contracted covid shortly after that, so I had to isolate away from family and friends for a few weeks. Everything seemed to be collapsing and shutting down around me. Life was a mess and I definitely felt like dying for a couple months but I absolutely needed to create something out of it. That fire kept me going, but I was still struggling most days. I don’t think I even really started to heal and feel like myself til about early May. The album was born and nearly finished in that short period of time. I wrote lyrics every day, not just about my own pain but the pain I had caused and about facing my own toxic traits that caused that particular situation to implode. Through the anger and sadness there was these moments of clarity about my own shittiness, and I tried to document them as they came. I didn’t want to approach it from just one perspective, even if it was severely skewed and damaged.

You made a zine for the record as well, Monochromatic Mortuaries?

I’ve wanted to incorporate my visual art with my music for a long time but it never felt like a proper fit for this project. I thought it was important to include this time around as I was trying to create a culmination of every aspect of my life at the time of recording. I was making stuff every day, and had so many objects to work with that it only made sense to make a completely separate companion piece rather than just a few illustrations in the j-card or insert to really encapsulate the whole experience. Every illustration is a full page pen and ink doodle by me, I’ve been making them since high school so there are hundreds in existence but I only included the ones from those few months. The text is all parts of the song lyrics. Someday I’ll feel comfortable including the full lyrics with the albums. I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out and definitely feel comfortable doing more projects like it in the future.

The album cover art looks to have been taken from a drawing in the zine? Can you tell us about this creation and the original concept behind the album art?

It is indeed both the zine cover and album art. All of my drawings are totally abstract, any resemblance to objects that exist in reality is totally coincidental. I didn’t create it with the intention of it being used for anything but once it was finished I felt like there was some type of significance there with the weird plant thing growing out of another weird plant thing. It felt kind of boring just doing it in black and white so I asked Angel to add some color. The cool drip effects are something she added on her own. I couldn’t decide whether I liked the zoomed in portion of it better, so we used one for the cd sleeve and one for the digital version. I think it came out very eye catching and really tied the whole package together as far as sort of looking how the music sounds.

You worked with Angel Marcloid, better known as Fire-toolz for mixing and mastering on this record. How did you and Angel first connect and what has your experience been like working together?

I think we started talking back in 2013 or 2014, just connected through mutual friends in the noise/experimental music scene as it typically goes. I was a big fan of her noise projects and the diy labels she ran, Rainbow Bridge Recordings and Swamp Circle. She released a few things of mine on the latter under different aliases/projects. I think I was doing Heartbrains when she asked me to contribute a beat on the first (incredible) Fire-toolz album “Even the Files Won’t Touch You” and we’ve been collaborating on various projects ever since. We also did a short tour in 2018 and a handful of fun shows together. She’s mixed and mastered at least 5 different releases for me now, and always breathes new life into the tracks and adds these subtle touches or co-production to the songs that really boosts them to their true potential. For example the monstrous guitars she added to “One Pharmacy Call”. We’ve been known to bicker over small details from time to time, but overall it’s a great friendship, and we’re both big supporters of each other’s work.

Any other artists you’ve worked with recently?

I definitely need to mention Derek Rush (Chthonic Streams, Compactor), who mixed and mastered both Coward and Predator albums. He approached me back in 2017 when I posted up a couple demos for Predator and offered to boost the tracks up to make them really gnarly and in your face, and eventually release them. I really liked how he pushed everything to the brink of total distortion and we created something that was appealing to both industrial and harsh noise heads, which is why I went to him again for Coward, I wanted that raw crunchy aggression. I have different visions for each release, which is why I flip flop between Derek and Angel so much. I know it creates some inconsistencies in the discography as a whole, but some of my favorite acts are the ones you never know what you’re getting into when a new release drops. I like that this project has multiple faces and none of the albums sound the same.

I recently contributed vocals for a song called “Crawl” by Obscure Formats, a techno side project of the group Snowbeasts that just dropped. That was a lot of fun to work on, I’d never gotten to growl over a straight up techno track like that, it came out sounding kinda like a more dancey Youth Code song. 

I also just worked on a track with my buddy Jay from Marsh Sound, a very cool sample heavy breakbeat/chiptune/gabber project I’ve also done a handful of shows with. It’s currently on bandcamp as part of this year’s volume of the Wet N’ Spooky Halloween compilation I put together every year for my (not nearly as active as it used to be) net-label Prime Eggsample. Hell of a fun track to work on.

I’m hoping to do some more work with my buddy Turtle-handz of WRISTS (who appears on the Lovers track “Devastator”) because I feel like our styles compliment each other really well.

I’ve done a couple tracks with Jesse & The Spirit too, who has been creating some killer stuff lately.

Lastly, I’ve been hoarding remixes and silently dropping them onto the backstage section of my bandcamp the past few months from various friends of mine. Hopefully going totally public with a full collection of them before the end of the year, it spans every release up to Coward.

Hopefully 2021 will see some more collabs, remixes, and splits as it doesn’t seem like live shows are going to be in the cards for a while.

Your new album Lovers isn’t your first release this year. You’ve also released three EP’s, Unhinged/Unrest, Echo Chambers, and Dominant Limbs, as well as another full-length titled Coward. Are these albums you had planned or did the events this year lead you to more time for writing and/or recording?

Coward was really the only thing I had planned early on, Derek began working on the mixes summer 2019 and I was just sending tracks to him as they were completed. I started talking to Travis from Damien Records around xmas time and we set up the release schedule and all that. Echo Chambers is my side of the split with Komrads, those tracks were also finished last year and the 10″ lathe was going to coincide with our tour together in March. We actually didn’t end up receiving copies until September. The two most recent bandcamp day eps (Dominant Limbs and Unrest) are brand new noise/death industrial/power electronics type stuff I’ve been doing recently as kind of a less abrasive throwback to what this project began as. Neither of which were planned at all, but nothing really ever is. I just set up my old stuff one day and started making loops because I needed a break from programming beats. A couple of the tracks will be on a long in the works massive double c60 split with fellow Jamestown noiser/ambient wizard G. C. Slagle, which we’ve been talking about for years but I probably wouldn’t have dove back into this year had I not wound up with all this free time on my hands.

Can you walk us through your writing / recording process? Has this process changed at all this year?

The lyric writing process is kind of an ongoing thing. If i come up with a good line I make a note of it in my phone until I end up with enough stuff I can sort of organize or fit over a finished track, or I just leave it untouched and make it work. 

Musically i have 2 methods, or 2 setups. The first is a more hands on approach, which is just kinda making loops with various pedals, circuit bent items, contact mics and electronic devices, then  layering over top of them in real time, the same way i made all the early pre-Predator stuff and have just been getting comfortable with again. I did the entirety of the new split I just mentioned that way. 

Second is just programming and reprogramming beats and synths on my computer until I come up with something resembling a song and then adding layers of noise and vocals later. It’s all very sporadic and just kinda depends on when, how, and if I’m feeling it. Once I have enough things I like and it starts to feel like a solid album or ep, then I get more serious with it and try to arrange the lyrics and vocal deliveries. The only thing that’s changed really is I have a lot more time for both now.

Did you find it difficult to release a new record during the pandemic, be it from a creative standpoint or mental constructs?

I planned on doing 3 separate short tours this year so ideally I would’ve preferred to be on the road a few weeks to hype new releases, but I feel like it was actually a lot easier to get people’s attention this time around, for Lovers especially. Coward on the other hand dropped the same week the Minneapolis protests began, so the label (Damien Records) and I decided to dial back on the promo because it didn’t feel right. With that said though, people have been more way more responsive than usual. I think a lot of it could be chalked up to them not having a ton to do these days and are more consistently looking for new things to keep themselves entertained. Checking out things they normally might not give their attention too. I know I’ve been discovering way more cool new things than usual, like an overwhelming amount of interesting new music. And I have time to actually enjoy it rather than briefly skim something that looks cool, go to work, come home and be too exhausted to give it my full attention, then ultimately forget about it and move onto the next thing. It’s been a good few months to really immerse myself in the music I love and maybe others are having a similar experience, just checking out anything that looks exciting to them. At the very least this has been an incredible year for underground music, and I have a good support network of people who really give a shit about what I’m working on and have been extremely generous. That’s just my experience though, it’s taken a good 5 years to get to that point with the project so it could just coincidentally be the year people have taken more than a fleeting interest in what I do.

Has it been hard staying connecting with your audience, especially regarding live shows?

I don’t know that I have an “audience” so much as a community of like-minded individuals who are all actively involved in the noise and industrial scenes with their own projects and such. I do feel very disconnected from them by not being able to physically be part of this sort of unofficial artist collective that exists mainly through its lifeblood of diy fests and shows. It’s given me a bit of an identity crisis and I kinda need to be in a packed tiny room full of sweaty people screaming in their faces for the material to become fully realized and for those demons to be exorcised.

I keep in touch with just about everyone I’ve ever toured with or done a show with, we’re so spread out though and it’s definitely been tough not even seeing my buffalo friends in almost a year. This is all I really do too so I almost feel like a shell of who I was last year at this time just doing the writing and recording aspect. The performance and community of friends constantly gassing each other up and being stoked for each other’s sets, trying to impress each other in the most positive way possible is such a crucial missing piece.

The new record is available on cd but also as a limited cassette through Noxious Upsurge. How did you connect with this label? 

I’m annoyingly self aware and particular about the music I create and how it’s released. I realize it can be too weird for the old school industrial heads and not noisey enough for the strict harsh kids, but I still like to keep one foot planted firmly in the noise scene. I always try to seek out labels within that aesthetic that I admire and would be proud to call home, but that also mix things up with heavy bands, electronic artists and other forms of extreme music within their roster. There are a handful that I feel like I’m a good fit with, and I’m fine with being the one to figure that out first. I was extremely lucky with Phage Tapes and Damien Records that way and after discovering Noxious a couple months back and seeing what they’re all about and the unique attention they give to each release, I decided to give em a shout. I’m a huge grindcore fan and I really loved the Holy Grinder album they put out with the accompanying remix album, I love when bands do stuff like that and thought the label might be into what I do. It’s an honor to be part of the fam and I can’t wait to see how the tapes turned out.

How has this year been for you overall, music aside? Any particular lessons, experiences, or thoughts you’ve come across you feel like sharing? 

I really can’t and shouldn’t complain about the last 6 or 7 months of my personal life. I get to see my kids a lot more and have a lovely, loving partner who I’ve been spending a lot of time with. We crank tunes and have little art parties a couple times a week. I spent a lot more time outdoors this past summer than I have in years thanks to them. I think that definitely helps clear the mind, but is easy to forget to do when your life is consumed by screens in your face. Which leads me to social media breaks, which are also a crucial form of self care. Not having gigs and weekend activities and such to look forward to sucks, but spending all my time at work and trying to squeeze in time with loved ones is far worse, so I’m trying to cherish those times as much and for as long as I can.

What record(s) have you listened to most this year?

I’m currently being blown away by the new B L A C K I E album, I’ve also been blasting the new clipping and an industrial hip hop artist called Manikineter a bunch as well.

I also got turned onto this prolific UK act Primitive Knot who I rabidly deep dove into all the output of.  I love just about any heavy music that incorporates a drum machine, and they’ve got like a “motorhead meets godflesh meets harsh noise” thing going that I really like. Great riffs, too.

I haven’t been listening to too many “bands”…When that new Hum record dropped in June though I was a little obsessed with it. there was something so nostalgic and beautiful about it to me that I was just sort of mesmerized by it for like a couple months straight. listened to it every single day, sometimes a couple times. It’s very dense and comforting… Nobody I’ve played it for was nearly as excited about it as I was though (sad face)

I’ve also been going through the “comfort music” binges I think a lot of us have been having where I revisit things from my youth and listen to nothing but the early skinny puppy discography or the same 3 alice in chains albums I enjoyed as a teenager for weeks on end to sort of escape this weird timeline.  

Jury’s still out on my AOTY. It seems like every other week there are several significantly dope things coming out with no stopping in sight. Very few have been half-assing their craft recently and it shows, at least where underground music is concerned.

Here’s a slightly overwhelming mix of artists that inspired me or I’ve enjoyed this year/the last few years + some of my favorite acts I’ve performed or collaborated with recently sprinkled in. I’m a total sucker for any form of aggressive music that utilizes electronics, so naturally there’s a decent sized helping of it here.  I did my best to tone down the chaos a bit in spots though. I also kept it light on the more obvious and well known influences of mine in order to showcase some talented buddies and keep it fresh, enjoy!!

Given everything going on it’s easy to get frustrated and tense. What have you found to be helpful for relaxing the mind and spirit?

I definitely have tough days where I’m just sort of existing physically but mentally distant and I’m just looking forward to more sleep, waiting for the nitemare to be over. I try not to push myself too hard though, and some days a shower or a quick trip to the store down the street for a drink is eventful as it gets. On tough or anxious days I try to pinpoint what’s bothering me and make sense of it, and if it’s too real I’ll just kinda smoke myself into a stupor and force myself to create something. I’ll reach out to or check in on friends too. I’ve got a really great support system. like I said I really can’t complain about my situation overall. Everyone is having a completely different experience through this pandemic/time of unrest and I respect the hell out of and feel for anyone who is putting their health on the line for a paycheck right now or struggling. I just hope we can collectively stop being so careless/trying to justify our risky behavior so those of us who survive this won’t be stuck in the same situation a year from now. Please wear your masks people.

Interview with g. mor by Frenchpressley, November 2020

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