In a world of predictable pop and safe re releases, Toxic Chicken is a breath of fresh air with his wonky experimental electro. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates has a chat about noise, Home Alone and floppy discs.
Tell us a little bit about Toxic Chicken.
Toxic Chicken is the longest running music project by me, Kai Nobuko. It’s a bit all over the place but generally I believe its fun, slightly different or at least adventurous. There is some pop, experimental stuff, quirky rarities and some sniffs of absurdism. The music output is a bit like the intake of a diary; it’s always different but at the same time all very me. I also animate, perform and make other things next to music under this name.
What does the name Toxic Chicken mean and why did you choose it?
I don’t really remember how and what, so I don’t think I chose it, but the name had somehow chosen me. My memory tends to go a little blurry but I believe it might have something to do about freeing chickens from a farm. I love animals and can’t stand them being treated badly. It probably also has to do with my love for being poisonous.
What’s your creative process like?
I make music instead of writing chapters in a diary. All comes to me spontaneous and on the spot. Wherever I go and hear sounds that I found interesting I tend to record them, if they are worthy I cut them up and place them in my database of own made sounds and play with them by using an craptop as the sampler / keyboard/ loop station all in one. It never grows old and I don’t aim to please anyone with it. When inspiration comes, I tend to hatch the music quickly, sometimes making an entire album in one go, at other times tracks will lay in hidden corners, dusting away to be rediscovered after a while and become a mix and match kind of collection… There is also a lot of recycling going on… Entire sounds or songs get a total makeover transforming into a completely new thing again, far removed from the original. Sometimes I have a concept in mind, mostly it just ‘happens’. My album named “Wormhole” out on Wormhole World is a good example of that; it’s a collection of my own recycled sounds that I enjoyed giving new life to them.
Where their particular records, artists, or experiences that influenced your music?
From the early start I have to say ‘Not really’, as the music had always come from within. When I started creating, I didn’t listen to anyone’s music, it was just me playing about with midi sounds, trying to figure out how to create melodies, rhythms etc without having a musical background or upbringing. I don’t think of me as a musician but more as a noisecian as I really love sound. In general sense of the words it’s the ups and downs in life itself that inspires me to create.
However later on in life I did start to enjoy listening to the vast amount of music out there in the underground. I do not listen to radio or watch TV so all music is coming from passionate artists lurking away in the shadows. I challenge myself to listen to all kind of genres thanks to being a writer for the music review blog named Yeah I Know It Sucks which I’m a founding mother of. I don’t think it’s fair to say that being exposed to so much music doesn’t affect me, but I like to believe that it’s more about putting wood on the fire in order to create, than actually ‘stealing’ or borrowing ideas.
From all the music, there are a bunch of things that I do always come back to, perhaps creating some insight of what my mind is liking, I do really like the sound and songs of The Screamers, they didn’t release a record but thanks to YouTube there is quite a lot of tunes out there to just put on and go on with household activities. They come across as the politest punk band ever, (I can’t find any swearing!) and has a great energy to it. I’m not a huge fan of guitars so them playing riffs on a Rhodes is all very exciting to me. I also listened a lot to Hanin Elias her solo works before the internet started to take shape, I identify with her realness of words and enjoy that the messages within her music are clear, truthful and reflecting my own thoughts and yet are quite catchy too. It made me happy to hear something that I could enjoy, hear and identify with.
Lately working together for many albums with audio genius Dino Felipe seems to have influence me in the way that it pushes me to give my music more of a touchable 3D sound, instead of the normal flat lo-fi stuff that I dabbled in for most of my prolific days. Being in the surroundings of Bloom De Wilde also influences me, as her music has that magic to make my tears flow, making entirely different music than me, yet clearly being channeled from a similar universe. She just released the first singles of her upcoming album and I think it’s absolutely beautiful and mind blowing! Also an Australian experimental artist named Furchick inspires me, her sounds coming from her own invented music creations is what a chef sees as ingredients to create new dishes with.
What records are essential to a good music education?
I don’t really think that is up to me to say, as I do not really believe in education especially not music wise. People who went to music school mostly get slammed in their face in order to create music by the rules… I think that is very damaging to the creative process. Everyone is different and i believe everyone has to find out their own discoveries music-wise what they like and don’t. Don’t force music upon anyone by putting things above others; there is so much music out there and most of it will stay hidden. Besides it all depends on moods. If I had to choose one I would like to say Vomir – ‘untitled’ as that will wipe away all ideas of whatever music should be.
Who inspired you to start making music?
Nobody really. I had an old Atari xt thanks to my computer illiterate dad having one at home from his work. Somehow there was a composing program on it and I would just start to play with the musical notes placing them on scores and filling up many floppy diskettes with hand programmed midi compositions. I found a way to create worlds to hide away in and express myself.
What was the first memory of music, and what sort of an impact did it have on you?
My first memory was an old tape recorder / player with a tape in it. It was for some bizarre reason a tape with some kind of compilation of experimental sounds. I clearly remember being surprised to hear a field recording of a man walking around on a wooden floor with a newspaper and a fly buzzing around. It was a hearing play in full stereo that involved in the end with the newspaper being squashed on top of the fly… there was also some synthesizer worlds that appeared to be Vangelis and Mike Oldfield on it. Probably sounding hilarious if I would hear it back right now… Also in the house that I grew up there was always The Carpenters on, so I must know all the songs by heart and feeling quite numbed about it; but discovering this tape and tape recorder opened up my excitement of what could be done with audio and music; fantasy worlds could be created!
I also build something like a radio receiver which I placed its antenna on the radiator and received an experimental radio show that blew my mind… noise transforming into music; I wanted more of that!
What would your dream concert be? Festival, venue, band, etc?
My dream festival with performances by artists from all over the world that I enjoy actually already happened. It was the LOBiT festival happening in a village named Lobith, in the Netherlands. Featuring live performances by musicians that had been dominating the lobit scene in their hay days, a small but excellent niche of people encoding their musical outputs in the lowest encodings available as a middle finger of the snobbery of high quality audio producers, but also as a warm comfortable sound aesthetic. The festival was held in various locations like the local gym, a windmill, a snack-bar and even a hair salon offering cheap haircuts for the day. A performance in the local library had to be cut short as it was too noisy! The entire festival was streamed live on the internet with me and Graham Boosey as the reporters on the spot and had people showing up in real life only to be found out that offerings of free drinks and music might have been too good to be true, arriving in Lobith to find out that it actually all happened online. We made it so real that people actually traveled all the way from France to the festival, making me go into hiding for a bit until the people could laugh about the prank again. I would love to do another Lobit festival though, maybe another location and with a fierce budget to get all these amazing bands and musicians together and experience the awesome community for real (again!).
If you could soundtrack any film, what would it be?
What can we expect from you in the future?
The future is now. And if we want a future for the youth of today we better act as it is now as otherwise they might not even have a future. From me in the nowadays you could expect a lot more music, some artistic collaborations with my sister Bloom de Wilde. Something brewing perhaps between me and music producer Logosamphia… something with The Doll maybe, hopefully more music with Furchick, Dino Felipe… who knows! probably some more remixes and whatever it is that will pop out from the imagination! Whatever that comes and rolls my way!
What music excites you?
Oh that is truly a difficult question as there are so many. Bloom de Wilde first and foremost as her music touches me in my soul and heart – probably the only artist on this list whose music actually can make me cry. Experimental artist Furchick because she inspires me with her unconventional sounds and self-invented noise machines, Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin as her will to live through her music and create visualizations of each song of her album is something I understand, but also have great respect for; her music and videos isn’t just art it’s like a world in which you want to escape, Norwood Grimes as he is as mysterious, talented as well as amazing: a true muse, Pollux (Arnaud barbe) even though he is not active at the moment he has left us a ton of free music online! Tudaj tujuh kuda is a nice duo of experimental noise and trippy chilled out psychedelics, Logosamphia is also great; creating modern underground raves with the cultural Persian touch and feel, Seffi Starshine and Fae Moonbeam must be named too as they inspire with melodies of love and pretty drones & Seffi’s drones are like being in the process of wonderful flowers that are opening up – beautiful!
Also cryovolcano is a hero of mine because he manages to make music in the lowest encodings and still making it sounding great, Adam Crammond, because he has the positive acid techno running in his veins even though he doesn’t do drugs, Jens kristian Hansen because he makes and creates his own wonder world through songs and animation, Rita Braga as she is an good spirited confident performer from the forgotten days with a heart of gold interwoven into her songs and music, Shaun Phelps aka bastard child / flat affect because he has all the bright ideas and never gets down. Rex Merkin (with a release on Furchick’s Dog Park) was instant love at first hear! Such fun and realness in his songs… absolutely love it!
The Bordellos are great band too, bringing the ultimate wit in song form and also always keeping their honesty! I’ve been really happy to discover the music by Elizabeth Joan Kelly; whose music is not just great, but also her sound and ways of producing are pretty WOW! Origami Repetika is also an artist that makes music for himself, not thinking about what other people would think of it, I think similar to the diary way of creation that I do, but guess what; it’s pretty nice and all very real and loving. Pettaluck is worth to check out, I like Sarah Schonert’s music too, very melodic and a voice that reminds me of Kate Bush (which is a nice thing!) Djanan Turan is also a heartfelt singer and performer you should check out! Gosh, you will be so busy! Quimper and Jodie Lowther never disappoints in sounding beautiful and hauntingly amazing too! Of course all the amazing artists on the non-profit label Wormhole World like Xqui, Radio Europa, boycalledcrow, St James Infirmary, Void Vertex, Incentive and so many more are all good for a brilliant inspiring listen.
Also everything coming from Verses records and Strategic Tape reserve and Dog Park netlabel also have highly interesting things out that never seems to disappoint! Gel-Sol is always blowing my mind in trippiness! But also the independent music by I.v. Martinez the self-claimed alien with the incredible soundscapes is mind blowing, jens kristian Hansen’s life pop and art are always there to keep things real, Avs Silvester’s child out psychedelic hedgehog music, the midi tunes by Pancake Promises, the intelligent fun music by Dino Felipe (did I already mentioned this genius?)… there is simply a whole world of amazing things out there to discover!
I know for sure that if I listed everyone and everything this interview would become more like a big fat book and I’m sure it would still miss out on a lot. There is simply too many! I discover new music and musicians simply almost on a daily basis and write about all of them on the blog lovingly titled ‘yeah I know it sucks’, which I recommend you to follow if you want to replace your sanity with music.
What’s your message for the people?
My message is love and anarchy. I don’t believe in oppressors or people telling others what to do, freedom and treating people how you would like to be treated is the way forward. Be creative, screw money (which is the devil corrupting good people) be as real, nice and honest as possible; stand up for what you believe in and live your own example. Haha quite a mouth full actually. Don’t follow rules, laws, leaders, politicians etc; but follow your own heart and instincts. Treat others how you would like to be treated.
What is your favorite audio format (mp3, cassette, CD, vinyl, etc (and why?)
Favorite physical format must be the floppy diskette. It’s the poor person’s choice of underground DIY, to me it looks super cool and is a challenge to fill up with interesting material. In audio formats itself I have probably a high fetish for low bit encoded MP3. They are efficient and quick to download, offer a great challenge for the musician in order to make it sound good even though it is stored in a world full of data loss.
Good examples of lobit music can be found on the amazing netlabels that are all worth a visit like 20kbps, 4m@, 8ravens and Sub65 as well as my own one named L0BIT. This all being said, I do have to say that I’m very happy to have a gorgeous looking CD out on the fabulous not-for-profit label Wormhole World and its music is pretty hi-fi! Wormhole World is this pretty outstanding record label that brings out these incredible releases with no financial gain in mind, but giving it straight back to the artists. It’s like a true labor of love & love for music and I really recommend anyone to be kind to your own ears & support this label and their incredible run of music outputs! Or at least order some more of these happy wormhole CD’s by yours truly, before they are all gone!
The Wormhole album is available here.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. Paul’s website is hiapop and you can follow him on Twitter as @hiapop, and on Facebook here.