Navicon Torture Technologies: Interview 2002

Originally intended to be published in the cancelled Spectrum Magazine Issue 6#

Previously unpublished

Preliminary information:

NAME(s)/ AGE(s):  Lee(ch) M. Bartow/30-31 (birthday August 11)

LOCATION:  suburban New York

YEAR PROJECT WAS FORMED: 1997 (as NTT)

LIST OF RELEASES (title/ format/ label/ year of release):

  • “Amalgam”. (Split) CD. Annihilvs. 1997
  • “kissing the sun on her spine”. Cassette. Annihilvs/Loud Cat Productions. 1997
  • “listen alone”. Cassette. Annihilvs. 1997
  • “more fuel for nightmares”. Cassette. Annihilvs. 1998
  • “Ogdru-Jahad”. Cassette. Annihilvs. 1998
  • “fire at will”. Cassette. Annihilvs. 1999
  • “functionally deceased”. Cassette. Annihilvs. 1999
  • “03.06.00/01”. Double Cassette. Annihilvs. 2000
  • “03.06.00/02”. Double Cassette. Annihilvs. 2000
  • “extermination”. Cassette. Annihilvs. 2000
  • “viktimiser”. Cassette. Annihilvs. 2000
  • “analog artifacts”. CD-R. Annihilvs. 2000
  • “scenes from the next millennium”. CD. Malignant. 2001
  • “power romance”. CD-R. Annihilvs. 2001
  • “the sins of the fathers”. CD-R. Annihilvs. 2001
  • “nature’s violent overthrow”. CD-R. Troniks. 2001
  • “I fucking hate you all and I hope you all fucking die”. CD-R. Annihilvs. 2001
  • “the illusions that loneliness manufactures”. CD-R. Annihilvs. 2002
  • “fracture my bodily functions”. CD-R. Annihilvs. 2002
  • “I fucking hate you all and I hope you all fucking die”. CD. Blade/Eibon. 2002

There are also NTT tracks on various compilations, many of which escape my memory, but those I do remember are:

  • “slab-black shadows” and “where morality is a mythology” on ‘Rator’ from Noiseweb/Fabrik
  • “burnt offerings” on ‘noise today’ from Noise Today
  • “eternal murder victim” on ‘zeta’ from Megahertz
  • “a morte perpetva” on the ‘information apocalypse’ from Annihilvs
  • “screaming into the blackness, needing no God but Himself” on ‘bipolar mutation I’ from Cyber-Blast Records
  • “shatter my spinal cord” on ‘dissonant structures’ from Cranial Fracture Records
  • “there will always be autumn” and “gunmetal” on ‘bitmapping’ from Objective-Subjective
  • “what is this universe where i am encased within a mile-deep pit of feces?” on ‘words, becoming’ from Fleshmadeword
  • “what some might call obsession, I call devotion”. on ‘at the end of our ropes’ from Sinkhole
  • “In your mouth, I found beauty once”. on ‘those of the long shadows’ from Crionic Mind

I have also had the honor of doing some re-mixes. So far, the ones which have been released are:

  • “don’t turn your back” (face me remix my NTT) on ‘positive pop’ boxset by synapscape from Ant-Zen
  • “immolated martyr” (branding Jesus remix by NTT) on ‘Subfried Traffic Perfection’ by I Burn Vs. Sshe Retina Stimulants From Horch!/Stateart

That¹s all I can think of right now, perhaps that’s it? Several other releases and compilation tracks are forthcoming.

It would seem that NTT has been active since 1997 but your involvement with industrial music spans back over 10 years. Can your provide a chronology of this musical involvement? 

I formed my first band, S.H.R.I.K.E. in 1991 when I was a freshman in college, with some people who shared some of my musical interests. This group was composed of two synth players, a guitarist, and myself as vocalist. We mostly did a lot of what I would call ‘post industrial ballads’ emulating skinny puppy, chemlab, the cure, I feel as though it was an important time of my life, but the music wasn’t very good overall. There were only two people in the band with any real talent, and I wasn’t one of them. After about a year or more, we split up, and around winter 1992, I eventually started working under the name OILROTSRUBBER with a friend of mine who had been in an industrial-grind group called DRENCROM, who had performed on a few occasions alongside S.H.R.I.K.E. at local events in our area. Over time we changed our name a few times, NULLANDVOID, NARCOTICSANDVAGINAS, finally settling on NAV. In the early 90’s I was putting a lot of time and effort into involving myself in the nyc industrial scene, and had become friends with various people within the scene, such as Jared Hendrickson of chemlab and Krayge Tyler of virus-23. At this same time, I had begun to contribute to industrial nation magazine, and myself and some friends were trying to get together a zine centered around the longest-running ‘alternative/industrial’ club in new york at the time, communion, which took place every week at the now infamous limelight. I was doing some small work there as a member of the club’s army of ‘distributors’ which were people who were actually paid to hand out fliers for the club all around the city and boroughs and suburbs, etc. during this time, I had the opportunity to see a lot of great shows and meet some of the people who were having a big influence on me, so it was definitely a time of my life that I remember fondly, although this was around the time that rave hit the states in a big way, and drugs began to permeate every facet of my social life, so I got a little lost, though certainly not as lost as some. This drug surge was essentially the reason why NAV in that form had to end, so I was left to my own devices, and started working on stuff by myself around 1995-96, using only my computer and the sampling application Soundedit Pro under the new name NAVICON TECHNOLOGIES, having taken the NAV moniker and mutating it further. I had graduated from college in 1994 with an associates degree, and eventually went back to school in 1996, where I enrolled in ‘computer and electronic music’ classes with the intention of learning how to record using midi. It was in this class that I met someone who seemed to have an interest in experimenting with sound as I had been, and he and I began recording together under the new name NAVICON TORTURE TECHNOLOGIES in 1997. During the latter days of NAV, I had befriended some other local guys who were in an industrial-grind band called NEGATIVEHATE, and we began talking about the possibility of doing a split CD together with their more electronic side project NEGATIVE EIGHT, and eventually in august of 1997, we released the split disc AMALGAM: A COLLECTION OF WAR POEMS, which is the first official NTT release.

Why NTT as the name for your activities?

There has never been an exact reason for why I use this name, there are times that I feel unsure about continuing to use it, but now that I¹ve become moderately established under the moniker, I will continue to use it for at least a few more releases before I retire the name. Because it has stayed with me for so many years in so many different incarnations, it has a certain importance to me, even though the name itself doesn’t necessarily carry some profound meaning in the world outside my head. Some people have attempted to give meaning to it, one person suggested that NAVICON might be shorthand for ‘navigating consciousness’, which seems to me to be some lame drug-culture reference that I might have found more appropriate back when I was actually doing lots of drugs. For my purposes, it could best stand for ‘navigating conscience’ which is something I think we must all do in our daily lives, making the choice between what is best for us and what others want us to do. Who knows, others could perhaps interpret it better than I.

Your official debut NTT release came out on Malignant Records during 2001 and obviously was the point where your project became more widely know. However what is probably less known, is that prior to your debut Malignant album you had already released quite a number of limited tapes and CDR’s. Do you think the timing was appropriate for the release of this debut CD when considering the evolution and progression of the project, or in hindsight would you have preferred to have been able to release an official CD earlier? 

I feel that as I am always evolving psychologically and emotionally, my artistic output therefore evolves with me, and I was simply not ready to have anything released as widely as the disc on malignant until that point, or I would have put more effort toward making it happen. I also feel that the release on malignant completely stands alone in terms of what I’ve been doing. Each NTT release is more or less an obvious evolutionary step, and the way that ‘scenes….’ was recorded can and will never be replicated, because it was a unique experience, very intense and very frustrating at the same time. My method of constructing tracks has changed radically since then, and I’m anxious to continue to refine my techniques. When I first began seriously recording on my own around 1994-95, it was a very simple and primitive process. I would sample from various sources onto my computer with sound edit and construct these very minimal pieces using loops, often I would use just one sound looped for 10 minutes and leave that as a completed track. I would also sample my vocals, and then construct the piece, and record it to cassette directly from the machine’s audio output. Then, I would delete the files from the hard drive and start all over again, since the completed tracks usually took up too much space to fit on a floppy, I still have a lot of those old samples on disc, but I had an accidental hard drive erasure in 1994, so a lot of that stuff is lost. It seems I have to go through something like this every several years now, since I just lost tons of material in a hard drive crash in February 2002.  Moving from that early system, I later began using the computer as a sampler, constructing loops and then recording them on two channels to analog 4 track, recording other sounds and vocals live to tape on the other 2 channels. Eventually, I bought a minidisk 4 track and used the same technique. It wasn’t until two years ago, that I sort of reverted to the original system of constructing everything on board the computer and the 4 track hasn’t been abandoned altogether as a tool for recording probably until during this last year, and I now do every aspect of my recordings on the computer, still using sound edit. I realize that was a very longwinded and tangential response. Sorry.

 How do you approach the composition process for NTT and what types of equipment to you utilise? Has the types of equipment and/ or process significantly altered over time? see above.

Broadly speaking I would categorise NTT as a noise industrial/ power electronics project, yet when critiquing your musical output at a deeper level, your music does range from dark ambient passages through to the all out aggressive noise.  How would you personally describe NTT output and additionally what projects would you acknowledge as being inspirational? 

Over the course of this project’s history, I have called it many things, and of course others have their own ideas of what I’m making. In the early days, I called it ‘noise-ambient’ or ‘noise’, then I sort of set out consciously to make power electronics, there is a sort of soliliquitic tale I tell, which was when I once stated to sasha noizguild that I had decided on making just ‘straight-up’ power electronics, and she asked me what I thought I had been doing all along. It hadn’t really dawned on me that I was making anything specific to a particular sub-genre, because I have had so many different influences within this broad spectrum of electronic music. I have come up with a genre designation of my own which most accurately describes the current and recent body of NTT material, which is ‘power romance’.  Some huge influences from the past 12 years that I can rail off from the top of my head are james plotkin, boyd rice, justin broadrick, brighter death now, aube.  My greatest musical and personal influence has been swans, and the various related projects. I’ve been listening to swans since I was about 16 or 17, and they have remained important to me. I have grown apart from so much other music since then, when I was in my early twenties, I worshipped skinny puppy, and now I couldn’t care less about them, their music will remain with me, and I can always appreciate it, but anything current which I may hear about those people is of no interest to me at all. There are many groups from that time of my life, who now have zero significance to me, and I suppose it’s just that I’m a different person than I was back then. Hell, I’m a different person now than I was two weeks ago!

Given that my personal musical interests are vastly broader then the specific underground scenes I used to cover within Spectrum Magazine, what music/ styles/ artists both within and outside of the ‘scene’ are of particular interest to you? 

Within recent years, I have become more interested in some of the newer metal/post-hardcore stuff that is becoming somewhat popular, I love Today is the Day. jim plotkin introduced me to a lot of this stuff like, Isis, Botch, and his new projects Atomsmasher (now called Phantomsmasher) and Khanate, with maestro stephen o’malley are excellent. In my local suburban area, there is a huge and still growing hardcore/metal scene, and interestingly enough, I’ve developed a small following here. I find it strange because on the whole, I don’t feel as though these people really understand what it is I’m doing, but they’re still into it and seem genuinely interested in knowing more about it. I have many friends who are involved in this local scene as musicians and promoters, and such, and though I feel like somewhat of an outsider, I’ve been embraced by a small contingent of younger people.  Other than that, my musical interests don’t stray too far from the realm of ‘industrial’ music. I¹ve been lucky enough to meet and be in contact with a lot of the greatest people within our scene, and some of the friendships I’ve made through mutual interest and appreciation of one anothers¹ projects have proven to be very rewarding. Examples I can give are Frank Merten of Hebst9 and Scott Candey of Gruntsplatter, who are two of the best friends I have made even though we’ve never met in person. In terms of those who have influenced me musically, Irm has definitely been a milestone, and Martin and Erik are people who I’ve enjoyed corresponding and collaborating with.

With track and album and track titles such as “I fucking hate you all and I hope you all fucking die”, “freedom of choice is the right to hate” and “I want to commit a crime of passion”, to me these would be bordering on being so blunt as to be potentially viewed as cynically humorous.  What are your thoughts of this perception? 

There is probably a high degree of cynicism somewhere in a lot of my work, though as for humor, I do maintain a certain philosophy in which I try to be serious within my work, just because of the cathartic nature of what I’m trying for. Though I suppose some of my sense of humor probably seeps through, since I am hardly a stone-faced humorless automaton. I try not to take myself too seriously in everyday life, since I’ve spent the majority of my existence being depressed.

As there is a significant amount of negativity inherent in both sound and concept of NTT, do you view NTT as a channeling device for your negativity in order to create a positive result for yourself?(and this is not being asked in some sort of new age philosophical manner I would add!).

NTT is really approached as something which I need to do. I am a generally unhappy person, and I attempt to alleviate that unhappiness by channeling the negative energy creatively, and the fact that there has been such a positive response to my work is a positive result, for certain.

Given this scene’s interest if not obsession with war, terrorism, violence related subject matter, it is inevitable that I would ask about your thoughts on the events of September 11, 2001.  Despite having already issued a statement for your web page that re-evaluated your position to where your inspiration is derived from in light of the events of S11/02, given that you are both part of the scene as well as being an American residing in New York, do you care to expand on your thoughts S11/02 and its aftermath? 

There is this paradox here where we are still recovering from those events, but life has continued to move on. My feelings about the events of that day have never truly been expressed in the strictest of terms because I’m not sure what I feel about it, other than feeling how terrible it is that so many lives were taken, and remembering the terror of being at work in Manhattan on that day, and worrying about people I know and just wanting to be home, but having to sit there locked in at my office building until things calmed down and they opened the roads out of the city. However, there is an entire historical sequence of events which led to this attack and there are so many things that we as the general population are not privy to, it’s impossible to be in full possession of the facts, and therefore difficult to form a solid opinion. Then there were the cheap plastic American flags available for sale on television, the fact that so many people have used those events as fodder for furthering their own ends, for example at local diners in my area they began advertising gas masks and survival kits on the fucking menus. This kind of thing was in large part what lead me to issue the statements I had posted on my website, because I had to challenge my own motives in order to understand what I was doing with NTT. It turned out to be something which was both a positive and negative move on my part, because it brought out a very strong hostile response from one person in particular, though other responses were much more constructive and supportive.  But, I needed to do it, because I had begun to feel on a certain level that some of the material I had been working on prior to that date might have been contrived, and some of the ideas I had been working with may have been somewhat childish, I had to make sure I was being true to myself, and I was probably in a state of shock when I made those statements, which is not to say that I don’t stand by them today, but I had to go back and edit them in part because there were certain points made in that letter which were based entirely in momentary rage, and were better off edited out.

Likewise in hindsight it could be said that your debut CD on Malignant entitled “scenes from the next millennium” was rather prophetic. Thoughts? 

This has been suggested before, but honestly I don¹t find it prophetic at all. Of course there have been apocalypse fantasies for longer than I’ve been alive, and I¹m of that generation of people who grew up fearing nuclear war was imminent, so dream images of dead cities and atomic wastelands are a large part of my socio-cultural tapestry, as it is with much of the western world. The cover artwork for that CD was appropriated from a variety of sources, so obviously it was not my original idea to create an image of a post-apocalyptic landscape. One of the guys from negativehate said that there are two buildings on the cover which look like the twin towers, but I disagree. There is such a thing as coincidence.

Live actions would appear to be a staple feature of NTT, and although I have not seen any such performance with regard to the photographs I have seen, these actions seem to be executed with a very physical approach.  What similarities and differences do you see between live and studio setting for music production and how much are live actions an integral part of the NTT experience?

In the beginning, while performing, I had a tremendous amount of self-doubt, and I tended to be very stiff. Early NTT performances weren’t much to look at, though not that much has changed, I suppose. I have always felt this need to sort of completely lose my shit on stage, though I could never get relaxed enough to do so, and generally remained fairly stationary during the set. As I became more comfortable with my performances, I probably thought less about it and was able to put the idea of becoming physical out of my head. The first time I performed alone onstage, for the Achtung Amerika! festival, was the first time I sort of allowed myself to loosen up just enough to let the emotional content of my material manifest through physicality. One review I read of the show said that I didn’t have much stage presence, and looking at the video of my performance, it’s not exactly how I remember, but it was an important step. Sasha noizguild later told me that it was good to see me ‘let go’ onstage, so she at least knew the difference between that show in particular and the many NTT performances she had seen before then. I wouldn’t really call my performance ‘physical’, but it has definitely become more physical than it used to be, and that’s good enough for me. As with my recorded work, the performances have evolved over time, and the 5 shows I’ve done so far in 2002 are very different than the ones I did last year. I have always tried to have other people participate in my performances, and there have only been two NTT shows where I was on stage alone.

Your upcoming album on Malignant Records entitled “Church of Dead Girls” is slated for release before the end of 2002. How will this CD differ from the material that which people have already had the opportunity to hear? 

When I first began to conceive this release in winter 2001, I was in a very bad place emotionally, and I was at times probably going over the edge. The album was going to contain some of the most evil thoughts I had mustered, and I was getting darker and more intense to a point where the things I had been writing and thinking were really disturbing me. The line between myself and my musical persona was beginning to blur, and I was finding it difficult to interpret these impulses sonically. Then, I fell in love, and things really took on a different light. It’s that old cliché that colours and smells all change when you’re in love, but I was experiencing it for the first time in several years, and it transformed NTT as a result of my own transformation. A lot of my material has always been centered mostly around emotional dissonance generated by my personal relationships, but the shit I was dealing with at this time was an important and new experience for me, and it was the impetus for the ‘power romance’ concept, which sort of bridges the gap between the utter bleakness of my previous feelings and the new perceptions I had gained through this relationship.  I think now that NTT has become so much more honest and sometimes after I’ve recorded a track which has real emotional significance for me, I really feel like some of this unbearable weight upon my chest has been lifted, even if it eventually returns. The last year of my life has been incredibly rewarding and at the same time, possibly the most harrowing time of my life, and while ‘the church of dead girls’ is now a far cry from the fucking brutal evil bastard I had originally hoped it would be, it’s sheer open honesty will make it that more intense. It will be  ­ I hope ­ the ultimate expression of my love and grief, and the ultimate expression of power romance sensibilities. (or at least, that’s what the press release will say!)

Final question – the floor is yours – anything to add?

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