Talking Transcendent Dronescapes And Noise History with DFFDL

To some, disavowing the conventional human voice in music might initially seem an odd musical path. Stereotypically, this might well result in a musical end point of droney, industrial machinations, but Australian drone powerhouse DFFDL – the brainchild of one Anthony Cooley – provides an alternative perspective on this notion.

DFFDL is a project amongst a portfolio of many others that Cooley has set about creating since his move to Melbourne Australia. One thing that remains consistent about his portfolio is his unconventional approach to the human voice within his music.

After being wowed by DFFDL’s And Drifted (via Frustration Jazz), we caught with Anthony to talk the ins and outs of Australian experimentalism, space prophets and badly behaved cats.

Tell us about Frustration Jazz, the label you’ve released And Drifted on

It’s run by Tim P from The Drunken Boat/Bourgeois Bigots. They’ve just been kind enough to release the first DFFDL album. From what he’s told me he’s got some new releases coming through with some pretty amazing people on them. He’s been involved in the noise/experimental scene in Hobart and Melbourne for a good while now. He actually just put out a release of his own stuff like a week after mine came out doing his free bouzouki stuff. Really really great.

What, if anything, are you trying to portray through DFFDL?

Oh tonnes of stuff, it’s a great place to meditate on some ideas. Basically how all things work and how interconnected everything is being presented in a pretty honest light feels important. Also, ideas like (pardon the Werner Herzog schtick) just how devastating nature can be, but how removed from morality it’s motions are is important. Because it  returns us (in my mind at least) to the idea that good and bad are just anthropomorphic contexts we place on anything that occurs.

This lands me at thinking about how oppressive thinking about human shit really is. Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t care about politics/the mistreatment of others, you definitely should – faux intellectual white dudes who think otherwise are the worst. But still, you can’t have that connection from the natural world taken from you.

Who is the Space Prophet Dogon? What significance does he play in your music?

That is a track off the album Torch of The Mystics By Sun City Girls. I had a huge phase of listening to the Sun City Girls for a while when I first started doing DFFDL. They were a Super important band from XYZ years ago that did a lot of different sounding stuff, with Torch Of The Mystics being closest to a normal psych-folk album. A lot of the psych-folk stuff ties into drone pretty well and there are a lot of cool people doing it in Aus here and abroad (Boy Who Spoke Clouds, Drunken Boat, Glen Steenkiste sort of stuff).

I don’t really listen much to Sun City Girls anymore, but in my mind, earlier on they seemed like the perfect operating model. There’s a video where apparently some big label wanted to sign them and had a showcase gig for them to convince people on that label to have them on board and they just showed up wearing ridiculous costumes, fucking around, swinging golfballs at people from the stage. Amazing stuff.

Australia seems to have a huge amount of experimental music coming out at the moment, why do you think this is?

Haha, I feel odd answering this because I’m just not enough of an authority on it. But there’s a huge variety of factors that affect it. In Aus’, you’ve had pockets of people doing amazing work for the noise/exp scene for decades and everyone in my age bracket is just really lucky to benefit from the work they’ve put in thus far. So outside of more popular music borrowing from noise/experimental scenes to diversify their work, there are tonnes of people out there performing/organising shows/ releasing peoples stuff/ being their own media all around the country.

This sort of thing has been going in Australia for a long time, there is a great label out of Melbourne called Shame File Music that specialises in cataloging the history of Aus noise/experimental stuff going back 100 years. I’ve been actually trying to pester friends from Melbourne and Adelaide to get more info on the scenes history here because there’s a tonne of it that’s just largely unrecognised and it’s some of the best music ever made.

Also, the landscape of the noise scene is also great to work in, from the get-go you have very very little scope to get more people come watch you or give a shit, so it’s largely something you do because it grants you total creative freedom and exists purely because the people involved fundamentally need to be a part of something like it (in my mind at least). So in that, you’re always surrounded by people who care about interesting work and are themselves doing something super interesting. Some friends of mine just toured Japan and one was telling me how shows in Aus’ are similar to their crowd/atmosphere wise which was awesome to hear. It’s really just a small group of dedicated people working hard to support each other everywhere you go.

And of course this is just broad strokes, I’m not even getting into the effect streaming/social media stuff has had which when I talk to older folks from the scene, has just been huge.

The artwork for And Drifted gives off the vibe of an almost aboriginal depiction of an outback sunset (at least to our eyes). How, if at all, are you influenced by your surroundings?

Well, I live in a gross heartless city unfortunately haha. A friend and I were talking about that recently and how writers like Jean Genet spoke of being in a different place mentally to remain perpetually “free” regardless of wherever you’re physically situated, which is one of the ways he thrived in jail and was able to survive the outside world when he left.

I’m obsessed with the natural world. Where I’ve spoken [above] about and how/why everything gets written, the surroundings we’re all in are like the best display of all of those ideas. Doing stuff like watching light move around my room for ages or schlepping gear in a car to an interstate show for 8 hours, with nothing but trees and hills and big open skies around gives me some perspective. Even sitting at my job and paying attention to weather changes puts things into perspective for sure.

It’s cool that it seems like an outback sunset to you! I’ve heard a few interesting interpretations of it so far! I really want all this stuff to be as open to interpretation as possible. On a side note during recording, when you do sit and play one note on an elbow for 10 hours a day through a blaring amp, you definitely start to hear shit that isn’t there; door’s opening, alarms going off, every layer magically detuning itself. It’s amazing what the brain creates when presented with a certain variety of audio information that isn’t imposing on you as to how you should feel about it.

What goes into your creative process?

In terms of what happens logistically, it’s mostly just sitting in a room making sounds through guitar and pedals for ages, figuring out how it exists as a live thing (which it usually starts as) and then becomes a “record” thing, and what differences there are between the two.

It’s all still early on as this the 1st full release under the DFFDL banner, and I’m still wrapping my head around stuff as I go. A lot of it just stems from trying to work outside of the context people have imposed on sound. A lot of it is about reducing music down to motions etc. So it becomes more like thinking about how light travels across a room, or how wind travels through trees, or how large-scale natural events happen. It makes it way easier to visualise something while you write and make the connection between the sounds you’re writing and the concepts you have.

So effectively, you’re left with the different levels of impact that occur in nature (which is usually how you think about dynamic range) and the differences of colour and light on display (which become your tonal/melodic movements).

Collaborations are a key feature of drone/doom/noise music – do you have plans to collaborate with any artists anytime soon?

Ooh, that’s hard to say, because I do improv/collab stuff live with people under the name DFFDL, but that’s really just because it feels less weird than writing my own name on a flyer sometimes. But as it stands, most things I do under the DFFDL banner are just meant to be an outlet for my own shit. It’s all pretty insular to the point where the only things I didn’t do for the last release are the things I’d totally suck at (like the artwork or the mastering).

I do however play in a dumb amount of actual collab projects with other people doing a range of different sounds. There’s one darker drone outfit that just released an album on HNM Records a few months back which was fun, one that’s basically tangerine dream worship, one that’s primitive noise like Pelt or Sunburned Hand Of The Man (super fun to gig with), one that’s just started up with a friend that’s really fun free electro stuff and a depressive blackened noise band that’s just started gigging which I’m pretty excited about.

Where next for DFFDL?

Currently touring the album all over Aus with a dumb amount of shows planned everywhere. After that, I’ll bunker down again for a few months and make another album. The next release will probably focus less on “just intonation” and that whole Tony Conrad/La Monte Young thing. I’ve been listening to a tonne of William Fowler Collins, so I’ve been really getting into using the guitar as a processor for external sounds in itself which yields great results. Also a lot of Iancu Dumitrescu and the noisier parts of black metal, which thematically has given me a really cool idea to explore. It’s really cool because And Drifted felt like a really good foundation for what I want to do and now I’m gearing up to try and really nail these ideas.

Ideally, I’d like to give myself a few releases to really make some interesting work doing this stuff before I make the jump to other instruments/ideas/methods. I’d love to end up working a lot with different transducers/acoustic sources which I’ve sort of started doing (sitting for hours messing with reed organs/Turkish instruments and making dynamic motion using microphone phase). Fun shit!

And Drifted is out now via Frustration Jazz, purchase here.

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