Anaesthetic

As innovators in incorporating electronic elements into the genre of hardcore punk, MILEMARKER pushes their new wave tendencies, but finds the sound simultaneously evolving into something more than the sum of its parts: epic, sprawling rock anthems which sound like sci-fi soundtrack music genetically spliced with Black Flag.

1. Shrink To Fit
2. Food For Worms
3. A Quick Trip To The Clinic
4. Lost The Thoughts But Kept The Skin
5. Ant Architect
6. The Fear Is Back In Town
7. The Installment Plan

Roby Newton, Sean Husick, Al Burian and Dave Laney

Recorded May 2001
Released September 18, 2001

Recorded and mixed May 8 through May 20, 2001 by
Brian McTernan at Salad Days / Washington, DC.

Grand Piano recorded at Phase Studio with Bruce Falkinburg.

Demo recordings by Russ Arbuthnot at Electric Audio
Mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side
Pegasus and design by Milemarker

Frigid Forms Sell

MILEMARKER’S third album cleverly exceeds the standards set by their musical contemporaries by blending carefully crafted keyboard and electronic sections, ethereal male/female vocals and a refined technique not usuallyassociated with the traditional guitar / bass / drum kit lineup. This reissue gives fans, old and new alike, a chance to revisit MILEMARKER’S innovative sophisticated blend of style and substance.

Dave Laney: Guitar, Bass, Vocals, Drums, Computer
Ben Davis: Synthesizer, Drums, Vocals, Computer
Al Burian: Bass, Guitar, Vocals, Synthesizer
Roby Newton: Vocals, Synthesizer
Sean Husick: Drums, Fizmo

Recorded by Brian McTernan at Salad Days, Washington DC.
Originally released by Lovitt Records

1. Frigid Forms Sell You Warmth
2. Signal Froze
3. Sex Jam One: Sexual Machinary
4. Sex Jam Two: Insect Incest
5. Cryogenic Sleep
6. Industry for the Blind
7. Tundra
8. Internet Relay Chat with the Central Intelligence Agency
9. Server Force
10. Platinum

Satanic Versus

MILEMARKER return with a six-song mini album/maxi EP showing that high-velocity progress is the MILEMARKER steez. While the first three songs deliver on the promise of the live shows – bombastic heaviness, drone epics, flailing anthems and polemics aplenty-the following three are various and sundry Electro-jams, alternately recalling the precision and coldness of Kraftwerk and the crunktastic party-vibe of “Around the World in a Day”-era Prince And The Revolution. This CD EP is also enhanced with live footage.

Dave Laney – Guitar, Computer, Voice
Al Burian – Bass, Synthesizer, Voice
Roby Newton – Synthesizer, Piano, Voice
Noah Leger – Drums
Tim Herzog – Drums

Tracks 2,3,5 recorded by Steve Albini at Electrical Audio on March 22-23, 2002. Tracks 1 and 4 recorded by Milemarker during April and May 2002.

1. Join Our Party
2. The Banner to the Sick
3. New Lexicon
4. Idle Hands
5. Lost the Thoughts But Kept the Skin
6. Satanic Versus

A very long Q&A with Al Burian of Milemarker, Challenger, and Burn Collector

Out of sheer curiosity, I contacted Al Burian. What happened? Where’s the new album? It’s absolutely shocking how long it’s been since we’ve heard anything new about this musician.

Burian, the singer/guitarist of two of my all time favorite punk/hardcore bands Milemarker and Challenger, currently resides in Germany and agreed to an interview, one question at a time, that took place over the first three months of 2010. When the interview began, I completely forgot that Burian also writes a ?°»zine called Burn Collector, which consists of ridiculously entertaining autobiographical accounts of his travels and living situations in various metropolitan burgs across America. I was even more surprised to find the candidness and honesty reflected in those writings manifested itself in his emailed responses to my queries.

Recently, Microcosm Publishing released the newest edition of his zine, Burn Collector 14, and this fall PM Press re-printed a book containing Burn Collector Volumes 1-9.

Burian also sent along a photo to accompany the interview, along with the following message: “Myself inside the coliseum in Rome. Behind me you can see the arena where they used to feed Christians to lions.”

CL: What are you doing in Europe? How long have you been there?

Al Burian: I’m just doing my usual thing. I have German citizenship so staying here is no problem. I moved to Berlin last spring, in a pretty spontaneous decision. I found myself here and with no job or place to live back there. I had a moment where there was a flash of realization: that I could just stay. And so I stayed.

What’s your “usual thing?” And what are you doing for money? You can’t survive on your good looks alone like Henry Miller, can you?

Whenever I meet artists, I tell them I’m a musician and whenever I meet musicians, I tell them I’m a writer, and so on — so I guess my “usual thing” is trying to stay productive, do what I want, and not feel boxed in. And you are right, it is hard to find gainful employment with that attitude. I’ve always managed to scrape by somehow, but, for instance, one of my goals with moving to Europe was to get some health insurance, which is a luxury I could never afford in the USA. Socialized medicine in Europe, right? No, unfortunately. It turns out the health care situation in Germany is only slightly less of a mess than in USA. But I did end up wrangling some insurance out of them, as well as a few other benefits. Right now, I’m gainfully unemployed, getting my basic expenses paid by the state. The downside of the German system is that the job center seeks out jobs for you. They could call me at any moment with a job offer, and I have re-occurring nightmares about getting a call where they’ve lined up something for me as a car mechanic or a lifeguard. So far, no calls, and I’m spending my aimless days trying to get some writing done.

I’d spent a good amount of time in Germany before moving here, so it hasn’t been a total culture shock. My mom is German, and I grew up speaking it, so language barrier is no problem. Though, I will say, there is a certain longer-term strangeness that seeps in as time goes by — not so much a sudden culture shock, more a slow blooming realization of the subtle differences. When I went to Japan, my first impression was that it wasn’t very different — sure, I couldn’t read the signage, but I could recognize, OK, this is a grocery store, this is someone’s apartment, this is a kitchen, etc. and it all seemed about the same. After about a week of having the subtle differences compound themselves, though, I felt like I was tripping on acid. Everything, all the little details, seemed totally, mind-bogglingly weird. Germany is a lot closer to the US in many ways, plus there is no language barrier for me, so the differences have crept up very slowly. It took about four months before I felt like I was tripping. German society in general is very ordered, very regimented. The common example that people point to is how no one will cross the street if there is a “don’t walk” signal, even if there is no traffic in sight. As a wild-west American, your first impulse is to brazenly march across the street, you know, show some autonomy, be an individual, it’s common sense, there’s no cars coming. You feel smug about showing the herd how herd-like they are. But after a while, like having a mohawk as a teenager, you just get tired of people staring at you all the time and giving you weird looks, so you try to fit in. And what I found, at that point, was that it is actually pretty hard to re-socialize yourself into cultural norms you are not familiar with. I constantly find myself in situations where I realize that I am acting really weird, and that there is no way I can shut it off, in fact I can’t even quite exactly figure out what I’m doing wrong. It’s actually a quite similar feeling to being mentally unbalanced.

What are you writing? Songs? Essays? Stories? What are they about?

I’m working on a new zine, focusing around Berlin, that I hope to put out later this year. The last thing I did (Burn Collector 14) was very Chicago-centered, and between sending it off to the publisher and getting it back from the printer, I had moved out here. So now it feels strange to have that as my newest object to show for myself; it feels out of date to me already. I want to get something done that’s more representative of now. Otherwise, I’m working on another, longer story, generally about nervous breakdowns. And I have a couple of side project writing plans, so going back and forth with it all is keeping me pretty busy. I’d like to work on some more comics this year too. As far as music, I haven’t done too much of it since I’ve been here.

It seems like you’ve written stories about nervous breakdowns before. What fascinates you about nervous breakdowns? What’s the protagonist going through? Do you do any psychological research to study up on how one acts during such a spiral? How low does he go? I only ask this because I was today captured by a strange old memory. I was 6 or 8, and during that time my dad worked at the mall selling suits, and in passing he mentioned one of his employees (who must’ve been 45 or so and I was friendly with) had “suffered a nervous breakdown.” Being a kid, I didn’t really understand what those strong string of words meant and in a random moment of having nothing to chat about I asked the guy what that was like, having a nervous breakdown. I don’t remember his response but I remember the terror stretch across his face as he walked away. Weird that you reference nervous breakdowns, something I never think about, on the morning this memory came to me for the first time in almost 20 years.

The topic has come up before in stories I’ve written, although in recent years I’ve had some experiences that have made me realize that I didn’t know what I was talking about at that time; my definition of “nervous breakdown” was a pretty lax. A lot of people exhibit aberrant behavior within the punk scene and get away with it because it is more tolerated in that social context; I’ve taken advantage of that myself, and gone to some mental brinks while still blending into my surroundings. The last couple of years I was living in Chicago, for instance, I played in a band that was playing shows constantly, and I refused to carry any equipment, own a guitar amp, or put any effort into organizing ones to borrow. My attitude was, if there is an amp there that I can use, I’ll play, if not, too bad for you all. I was having some kind of deep crisis about music and expressing it in this weird denial of the physical objects associated with it. My band-mates, rather than kicking me out or recommending me a psychiatrist, just considered it a funny quirk of mine.

But that’s what I’m interested in, the idea of sanity being a social construct. In the story you are recounting, for instance: say a 45-year-old man walks into his job at the mall one day and announces, “I’ve been wasting my life selling suits! Don’t you people see how meaningless this all is?” Maybe the security guard escorts him away, and he gets fired, or even taken to a mental hospital if he won’t calm down. But is what he’s saying totally crazy? The other salesmen are obligated to think so, otherwise they cast their own lives into doubt, and that is the path to unraveling. If only this poor guy had been a 20-year-old with some crimethink literature! Then his actions would be pretty normal for his social context, and what he was saying would make sense to everyone around him. I had the reverse problem: when I finally started coming to an active crisis about my life in Chicago, it ruptured the social fabric I was in. My bandmates were much happier rounding me up an amp than debating the fundamental futility of our motivations. I don’t know if you’ve run across a lot of people who are losing their minds, but my experience is that they often have a lot of lucid, intelligent and insightful things to say, and that bums people out considerably. People get medicated and put away all the time, not because they stop being able to think clearly, but quite the opposite, because they start thinking too much, they can’t bottle up their feelings anymore, and eventually they make others feel and question in ways that are counter-productive to daily routine. In some way this is the extreme front line of the battle between the individual and social institutions.

It sounds like Milemarker/Challenger are on definite hiatus. Will you ever make new records again? When I last saw Milemarker live, maybe three or four years ago in Gainesville, you guys played mainly older songs; it was like a collection of greatest hits. Were you even aware back then (before your aversion to amps) that your interest in making music was dwindling?

The last couple of Milemarker tours we did (in the US and then in Europe), we did self-consciously play a sort of “greatest hits” setlist. That was partially a bit of self-irony (since, as you alluded to earlier, we were often perceived as being indifferent or openly hostile towards audience expectations), and partially because if someone recognized those songs, it was a way of hopefully communicating: thanks for paying attention, thanks for sticking with us.

It’s actually pretty possible that either or both of those bands will make another record. All of the principal players are still friends, still creatively active, and still in communication, so I could easily see it happening. I would probably not be the one actively pushing for it, but if it happened, I would be glad to participate; making music is fun, and it’s a good social outlet, a good way to hang out. The part I’m not that into is the pressure from labels, the stress of touring, the investment of self that leads to bruised egos and personal conflicts. I guess it is not exactly a dwindling interest in making music per se, more a lack of interest in the identity of being a musician. I don’t really sit around and “write” songs. For me music is more about the collaboration. Until I find some people who I am motivated to make music with, I’ll probably stick to other things. I’m a little confused about what the end result of music is supposed to be anyway: a good show? A good record? A Myspace site? I think music is in a strange period right now, as a form in general.

It’s funny you mention the end result of music. Especially that one of the ends is that you distill it down to such a cynical common denominator as a Myspace page. More often in interviews, I’ve sensed the confusion, and in this context the musician sometimes mentions his apprehension for the record album. Yet every week I purchase and listen to albums, and listen to them all the way through, side A and side B. If more people were more vocal about their love of the album as a whole, do you think you’d be so confused? Not everyone has an iPod and downloads music and visits social networking sites. And I wouldn’t describe those people as stubborn, either. Has your perception of the listener changed? With the sort of music you make, did you ever really care what the listener thought? And if ?°»n/a’ to those, then what’s your predominant trepidation in the current climate of music?

I grew up, of course, listening to music on LPs, and my motivation for producing music was to make LPs. A-side, B-side, cover art — I was into the whole package, it made sense to me, and a good all-around record is a pretty satisfying object to make. It’s interesting to realize, though, that the format which you and I grew up taking as the norm is a relatively recent phenomenon. Recorded music hasn’t existed that long, and it wasn’t until the 20th century that you could mass-produce slabs of plastic that you insert into an appliance and it plays any type of music you can imagine. The idea of the album was a not-quite one-century blip in the formatting history of music, and dictated by market and technological forces, not by artists’ innate desire to write concept LPs. We just happened to grow up within that blip, so we see that as the natural way music should be presented. Contemporary (21st century) music seems completely defined by its adjustment to the paradigm shift of the digital age. That goes for how it sounds, who is making it, who is consuming it, and how they get access to it. I don’t think it’s bad, but I’m still waiting to see how things re-align themselves. In the meantime, I guess I just don’t have a strong urge to participate.

You said before that you’re trying to find a job through a state-run service. Have you found one yet? What sort of jobs are they offering you? I was also wondering what it’s like not to have a job in another country, since I kind of know what it’s like to not have a job in America. At first, it’s a good time, and then you have no money and a realization of squandered time begins to take hold. Do the differences of Germany allow that time to at least be more interesting? Is there anything in Germany that’s a surprising phenomenon?

I’m on unemployment, basically, on German welfare. The way that the system works here is, you sign up at an office and give them a list of your skills, degrees, and experience, and then they are supposed to try to match you with a job. Meanwhile, all of your basic costs are covered. I guess I have a weird and pretty unmarketable set of skills, so I am still waiting for them to call me. Germany is not that different from the US, basically a well-off first world country, and able to put more of their resources into creating a minimum social safety net for their citizens, since they are not investing huge portions of the GNP into fighting wars abroad. The current state of things does seem long-term untenable, though. An odd economic quirk in Germany is that there is no minimum wage. So many jobs pay ridiculously low wages, where working full-time you don’t make what you would for being on unemployment. Where’s the incentive to get a job?

Now that you’re in a place where no one knows you, and music is no longer a focal point of your daily efforts, are people often surprised by your past? I mean, Milemarker has its own Wikipedia page (which I doubt you contributed to). Do you ever show people your old music? Are they surprised by the covers? Like the Anaesthetic one for example? (And on a side note, what’s the inspiration behind that album cover?)

It surprises me how many people I meet who were at a show we played sometime in the last decade, and the vivid memories they’ll have of it. It makes sense, because Milemarker played in a lot of small towns all over Germany, and a lot of the kids at those shows have ended up moving to the big city a few years later, and if I go to shows and such I’ll run in to those people there. It always does surprise me though. I guess I didn’t register how many people we actually played to in the time when we were really touring a lot.

I’ve got no clue what was going on with that Anaestheic cover. The record had an original title of “Rise Up Friends” and was supposed to be kind of animal liberation themed, with all the songs about different animals, etc. Somehow all that ended up left over from that idea was the winged Pegasus. Then we tried to do packaging where the lyrics would be printed on the inside of the inner record sleeve, so you’d have to rip open the record sleeve to read the lyrics. Despite specific instructions, the printer, of course, folded the jackets so that the lyrics were readable on the outside. They probably figured we were just high when we wrote out the instructions or something. Anyway, overall Anaesthetic is not the most cohesively executed record of all time.

What do you think is your most cohesive artistic endeavor? In writing and music?

It’s hard for me to judge; I tend to be pretty self-critical, and only more so as time goes by and I look back on things. In a way it’s the dissatisfaction with past efforts that gives me the drive to do something new, to try to redeem myself. Also, when I think of projects that seemed to have turned out well or held up over time, it seems kind of arbitrary. There seems to be no formula to it. The Milemarker record Frigid Forms Sell, for instance, was no less haphazardly put together than any of the others — there are three different drummers on it, for instance — but somehow that one seems to have the most solid aesthetic and message, to communicate something specific and un-convoluted. Burn Collector #8 was the first long-form novella style of writing I did, and the first zine I put together that pointed to maybe being able to do something more ambitious with writing — and yet, I wrote it in a few weeks while crashing on someone’s couch in North Carolina; I didn’t even have a computer at the time. I think with creative endeavors you just have to do your best, try to supersede yourself a little every time, and accept that, as Haruki Murakami said, “they can’t all be winners.”

MILEMARKER TO TOUR


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Jade Tree alumni MILEMARKER have crawled out of their cave after two years and decided to embark on a two week European tour this Summer. No promises have been made, but hopefully they will return to tour the US. The band features the original lineup of Al Burian, Ben Davis, and Dave Laney with the addition of John Bowman. The dates are listed below, but keep an eye on the for updates.

http://milemarker.org/transfer/mmtourposter.jpg

24 Jun 2008 Denmark Aalborg – 1000 Fryd
25 Jun 2008 Denmark Copenhagen – Lades Kaelder
26 Jun 2008 Germany Berlin – Das Lokal
27 Jun 2008 Germany Lärz/Rostock – Fusion Festival
28 Jun 2008 Germany Göttingen – T Keller
29 Jun 2008 Germany Dresden -AZ Conni
30 Jun 2008 Germany Würzburg – Cafe Cairo
1 Jul 2008 Germany Nürnberg – K4
2 Jul 2008 Germany Frankfurt – Exzess
3 Jul 2008 Germany Dortmund – FZW
4 Jul 2008 Germany Hamburg – Hafenklang
5 Jul 2008 Germany Braunschweig – Nexus

The MILEMARKER catalog is available from Jade Tree on CD and in digital download format as well.

Milemarker [I]Satanic Versus[/I] Review

The collective creative genius that is Chicago’s Milemarker continues to impress with this 33-minute, six-track follow-up to last year’s brilliant Anaesthetic disc. This release finds the band continuing to blaze new trails as the pre-eminent and perhaps only electro-punk band. Their passion for the vanguard synth pop of Kraftwerk and Devo and the atonal, discordant guitar rock of Sonic Youth results in a sound that is a giddy warped fusion of squonking, bleeting Moog synthesisers, slashing guitars and thundering rhythms that seamlessly alternates between novelty pop gems ("Join Our Party") and ten-minute-long "PJ Harvey as Genesis" epic soundscapes (the Steve Albini-produced "Lost the Thoughts But Kept the Skin"). Satanic Versus is another inspired release from a band that keeps getting better.

MILEMARKER SHORT STINT

MILEMARKER has been lying low this summer, but the fantastic four have joined together for a four-day stint of Midwest shows with A.R.E.Weapons. It’s sure to be a hoot, so if you are in the area, make plans accordingly.

Please consult the Milemarker for current dates.

Booking info:
Scott Comeau [EMAIL]fleetteam@hotmail.com[/EMAIL]

MILEMARKER LAUNCHES NEW WEBSITE

Check out to see what Chicago’s MILEMARKER are up to. Jade Tree’s own Mehron Moqtaderi spied Al Burian hightailing it through the Amsterdam train station a few day ago, so you Europeans keep your eyes peeled for Milemarker’s resident travelogue writer scamming his way through your town.

MILEMARKER TO ROCK PRESIDENT BUSH ON JANUARY 28, 2003

MILEMARKER will be playing at The Concert, Rally and March to challenge President Bush’s assessment of the State of the Union at around 10:30 PM on January 28, 2003 with other performers such as Mr. Lif and Thievery Corporation. There will also be speeches by the US Green Party, Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping, Rami Fareed Asak of the Progressive Muslim Network and others. The location is the Westside US Capitol; Reflecting Pool at 3rd St. NW

For complete information, please visit:

From Safety to Where

There are those among us, and you know who you are, with black capes and PVC corsets moldering in the back of your closets, a single tube of Revlon’s Blackberry lipstick melting in your bathroom cabinet, and a stack of Sisters of Mercy 12-inches in storage. Every so often you dig out the existential electro-goth of your youth and relive the glory days. Well, guess what? You no longer need to delve into the past for the dark thrills.

Late of North Carolina’s swampy environs, Chicago-based Milemarker feature on the cover of their new EP, Satanic Versus , an unsettling close-up of some Anton La Vey-esque character. Things get scarier from there. Their song titles (“The Banner of the Sick,” “Lost the Thoughts but Kept the Skin”) might make you think they’re prog-metal rockists, but the record starts off with a pitch-perfect Fischerspooner pastiche called “Join Our Party,” then spirals downward. The next five tracks put the drums up front in the mix, while the frenzied guitar echoes Pornography -era Cure, and the vocals emerge from a mangled and twisted Vocoder. Yes, Steve Albini was involved.

Milemarker is one of those High Concept bands, so each of their albums has to justify its killer riffs with a sociopolitical theme. The chilly detachment of 2000′s Frigid Forms Sell reportedly commented on sexual commodification, while Anaesthetic (2001) buried the lyrics, liner notes, and photos under the plastic tray of the jewel case in an effort to subvert the listeners’ emotional responses. OK. Eerily timely, Satanic Versus plumbs the schism between fundamentalism and risk, analog and new technology, but these leaps of faith still shake your caboose. In “Idle Hands,” they sound like soul refugees.

At the recent CMJ show at Warsaw, singer-guitarist Dave Laney hurled himself about, whipping his old-skool devil-lock to and fro. Synth mistress Roby Newton and bassist-keyboardist Al Burian managed to violently fling their excellent haircuts, too, without lifting fingers from keys.

Violence and war are internalized by Love Life, a Baltimore quartet clearly influenced by the industrial parks and empty lots of home. Their second album, dramatically titled Here Is Night, Brothers, Here the Birds Burn, evokes the detuned caterwaul of the Birthday Party with an odd saxophone honk bouncing off the melee. Frantic rhythms start and stop off-time, followed by the high-pitched keening of guitars, organs, and a sorrowful violin. “Love Life”—ironic, or what?

The three guys and girl making the racket mold mere instruments into an unholy mess of distortion. Sean Antanaitis’s guitar doesn’t form licks so much as froth at the corners of songs; organ fugues carry most of the melodic weight. Anthony S. Malat’s bass digs furrows, grinding out a rhythm to match David Bergander’s spasmodic drumming. Aiming for the angst-drenched grandiosity of the Swans, they settle for hypnotically atonal bursts of noise. You can dance to it if you sort of flail your arms around and stare at the floor.

Katrina Ford’s bile and spittle, her throaty growling and lusty howling—equal parts Jarboe, Nick Cave, and Lucifer—is Love Life’s signature. Even when she tra-la-las she sounds menacing. On “Good for Nothing,” in a typically bright mood, Ford wails in abject deference to the unnamed angel who defiled her. This is death disco. They’re gonna be huge in Norway.

Milemarker [I]Satanic Versus[/I] Review

As much as the neu wave would like to think it’s a artistic movement that’s learned the lessons that brought new wave down, it isn’t. For the most part, the second wave is cluttered with bands trading the novelty of analog synthesizers for musical depth and shallow pop and comedic themes. It’s like the early ’80s all over again – but this time we really, really ought to know better.

Of course, there’s some bands who do. Milemarker continues to prove it’s an act that, no matter how bogged down in vintage synth sounds it gets, has a lot more artistic vision than a good 95 percent of its neu-wave compatriots on Satanic Versus. Grim and as forceful as its title implies – although without any hokey ties to the black arts – Satanic Versus keeps the uncomfortable punk aesthetic in all the layers of hopped-up analogs and swirling gizmo-driven melodies. There’s no fun-fun-fun ’till Daddy takes the Roland away; it’s a dark, heavy mix of flesh and circuitry on Milemarker’s latest. Think Darth Vader instead of Inspector Gadget. Think WTO riots instead of tear-down-the-goalposts college-football revelry. Put Darth and Seattle together, and you’re just about at the spot from which Milemarker comes.

Milemarker’s twist on neu wave may not be the most comfortable one (if you’re looking for easygoing camp, stick to The Aeffect or The Epoxies), but it’s got all the guts that its molded-plastic compatriots ignore. From walls of analog beeps, tricked out guitars, a grimy bass and God knows what else that that calls forth the power of baroque composers ("New Lexicon") to an artistic revolutionary’s call-to-arms set to the bleep-sqawk of moody, and nasty synthesizers ("Join Our Party"), Milemarker’s one of the few acts which knows how to get a sound out of its vintage equipment that’s dark and powerful rather than wimpy and translucent. Even the least Milemarker-sounding track on the EP, "Lost the Thoughts But Kept the Skin," a creepy piano-based number, keeps the act’s disaffected and grim aesthetic close to its surface.

Don’t let the floods of campy synth-pop bands destroy you palette. You can still keep a taste for the analog noise with Satanic Versus, a much-needed bit of sour synth in the sugary neu-wave world.

Milemarker [I]Satanic Versus[/I] Review

What is Milemarker? An electro-new-wave dance band? A sludgy stoner rock band? Washington, D.C., hardcore band? On their EP “Satanic Versus,” the band appears to be all three. Unable to fully embrace their Fugazi-ness, they aren’t really ready to hit the dance floor, either – which is part of the “Satanic Versus’” charm.

The six songs on this little EP could all fit under the label, “hardcore,” without rubbing the genre raw.

Three of the songs were recorded by legendary engineer Steve Albini. (He has recorded some of your favorite bands. If you don’t know, just ask.) These seem to best capture what their live performances are like. The other three were recorded by the band, and do equally well to show off the band’s talent for straddling genres.

“Satanic Versus” also comes with some very nice features, including three live performances from Milemarker to play on your computer. Good idea, considering their live shows supposedly blow their recorded stuff away. Oh, and it also comes with a program that lets you remix two of their songs, for those closet DJs and anyone who really does want Milemarker to sound like dance music.

The New York Times named Milemarker’s last album one of its top underground releases of last year. “Satanic Versus” looks like an indication of even greater things to come.

MILEMARKER ON THE MOVE

Milemarker can’t stand still! The band is back out once again. This time, they’ll be featuring material from the upcoming Satanic Versus (JT1078) CD EP, as well as songs from the Anaesthetic (JT1061) LP/CD and Frigid Forms Sell (JT1069) CD.
Don’t forget, Satanic Versus (JT1078) CD EP also features a video for "New Lexicon", as well as 2 live videos shot at different shows, and includes raw tracks so that the listener can remix a song. Pretty cool, huh?!

Please consult the Milemarker for current dates.

Milemarker [I]Satanic Versus[/I] Review

Contrast is the name of the game here. Chicago’s Milemarker have straddled the line between.

“Satanic Versus" is a fully produced finished product, produced by Steve Albini,even. “Satanic Versus” is produced by the band, and if it’s not to your liking, the interactiveportion of the CD gives you the ability to remix it all to your liking. “Satanic Versus” is analog and digital, gothic and punk, loud and soft, screamy and melodic, practiced and improvisational. Really. The band isn’t big on computers and technology, yet their new CD is a multimedia extravaganza.   

As musical conversationalists, Milemarker invite all kinds of conversation and discourse on their music, performances, and ideals. And that gives them “thinking band cred,” a hot but rare commodity these days. They also acknowledge that by doing things their way (a.k.a. living up to their own standards), sometimes things get flawed – if you go to their web page (www.milemarker.org), you will see a page full of fixes for all the technological blips in this CD. You will also be invited into a very theory-laden discussion of their aesthetics versus behavior versus performance styles and standards. It’s worth the read, even if you’re not 100% into their scene. I’m reminded of Bad Religion’s scientific field-study awards…  It’s fantastic that a band encourages such critical thinking and self reflexivity among their fans – by doing so, they help create a scene that has more going for it than just cool tunes and spiffy haircuts. 

That Milemarker’s behavior and code of bandsmanship ethics impressed me more than theirmusic doesn’t really say much, simply because their style of lo-fi high tech doesn’t crank my motor. To me, “Satanic Versus” sounds like just another Atari Teenage Riot inspired album; filled with more energy and experimentation than craft. Which isn’t really a bad thing, in fact, if I’d had this back in ’86, I would have played it over and over and over until the disc itself bled. However, now that I’m older and a bit more selective (read: crotchety), I prefer a bit of skill to take the edge off.
But that’s just me. Go listen for yourself. It’s worth it. And with that comes the final divergence… Milemarker – love ‘em or hate ‘em, your choice – but you can’t help being affected.

MILEMARKER ‘SATANIC VERSUS’ (JT1078 CD EP) RELEASE DATE ANNOUNCED

Release Date: August 13, 2002
Available for pre-order: June 11, 2002

Hot on the heels of their Jade Tree debut album, Anaesthetic[/], (which the New York Times named as one of it’s top underground releases of 2001), and the re-release of Frigid Forms Sell (JT1069) earlier this year, MILEMARKER are back with a six-song mini album/maxi EP showing that high-velocity progress is the MILEMARKER steez. Half of Satanic Versus was recorded in Chicago with STEVE ALBINI (NIRVANA, PIXIES, PJ HARVEY) at monolithic Electrical Audio; three songs which deliver on the promise of the live shows – bombastic heaviness, drone epics, flailing anthems and polemics aplenty. The flipside is the songs the band self-recorded – three various and sundry Electro-jams, alternately recalling the precision and coldness of KRAFTWERK and the crunktastic party-vibe of Around the World in a Day-era PRINCE AND THE REVOLUTION.

As an added bonus, Satanic Versus is also an enhanced CD EP containing live footage of MILEMARKER in action.

MILEMARKER TOUR, CD RE-RELEASE

Manifesto 2002: Jade Tree reissues the record that truly put Milemarker on the map of punk rock underground America: Frigid Forms Sell. Originally released in 2000 on Lovitt, the album alternates between buoyant sex jams and merciless post punk synth pummel making for a hell of a dance party. Milemarker tours the US extensively in January and February (see Tours) bringing along flailing guitars and static-laced syncopated beats to ensure maximum melodies and dynamic dualisms.

Frigid Forms Sell will be released February 19 and is currently available for pre-order.

The Only Band That Matters: Milemarker

The collective known as Milemarker has a vast and prolific output that encompasses much more than the average independent band: Dave Laney puts out a printed alternative media quarterly called Media Reader, Al Burian self-publishes a zine of his travels and views therefrom called Burn Collector (the first nine of which are collected into a book) and Roby Newton does traveling puppet shows and animations.

Milemarker songs cover many sociological topics, including many derived from living in our technology-driven culture. They liken their early records to video game soundtracks when compared to their live sound at the time, but the aggression shows through. You see, in the studio, Milemarker preferred to experiment with sounds and samples (playing with the irony of using technology against itself), whereas live they’re more forthcoming. These two approaches finally meshed on Frigid Forms Sell and grew on the recently released Anaesthetic. The most important thing about Milemarker is that they will force you to think about things – even if you’re already thinking about things. They stir the corporeal, the angst, the spiritual core and the cerebrum simultaneously. As a collective, they represent the epitome of the new paradigm of artist: one with fingers that run deep in many pies.

The Clash once called themselves ‘The Only Band That Matters’ and Rolling Stone once called Fugazi the same. Milemarker has earned the title through years of hard work, expansive vision and downright challenging music.

At the time of this interview, Sean Husick had just become their second drummer to leave to pursue a solo career and they were playing with Noah Leger (of Taking Pictures, the Speaking Canaries and Hurl) on drums. Core-members Al Burian and Dave Laney stepped in to answer the following questions:

frontwheeldrive: As a collective of individuals with a steady, varied and prolific output outside of the band, what is it that drives you to do so much?

Al Burian: I feel like I do the band because there is this abstract entity of a band and it wants to be realized, somehow, it wants to be a band. And then I feel like I do other things outside of the band because there are things I feel like expressing which don’t necessarily fit into the agenda of what the band is expressing.

Dave Laney: I’ve tried to tailor my life in a fashion that allows me to spend more time on the things that I actually want to be doing. I love to play music and travel, so I play in a band. I am also horribly obsessive/compulsive, so I started a magazine which requires tons of time to be spent doing horribly mundane things. At this point, I’m actually forced to be spending my time doing these things instead of working a normal job- the mail keeps piling up and someone has to write back. Actually, I started MediaReader because I felt like the average DIY music magazine was ignoring a large part of the “community” that they advertised as covering. The idea with MR was to serve as a less specific type of magazine: not always political, not always musical, but always trying to be critical with a constructive edge to the criticism. There comes a time when you can’t complain about things anymore and you just have to force yourself to pick up your own complaints and create that new thing.

Tell me about the new record, Anaesthetic: Is there a theme or specific issues addressed as there was with Frigid Forms Sell?

Al Burian: Well, it’s sort of a secret theme. All of the lyrics and recording information are hidden in the packaging, so the idea is that the record initially seems to be about nothing, just a pretty object, all aesthetics. The idea is to make people pay a little more attention, sort of to involve the listener a little more actively in the process of figuring out what the record is about.

Dave Laney: The themes contained in the songs vary more, compared to FFS. I actually think that the new one is the most political and socially relevant album that we have released. That was part of the idea with hiding the lyrics as well. I think that the music more accessible on the new album, enough so that we knew we would get hell from old friends that knew the band from the get go. To go along with what we felt would probably be the first instinct from these people, we decided to try to double their reaction and make them second guess themselves later on. That was the idea anyway: have people come up and say, “new label, new sound, lyrics about love- what gives? What are you guys doing!?” When in reality I feel like we bumped it up a notch, at least on a personal level it feels like that. Where as the overwhelming theme of FFS was commodification and the dumbed-down way that we are taught to relate to others through the way that we relate to products, “Anaesthetic” contains songs about gentrification, the atrocities of textile sweat shops, modern disconnection, terminal illness and so on. I feel like throwing yourself into the mix is a big part of relating to other people, and of being able to step past sheer social commentary from the position of an untouchable critic.

There seems to be a lot of Michel Foucault’s influence on Frigid Forms.

Al Burian: You are making some pretty grand assumptions there, young man. In fact, I have never read Michel Foucault. I was assigned some of his writing in college but I did not do the reading that day. My housemate claims that her entire college cultural studies major was essentially majoring in Michel Foucault, but I only remember her doing various video projects which involved wrapping herself in tin-foil. And considering that, perhaps I should investigate this Foucault fellow.

Dave Laney: Ha, ha… I, myself, years ago, had read some short thesis of Mr. Foucault, but to be honest, I can not even begin to tell you what it was about. Maybe I should, as well, do some investigating.

Richard Metzger once said that the most subversive thing one can do is to become popular. In the spirit of this quote, I have often argued in defense of bands like Rage Against the Machine, stating that – in spite of the fact that they create revenue for evil companies such as Epic/Sony – they reach and influence more kids than any activist-minded indie band (and probably lead kids to those bands eventually anyway) can. What do you (as an activist-minded indie band) think of the ‘mainstream vs underground’ debate and said point of view.

Al Burian: I assure you that neither Rage Against the Machine, our band, nor any other band that has ever or will ever exist has subversion in mind when seeking popularity. The pursuit of popularity has to do with deep-seated feelings of personal inadequacy, usually left over from traumatic experiences being chosen last for the kickball team in grade school or something like that. Now me, personally, I don’t have any quibbles with the political platform of Rage Against the Machine, the Foo Fighters, the post-Buddhist Beastie Boys, or any of that type of music. My main concern is, when you examine the average mosh pit at one of these events, sure, those guys are all wearing Zapatista T-shirts, they all signed the Mumia petition, but take a closer look: aren’t those pretty much the same guys who were picking you last for kickball back in the olden days? Everyone has a right to enjoy music, and if Rage Against the Machine is willing to handle this demographic so be it, but the point is that I don’t want to be around those people. I’m not into hanging out with those guys, they weren’t nice to me in grade school, I’m still bitter about the whole thing. That is the difference between “mainstream” and “underground” to me: do you want to convert the maximum number of people to cause X or T-shirt slogan Y, or do you want to help build a culture where people who feel alienated can find some commonality.

Dave Laney: That’s a difficult, on-going debate. I do mostly agree with what Al said, but also think that there is some break point to the oversimplification. A lot of what I spend time doing is trying to build and support the community that I consider myself part of. There are limitations and compromises to everything, and I think it’s important to distinguish between the differences of building a community and solely maintaining a community. In order to build something, you have to broaden awareness about things and reach people that already don’t have the exact same political platform or ethics as yourself. This is the argument that I assume RATM would use as justification to touring with the Wu Tang Clan and going the route that they did. RATM is really a weird phenomenon case study in the history of this argument, which is another reason why people use them all the time. There is also Fugazi, who went a completely different route, built what they have by themselves, and still hit an enormous audience. Even they have to deal with a huge contigency of football player jock types at their shows, buying their records, misinterpreting their lyrics, etc., etc., but I do believe that when you look at the greater picture of the examples that both bands have set – it comes into focus very quickly that Fugazi did all this stuff with much more integrity in tact than RATM. Both of these bands are seemingly flukes of the modern rock industry, and both are hard to compare to the average indie rock band. The overbearingly truth fact is that major label ethics can be very, very sleazy. From the little bit that I’ve seen from friends of mine that have signed on to the major game, everything changes completely. Even in a strict financial sense, history has proven that it works out for very few bands, and even when it does, I’m not into an economy that (to quote from Steve Albini’s article in the ages old MRR issue on major labels) makes the label $710,000, the producer $90,000, the manager $51,000, and, finally, the band $16,000. The real atrocity here is that the label made 45 times more than the band, and the guys getting the kickbacks off the band probably know little to nothing about the band. There have been countless articles written on this, and there have been major label bands that superceded the law, bands like Beck. But still, and keep in mind that this paragraph is only in reference to the finances and not the “artist shall have all control over her art” type thing, to go into one of these deals is a gamble that is usually lost by the band. It has, sadly, been proven over time. Which is to say that to encourage someone to be the next RATM is to encourage someone to shoot themselves in both feet. Lately I’ve been almost obsessing over the idea of other people making money off of me working. I quit my job and got a job at a non-profit, where there are no kickbacks to dudes in suits or higher up positions. Of course I recently got fired when I left for 3 months of tour, but I liked the place. There was no attitude, barely any superiors, and I felt good about what I was doing. In response to your question “do you think that getting famous is the ultimate act of subversion?” I say no: getting famous on your own terms is the ultimate act of subversion.

Who do you read and respect?

Al Burian: Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being is a good book, I also like Don DeLillo a lot, particularly White Noise. Jerry Mander’s Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television is a good non-fiction choice. Orwell, Camus, Kafka, Salinger are good classics. Recently I’ve been getting really into the author John Fante.

Dave Laney: I’ve always been into the old Russian writers. Doestoevsky is my favorite… Tolstoy and the like… Camus (though French). Mark Twain… I know I know, all this stuff is as old as rocks, but fantastic nonetheless…

What made technology such a major theme in Milemarker songs?

Al Burian: People occasionally misinterpret our band as very Sci-Fi and future-obsessive, when this is actually not the case at all. For instance, the opening line of Frigid Forms Sell:

We keep waiting for the robots to crush us from the sky
They sneak in through our finger-tips and bleed our fingers dry.
Sounds like the press kit to The Matrix, but the giant robot has been a popular allegorical symbol since World War Two, particularly in Japanese cartoons and movies, I would say clearly representing anxiety over nuclear war. So the point there is that we’re all looking for the big, instantaneous Armageddon ending (witness people’s susceptibility to Y2K panic), while the actual dangers are right under our fingers, in the small and mundane encroachments technology makes into our daily lives. An example: I was talking to my co-worker the other day and she mentioned how she has to get a stronger prescription for her glasses. She said that the eye doctor had told her that her eyesight would continue to deteriorate unless she stopped working with computers. ‘But in this day and age I don’t really see how I can do that,’ she said. It struck me as really crazy that this person was literally making the choice to give up her eyesight so as not to go against the status quo of technological advancement. That’s a totally fucked up world to be living in, and this is the sort of thing that people deal with right now on a daily basis. So I think the root of any technological obsession or phobia you might pick up on just comes from being freaked out about the contemporary state of things.

Dave Laney: Al is the real technology freak. He has written most of the songs that are about such things. I’ve always thought that his best subjects come from observing the world around him, figuring out what makes him feel uncomfortable or alienated, and writing about that discomfort.

Anything else on which you guys are working that you would like to bring up here?

Al Burian: Dave and I are always working on some printed matter or other; the new MediaReader (Dave’s magazine) should be out soon enough, and my zine Burn Collector should have a new issue out, oh, who knows when, probably not for a while. You can contact PO Box 641544 Chicago, IL 60644 for more info about these publications. Roby continues to make things at such a furious pace that anything I could mention would be outdated before I even finished typing. She’s been contemplating putting together a video compilation of her puppet shows, which I wish she would do some day, as the world would be a kinder and more palatable place if such an object existed.

Dave Laney: The new issue of MediaReader, issue #5, should be completed by mid January and set to go on tour with MM (US tour Jan/Feb). Should be pretty exciting this time around. A bit bigger, a lot fancier, and still free…

Milemarker [I]Anaesthetic[/I] Review

Don’t let the Pegasus-adorned pretty pink CD cover fool you, this is not some bubblegum, My Little Pony tribute record. This is all rock, baby! Blending a curious affinity for ’80s no wave synth pop, dissonant guitar noodling and art rock structures, the seven tracks on this disc sound like a mutant hybrid of Devo, Sonic Youth and Rush. On their fourth album, the four-year-old Chicago-based quartet further infuses their punk-inspired origins with dense, squonking Moog-synth layers and X-like boy-girl vocal trade-offs. With noted hardcore producer Brian McTernan’s trademark "in your face" sonic style, Anaesthetic is anything but numbing. It’s a uniquely inspired and textured, multi-dimensional record that oozes pure rock fury. P.S. When you buy this, as you should, look under the CD tray for the hidden liner notes.