Milemarker: Email Interview with Al Burian

michael: With whom am I communicating with and what it is it you do in the band?

Al: My name is Al Burian and I play bass, keyboard, sing, make conversation, and handle most of the bad vibing for the band.

michael: How would you describe your music to your relatives at Thanksgiving? What about to a kid in the scene?

Al: Recently my aunt came to one of our shows and asked me afterwards how I would describe our music. I sort of stuttered and fumbled. She said, “Well, your mother told me that it’s the blues.” I shrugged and said, “Well, I suppose by some, uh, very broad definition maybe, yes.” “So that’s what they call blues these days,” she muttered, shaking her head. For kids in the scene I’d probably say something like aggressive dark-wave influenced technical post-emo. They’d nod knowingly, pretending that that meant something.

michael: How do you approach your live shows?

Al: Generally pretend we’ve swallowed cyanide pills and have half an hour to live.

michael: For people in the dark, would you by chance be willing to recant some of your more memorable live show stories for us?

Al: Do you want me to recant or recount? Recount would mean “retell” and “recant” would mean “apologize for.” The only show I feel really bad about occurred in Providence, Rhode Island. I breathed a plume of fire and set my band mate Roby Newton and several audience members on fire. I was banned from pyrotechnics after that.

michael: Doh! I hope you didn’t take that the wrong way. I didn’t intend to say “recant,” but rather “recount.”

Al: NO, I thought it was funny, I like the idea of recanting for shows better than the idea of recounting shows. I don’t know how ground-breaking we are, really, but we (especially in the early days) tried to experiment and do different stuff, including pyrotechnics, light shows, playing with samples, synching our show up to computer projections….. Roby has set herself on fire a few times, I’ve received occasional fairly bloody head injuries (I actually have a sizable scab on my forehead as I type this, a result of Dave’s guitar hitting me in the face). We’ve gotten more conservative with our live show in the last couple of years (meaning, we have concentrated more on just playing music) , I think mainly because we didn’t want to be known as a gimmick band. But I think we are definitely all into experimentation and I hope we will continue to push ourselves to try new things.

michael: Do you ever get stuck in a rut of trying to out do your previous performances?

Al: Not really. As soon as we feel like we’ve done something as well as we’re going to do it we do something else. For instance, in the case of the aforementioned Providence show, I felt I had maimed and injured people as spectacularly as possible and that it was time to move on to new victories.

michael: To what extent, if any, are you concerned when people just don’t understand what you are doing live?

Al: Not overly. I would hope that people can sense honesty on some level and I would hope that a certain sincerity of intention comes across to people who are looking to pick up on that. For those who have no interest in honesty, well, it’s probably all for the best to alienate them.

michael: What do you consider the strengths and weaknesses of your band? What are some things you’d like to improve on in the future or do differently the next time you do an album?

Al: It’s really difficult to say exactly, because we are all pretty self-critical and could probably go on and on about the weaknesses of our band to a degree of specificity which you would either find extremely uncomfortable or extremely boring. I would say, in some broad sense, that the greatest strength and simultaneous weakness of our band is that we’re all extremely sketchy, in a way which allows us to take profound and monumental creative, financial and physical risks on behalf of the band. The lengths to which the people in this band will go is a constant source of horror and amazement to me. As far as making records, the ability to constantly reinvent ourselves is the primary strength of our band in my opinion. We make a concerted effort not repeat ourselves and to continually change and evolve as a band. It’s hard for me to say what we would do differently on the next record because we have just finished the last one. My immediate impulse is to say, “everything,” because my general reaction to finishing something is to then want to head in the opposite direction. But being too close to the finished thing I can not yet define what the opposite would be.

michael: What is the story behind the artwork for the new album?

Al: Well, the title of the album, “Anaesthetic” is intended to have a double meaning, so that it can be read as “anesthetic,” i.e. a numbing narcotic or “an aesthetic.” The idea being to convey that aesthetic choices act to narcotize audiences. The placid pink color scheme and the Pegasus drawing are supposed to convey childishness and simplicity, also a sort of fantasy escapism. The lyrics and band information are hidden in the CD and LP packaging so that at first glance there is no information, as though all content has been erased from the package. The idea is to convey what a record might look like after they start putting Prozac in school lunches and lithium in the water supply . . . just one more pleasant distraction from wars and work weeks.

michael: What goals and aspirations do you have for the band? What do you hope to achieve?

Al: I wouldn’t say that there is a grand plan for where we want to end up or what we want to be. We take things step by step, try to make a better record or tour in new and strange lands, things like that. I hope we are learning to express our politics better, be that in lyrics or artwork or in the way we run our band. Being in a band can be an incredibly educational experience, whether you’re figuring out inter-personal relationships, economics, ethics, musicianship, art… Maybe it’s the liberal arts college background speaking, but for me it’s about that learning process, not about where we end up in the final result.

michael: Was there a pivotal album you heard when growing up that made you want to be a musician or was it more of a gradual realization?

Al: For me it was less of a specific album and more of the general discovery of punk rock. It was easy to learn the bass lines to Suicidal Tendencies or Minor Threat songs, and suddenly I realized that I could actually feasibly do this thing which I found really moving and powerful. It was like somebody pointing out to you one day that you have super powers. But how I got from there to writing eight minute symphonic technical emo dark wave songs, I do not know.

michael: What is your stand on file sharing and mp3s?

Al: My personal view on the subject is that every second that you spend in front of a computer increases your risk of cancer and that just having a stereo and some vinyl LPs is a lot better for your health.

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