It is often said that New Orleans has its own influential beat, a citywide groove, a rhythm that bridges wards, a streetcar line-crossed chord progression of world music. If that is true, then Metronome The City was influenced by our metropolis’ soundtrack while they were on a hypersonic scavenger hunt: jumping fences, cutting through parking garages, stealing bikes, doubling back, and using warp tunnels. From their debut album Electric Elements Exposed (2006) to their latest release Insomnia (2015), they have intertwined the acts of chase and retreat into instrumental voyages that may have trace elements of area code 504, but are definitely dusted with cosmic debris and caked with interdimensional shrapnel.
Patrick Condon (Guitar), William Gilbert (Drums), Mark Laporte (Keyboard), and Brad Theard (Bass) have been playing together as MTC since 2006, but an almost lifelong cork-board yarn-line can link them as co-conspirators as far back as 1984. I caught up with the band in their hideout, and we discussed one-show tours with a Jupiter-8, the contractual agreements that come along with emotional attachments to music, and the art of making spontaneous randomness worth a fuck.
How long has Metronome The City been around?
Brad Theard: Since 1996, and we are currently on a 5 to 6 year record cycle. William Gilbert: The only real pressure we have is that if we go beyond that timeframe we feel like slackers.
The first time I saw the band you were playing a party at Mark’s parents’ house.
Mark Laporte: That was Brad, Pat, and Will. That was in 1995.
BT: That was when we were Fickle Leash. Second Hand did an impromptu set, too. I remember, you [Anton] jumped into the pool.
ML: This guy with the memory. Patrick Condon: He can tell you what you were wearing at our show at Muddy Waters.
WG: The stage was between the La-Z- Boy and the coffee table. It was packed. BT: No. I remember he was wearing a blue hat and jumped into the pool. Were you?
I do remember jumping into the pool, and I remember you played a Star Wars song.
WG: That was “Jedi Groove.” That shit is platinum right now.
PC: I think that is what got me the position in the band. I was given a couple of songs to write the lyrics to and wrote a Star Wars song. I brought that song back and they were like— WG: “You did it! You did it!”
How did playing at a John Zorn-curated showcase in New York come about in ‘06?
WG: I was in New York with Patrick, and he said if you have time, you should go see a show at The Stone, John Zorn’s club. So I went to see him perform, and after the show I went up to him and said, “Great show. You have been an inspiration to our band, and we just cut our first album [Electric Elements Exposed], and I just want to pass it to you in case you wanted to see how you influence people.” He was super sweet and very nice about the whole interaction, and the very next day he emailed us.
BT: In haiku, we got an invite to play his New Rock Complexity Showcase, called Full Force.
Who else was on the lineup?
WG: Behold the Arctopus, Kayo Dot. PC: Electric Company.
ML: A lot of bands on Tzadik [Zorn’s label].
WG: The show was at a club called Tonic. Masada would play there all the time.
Mark, had you just become a member?
ML: I’m not on that record, but I did keyboard and samples for the live shows. BT: After we recorded it, we realized there were so many samples and parts. We needed him.
ML: We brought the [Roland] Jupiter-8.
WG: We did?
BT: Remember, we got bitched at by people in the audience for touring with it without a case? “It’s too cool and too old.” It’s huge. A behemoth.
PC: Yeah, but that’s what we used on the album. So we were bringing it.
BT: We had schematics for packing the car. We had Pathfinder packing practice the day before we left.
WG: Honestly man, we didn’t have a manager or anything, so no one said, “Hey, you might want to do a couple of shows on the way there or on the way back. What are you going to do, drive to New York and back for one show?” “Fuck yeah, we’re doing that, man.”
That was a pretty big deal for the band, right?
WG: Yeah. John Zorn and Mr. Bungle were big influences.
BT: We were definitely inspired by Zorn early on.
WG: It was reset button stuff for me at the time. Gateway music.
BT: Not only did we like those bands, but they turned us on to so many other types of music. “Devo isn’t as weird as I thought.”
Like albums you are not allowed to play in the car if you’re with the wife? For me it’s any Boredoms record.
BT: Right, I tried to let Michelle listen to Torture Garden the other day. That was interesting.
WG: Honestly, when you bought something like Naked City or Weird Little Boy or any obscure record, there was an inherent attachment to it because Tower only had one, or it took you forever to find it.
BT: And your world was so small. You actually had to call a WTUL DJ to find out what something was or be lucky enough to walk into a record store when something different was playing. That was special. Now on Amazon you know how many people bought it, what their opinion is, and it tick, tick, ticks and generates other bands you might like. I liked buying off of “thank yous” in liner notes. That is how I know about Fungo Mungo. Their cassette was a miss and completely terrible, but I enjoyed the dig.
Will, is that why you made me sign that buyer/ lessee contract when I bought the Jane’s Addiction double vinyl Live from the Brixton Academy 1993 bootleg from you in high school? It is a Berry Gordy type deal for sure.
BT: [laughs] You still have that record?
WG: Yeah, he still has it. He texted me a photo of it.
BT: That is the type of shit Will does.
WG: I need to find the contract. It says, “I, Anton Falcone, will agree to give Lawrence William Gilbert, Jr. his Jane’s Addiction import double fucking vinyl directly back to him for free, not if, but when Perry Farrell fucking dies.”
I know he was thinking, “I’m gonna get this shit back before we graduate because Perry is on his way out.”
WG: It was going to be the easiest $50 I had ever made. At the time, if you heard Farrell talk, he was about to pop a blood vessel. “I’m on acid, and I’m not throwing shoes at you, man.”
BT: Will would get bootlegs and wouldn’t tell you where he got them. “Will, what album is this?” “It’s not an album; it’s a bootleg, dude. It is a live show, and I can’t tell you where I got it.” He had a Porno For Pyros Castaic Lake Amphitheater cassette before the first album came out. “Dude, you gotta listen to this, it’s Perry Farrell’s new band.” We listened to it in Mark’s dad’s car, and you can hear people in the audience talking because it was recorded on a dictaphone from the crowd.
WG: “You know how Bobby Brown has his dancing? Well, Perry has his!” It was awesome: audience interludes and banter from the band were the main reason I bought those bootlegs.
BT: Then he snuck out to a record convention or something on a Saturday. He would never tell you where he was and came back with it on CD. He still wouldn’t tell me where he is getting this shit, and I was like, “Dude, you have two copies, and I don’t have access to any of them because you won’t tell me. Can I buy the tape from you?” He said, “25 bucks.” “Well, how much did it cost you?” He says, “10 bucks, but there is a finder’s fee.” I bought it and still have it.
WG: In my defense, other than being a complete asshole, I gave him the gift of emotional attachment to music. He had to work for it, right? That is something Spotify will never be able to provide. That tape is going to be willed to his grandkids.
Will showed me the Jane’s Addiction record, but he wouldn’t even let me listen to it.
BT: He is like that! There was one where they covered a Bauhaus song, and he bought a different version of the same show, but it had four more tracks on it, and he wouldn’t let me have or buy the one with less tracks.
I’m screwed because Will has the only copy of the contract. So, if he wants it bad enough, I know he can make it appear.
BT: Fuck no, man. Handwriting analysis is easy. There are experts.
WG: Brad, that record is mine. He can’t even remember if he was wearing a blue hat at Mark’s party! I honestly didn’t want to sell it. So I thought to myself, “Let me think of the most ridiculous conditions that nobody in their right fucking mind would buy this thing under.” And he was like, “Yeah, sure no problem.”
When did you decide to cover the music from the 720° video game and put it out?
PC: You have to go way back for this one.
WG: It started with my OCD compulsion to play the 720° video game at Lakeside mall in 1986. I would watch older kids play it and really try to understand it. Study it. Learn it.
ML: You bought one!
WG: Yeah, around 2000 I was at work and Brad called, and we were shooting the shit, and he asked if I knew what eBay was. I said, “Nope.” He said, “You’re kidding me, right?” I said, “No, what is it?” “Imagine a place where you can buy anything you can think of that you could possibly want.” I said, “Bullshit,” typed “720° Coin-op Arcade” into the search and hit enter. I called Brad back and said, “You are right about the eBay thing. By the way, do you want to drive to Virginia to pick up a 720° coin-op with me?”
BT: We get there, and it doesn’t really fit in his car.
WG: I had a CRV and the seats fold down, we will be fine. We get there and the dude was like, “Where is your flatbed?”
BT: I had to drive the whole way back, and Will had to sit in the passenger seat Indian style.
The coin operated game had the crazy 360 degree roller joystick, right?
WG: Yeah, man. The game was giant. It had a higher resolution larger screen, and it had a giant boombox on the top cabinet. I did research, man. It was the first stereo sound video game ever created. It had a 12 song soundtrack. They released 7”s of the music to promote the game in ‘86.
BT: I had a copy of the 7” because my mom works for a local video game trade magazine.
WG: It is one of those flexi discs. When he gave that to me, it was the most cherished record ever. I could just listen to the music and not be distracted by the visuals.
BT: You can hear all the tracks without playing through the levels.
WG: The high score song, which is a gem, could be heard without the fight. I was obsessed. I recorded my own 4-track bullshit version of it on my own.
PC: That version wasn’t harmonically perfect, but it was rhythmically there.
BT: It is similar to Will’s version of The Price Is Right theme song on clarinet.
WG: It was a Ferris Buller “never had a lesson” version. I proved I couldn’t do it alone, so I had to convince the band to do a recording of it to get it right. I contacted Earl Vickers, the guy who wrote the music, and asked him for a cleaner version of the music and told him we wanted to record it.
BT: And ask his blessing to do the record. WG: He was excited about it. He told me that when he wrote the music with his partner, Hal Canon, they were listening to shitloads of Suicidal Tendencies and that they wanted to emulate that in 8-bit music.
BT: It was recorded slower and sped up for the actual game. It was hard pan left and right, so we could hear a lot more on the mp3s he sent.
WG: We were able to completely dissect it to the 32nd note.
ML: No one can find Hal Canon. He disappeared.
WG: He has been missing since 1987 when he left Atari. So, we didn’t want to charge for the record without his approval, so we gave them away.
Were you upset you couldn’t sell them?
WG: No. It was a learning experience, like a homework assignment. We figured out how to use the keyboards that we had and how to record them.
ML: I think our sound started to morph after that.
WG: We were able to apply what we learned on 720° to Object To Be Destroyed . For OTBD we recorded it ourselves to make our own demo of it. Then we went to the Living Room Recording Studio and said, “This is what we want to record.”
There are some very intricate changes and signatures in your sound. How does that all come together?
BT: We tend to jam for a few months alone and bring recordings into practice. Then we build off of that. That would get really intense, especially trying to reproduce it live. With this record we were looking for really interesting grooves. We didn’t really talk about it. It just went that way, a little more relaxed. Will brings in jam 1 and 2, everyone picks out one they like and works on it alone. In the end they just come together.
WG: The track “Apophenia” is a word we found, and it means trying to find meaningful patterns in randomness. That is kind of how we write. We give each other copies of personal abstract jams, and we toil over them looking for structure and use the spontaneity.
The archiving or stockpiling is almost like having a MTC sample bank. There must be a lot of music that you can pull from.
WG: There are CDs full of improvised parts and beats. I’ve become humbled in a way. For example, at this last show Pat said, “Hey, man. You know that song that you keep spicing up with different beats and stuff ? It really works better when you just do it the way it came out on the jam.” That is the way it is officially on the album. I practiced it until it was just like the jam on the CD that Pat wrote the guitar to, then we recorded it for the album. Well, we have been practicing for months preparing to do shows to promote Insomnia, and I got comfortable. “I got this mutha fucka”, changing it here, doing this over here. And the beauty of it is that the perfect way to play the song is built off of a spontaneous moment. It is difficult because we have to learn things that we did once. There is nothing I can do to make the song better than the original storm of spontaneity. You think about it too much, and you ruin it.
BT: One of my favorite songs we do is based off of a guitar part Pat did 10 years ago, and he doesn’t do one line twice. So you have to be careful what you jam on because if we bring up playing “Parachute Deployment”—
PC: NO. Son of a bitch. I can’t.
BT: He has learned that song so many times. If someone likes it, it will become dogma.
PC: I like our process because we use epiphanic moments. We get to decide that the next nine minutes mean something, and we are going to play them over and over. If you want to do something perfectly you have to do it 99 times, and on your 100th attempt it will already be there.
BT: A long time ago my music teacher told me, “Once you are tired of playing a song, you are ready to perform it for an audience.”
Metronome The City will have an in- store album release show for Insomnia at Louisiana Music Factory on January 10th at 4 p.m. and a record release party at Siberia on January 23rd with BLCKBLT and Dead Marshes. For more information visit metronomethecity.com