Peter Prescott, recently put out the plea to fund his synth-noise-skronk band Minibeast via Kickstarter, and was able to report that they met their Dec. 22 goal. They offered a number of incentives should you deign to part with some cash to keep the beast growing and growling. He’s joked that he was willing to put his soul up for sale,
You may know Prescott best from Mission of Burma. He likes to describe his role in that seminal post-punk band this way: Drummer/yeller. In his new offshoot group, Minibeast he is the conductor/jack-of-all-trades. “What I do,” Prescott says, “is organize the whole thing, occasionally play a drum kit against [drummer Rick Pelletier] and sometimes play simple stuff on guitar. Most of the time I have four different things going into one looping system.”
“At this point at my advanced age as punk rocker,” Prescott continues, “I want to do things I’d never done. I’d never put out a record [on his own – labels have released albums by Burma and his previous bands Volcano Suns and Kustomized]. I thought ‘No one may want to hear this, but I want to do it.’ I’ve never done anything based on any commercial reason anyway, but I never wanted to make something completely indulgent either.”
What is Minibeast? Well, it’s mostly instrumental, it’s not exactly mellifluous, and it started off not as the four-piece band it now is but a classic bedroom project in Prescott’s Providence flat. “I sell records on e-Bay,” Prescott says, “after moving to Providence I had time to do other things I like. My role in Burma is as flexible as a drummer gets – I write songs, I sing, I have great people to play with. But I was in other bands for 20 years” – Burma took a rather long break in the latter part of last century – “where I had a lot more leeway than that. Here, I had the time, no parameters, and I tried to wipe everything else out of my head. I got a flushed with ‘Yeah, I like this, this sounds cool.’ Every old fart says this, but when the floodgates open, the stuff comes out really organically and I hadn’t had that happen since Burma started again.”
But it really was initially, a one-man band, with no thoughts to making an album. “As selfish as a bedroom project can get!” says Prescott. But he wanted to make a different kind of noise, one connected to a punk-rock sensibility, but wouldn’t be called punk rock. “I don’t like to be pretentious or oblique, but sometimes I feel like I’ve had my fill of the ‘modern version’ of indie rock, which is a little mellower than I like, but also includes guys playing confessional songs they wrote with guitars, bass and drums. I know that sounds condescending to other people – and for young people, it’s an incredibly fresh thing and it wouldn’t take that away from them. But for me personally it’s gotten a little dry. The format is too familiar to me. One thing I was aiming for is to open music up and not worry if it had no words or there was one chant that went over and over, or a couple of words and samples. The only thing I had was: Is it getting me off? I wasn’t looking to make a record, but after a few months it started forming into something presentable as a record.”
That’s the “LookDon’tLook” disc, available as hardcopy CD, iTunes and heard on Spotify and Rdio and streamed here: https://soundcloud.com/pprescottbeast.
Now, instrumental music is always a hard sell. People do like words to hang onto. Something that drives the song. “This is not driven by words and it’s not driven by melody either,” says Prescott. “So what’s the reason to listen to it? I’ve listened [to this sort of music] for twenty years now, especially in the mid-‘90s. There’s this great kind of music that becomes a platform for your mind. It can interrupt or sit in the back like an aural environment, a fish tank you’re swimming in, but you’re not necessarily listening to. The sources are soundtrack music, some exotica and easy listening and in the biggest rock sense Kraut rock. When I started trying to translate this to a live band, it was such a turn on to stumble around in the dark with these people, trying to figure out how to make this stuff. I did organically work in a rock context. Some of it was showing them chords, but a lot was ‘Listen to it and find your own part in it.’” The band includes the aforementioned drummer Pelletier (ex-Six Finger Satellite and La Machine), bassist Alec K. Redfearn (from Alec K Redfearn and the Eyesores) and guitarist Gillian Chadwick.
Redfearn, says Prescott, often pumps out “a real low end throb, and she plays a little more delicately. It moves on two levels, a loose live rock band moving underneath and the looped stuff that goes in and out of the rhythms on top. Occasionally they mesh and other times they free float. I record sound bites and samples, a somewhat like what David Byrne and Brian Eno did with ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Most of the songs can two to ten minutes; there’s freedom to improvise. The verse chorus verse guitar break verse chorus end of song thing has been done to death 50 million times. All I wanted to do is take a break from that.”
And the audience for this kind of sonic attack? “I don’t know,” Prescott says, with a laugh. “There is a branch of indie and electronic rock that is recognizably similar to this. You just don’t see it played live a lot. I want it to be entertaining. I don’t want to bore anyone. It has a grooviness to it; you can move around dance or shake your body to it. And parts are funny.”
Where does Minibeast fit on the spectrum of soothing/disturbing?
“In the middle. A lot of people do extreme noisy versions of this and others who do cocktail jazz versions of this. Neither thing is this. This exists somewhere in the middle. It does have a rock edge, more live than the recording. It’s groovy, transient and repetitious in the way sampled music.”
Wanna see the ‘beast live? They’re at Wayne Valdez’s Store 54, 16 Harvard Ave. in Allston Saturday January 16. https://www.facebook.com/Store-54-189007754475365/