By Cassilou Landra for Weird Canada:
Part one of a four-part series originally released in 2006, Fluorescent Friends and Cool Fest founder Blake Hargreaves’ Gitmo / Camp X-Ray initially comes off as a sensory overblown interrogation chamber of heavy smog and venomous gases. Its title suggests a politically-charged affair, and coupled with the music it’s easy to boil it down as a linear statement of political intention, but to do this would ignore its rumbling pleasures and deeply humanizing distortion.
As was pointed out by Hargreaves in an interview in AA Records Magazine #2, a hand-made flexi-disc lathe and zine released by artist Alivia Zivich and Nate Young (Wolf Eyes) of Aryan Asshole Records in 2007, “…history seems more like a tragedy, where people’s intentions and capabilities and the real good and bad consequences of their interactions are hard to see, especially when they fight… and no one ever really wins the way they hoped to. I guess I could call it a comedy too, but I don’t find it easy to be like that with the occurrences of complete fucking brutality in this hilarious comedy of humanity.”
This ‘comedy of humanity’ is Gitmo / Camp X-Ray’s modus operandi, with the abrasive, machinistic textures bellowing like a hearty laugh; a product of a human being. In exploring the edges between industrial pomp, pop swagger, and immersive noise, the engine buzz of such tracks as “You can pray once you cooperate 1” and “Brothers in Cuba” seems less to do with political intent and more as “a serenade to the observers and actors the world over who are actually making a real effort to understand and meet the challenges posed by situations like Gitmo, and of course to the people who find themselves there.”
Interview in AA Records Magazine #2
Prompted by questions from Alivia Zivich:
What's the relationship between that release and the Interrogation Log booklet on Fluorescent Friends?
Do you consider it a response to the events documented in the interrogation log? Also, do you consider it a political act?
Finally, why an image of Canadian money (with the queen of England) put in conjunction with the nicknames of an American military installation?
The logbook came out last summer, and the tape around the new year. I try to sell them together sometimes, but it's not essential to have both to get into either. I don't remember if I made the music before or after I first read the log. As the whole assembly of the tape took place it was just obvious that it was a really good fit. But I wasn't thinking about the logbook specifically while I made the music, so maybe not a response, maybe a pair of publications that are about the same thing.
I definitely don't consider it a political act, I'm not trying to do anything political with this tape. The tape is part of a series called 'Your Dollar is Your Vote'... this was originally the title of a pamphlet for kids written in 2003 explaining that every time you spend a dollar nowadays you're empowering someone as a vote can. I chose not to publish the pamphlet because I wasn't ready to suit up for that kind of interaction with the public at that time... so although the thought started out as a sort of political thing, I decided instead to make it an artistic act, it's entertainment for people who might want to think about Gitmo. I encourage everyone to git mo' Gitmo. As in the tape.
As for the combination of countries and the nickname in this thing, I sort of 'get' Britain, being the son of a man who experienced WWII bombings, or the typical idea of Britain, and the world in the time of British supremacy ... and I'm an outsider from America but living in Canada, and America has been our number one customer, and our opponent and ally in wars, so I feel a sort of sibling relationship with the idea of America, and a privileged vantage point to observe the American moment, too.
In my view the questions of a place like Gitmo are really British questions; America's history is of more civil questions like dealing with natives and co-existing with slave owners or former slaves, problems between citizens. So it made sense when I tied them together in this way, because it sort of fleshes out my sense of scale when I look at Gitmo, a moment in the story of British and American supremacy where one is experiencing something akin to what the other has dealt with many times, and is writing another chapter as it deals with it.
Gitmo is the nickname and Camp X-Ray is an official designation. These two names do a good job of representing the two points of view I get on the prison: the sort of knee-jerk reaction I feel when I think about about the place, and the fact it represents America or the West to a lot of people, compared to the X-Ray views I start to get when I dig a little deeper.
It's useful to be reminded that history is usually not a melodrama, where the richest, baddest or meanest try to subjugate the meek and usually win, or simply where bad guys attack good guys; the imagery I chose for Gitmo, the Queen, and money, reminds me that history seems more like a tragedy, where people's intentions and capabilities and the real good and bad consequences of their interactions are hard to see, especially when they fight, and others often fight under the banner of the opposite side for the same ends, and everyone ends up fighting for something else inadvertently, and no one ever really wins the way they hoped to. I guess I could call it a comedy too, but I don't find it easy to be like that with the occurrences of complete fucking brutality in this hilarious comedy of humanity.
Anyway taking it upon ourselves to make our own laws as we go instead of letting gods and their proxies decide poses huge challenges to people's intellect in deciding how to deal humanely with what confronts us, like dealing with the detainees at Gitmo without condescending to or patronizing them, or avoiding making victims out of us and them with our response to the situation. This album could be considered a serenade to the observers and actors the world over who are actually making a real effort to understand and meet the challenges posed by situations like Gitmo, and of course to the people who find themselves there.
released January 1, 2007
all rights reserved