Interview: Kyp Malone of Rain Machine/TV On The Radio
Breasts, Religion & Polygamy
Kyp Malone is probably better known for his role as one third of Brooklyn indie experimentalists TV On The Radio. Having announced this September that his group will be going on a one year hiatus, Malone has found plenty to occupy his time, both with avant-garde rockers Iran and more recently with his new solo project, Rain Machine.
Rivmixx: What’s the relevance of the ambiguous Rain Machine moniker?
Kyp Malone: “There are connections to be made yet I also want it to remain ambiguous, and even arbitrary. I feel like a lot of band’s names, take Led Zeppelin as an example, feel kind of arbitrary, over the course of my lifetime, hearing their music I now have an association. It means something to me, but I’m sure it’s not the same thing it meant to them.”
R: What made you want to make and tour this record?
KM: “I love going to the studio, it’s one of my favourite things in the world. But I was not really hell bent on turning these songs and performances into a record, but my friend Ian Brennan – who was a stranger to me at the time – saw me play a show in L.A. and contacted me and asked me if he could put me in the studio.”
R: Did you always intend to record a full-length?
KM: “I’ve been listening to albums since I was little, through my parents and my older brother. When I started buying music, when I was pre-teen, buying albums on cassette and listening to them in their entirety. Even if I was listening to Top 40 radio and I heard something I liked, I would rush out and try to find the album. There are definitely markets that tend towards the single, but I hear collections in my mind, that’s what I was raised listening to.”
“The only time I have felt connected to what I believe is divine, or the most consistently that I have felt connected to “the divine”, is in music.”
R: You recorded this album out of New York. Do you feel that location played big part in defining Rain Machine’s sound?
KM: “Only a tiny bit, I feel that all inspiration is available if you can find a place quiet enough to hear it. Three tracks did get recorded in New York, but it was important for me to delineate it from TV On The Radio and that structure.”
R: ‘Rain Machine’ feels quite spiritual – the artwork, with its sense of balance, and some of the songs feel like some kind of agnostic prayer – was that intentional?
KM: “It’s hard to talk without cheapening it, but I was raised in a very conservative pocket of Christianity. I’m not connected to that life anymore – only by some small shred of family – but the older I got inside of that, the feeling I was supposed to get from prayer and the study of scripture… I didn’t feel it. I felt more like something was wrong with me or that it wasn’t working, but I definitely felt it in music. For me it is… I don’t wanna say spiritual practice, because that implies something that I’m not doing, but the only time I have felt connected to what I believe is divine, or the most consistently that I have felt connected to “the divine”, is in music.”
R: Do you think that that element is more apparent because this is a personal project, rather than a group one?
KM: “Maybe, but I hear what I think of as spirituality in the first TV On The Radio EPs that I didn’t play on. I feel it on a lot of music that I think is really good music.
“Sometimes it requires more space to actually hear certain things. One of my early complaints musically with TV On The Radio – which I was completely a part of – was “always more”. Adding layer, after layer, after layer. Things are there, but they start to get lost. I think we are getting better at finding a balance for that. I like there to be space.”
R: The Rain Machine artwork is described as “provocative” on the Anti- website. Rivmixx thinks it’s actually quite a peaceful image…
KM: “Yeah, I like the fantastic. I like art nouveau artists – like Mucha – it’s some of the most inspiring to me because it’s fantastic and mythic and beautiful and I also find that I don’t see much reflection of my personhood in it, because it’s Eurocentric.
“Breasts are supposed to be “provocative” in America, which is fucking absurd. You could paint a nuclear mushroom cloud on the cover and they’d probably say nihilistic, but not provocative.”
“You could say the same for American fantastic output, Disney studios, for example, really shaped my aesthetic as a child. I wanted to draw like that, but I didn’t see myself in it because I’m not a sympathising, white supremacist company. Anything that was going to represent me was going to be degrading or dismissive.
“I don’t really feel like it’s provocative. It’s funny, they might say that because they’re American – and I’m American too – but breasts are supposed to be “provocative” in America, which is fucking absurd. You could paint a nuclear mushroom cloud on the cover and they’d probably say nihilistic, but not provocative.”
R: Do you think it’s important to offer your own artwork?
KM: “It’s something I wanted to do, but I feel like part of the reason I buy records and that I visit a record store is because I want the whole thing. People want that less and less you know, but presentation is important, I think.
“It’s funny, I ran into my friend Arrington [De Dionyso of the band Old Time Relijun] and he does all his own artwork. He handed me his new record and our artwork is strangely similar. It’s a fairly psychedelic happenstance. It’s two naked females with wings and holding a severed lion’s head and there’s a rainbow arching out of their crowns over the whole thing… It’s funny.”
“It’s just evident to me that creativity – at least musically for me and how I work – always benefits from polygamy.”
R: You’ve said before that you have to question the honesty of repeat performances. Is that part of the reason that you maintain so many different projects? To stop “the facade” growing too thick?
KM: “I guess in a lot of ways it’s easier to keep it… uh… [puts on self-reproaching voice] “keep it real”. I don’t wanna say that. But the many motivation for that is that I just want as many creative relationships as possible. It’s just evident to me that creativity – at least musically for me and how I work – always benefits from polygamy. As many relationships as you have time to cultivate, the music always benefits from that.”
R: The Rain Machine tour kicked off on Monday (September 21), are you looking forward to that? What kind of preparations have you been making?
KM: “I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve been rehearsing with a band of four friends to work on some of the songs – voice and guitar wasn’t going to do them justice. So I’ve been spending some time just trying to figure stuff out, but it’s in the same vein and aesthetic as the record.”
R: Is there any chance of some UK dates?
KM: “I would like to. If it’s possible and if there’s interest to support it then I’d like to get over there with the band in the late winter and early spring.”
Written for Rivmixx