By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
His first band was Debt of Nature, "a little industrial Hanson," he says. "I was 14, and it’d be just me and my brother [Josh, later of the Sugarplastic] and friends, and we’d play at places like the Cash Club on Cahuenga, which was an all-ages theater-type place, and we’d fill it with garbage bags and just whip through them with drumsticks — minimal stuff. We actually got to do some bigger shows just from me being pushy, with Wall of Voodoo."
At age 21, Laner was invited to play drums with the tribal dronemonsters Savage Republic. "They were part of a whole group of amazing bands at that time — Monitor, Bpeople — and they were going to Europe, so I joined and basically pushed them around. I was a little fascist in that band." He spent a year touring Europe and the USA, paying his rock dues, sleeping on floors, etc. A natural multi- instrumentalist, Laner was nevertheless merely the drummer in Savage Republic. "I still love playing drums. But unfortunately it’s hard to be a control freak and a drummer in a band at the same time."
Simultaneously, Laner formed Steaming Coils with lyrical improviser David Chrisman, and in the early ’90s his big major-label-type rock group Medicine emerged from the throes of nascence. This was Laner’s attempt to meet pop music with noise. "Amazingly enough," he says, "we got signed as part of the ‘alternative’ boom. That was a period when Nirvana was just starting to break, and the labels were quite liberal." Medicine went with Creation Records in England, where they toured and got a lot of good and bad press; the band inked with American Records stateside.
I remark crassly that one couldn’t read a review of Medicine without seeing a reference to the English pop-noise ensemble My Bloody Valentine. "They were definitely a big influence," says Laner. "In the early ’90s, their album Isn’t AnythingI thought was great. It had the Beatlesque sort of pop stuff that I love mixed with a real sonic sensibility. I always heard H√ľsker D√ľ and Sonic Youth described as noise-rock, and I was like, ‘Well, where is the noise, exactly?’"
Glenn Branca once said that music should have a visceral impact, but that that didn’t require dancing as a result. And frankly, it’d be difficult to shiver one’s boo-tay to much of Laner’s material. It’s body stuff, but he wants us to hear some radical tones.
"I go to extremes in the upper registers that most people would find distasteful to do," he says. "It’s an anathema to what most people consider a pleasurable listening experience. There’re ways of getting to those upper frequencies without it being painful, but it’s always gonna have a physical effect, probably as strong as a sub-bass thing. High frequency is an interesting thing; I hear it in a lot of my favorite 20th-century music. Xenakis is way the hell up in that upper range; a lot of Alvin Lucier’s stuff occupies that range too."
Laner can’t make up his mind if he’s a catchy tunesmith or a pointyhead avant-gardian; he also doesn’t feel like he has to. "Lately for me it’s been about either writing a pop song or just experimenting with sound, and experimenting with sound has been winning out. There’s some scary songs waiting, though."
There’s a lot of overlap on Lingus.
"That album might be a kind of singular event," he says, "’cause I’m not sure if I’m moving toward integrating them anymore. I seem to be moving in the opposite direction, of separating them massively. I see the next album as being a lot of piano and strings.
"Eno said something so right, that the most effective artist in today’s climate is the curator. I make the stuff, but I think that I curate it as well. I’m trying to make so much music that I can’t even remember what I did five days ago. If I can go back and sort of cruelly curate a record out of all that . . ."