Montreal’s Doldrums, the musical project of Airick Woodhead, isn’t the easiest entity to categorize. There’s a stripped-down aesthetic at work, but a number of the songs on their latest album The Air Conditioned Nightmare are magnificently catchy. That the album shares a title with a Henry Miller book is also an indication of Woodhead’s fondness for books. Literary allusions can be found throughout the new album, and I checked in with Woodhead via email to learn more about the process of making the album, his current reading preferences, and more.
Your new album takes its title from a collection of Henry Miller essays. What first drew you to Miller’s writing, and what appealed to you about using this title for this album?
It feels appropriate for a sample-based album to sample the title from something… I put “The Air Conditioned Nightmare” in the lyrics to the song “Blow Away,” which kind of talks about the threshold between mundanity and insanity, not knowing if you are normal or crazy. The Air Conditioned Nightmare is a road trip album for driving around fantasia, and each song sounds like a different place on the map.
There’s also a Richard Brautigan homage later in the album, with a short piece titled “iDeath.” To what extent does literature act as a muse for you?
I think my reasons for wanting to call the song iDeath are pretty obvious. 🙂 In Watermelon Sugar creates such a self-sustaining fantasy, its own laws. The whole idea for Doldrums came about when I re-read Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. Other big influences have been Hakim Bey’s T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, [and] Mackenzie Wark’s A Hacker Manifesto. The Genesis P-Orridge thing that was re-issued recently was pretty inspiring.
You’ve been playing music for almost half your life now; what helps keep it fresh for you?
New drum machine! And seeing new bands. My favorite new bands are RatKing and She-Devils. Both breaking through with sample-based music that is so much about personality.
The Air Conditioned Nightmare features a number of very up-tempo, catchy songs; when writing, do you generally begin with the rhythm or the melody?
It usually starts with a sample jam. I use shitty DJ gear to collage stuff together. It’s feels more fun and alive than doing it on the computer.
What have you been reading recently?
I’ve been reading this book on self-hypnosis – haha – but I think it’s most BS. Not that there aren’t real hypnotists out there, I absolutely believe in it. But this book seems kinda bogus. I mostly got it for its cover.
In a couple of interviews you did around the time of Lesser Evil, the topic of individualism came up a few times. How have the last few years shaped your take on individualism and community?
People are always asking me about the scene in Montreal. I’ve been living here for about 4 years jamming in the same neighbourhood and basically hanging out with the same people. There is a party scene that has had its peaks and dips and is easy to get lost in. Lots of people come and go, but it’s not what you get, it’s what you hang onto. I love it here. There is a beautiful stillness.
Image: Jeremy Dabrowski