Far left: John Famiglietti. Photo by Jesse Lirola
A West Coast parallel to Brooklyn’s Black Dice, HEALTH, for which John Famiglietti makes bass faces, are one of the few noise bands with an ecstatic dance world following, sporting a legendary Crystal Castles’ remix, the score for the Max Payne video game and a perverse collaboration with Tim & Eric’s Eric Wareheim on their “We are Water” video.
Get a prescription at the latest edition of Certain People at Berghain on Wed, June 5, where they’ll be joined by Iberia and Glass Animals.
Do you actually play Max Payne? Is it more fun to play or to score?
Yeah, I am now. When we got the job, I went and borrowed a PlayStation 2 and I beat them all. As for the score, no, it wasn’t fun at all. But it was interesting and cool to go through the process. With a video game, unlike an album, if you make the music, put it in the game and it sucks, you know immediately. In contrast, we were working on the new album before we started Max Payne, so the album has now been spread out over this extremely long period of time when we’ve had all these instances where we are now working on songs since 2010. This record, God willing, will come out later this year; then we can go back to being a regular band again.
You’ve referred to the new tracks as “structurally recognizable”.
I don’t know. Yeah, It is a lot easier to write songs that way – actually A LOT easier. Especially with our early stuff, we would go through a lot of crazy pains of putting all of it in a row, and then people would say, “Oh you guys need more structure”. But it’s, like, “Structure? We work this out on paper.” But then, of course, with the newer stuff it’s like “Oh, it so structured now” and then you think “Oh, you like it better”.
It’s no mystery – people like music that is enjoyable to listen to. You know, one thing that we found is that when we were doing a poppy track, the guys who would be really into abrasive bizarre, obtuse music would be, like, “I really like that one,” and then you’re like, “Well, if that guy says so, I think everybody thinks so.”
Do you still have room to improvise live?
There are maybe one or two moments where you could improvise, but it’s pretty much the same thing every time. With a lot of the earlier songs, people can’t tell, so there are certain elements that we always have in our set that we've done almost the same way for years in a row and no one’s noticed. It works.
What’s the dynamic in the band? Do you make decisions all together?
There are members who bring up ideas more often, but we don’t have a traditional leader, which is why I think the band is not as efficient as other bands that have one guy in charge. No one really has any authority over anyone else. But I don’t really know; I haven’t been in any other band.
You record all of your albums in L.A. Would you ever consider recording in a different city? Like Berlin?
I don’t know, I think the same thing happens in Berlin that happens in L.A. You just go out and have too much fun. Or you procrastinate. Especially Berlin, you think, “I’ll be so inspired by the culture,” and then you get there and just party all the time and then you’re not really thinking professionally. And that’s also an issue now in L.A., actually. It’s the weirdest thing since I’ve moved here: it’s like you end up doing stuff that at one point I would only associate with a city like Berlin, and you go out with someone and then all of a sudden you’re four days out of working on your music.
The “We are Water” video is so great.
Eric Wareheim is into the idea of doing another video for us, but I think he feels like he can’t top that one.
Excited to play Berghain?
That’s my favorite thing to do when I go to Berlin. We have a lot of sub-bass, so we actually do well playing on club-type systems. I mean, it’s actually a big motivator for myself in wanting to move to Berlin.
You would move to Berlin for Berghain?
Yeah, and it’s also comfortable for an American because it’s kind of shitty. Like, you know, Europe it’s so beautiful and picturesque, but then you get to Berlin and it’s like, “Oh this fucking sucks, it’s totally like where I live”.
Certain People #13: HEALTH w/Glass Animals and IBERIA | Wed, June 5 | 22:00 | Berghain | Rüdersdorferstr 70 | Friedrichshain | S-Bhf Ostbahnhof
For a chance to win one of two pairs of tickets, email HEALTH and your full name to email@example.com by Tue, June 4 at 12:00.*