“When a surrealist paints a clock, it looks like a clock, but it is portrayed in a context that makes it different. I know Dali’s famous clocks, melting and drooping over branches etc. So while we still make music (even pop music at times) we mess with the context, change a few basic concepts about music to make it almost something else. Dali was a genius, and maybe we aren’t operating with his ingenuity and fantastic mind, but we are adopting those ideas.”
Danl from Cult of The Hidden Nerve walks in Dali’s fish shoes, creating surreal audiovisual art. With a view to the weird and one foot in the strange pool, COTHN seek a new plane of music on which to build towering edifices of sound, their full-time VJ adding visible light to the spectrum of electromagnetic interference pouring from the stage.
“There are heaps of bands that stay in the surreal, it’s not a new idea at all. Its a way to create a big space in a listeners mind, kind of like a screen, and then using music to fill it with ideas, colours shapes etc. It’s perfect when combined with visual arts, which is why we have a full time visuals guy in the band.”
Cult of The Hidden Nerve’s music is replete with imagery. My nerves are currently buzzing with the sounds of the new album, so I may be in an unfit state to judge, but Danl’s face is a slab of granite on which is carved a set of features with the power to melt time. His mind too is filled with imagery, like a kaleidoscope – he describes his music with a barrage of metaphors:
“Beyond sex in a bath tub filled with jelly, beyond petty churchgoers babbling on the floor in ridiculous fits, beyond the feeling after eight terrorists have emptied their assault rifles at you and missed completely, beyond winning a toy at a carnival stall that’s actually worth more than what you paid to play. Yeah, it’s pretty good. If you can, imagine the poor musicians I have had to flog relentlessly in order to urge them to learn all their parts. It’s good fun to play, but it’s been a lot of work too. It’s not heavy, it’s intense, but at the same time, I don’t think people will keel over afterwards from brain strain. This is, essentially, music, it’s just got a lot of pokey prods outside of the square, like a series of quite pleasant experiments on lab animals.”
Animal cruelty notwithstanding, COTHN are hard at work in their musical laboratory – which is located wherever they happen to be performing. Harnessing the power of technology they set off down an untrodden path in the sonic gardens. “Its weird, that with all the beneficial abilities of music technologies and software, ‘electronic music’ is associated with so much simple and repetitive music. When I start composing in the electronic medium, the thing that tickles me so much is the freedom. Any sound, any rhythm, anything you want the speakers to do, you can make it happen.”
COTHN use this freedom to develop deeply textured music that seems otherworldly to our mortal ears. Listening to the album should arouse the question: How can they keep track of all this during a live show?
“I wrote it, so that helps,” says Danl. “I study music technologies which helps too. Matthew Hunter completed 5 years of music study at the Adelaide Conservatorium in piano and composition. He helps with scores, new parts, and can play anything. Since playing with us he has developed incredible mind reading powers, which makes jamming a snap. Erica Graf is an over-achieving student in guitar at the same institution and can also play anything. Since playing with us, she has developed the ability to manifest multiple ethereal limbs, which makes for pretty killer solos. Kane Allan is a well established VJ who has worked with many musicians and art projects. He has a baby’s head protruding from his stomach, just like in Total Recall. So really, I have been graced with an elite team to help me realise this all live, and often chat with God on the subject.”
COTHN is an old project, with roots in the last years of the previous millennium, so the group has experience, but they have only released one album, which Danl calls a concept album. This was released in 2008 but produced from 1999-2002. “Since then music has leaked out in between working, studying music technology at uni, and the other bands I’m involved in. I would have released the new generation (2006 onwards) but now it’s becoming a live show, I am keen to wait, and re-record it with the live musicians (who are also responsible for some creative input too). It’s become my personal saga. The guys are keen to keep developing material too, so who knows where this will all end.”
The end is a long way off, so make sure your fandom has a good beginning.