LINER NOTES: Drainolith’s Alexander Moskos gives a track-by-track breakdown of Hysteria

The prolific writer/musician tells us how the Hell's Angels, Beastie Boys and "tragic Montreal" inspired his new album.

- May 29, 2015

Though the music of Montreal’s Drainolith has evolved and mutated over the years, it’s always been sewn together by the singularly fried sounds and visions of Alexander Moskos.

The former guitarist of AIDS Wolf and member of subterranean superband Dan’l Boone has grinded hardest with his solo project, cranking out a merch table bonanza of releases for labels like NNA Records & Tapes, Spectrum Spools, and Psychic Handshake.

His latest full-length Hysteria (with a title nodding to Def Leppard much like his 2012 LP Fighting paid subliminal tribute to Thin Lizzy) sees Moksos firing on all cylinders, fleshing out the soundworlds he’s explored in the past to create a new strain of avant-rock that sounds like no one else on the globe. Damaged blues riffs, spasms of electronics, and percussive punctuations fuel the belt-drive as his mesmeric monotone vocals narrate a head trip to thee outernet. The album’s collaborators include Neil Hagerty of Royal Trux and Nate Young of Wolf Eyes (both on board the bad ship Dan’l Boone as well), but Hysteria is pure, uncut Draino.

With a novel set for release in the near future and examples of his vividly free-flowing writing hidden in plain view online there’s no doubt that Moskos has a way with words. The lyrics of Hysteria weave strange tales of the Quebec biker wars, sneakerheads, and cats scared by lightning, though you might not realize that just by pouring these disorienting tone zones into your dome.

For the purposes of this piece, Moskos has generously offered some extensive track-by-track behind the scenes info on every track. Read on for his upcoming tour dates.

Drainolith’s Hysteria is out June 2 on NNA Records & Tapes. The first 75 orders will also include the spoken word cassette Drainolith Presents: Moskos Reads The Zonal Poets Vol. 1 featuring the writing of John Olson, Zac Davis, John Elliot, and more.
The Toronto release show is Sunday, May 31 at Double Double Land with Neil Hagerty, Bile Sister and Humanity’s Flanks.

"No Name (Dany Kane’s Blues)"

Alexander Moskos: This one is clearly about the legendary Dany Kane. He was a hangaround for the Sorel Chapter of the Hell’s Angels. This was the legendary chapter, The Nomads, whose guerriller chef was “Mom” Boucher. They were an elite chapter of the Hell’s that fought the brutal war against the Rock Machine throughout the '90s and early aughts.

Kane had a fucking stressful life that makes one’s own seem like the teddy bear’s picnic. He was informing the RCMP and the Sûrté du Québec on Boucher. Wearing wires in the clubhouse style and then meeting his police contacts in hotel rooms. He was the highest paid informant ever in the history of the RCMP. He was gonna cost the RCMP 8 million dollars to maintain. He would have pocketed at least a couple of million himself.  He just had this incredible double life. He was playing the RCMP off the SQ, had a proper Catholic pure-laine family but also a Haitian mistress who he was supporting financially, and also a gay lover (the Hell’s are notoriously homophobic). He ended up killing himself, listening to The Doors’ first record and filling up his garage with car exhaust. But he never really got a cool biker name like “Mom” or “Pas Fiable” or whatever. The RCMP referred to him by some code name like C245.

I’ve always thought the story would make an amazing film. I often dream of writing a treatment and pitching it to Xavier Dolan or Cronenberg. It would be a real dark Montreal-noir-in-the-'90s zone. Get Justin Timberlake to play Dany Kane. I have the manuscript for a whole ’zine about the Quebec Biker Wars.

John Fahey - Sharks

But generally this song is about Montreal and how sad it can be. Sometimes you see Montreal from afar and it feels tragic. One of the many original ideas I had was that the whole record was going to be about Montreal. Like Paul’s Boutique: the ultimate record about New York, made in Los Angeles. Or Seinfeld: the ultimate show about New Yorkers, made in Los Angeles.

Crazy Jim called the guitar part on this “some Fahey shit.” I like ’90s Fahey. Womblife or Georgia Stomps, Atlanta Struts. The old dudes at the time were all saying, “Fahey doesn’t practice anymore, he has no technique,” but to me Fahey is a dish best served loose and through a cheap flanger pedal.

"Inside/Outside (Bog’s Blues)"

I wrote this song during the touring I did for Fighting. I initially came up with it in John Elliott’s bedroom studio on Baltic Street in Lakewood, Ohio. He was at work and I just kinda sat down one afternoon and wrote this circular thing. We were out of our minds one night listening to Melchior by H.N.A.S. Just as the record peaked this typically out-of-nowhere Cleveland thunderstorm showed up and a bolt of lightning hit the roof of the house. John’s cat Buster fell out the damn window. “Everything is happening at once” as legendary hockey announcer Bob Cole would say.

15 B-Boy Bouillabaisse - Beastie Boys (Paul's Boutique)

Johnny and I weren’t in great places in our lives then. This song kind of reached at that. But it’s from the perspective of this other cat Bog who sat on the windowsill and cried out to her to buddy who fell the two stories and then looked back at me and John with this expression like, “you two aren’t doing so great either.” This one ended up being Hagerty’s heaviest trip on the album. He resampled the guitars, played cello, remixed Nate’s drum programming. It’s Hagerty’s Paul’s Boutique moment.

"Same Whip/Same Damage (Borderline Blues)"

This one is all Nate and me at the Burning Log, just in utter creative mode. I remember we both went off and read sections of the MPC2000XL manual during the making of this. There were so many studio tricks involved. Secret Nate Young tricks. Some of my own crazy ideas are on here too.

The way we chopped up the guitar and retriggered them on this one ended up being a method I used a lot making the Dan’l Boone record. Nate’s studio has a San Francisco Tape Center/old-school sonic reinforcement vibe… but cutting edge for 1998. We sampled in this cut but I ain’t saying more. It was a different kind of sampling.

Nate and Alivia went away and Jess and I were housesitting for them. I remember one day I just sat in front of the studio computer staring at a MIDI piano roll for hours and hours. Just staring at this tune in visual blocks. Jess came down and said, “You’re just staring at coloured blocks on a screen.” She was right. It was like I was waiting for Nate to come home because my mind was having such a hard time wrapping itself around this tune. The original version I made has me singing over a recording of Creode, this amazing broken-music duo from Detroit.

The lyrics to this song are… ah, best left unexplored here. The nice guitar part halfway through this jam reminds me of that weird Impulse Records Microtonal Blues record. I heard that record once at Kristiana Clemons’ house in Kingston, ON. Only place I’ve ever seen or heard a real copy.

"Qix"

This one is about sneakers and getting swarmed at the Rideau Center in Ottawa in the early ’90s. I wrote this one in Hull, QC with Dominiq Alexander. Originally the follow up for Fighting was going to be called Electric Hearse. It was only going to be tunes about death. I was watching Joel die. Going to Toronto twice a month, sometimes more, watching a dude die. The second record was going to be entirely recorded in Hull. The cover was going to be me loading my touring gear into a hearse. John Elliott was getting quotes on hearse rentals in Cleveland for the photoshoot. This is the only song from that era that survived and it’s about something as inane as shoes.

"UAV"

The title of the record comes from this song. I feel like Hysteria aptly describes the tenor of our age. And I love the idea of putting my nonplussed, monotonous singing to the subject of hysteria. Even the most reasonable people, through modern modes of communication, myself included, come off sounding hysterical. It also really just tries to take a run at how damn predictable everyone is. The Great Order doesn’t need Facebook to know what you are going to do or are doing. They can venture an educated guess and probably be right.

Mandrill "Mandrill" 1971

But I have a knack for making the mundane sound really heavy. I mean, come on, it’s a Drainolith song not the damn New Museum Triennial. Anyway, fuck, the beat on this drove me crazy for months. At first I had Crazy Jim playing bass along to a Mandrill record and was going to build the song around that. The Great Algorithm wouldn’t catch some Mandrill shit, I figured. That didn’t work out so I spent straight two days in MUG with Apetechnology Chip’s modular and a damn snare drum trying to make the beat sound right to my ears. It’s a nothing pulse but I needed it to feel this certain way that I had a hard time getting. I made Hagerty mix this a million times.

"Joy Road"

Jimmy Witherspoon - Ain't Nobody's Business

I used to get up early on Sundays and go drive around parts of Detroit everyone told me not to go to. Watch people go to church. This track is just me and Sam Hooker exercising our blues. I played Jim’s Rhodes Piano. This is the track where Hagerty did his famous “shaking the hi-hat stand” overdub. He also plays guitar. It just has this grayscale fall Michigan afternoon vibe. It’s unmistakably recorded in New Center, Detroit. I can just hear it. I was listening to a lot of Dionne Warwick, Jimmy Witherspoon and Johnny Hartman LPs then. Getting up every morning and listening to crooners before everyone else got up and started complaining about the tunes. That comes across here. Joy Road and Killernoise! Beautiful city.

Drainolith tour dates

5/29 • Montreal, QC @ Casa Del Popolo
5/30 • Ottawa, ON @ The House of Targ
5/31 • Toronto, ON @ Double Double Land
6/14 • Baltimore, MD @ Dank Bank
6/15 • Columbus, OH @ Double Happiness
6/16 • Cleveland, OH @ Euclid
6/18 • St. Louis, MO @ Schlafly Tap Room
6/19 • Iowa City, IA @ Trumpet Blossom Cafe
6/20 • Minneapolis, MN @ Minneapolis Industrial Noise Secret Service
6/22 • Chicago, IL @ The Owl
6/23 • Detroit, MI @ UFO Factory
6/24 • Pittsburgh, PA @ Brillobox
6/25 • Brooklyn, NY @ Palisades

 

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