Bear Bones, Lay Low
Bear Bones, Lay Low is the noise/drone project of Ernesto Gonzalez, an 18 year old student from Venezuela who lives in Brussels right now. Most of his music, he releases on his own Eat The Sun-label, though his vinyl debut is coming soon on the impressive Gipsy Sphinx.
Ernesto Gonzalez: When I moved to Belgium in September 2003, I started doing stuff by myself seeing as I didnít know anybody I could play with. I was first aiming for some sort of singer/songwriter stuff, but I realised I suck at singing and my lyrics were very shitty. That died pretty quickly. I started listening to some noise music at the time and I would record with whatever I would have at hand: it was mostly feedback with goofy effects, but it was pretty fun to do. One day I compiled two cd-rs: the first one was a guitar orientated jam that I did under the name ďAkatahnaĒ. I gave the first copy to Ben Chasny from Six Organs of Admittance, just because heís my fucking hero. He seemed to have enjoyed it. The other one was a couple of noisier jams and I put them under the name Bear Bones, Lay Low.
I really donít know when or how I started using more and more drones, but I think it has something to do with the music Iíve been listening to for the past 3 years, mostly psychedelic music, metal, thanks to Per of Funeral Folk, hip hop, modern noise, etc. I think I just really like repetition, the way repetitive music seems to dissolve in my ears, or something like that.
EG: I started getting into music when I was about 11 or 12 and my dad was one of my teachers. He listens to popular prog stuff: Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Jethro Tull, you know the works. But he also digs Led Zeppelin, some Uriah Heep and Amol DŁul II.
As time went by I would listen to popular rock music, Tool being the biggest shit that ever hit my 14 year old brain. But what really opened me to a world of music I didnít know about was good olí Internet. In Venezuela you canít really find a lot of underground music easily and since I rarely moved my ass from my small hometown, where there are basically no recordshops or dealers, the only way for me to find out about new music was through downloads. Not the most honest or ďtrueĒ thing to do, but I think thatís how a lot of dudes from my generation are getting to know about all the great things going on in the underground.
When I moved to Belgium I was 15 and I was digging indie-pop, post-rock and post-punk. Since I didnít have any friends, I only hung out with my sister, I started going every weekend to record shops and getting as many records as I could. I also downloaded and read more and more stuff on webzines and label sites. Thatís how got interested in psychedelic music, noise, etc. Plus, with all the cool concerts and festivals, especially the Kraak Fest, in Belgium, I turned into a fucking record geek. Itís cool for me, but not for my pocket.
EG: Yes, itís exactly what I do on recordings except Iím less nervous. The thing about Bear Bones, Lay Low is that I just wanted to do something entirely improvised and I where I could do everything at the same time. For these recordings I never use multi-track recording and shit. I sometimes record directly to a 4 track and sometimes I record with a mic, but itís always me playing everything live.
EG: Yeah, most of the time itís like that. The first 2 Bear Bones, Lay Low cd-rs where culled from a bunch of jams I did here and there. But in ďMud TonesĒ for example, it was just one late night jam I recorded, so I guess it all depends on how I feel about certain recordings. Thereís a bunch of crap among the things I record, thatís for sure, but from time to time I manage to be really satisfied with some results.
EG: Not really. We started playing together when my dad bought us a guitar. I was like 12 and she was 13 years old and we would try to play Green Day songs. She was better than me at the guitar but then she got interested in playing bass so she got one for her birthday. She was also good at it and we made a band. We only had one original song, the rest of our set were Nirvana and At the Drive-In covers with no vocalistÖ it couldíve been a cool karaoke act now that I think about it, and the guitars would do crappy feedback and they would be heavily charged with effects. We ended up hating the damn song and so the band split-up. After that, the drummer started a ska-punk band called The Guzzlers, still active in San Antonio de los Altos, my home town, I kept playing guitar by myself and my sister stopped playing bass.
We havenít played ďseriouslyĒ since then, but we jam on very rare occasions: whenever sheís in some strange mood and grabs an instrument or whenever weíre drinking with friends in the basement and we all make dumb ďbrolĒ, as the Flemish say, music. But even if she doesnít play with me, sheís my best friend and therefore sheís a huge part of what I do.
EG: The answer is quite simple: I didnít want to bother people from other underground labels because they just get too many requests and demos, so I just said ďwell, I might as well do all the work by myselfĒ. Small labels like Funeral Folk, Imvated (RIP, now Bread and Animals), Veglia, Lal Lal Lal and all the likes really inspired me to just release stuff without really thinking if a lot of people were going to hear it or if I was going to play a lot of gigs. Plus, Iíve always liked packaging cd-rs and making special artwork for them, so it made sense to do the same with my music.
On the other hand, I had, and still have, lots of projects in mind besides Bear Bones, Lay Low, mainly Hatanaka Creatures, psychedelic doom songs with acoustic and electric instruments. For the moment itís a recording-only thing, because I donít have a band to play these songs with. Once again, I didnít want to be a guy at gigs that hands out cd-rs of all of his projects to people with labels. I couldíve ended up getting stabbed at one point, so I didnít want to take any risks.
Until now Iíve only had 2 Bear Bones, Lay Low releases that are not on Eat the Sun: the ďBackward ArrowĒ tape on Knife in the Toaster, thanks to Gabriel for listening to the tracks I sent, and a split tape with Lume that he released. Even if I really like releasing stuff with other people, I donít think Iíll ever stop what I do with Eat the Sun.
EG: When I started Eat the Sun around 2005, I was checking out the Venezuelan underground music scene, mainly the Caracas scene. I noticed that there were a lot trip-hop, post-rock and electronica bands, but nothing really promising as far as psychedelic music or noise goes, not that I was aware of anyway. Iím sure there must be something hiding.
Nevertheless, I only knew one dude that was making noise and that was Alvaro Partidas with his Die Ursache project. I heard some of the tracks of his tape released by El Cartero Valiente records (www.elcarterovaliente.net) and I was blown away. I contacted him by email asking him if he would be interested in jamming with me during the summer in Venezuela. Alvaro was psyched out as well so we developed a friendship over seas and in the summer of 2005 we jammed and put out the results on his newborn Hormigon imprint. I did the packaging and the artwork for the 2 Hormigon releases of that year: Die Ursache and Flootís ďThe Kurare SessionsĒ and a 3 way split of Bear Bones, Lay Low, Hatanaka Creatures and another project of mine called Ripples. That year we did a couple of gigs in Caracas and in San Antonio de los Altos and terrorized a couple of people: we even got banned from a bar in my hometown.
Once I got back to Belgium, Alvaro came up with the idea of making a myspace profile of both of out labels. Although I wasnít too into the idea, he managed to convince me and so we became part of the devilís workshop a.k.a. myspace. I have to admit, that profile really opened some doors: I met great people that really liked my music and thatís how I got to know a lot of cool dudes that make cool music in Belgium. While sharing a myspace profile, Alvaro and I thought that it would make sense if we also had a common website, so hets.tk was born.
Both labels have their own directions and their own way of working, but they are bonded by our love for DIY aesthetics and weird music in general.
EG: 2002 and 2003 were pretty hectic years in Venezuela: starting with Chavezí initiative to approve a series of laws and with the opposition being totally against them, a huge conflict started in 2002. The 11th of April 2002, the opposition organized a peaceful march towards the presidentís Palace, Miraflores, where a violent clash between chavists and opposition members ended up in a bloodbath and a Coup díEtat that same night. From that day on, the situation in Venezuela went down hill. Chavez was out of the government for 2 days but then he came back.
Around December 2002, the opposition and all of the organizations against the government started a general strike to overthrow Chavez once again. It was meant to be a strike for 2 or 3 days, but then it just became a never-ending situation. A big part of the main oil company, PDVSA, went on the strike as well, so the country was practically paralyzed. Those were hard times for the country: huge lines at gas stations because there was no gasoline being produced, shortage of food and frequent conflicts between the opposition and chavists that usually ended up violently.
In early 2003, my dad and some 18.000 people got fired from their posts in PDVSA just because they were against Chavez and because they were part of the strike. They are now looked upon as criminals and as the people that destroyed the country. This vision of things is obviously supported and diffused be the government.
Luckily, after 5 months of wait and depression, my dad managed to find a job in Belgium. So we left Venezuela in September 2003 and moved to Waterloo, Belgium. The first years were very painful and sad: it really sucks to be forced to start over a whole new life, in a different country, with different people that speak a different tongue and with different lifestyles. It was especially hard for my parents; their heart is in Venezuela, not here in Belgium.
All in all we were pretty lucky to get this opportunity. The situation in Venezuela is just going to the fucking gutter. People are divided, something that never happened before, and Iím not talking about rich VS poor division, that has always existed, sadly enough, but itís something more visceral, more to the bone and all because of one man who just put us all against each other. On the outside Chavez looks like a nice guy, revolutionary and whatnot, but I donít think that someone that oppresses people for stating a different point of view and talks about a social revolution for the poor while filling up his and his ass kisserís pockets and giving crumbs to the people isnít worth much respect.
EG: Iím not sure. I think itís too early to say, but I definitely think Iím going to stay a long time in Belgium, at least until I finish University. Belgiumís a cool country, but I also want to live a part of my life back home in Venezuela. Or somewhere else, I donít know, I guess Iíll see where I end up.
EG: Yeah, I have a healthy connection with my life in Venezuela. I talk everyday with my friends and family over there and I go back every summer, at least itís been that way for the past 3 years. My parents kept our house because they are certain they donít want to live in Europe for the rest of their life. I just hope we manage to keep that house for their sake, but as long as the family stays together with good health, it doesnít really matter if we lose it.
EG: Well, my plans are pretty simple: release more stuff under Bear Bones, Lay Low and Hatanaka Creatures on Eat the Sun and whichever label is interested in doing something. I think the thing Iím looking forward to release the most is a Bear Bones, Lay Low split with Dennis Krokodil: heís a really cool guy and his music fucking rocks, so do the Krokodilleland dudes.
As for shows, I hope Iíll get to play as Bear Bones, Lay Low in more places and I hope I donít fuck up my set at this yearís Kraak Fest. Fucking shit, Iím going to be playing in front of masters bad-asses like Lugubrum, Witchcraft, Sun City Girls and moreÖ I get so damn nervous every time I think about it. Iím also looking forward to play/record way more with Silvester Anfang. I will forever hail those ďjanettenĒ.
There are a few surprises coming pretty soon, but I wonít say anything yet, donít want to jinx it.
-- Joeri Bruyninckx (6 March, 2007)