Starvation Time | House of Dust
House of Dust is a product of shitty business practices that sometimes complicate independent and DIY music communities.
But it is more importantly a product of friendship, an innate desire to create, and perhaps of accidental genius. That’s the way I hear it, and how I experienced it from a close distance.
When Jeff Williams was living here in San Diego, I remember him talking about wanting to be in a band. He’d been a bedroom guitarist for years, but had never really “done anything.” It was inevitable that he and our mutual friend Steve Flato would get together and brainstorm the how of it. I had the sense that Steve — who would default into just about every role of production and management of the project in the writing and recording phase for House of Dust, aside from Jeff’s sometime panicked, other times whispered lyrics-to-voice process — was less than fully excited about it. While Steve is extremely comfortable with the process of discovering new territory in his own music, he can be flinchy or reserved with idealized material that enters from unexpected angles.
I wasn’t present for the discussions that took place between Jeff and Steve. I know that there were specific elements, many of which were introduced as the overall concept for their band, that came from Jeff. There would be beats. Loops, guitar. A processed bass undercarriage. And electronics. Lots of electronics. And, of course, Jeff’s fully personal way about lyrics, and his own vox.
I remember hearing the first rough takes of a couple of tracks. Steve was in every way undecided. Unsure. But he knew that, as the de facto composer of the music, he had made ‘real songs’. And there was sincere satisfaction in that for him. I remember telling him to go with it, that he has hit on something strong, and Steve expressed a characteristic brief hesitation followed by full confidence. “Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m going to do, I think. More later.”
Steve and I have worked together many times in the production phases of his music, and I was asked to master this work for Starvation Time, and for consultation on the mixes. We worked on some things in my studio, and I took my normal forensic approach after a few listens to each track to get to the business of readying the music for others. As it often happens, it was only in the final phases that I was able to divorce myself from the work as an engineer, and listen to the final product as an aesthete.
Completely knocked out, me. Their work ruled. RULED. Jeff may have cried. I don’t doubt it. And Steve did not know what he had on his hands at the end of it, as I told him. It was, to give you a sense of my immediate impression, and without pigeonholing here, the most unwitting, tangential, and accidental homage to the Damon Edge years of Chrome, by a couple of guys who’d never heard them.
But like I said, it was much more than that. As a musician myself, the most rewarding part of engaging in music is the process itself. The assemblage of ideas, auditioning some of them, rejecting others. And the joy that comes with hearing and stumbling on something in your own work that sticks, when you’d never think it could have adhered to anything at all.
The end of this story is that Starvation Time’s music was picked up, only to sit in production hell for far longer than it should have. Unanswered emails, hazy deadlines missed, time and again, no explanation offered. It was unfair and frustrating. Several months lapsed, I told Steve to give it a few more weeks, keep their fingers crossed. And if no joy, I’d release it myself because I’ve always wanted to experience managing a label and I imagined myself completely happy and stimulated if this chain of accidents would be what tipped me over the edge.
House of Dust is, for me, a moment in time that fully captures that artistic process that I described. I will always hear it in that state, which is the state of its own birth. And Marginal Frequency is a byproduct for which I am grateful.
MFCS.A – Starvation Time – House of Dust (edition of 70)
digital release option available once physical copies are sold out