IN ASSOCIATION WITH
When it comes to the band Puppy, sure you may see three fun loving dudes from London, but under all of their artwork, and every concept the band portrays, whether it be through their artwork or through their videos, there is a darker, and more complex creative stream.
Having built himself as an artist in countries such as Germany, Billy Howard Price is not only the drummer of Puppy, but a creative driving force who’s set out to question just how we interact with the third dimension.
“most art is about challenging or at least asking questions about our modes of perception…”
SO FIRST OFF, TELL US A BIT ABOUT HOW YOU GOT INTO ART?
Growing up I always watched a LOT of movies – my Dad had literally thousands of videos and the ritual of picking one out, sometimes at random, and slotting it in the machine became kind of a staple in my/our daily routine. On a Saturday I’d wake up early and get through one or two before everyone woke up. Often they were maybe not the most appropriate titles for like an 8-10 yr old to be looking at but there was nothing like the excitement of picking out something very obscure and, to a child at least, mysterious sounding, and seeing what it was like. I think this kind of ritualistic interaction with both the physical object of the VHS, and the images and sounds contained on the tape itself, were pretty formative, and I guess as I got older it’s something I tried to replicate, either with dumb collages/drawings or, later on, with my own take on moving image work.
HAVE YOUR INFLUENCES CHANGED OVER THE YEARS? OR HAVE THESE INFLUENCES ECHOED INTO YOUR CURRENT WORK?
Again, I’d probably go back to movies here. I remember, as I’m sure a lot of people do, watching Fantasia pretty obsessively as a child. The tight relationship between the sonic and visual elements of the movie – with the animations reflecting, sometimes to the beat, bar by bar, what the music was doing, even across incredibly intricate and strange passages. This was and definitely still is a huge influence on the way I like to edit and think about images in relation to sounds. Also the way Fantasia kind of seamlessly moves between narrative based stuff and abstract, esoteric imagery is something I’ve always loved.
In terms of ‘artist’ artists I was always a huge fan of Mike Kelley. He’s this pretty conceptual, now sadly (recently) dead American artist and I always rated the way he appropriated the strands of popular culture he was into (Sci-Fi novels, comic books, Rock music) and made these incredibly weird and strange, but also very personal tableaus and installations. He also did a Sonic Youth album cover, which you can’t really argue with to be honest. Nice work Mike. For similar reasons I’d also mention Camille Henrot, who is an incredible contemporary French artist whose video work and editing style I am a huge fan of. She’s yet to do a Sonic Youth album cover though, but they haven’t really done anything much good for a while so who can blame her?
“At a certain point, I got really into the idea that, at their core, religions, cults and self help philosophies basically function at the same level and on the same terms that most works of art do”
YOU SEEM TO HAVE AN OBSESSION WITH THE CROSS SECTIONING OF THE EYES…
I guess most art is about challenging or at least asking questions about our modes of perception, and recently I’ve found the specificities of the anatomy of the eye to be quite a fun way, for me at least, to riff off this. The new music video I did for my band Puppy (Bathe In Blood) actually features some footage I shot of my friend’s corrective laser eye surgery, which starts off with a razor slitting open the protective layer of film (no pun needed) that encases the eye, so I guess maybe that Dali thing is more pertinent than I give it credit for? I think, certainly, that the relationship between the mechanics of perception, literally how we see, and the way we read images, is one that I’ve found really useful to play with recently.
‘Un Chien Andalun’, the iconic but arguably overly referenced movie that Dali made with Bunuel, is one of those kind of art school 101 type things that are often sited as being the first ‘art film’. And it has that iconic shot where someone’s eye is slit open with a razor (I think substituted for a Goat’s eye in the close up). Years later there’s that horrific and totally unnecessary scene in ‘Hostel’ where someone sets upon an eyeball with a blowtorch and I think, in the century or so in between, filmmakers, from Vertov to Hitchcock to Passolini, have presented the human eye as this kind of surreal, somehow dangerous perceptive device which is often disfigured or obscured and, in every instance, whether intentionally or not, superseded by the hegemony of the camera.
THROUGHOUT YOUR WORK, ESPECIALLY MORE PERSONAL PROJECTS, THERE SEEMS TO BE A THEME OF PSYCHOLOGICAL DETACHMENT, OPENING DOORS TO ALTERNATIVE REALITIES, AND EVEN QUESTIONING EXISTENCE…
At a certain point, I got really into the idea that, at their core, religions, cults and self help philosophies basically function at the same level and on the same terms that most works of art do. I guess this is like a founding premise to most my work. I’m really interested in the way that systems of value, (monetary but also academic and spiritual), are discussed and distributed, and how they differ between say, some kind of Esoteric religious text, or a press release for a show in a gallery, which feel to me fundamentally very similar in the way that they operate.
WHAT WAS THE CREATIVE PROCESS BEHIND YOUR LATEST EXHIBITION, ‘THE SOFT WHERE’?
‘The Soft Where’ is the second video in a loose trilogy i’m working on called the Trinity Trilogy and was shown last year as part of a group exhibition put together by other musicians who make visual art, curated by my schoolfriend Hugh Schulte, who plays in the band Gengahr. I think the idea was to see what the relationship was between people’s musical output, and their visual art, and to this effect I tried to tailor my film more specifically to the realms of sound and music to chime with the tone of the show a bit more.
All 3 of the videos that make up the project are narrated by an ethereal Russian voice, which belongs to a character I wrote to be a kind of hybrid of the spiritualist & Theosophist Madame Blavatsky, and the astronaut Valentina Teroshkova. Blavatsky was, supposedly, a Russian princess in exile who is credited for, around the turn of the century before last, bringing eastern philosophy to the West. Teroshkova was a Russian cosmonaut and the first woman in Space, and she was born around the time that Blavatsky died so, in my project, Teroshkova is posited as a kind of reincarnation of Blavatsky. The voice that narrates the films is a kind of cosmic amalgamation of the two characters, and the story plays out like an SOS message sent out to Space after a Chernobyl-esque, proto Apocalyptic event.
The last work in the project is called ‘After The Fall’ and I’m working on it at the moment, with plans to exhibit the film, with some installations, in the Spring. Can’t say much about it at the moment, but I’ve been filming with the British Interplanetary Society in London and at Goonhilly Earth Station on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall, where the first ever trans-Atlantic TV images were sent from in the 60s. It’s a kind of humorous take on Erich Von Daniken’s cosmological mysticism, by way of the Trinity atomic programme and some fictional hallucinations from the Russian Olympic Team.
WHILE THERE IS AT TIMES A MORE FUN LOVING SIDE TO PUPPY, THE IMAGERY FOR THE GOAT IS ACTUALLY PRETTY DARK.
As a band we’re all very into the history and lineage of heavy music, and the whole mythology surrounding the darker, more esoteric sides of Metal and Rock. Whether it’s the pervading rumours of the Crowleian occultism Led Zeppelin were supposedly embroiled in, the dark and violent history of Norwegian Black Metal, or the endless stories of excess and madness that surround Ozzy Osborne, the theatrical narratives that run through Heavy Metal is a huge part of our engagement in it. That and the riffs. At the same time though, we’re not huge, bullet-belt wearing dudes from LA, or sociopathic Norse Odonists, and none of us really have the appetite or constitution to do the amount of drugs that made Ozzy who he is. We’re 3 geeky guys from North London, who love Abba and computer games, and our music has always been about trying to resolve our love of heavy music, with the awkwardness we feel at somehow being a part of it.
“I think we wanted to invoke the use of Satanic goat imagery in metal and rub it up against the internet acronym ‘Greatest Of All Time’ that pervades the meme culture that we are all equally interested in.”
‘The Goat’ title is a kind of play on this idea, and I think we wanted to invoke the use of Satanic goat imagery in metal (Angel Witch, Bathory, Slipknot) and rub it up against the internet acronym ‘Greatest Of All Time’ that pervades the meme culture that we are all equally interested in. Someone recently described us as ‘millennial metal’ and, even though it’s kind of reductive, it’s actually a pretty succinct moniker. The artwork, which features esoteric & ritualistic objects, shot and arranged in the manner of a kitsch still-life scene from a lifestyle magazine or a trendy Tumblr page, plays off this idea too I guess. In the manner of the mythologies, rumours and fan theories that surround some of our favourite bands and films, we wanted to imbue the album with a sense of some kind of secret narrative or meaning, that the listener or viewer has to unlock. To promote this sense of a kind of arcane subtext to the cover image, the idea is to now take each object and explore its relevance to the album in the videos we put out for each single in support of it.
THE GOAT is out now via Spinefarm Records.
You can check out more of Billy’s work here: Http://Www.Billyhowardprice.com