Oliver Ho is a man of many hats - producing and releasing music under several monikers like Broken English Club, Raudive and Zov Zov (his duo with Tommy Gillard), thus allowing him to experiment with different kinds of music, going beyond the known post-punk and industrial influences. He consistently explores other sides of his own creative persona, while also drawing inspiration from art, literature or movies.
Being around for quite a while, and having worked with the likes of Silent Servant and Veronika Vasicka, it’s no surprise that Oliver Ho decided to start a label of his own. ‘Death & Leisure’ aims to "push inward and outward to embrace experimental industrial music in different forms". The first record released, ‘Myths Of Steel And Concrete’, by his own alias Broken English Club, is the utmost proof that through this label he stays true to his own aesthetic, and that we should keep an eye out for future releases.
We were lucky enough to get a hold of him, giving us the opportunity to ask a few questions. Read on, while making sure you listen in the background to this amazing mix Oliver put together for the New Brvtalism series.
Marie Bungau: I believe art should provoke and transform, it should invade one’s own comfort zone and make us question it. I don’t think that art is always gratuitous, and music is no exception. When you think about your work, be it just the music or the whole package (concept, creative flow, artwork, live performance), do you see it as a means of catharsis, a platform for expressing your creativity, or just a final product for the mere pleasure of the listener?
Oliver Ho (Broken English Club): My music is very much part of my inner creative process - what I mean by that is that I have certain obsessions and ideas that I want to explore, when they are in their embryonic stage they are collections of ideas inspired by books, film, fine art etc., then they slowly evolve into more concrete forms like music. A lot of things that sit in the cellar of my mind are ideas about emptiness, and derelict space, also extreme forms of human behavior. A lot of this goes into my Broken English Club music. I think over the years this has become a way of me exploring some kind of world, or even creating a world, a collage world that is fragments of myself and other things that I draw into myself from the wider culture. It is certainly a type of catharsis. It’s a way of focusing and framing a certain feeling, a broken and grey soul, something both disgusting and beautiful at the same time.
MB: I’ve noticed that your aesthetic approach has elements of gender dualism (male/female on the ‘Multi’ EP), BDSM imagery (the provocative artwork of the Scars EP), and even spirituality references (Ritual Killing, Jealous God). I’m curious to know what inspires you beyond music, and how do you rely on these elements in your creative process.
OH: As I mentioned before, I see my process as something that draws together things from wider culture, that’s important for me, it allows the music to exist in a context. It allows it to breathe and move through an environment. My music is a place, and people, a type of reality. I am interested in transformation, both physical and energetic. I've been fascinated by Genesis P-Orridge, and what s/he did with their late wife Breyer P-Orridge. They wanted to blur the boundaries between genders, to become artists of their own bodies. This is a very powerful idea, and I love the idea that we are our own works of art, that is very empowering. I also love the imagery of BDSM, it’s also very powerful, and it’s very symbolic. It has a type of religious iconography, like some kind of experimental religion of the body and its relation to pleasure and pain. In places of extreme behavior we see the human soul laid bare.
MB: Tell us a little bit about your latest release, ‘Myths Of Steel And Concrete’, that’s coming up soon on your label ‘Death & Leisure’. We couldn’t help but notice there are some brutalist references in the title of the EP. How did you come up with that? As for the label, what were the motivations behind your decision to start it and how do you envision its future?
OH: The title came the idea that we create cities that are like a mirage, that culture in its physical form is a type of fiction. Like a shopping mall, or a church. These places are physical embodiments of our culture, which in itself is a type of fiction, it’s created by symbolism and human imagination. So we actually live in our own fictions, if we realize that we can make it whatever we want. So the title is about the idea that these huge cities are like a modern mythology, a huge fairytale that we all inhabit.
As for the new label, I wanted to start something that is a reflection of where I’m at creatively. There’s an interzone where club music meets noise and experimental music, but there’s still a density to it all that connects it. There’s an attitude that pervades it. That’s what my label is all about - drawing together different types of electronic stuff, that all has a certain energy and attitude. The first release is Broken English Club, the 2nd is a mini album of my project Zov Zov that I do with Tommy Gillard. The Zov Zov stuff is a mixture of heavy drone sounds, and a lot of instrumental improvised sounds from guitar, percussion and vocals. The 3rd release will be a mini album from Years of Denial, they are an amazing duo who do dark electronic stuff with these haunting female vocals. I am also hoping to work with a band later in the year called Blackmoon 1348 that describe themselves as ‘tibetan doom core’. They have the heaviness of Sunn O))) with throat singing, gongs and synths!
MB: I recently saw you live in Bucharest and was mesmerized by how you play with the dubbed vocals and how you manage to incorporate them in your live show, creating an organic experience. I admit I was expecting a more hardware oriented performance and was pleasantly surprised by the result. What do you usually include in your set up and what role does the public’s reaction play in the way you build up the live experience (as opposed to a dj set)?
OH: For me it’s about using machines that give me what I want, it’s as simple as that. I don't have any type of allegiance to hardware or software. A lot of my music is based around drone and noise, and layering rhythms over that. All of the material I use is processed audio, rather than machines. It’s processed recordings of noise, like guitar drones, or feedback and stuff. The voice is important to the sound too, I do live vocals, because I love the energy it gives to the experience. I also use some synth percussion which I play live. So these things give the performance a more personal looser feeling. That’s what BEC is about, it’s about relentless metronome rhythms and the weird soul of the vocals. I like the way those different aspects sit alongside each other.
MB: Finally, please share some thoughts on the mix you made for the Brvtalist. How did you decide on the tracks and was there a concept behind or you just went with the flow?
OH: There was a concept for sure. I have called it Grind Mix because I wanted to put a lot of stuff I love from the late 80s era of noise and punk, like Napalm Death and Butthole Surfers. I also wanted to put modern stuff in there too like Samuel Kerridge and Pharmakon. I see a real connection with these types of music and techno, especially what I am doing with Broken English Club, it all relates and plays a significance. It’s a pretty heavy mix, but I love the texture of this kind of heavy music, it’s so dense. I think that’s what I am interested in, it’s a kind of pressure or density that noise and techno can achieve. When it comes to techno it’s not about super fast hard techno, I don't really like that, I love techno that has a tone to it, a feeling of tension and pressure and dirt. That’s powerful to me.
1. OUR HISTORY IN BONES - BROKEN ENGLISH CLUB
2. STAY HERE - SWANS
3. USSA - BUTTHOLE SURFERS
4. DUMPING THE FUCKING RUBBISH - WHITEHOUSE
5. INTENT OR INSTINCT - PHARMAKON
6. HYSTERIE - TEENAGE JESUS AND THE JERKS
7. LUCID FAIRYTALE - NAPALM DEATH
8. HEAD DIRT- GODFLESH
9. LEOPARD FLOWERS - DEATH IN JUNE
10. NEW PURPOSE - SANRA ELECTRONICS
11. STRAIGHT TO HELL - SAMUEL KERRIDGE
12. BLOOD IN BLOOD - ZOV ZOV
13. STABBERS CONSPIRACY - CUT HANDS
14. CORONA - PAN SONIC
15. AUTOIMMUNE - PHARMAKON
16. COUNTRY - FLATS
17. PRISON WITHOUT WALLS - NAPALM DEATH