Photo: Sam Nikitas
Interview with multi-instrumentalist Tim Macuga
Consumer features Tim Macuga from Have a Nice Life (HANL), as well as musicians from that project’s live lineup – bassist Mike Cameron, drummer, programmer and synth player Rich Otero, and guitarist and engineer Joe Streeter. In Computers is the first record released by the band, which formed in 2017.
“We’ve gone back and forth as to really call it an album presentation. It’s more of a proof of concept,” Tim Macuga explains. “The A-side is three songs that we wrote within the first few months of our inception. The B-side, that’s pretty noisy, but those were soundscapes and tape-loops that had come out of some separate sessions.”
“Essentially, the song-writing process just came out of me and Rich Otero and Mike Cameron paying rent on the same practice space that we were using for Have A Nice Life rehearsals in 2017,” he continues. “We were in an off-period from playing HANL shows. We all kind of separately had some ideas for different styles and textures that we wanted to work in. The full band songs on the A-side, they were all written probably [in the] winter of 2018, and then the initial tracks were put down later that spring. Interestingly, Rich, who’s primarily our drummer, had to have some wrist surgery that would have taken a long time to heal, in advance of us playing Roadburn this past year. So, for a while, Joe Streeter, who also plays guitar in the HANL band, came into Consumer to fill in on drums while Rich healed, and then we kind of became a four-piece band and embellished on those original Consumer recordings a little bit more. And the end result we felt comfortable releasing to the world around the same time that Sea of Worry is coming out. I wouldn’t call it a demo that we’re releasing, it’s been too fussed over and worked on and polished to just be a demo, but it’s kind of our first notion as an ensemble, that we’d gotten together and written between all of us.”
Even though all the band members come from Have A Nice Life, this project is aimed at a different purpose, Macuga says.
“HANL is deeply personal stuff. Consumer, that’s kind of a place for a conceptual processing of where we are as a late-capitalist society, where automation has made human labor redundant. Not dystopian themes like that, but sometimes very dry economic ideas that we kind of want to give voice to or critique. We also kind of figured that a different kind of project would be necessary for that kind of thing, or lyrics, or very much these strange commercial slogans that are barked that wouldn’t fit the inward-looking, private, emotional vibes that HANL does. So conceptually, it’s a different place for us to explore different ideas. Sonically, HANL has its louder parts, it has its synthier parts, but that kind of loud and heavy and damaged and broken kind of sound that we’ve brought to Consumer, some of those sounds don’t quite have the same home as with HANL. HANL isn’t a riff-oriented band.”
Macuga says that bass-player Mike Cameron came up with the title In Computers, and thought it would be open to different interpretations.
“I like the idea that it’s open to a variety of directions and putting it all together. The lyrics are very focused on our roles as buyers and movers of product in this society, but in terms of the loudness and the bigness of the size we’re going for, there’s the destructive doom-metal element in it. It makes room for the idea of the consumption of fire, the consumption of matter in the universe, so I like the fact that it can cut in different directions,” he explains.
“Most people,” he continues. “Even if they’re not willing to admit that we’re running up against ecological constraints, material constraints, scientifically we have the data to point to the idea that our consumption-driven lifestyles are not a good thing, not just for the environment around us, but for us in terms of our personal health. But at the same time the market place, whether it’s the snacks we eat or the apps that are developed or the movies we see, they’re all scientifically sharpened to press our pleasure centers as much as humanly possible. To suggest some sort of ascetic, sacrificial kind of lifestyle to preserve and conserve what we can about the world in which we live, it’s almost antithetical to the idea of how to sell people shit that they don’t need, to the degree that we’re selling things directly to their id. I guess that’s an attractive idea for us to follow. The lyrics that we write for Consumer aren’t too wordy, they almost sound kind of caveman-like or dumb, because that’s what consumers are expected to be. It’s to give in to that id to allow the latest flavor-blasted snack that the gas station is trying to sell us to push that pleasure center, and let us invite it in. I wish I could be more erudite about it right now, but the fact that we’ve gotten too good at selling things to the chemical components of our brain we don’t actually really have control over, it’s kind of scary.”