Feeding Fingers are a contemporary post – punk/goth/dark wave but still with many influences collective led by Justin Curfman. Recently, they released their 8th full length studio album ‘Do Owe Harm’ via their own record label Tephramedia. So, Last Day Deaf grabbed the opportunity to interview them.
Feeding Fingers are “hitting” the Death Disco stage (w/ Anima Triste) on March 10.
Who are Feeding Fingers; Can you introduce the band members and of course yourself Justin as the founding and lead member of the band?
Thank you for having me. Before we get started, I want to let you know that I have enjoyed reading your work. From what I have seen, I think that you have one of the best, if not the best music journalism site in Greece.
This band started in 2006 as an outlet for me to perform music in a live setting that I wrote for various film projects several years ago. I wrote some of the music that ended up on the first Feeding Fingers album, ‘Wound in Wall‘, when I was fourteen years old, back in 1994 – quite some time ago. Rather than having all of this music married forever static to film, entombed in hard-drives or recorded to deteriorating 4-track cassette tapes, I wanted to see what would happen if I formed a band around it. What I thought that would originally just be a fun side-project that would last maybe no more than one album and a couple of years at most, turned into a now twelve-year commitment with various band members and collaborators from just about every corner of the world.
The live lineup of the band for this 2018 tour and the foreseeable future is myself, Bradley Claborn (bass) and Christopher Fall (percussion). This will be Bradley’s second intercontinental tour as a member of Feeding Fingers, however he and I go back as band-mates as far as 2011 and even further as neighbors in 2006, when I lived in the United States. This will be Christopher’s first tour as a member of Feeding Fingers. The two of them have been on a rigorous rehearsal schedule with me since last year. I’m eager and excited to get out on the road with the two of them and share with you all the fantastic result of all of the hard work that these guys have put into these rehearsals. I couldn’t be more pleased. I’m really proud of these two.
Far from the basic members Feeding fingers have also many intermittent members and other contributors around the world. Would you like to introduce them; Should we talk about a music collective?
The previous bass players for the live lineup of Feeding Fingers were Todd Caras and Kris Anderson. Todd happens to come from a Greek family – small world. I believe that they live there in Athens, as a matter of fact. I will have to check in with him on that. Todd is something of a fixture of the Atlanta, Georgia (USA) music scene – albeit at times an infamous one. He was with the band from 2006 through 2010.
Kris toured the United States and Europe with the band from 2009 through 2010. He is a very close, childhood friend of mine and quite a gifted multi-instrumentalist. We grew up in punk circles with one another.
The original drummer for the band was Daniel Hunt, who toured regularly with me from 2006 through 2014. His last show with Feeding Fingers was in 2014 in Warsaw, Poland – or in the UK, I am not certain right now.
I remain close to all three of them.
I trained another full band of Italians in Napoli throughout 2015 with the intention of touring as a quartet in support of the previous Feeding Fingers album, ‘Attend‘ (2016) – a massive triple LP, but it fell through due to these ever-increasing financial constraints that we musicians are dealing with on a daily basis. The artists’ dilemma.
However, as far as strictly recording contributors are concerned, I have worked with several artists, beginning with the third Feeding Fingers album, ‘The Occupant‘ (2013) – which was written and recorded in Germany and Austria. That album features Jonas Binder from the Salzburger Boys’ Choir and the Serbian violin prodigy, Maja Backovic.
‘Attend‘ features Chinese erhu virtuoso Chuan Qin, guitarist from The Death Notes (UK) Martin Bradley, American poet / spoken-word artist Dana Culling, Japanese avant-garde composer / experimental artist Shoko Nagai, American free-jazz saxophonist / composer Ned Rothenberg, Chinese pipa virtuoso Zhuxi Wang, violinist and close personal friend Marica Filomena Coppola from the Conservatorio di San Pietro a Majella (Napoli) and others.
The new album, ‘Do Owe Harm‘ which was recently released on 05.January, 2018 once again features Marica on violin along with German microtonal saxophonist / composer Philipp Gerschlauer.
I have been very fortunate having been able to work with such a varied and skilled group of musicians over the years. I hope that it won’t have to come to an end any time soon.
The previous album ‘Attend‘ is a remarkable goth opus, triple vinyl/ double cd. Would you like to tell us more about this work?
‘Attend‘ was the largest music undertaking of my life. Twenty-five songs. Two hours of original music. I started composing that album immediately after the release of ‘The Occupant‘ in 2013. I worked on that non-stop from 2013 through 2016. Since I was a child, I wanted to more thoroughly study music as a subject and compose within as many areas that I could manage to wrap my head around and with as many different instruments that I could manage to get my hands on – differing cultures, genres, instrumentation, languages, timbres, disciplines, etc., but having come from a family of extremely limited means, I never had the luxury of time or resources necessary for doing such a thing. Until finally in 2013, producers Dana Culling and Jim “Coyote J” Battan made it possible for me to become a full-time composer, researcher and engineer – working exclusively on ‘Attend‘ until its completion. It was then released in 2016 as a triple LP / double CD set on Sounds For Sure Records (The Netherlands) the owner being another great, personal friend of mine, Paul Tetteroo. I can’t thank those three individuals enough for having made that enormous project possible.
What more should we expect from ‘Do Owe Harm‘? Do you want to give us a small preview from it?
Instead of just a preview, you can listen to it now in full on whatever streaming service you prefer, or you can get a physical version of it from www.feedingfingers.net or www.feedingfingers.bandcamp.com. The music video for the song, ‘Fontanelle‘ directed by Steven Lapcevic could be a good preview starting point as well:
‘Do Owe Harm‘ was written as something of a pop study of this blooming world of microtonal / xenharmonic / polytonal music that has been coming to fruition very slowly since the turn of the 20th century – being spearheaded by composers like Charles Ives, Julian Carrillo, Alois Haba, Ivan Wyschnegradsky and a handful of others. Of course, there are others before them, but I feel comfortable in saying that they are sort of the big four. Without getting too tedious about it… it is composing music using the “notes between the notes”. Western music, since Bach basically, has been and is primarily written using twelve tones – as we all know; C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B. These tones repeat from one octave to the next – either ascending or descending. But, we can in fact hear much more subtle variations in tone. Imagine sitting in front of a piano which has, say for example, twenty four keys per octave instead of only twelve, or a guitar with twenty four frets per octave instead of only twelve. You would produce quarter tones in addition to half and whole tones while en route to and from one octave to another. Then, imagine putting even more keys or frets between the notes – then more and more still, making the tonal increments from tone to tone, note to note more and more minute. Thus the term, “microtone”. This is microtonal music in nutshell.
Can you tell us about your record label and art company Tephramedia. When was it founded and why? Who are the managers? Its role and provided services evolution through the years till now? Are there any thoughts about relocation?
I started Tephramedia as a publishing identity in, I think, 2002 or maybe earlier when I published my first couple of books and films. This was quite a bit before forming Feeding Fingers. At the moment all of my time is being devoured by rehearsing, tour booking and promoting, so I am unable to properly collaborate with a co-manager. At the moment, Tephramedia is being run by yours truly. It’s role right now is to serve as a publishing and distribution identity for Feeding Fingers’ music catalog, books and other odds and ends that I have released through the years. I would like for it to expand in the future, but for now I can only manage one thing at a time. I have no plans for relocation at the moment. I have done enough of that over the last eight years. I’m not sure how many more languages I can learn.
What was it that made you move from USA to the center of goth music Germany? Was it helpful for you to follow music steps and how?
Our first tour of Europe was in 2010 – the “Baby Teeth” tour. It was a relatively successful tour, despite the odds against us. We finished that tour, I came back to my home in the United States, assessed the desperate position that I found myself in following the terrible financial crisis of the time – which I know that you all there in Greece are very well aware of yourselves – and I decided that it was time for me to leave. I decided to make an interesting life for myself, instead of slogging through it waiting for another hammer beyond my control to fall on me. So I left. Germany is centrally located with exceptional public transportation, infrastructure, etc. It was the logical decision for me. The move was helpful to me, I think, in certain ways. It was certainly helpful from a general health, financial and inspirational / creative standpoint, but I can’t say that it was particularly helpful from an audience / networking standpoint. Feeding Fingers has never been fully embraced by the goth community in Germany or elsewhere, really. We’ve never been whole-heartedly embraced by any community, to be perfectly honest. I don’t think that we fit all of the criteria expected of a goth band, a post-punk band or a whatever-wave band. This has made things certainly a lot more difficult for us from a marketing, booking and promotional standpoint over the years because almost no one seems to know exactly how to “sell” us to an audience. Being not quite goth, not quite post-punk, not quite indie, not quite pop, not quite jazz, not quite “this” and not quite “that” can be a little tricky. But, on the positive side we haven’t sworn allegiance to any particular genre or demographic, so as a result we have a lot more freedom to experiment than most bands do that have been around as long as we have.
Though you are basically a dark wave/goth music project the sound combines elements from avant-garde, electro, even jazz and world music. Can you tell us about your music influences, who are the artists or bands to whom you ‘owe’ your musical identity?
My listening habits vary pretty widely as I am working on one album to the next. While I was working on ‘Attend‘, I was listening to and studying everything from ancient Mesopotamian music to some of the more ultra-modern, granular synthesis work from people like Curtis Roads. The pool of influence that I was drawing from during that period was quite broad. While working on ‘Do Owe Harm‘, I found myself listening primarily to early to mid 20th century modernist composers, early electronic / electro-acoustic composers – the bulk of which happen to be women, interestingly. Daphe Oram, Delia Derbyshire, Ruth White and others. I was also listening to a lot of American and Polish jazz from the 1960s, with Eric Dolphy and Krzysztof Komeda being probably my two favorites at the time. I can’t say that I listen to much darkwave / goth music these days. I think that I absorbed so much of that in my early youth that I can’t really pull much from it as a listener anymore. I listen to and learn from so many different things that it is very difficult for me to pinpoint artists and bands that I think have more influence over me than another. It’s hard to say. I can appreciate a bit of everything really.
In the past you have shared the same stage with great bands and artist like IAMX , Bauhaus and many more for this tour with who are you going to have shows together? What are we going to see in the Athens show on March 10th?
For the 10.March show at Death Disco, Anima Triste be there as a local support act. To keep up with the event, I would recommend going here and marking your RSVP for updates:
What about your leisure time is there any, how do you spend it. And how do you get along?
Tour booking, promotion and rehearsals for this tour started way back in August, 2017. The album itself was completed shortly before that. It has been a non-stop, 12+ hours per day, 7 days per week process for me since then. I haven’t had any leisure time since the Spring of 2016. But, when I am able to steal a few hours away for myself, I spend it studying / learning languages – Italian now, obviously. I also do all that I can to spend time with family, a very small circle of friends, helping animals, reading – taking in the occasional film. I try to keep the music portion of my life in it’s own place as best as I can, just far enough out of reach to keep myself sane.
Photo credits: Steven Lapcevic