Interview: A Place to Bury Strangers

Cover Photo Credit: Pooneh Ghana

Legendary destructive experimental noise act A Place to Bury Strangers is set to play their first Istanbul concert on August 3 at Blind. To celebrate, we talked to Oliver Ackermann and did a lovely chat together.

Left to right: John Fedowitz, Oliver Ackermann, Sandra Fedowitz

How are you, Oliver? How is it going? You are going on tour soon, right?

Oliver Ackermann: Yeah, we are about to go on tour, so it’s kind of wrapping everything up and building it together. Getting ready to go.

Obviously, you will play in Istanbul next week at Blind.

Yeah. It is our first time. We were supposed to play in 2015, but the gig was canceled. I guess we were in Greece, and the plan was to drive to Istanbul, but then it didn’t work out. 

How are your ears holding up after all these years of performing loud music?

They are fine. I do a lot of recording, and also a lot of mixing for other people, so I use my ears all the time. I don’t know what it is, maybe I have a thick skull. (laughs) I don’t know how I turned out so lucky. Still have a really good hearing after all these years. Maybe because I started at an early age with super loud music.

What was the earliest “extreme music” you were exposed to in your memory that inspired you hear more?

A lot of extreme music was actively happening when I was living in Rhode Island. There were these house shows or warehouse shows. People would play out in an alleyway or something. Some of the best ones were the bands that withstood the test of time: Lightning Bolt, Black Dice… There were a lot of bands, so many that I don’t remember the names of some who really did incredible things. Just pure experimental harsh noise. When I discovered them, I did not initially realize that was something that actually could be done. I would get tickets to a Weezer concert. Going from that place to more extreme territory, you would have your mind blown by this anti-music. You are there, people are tearing something apart, making something incredible happen. It’s just beautiful.

What is your daily listening routine like? Do you lean towards a certain area of music?

It’s kind of all over the place. It ranges from really weird experimental stuff and industrial metal to the poppiest pop. It is cool that this internet age provides us with so many great radio stations, I listen to lots of them, like NTS Radio. By those you can hear really eclectic stuff, it broadens your horizons. You always want to hear something different, I guess.

Has your aggressive performance style ever proved problematic with venues? 

Sure, yeah. Those things definitely happen. Obviously, we are not there to hurt anybody or anything, but things do get chaotic. People can get worried. You are just super excited and going for it, you do something really crazy. I guess it scares some people.

You have played with awesome names including Nine Inch Nails and The Jesus and Mary Chain. Is there a specific project that you would love to play a show with someday? Whether they are the headlining or the supporting act, doesn’t matter.

There are always tons of bands like that. I am actually really excited to play one of our supporting acts in Istanbul, Goblin Daycare. We are so hyped for that show, they are sick. Lots of cool bands also play here in New York. Though I don’t get to play with all of them, I see them live. I just love crazy music. As for big names, I would just love to play with someone totally unexpected, like Lizzo, just for the weird experience. (laughs) Maybe we would get yelled off of the stage. It would be fun.

It definitely would be. You should open up for some pop stars, just for the shock effect. “Tonight in NYC… Harry Styles, with opening act: A Place to Bury Strangers.”

(laughs) Yeah. Talk to him. Put in a good word.

As someone who has been getting into music-making recently, I have been very fascinated with the world of pedals. And your music relies heavily on effect pedals. Is there a pedal that is more dear to you than others?

They all enter your life at different times with different things you are working on. A very special pedal of ours is called Space Bender, wrote a lot of the music on Hologram EP with that. It has such a nutty sound, it is bending delay. One of those things that you would never think will sound good, but it’s just so beautiful and natural. Inspires all sorts of stuff.

It’s cool you are starting a musical journey of your own. Sometimes people get so clouded with being comfortable with something. It’s really fun to put yourself in a situation you are uncomfortable with. That’s when something happens where you react not based on something you know, but something spiritual. You are connected to music throughout your whole existence. I think that’s a better and more powerful way to make music.

Let’s also talk about your most recent release, See Through You. I have read that you were in a hard place while making it. In retrospect, what do you think were the two easiest and hardest songs to shape from that record?

I don’t know. Some of them were difficult for different reasons, but emotionally, maybe it became easier from the first to the last song. The first one, “Nice of You to be There For Me”, was the lowest low of a painful situation, just felt really bad there. The last song, “Love Reaches Out”, really was the moment when it all seemed over. I was integrated into a better place. I had more friends around me at that time who helped me through. Things were looking potentially positive. There was finally a way to work through stuff. So it is like me being totally crushed at the beginning of the album, and at the end finally realizing, “Hey, even if you are crushed, you can go on.”

Would you define yourself as a music collector?

Well, I mean, I don’t really think about it, but sure, yes. (laughs) 

What is one very special item in your collection?

I have this Orange Juice record that I bought in a bin, and I played it so many times when I was younger. It’s a vinyl record I have never seen anyone else have before, it just sounds so gnarly. The whole album sounds super distorted. Maybe it’s because someone was copying the original pressing. It’s just nuts and awesome. Very dear to me.

Are you also a horror film nerd? 

You know, sometimes. I like watching horror movies. I think it’s cool and interesting what people are doing nowadays in this genre. They are shooting films on a shoestring budget. Kind of similar to indie music in that way. There are nutty things and really twisted ideas. It’s really experimental. It’s neat, and there is a fun element to it all. I always thought, “Why aren’t these scarier?” (laughs) There are movies where you laugh although everyone is supposed to be scared. I like it when you haven’t seen a movie and you don’t know if it’s gonna be scary or how you are gonna get scared. That’s kind of a thrill.

When you check out your streaming platform history, what are the last three things that pop up?

The problem with mine is that I share my account with a few people. Let’s see… The most recent one is by Wax Jaw, then there is the artist No Juventud, and finally “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley. 

When will A Place to Bury Strangers cover Elvis Presley?

(laughs) I don’t know. Maybe someday. We’ll see.

If APTBS had a memorial stone in a Musicians Theme Park 100 years from now, which one of your lyrics would be written on it?

Maybe something from “Hold on Tight.” I’ll choose “May as well have fun no matter what.” 

Cool pick. Or maybe just an imitation of a random noise.

There you go. Way better.

You can purchase the APTBS Istanbul concert tickets here.