In the process of watching and listening to all that struggle and triumph, it’s easy enough to tell who is where on the metaphorical food chain that churns out our town’s singular sound.
Among the arhats of the most high in the shockingly visceral, zero-sum game that is rock music Burque-style: Kris Kerby. The dude’s long-running “percussion apocalypse” endeavor, ICUMDRUMS continues to set sonic standards, divining as well as breaking the boundaries of Albuquerque’s avant-garde.
The new album by ICUMDRUMS, Castle, drops Dec. 1, courtesy of Sicksicksick Distro. That’s the label that brought Burque rockingly esoteric acts like Tenderizor, Bigawatt and Death Convention Singers, in case you are interested.
Weekly Alibi chatted with Kerby on a sunny November morning to find out more about one of Burque’s most relevant cultural provocateurs—who happens to be on the cusp of releasing another critically acclaimed album. What follows is part of that cray and comprehensive conversation.
Weekly Alibi: What kind of life experience led you to ICUMDRUMS?
Kris Kerby: Originally, I’m from Loving, N.M. I started out drumming as a child, sort of randomly. But then I joined the middle school band [in Loving] and then the high school band, playing quad toms. After that, I moved to Carlsbad, N.M. and tried to start a band. It didn’t really work out. I was trying to find something more intense. Finally, I met these two guys in Carlsbad, they had a band called Sabertooth Cavity …
Oh, wow! I remember that band, I didn’t know they were from Carlsbad …
Yeah! They saw me play a gig with another band in Carlsbad and they asked me if I would play drums for them. But they lived in Albuquerque at that time. So I moved here one day, pretty much randomly—like the drumming—to see where the path might go. I started jamming with those guys and it ended up really well. We did a couple of tours and albums, and then it ended. I tried playing in other bands after that, but I got really bored. I decided to do my own thing, a solo project. I started to learn a lot, about making my own microphones, how I could function as a one-man band, based from a drum-kit.
When you say you got bored with it, do you mean rocanrol?
Yeah pretty much. I wanted to start experimenting. Also, as one band stopped doing things, I kept wanting to work. I’m very active. I wanted to keep it [the music] going, keep as busy as I could. Music became the one thing I wanted to do in life, it’s the one thing I know how to do.
What was the next step in the process of defining yourself musically as ICUMDRUMS?
There was this guy, Brian Chippendale, he’s in this band called called Lightning Bolt; he has a similar percussion project called Black Pus and that’s a one-man band as well. He runs his drums through synthesisers … his process was very influential to me, it’s why ICUMDRUMS came to life.
So do you mic each of the drums and send the signal to some sort of effects array?
I make my own [electronic] triggers and I run them through the bass drum and out to a synthesizer, and then to guitar pedals that I manipulate live. It all goes to a bass amp, I like to keep everything really low. I output to 15” mains. I want to go bigger, lower, eventually. That’s a really important aspect of my sound, the lower I can get it, the better!
When you first got that complex process nailed down, what was it like? How did that feel?
It was nerve-wracking to be sure. I had never played in front of other people, by myself before. It’s one of the reasons I have really long hair. When I was playing in bands I could always hide behind my hair. Now that I’ve gone solo, I still have the hair and that helps a lot.
You’ve evolved in a matter of a few years to become one of the most in-demand instrumentalists in town, that must feel good, right?
Yeah, it’s awesome that people would want to play with me, for sure. It’s humbling, you know?
What about the new album, how does that fit in to all of this?
Actually, I got the name for the album from a Led Zeppelin song, “The Battle of Evermore.”
Hey that’s my favorite Zeppelin tune, it’s got Sandy Denny singing, yo!
Yeah, it’s fucking awesome. I have that song on tape, and I’d be driving around town listening to it and the line about the drums shaking the castle walls just stuck out to me. That’s how I make my albums. I wait for something to really resonate with me. The title for the first album [The Girdle] came from a Queens of the Stone Age recording, “Songs for the Deaf.” [I’m making] allusions to influential sources, they’re subtle hints.
How would you describe the new work to someone who has never heard anything you’ve done?
It’s just a bunch of weird spaceship sounds and drums, it pieces together the things in my mind that I comprehend through experience.
But it’s more than that; you got some real notables to join forces with you for this record, like Dale Crover of the Melvins plays on one of the tracks … how did you get Crover involved?
I got really lucky on that one. I went to LA to do this album. It just so happened that I was working in the same studio where the Melvins regularly record. I asked the chief engineer, “Is there any chance Dale would want to play on this album?” He was able to overdub some drums for me while they were working on their latest [album].
What’s important to you about the new work?
This is the first time I’ve put so much into an album. This has been a year-long project. I was thinking about that this morning [before we met up] … it’s hard to believe that I’ve been focused on this for a year. It’s been very important, I’ve really enjoyed all the work I put into it. That I pretty much did it by myself, that means a lot to me.
What are the deets on the the album release?
It drops on Dec. 1. I’m having an album release party at Sister on Dec. 21. REIGHNBEAU, Sun Dog and Chicharra are going to provide support.
Awesome, three of the best bands in Dirt City!
Yeah, that one took a little time to organize, to find bands that clicked with what I wanted, really … I’m going to have two other drummers playing with me during my set. It’s a challenge to do some of the new work live, and some of it I’m scared to do live, but that’s exciting too. I feel like this is a great time for music in Albuquerque, there’re a lot of amazing bands right now, everyone’s getting their shit together.
Some people don’t understand what I do, but that’s fine, because it is, essentially a one-man percussion apocalypse. Fortunately, I’ve found a lot of support for something that’s unique. I want people to mosh and go crazy at my shows but it’s okay if they sit and stare too; that means they’re thinking about it, which is fucking awesome.