steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

20 questions
blankred.jpg (4669 bytes)
blankred.jpg (4669 bytes)
blankred.jpg (4669 bytes)
with zaïmph's marcia bassett

Marcia Bassett's history in the Hototogisu, GHQ, and Double Leopards hardly needs elaboration, although her growing legacy under the Zaïmph moniker has been rapidly amassing respect from the underground experimental scene. I first caught onto her work with 2006's sublime Sexual Infinity, an ebbing, growing work whose sheer grandiosity has led me to dub it "orchestral noise." Since then, she's put out a wealth of new releases, including 2009's Serpent's Bite LP on her very own label, Heavy Blossom.


1. What attracts you to noise?

Which wave of noise are we on now? I feel bored by that term—or maybe I’m just bored in general. “Noise music” gets lost in its own 21st century feedback loop. I’m into creating sounds that enable me to go some place. It is like entering into a tunnel that suddenly branches off into multiple passageways. When I was young there was an abandoned concrete fort that was a relic leftover from WWII that I used to climb around in. The fort itself sat halfway on the beach and halfway over the water. It seemed labyrinthine at the time; exploring the interior with the waves crashing below. The place was really black—pitch black until the eyes adjusted. That caused all sorts of visual hallucinations and heightened awareness. It was like the best haunted house ever. Distortion of the senses can be reached in all sorts of ways; I try to get there through sound–it allows me go “into” something else—somewhere unknown.

2. "Zaimph" comes from Flaubert's "Salammbô." Why did you choose to use it as the name of your project? Also, is it Zaimph or Zaïmph?

It is the latter: Zaïmph. Flaubert fabricated the word. I liked the word—the spelling, the sound, and I was attracted to what it symbolizes in the novel—a taboo--a sacred magical veil.

3. How did you first become involved in unconventional music?

I grew up mainly listening to rock music –I guess I was pretty fortunate that my parents had a fairly decent record collection that I dug into, because there was not a great record store in the area and then I had a tendency to gravitate towards people with good record collections who exposed me to underground/obscure stuff. So some of it was through exposure and once I had the taste, it was fairly easy to seek out.

Playing unconventional music? I feel I have always had that interest. There are a lot of rock elements to my playing mixed in with a bunch of abstractions. I’m into the process of inventing/discovering sounds in the moment. When I am making a release I usually go back and do a lot editing/listening to these ‘captured’ sounds and then work on laying them out for the release.

4. Describe the setting in which you envisage your music being listened to.

I don’t. It really could be anywhere any place any time.


5. If we go by, some of the first releases you were a part of were under the Un moniker, with two records out on Siltbreeze. How do you see those recordings now? Do you ever listen to them?

Sometimes I go back and listen to them—more when someone is around that wants to hear the recordings. I hold most of the un archive. One day, I may find some time to sort through and select material for the 2nd LP that never came out. We had an LP with 2 or 3 versions ready, but things just fell apart and it was never released. To go back and make the decision to release the “2nd album” I’d have to dedicate a lot of time to listening to the original recordings, think about arrangement, selection process, discuss with the other members, etc. etc….Perhaps this will happen one day but that time is not right now.

6. I feel there's a general notion that the music you've been involved in is fundamentally different from a lot of other noise releases (particularly older ones), which emphasize raw harshness instead of a more listenable completeness. "Orchestral noise," if you will. Would you agree? What are your opinions on the more brazenly abrasive noise music that's out there?

Yeah if you are talking about “abrasive noise” I agree my stuff is different. Although my perception of abrasive I’m sure differs from the next. It is all relative. “Noise” as definition gets a little fuzzy, like indie, rock, experimental, etc. “Noise” doesn’t really describe the music. Basically, I enjoy exploring my own path, wallowing around in my own grime and grit.

7. Are you as serious a person as your music might suggest?

What is serious? I’m serious about my music, what I do, yes.

8. I've read another interview with you in which you describe how you meticulously map out the arrangement of your releases. On the other hand, a lot of noise/experimental artists seem to largely improvise their recordings.

Well, I was talking about placement of pieces on a release, not meticulously mapping out how the piece would sound before it is played. Arrangement of work after it's executed is different than arrangement during the process.

8.5. How important is improvisation to your music?

I mostly improvise.

9. I've seen one video in which you incorporated visual elements into your performance. Do you see your music as accompanying visual images, and do you ever get involved in creating multimedia elements for your live appearances?

Yeah; I really like playing with the right visual elements. The problem I run into is finding a projector, the set-up, etc., all the details that can ruin the space of focusing on the music-end of the performance, so a lot of times I don’t bother with that. If the equipment is there & it is not too much of a hassle I will take the opportunity though.

Sexual Infinity, on Hospital Productions (2006)

10. Perhaps the most prominent project you've been involved in is The Hototogisu, along with Matthew Bower. What is the recording dynamic between you two? Do you just jam together, or do you discuss and plan?

We discussed and planned.

10.5. What are the fundamental differences between your musical approaches?

We are different people. We have different approaches. I feel I don’t have to map that out for people.

11. Does the amount of interest and attention directed towards The Hototogisu (as well as your other projects) ever surprise you?

Surprise? Not really. Then again interest was not huge. I wish more people had been able to experience Hototogisu live. And thanks to anyone reading this that did come out to the shows—that goes for all the projects.

12. CD vs. cassette vs. vinyl - compare and contrast.

CD – my least favorite. But I do like that it plays for up to 80 minutes. And they turn off without any effort on my part.

Cassette – I like them. They are inexpensive and can be really short or long BUT they wear out. I have some great cassettes that warble and flutter adding another dimension to the sound.

LPs - I’m a vinyl person.

13. You've had releases out on countless prominent experimental labels. What are some of your experiences, good and bad, with regards to the process of putting out releases on noise labels?

Well, some of the labels I’ve worked with have a more specific focus than others, but I would allow for time to see if that focus shifts in other directions and branches out. At any rate, I haven’t had any problems.

14. What is your strangest music-related story?

They are all strange and normal at the same time.

15. What inspires the visual design of your records?

Me, my art. It is all very personal. I hope that the public finds a connection between the art and music though.

16. What sorts of films do you most enjoy?

I really like a lot of the visual experimental films that were made by Jordan Belson, Paul Sharits, Whitney Brothers, Stan Brakhage, Harry Smith, Maya Deren, etc. etc., the list goes on. I’ve had the advantage of seeing a lot of experimental film at the Anthology Film Archive & other venues in NYC. The real advantage is to actually see the film projected on a screen. I’m a big Herzog fan. I’ve been very into Michael Haneke films, Nicolas Roeg… I’ll stop there. It will just turn into a big list.

17. Where is the line drawn between noise and drone?

I don’t draw those kind of lines. It is not important to me to make those distinctions. I think that my recordings are evidence of that philosophy.

La Nuit Electrique, on Utech Records

18. Which of your records are you particularly proud of and why? If you could choose one that everyone in the world would listen to, which would it be?

I wouldn’t. People that want choices made for them most likely will not be traveling in my neck of the woods. I believe that people that listen to my music sought it out because they like to make their own choices. Maybe my record will be that one that someone pulls from their pile and plays it for someone that has never heard it before, and they in turn will go find their own copy. Or maybe it will be found in thrift store and someone will buy because it is cheap and they like the cover. At any rate, I imagine that my releases are purchased because a person chose to find it. It really shouldn’t matter which recording I’m proud of. Truthfully, I’m proud of them all.

19. What is your favourite colour? Justify your selection.

Oh the favourite question… The sky descending into the silhouettes of buildings, streets, trees--Lights with electricity auras that slowly burn. A beautiful bruise on the horizon – yellow green purple blue black.

20. What does the future hold in store for Zaïmph and your other projects?

Right now, I plan to continue recording, collaborating with people, going out on short tours, releasing material.


interview conducted by Michael Tau
August 2009
published October 2009
photo credits: top image modified screenshot from youtube
[ayal senior cameraman]
album covers courtesy of Hospital Productions and Utech Records



all content copyright 2009