Now you can read us on your iPhone and iPad! Check out the BTRtoday app.
Giggle the Ozone is an enigmatic and hilarious mainstay in Brooklyn’s foggy outskirts, invoking the apocalypse by way of new wave and heady, atonal blues. Led by composer Dylan Sparrow, the band simultaneously infects your brain with melodic synth hooks and beats you to a pulp with its jagged rhythms and nihilistic dissonance.
Take the tempestuous and tear-jerking “Fair Weather,” from 2014’s “Selective Pressure” and contrast it with the haunting and brutal affair that is “Cave of the Unknown Baby,” from 2007’s split with Scissor Shock. Yes, it’s the same band, and part of a philosophy and body of work that is simply astounding.
BTR speaks to the visionary Sparrow about New York, babies, visual art, and pyramids made with Legos.
BTRtoday (BTR): When did you start making music? What drove you to do it?
Dylan Sparrow (DS): When I was born, I apparently made so much noise that the doctors placed me in a separate room to avoid disturbing the other babies.
BTR: You’ve been in many incredible, genre-defying bands. Care to run down the list and maybe comment on each one briefly?
DS: I’ll address the two that first come to mind.
Statutaur: Injurious, low-falutin’, action-packed, triumphal music. Too raw for the prog nerds, too rare for most everyone else.
Zeehas; 12 Wait: Maladaptive, insidious, erratic music for the VIP party in your head. Critics hated us, a handful of people loved us, and everyone else went about their business.
BTR: Where does Giggle the Ozone stand on this list? Is it simply the most current (haha, that’s a song of yours) musical project or would you say it’s the culmination of all of your work? Could GTO exist without its forebears?
DS: It’s a culmination. Or actually, I view it as more of a merger. Giggle the Ozone even plays a few songs by those bands live on occasion, so you could say they were liquidated into the Giggle the Ozone corporation. We fired all of the other employees, but we own most of the rights.
BTR: Is there a new GTO album in the works? How would you describe it?
DS: There is! It’s entitled “Braintrust,” and it’s chugging along at an even pace. I suspect it’ll be done within the year. The sound will probably be a mixture of navy blue, burgundy, and black.
David Bodie, who played on the last record (“Selective Pressure”), has signed on for a repeat performance. Sam Weisberg is still on board. We also have a great new live drummer in Diana Kinscherf, and she may make an appearance on the record as well. Those are the only details I’m at liberty to divulge right now.
BTR: Got it. Your songwriting is very unique and very catchy. It’s also heightened by noise, samples, militaristic elements, humor, and of course, visuals. Can you talk about your visual art? Is it ingrained in the music and vice versa or rather its own thing?
DS: I don’t consciously try to reference my visual art in my music, though I’ll sometimes mine the same ideas. The process is similar for both, in the sense that I’ll start with a very basic idea and then gradually add new layers to it over the span of weeks, months, or years. I like to think of it as building a pyramid with Legos.
BTR: Would you say you value the multidimensional music experience (with all the elements listed above) equally to someone expressing themselves on solo guitar? In other words, does music have to be a movie to you or something overwhelming to the senses or can it just be a cool riff?
DS: I don’t define multidimensionality by how sonically intricate or dense something is. I also don’t define it by how many disciplines are being synthesized into a single work; I know artists that can say a lot more to me with a guitar than J.J. Abrams can with a huge film budget. To me, a string on a guitar can be either a distinct dimension or a meaningless noise depending on what the player is doing with it.
I do think lyrics, when they exist and are intelligible, are where I usually find the most compelling “extra” dimensions. But again, I don’t need to have a multiverse of sound flying at me all at once.
BTR: Your old band Statutaur had a song called “Freight Elevator,” which seemed to summon the vertical anxiety of life in New York. How would you say this city, your hometown, has influenced your music?
DS: I think New York City is a cold, uncaring place for the most part. When I say uncaring, I don’t even really mean it in the malicious sense. Unlike outer space, it’s not that New Yorkers can’t hear you scream, they just usually have their headphones on, and your screams will probably blend into the Rihanna song they’re jamming out to.
Bottom line is nobody really cares what you do, as long as you aren’t overtly inconveniencing them. Don’t like my music? That’s fine, nobody’s playing it at the supermarket, so you’d have to go far out of your way to hear it. There’s freedom in there, but it’s also another kind of prison. I think the emotion in something like “Freight Elevator” is just that—the beast is let out of the cage, but quickly discovers it’s still trapped in a zoo. We recorded the screaming in an apartment in Inwood, but thankfully nobody complained about the noise.
There was one time that somebody heard our cries. We [Giggle the Ozone] were recording “Cave of the Unknown Baby” at Touro college, and during my vocal take, a janitor came rushing in to see why somebody was screaming bloody murder. We explained to him that it was music, and the screaming was intentional. His expression of concern remained.
BTR: Is there less mystery to recording nowadays than when you were a kid? How have digital recording programs affected your process?
DS: Statutaur was the last time I recorded using analog equipment, and that band got liquidated over a decade ago, so I’ve been working digitally for quite a while now. I’m comfortable with it for the most part, though I don’t actually do much home-recording. I usually just hire someone who knows what they’re doing to handle the technical stuff. With FGM (my radio show) I handle all the tech, but that’s much less complex than what I do with Giggle the Ozone. While I’m not exactly a luddite, I’m definitely not a computer wiz.
BTR: What are you trying to say with this music? Do you have an artistic “statement”?
DS: You can handle the truth.
Look out for “Braintrust” in the near future and make sure to visit Dylan’s site.