By Greta Pistaceci
I first came across Ergo Phizmiz a few years ago, though I am not exactly sure where—the British artist’s cover of the entirety of the Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat was available as a free download somewhere or other online (I have a feeling this was probably the WFMU blog, or one that might have linked to his personal website).
This was around the same time I first discovered the 365 Days Project, Song Poems, and Incredibly Strange Music and was spending hours downloading, one-at-a-time, freely available single tracks of singing chipmunks and Christian puppets using my ultra-slow dial-up connection (which would helpfully automatically disconnect itself every two hours, to cries of, “Aaaargh . . . NO!!!” from me, punctuated by swearing, threats, tears, and then supplications directed at my modem).
The name, “Ergo Phizmiz,” coupled with his idea of covering an entire album by what is considered one of the most legendary and influential “underground” groups of all time, had an immediate irreverent appeal to me. The second I heard his cover of “The Gift,” I was won over: it was as if a Donald Duck-fronted Nurse With Wound were reinterpreting the Velvet Underground track.
If you don’t believe me, please have a listen (and while you’re at it, I would recommend you also listen to Ergo’s acoustic covers of Aphex Twin tracks, though these are sadly unavailable at present).
Although his output was initially neatly tagged by others with the Plunderphonic label, Ergo’s interests have always been incredibly varied, and are becoming increasingly harder to categorize. A self-taught multi-instrumentalist, as a child he would write operettas, and in his early twenties he even had a brief career as a stand-up-comedian. He creates work for radio, he writes pop songs, operas, performs improvisation sets with others or solo, dabbles in animation, installation art . . . in brief, anything that takes his fancy is fertile ground for artistic exploration, and nothing is too sacred a subject for his investigations.
A regular on WFMU, Ergo also often collaborates with WFMU’s Vicki Bennett of People Like Us and Do or DIY fame, and their collaborations, as well as most of his impressively huge and varied catalogue of music, are freely available to download on WFMU’s Free Music Archive.
This interview is not what it seems.
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