His Name Is Alive remains a truly bizarre world where fear of the unknown, accidental bits and sheer beauty mix into a challenging sonic experiment. To describe in words what HNIA stands for, is virtually impossible – its presence within the music medium is by all means uniquely confusing.
The story of His Name Is Alive started sometime in the mid-80s, with the early line-up providing a vast collection of weird experiments on tape. Among them, we now know of the strangely titled cassette – “I Had Sex With God”. Even if we wanted to, tracking down the main storyline behind these early experiments still is next to impossible. As a result of dedicatedly brushing up these, by 1990 a trio of youngsters appeared in the adult world of independent music with “Livonia”, a masterpiece debut album with a ghostly cover and a mixture of sounds that were so beautifully neither-nor – reflecting their creative output of the time, which by now blossomed into a gorgeous twenty-five year-old.
With every next record, the group (equally changing shape in terms of line-up) remains restlessly full or surprises – “Home Is In Your Head”, “Mouth By Mouth”, “Stars On E. S. P.”, “Ft. Lake”, “Someday My Blues Will Cover the Earth”, “Last Night”, “Detrola” and “Xmmer” show everlasting desire to constantly evolve – and it’s only a tip of the iceberg, with many parallel DIY releases aside from the regular 4AD catalogue – from the goth-like spooky innocence of the earlier material through avantgarde, surf and psychedelia to the full-blooded r’n’b and electroclash worlds. These do share only slight similarities inbetween, but stepping in and out of the experimental focus through their diverse musical doors, HNIA continue to make any musical references or resemblance to something that is/was, impossible to pinpoint.
In the meantime – they released a brand new album “Tecuciztecatl”. A nice little weird story told anew – a psychedelic rock opera depicting an epic struggle between identical twins, reflective in nature and mirrored in twin science, secret language and mythology. The Brothers Quay must have been so proud, providing two video numbers for this bunch.
Like in the case of Cindytalk, whose work was once described simply as “Toby”, there’s the same “problem” with HNIA – the band’s name comes from an obscure reference to Abraham Lincoln, but it doesn’t really sound like “Abraham” – or “Lincoln”. But then who can ever tell. Except Warren Defever, the group’s lonely constant original member – in his own private underworld he is the king (of sweet). In someone else’s, he’s may be a complete unknown. Time to change that.
SD: Apart from Livonia, is there any other spiritual home out of this world that you see yourself at? WD: I wouldn’t describe Livonia as a spiritual home, it’s a city with no spirit, no ghosts, no positive or negative vibrations. It’s flat, it’s zero. It’s not even cool enough to be a dead city. It’s like a 6 mile by 6 mile square empty space right next to Detroit. It’s the shadow of a city, maybe just a reflection of place.
SD: Between sensibility and eccentricity – is this more of a platitude that the media build around an(y) artist? Does everything have to be “weird” in order to be acceptable as “different” and/or more interesting and arty – as opposed to mainstream? WD: I don’t believe I have ever intentionally tried to be difficult or confusing, I was born this way, it just comes naturally. I have a lot of problems and I think the music is a reflection of that, I don’t even know how I’m still alive.
SD: Your music pieces happen to have very unusual titles – probably the most confusing is “Ode on a Dave Asman”.What was the craziest title ever that you gave your collection of songs? WD: Dave Asman was a good friend of mine from school who was a terrific songwriter, his music was just magical and there’s quite a few songs that from the early days that were inspired by his work and were dedicated to him. As a young man, I believed that in the future people would’ve recognized his great talents by now. However, his lack of recorded output and sporadic and poorly attended concerts 25 years ago suggests that few will know the name.
SD: Apart from 4AD – and in recent years, Silver Mountain Media Group’s catalogue, what exactly is/was Time Stereo? There happens to be a vast collection of releases that are quite elusive – what is your latest project/album that you’re working on? WD: In 1984, I started recording on a 4-track cassette recorder, since then I’ve done very little else with my time. I’ve amassed thousands of songs and weird tapes. Possibly millions. The releases reflect a prioritizing of the recording process with a complete disregard for public consumption. I’ve released over a hundred records in the US, Canada, the UK, Japan, Spain, Mexico, Estonia, China and Texas on many different labels.
SD: How personal are your albums to you and not bothering with the expectations from the (general) public? Many raised eyebrows when HNIA released “Someday My Blues Will Cover the Earth” and “Last Night” for example, which marked a radical shift in the direction of pure r’n’b. WD: I didn’t realize that those albums were controversial, at the time I just thought they were unpopular because of the labels poorly promotion and by the delays, missed released dates, typos, lack of internal communication, and bureaucratic nightmares. I think those two records reflect the hopelessness and pointlessness of existence that I felt at the time.
SD: Despite many female vocalists you collaborated with, die-hard fans insist Karin Oliver is the ultimate voice of HNIA. Is there a difference between a die-hard fan and a stalker? WD: I love Karins voice more than anyone. You die-hard fans cannot begin to compare to the level of stalking that I’ve spent the last twenty years doing. I’m really great at stalking.
SD: What is the main reason you choose a certain (female) voice for a specific piece of music to fit in with? One of the vocalists you’re collaborating with in recent years is Andrea Francesca Morici, whose vocals are confusingly (read: pleasantly) reminiscent of Karin’s. Was there ever sort-of intention to find that kind of replacement in the band, or are we all full of crap, insisting too much that one person is the ultimate voice? WD: When you say collaborate, I’m not sure I agree with that word. Would you say a person’s neck “collaborates” with a vampire? I require a lot and I’m very demanding, once I have what I need, it’s often difficult for the musician or singer to contribute much longer.
Iv An, May-Nov, 2014
His Name Is Alive’s brand new album “Tecuciztecatl” is now available on London London/Light In the Attic/Silvermountain Media Group via lightintheattic.net Further reading: hisnameisalive.com