Q&A: Bill Orcutt On The Harry Pussy Reissues, Playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" And His Kids Not Caring He Was In A Band Called Harry Pussy
Bill Orcutt is an American noise music and experimental icon. For a too-brief but essential period in the '90s, Orcutt, with drummer and then-partner Adris Hoyos, terrorized audiences in the Miami-based Harry Pussy, a devastatingly atonal and confrontational noise animal that melted free jazz's spiritual mind trips, punk anarchy and no wave's radicalism into an end result that served as a progenitor for the Noise movement and the experimental music sphere.
Harry Pussy disbanded in '97 but their parting gift was the face-ripping, hard-to-find Let's Build a Pussy, which consisted of a gnarly Hoyos bawl that Orcutt manipulated into a computer-generated fuckery job (hence, the apropos credits of "Bill Orcutt: Mouse and Adris Hoyos: Mouth"). With Orcutt's blessing, Editions Mego has reissued it with liner notes penned by noise guitarist and scribe Alan Licht. Meanwhile, Orcutt has released One Plus One, a mighty collection of duo-only carnage culled from hours of Walkman-recorded jammage with Hoyas.
Orcutt isn't just in the midst of a Harry Pussy victory dance; he reinserted himself into the scene a few years ago. He's put out three string-damaged comeback releases, and he now performs perched on a chair and barefoot, plucking out his manic version of Americana on a battered acoustic. This version of Bill Orcutt is a finger-picking avant-folk beast, dishing out the noisiest and subtlest of jagged notes and shards.
Sound of the City emailed with Orcutt about the Harry Pussy reissues, touring, and playing with drummer Chris Corsano.
You're in the midst of a tour and celebrating the release of Harry Pussy's Let's Build A Pussy. How did it come about that Editions Mego would release it?
It was my idea to do it on Mego. Peter had talked to me earlier in the year about reissuing Harry Pussy records, so I thought asking him to do Let's Build a Pussy would be a good way to test his commitment to the project! But he was into the idea and got Rashad Becker to cut it and Alan Licht involved to do liner notes. The reissue is very luxe compared to the original, which was all xerox'd covers and scrappy as hell. Also I knew I was going to release a compilation of our earliest recordings [One Plus One] on my own label, and I was into the idea that there would be a simultaneous release of our last record as a bookend to the early stuff.
In any event, it's turned out to be an amazingly unpopular decision. Reviews have been scathing [one guy described it as making him feel like "a slug that's just eaten a pile of salt"] and even people that are sympathetic are confused why we'd reissue this particular title. Hey, I love it, that's why!
Why not release Let's Build A Pussy yourself, like you've done with most of your solo stuff [with the exception of How the Thing Sings, which Editions Mego released]?
With the possible exception of Laff Records, Megoin its original incarnationis probably my all-time favorite record label. So it's a blast to have anything released by them.
What do you like about releasing your own music?
I get to keep all the money. Also I'm kind of obsessive and like knowing the minutiae of a record's production and distribution which is possible only when you do the work yourself. And there's some good precedents for musicians releasing their own records: Cecil Taylor's Unit Core, Greg Ginn and SST, Loren Connors and Daggett, etc. and I like feeling part of that tradition.
Is re-releasing the rest of the out of print and unavailable recordings of Harry Pussy something you are interested in doing and getting out there?
Maybe. The records are beginning to turn 20 now and reissues seem like a good way to celebrate that milestone.
Has revisiting Let's Build a Pussy and [putting together] One Plus One sparked memories of the band and/or those record in particular?
One Plus One is compiled from hours and hours of 20-year-old rehearsal tapes of me and Adris playing. The recorder was running the whole time so all our conversations, arguments, etc. are there and listening back to it sparked lots of memories, some good, some not so great.
Let's Build a Pussy I did in San Francisco after the band had broken up and I moved away. So my memories of it are not of the band, but of moving to S.F. and also the technical issues that arose from trying to do that kind of audio processing with my mid-nineties Mac.