Illusion Of Safety Interview

Originally printed in Spinal Jaundice #9 – 1989


Always full of adventure, Illusion Of Safety’s material provides detailed, semi-rhythmic soundscapes with variances between thick noise gushes and ambient, found-sound odysseys. It’s always a searing time to be had by all. Aside from the distinctive industrial impetus, their music is actually fun and listening is a more thoughtful process. IOS is featured on a couple albums and an array of cassettes including their latest release, “Finance And Ideology.” They are a collaborative unit and I spoke with the continuity member, Dan Burke.

MJ: Who is Illusion of Safety?
DB: I began working with a band called Dot Dot Dot in 1984. They were a progressive rock group and we did a few performances together as Illusion Of Safety. They enjoyed the opportunity to ignore musical structures and do something experimental. Dot Dot Dot broke up, but I continued to work with Thymme Jones and Chris Block (from DDD, also members of Cheer-Accident). I also work with Mitch Enderle (he has a solo tape of industrial grind called “Dead Tech”), Spark Lunch (our disco man), Mark D. Clein (our photographer), and our newest member Jim O’Rourke (later in Sonic Youth – MJ). IOS is a revolving membership, I work with whoever is available or appropriate. Many of our pieces are individually oriented or collaborations of 2 or 3 members. Of our releases, “In 70 Countries,” “Fifteen” and the two live tapes are good examples of our ‘group’ work. Thymme, Chris and Jim are the only ‘real’ musicians in the band, but that doesn’t stop the rest of us, we all do soundwork, and I am often the one attempting the more musical structures. I do the funding, booking and most of the graphics and correspondence. Jim O’Rourke has taken over the networking thing, he has a few excellent solo tapes out and he was the founding member of the Elvis Messiahs.

MJ: Can you describe the kind of music you perform?
DB: They call it ‘industrial’, so do I, even though I can’t really define that term. It has been described as ‘the soundtrack to nightmares you don’t remember in the morning’. We do power electronics, sound collage, decomposition, ambient emotive fields, information drifts, and totalitarian pseudo-rock.

MJ: Even amidst the rough sounds of some of your music, I’ve still noticed a sort of sublime element. Would you consider this an intrinsic factor in your material?
DB: Most of our sounds I would not consider rough, and I’m not sure what you mean by sublime. We attempt to make every piece stand out in some way, whether it’s subtle or in your face.

MJ: IOS has done a good deal of collaboration. What are some benefits you think can be achieved from ‘by-mail’ tape collaborations? Or hindrances?
DB: Working by mail allows time and space for adding elements and offers a chance to work with someone who you don’t live near. I’ve taken far too long to finish the only mail collaboration tape of IOS, with PBK, City Of Worms and John Hudak. Jim O’Rourke is also working on collaboration tapes with PBK, City Of Worms, K. Null, and others.

MJ: Do you think experimental music has experienced any homogenization in the past few years?
DB: Most music becomes more homogenous as it gets more popular. But there will always be a wide variety of things happening in the underground.

MJ: Is IOS a touring outfit?

DB: Yes we’ve done some traveling. We played in Pittsburgh on August 13, 1988 with Algebra Suicide and Research Defense (two Chicago bands). We did four shows in Colorado in July of 1988 (amazing – MJ). We went back out west to Denver and did three shows in the San Francisco area in June 1989. We also played Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin a few times.

MJ: What kind of things go into one of your live shows?
DB: Before this year it was us and our equipment. No visual elements, just a serious attempt to manipulate our equipment and produce the kind of sounds we like. Recently we’ve begun using lights/shadows, slides and video. We’ve also gone to strict improvisation over the last year. We used to do interpretations of our pieces, but found that improv is more enjoyable for all concerned. The focus of our performance remains with the kind and quality of sound produced while being able to listen to and react to each other. We have always used tapes, contact mics and synthesizers, but have gotten away from the drum and bass thing (although these will crop up from time to time). Lately we are concentrating on sampling and DX-7 work.

MJ: Is the live medium an equitable one for you?
DB: I’m not sure what the audience gets out of it, but we enjoy the contact and need to perform at least once every few months.

MJ: Is Chicago really the murder capitol of the world?
DB: Yes, Mike. It just so happens to be.

MJ: Are there any groups/individuals that you feel influence your recorded work?

DB: My inspiration to do this came from seeing Throbbing Gristle’s final two performances. Most of the members of IOS listen to industrial music, but our tastes are very diverse. I’ve been listening to Slayer, Madonna, Prince, Metallica and Public Enemy lately, but this influence only shows up in the music collages. I would have to say that The Hafler Trio and Nurse With Wound (having done the most interesting post-industrial soundwork) are big influences.

MJ: What are your thoughts on the alleged CD revolution wiping out albums?
DB: The big money will try, after all they can make more profit on CDs. But our kind of records will be around for some time. Records in the mainstream stores are being replaced by CDs but who cares about that? I don’t own any CDs, so when I can’t get the new Slayer on CD I’ll just have someone record it on cassette for me.

MJ: What types of things do you look for in background material (i.e. tapes)?
DB: It should be disturbing, true, or funny in some sick way.

MJ: You also manage the Complacency mail order label. What all is happening?
DB: We have some new releases on our label. Two split LPs. The first is Eric Lunde/Hands To. Eric used to be in Boy Dirt Car, these days he’s working on his own, and doing some great stuff. On his side, “Tape Death Cut,” he uses his erosion recording process one step further with the use of Mirage sampling, and ends the side with two beat pieces that could be Wax Trax material. Hands To is Colorado’s Jeph Jerman using sampled sounds from actual events to affect the central nervous system. Hands To’s “Vinhilation” is quite subtle and has a nice contrast to Eric’s side. The other split is IOS (live)/Holeist. The IOS is from three live shows in July, 1989, and is mostly ambient. Holeist is a project I did with Eric Lunde and Jeph Jerman. We worked in shifts with the sampler to create some very effective and abrasive noise. IOS has just released a box set (limited edition of 150) containing two C-47 cassettes and various laminated graphic inserts. Complacency has just released a new tape, Holeist live on one side and Runzelstirn/IOS/Gurgelstock (R.I.G.) on the other. R.I.G. is a collaboration Jim and I did with R & G of Switzerland, lots of abrasive concrete with samples and DX-7. IOS is finishing up a tape of severe noise for Nihilistic Records of the Netherlands, and 10 minutes of new material for a CD of Chicago experimental music coming out on Franz Liebls’ Priapismus Software label in Germany. And finally we are beginning work on a new 8-track studio LP for summer 1990 release.