Chadwick Bidwell (Ral
Vogelbacher are an intriguing band. Their last album ‘Kite Vs Obelisk’ is a
bizarre little album plucked from the cerebellum of frontman Chadwick
Bidwell and realised with the help of a team of dedicated followers,
including David Kesler and Tadas Kisielius from Thee More Shallows. Ral
Partha capture the sort of passionate absurdity that was harnessed in the
early work of Will Oldham and Bill Callahan. The song titles alone are
enough to confuse and baffle those of a more simple mind set. Yet for all
its curiosity it is simply one thing, and that is an excellent album.
So when I
received Chadwicks email address and a message saying "I’d like to
participate in the interview. I may have to lie. Hope that's ok?", I
decided it was in everyone’s best interest that I try to harness the power
of the Tinterweb get a few questions answered for the general good of
Ral Parthas last album 'Kite Vs Obelisk' was a pretty diverse affair, not
only in terms of its song titles but also in the sheer tone and scale from
one track to the next. What is that causes this sort of diversity in your
writing and were you pleased with the disparate tone the album ended up
The songs are all over the place in terms of instrumentation, tone, and
intensity, but the lyrical narrative is mostly thematically coherent and
consistent. I hoped that if all the songs together were telling a story,
then it wouldn't matter as much if all the songs sounded different.
That's one explanation. Another is that I was getting really tired of
listening to albums that sounded the same all the way through from start to
finish. These days I don't know what to think. There are lots of types of
albums like black metal or folk or drone records that depend on the sameness
of all the songs for them to convey a mood. I was probably getting sick of
pop music at the time. Or I was getting sick of the sameness of songs on
any given pop record. As we are finally readying ourselves for the
recording of the next album, we're actually finding ourselves discussing how
we want it to sound as a whole rather than as a collection of different
songs. And I'm saying "I want it to all be droney with some sharp edges
here and there." And David's saying "just write the lyrics, and I'll write
third explanation might be that I wanted Kite to sound like Beggars' Banquet
but was listening to too much Wowee Zowee. At the time I thought this huge
mess of a Pavement record was the best album in the world for some reason.
Weird. So I was listening lots of Pavement and Rolling Stones, but then I'd
hear something like Jesus Lizard's Liar or The Fall's Hex Enduction Hour and
freak out and want Kite to have all these really loud songs. It didn't make
any sense because I had written all these songs as quiet acoustic songs to
play in my bedroom and never in front of other people.
Which leads me to the fourth explanation...that Kite was a reaction to "The
More Nice Fey Elven Gnomes are Hiding In My Toilet Again" which was this
nice little acoustic record. The only problem was that we went into the
studio to record "More Nice..." as a loud rock album, but there weren't
enough mics or some thing like that. Anyway, the engineer was a guy named
Bill Racine who knew exactly how to mic my voice and made everything sound
um... nice. He ended up moving to New York and works for Dave Fridman and
has helped record Mogwai and the Flaming Lips.
should probably also mention Scott Solter who recorded Kite. It took
forever because he always had his hands full with other projects. I enjoyed
working with him, but I felt rushed much of the time. I like how he
recorded the drums. And his wife sings at the end of one of the songs.
We're recording the next album at the studio that David and a bunch of other
Song Titles: I've always enjoyed trying to come up with names for things
including song names, band names, my future child's name, friends' company
names, country names. I've had friends come up to me and ask for help with
naming stuff. Whenever someone asks me what a good name for their kid would
be (which is actually never, but I guess I always offer names) I usually
tell them that either Singledippledorf or Doubledippledorf would be good
always wanted to name a company "Technabulous Fabnology" so people could
call it "Technab" for short. The best band name I've ever see was some
random band called Afghanistan Bananastand. Ral Partha went through lots of
name changes before settling on RPV. I think it went like this...
1) Frogs and Sticks
2) Midnight Muchacho
3) A Fey Grace
4) Worry Force Neptune
5) Ral Partha Chadwick
6) Ral Partha Vogelbacher and his More Nice Fey Elven Gnomes
7) Ral Partha Vogelbacher
When we were called #6 and people would ask who we were, the combination of
my tendency to mumble and the ridiculous name would leave people just
shaking their head and saying something like "what's wrong with you?" Now
we just go by Ral Partha or RPV.
Did I like how the album turned out? Sometimes I do, sometimes I think it
sucks. I listened to it all the time after it was finished and would find
all these problems with it. I think I say calvary instead of cavalry in one
spot. Or the other way around. I would beat myself up over certain spots.
I'm still really reluctant to let people hear it. I like to look at it more
of a learning process rather than the end unto itself. The songs all sound
fairly different live now, and we might even include another version of
Nightstinger on the next album since we enjoy playing it live so much. Like
I said, I felt kinda rushed, so we didn't get to spend as much time learning
the songs and recording them. The two songs that received the most
attention where the two songs I recorded at home.
recorded "Jasper Downs" and "Spanish Ambassador" over and over until I was
happy with them.
Wow, good answer. So how did you come to work David Kesler and Tadas
Kisielius from Thee More Shallows? Do any problems arise with them being
able to perform in both RPV and Thee More Shallows?
I met David several years ago while he was leading a band called Shackleton.
At the time, he was looking for a new drummer, and I was looking to play
music. I told him I could play drums if they would to play slowly. At that
point I had never played drums in my life but I couldn't imagine it to be
that difficult - you just hit stuff, right? I showed up at their space and
just started wailing on the drums, and it became obvious to everyone that I
had no idea what I was doing. Upon my departure I gave David a cassette
titled "Quiet Desperation in the Carolinas, Vol. 1" which is actually the
first Ral Partha release and is luckily out of print. He liked the lyrics
in the songs.
Eventually, I released the first Shallows album on my dumbass vanity label.
Looking back, I think maybe he should have shopped it around more for a
bigger label that could push it more.
David was also the first person to convince me to play live as RPV. The
first few shows involved a lot of drunken falling over and accidentally
unplugging things mid song and forgetting how to play songs and asking
people to come on stage to tune my guitar and more basic ineptitude.
The more RPV played, the more David became involved for some reason. RPV
has always been a side project for him and our drummer Jason (also in the
Shallows) and for Chris (who is in Brian_and_Chris), and I would get upset
that their other bands always took priority over RPV. Then while we were on
tour, Tadas called David to tell him he was moving to Seattle. I guess he
then realized that he wanted to have a replacement song writing partner, so
that's when he approached me with the idea of writing the next RPV album
The idea was that I would write the lyrics but no music. Word on the street
is that I suck at writing songs. I only use the top two strings on my
guitar and have recently started writing the same song over and over. I
barely picked up a guitar while writing this time. He wanted to write all
the music for the songs, and that's been going really well. It actually
feels like a band rather than a bunch of disjointed meetings. We get
together and he reads over the lyrics and comes up with something pretty
quickly. I might say I want it to have a certain mood to match the lyrics,
but if I try to add any guitar parts he quickly shoots them down. I figured
out that if I wait until we show the songs to Jason and try to add my parts,
David feels compelled to be polite around other people and let's me add
far as Tadas playing in RPV, I called him up and asked if he would play
accordion on "Aral Sea Regulars" to which he agreed.
Have you got any other guests on this new album then?
Guests on this album? Right now, RPV is just David on guitar and suitcase,
Jason Gonzales on drums, and me on guitar, vocals, and keyboard. Chris
Palmatier used to play bass, but he became pretty busy with all his other
projects. His main band, Brian_and_Chris got picked up by Dielectric
records, so he's working on that more. He's also in a few other bands. And
he records all the time. And then he went on tour with Beulah to do sound
for them, so the three of us started playing and writing without him. He
may rejoin, but for now its just the three of us.
first, I wasn't even sure if the next album would be an RPV album since its
going to be more of collaboration between me and David. I think he wants to
bring in guests, but I actually want to keep it to a solid core of three
while were recording. He keeps saying things like "see, we play this and
this and then we'll have someone play horns here and then there." and I
respond with "Horns? Are you sure?"
likes to muck about in the studio and establish all sorts of pretty
orchestrations to set moods, but I want it to sound noisy and chaotic and
droney. we'll see.
I'd really like to bring Loren Chasse in to add little bits of noise, but
I've never even approached him about it. Or have Derek Bailey play nonsense
solo in the middle of some pretty song. That would be so bad ass. Or maybe
we could get Anthony Braxton and Sam Rivers to fly out here and they could
duel it out in a "Conference of Birds" moment. Yeah, that's what we'll do.
more than one occasion I’ve heard you being compared to such luminaries as
Bill Callahan of Smog and Will Oldham. Is this something you've ever been
aware of? Do you feel these sorts of comparisons can be stifling and pigeon
holing at all?
I've heard the comparisons, and I guess I'm flattered when I hear them. Its
definitely more appropriate to compare RPV to Smog or Palace than to, um,
lets see here, someone like Har mar Superstar or Gravy Train!!! Our goals or
somewhat more similar, and I’m trying to tell stories rather than get people
to do blow and fuck in a bathroom stall. I kinda wish I could do both, tell
an emotionally conveying story and compel you to go fuck someone in a
bathroom stall, but that's probably not going to happen anytime soon.
Great, now I can't show my mom this interview, can I?
But, yeah, I listened to those guys' records all the time during the rolling
mid nineties. ALL THE TIME. I remember being impossibly depressed for
about a year or two while living in North Carolina (thus the title "Quiet
Desperation in the Carolinas, Vol. 1") and listening to Oldham's "Arise,
Therefore" non-stop. I became a bit obsessed with Palace's output and
chased down all the singles, and then Drag City released that damn singles
comp. Then I traded for as many live recordings as I could find.
Actually, David and I were on a long drive back from somewhere and we found
all these old Palace bootlegs in a box of tapes in my car. There were two
in particular that were so funny. On one, Oldham was solo and it was a
really good show, but he was using some strange chorus effect on his voice
at certain times. It sounded like he had a chorus of smurfs with him. On
another tape, it was a board mix of a show in which all the other musicians
were too loud and he couldn't hear anything. So he was shrieking and
screaming his lines, and he's all off key. As a bonus, there's this guy in
the line-up of that tour playing crazy bombastic classic rock guitar solos
on every song.
The Pavement comparisons are a little more difficult to take. I would love
to be compared to Crebain or Leviathan or Ludicra, but sadly I've not made
any black metal albums.
Something I like to ask people who play and release music is what, if
anything, else do you do in order to be able to make music? Do you have a
crappy job on the side like the rest of the Monotreme roster seem to? Does
it become a struggle balancing everything in your life? you can still show
this to your mother I think. I think she'll be proud that you want to help
people get together even if that is in a toilet and you describe the
beautiful act as 'fucking'.
I just got a new job doing software engineering for cellular phones. I work
for a company that tweaks little games to work on lots of different phones.
Previously, I worked in other software development capacities and also did
some biostatistical programming.
recently took a year off / got laid off and worked at a letterpress printing
press. I loved it, but I missed the challenges of programming.
like trying to balance stuffy, detail-oriented, challenging work like
programming with creative work like music and letterpress. it used to be
kinda hard to balance the two. Now that I kinda know my way around a guitar
and know how to write lyrics quickly, its much easier to balance
everything. or maybe I’m just doing everything half-assed.
letterpress = printing before offset printing. Check out
worked with those guys. Awesome.
just a couple of final things then. When do you think we’re likely to see
the release of the Ral Partha album, are we going to get some UK tour dates
following that and is there final words of wisdom you’d like to offer the
The planning / writing / recording of this album has been moving along
pretty slowly, but I think it should be all wrapped up by the end of this
year. Because its taken so long, I’ll probably have a second album of
mostly acoustic songs ready to go as well. we'll see.
Monotreme records has brought up the possibility of a joint TMS/RPV tour
sometime in the future. it would be logistically easier for us than for
most bands since we share three members, but the usual problems of lack of
money and lack of interest may prevent it
from reaching the point of realization. I played a few shows in the uk last
summer that were pretty fun. Played a show in Brighton with Todd costanza
and Virgil Shaw in which I forgot lines to my songs. I was solo, so it was
wisdom? from me? um...let's see.
1) educate yourself.
2) use spell check.
3) read as much as possible.
4) don't smoke crack right outside my apartment and then pee all over my
5) don't offer me a free rock at 8 in the morning while I’m trying to get
to my car to go to work.
6) wear a bikini.
7) watch the insects closely.
8) buy new underwear regularly.
9) brush your teeth.
10) never, ever use the word "hella" in any conversation. (not even sure
anyone does anymore)
11) to Americans abroad, try not to yell and scream "USA, USA" while in a
temple, ruin, church, etc.
12) start gardening.
13) listen to black metal.
thanks Luke. bye. enjoyed it.
that the computer screen refused to respond any further yet I felt I could
still hear Chad’s voice continue to impart knowledge to me. Then I swung
round on my swivel chair and there he was. I’d done it, I, a lonely black
female comedian had saved an undercover agent from his torment overseas. Oh
hang on, no, that was what happened at the end of ‘Jumping Jack Flash’
starring Whoopee Goldberg. Great Film.
information on Ral Partha go to