C. Spencer Yeh is a kid with a violin who is best known for his experimental noise project Burning Star Core. His shows are an assemblage of everything sensory, so watching him play is like being hit with everything in the universe, on Robitussin.
It’s best not to get in his way when he’s on a role, musically or conversationally, because like those crazy bums who lost the plot years ago, Spencer’s antics drop some pearls of wisdom. We hung out together in Sweden, where he cut right to the chase, revealing the depths of Robocop, and that he likes to smell something intimate off his girlfriend.
Watch for a Hair Police cameo at the end of the interview.
C Spencer Yeh: Starship Troopers is an amazing movie. This is my theory on Paul Verhoven and Hollywood movies: Robocop is to Starship Troopers as Basic Instinct is to Showgirls.
Hallie Newton: How so?
Think about it –
But I have a special place in my heart for Basic Instinct. It’s a big feminist movie.
Of course, but so is Robocop. It’s really interesting… Robocop and Basic Instinct are more about individuals than about situations, while Showgirls and Starship Troopers are more about situations of exploitation, or, like, handling or introverting gender roles… Robocop and Basic Instinct are more about the “me” and the “you” than the “they” and the “them”. You’ve seen Starship Troopers? You’ve seen Showgirls? Showgirls is totally about the “they” and the “them” and they talk about sexuality and how it’s harvested. At the same time Robocop is a story about the militarization of the individual. One of my favorite scenes from Robocop is when his crush – his human partner tries to help him aim and he’s all fucked up. OK, here’s the question – What does Nancy help him aim against?
No! For target practice! They aim against piles of baby food. His work crush helps him recalibrate his aiming against baby food. You know what that means to me? Her former human crush is a now robot and they can never have babies so she helps him aim against and destroy baby food.
Ok, so are you going to compare this to Basic Instinct or women taking on more masculine roles in these movies? Because you have kind of an anti-feminism streak going on. Are you a chauvinist?
No, well, ok on one hand maybe I am a chauvinist because I don’t believe that a person should absolutely castrate and discard their own gender. The forceful elements of (gender) are what make things saucy but at the same time you shouldn’t make things overly perverse with it. You should be respectful, but you shouldn’t be a… I don’t know… don’t be a wiener about it. There are some people who, in the face of feminist situations, immediately discard and devaluate their male markings… they’re like, “Oh I wish I grew up castrated “or some shit. That’s bullshit. Rep what you have with you. Do the most with it. If you want to stick it into dudes, so be it. If you want to stick it into girls, so be it. What’s your story? Have you dated guys who were so pro- feminist that wish they were never born with penises?
I went to a liberal arts college, but for the most part I like guys who chop wood.
So you like guys who forcibly, like –
I’m pretty normal about it, really.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting someone to shove something into you. I don’t think that’s inherently this or that. The problem I have is when people are faced with situations where it’s like, “You should be ashamed of what you're born with.”
That gets more psychological. That’s not like, “Oh, you like to date a guy who’ll shove something into you.”
Ok then, if you don’t mind being intimate, tell me about a situation where you shared something very personal with someone.
Me? What about you?
What about you?
Me? What about you? – Hey! What about you covering Faust?
Faust or Tony Conrad and Faust?
This brings up some interesting questions because I wanted to know the things you’ve been looping in your live sets…
Well, actually I was talking to Tony Conrad about it and I did a direct cover of him and Faust live… and … I wish I weren’t so drunk ‘cause I can’t be as eloquent as I want. I was in a boat hostel in Norway with Tony and he told me about the first time he met up with Faust and for some reason talking at length with him about it, I felt vindicated doing a cover, and since then I’ve expanded the idea of the cover to see what else it would mean or where it would stick, and to see what else it could instigate, and (from that) the loop (in the second song) I use right now is actually a UB40 song.
How did you pick UB40 to sample?
I had this particular tuning at this time on the violin and for some reason I heard the song and it was more so that UB40 lined up with the tuning of the violin than myself seeking it out.
But it was on.
It was on.
Was it on your YouTube?
I did look it up on YouTube.
How many times a day do you YouTube?
Let’s get another beer… Prior to (UB40) I had Robert and Trevor from Hair Police playing it note for note.
They played UB40?
No, it was a different riff before then. It went, “doomp doomp doomp doomp”, then, “reeeeehhhhhhh”. [Spencer pulls out a plastic bag.] Ok, so check this out. My girlfriend sent me this pedal.
What’s so big about it?
Well it’s this Jimi Hendrix fuzz pedal that I borrowed from her to play this record release show with Noveller. She sent me this fuzz pedal along with a sock that she rubbed in her armpit. (He smells the sock).
Like Napoleon’s lady.
You understand. [Napoleon said,] “I’m coming back from the battlefield. Do not wash for-”
[Robert Beatty of Hair Police walks up.]
Robert: Dude what do you have in that bag?
Spencer: You wouldn’t understand.
Robert: It’s a sock… I don’t understand.
You might be a little bit of a pervert but you’re definitely a romantic.
Spencer: Yeah, so she sent me that and Jimi Hendrix fuzz that I used for the CD release for Noveller.
Robert: I don’t get it –
Spencer: Explain it.
Napoleon was coming back from battle and he wrote Josephine a letter telling her not to bathe because he wanted to be able to smell her as she was when he left her.
Spencer: How do you know that?
Spencer: Well I don’t keep up with romantic. All I keep up with is the hottest things ever written is Robocop. When she aimed the gun against the baby food.