Music » Music Stories & Interviews

The music of sound



A Place to Bury Strangers
with Sleepy Sun, Mr. Gnome,
Strangers Family Band
8 p.m. Sunday, April 4
Back Booth, 407-999-2570


By definition, all musicians are interested in sound, but few have dedicated themselves to its practice with the scientific devotion of vocalist-guitarist Oliver Ackermann. On the thrusters of his band, Brooklyn's A Place to Bury Strangers, he's rocketed to the head of the shoegaze new wave.

Flanked by drummer Jay Space and bassist Jono MOFO, Ackermann plumbs the depths of sonic noxiousness with the ominous, thundering APTBS, which has triggered critical shockwaves thanks to its thickly layered noise-rock and punishing live volume.

Though APTBS might be considered his breakthrough into the public consciousness, Ackermann's mark on sound was already being made years prior on an entirely different side of the music industry. Not content with the standard tools of the trade, he tried to modify sound in every way that he could, starting with his own guitar-effect pedals while in Skywave.

"It was maybe around 1998 that I got my first successful pedal working," says Ackermann. "But I was kind of trying to mess around with stuff and just breaking a lot of stuff before then. That was just a lot of reading books and experimenting and figuring things out."

To finance a vacation, he decided to leverage his R&D by starting an effect-pedal company called Death by Audio in 2001. The demand for his pedals kept coming.

"After `the vacation`, people still wanted the effect so I kept on making more things, different effects, building all sorts of custom effects for people," says Ackermann. That list of people now includes My Bloody Valentine, TV on the Radio, Lightning Bolt, Nine Inch Nails, Wilco, U2 and even Lady Gaga.

From a hot boutique pedal company, the brand has since spread into many other interests as well. In a Williamsburg space Ackermann helped build in 2005, Death by Audio is not only the headquarters for the pedal manufacturer but also the umbrella for a DIY collective that includes a live venue, recording studio and workspace for artists and musicians.

However, the dense sonic assault of APTBS is where he's currently etching his sonic vision in the most direct and personal sense. When it comes to rock, the band's idea of playing is akin to taking an industrial-grade crusher to a song and dancing to the resulting squall. A true shoegazer at heart, Ackermann uses crushing carpets of distortion and feedback to subvert his overtly pop melodies and abstract the sounds from their traditional instrumental origins.

"If you can't exactly tell what it is that's creating these sounds, it just sort of turns into this pure feeling and emotion," he says.

"It becomes kind of ambiguous and beautiful."

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