Your name, name of of any project members, and
Lee M. Bartow (AKA Leech),
Theologian, 38 years old
The capital city of Dis, New York.
How long have you been doing your project?
I've been recording music on my own since the mid-90s, but this
particular project (Theologian) has only existed for about two years,
give or take. It grew from the corpus of my previous project, NTT, which
technically existed from 1997-2007, but had its final recordings
released in 2009.
If you have any notable collaborators, how long have you known each
other and how did you meet?
Theologian is by definition strictly a solo project, but lately I've
been working on collaborative releases with a lot of great artists. NTT
involved collaborations with Tim Spann of ABFALL, Matt Slagle of SIDE 3,
Mark Kammerbauer of FRAGMENT KING, Chris Goudreau of SICKNESS, Chris
McDonald of SKM-ETR, James Keeler of WILT, Jasse and Toni of STROM.ec,
David Tonkin of ISOMER, Fallon Knieves of COVET, and a host of other
people who have made extremely valuable contributions to the large
discography that NTT produced.
Why did you pick Theologian as the name of the band?
The monicker Theologian was inspired by Clive Barker's novella, "The
Hellbound Heart" which also inspired the "Hellraiser" films. In the
book, the cenobites are referred to as "Theologians of The Order of The
How has your music evolved since you first started? What are the
main themes or topics for your work?
I consider my output as constantly evolving. As I have essentially
started over from scratch with Theologian, I've had to go back to basics
in a way, and still have not quite sorted out exactly what the process
will be for this project. When I first started doing new material using
this name, I had a bit of an idea as far as how each track was supposed
to be executed, but as I continued recording new stuff after the first
ep (coming from Crucial Blast as a digital release in August 2010), I realised that I needed more freedom to fuck around. I've read comments
online that certain people don't perceive what the difference is between
NTT and Theologian, which just speaks to their ignorance of my process.
NTT was composed of about 90% appropriated and recontextualised samples
and contributed sounds, whereas all Theologian material is completely
generated by me from scratch, with the exception of a single track on
the "Maximum Bitterness Has Been Achieved" cdr, which uses film dialogue
and a looped musical sample on one track.
As far as themes go, there is a correlation between the themes covered
in all of my projects, which focus primarily on themes of loss and
longing, obsession and unrequited love, and the negative aspects of
those emotional states. That is simply a part of who I am, and dealing
with anything else would feel quite dishonest, which is the polar
opposite of why I do what I do. The point is to be as brutally open and
vulnerable as possible, to let it all out of me. As I've grown older and
have accrued more sadness, the anger has abated and I've been relieved
of a large portion of my unbridled spite. NTT was very helpful in
heaving some of the emotional weight I have felt in my life, and it
served its purpose well. I was quite happy to bury that beast and
Theologian, as well as my other project love is nothing. have sprouted
as new life from the carcass of NTT.
Describe your music/art. How do you describe your music to people?
Adam at Crucial Blast described Theologian as "blackened synth dread"
and I quite liked that description and fully intend to exploit it
(thanks Adam!). The truth is that I've always had a very hard time
describing my music to people who are not familiar with the world of
heavy/dark music. If you're not an initiate of this type of art, it's
not an easy thing to swallow. Many people have a hard time discerning
between an artistic persona and the artist who stands behind it. I admit
that when I was younger, I myself had difficulty making the distinction
between who I was in my daily life, and the way in which I chose to
express myself artistically. It's true that these things are a very
deeply-engrained portion of who I am, but it does not make up the
entirety of my true self. I can laugh, I consider myself to have a good
sense of humour and to be quite silly and childlike in a great many
ways. I am also extremely loving and generous and loyal to the people I
care about, unless they wound me.
What music did you grow up listening to?
As a child, I was exposed to jazz by my father, while my mother
preferred the likes of Bobby Short, Frank Sinatra, and a lot of music
from Broadway shows. I was brought up to have an appreciation for music,
but the music my parents listened to had very little relevance for me
personally. My father played standup bass, or at least aspired to do so,
and some of my earliest memories of him involve him holding me and
strumming my back like a bass while dancing to jazz on the radio. My
father's copy of Chick Corea's "The Mad Hatter" was something I'd listen
to obsessively while playing with my Star Wars figures.
When I got older, I didn't necessarily seek out music on my own until I
was much older. One kid got me interested in "heavy metal" and the first
record i ever bought with my own money was "Number of the Beast" when I
was about ten years old, which I actually still have somewhere. After
that, I was sort of dependent upon what my friends were listening to.
I'd fallen in love with electronic music at an earlier age, Georgio
Moroder's score to "Cat People" and Wendy Carlos' score to "Tron" were
in constant rotation on my mother's turntable in the living room (I
eventually got a huge solid state record player/hifi as a hand-me-down
that was the centerpiece of my bedroom for years). I also loved the
score to the Disney film "The Black Hole." A friend of my parents saw
that I was into the David Bowie track on the "Cat People" record, so she
gave me the first album by the B-52s as a birthday gift. This was
probably my first proper introduction to weird music.
In junior high school, I dabbled with Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd,
eventually gravitating to a variety of shit from Stryper to Cinderella,
until I finally was rescued by some friends who listened to punk rock
and deathrock. When I was 16, my favorite bands were probably Erasure
and Depeche Mode. The first show I ever went to was Siouxsie & the
Banshees at Radio City when I was in tenth grade, I listened to all that
sort of stuff, The Pixies, The Cure, Sonic Youth. My friend Jane's
father worked for Caroline Distribution, so he had huge cases of
cassettes in his house, and she would give boxes stuff to everyone. By
the end of eleventh grade, I was listening to The Misfits, GBH, The
Angry Samoans, Exodus, Overkill and Swans... Especially Swans. The first
Swans album I ever heard was "Children of God" and that was the fucking
end and the beginning of everything for me. From there I just started to
seek darker and heavier music, particularly anything electronic. I
recall that at some point in my senior year of high school, I made a
decision that I was going to listen to industrial music almost
exclusively, because it was the only thing that really gave me what I
What's the first song you remember listening to or that sticks in
I don't recall a specific song, but as you can see above, there were
several pivotal albums in my childhood that had a profound impact on my
What are you currently listening to that you're really into? Can you
give me a short list of stuff you've been into lately that you think
should be investigated/listened to?
I don't really have a list, per se, but I've been listening to tracks
from the second album by Crystal Castles maniacally for the past few
weeks, ever since I saw them at Irving Plaza. The album was leaked, so I
downloaded a few of the tracks after pre-ordering three copies for
myself and two of my friends who went with me to the show, then I bought
the digital version of the album after they pushed the release date up
due to the leak. The latest release by Aderlating, "Devotional Hymns" is
highly recommmended, as is their split with Painforged. Both are on my
friend Butch's Shadowgraph Records label. Also on Shadowgraph is the
amazing "Through the Fields of Mourning" by Welter In Thy Blood. Other
recent acquisitions are "With Dirt You Are One" by Sewer Goddess, on
Malignant Records (who released three full-length albums by NTT), "Flow"
by Foetus, and "Winter Hours" by the amazing Tombs.
For the most part, I've been listening to a lot of my own stuff, as I'm
currently working on several different releases simultaneously.
Who are your influences in general, musically and
While Swans has definitely been the greatest musical influence on me
since I was in high school, Godflesh and pretty much everything that
Justin Broadrick does. Jim Plotkin had a profound influence on me, and
he exposed me to a lot of great stuff in the mid 90s. Brighter Death Now
was possibly the biggest influence when I started focussing on making
"noise"-oriented recordings, and along with Dive, BDN was sort of a
direct reference point when I started working as Theologian. At this
point I feel like I've grown past the need to cite influences, I'd say
it's pretty obvious by now to those in the know. Artistically, I'm
influenced by Clive Barker, the films of David Lynch and David
Cronenberg, and I derive inspiration from a whole host of other writers
and filmmakers, though in all probability the emotional discomfort I
continue to experience as an aspect of my existence on this planet
serves as my primary influence.
What got you into making harsh noise in the first place?
As I said above, there was a point when I was a teenager that I started
getting into heavier and darker music, and my gravitation toward noise
was just a natural element of my interest in experimental and industrial
music. In the early 90s, I formed my first band, which was a sort of
weird industrial rock outfit with two keyboardists, a guitarist and
myself doing vocals through effects pedals. After that inevitably ended,
I worked with another friend on a project which was the beginning of my
veering toward doing more fucked up shit. These early endeavours whetted my
appetite, and I just continued to fuck around with sound on my own until
I started meeting people who were into similar stuff. As is the case
with many people, I was unaware of any sort of global "noise scene" when
I first started fucking around with making noise on my own, and as I
started working to make a scene happen in NYC, I met and became friends
with more and more people who had been influences.
Are your sounds deliberately composed, is your work
abstract, or a combination of both?
That's not an easy question to answer. I can't really put my process
into specific terms, because it's just something that I do. I don't have
any real system as such. NTT tracks would often be built around a
specific sample that had a particular emotional impact on me, or
sometimes they would simply serve as a delivery medium for a particular
concept or set of lyrics.
Do you rehearse or plan your performance in any way,
either in your heads, on paper or in a studio, or do you just wing it
when it comes to performing and recording?
Theologian has only performed three times as of this time, and I've only
been happy with one of them, which was at the second Northeast Noise &
Power Electronics Festival in Massachusetts back in November 2009. I'm
still trying to figure out what I'm doing with my live setup, and to
directly answer your question, in general I prefer to improvise live,
but within certain sonic ideas that I come up with ahead of time. NTT
live was a combination of prepared backing tracks and improvisation. I
generally tried to include other performers in my NTT shows, and
sometimes we'd play after having only rehearsed once or not at all.
Could you describe your music-making process?
Not really. It's just something I do.
Where do you record?
My "studio" is called Leechnest Breeding Facilities, which is a play on
the fact that it's my bedroom. For about a year, I had my recording
setup at my friend Kevin's rehearsal and recording studio, but in the
end it wasn't convenient for me to have to leave the house to work on
music, unless I was working with other people. It worked in some
capacities and didn't in others.
Do you have a home studio setup?
Can we see a picture of your work environment/studio
setup and a brief description of it?
My setup is in total disarray at the moment, as is my life, and I'm not
at full operational capacity, so I'm not comfortable showing you what it
looks like. I'm not even really comfortable being here.
Are you prolific/are you constantly cranking out new
stuff or does it take time to get it right and done?
It's a combination of both. I have gone through periods when I banged
out loads of material all at once, and then there have been tracks that
took me a year to complete. It all depends on my emotional state and
whether I'm distracted by life's drama. At the moment I have about six
releases that are in progress, which include several collaborations and
the first official full length Theologian album, which is due on Crucial
Blast in August 2010.
Are your live performances structured in any way or are