Opening Bell (Feat. Interview w/ Michael Thomas Reisinger) / by Joshua Poveda

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Opening Bell

Opening Bell, an industrial noise band based in Brooklyn, New York, create musical environments that evoke the slow processes of a self-reflexive dread. Rhythmic efficiency and somber melodies generated by a complex mixture of synthesizers and distorted guitar produce songs that blossom and persist with faultless consistency. A subtle swing in the drumming provides their haunting melodies with the same allure a purple and red sunset blesses the impending nightfall. Their sonic atmosphere envelopes fuzzed out vocals dripping in reverb and delay. The introspective gloom of each monologue sung contains the same pathology that drives black metal to the fringes of popular culture. However, instead of relentless waves of lo-fi distortion and hiss, their rich diversity of timbre creates a sonic totality, without crescendo, that builds up towards a truly meditative experience. 

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I spoke with Mike Thomas Reisinger, leader of Opening Bell and founder of independent label Sleeping Giant Glossolalia, about the band's live performances, among other things.

During your set I got the impression of it having a narrative structure. There was cohesion, and each song seemed to flow together seamlessly whilst remaining independent. Is there conscious effort to achieve this? Does narrative play into your design of a setlist at all? 

Yes, the live set functioning with a narrative structure is intentional. The songs from that set are taken from two separate EPs(one that just came out and another that will be released in the near future) recorded at different times and in different places. While the subject matter varies from song to song, I think we are able to present them live as though they belong together, at least sonically. For instance, giving some of the electronic textures similar treatments at the beginning and end of the set make it feel like one cohesive piece of music. The segues also act as a way to quickly catch some breath between songs...

And what kind of subject matter is each EP dealing with? Does each EP revolve around a theme, or do songs deal with them independently?

Now that I'm forced to really think about it, I guess there is a common theme of survival among the songs, or something like that. But each one in a different way. "Loma Atomal” for instance, is about my friend Nevada Hill, who fought incredibly hard against cancer and displayed a kind of courage and determination I couldn't even imagine until it ultimately took his life. "Compound Eyes" is a little more broad, abstract, and paranoid, if I'm being honest. 

Tell me more about Sleeping Giant Glossolalia. What is it? Where does the name come from? 

Sleeping Giant Glossolalia is a record label I started several years ago in order to release whatever weird music my friends and I were making, and I suppose that's essentially what it still is, though on a larger scale. The name comes from some lyrics from an old band of mine; something about veiled threats and potential upheaval, compulsion to behave in ways that seem counterintuitive, and speaking in tongues. Yeah, if I ever considered it was going to become an actual "business,” responsible for some of my favorite recordings, I might not have given it such a convoluted, difficult to pronounce and remember name. Luckily, "SGG Records" rolls off the tongue and is sympathetic to search engines. 

I see you have post-industrial listed as a genre on your band camp. What exactly makes your sound characteristic of post-industrial?

I have no idea what "post-industrial" is supposed to be, but I guess that tag is more acceptable to people than the made-up genres like "bunkerbeat" I was using. The unconventional use of electronics ties it to industrial, maybe, and the "post" because it obviously isn't purely that style, or any style, really. 

I was impressed by the balance between Opening Bell’s sonic elements: Wet vocals, fuzz, synth-bass, and of course the live drum kit. Did this balance have to evolve over time or was it an effort from the get-go.

It did develop over time, yeah. Initially, Armando and I were making largely improvisational electronic music, but that kind of evolved into a few different projects. We added guitar and live drums to Opening Bell and started writing actual songs, and eventually Nellie joined the group as a permanent drummer and that solidified things. It has managed to retain a similar "bad feeling" from the onset, though.

If you could add any element to your live shows (I.e., architecture, video projection, performance art, etc.,) what would it be and why?

Hmm, tough one. We have used video projections to some extent but it's kind of hard to pull off in a unique way. Without asking my bandmates to chime in, I'm going to go ahead and say it would be cool to incorporate some kind of interpretive dance, though I can't imagine that working well. Who would dance to this stuff? Wait, no. Puppetry! My answer is puppets.