***** Interview with Perry Pelonero (Skylight/bliss.city.eat/Morpheme & Brent Martino (Skylight/ The Scarlet Mouning *****
Perry: Some mixed up memories.
The band started around 1991 when i met Mike Bunnell through some friends. I had just moved to the Boston area after leaving New York City. In NYC i was heavily involved in the punk rock hardcore scene and by the late 80s, i was sick of it.. At first me and Mike started making noise tracks with a sampler and whatever else we had laying around. We eventually shared an apartment together and we used to record via a radio shack mixer into a cassette player. It was fucking weird, but it worked well. Mike was one of the first peoplei knew to make loops with a guitar i think... Using an Alesis sampler. We started listening to music coming out of the UK that i guess was called shoegaze? We had already been heavily influenced by bands from the UK .. Echo and the bunnymen, the cure etc... But this stuff was different. We put a band together and brought some different people in and got a manager who in the end fucked us pretty hard after moving to NYC and vanishing. He even stole our original recordings. His name was Howard... And i would love to kick his fucking ass inside out to this day. We recorded a demo with him not long after meeting him. Mike had this great idea of running his guitar through this old yamaha noise keyboard synth after i found we could input the guitar with it... It gave us that string effect for the original As you leave recording. Amazing stuff it was for us. After recording the first demo, we added two new members to the band. A friend of ours Marie played guitar along with Mike, and a drummer. We practiced in the basement of this house we were all living in. We had no money at all, and had to fill our oil furnace with diesel fuel because we could not afford oil. We had a house full of cats as well, because they kept having kittens... We had one cat that used to jump off the roof of the house into a flower pot. People would come over just to see it.
Really it was kind of fucked up. Everybody was fucking everybody, strange people showing up to our house, people getting piercings in fucked up places on their bodies... Everybody in the house got crabs at one point because somebody had dropped some in our house. Me and Mike made up strange games to play during the day to keep us busy. Like tossing super balls in cans. We had a car that would not start unless one of us pushed it down a hill. So every place we went we had to park on a hill. We lived next door to this asshole with a ham radio and giant fucking antenna. He use to come through on all of our recordings the signal was so strong. We asked him to stop but he never did. Instead he would talk about us on his radio and we would hear him. We tried calling the FCC but that failed. So one day we cut and spliced a bunch of his words that we had recorded on a tape. We arranged the words so he would call himself an asshole. Making him say he ate his own shit and stuff. Really funny things... But some drums and keys behind it... We then made a tape and put it on his front door and rain his doorbell. He was so so mad. He even called our landlord... But to us it was funny. We laughed for days about it. He never turned his fucking radio down though.
Before our first show we really wanted video playing behind us so we came up with some cool ideas. We went to the library and rented a film about nature. Flowers, birds etc... We then took a camera and took all sorts of weird photos. Like close ups of wonder bread bags and windows etc. We turned those photos into slides. And ran the slides over the nature film which gave this really cool effect. It really went well with our live show actually. Trippy. Our friend had made a video of it at one point, but it’s long gone now. Kind of sad, because i would give anything to see it again.
After going through rehearsals for our first live show we were ready. Our friend Eric booked us at a club that had just opened. The day of the show came, and the place was packed with people. I think we were a bit shocked. It was time to hit the stage and when we did it all started. First off, our drummer straight off played everything the wrong way. We had been practicing with him for weeks. Complete fuck up. I still say he was nervous and had never played a live show. After suffering through a few songs with him, i got really pissed off and threw my bass on the ground... I came back a minute later and we just started making NON stop noise. For at least 15 minutes. Mind you, this was before MBV had ever made it to the USA . Although i cannot confirm that. I think we had heard stories of them doing the noise bliss though. At this point the crowd we brought in started clearing out. Funny to look back on actually. By the end of the show, our drummer took off. According to Brent a friend who joined Skylight later on, i had been threatening to kill the drummer and he was scared shitless. We fired him after that show and went back to using two different drum machines. We continued to record and play various shows in our living room and other places.Then one day our manager called and said he was leaving and moving to NYC. At this point we thought what do we have to lose by doing the same?? I contacted my sister who was living just over the bridge from NYC in NJ and asked her if we could come down and stay with her for a short time. So we had a huge yard sale and made money. Packed up all our shit. Rented a U haul and drove to NJ. We arrived at my sister’s house in NJ. Not long before we arrived, her neighbor had just blown his heart up by swallowing a couple of 8 balls of cocaine because the cops had pulled him over in the driveway. My sister was visibly upset but also acting really weird about it. I thought to myself holy shit what are we doing here!! Come to find out she was moving because she had lost her house due to a serious drug issue she had so she helped us all find a new place to live which ended up being on top of a strip club in the worst neighborhood in Paterson NJ. It was horrible. Every night the song I LIKE BIG BUTTS would blast through the floors of our apartment. The club was disgusting. Hookers all over the neighborhood tons of crack being sold. My sister had all sorts of weird people coming in and out of the apartment. One of them was this dude who told us a story about his mother making somebody float out from underneath her bed one night. And when we tried to walk away from him, he pulled out a gun and told us to stay. Yeah, it was that fucked up. During this time our manager had vanished into thin air. We tried calling him and he never returned calls. We rented rehearsal time in Hoboken and rehearsed whenever we could. We had no money what so ever, and had to take jobs for a towing service that my sister’s boyfriend at the time owned. We stayed in the area as long as we could. Shows, hanging out at a friend’s record store and making music whenever we could. We saw a lot of cool shows in New York City around that time. And really that time period was just as electric for music as it was in the 80s. Timeless.Eventually after some of us going through some serious drug problems, we packed the band up and moved back to the Boston area. Looking back on this though, we really had a ton of fun as well. I mean we were all about the music, and played whenever we could. The noise man.. the noise man..
Once we got back, we had no idea what to do honestly. We spent a short time doing whatever we could. Until one day Mike just up and left for college. This was around the same time the Brent joined the band actually. I have always been on the same page with Brent musically. All of these years went by and when we started writing together again, it was magic. I would bet it will always be like that... Aside from Brent writing his side of things here, i emailed him the other day and asked him to share some memories of that time period and this is what he sent me. Hilarious to read this because i forgot about most of it! In 1993 Brent said this.
Brent: I came to be in skylght in the spring of 1993 when the band was basically Mike and Perry, I had known Perry for a couple of years through a friend I was in another band with. Shortly after joining Mike left and we became Bloome, we added another guitar player (Sean) and a drummer (Rick), I think mostly because I love to use live drums. Perry typically had bad luck with drummers so we had been using a drum machine but their is just something about a live drummer that pulls it all together for me. We recorded an unfinished 4 song demo and played live once, then things fell apart and we went our separate ways. Perry continued on with other versions of Skylight over the years. Perry and I reconnected through myspace in 2007 after close to 12 years and within a couple of weeks we were trading tracks online and Skylight was once again reborn, soon after we added Pete Kontos on Guitar and Kim Welsh on Vocals
Q. What are the bands influences?
Perry: It is impossible for me to sum up influences. Even in the early 90s i was listening to tons of classic rock. I believe we did a sabbath cover once during rehearsals. All music is an influence to me really... I suppose everything!
Q. Tell us about the Skylight gigs, how is it?
Perry: When we did play it was awesome really. Besides out first show with the idiotic drummer. Once we got the drum machines settled it was cool... We used a boss DR Rhythm and slaved an Alesis via midi.. We tried a cassette once but that failed. We were all about the noise though. Whenever we had a chance we would just make tons of noise. Mike and I would always add extra people when we could but that never really worked out so well. To be honest, Marie was the best we ever had. We taught her all the guitar parts she needed to know. And she would just come out and play. She was into the noise man. She was very talented. Nobody has a clue what ever happened to her actually. I was in touch with her years ago, but her fuck nut boyfriend intercepted emails and said nobody was allowed to email her anymore. Live she was always good... It was about fun for us though. Making noise was all we wanted to do. And that is exactly what we did every time we played. Some loved it, most hated it. Which is exactly what we wanted.
Brent: Because Perry and Kim are in Chicago and Pete and I are in Boston we have essentially been a virtual band for the last few years. We had talked about going out there or them coming here to do a show but life gets in the way and so far it hasn't happened. Back in the day whether writing or recording Perry and I have always been on the same page musically, we have some kind of musical telepathy.
Q. What´s your favourite Skylight song, why?
Perry: As You Leave and Winter Lights. As you leave because it was one of the first that me and Mike ever wrote together. And Winter Lights because it was the first Kim wrote after joining Skylight. Those words have special meaning.
Brent: It's a tie between Winter Lights and Tigerlily. Winter lights because it was the first thing Perry and I wrote together after not talking in over 12 years and tigerlily because I love the atmosphere it creates.
Q. Made a list of your top five albums from all time
Perry: No fucking way. You and i both now that is totally impossible J As much as i would love to do that.. How about anything Led Zeppelin did? Or Killing Joke?? Or T Rex. Or The Cars.
Brent: As I said I have a wide range of influences but I will narrow it down to 5. If you asked me again tomorrow it would probably change. These are 5 that I love and had the most influence on my playing over the years.
The Cure, Disintegration
The Sisters of Mercy, First and Last And Always
Jane's Addiction, Nothings Shocking
Asobi Seksu, Citrus
Q. Skylight emerge during the classic era of Shoegazer, do you have some histories with bands like MBV, Slowdive, etc…
Brent: Perry has a lot more other band stories he was always more outgoing then me and always knew everyone. The one story I have was spending an evening drinking with Swervedriver at the Rat Skellar in Boston. Perry is friends with them and we had gone down to see their show with the Smashing pumpkins but due to a series of crazy mishaps the show was cancelled. So instead we drank, talked about our mutual love of Alice Cooper and their bass player gave me some great relationship advice, LOL.
Perry: We were lucky in that sense. Wet met Swervedriver early on and i became friends with Adam.... What a wonderful person he is really. I actually love his solo records so much maybe more so than the swervedriver records. Although they both are different to me. I was going to play with him a couple of years ago when his bass player broke his ankle or something. In the end the Churchs keyboard player filled in which was good because i had two days to learn the songs and one of those days we had a power failure at our house.
I spent a lot of time with swervies in the 90s. For various reasons and have some funny stories about being on tour with them. One of them was the great stolen camera incidentJ.. A good friend Claire was with us on tour in 94 and we were in Rhode Island. Swerves had a merch dude Matt. He was incredibly funny this guy. So one night Claire went off some place and Matt grabbed me with a sharpie in hand, and Claires camera. She had left it with Matt to watch. So Matt takes me outside and said this. You take this sharpie, i will pull down my pants and you write HELLO CLAIRE on my ass. Take a picture of it. So Matt rips down his pants, i write HELLO CLAIRE as big as i could, and i took a picture. After the tour back in England, she got the photos developed and we were in Swervies managers office and Claire comes in and said MY PARENTS almost saw this!! Or maybe they did. I cannot remember. It was a classic moment though.
The great thing about the folks in Swervedriver is they were just cool people to hang out with. Never any bullshit with them. The music they made was just always there man. Mezcal Head being one of the best rock records done in the 90s in my opinion. An album that still stands up and can be listened to over and over.
We spent a lot of time with MBV and Mercury Rev as well. Rev were really cool and MBV smoked a shit ton of weed man. One joint would go out and another would just be passed around. Debbie is/was the best person in that band really. She was incredibly sweet and spent a lot of time talking with us in Canada one time. I remember bringing Skylight demos to them as well.
It was funny seeing MBV with DINO JR when we did, because Dino Jr just blew them off the stage. I was always convinced that Kevin Shields made all that noise knowing full well they did not even compare to DINO JR live. When MBV did the reunion i had NO interest in seeing them. I actually agree with what Alan McGee said about loveless which was basically that he cannot stand to even listen to it. And truthfully i feel the same way. One note from loveless and i am ready to vomit. I can listen to the early Eps though. Without the vomit . Some records from back then stand the test of time. That is not one of them in my opinion. Not much different from how i feel about slowdive actually. GAK.. I think its cool Kevin went on to do things with Primal Scream though. I love Primal Scream. We met Bobby and the rest once when they played with Depeche Mode i think it was. He could hardly stand up. He was wobbling back and forth but incredibly nice. And they were almost always good live when we saw them. We have a number stories from back then. Maybe we should write a book or something.
Oh, i almost forgot about Brad and the Medicine folks! Awesome people and fun to watch live!!! As i said i should write a book!!!!!!
Brent: Though at the moment Perry would likely disagree I would never call it dead, maybe in a state of suspended animation. Skylight has a way of popping back up when we least expect it. At the moment though perry is busy with his other bands, Bliss City East and Morpheme and Pete and I have a new band called This Scarlet Mourning (along with Don Barry on Bass and Katie Bunting on vocals). We are planning to hit the studio in July for a new single called Stupid World. As for Skylight you never know it's only ever one Facebook message from Perry away from waking up, we may be in an old age home when it happens but who knows "elderly gaze" might catch on!
Q. About bliss.city.east, when the band starts?
Perry: Bliss started a couple of years ago with Kim Welsh my girlfriend and baby Mama We did it so we could play live shows mainly. But as it turns out, we just love making music together. We spend an incredible amount of time together. We have a studio in our house, so we record whenever we feel the need. Its awesome actually. I could not ask for anything more with Kim. She is perfect. We went through some other members during this time. None of them really worked out until Eric D’Asto joined the band, who has also been PERFECT. He just adds to everything we do and makes it perfect always.
We had another dude who was in the band for a short time but was a horrible musician. When we listen back to his tracks on our recordings now, its just awful. He has also been stalking us via the net for a couple of years now. Non stop. Put our music up on his site as well and its blatantly obvious its me playing guitar. He is a real sick fucker actually. He even sent threatening emails about shooting us and stuff. It’s been taken care of, but you really need to watch out who you invite in the band these days!! bliss started off with Gail and Reuben in the band. Two people that helped out so much and did a ton. We see Reuben all the time but Gail just kind of vanished a year or so ago.
I love bliss though. Our live shows are always shitty, but we have fun doing what we do and that is all that matters to us. It’s perfect.
Q. How you define bliss.city.east sounds?
Perry: I have NO idea. Its just whatever comes out of us at the time. Black and Blue was our tribute to The Cars. If that helps at all. I suppose maybe Dream pop??? I hate genres even though i know they are needed in some way. So yeah, Dream pop.
Q. Tell us about the process of recording the songs...
Perry: It’s been tough with no drummer i can tell you that much. If we had a drummer things would be different. But i have BAD drummer luck. I cannot stand most of them. They either cannot keep up with us, or are just flat out fucking weird. So i gave up on finding one. I do most of the programming of drums myself here at our studio. Most of the time it would be writing the base of the song and then have Kim and Eric come in behind me and add parts. This year though, we have been running drum tracks and all writing together. This is something i truly love and plan to continue. We have a ton of songs, none of them are ready. We are in no hurry to release anything.
Q. The split with Vigulgi OoyoO is a masterpiece to me, do you agree?
Perry: A masterpiece? I don’t know about that!! But thank you!!! We appreciate it! Vidulgi had some great tracks on that album. So did we actually .Nothing ever came of that record. We had a label in England who supposed to release it on vinyl and CD but they ended up just fucking us over completely. Honestly, i am kind of disgusted the way the whole thing was done in the end. Music was great on it though...
Q. What do you think about the classic Shoegaze era?
Perry: It was electric. The shows, the people most of the bands. We were lucky to be front and center when it all went down. I miss that time and i miss a lot of the bands as well.
Q. Which bands would you like to do a cover version of?
Perry: The only cover song we would ever do would be something from The Cars J. we are working on our version of moving in stereo. Although, i would love to cover Higher than the sun by Primal Scream.
Q. Which new bands would you recommend?
Perry: Screen Vinyl Image for sure. Jake and Kim rule and put on one of the greatest live shows. Love Culture from Ohio. Great people and a good band. Tom Lugo and Stellarscope! Plus his label Patetico!!! Music for headphones as well!!! Man the list goes on, and i am sure i am missing some.BLOODY KNIVES. !! Great people and fun to play a show with... Presents for Sally as well. Matt Etherton is a really great person. I heard this band SPC ECO was good. Try them out. So many awesome people involved in this scene these days though. The folks from when the sun hits, Paul Lopez who runs the shoegaze collective. Ambient Airwaves, all of these people working hard to support the bands. My apologies to bands i missed. If you know me well, then you will understand I have a hard enough time remembering my name!!!
Q. About Morpheme, what´s the concept of the band and how´s working with Dean Garcia?
Perry: AS long i do not have to hear THE C WORD ( Curve ).. Don’t get me wrong, Curve did some great things no doubt!! Seriously though...Working with Dean is awesome. We are good friends besides. We have a really cool chemistry between us in music and friendship.. It’s like we read each other’s minds when it comes to music as well.So much has changed in the music business. So its much different than either one of us are used to dealing with. Honestly, we should have been doing this in the 90s!! But its just perfect writing with him. We never really had a concept. Although Kim has been getting a bit political with her lyrics. We all just write what we feel. I pop it off to Dean, he sends it back. Kim adds her lovely voice to it and Bobs Yer Uncle Kim has been doing our videos as well. The video for stratosphere was banned from facebook! Rock on...
Q. What the plans for the future?
Perry: Finish the Morpheme record with Dean and Kim. Finish the bliss album with Kim and Eric. Raise my beautiful daughter. And that is about it.
Q. Any parting words?
Perry: Yeah. I want to take a moment to thank all the people out there supporting all of our bands. Buying our music. Stealing our music whatever. You guys are all awesome. In Chicago i wanted to take a moment to thank Arunas from Darkroom and DJ Scarylady Sarah, William Faith and Philly Peroxide for putting on a great two day festival of bands last month. It was awesome. They have a once a month shoegaze thing here in Chicago at Late bar called Shimmer. So if you are in Chicago, you should go to this.!!! Joey Levenson from SPC ECO for always adding his bits to bliss music. Again i am sure that i am missing people i should be thanking. I am a scatter brain!!!
And finally thank YOU for doing this interview and waiting for me to finish it!!!
Thanks Perry and Brent