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INTERVIEW: Greg Fox on Guardian Alien, Ex Eye, and Roskilde

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Fox Millions Duo live roskilde festival

Greg Fox (right) performing with Fox Millions Duo. Photo by Morten Krogh.

Drummer Greg Fox is the sort of performer whose name comes up in a variety of contexts. Though perhaps most often associated with Liturgy, the human drum machine is also currently playing with Guardian Alien — his one-time solo project, which is currently a duo including Alexandra Drewchin of Eartheater — and Ex Eye, a new band formed with Colin Stetson. He also has an ongoing pairing with fellow drummer Kid Millions of Oneida known as Fox Millions Duo.

It probably shouldn’t be surprising that Fox’s appearance at this year’s Roskilde Festival wasn’t limited to one set. But when you consider how exhausting a festival can be for a mere spectator, Fox’s three performances over as many days with as many bands is damn impressive. Unsurprisingly, Fox was difficult to track down between sets, but he answered a few questions for us via email after the festival.

How was your Roskilde experience?

I enjoyed Roskilde. It is a huge, overwhelming festival, so luckily the backstage area for artists was very hospitable. The food was great and it was easy to relax back there.

How do you prepare for three days of shows with three different projects?

Regarding preparation, there isn’t much to it, really. More than anything I try to prepare for presenting a full set for the audience. Seventy-five minutes is longer than most sets I tend to play, so there was some thought and planning given to what material to play and how to structure the sets. The nature of Fox / Millions duo and Guardian Alien involve more improvisation within a predesigned structure, so clearly outlining those structures was the main aspect of the preparation. For Ex Eye, it’s a matter of playing the material we have been writing, so not much to do before that set besides stretch!

How did you end up playing with Ex Eye?

Colin and I had been talking about doing a “heavy” project together for a while, both of us being fans of what you might consider various forms of extreme music. Shazhad [Ismaily] has been a longtime friend and collaborator, and one of my favorite people to play and travel with, so him being in the project was a no brainer, and Toby [Summerfield] is an old friend and collaborator many times over of Colin’s, so at his suggestion Toby came on board. That’s it really. We just wanted to start a new project, so we did!

Fox Millions Duo is a fairly unique set up. What inspired the project?

What inspired the duo is mainly just Kid and I really enjoying each others’ playing and company. We have a good time together. We were asked once to do a “drum off” as an opening act for a Lightning Bolt show, and instead we decided to come up with something collaborative. And it just went from there. I think we will definitely be making another record soon.

Guardian Alien has been through a few incarnations now. Is it going to continue to evolve?

I don’t know if i can speak to any kind of permanence regarding anything at all, so it’s hard to say – but I definitely enjoy the current duo lineup of Guardian Alien. Yes we have been working on new material, using new instruments and technologies, and we are very excited about what we have been creating together.

How is Guardian Alien different from your other work?

Guardian is different than other work that I do because Alex is my partner in the non-musical realm first and foremost, so the collaboration is obviously different than it is with other people. We know each other extremely well, for better and for worse, and we also love each other very much — and we share our lives with each other. So in many ways doing Guardian as a duo with her is really joyous and fun, and in other ways it can be very challenging. But I think that challenge makes for better creative outcomes.

LIVE REVIEW: Liturgy, Jazzhouse, 29.05.2015

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Liturgy (photo by Johannes Leszinski)

Photos by Johannes Leszinski

Liturgy open their set at Jazzhouse with frontman Hunter Hunt-Hendrix singing controlled, almost monastic vocals, looping them back on each other, and an anticipation hanging in the room. Of course it won’t continue like this. And with knowing nods between the band members, there is enough time to brace yourself for impact.

Much has been made about whether Liturgy are a black metal band or not, with their latest album, The Ark Work, further fueling the debate (and dividing a few fans in the process). But does it really matter what the precise sub-genre is when the music’s loud enough? The bigger question is how the synthesized, horn-like sounds of their last album would translate. Answer: As a sort of high-level screeching, but not at a frequency that’s painful to listen to.

Liturgy (photo by Johannes Leszinski)

They are full of subtle tricks amidst the noise: a sawn-off guitar given a permanent capo, effects that make guitars sound like glockenspiels, and their drummer, Greg Fox, who is apparently half man/half machine and looks like he could drum for days without breaking a sweat. Together with bassist Tyler Dusenbury, he really shapes the songs, and also helps you sort out who in the audience has any ability to keep time — there’s an awful lot of arrhythmic flailing in the crowd when they move out of 4/4 time.

It’s all a weirdly serene experience. Hunt-Hendrix normally maintains a straight-faced, disaffected expression, but is not immune to the occasional smile. The rest of the band have the countenance of the three chillest dudes ever, noise be damned. It’s the kind of performance that simply washes over you, sometimes sweeping you along in a rolling, repetitive song. It’s not what you’d call relaxing, but it’s totally engrossing.

Liturgy (photo by Johannes Leszinski)

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