Odor of Pears is more than just a band. You
are a music, multimedia and performance art group. Can you tell us how all those
elements come together on stage?
We don’t use stage-sets per se, although we do have a self-supporting steel rig that we use for our bigger shows. It holds up our lights and our various curtains and projection screens. We also use a fair number of props and we usually have some costume changes. Our basic concept (which seems very simple but hardly anybody does it because it’s a lot of work) is to vary the look and mood of the show from one number to the next. We might use colored lights for one song, and project digital video during the next song, and act out a vignette under blacklight for the song after that. This is partly to make our show as unpredictable and entertaining as possible, and partly to dramatize our content and make it more accessible.
We’ve done some theme-shows. The “Everyman” show followed a human life from birth to death. The “Toxic” show, which dealt with modern industrial capitalism, included a Day-Glo toxic spill, a newscast, and a brainwashing scene. Even when a show has no obvious theme, we try to make sure it has formal and emotional structure, which begins with suspense or dread, builds to a climax of painful confrontation, and somehow achieves emotional release and transcendence. I don’t believe in bumming people out and leaving them there; our shows always end on a positive or quasi-positive note…but our optimism takes an admittedly rarified form. All we can really offer our audiences as a token of value is odor of pear.
When you first set out to form a band, did you always intend to have a strong theatric element in your performances, or did that just sort of happen over time?
I became interested in rock theater in 1980 after seeing Gary Numan’s Touring Principle show. It engaged the senses on every level and symbolically expressed a very emotionally moving vision of personal transformation. Soon after that I met an obscure avant-garde band from Chicago called ONO who did interesting things onstage with minimal resources. Their example helped me realize that huge scaffolds and robots weren’t really necessary - I could use any materials that came to hand.
Does the band have any outside help as far as stage and costume design for your live sets, or is that completely created by you three?
It’s all OOP’s handiwork - mostly mine, to be honest. I designed and made the stage armor and fire for “Joan,” the steel stage rig and retractable projection screen, the masks, the meat carcasses, the wabi-sabi lighting towers, the giant Bible, the giant bong and giant bag of weed, and so on.
Have all of you formally studied performance or multimedia art?
Not really. We have little or no formal training in any of this.
What about your musical experience prior to Odor of Pears? Were any of you involved in bands before this?
Joe does all the composing and musical programming for OOP. He started out as a guitarist and still plays guitar occasionally, but now he does most of his composing on a computer. He and I were both in other bands prior to OOP. They weren’t very serious projects, though - more like excuses to hang out and party.
. You've been compared to everyone from NIN to Madonna. Do you see the similarities to most of the musicians OOP is compared to?
Sort of, but that’s because I know that those contradictory descriptions aren’t all supposed to apply to the same material. We’ve been around a long time and have been through various different periods.
Since you do have such a creative and unique approach to music, where do you draw your inspiration from?
The whole history of goth/industrial music and the scenes we’ve participated in are big inspirations. So are our friends. Nature. Books, we’re all bookworms. (Notes From Underground has obviously been hugely important to me.) Joe loves classical music, especially Bach and Russell is a big fan of visionary science fiction and fantasy literature. Joe and Russell are high-tech artists who can draw inspiration from new technology. I’m more likely to draw inspiration from low-tech, artsy-craftsy stuff like a box of plastic hands bought at a flea market.
Your last album, Crown of Thorns, was released in 2000. Do you have plans to record a new studio release sometime soon?
We’re currently working on an album that’s tentatively titled Into the Slimy Pool. We intend for this to be our most club-friendly and danceable album yet, but the themes are dark and psychological. Possible songs include “Incubus,” which Bay Area audiences have heard live (featuring guest violinist Bella Ingham, from Lucinati)) as well as “The Love Song of Jeffrey Dahmer” and “Malediction,” which were written since our last show.
Have you ever considered making videos of your live performaces available for purchase?
We’ve thought about it but we’re not sure whether there’s any market for it. Our website has streaming video for several songs, though (“Cage,” “Wild Elephants,” for example).
What is Odor of Pears currently working on?
The new album. We have no plans to play before the album comes out. Once it does, we’d like to play all over California and maybe even hit Vegas.
What is the one thing you hope people come away with after seeing one of your live shows or hearing your music?
I want them to feel emotionally moved. Everything we do is aimed at that.
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Thanks to Diana of Odor of Pears for taking the time out to do this interview.
(Interview conducted by Jessica)
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© Odor of Pears 2004, Rev: 02/10/04