As a one-time proper member of Au and founder of the infamous noise-mongers Cex Fucx and Thee Oregon Artificial Limb Co., Mark Kaylor's nonchalant, tribal drumbeats have probably found their way to your ears at some point.
Now a father of an 8-month-old child, the past year has kept him home a bit more, but that doesn't mean his focus on music has wavered in the slightest. Hammer of Hathor is the domestic avant-noise child of Kaylor and his wife, Heather Vergotis, also of Cex Fucx and The Evolutionary Jass Band.
The pieces usually come together in the sparse combination of drums and guitar, to slight and hypnotic effect. What seems disjointed becomes unified and built into smart, slowly escalating, well-paid-off minimalist jams. They've somehow found the time to press a new album, and will be playing a release show at Work Sound next week.
Daily Vanguard: Where did you record the new album? Mark Kaylor: We have a studio at the Portland Cement Building. We recorded ourselves on reel-to-reel and had Mike Lastra from Smegma do the mixing for us. A lot of people will record analog but mix digitally and then have the lacquer master made from a CD. We're kind of purists as far as the sound of analog [goes]. We recorded on reel-to-reel, took those reels to Mike Lastra and he mixed them, with a little tweaking and his good ears, directly into two reels of quarter-inch tape. It was never digital. DV: Does Hammer of Hathor always try and avoid digital? MK: All of our other recordings are like that. We have three cassettes we've put out, the first one was actually recorded on a handheld on a trip we took to Montana to visit my sister and we call them Field Recordings. The second tape we made for our Italian tour, we recorded it in our bedroom on reel-to-reel. Those first two tapes got written up in Blow Up, which is the Italian version of The Wire, which is pretty cool. If we send stuff to The Wire, they probably won't do anything with it, but in Italy we sent two cassettes to Blow Up and someone actually listened to them. A lot of it has to do with the Italian fascination with Portland. There are a lot Portland bands that are pretty big there—Jackie-O Motherfucker, Rollerball, who we actually played a couple of shows with while we were there, and Larry Yes.
DV: Why this Italian fascination with Portland bands? MK: For some reason a lot of Portland bands have gone there and had good success, and now I'm even thinking of Old Time Relijun as another example. Italy is really into newer music; I think all the bands I mentioned are sort of not straightforward. I thought it was really funny, [Hammer of Hathor] can send stuff to the local papers [Willamette Week, The Portland Mercury], like our record release show, and we could put on our press release all the bands we've played with, like Au—I played on every track on the last Au record, and both papers adore that record—but still neither paper will even mention [Hammer of Hathor's] record release show. And honestly, it's not that big of a deal for us, we're not bitter about it, but me and Heather always joke about how we're going to be the Dead Moon of avant-composed newer music. The ideas we're using aren't new, but the combinations of instruments and the way we employ sounds is pretty unique. DV: How long have you been playing music together? MK: Hammer of Hathor is a couple of years old now. We met a long time ago, but Heather was living in New York and she moved back to Portland, and she ended up renting a room in a house where I lived on Michigan Avenue. We put out a cassette or two and we toured Italy as a sax-and-drums group, sort of rootsy jazz I guess you could say. She was pregnant, so as her belly got bigger she couldn't play tenor sax anymore and she started playing guitar, and we've since abandoned playing jazz at all, even though that’s the music that's really informed us. Now we're in a new phase where the last couple of recordings have been sort of minimalist things. I think it’s kind of trance-y, psychedelic music sometimes. It’s been really satisfying for us because we have a young son who really takes up a lot of our time so we're able to still play music with each other. DV: Do you think your son will be a musician? MK: He plays the toy piano … he'll play the drums and cymbals. If he wants to play music, you never know with kids. I know a lot of musicians who have kids who don't end up playing music. DV: I guess you can't really do what your parents do. MK: Yeah, I mean sometimes that’s not the case. We envision a family band, like he's gonna be in Hammer of Hathor. At very least he's gonna unload the van and set my drums up. We'll see. He was present with every rehearsal and everything we recorded, asleep in the corner with hearing protection on. A lot of times it was like, “We need to get this one track done, please take a nap.” There’s this enormous amount of blood, sweat and tears with this record, every time I hear it I think about that.