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Liquid Skulls is the recording moniker of Little Rock native Jimmy Spice, who makes grim, gorgeous and enigmatic music using synths, obscured vocals and bursts of noise. Spice has a gift for wringing the personal and the expressive out of otherwise cold, forbidding and industrial material, and the result is a kind of deeply introspective, outsider pop — like the soundtrack to a true-crime mystery set in Antarctica, or a road trip on the moon. His full-length "SEE GOD IN MISTAKES" was one of my favorite local records of last year, and his latest release is a split cassette EP with Austin's LACHANE. Listen to his music at liquidskulls.bandcamp.com.
What is Liquid Skulls — where did the name come from?
Liquid Skulls was formed out of cobwebs, boredom, sloppiness, euphoria, joblessness, fleeting moments, liquid curses and lost responsibilities. I wanted a project that had no restrictions, no genre and was open to unplanned experimentation. It is an escape.
I saw on Facebook that a fan donated a computer to you recently. That seems amazing and generous. How did that happen?
My good friend and constant source of inspiration, Neil Lord, played some of my tunes at work. One patron connected with the music, reached out and we've become good friends and collaborators. She donated a laptop so that I could score her film. Artistic synergy.
How did you end up on a French compilation?
I was lucky enough to collaborate and release material with two French labels, Anywave and Stellar Kinematic, via Facebook. After lengthy Facebook messages (and me unashamedly sending them countless songs), it became obvious that our tastes and artistic goals were similar and moving in the same direction. Stellar Kinematics was kind enough to release a digital EP.
A lot of your records seem indebted to that moment in the late '70s or early '80s when synthesizers and drum machines were first being introduced in rock music. That clunky, spacey, sometimes jarring, rudimentary electronic sound. What is it about that era or that sound that appeals to you?
To me, synthesizers are as important and now ubiquitous in music as the human voice. A pivotal moment in history was the 12-year period from 1971 through 1983 where synthesizers went from an obscure musical oddity to the defining sound of a decade. The way this era manipulated and constructed new sounds and tones from electronic devices created what are, to me, the most groundbreaking deconstructions of pop music. Repetitive, sequenced synthesizer patterns have always inspired me for their total disregard for the traditional notions of length or song structure prevalent in pop music.
Sometimes your records sound like pop songs buried in noise, and other times they sound like noise songs buried in pop — do you think either of these descriptions is true?
Pop song, noise — it's an ebb and flow in and out of structure, trying to express the emotional landscape of any particular moment. That can be grounded in more noise, or in more repetition of sounds, lyrics, etc. I enjoy playing with the structure, and generally don't conceive of it intellectually. I want it to be open to any interpretation or experimentation.
Does your music have anything to do with living in Arkansas?
Growing up in Arkansas has definitely been an influence. I was fortunate to have met artists and musicians (Andrew Morgan and Everett Hagen, to name two) that have pushed and expanded my musical boundaries. Having said that, I wouldn't necessarily associate Liquid Skulls with Arkansas, though I'm sure some of my personal experiences, along with my warped perception of Little Rock's Southern decay, have bled through.Listen to Liquid Skulls' Guest Mix for the Arkansas Times.