Lesser

Full Discography

LPs
  • Suppressive Acts I-X - - 2003-11-10
  • Gearhound - - 2001-01-15

Biography

 

Suppressive Acts I-X
November 10, 2003

SUPPRESSIVE ACTS: Actions or omissions undertaken knowingly to suppress, reduce or impede Scientology or Scientologists. (Such actions are high crimes and result in dismissal from Scientology and its organizations.)

'Suppressive Acts I-X' is a collection of ten songs that try to bind a history of metal to a career in electronica, with more or less success. Metal song aside, the album is a study in thriftiness; reusing a base of 50 or so samples and manipulating them enough to render them useful across an entire album. Such a constraint makes for a far more cohesive outing than 2000's 'Gearhound'... If 'Gearhound' was schizophrenic, 'Suppressive Acts I-X' is meticulous paranoia.

In keeping with its namesake, 'Suppressive Acts I-X' was meant to be a chip on the shoulder, you are with us or against us... but not in the anal expulsive manner of past Lesser records. Possibly it is more reflective. Probably it is less annoying. Surely it is ten more Lesser songs.

'Suppressive Acts I-X' also includes an album by Lesser's pre-electro-clash fake 80's band The Robotic (think Men Without Hats), recorded in 1995, in MP3 format as well as some videos or something.

Lesser is the brainchild of J Döerck, who began his musical career in San Diego as a member of various punk rock bands including A Minor Forest. J adopted the name Lesser to express a new punk aesthetic through electronic music. He moved to San Francisco where he hooked up with leading lights in the electronic music scene such as Kid 606, bLevin bLectum and Matmos. His collaborations with Matmos lead him to work with Bjork on her Vespertine tour last year.

".. an itchy, tinnitus-inducing brand of beat mayhem or spasmodic hop hop surrealism. It’s like a hundred vintage arcade games being pulverized by a pneumatic drill." 
-- Gal Detourn – Future Music

"Distorted beatbox sounds, baffled squalls of guitar, drill’n’bass screechings and an inspired general misuse of sonic machinery." Time Out

"Lesser prowls the hinterlands of experimental electronica with polymorphous perversity." The Evening Standard

"a baffling squall of overdriven guitar, distorted beatboxing, orgasmic grunts and drum’n’bass rhythms… behind the chaos there is structure but not of the linear sort." The Wire

Selected Discography
3 Song EP – 7” – VC39 – 1991-1992?
The 1995 Lesser/Rob Crow Split CD – VC72 - 1995
Excommunicate the Cult of the Live Band – 12”EP – VC101 - 1996
Gigolo Cop – CD – VC115 – 1997
Welcome to the American Experience – 12” – VC121 - 1997
Elements of Permission Vol 1 – CD – VC127 – 1998
Lesser/Kid 606 – Split CD – VC142 – 1998
Gearhound – CD – OLE-449 - 2000.


 

Gearhound
January 15, 2001

Lesser (aka. lsr, 157, Backfire, DJ 40 Year Old Woman) began in 1989 as a refuge from rock bands, a podium for ranting, and a vehicle for musical experimentation for one J Dserck. An active member of the then thriving alternative San Diego music scene (playing in bands with members of A Minor Forest, Crash Worship, Optiganally Yours, Pinback, Physics and others), J adopted the name Lesser as an ill-conceived political statement about himself, his music and his community (a slightly outdated, slacker mentality to be sure). Refusing to bow at the alter of the "cult of the live band," he dropped out and began recording confused, drunken tracks in a crawlspace located above his mother’s garage. The earliest Lesser recordings were transitional experiments; fusing alternative rock influences (Big Black, Sebadoh) with a more electronic sound (Meat Beat Manifesto, Public Enemy, Negativland) in a strangely intense and personal voice. Rough and often rambling or ending without apparent reason, the songs feel more like testifying than rocking. From these hours of furious recording came the unsure beats, shouts, silences and walls of noise that would become the ’I Hate Me’ cassette: packaged with a razor blade (sharp and real) and 4 hits of lsd (homemade and ingenuine, but realistic enough to encourage ingestion on more than one occasion). Given the tired nature of alternative rock and unwilling to give the body one last kick, Lesser became convinced that electronic music was the only realm that retained any punk esthetic and did the only reasonable thing: contacted Bob Bereley at Vinyl Communications. It was at VC, fueled with alcohol and bloodlust, that the Lesser ethos evolved into a very hard, ’screw you’ sort of stance, with special care given to the destruction of his own career. Cryptic one-sheets, confusing and misleading artwork, inaccurate interviews, experimentation with styles: all designed to create less a sound than a viewpoint. The Lesser cult of personality, if you will. At Bereley’s request, Lesser began playing live. The first few shows consisted of simply setting up outside other scheduled events and, using portable gas powered generator, playing electric guitar over drum machine until being shutdown by the promoters. Other early live shows included J being spray-glued to the stage by troublemakers and a battle royal between a guitar and a homemade flame-thrower (resulting in the partial burning of a bar and the subsequent barring of Lesser live shows in San Diego for some time). During these carefree days, Lesser produced one single and a split CD (soooo bad for sales), with Rob Crow (Optiganally Yours, Pinback, Thingy, Heavy Vegatable), for Vinyl Communications and contributed to the overall VC gestalt, adding more electronic and noise artists to a once purely punk label. But, as nothing lasts forever, in late 1994 Lesser was pull/push/dragged 600 miles north to San Francisco, home of early bandmates A Minor Forest. San Francisco, while having a reputation for the arts and being close to his (ugly) childhood home of willits, remained a rather unpleasant place for Lesser for some time. Other than touring extensively with A Minor Forest, Lesser was still part of the San Diego scene, continuing to release records with Vinyl Communications and play out of town far more often than in. During this time, Lesser released the ’Gigolo Cop’ CD and was finally introduced to a style of electronic music that didn’t suck: drum’n’bass. For the first time, the rhythms of dance music were addressed in an aggressive manner, one that resonated with the child of metal in Lesser. In turn, Lesser responded with "excommunicate the cult of the live band," a further retreat from traditional rock band aesthetics and, through hanging out and learning with San Francisco’s phunkatech crew, an embracing of an entirely new (for Lesser) style of electronic music. 

We now must, as you have been waiting all along, move to the relationship between J Lesser and one Miguel Depedro (aka. Tigerboy, kid 606). At the time, Depedro was no electronica superstar; just a member of Spaceworm living in San Diego and a collector of Lesser trivia (recounting personal facts about J’s life to him over the phone before they had even met. Freak.) Upon meeting face to face, Deperdo was surprised by J’s lack of "long black hair and gothic look," but it mattered little. Depedro had, in Lesser’s physical absence, become Vinyl Communications’ new visionary, enfant terrible and the two became fast friends, discussing new releases and projects. One such project would ultimately become ’Welcome to the American Experience.’ Who would have thought so much trouble could be caused by an insignificant 12" released on a second rate American punk imprint? Where did the trouble begin? Let’s start with the packaging, featuring low-resolution pictures of women, which can only be representations of mail-order brides, and a letter from Lesser to one prospective wife of 15, asking for more pictures of her "like the one of (her) at the beach." Then the song titles, one of them being a personal joke between Andee Connors of A Minor Forest and Lesser. The story goes that Connor’s record label, Thrill Jockey, was looking for collaborators for one of its electronic acts, Oval, and Connors was trying to convince Lesser to send demos for consideration. Lesser, being used to rejection and a bitter bastard, joked "Markus Popp can kiss my redneck ass," and the rest was infamy. As a whole, the record was supposed to represent the stepchild status of American electronic music in the good ol’ boys network of Europe. A gratuitous chest-beating, but one that was amply supported by the twin flying buttresses of organized chaos the EP contained. It was on the strength of ’American Experience’ and the follow-up split CD with kid 606 (a release just now receiving its credit due) that drew Daniels and M. C. Schmidt of Matmos, schmoozer extrordinaire, to Depedro for an audience with J Lesser. The four found themselves oddly suited for musical interaction and debated strategies and formats of prospective projects. The agreed upon inspiration came from a project cast-off by Lesser four years earlier: a double album’s worth of recordings culled from hours of skipping CDs. Depedro christened the band Disc and the rest is, um, history. Disc debuted with a double CD of material and followed up with two other albums, a collaboration with fellow Vinyl Communications noise artist K.K. Null, and a double 12" with over a hundred locked grooves for "DJ Friendly" disc-ing. Not content with the quality time they were receiving from J in Disc, Matmos invited Lesser to become one of the team. Recording with them on their legendary ’The West’ album and touring as a member of Matmos, J remains "that guy you see in Matmos live but not in pictures" (also "that guy in Matmos that upsets people because he looks bored when he plays"). 

But San Francisco was not all electronica and digital mischief. There was metal. It began harmlessly enough, just a quick cover of "Master of Puppets" or "The Four Horsemen" as an encore while on tour with A Minor Forest, but soon it became shockingly apparent that something much deeper was taking root. Would it not be fun to start a Metallica cover band? All that was needed was for Lesser to practice some guitar solos and Creeping Death (a most typical name) was born. With revolving members from A Minor Forest, The Threnody Ensemble and Weakling, Creeping Death could have been responsible for the short-lived metal cover band phenomenon, which swept San Francisco in the late ’90’s. Headlining shows with such bands as Iron Vegan, Rocket Queen, and Sleigher, the members of Creeping Death found that being in a cover band paid better and drew bigger and more responsive crowds than any of their respective "real" projects. Rather than become a where-are-they-now Metallica cover band, the group disbanded, though one-off shows for charity have been mentioned. Which brings us to the matter at hand. 

The long distance love affair between Lesser and Matador had been stewing for nearly a year before Gerard Cosloy popped the question. Lesser was in London as a member of Matmos on Labradford’s 2nd Annual Festival of Drifting Tour, when Cosloy was finally able to meet J face to face, not just lurking in a chatroom. The two understood each other at once and a "spit in your hands and shake" record deal was cut. It would be nearly another year before ’Gearhound’ would be ready, but during this time Lesser had sufficient time to flesh out ideas which had been plaguing him for some time and testing them on "Mensa Dance Squad," a 12" ep for Kultbox Chicago. With ’Gearhound’, J wanted to fuse the harder beats of drum’n’bass with the random, skipping monotones of Disc, creating a skittery, schizophrenic album which always seems on the verge of either dropping into a backbeat or disintegrating utterly into abstract, glitchy free-jazz or grindcore. 

So there you have it, the history of Lesser in a nutshell. Currently Lesser is finishing an 11 hour retrospective MP3 CD on kid 606’s tigerbeat6 imprint and working on follow-up material for Matador, assuming the love affair lasts. Other projects include another Disc record, a side project with kid 606 (possibly named the Sex Pixels), and a group ensemble with kid 606 and new friends Blectum from Blechdom (possibly named Fleetwood Macintosh). J also dreams of producing tracks for Matador Europe rap artists, including the narcoleptic Sensational (if you are reading this Cosloy, hook me up, yo) and executive producing something for television or film (possibly an animated children’s special with a real positive message, and a bear). 

Starting off with the templates of drum and bass but tweeking them beyond recognition, Lesser’s music delivers crunchy snares and overdriven bass frequencies with a heaping helping of skeptical humor, gritty digital noise, and DIY instrument-building ingenuity. Soldering together new instruments out of the refuse of 80’s mixers and synths, J Lesser avoids the standard sounds and strategies in favour of a confrontational, schizophrenic and often hilarious rethinking of conventional "intelligent" electronic dance music. 

Touring extensively with A Minor Forest, Lesser built up notoriety on the electronic underground. Now the mainstream press is crashing the party: Lesser’s side project Disc (a ongoing collaboration with Matmos and kid 606) garnered a rave review from Richard Meltzer, who called it "the greatest work of electronic sound manipulation since Steve Reich’s tape experiments." Lesser’s annihilation of drum and bass frameworks has also caught the attention of the in-the-know folks at Spin Magazine, who singled out his ’Welcome to the American Experience’ CD in their recent profile on the San Diego label Vinyl Communications as an outstandingly fresh and unpredictable work of American electronics. 

Covering Public Enemy and Merzbow with equal aplomb, Lesser straddles the division between the drum and bass and noise scenes. Dropping a fiendish live mixture of beats and improvised freakouts that manages to win over members of both camps, Lesser has recently collaborated with japanese noise guru K.K. Null. The wide variety of labels and artists currently seeking tracks and remixes from Lesser indicates the diversity of his approach: experimental labels like Chicago’s Kultbox and Scotland’s Diskono! have joined the line of interested parties, and Lesser has put his own perverse remixing stamp on everything from the polished, poppy indie-jungle of junior varsity to the apocalyptic grindcore of Belgian extremists Agothocles. Playing guitar in the Metallica tribute band Creeping Death with the members of A Minor Forest, Lesser’s got chops for days, and the sense not to put musical muscularity in the way of a good time. Perhaps the hours spent decoding those riffs and solos shows through in the programming finesse, texture and attention to detail you’ll find in the average Lesser song - who knows? Either way, a Lesser show is a surefire way to slap (hard), tickle, baffle and amuse, and a must for those who like to hear more than genre fucked with.

Pre-blog News

News
Lesser08/06/03 — New album en route
The aggro-tastic new album by J Lesser akaLesser aka "Lesser" is coming on the very popular CD format from Matador Europe this October. Entitled 'Suppressive Acts : I-IX' the latest instalment from one of modern music's most creative male persons will enthral both old fans and new. Though details surrounding a US release have not been revealed, they will be soon and that will be a happy day for all when it arrives.

04/14/03 — J Lesser writes:
Well... the Lesser record is finished and titled 'Suppressive: Acts I-X' and is a bit of a tribute to my father who died over the holidays. In keeping with the Lesser 'something for nothing, or close to nothing' ethic the CD also includes the entire "Robotic" album, which was my early 90s fake early 80s (think men without hats) band, in mp3 format.

I'm beginning to look into the possibly of doing a bit of touring this summer with bLevin bLectum and Wobbly, which would be a fun touring party so i know this outing will be good. I got the word that i need to come up with a Matmos remix soon.

re: new addition to our household - the day after my pop died, bLevin and I adopted Keeki -- a sweet white-capped pionus parrot and Peeper -- the cockatiel confirmed her female status by laying a clutch of 3 (so far) eggs. Finches Drew and Martin remain nonplused.

btw - sorry about the lesser website but i am doing what little i can to stop this inane war.

10/15/02 — J's been promising his new album for so long now he must really mean it this time.
i'm REALLY am going to be done with the material for my album in the next week or 2 on the outside... other than that...nothing exciting... at all..
Except that I bought a cockatiel and he is nice.
Listening to :
5 or 6 cds of bird calls.

05/03/00 — The long rumored pairing of Lesser aka LSR aka Jay Lesser and Matador aka Matador Records aka US, is at last, not rumored. After a steady stream of concussion-inducing recordings for the Vinyl Communications label, knocking around the globe as the 3rd wheel in the Matmos van, knocking around the other parts of the globe on the just completed Lesser/Kid 606 “Spice Up Your Wife” tour, Lesser is preparing his Matador debut full-length Gearhound. After he lets us hear it, we’ll tell you about it. If you’re good. Until that day arrives, you can get up to speed at the Lesser website.