Interview Of Mike Griffin’s Parashi By Eric Hardiman From Tape Drift

Mike Griffin, proprietor of the up and coming Skell label, has been recording and performing as the enigmatic Parashi for a few years now, and has been making well-deserved waves in the DIY tape/noise scene. His most recent tapes and live shows have demonstrated an ability to branch out into new sonic realms, while always retaining a signature Parashi sound. His music dwells in the micro level details, allowing us to fully explore the implications of each timbre and tone. Predominantly electronic in nature, Parashi has also incorporated electro-acoustic elements into his work, and uses a variety of sound sources, including his own field recordings. The resulting mix has referents in noise, electronic minimalism, and musique concrete, blending inspirations seamlessly to achieve an intensely hypnotic effect on the listener. Griffin’s most recent tape, “Silenus” was just released on the Retrograde tape label, and marks a fascinating foray into using more overtly rhythmic elements in his music.

“Tell me how you got interested in creating music.

I always wanted to do it, and taught myself to play guitar. It took a lot of time to get to

the point where I was comfortable with improvisation, much of that came for me after I began to mess around with other instruments and effects and sound sources.

Your recorded output as Parashi has been described variously as “enigmatic”, “hypnotic”, “ominous”, “texturally dense”, and “haunting”. What is the main impetus behind your activities as Parashi? Your main goals?

The impetus behind Parashi was just to try to keep myself musically active… There was no initial feeling that I was going to do this stuff live, I intended for it to be more of a project where I’d release stuff and see where it went… It’s cool that people picked up on those aspects of Parashi to characterize it as such. Space and texture are important to me, and I think sound should engage a listener in those ways. At this point the main goal is to keep working. It is its own reward, music is a self-generating force in my life.

You recently released a collaborative recording with Ray Hare (Fossils From the Sun), and I know you’ve also worked with Russ Alderson (Xanthrocephalus) in the past. How does collaboration figure into the Parashi aesthetic?

Collaboration is challenging and entertaining, that’s what I like most about it. It didn’t figure much into my aesthetic originally, but getting a chance to work with guys like Ray and Russ along with Mike Barrett, Jeff Case, Bill Shute, and Jason Cosco last year was a total blast. I’m hoping this year to record and release more collaborative stuff, we’ll see how that all plays out. Doing Parashi for a couple of years and then joining Burnt Hills was interesting too, as BH’s collective improv aesthetic is a massive, weekly collaboration all on its own.  

In a relative few years, you’ve managed to release a number of recordings on various tape labels from all over. In what ways does the form of dissemination impact what you do as Parashi?

I love releasing tapes, their sonic warmth and vibe work so well with noise in general. The hidden bonus with tapes has come with time-specific sequencing ; sometimes pieces that are current favorites of mine get left off certain releases, simply because of the physical constraints involved with the length of tape sides, and that’s forced other sounds and zones to surface. CDRs have their use of course too, and I’d love to work in the vinyl format someday as well.

What are some of your key inspirations behind making your music? How do they show up in your work?

As far as noise, Sick Llama, Birchville Cat Motel, Prurient, Maurizio Bianchi, Yellow Swans, and Hair Police have had a tremendous impact on me both as a listener and as an observer. I wouldn’t know how they show up in my sound, though, except for maybe Sick Llama or M.B.. Llama’s gnarled, scuzzy, drugged-out stuff just kills me, and Symphony for a Genocide has been a release I return to again and again in my own listening.

In rock it’s all the usual suspects: Sonic Youth, the Dead C, Rallizes, Melvins, Black Flag, Wolf Eyes, Fushitsusha… I don’t think much of this shows up in Parashi however.

Each Parashi tape seems to take a new approach, to add new layers of mystery, and to present a different side to what you do. To what extent is your creative process driven by strategic choices and/or new ideas?

New ideas are a big part of noise for me – there’s always another sound to find, whether it’s out in the world, or in a pedal chain ! I like the feeling I have when I listen to an artist who tries something different, who feels a certain restlessness within the confines of their own aesthetic/technique/vision/whatever. So with my tape releases I have tried to ensure there was some level of variety, not just an onslaught of the same group of sounds – it’s been a conscious decision to a certain extent. I find that a new sonic element can often send me on a recording binge, but I try to work daily.  If I need a break from playing there’s mixing to be done.   

Where do you see Parashi music heading next? What are your more immediate and/or longer term plans for the music?

I’m looking forward to releasing some collaborative material this year – stuff I’ve done with Belltonesuicide, another collab with Burnt Hills’ drummer Jeff Case, and perhaps another later in the year. The synths/tape player/contact mic basic setup is still keeping my interest at the moment, but if it wanes I may work with some other instruments this year. And other than that, I would like to try to get out on the road for a week or so this year to play some shows. Long-term plans are just to keep working.  There’s a lot of recording to be done.

You’ve been writing music reviews for Foxy Digitalis for awhile now – to what extent has your knowledge and immersion in that world impacted the music you make?

I was interested in the FD scene as a reader long before I started to write for them… So I was already being influenced by artists like Birchville Cat Motel, Li Jianhong, Social Junk, Rambutan, Mammal, and like-minded folks like that when I began Parashi. It’s been a good time working for Brad and Eden, met lots of good folks that way…

Can you talk a little about your approach to live performance? How does it differ from your home recordings, and what is that process like for you? What about specific instrumentation and its impact on your creative process?

Live performance is a complete bonus for me these days, perhaps because I thought at one point that I wasn’t going to do it anymore… Where in the past I might’ve been distracted from playing by attendance numbers, drink, negative emotions, and things like that I now find myself blissfully unconcerned by all that shit. It’s different from recording at home because I can’t stop a jam at the six minute mark if it sucks, I’ve got to find a way out of any hole I dig for myself.  And it’s a more chaotic undertaking, but it’s immediately rewarding if the set goes over well. That energy finds its way into the music, the stuff I do at home is less affected by adrenaline. Certain jams develop from specific items – a check-cashing machine, a flat piece of metal, a kalimbe – and it’s easy to fall into the trap of overusing these sounds, so I try to keep a close watch on myself. Nothing beats the first jam with a new sound sometimes though.

What about Skell? I get the sense the label has been picking up steam. Several of your last batch of tapes released are among my favorite tapes in recent memory. I hear others talking about the label too. Where do you see the label as fitting in the larger tape scene, and what are your future plans with it?

Thanks for the kind words about the recent batch.  Hoping to continue to put out a lot of stuff this year, we’ll see how things shake out.  The next batch is starting to take shape, and I’m looking to do a larger one next time that will have both tapes and CDRs. There are so many excellent labels out there – 905, Tape Drift, House of Alchemy, Hooker Vision, Ghetto Naturalist Series, No Kings, and Stunned (r.i.p.) – that have all put out consistently excellent stuff in recent years, so it’s a lot to live up to!”