an interview with john famiglietti of health
  • TUESDAY, JUNE 22, 2010

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The first time I saw HEALTH perform live and in the flesh, the four kids from LA were on the bill of a much buzzed about show (with Chairlift at Music Hall Of Williamburg, as part of a small Brooklyn festival known as After The Jump. Coincidentally enough, you can still see a video of that show. I found their brand of chaotic noise a bit abrasive, despite the buzz and the fawning of cool kids. Could a band's platform really be built on unmanageable energy mixed with cathartic riffs? What I later discovered was that the raw energy was actually potential, and it had already been absorbed and processed. The first of many payoffs came in the form of a remix album (uncommon for bands with such a high concentration of distortion and freakouts), and let me tell you, I love that record. Many will attest it only takes one song to make a skeptic see the light, and the Crystal Castle's remix of "Crimewave" diluted the loud noises in a way I could easily digest and comprehend. So down the rabbit hole I went, and all the originals seemed to make more sense when held up to the prism of DISCO. I got to talk about it with the band, all really interesting people. By the time Get Color hit my desk last fall, I was hooked on getting another golden ticket to hang out with HEALTH.

By the time I talked to John ("I'm the Asian one") Famiglietti again, the band had just dropped the actual ticket contest winner off after two days of fun &mdash a day at Six Flags and a day at the beach with the band. "I'm wrecked" he said of the binge, "I feel f*cking terrible". But that doesn't surprise me; HEALTH is a band that gives two hundred percent on stage, and probably doubles that effort when personally entertaining a contest winning fan. Just in time for us to talk about ::Disco2, the second collection of remixes. "We really wanted to do it again" Famiglietti told me, "to show it's not a joke. It's a serious record. We thought, if we can do it again, it legitimizes this concept".

"The first time was good" he told me. "It developed it's own base, lots of fans of that music, who all asked 'when's the next one?" Well, HEALTH delivered again with ::Disco2, a set of remixes of their Get Color tunes, with seven times as many submissions as the first. With the original, "basically all the remixes were on the CD". This time around, a bonus disc, ::Disco2+, includes another albums worth of material. Also, in select record stores, a ++ disc will also be available, with a third full length set. The plethora of material is enough to keep any fan diving into the remix sea for some time. "We wanted it to be different" he said. "So it's all a different flavor." Seriously, we're talking a Heinz Ketchup amount of variety here.

And the kicker? The best part of ::Disco2:: is a brand new track that kicks it all off, a blistering single called "USA Boys", produced by legendary industrial guru Trent Reznor. The band really wanted to get a single out, but realized a one-off release wouldn't be taken seriously. "It limited what we could write." So they decided to attach it to the latest DISCO release. Their relationship with Trent started on tour, "he's just a really cool guy." He invited HEALTH to "play around" in his studio, squeezing them in between sessions working on How To Destroy Angels. The result is a culmination of their trajectory, a jammy, dance-y track seasoned with the signature HEALTH sound. It always seems like HEALTH is doing the same thing with different, more cohesive angles.

And based on our conversation, this is the point of their work. "For the next album, we're thinking pretty grand". The band is big on "adding to [their] vocabulary," while trying to preserve what is already working with their tracks. That means "synthesizing" what they did on the first two records while advancing the sound to something more resonant, a fitting term for the knob twisting and pedal pushing that has dominated their noise since the beginning. "We want to integrate all these things, and play better songs." HEALTH has never been a "by-the-books" kind of band, and it shows on their anything but tame discography. But the band is slowly boiling their young, brash take on noise music into a band with real mainstream potential. Their third album, which the band is currently working on (with a ton of touring causing some delay), promises to be a combination of their three goals: preserving their initial chewiness, integrating the pop-aesthetics of Get Color, and adding to their already verbose vocabulary with new sounds.

Thus the wily wails of their debut album somehow seem ready for radio on "USA Boys", and a lot of their ear-pleasing sensibility most likely stems from the DISCO projects. "When you do the experiment, you learn something", and what started as an idea for a fun supplement has turned into a staple of the band's recordings. In HEALTH's case, hearing their songs chopped up and reassembled taught them to embrace the best bits of what they have been doing on their original material. The remix series is working both as a new lens for their recordings, and a crystal ball for the future, allowing a band with instrumental ADD to focus, and deliver. -joe puglisi

::Disco2 is out today. Get your copy and catch HEALTH as their tour the US this summer.

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