Madame Chao Interview

Madame Chao is a multimedia artist in Brooklyn, NY, known for seizure-inducing bursts of audio visual chaos. Known for applying the term 'Chaorin Kombat' to live head-to-head video and noise battles, and online equivalents with video-game styled interfaces. Their body of work is extremely dense- lushly saturated- richer than one's ability to actually experience what's happening. Chao is not scared of any subject matter or sampling, gleefully romping through video edits of porn, snuff films, scatology and so on in stop frame assaults on the viewer's consciousness. Musically, it's breakcore, speedbass, cut and paste; borrowing from: breaks, industrial, turntablism, video games, hardcore techno and more, with a constant rinse of Asian motifs throughout their work. Personal appearances are very rare, and the actual identity of Madame Chao remains a mystery- it is purported that she uses doubles or imposters for some shows. Our interview was elusive all the way around, from the setting to the actual transcript. It was conducted in an unlit corner of a deserted, out-of-the-way, large office-looking space in the middle of the night, with Madame Chao hunched over a fancy wifi laptop, lit only by the soft bluish glow of the screen.

Better Propaganda Editor Terbo Ted talks to Madame Chao

Better Propaganda: Could you describe simply the basic structure of Madame Chao Productions?

Madame Chao: Structure of Madame Chao Productions? That does not compute. (unintelligible)

BP: What does Madame Chao Productions do?

MC: Madame Chao Productions... um, we're out to amuse... it's like that moment right before you wake up from a dream that the alarm clock is about to go off, but just as it goes off and you wake up, and you're hitting the snooze alarm, does that makes sense?

BP: So would you say that you're an entertainment company?

MC: No, no, not at all. I wouldn't want to entertain anybody... absolutely not. That would just be doing them a disservice, I would prefer to say, I'm hesitant to even say stimulate, because that's all like another form of just mindless indulgences, we're out to prod, not to annoy, but to prod.

BP: So if you're going to prod with a company that has a series of media releases associated with it, what kind of things are you trying to poke at, what are you trying to aim for?

MC: Well, my aim is my own, so I'm not going to divulge too much of that, but as far as what I would or would intend to see or would ever want for somebody is to- you know- not have any of that dictated to them, what they should expect to see or do or feel or think, that should all be more and more self-revealing to them necessarily, so it would be timeless and spaceless and formless and you couldn't really put in terms of context like that, because you'd just be eliminating it anyway then wouldn't you?

BP: So by having a group that publishes works, it's important to you to have a voice that isn't censored or controlled, that its important for you to have a chance to get information out to people, is that correct?

MC: No, not necessarily. There's can't be any control of chaos, or the formlessness that I'm inviting of, and that it's easy not to be subject to the authority of a body that doesn't have the right to flex such a fantastic and phantasmagorical fantastic fantasy, I don't entertain it, it doesn't exist, there is no boundary there, therefore the question is moot.

BP: So you feel that you're able to express yourself freely in the mediums you choose with the works your group releases?

MC: Absolutely! Who's gonna stop that? You can't stop that, and if you try, then you're just fooling yourself. They do try, but they'll never stop it, and the more that they try, the more that they expose themselves as the living ignorant.

BP: Do you seek out pieces that speak about their media context?

MC: "Do I seek out pieces?" how do you mean?

BP: Well, for example, like you'll have a lot of work that will have samples from something say, like The Simpsons, is it important for you to discuss The Simpsons?

MC: Well, thats like having a conversation about a conversation, well then again, about a conversation. I'm really more in a direct mind where I want to be talking about the thing, where I am speaking, its that symptom, so I wouldn't really be busying myself with the repercussions, or the reciprocal waves of self referrential metadata and all that, it's just a lot of confusion that's inflicted on or would be inflicted on yourself or that would be perpetuating more confusion that babbled on by other people, so no, when I quote something I'm directly and actively quoting it, nothing more, hopefully.

BP: Let's talk briefly about the performance environment. Madame Chao Productions is known very well for its sponsorship of noise battles on the East and West Coasts, and right now you're sitting over your laptop talking about performances capabilities of some quicktime...

MC: I've never sponsored such a noise event that you refer to.

BP: So you're disavowing the noise event, but uh, certainly Madame Chao Productions is involved in the performance environment, can you comment on the agenda you'd have in setting performances up for public consumption?

MC: I have to admit, I'm very self-centered with my motivations, and very self-centered with what I intend to really gain or busy myself with any of this for, I'm mostly interested in my own benefit, maybe not necessarily a monetary one or an ego-driven one where I want some sort of attention necessarily. In fact, I really despise and have always despised that element of performance, where you are drawing attention to a collective one point and that thing, you in the center of it, I think thats pretty nauseating actually, and not out of shyness or anything like that, it's just being realistic. What I would be doing this for is really for my own benefit, or maybe for the benefit of the people immediately around me, participating, or maybe not necessarily actively, you follow me, so that if like if there were people there to witness it, and they would gain something or not, then that's good or not good, but that's a really a very selfish act in that respect.

BP: So if you have a range of media, obviously your group is able to put out video in a bunch of formats, audio in a bunch of formats, performances in a number of different venues, how do those all relate together, what's the best way to connect with an audience if you have so many different layers together, and what are the sort of ways you would reach out to people with your content?

MC: Again, I don't know if this is a failing, or just some kind of myopic reality tunnel type action here, I don't really conceive of, or cater to, or plan for, or really even accommodate an audience in general, rarely, and the forms. When I do, I'm mostly really unhappy with the work and the result. So, I would only really just focus on the work, its coming into being, and how it will converse, I suppose you could say, with the participants in the creation of it, that cyclical self-feeding perpetual motion machine, where you spontaneously create a thing, it feeds itself, and the more that you interact with it, the more momentum and mass or depth or shape that would kind of develop from it. and once it starts to look out and say, "Help!", "Who am I?," "How do you do?", "Do you like me?" "Judge me!" And then its just all sorts of distorted... hey its Michael Jackson! So you become Michael Jackson, who the hell wants to become a weirdo freak?

BP: So you're saying a body of work has its own consciousness?

MC: No, I didn't say that.

BP: No, you didn't say that.

MC: I guess so, it could, I mean, but it could not, just as easily, I didn't say that.

BP: So a body of work is more a reflection of a deliberate consciousness then?

MC: Geez, my cat's breath smells like cat food.

BP: And not like dog food?

MC: More like uh geez, I guess that sounds nice, wicked, yeah.

BP: What...

MC: I find often though that I know for a goddamn fact that my brain works much too hard, and that I enjoy the self-gratification that I can have in the one instance where I get to say hey, look at that one person being too brainy, because then I can feel all over self-assured, for once, that's not me, oi yeah, that's a relief, but no no, that's a good reminder or reflector, and I can spot it, like, when you get someone who's behaving in a way that you see, its because you only see it because its a reflection of something you tell yourself, you can only see it because you recognize it. You ever notice that sometimes a few things are completely out of the perception of someone, they're just completely oblivious to some thing, like a booger at the end of their nose or something, meanwhile, its right there, and everyone can kinda see it, but they don't see it. So like the only time they will see it in someone else is when they see it inside themselves, or about themselves, or they can only see it when they understand it or even recognize it, otherwise it's just boing, just completely not - over the head or transparent, you follow me?

BP: I forget how I got there.

BP: So you're saying this degree of reflection in your work also would be there to be interpreted by your audience that way as well, is that what you're saying?

MC: Again, I can't really say...

BP: If your making a piece is a degree of reflection, would that, as a level of meditation, influence or affect your users or audience that way?

MC: I don't follow you honestly. I can't really answer a question based on that type of intention, again, because like I said, that it's not there in the first place, that intention, that preconceived, you know, even...

BP: Something like that could be only incidental?

MC: Yes, that's a good way to say it, yes.

About putting out something, right, you, you... okay, here's the latest number, by The Madame Chaos and The Chao Chaos, it's 1-2-3-4 buh-duh-duh-duh-duh duh! The thing is what is, right? Then you get all these people around that have reactions to it, and they will pick apart things that become apparent to them, meanwhile, there could a million things embedded in the transmission that they receive, ranging from leprechauns and fairy tales and pixie winks and moonpies, compounded with like murder, and starving Ethiopians, and boots on the neck and like pissing in someone's mouth. But, people will pick out the parts that they want to, and then eliminating all the other stuff, focus on either the happy happy or maliciously malicious, or somewhere in between, but then that becomes the entire piece to them, and then they'll just go on and on about that, meanwhile, they've actively excluded a whole lot, they've actively selected something specific, and then they've discounted or ignored everything else, and that says a lot about a person. I think and I try, for everything that I do, to have as much as I can cram into this one, because only in that juxtaposition of many many possibilities do you get enough extra or distracting, or just the right combination of things, to make it somehow relevant what someone can then pull out of a cloud of massive data there.

BP: So you're saying that a dense enough wall of chaos is so pure that it acts as a catalyst for free thought in an audience experiencing a piece?

MC: I don't know if that thought would be free necessarily, it could be more of the opposite of free actually, what the...

BP: A controlled experience.

MC: Well, controlled, but self-controlled, in a weird way, a self-fulfilling prophecy almost, like what they're bound to be driven to choose or something, or what they habitually choose, or what they just choose, but I don't know if that's necessarily free.

BP: A roller coaster is a planned trip through an existing terrain, is that what you're saying?

MC: Say Again?

BP: If you're on a roller coaster, it's a planned trip through existing terrain.

MC: But are they building it as they go? Its like if they have really long stretchy arms that they can put the next layer of track down (laughter), and they keep going chugga chugga chugga, but then they just keeping going in that, well, not even going in a specific way, but generally it tends to have a shape or a pattern, but lets not say, there's that self-fulfilling thing part of it, someone who's really into... lima beans... is just gonna see the lima beans, its an age old argument though, I'm not even trying to bring up anything new here, I'm just saying this very specific in particular, to when you give someone a range of choices, they have a preference, and they stick to what they like, and that goes forward though in terms of what they want to see in something when you give them something kind of challenging, like world events, and then experiences that they might have had as a child, or things that are resonant with them that never disappear that they can't put a finger on, but then, stuck in with, things that go around them all the time every day. And then in the world of worlds, you experience everything, well, unless of course you're stuck in a box like a little pascal kid or something, something cruel and unusual, but in the world of worlds, you have... a range of everything in between, there's no black and white, but, where you navigate through this cloud is up to you. And then, of course I'd want to throw some people some curve balls, and just bait them into I guess the trap of "oh, that's just compoundedly negative" or "that's violent" or "that's just horrible." Meanwhile, you're just like "look at all this other parts" and then you're not seeing it and then that's all the whole big deal.

BP: Do your censor your own content in your production company at all?

MC: To a degree.

BP: What kind of things would you censor out of content meant for public consumption?

MC: Well, something that would be obviously mistaken. Usually, I will try to do the reverse of that, and then give people what would be obviously mistaken, just as a prod again, but uh, something that would be boorish, something that didn't have any oomph behind it for no reason, like, just something shock value for shock value, that I would eliminate, self-censor myself just for tactfulness, you know, not for any type of... I don't know what the word is, not to in order to not jar someone or not to do something challenging, more just to do it with a little more manners I guess or something with just a little more taste.

BP: But it seems to be that you could define Madame Chao Productions as, you know, if it had a hallmark or a watermark, it would be shock value, don't you see your body of work that way?

MC: You just fell in to the trap! Hehehe. No, I don't know, of course, its really harsh, but that's again, thats the surface. If you really can separate from that immediate perception of it, and step back in a sense, you'll see that sometimes its a solid tone and could be pleasant, but it takes a weird brain I think.

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