Ruby Aldridge's Tiger Meat-Loving Band You Need To Know [Exclusive]
A lot of bands start with this simple, classic statement: “We won’t sell out.” Although 2016 seems to be a time in which we’ve all merged into a corporate matrix (it is, after all, a year where people are practically begging to get to advertise intestine-draining “detox teas” on Instagram), there are still some holdouts, holdouts who believe in the power of art without the backing of Tidal, like the very beginning of a Behind The Music special. Art is not dead!
A prime example is the band Diet Choke, helmed by famed model Ruby Aldridge; acclaimed multidisciplinary artist Bozidar Brazda; and Shawn Kuruneru, a painter and owner of Brooklyn gallery Side Effects. Diet Choke is a nebulous art project, a noise band that’s gone through several different iterations. Formerly called Texture, Aldridge says that the band is “nameless and ever-changing. We just can’t seem to settle on one set identity.”
The philosophy behind Diet Choke (which is what they’ve brilliantly decided to call the group—for now) is pretty much the exact opposite of every other band’s MO in today’s social media and branding-obsessed culture. When we spoke, Aldridge and Brazda weren’t even sure if they wanted people to know what the band sounds like. It’s both completely insane and steadfastly honorable: these people are highly principled, but in a way that’s somehow not annoying. Humor works in their favor; all of the artists are fully willing to play and laugh at themselves, and spending time with Aldridge and Brazda was a delight (drummer Kuruneru couldn’t make it, but they affectionately and frequently referred to him as “daddy”).
“We hug, we cry, we meditate, we masturbate. And then we go on stage.”
Diet Choke’s shows are unlike anything you’ve seen before. They’re basically performance art, incorporating props, and the band, while they have a catalogue of hundreds of songs, often makes things up right there on stage. The music is indescribable; it’s like noise rock but somehow way, way weirder—Brazda describes it as “Mantra-core.” Watching them feels like you’re in on a special secret, like something out of an older, dirtier, cooler New York. Clothing designer and photographer for this story Lyz Olko described Diet Choke as “A.R.E Weapons meets Pat Hearn Gallery,” i.e. ’90s noise rock plus cutting edge art curation. We’re way into it. We sat down for a chat with Aldridge and Brazda for more on the mysterious Diet Choke, which, according to them, formed “outside of time and space, decades ago.”
How did the band start?
Ruby Aldridge: We were both just fans of music and we decided one night, when we didn’t really know each other, to just play some music. I met Shawn, our drummer, and I had never sung before, and we just all got together and we made some…
Bozidar Brazda: Noise.
RA: Noise. And that turned into a band.
BB: There have been different formations, but generally it’s us three—sometimes we have friends.
RA: We’re the core.
“Shawn gets locked in a cage and fed tiger meat.”
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
RA: Shawn gets locked in a cage.
BB: Shawn gets locked in a cage and fed tiger meat.
Who feeds him the tiger meat?
RA: I feed him the tiger meat. I put it in my mouth and I feed it to him. And we hug, we cry, we meditate, we masturbate. And then we go on stage.
And how would you describe your music?
BB: It sounds really lame, but there’s a jam band element. We really like to play our songs on the spot, and it’s not like we play them at home and write our parts out. Every song is mainly made up on the spot.
RA: We’re going to try to compose one day. We’ve done a couple.
BB: I think what we actually do is harder because that spontaneity is unpredictable. Walking on those sort of spontaneous lines and sightings usually doesn’t work, but when it does work, there’s this telekinetic aspect where we are all in each other’s minds.
RA: We speak an invisible language.
BB: Which really [comes from] friendship too.
RA: Friendship rock.
BB: I always think it never sounds as good as the first time we create a song. When it gets repeated over and over…
RA: You get bored.
I guess you guys are like improv musicians then?
RA: We’ve improv’d songs live.
What about lyrics? Do you make those up on the spot?
RA: I have a general idea of what I want to say, but mostly it just comes out.
BB: She might start singing, “I feel so sick today, my ear really hurts” and if I start singing it with her, it sounds official.
RA: We just mimic, we’re like parrots. We’re parrot-friendship-rock. Parrot rock.
If you guys were to record a record, how would you maintain this spontaneous spirit?
RA: Maybe through some freestyle, through some jams.
BB: I think [we’ll] just keep playing songs, evolving and seeing what happens. It would be cool to capture some of that, [but] like lightning in a bottle, it’s hard to predict. Often it’s like junk, and you don’t want it on a record.
RA: We have hundreds, maybe thousands of songs. I wouldn’t say all of them are good. Very few are good, but all are a good time. I think for us, good is irrelevant.
BB: There’s an element of [us having] our other careers—for lack of a better word—and this is a place to abandon that.
RA: We make music to abandon the self, and then find [the] self.
You guys would never consider signing with a label, would you?
BB: No. I think we were offered some, though.
Do you think the props you use in your shows connect to your own personal artwork in any way?
BB: I think we have an artistic sensibility that relates to visual artists, so I think it’s inevitable that that would seep into the performance. But the stuff that we’re actually doing is pretty new and I don’t think it’s especially connected to anything I’ve done.
RA: It’s organic. Organic, delicious bread.
Not gluten free.
BB: They’re almost not just props, they’re artifacts. They’re all stuff that goes with the performance, whatever that might be.
RA: And the props are like the key to longevity? Or props are the key to short life—props are killers. Either way.
Ruby, you’re incredible onstage, loose and wild. How do you get ready for a show? Is it hard to get into that mindset?
RA: I’m just all up in that moment. No fear. When I used to play shows, I used to try to control every aspect of what we did, and I would say the shows weren’t as good. But now I have this mentality of this audience–we’re here, we’re good, we’re an audience, we’re friends. Let’s just do it. I try to not be too worried about the results. And it’s been really fun.
Do you ever get stage fright?
RA: Stage excitement more than fright, because I don’t know what’s going to happen. I just go out there and hope for the best, and that’s all I can do.
BB: The thing is a bad show can be good, and a good show can be bad. As long as you’re open about it, it’s a win-win.
How do you guys classify what makes a good show versus a terrible show?
RA: If we have a big fight afterwards with each other, and we need some time, that’s a good show.
BB: If we don’t talk for a week—then it was probably good. It’s [when] the next time we play music, [we]’ve gone through something.
RA: The experience is definitely emotional.
What do you guys fight about?
RA: The weather. Mainly. God, we don’t really fight that much. We are just both very sensitive people.
BB: I think Shawn, our drummer is very even keeled. He’s the rhythm section.
RA: He’s the rhythm, he’s the balls, he’s the daddy. Shawn’s everything. Shawn is daddy.
BB: Shawn is the daddy. He keeps us in check.
Speak of daddies, Bozidar, you’re starting a band with your son, Sushi Boys. What’s that like?
BB: [My son] is nine. He plays drums right now, and he sings and dances. He’s very much into the Pretty in Pink soundtrack right now.
RA: He’s so handsome. Like, “not no” in ten years. I’m just kidding. But I’m not.
RA: Sushi Boys. That’s a better band name than we’ll ever have.
It’s the best name. Finally, what do you see as the future for Diet Choke?
RA: I want to make a video, I just realized that right now. We want to shoot at Milk Studios, right now. Right now, lets just do it. Right now.
Go for it.
Look out for Diet Choke’s upcoming shows. See if you can find them.
All photos shot exclusively for Milk by Lyz Olko.
Stay tuned to Milk for more parrot friendship rock.