Music / Features
Track by Track:
Dr. Chicken Gristle - Experimental Pornography
Words by Conor Lochrie
Friday 12th June, 2020
Following the reissue of his album Experimental Pornography last month via Stargazed Records, experimental-pop weirdo Dr. Chicken Gristle is taking to the internet this weekend to celebrate with a special livestream performance. Ahead of tomorrow’s proceedings, we got in touch with the Doc to dig into each track on his bizarre debut album.
Dr. Chicken Gristle is actually Mick the Melbourne Multimedia artist but he prefers his doctorate title, thank you very much. The music that he creates couldn’t come from someone with the banal name of Mick anyway. Gristle carries the welcome and wilful lurid individuality that make artists like Ariel Pink and Kirin J Callinan so endlessly intriguing - we know that we’re listening to a work crafted by insouciance and playfulness, but it matters not.

Last month, Gristle’s debut album Experimental Pornography was released physically for the first time by Stargazed Records on cassette, following its initial digital release in 2016. In his own words, the album “presents the toxic odyssey of a self-absorbed and self-alienated young man lost in his ego”, a refreshingly candid concept - there may be introspection buried underneath the weirdo-pop beats but they will only reveal themselves with a wry nod and a wink.

Gristle dips his wings into a myriad of genres - new wave and electronica being particularly notable. It’s an experimental album, a collage of deliberately messy sonic textures. The connection through it all, though, is a proud opposition to any semblance of conventionality. Opener ‘You’re Living In A Fantasy’ feels like a calling card, a wantonly upbeat explosion of synth-baked euphoria. It’s swiftly followed by the jaunty new wave of ‘Nice One, Fuckboy’, sounding like a warped version of The Pet Shop Boys. Gristle shows himself equally capable of creating wordless dense electronic soundscapes on ‘The Space Between’ or towards the end of the long and layered ‘Something’s Not Right’ when the tracks eventually breaks into a deep jazz cut.

Across the album, most of the vocals are shouted and wailed, and similarly, the lyricism is relentlessly unpredictable. There are many mentions of a loneliness plaguing Gristle, of him being an outsider, or just downright strange. Perhaps nothing highlights the mindset behind this musical project better than the third track ‘I’m Different™ Too’. If you read along with the lyrics via Bandcamp, you’ll notice words like “different”, “freak”, “weirdo” and “odd” are all followed by the trademarked sign ™ and it’s a wonderful flash of self-deprecation. Gristle knows that music so outwardly erratic as this will be met with derision by some but, really, that’s the point.

If you want to see an artist perform both the ludicrous and the interesting, often within the same song, check out Gristle’s 360 degree live stream performance tomorrow from 7pm, where he’ll be playing Experimental Pornography and other unreleased material. To make sure you’re in the right mindset to witness whatever madness is set to come, we had Dr. Chicken Gristle talk us through each track on the album.
You’re Living In A Fantasy

Much like the rest of Experimental Pornography, ‘YLIAF’ is lyrically chaotic, a mad dash to the bottom that pairs vaguely sincere sentiments with cryptic zingers. As the opener, it sort of establishes the character present on Experimental Pornography and gives you a bit of a taste of some of the shite talking I’m about to subject you to over the course of the next 40 minutes. Also, despite my opposition to cremation (it’s a waste of kinetic energy y’all) part of me still stands by the line “if I die before I wake, cremate me in an easy-bake.” 

Nice One, Fuckboy

I was pumped full of paranoia and manic ramblings. Not a whole heap to say here, but if I had to give the track a fragrance, I would say it smells like a large chemical fire off in the distance. In parts the track smells like a man eating a warm meal plagued by the ever so subtle tinge of body odour masked by mid-tier perfume from Chemist Warehouse.

I’m Different™ Too

In a lot of ways I think this track summarises how I feel about the character in this album. On the one hand it can be read as lampooning the contrarian desire to be “different”, but on the other more sincere hand, it can be read as channelling the struggles of abandoning one’s truer self for social gain both online and IRL. I also really just enjoy trademarking words, so this was a great opportunity to fuel that burning desire. 

The Space Between

The album’s only solely instrumental track. I really wanted to explore a vibrant and nebulous sonic landscape moving around a repetitive loop that didn’t just directly borrow from techno aesthetics. Techno has a sense of community and belonging, and this album very much has the opposite of that so it didn’t make sense to borrow from that realm.  Where most of the tracks were originally created across late 2013 - early 2015, ‘The Space Between’ (along with a few instrumental segues) was created in 2016 when I had a clearer vision for the album as a more cohesive piece. 

Everyone Else But Me

Definitely the stupidest song I’ve ever written, this was originally the album opener, however I moved it to open Side B as I felt it more strongly represented the progression and story arc of the album’s character. I originally didn’t want to include this track in this release, but I think it’s necessary for the narrative. It serves as the climactic peak of the character’s self-absorption right before the inevitable comedown. Yeah, I could’ve just used another track sure, but ‘Everyone Else But Me’ is what gave me the idea for this album in the first place. If I had to give a full Comedy Central roast, this track sounds like how pyjama pants with a galaxy print look. 

Something’s Not Right

A track about losing yourself to yourself. Originally I had heard the framework for this track in a dream that featured former lovers adorned with new faces. I had used that dream as base inspiration, but the lyrics more closely follow the inability to recognise one’s self. Alongside ‘Nice One, Fuckboy’ I’d say the final three minutes of ‘Something’s Not Right’ would be my album highlight. 

Oblique Dawn

I feel like ‘Oblique Dawn’ summarises Experimental Pornography’s main themes, which I would say are self-alienation and contrarianism. I think it highlights someone who is coming to terms with being incredibly lonely as a result of their own shortcomings (in this case their narcissistic and grandiose tendencies). 

Tune into Dr Chicken Gristle’s Sweet Sixteenth 360/vr livestream tomorrow at 7pm - head here for details. Experimental Pornography is available to purchase on sonic pink cassette tape via Stargazed Records.