Rewind to a time before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, when you could go out and watch live music. September 2019 to be exact. We’re at a venue called Alice, located in the heart of Copenhagen. In the middle of the dancefloor, spread across a large table, lay a couple of modular synthesizers. Instantly recognisable by the numerous wires from inside them. In a few moments, those pieces of equipment be teased and tormented by a duo going under the name TRIPLE X SNAXXX.
Comprised of founder member Alex Maiolo and (for one night only) Jonas Bjerre, perhaps best known as the singer, guitarist and songwriter with Mew. Their set takes electronic improvisation to another level. At times, feeling like a sonic history lesson with beats, taking in everything from Teutonic motoric sounds to elements of electro house and industrial dark wave. Its an exhilarating half hour and one that makes me want to find out more.
Maiolo’s name you might recognise from these very pages, his published work as a writer having graced FMS as well as being a leading contributor to Tape Op magazine for the best part of a decade. As a musician, Maiolo is an accomplished guitarist of some repute, having played with highly respected USA indiepop outfit Fan Modine, among others.
However, it’s his experimental electronic project, TRIPLE X SNAXXX that we’re here to celebrate. Most notably because they’re about to put out a new single this month, entitled ‘DGGGR’. Started by Maiolo four years ago as a vehicle to perform live, the North Carolina based artist saw TRIPLE X SNAXXX as a way of combining structured songs with sonic experiments conducted via modular synthesizers. Or as he succinctly puts it, “I liked the idea it carried risks. MIDI and laptop stuff either works or crashes. With Modular, if it shits the bed you keep your cool, you get happy accidents.”
“The whole thing was birthed because we needed a video and had to get creative during a time of isolation.”
Patrick O’Neil is the other (regular) half of TRIPLE X SNAXXX. Recruited by Maiolo after the pair played together in Chapel Hill based garage rock four-piece, Lacy Jags, TRIPLE X SNAXXX shows could involve both, or either member solo. Sometimes guest collaborators will perform if the other is unavailable, as happened in Copenhagen last year.
They have even put together a four-piece constitution/manifesto for what TRIPLE X SNAXXX is about:-
- No MIDI or laptops. They’re awesome but not for this. It’s about exploring limitations for old gear
- Only classic or classically inspired gear
- Collaborations are encouraged
- It has to be fun!
As for the name TRIPLE X SNAXXX, O’Neill, Maiolo, and a 30 year old friend came up with the drunken idea of a millennial band name. “Generation X and Millennials have a lot in common!” he insists.
While still only relatively new, from a recording perspective in particular, TRIPLE X SNAXXX have already appeared at 2019’s Moogfest, taking the stage just before The Normal and Mute Records supremo, Daniel Miller. “I patched up a thing that sounded like piano strings being chased around a canyon and a minute later we were back up. Nobody knew it was a hack!”
“MIDI and laptop stuff either works or crashes. With Modular, if it shits the bed you keep your cool, you get happy accidents.”
Inspired by a shared love of Krautrock, Italo Disco, modular pioneer sounds composed by the likes of Suzanne Ciani, alongside the early electro stylings of Giorgio Moroder and psychedelic side of techno, “There is a long history of psychedelics pairing with modular,” Maiolo tells me. “Don Buchla was an LSD advocate and supplied modular for the acid tests. One shows up in Tom Wolfe’s book from 1968, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.”
Falling somewhere between the two camps of electro and motorik, it’s easy to see why Maiolo and O’Neil label TRIPLE X SNAXXX sound as “Moroderik Musik” after their two main inspirations. Their first two releases leaned towards the latter (‘OTTTE’ and ‘KUBBBI’ respectively) whereas the new single has a distinctive Italian feel about it.
The video for ‘DGGGR’ was made with director, Jason Summers, and materialised indirectly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, when it became apparent they’d have to contribute their parts remotely. Maiolo takes up the story: “I said to Jason, ‘Imagine if we spilled a lot of water. A LOT. And then slowed it down to the length of the song.’ I imagined it coming at the viewer. Jason took this oblique strategy and imagined it coming down. I liked the idea that we’d do his idea. So, he set up a 600-litre tank on the second floor of a barn. He pumped water into it from the ground and set up a Rube Goldberg contraption to spill it. Below he had an A Camera and B Camera running 280fps. The A Camera reel only stretched to 8 minutes, so he added some B footage to make it fit the song. I drove out there, watched from a safe ‘distancing’ distance, gave it the thumbs up, and drove home. The whole thing was birthed because we needed a video and had to get creative during a time of isolation. It’s just one shot. Two cameras. No looping, crossfading, or manipulation. As the film rolls, water starts to twist and splash up. You see droplets turn into confetti and follow the tree line at times. We were hoping for coincidences like this.”
So, check out the video for ‘DGGGR’ in all its finished glory. It’s available now on all streaming platforms including YouTube with a physical release due later in the summer as part of an as yet untitled EP.
As for the playlist below: “Stuff we love that you’ll likely love too. SNAXXX wouldn’t be making Moderik Music without these artists and songs. It starts with a three part train journey and takes off from there. Organised as a set, but works just as well on shuffle. Enjoy!”
Photo: Lindsay Metivier