“How you ended up doing what you’re doing is to keep doing it. As an artist, that’s all there is to it.”
The following words are best read while listening to A World Without Power by thisquietarmy (#6 on the 2017 EP Democracy of Dust). thisquietarmy is Eric Quach. Eric Quach is thisquietarmy, at least since the last 13 years. “I’m not sure i can identify myself as something else, or have the time to do much else at the moment.” Which is fair, since he is currently touring since the end of January and will have played 39 shows by May; after which he presumably will take a breather. Or will he? Read on to find out!
It’s hard to summarize more than 13 years fully invested in a single project, but for the sake of simplicity, here goes.
Eric started off in 2002 when he just picked up the guitar, wasting no time and started Destroyalldreamers, which was active until 2009. This was where he learnt how to play, compose and produce. “Somewhere in the middle of it, I could already sense how compromised a band relationship can be, so I started parallel solo works on the side from 2004, leading to thisquietarmy.” The journey so far is presented as Conqueror: 2009-2017 which is “an anthropological glimpse of Quach’s odyssey over 17 extensive tours through countless kilometers, with more than 1000 photographs and 30000 words.” Just to put things into perspective.
He never learned how to play “real” guitar, so to speak, and so to him it has always been an experimental mean of expression and has considered the instrument simply as a tone generator from very start. He has always been interested in synthetic sounds, sonic atmospheres and effect pedals before being interested in playing any type of instrument, leading him to discover sonically forwarded bands such as shoegaze, psychedelic, post-rock bands and minimal avant-garde artists in the 90s.
thisquietarmy has built a colossal aural portfolio, which includes more than 500 shows in more than 39 countries all over the world, and more than 50 releases. This is complimented by Eric’s equally extensive visual portfolio of films, painting and graphic design. Before he picked up the guitar, he had spent a while exploring the automatic abstract figurative style through ink and acrylic. But he doesn’t see them as two separate mediums. Making sounds is purely an extension of the same expression, only with different a paintbrush and silence as the canvas.
Since he quit his corporate engineering job in 2009, Eric has been been focusing solely on thisquietarmy.
“It became much more anchored in who I was and what I wanted to express, so in a way it was much easier to go forward and make any type of decision without interference and feedback. Once you start building your ideas around your abilities instead of focusing what’s missing for it to sound like any other band out there, that’s when you start to push the boundaries of your own instrument and discover new ways to be creative with the tools that you have.”
He uses guitars, bass, synths, voices and more, when it happens. There aren’t any rules. The pedalboard has been more or less consistent for the last ten years, but he has been working on getting backup pedals and replicating his pedalboard overseas. Loops are an inherent basis of his music, and he writes, plays and programs everything for the most part except when it comes to collaborators.
“Creating and expressing something in regards to other people is always a reaction to what the others are expressing themselves: it’s an entirely different dynamic. When several collaborations with different people seem to give fruitful results, it’s about making your voice heard throughout the different elements in which you are not necessarily in control, merging it and creating a synthesis with the others, morphing into something completely different yet recognizable.”
thisquietarmy returns to the UK after having last played here in 2014 and may be playing us a version of his set that may contain tracks from Anthems for Catharsis (2015) and Democracy of Dust (2017), but that being said it is not something he generally decides until after soundchecking and seeing what works through a specific venue/PA system, and within a specific context.
Interestingly, Eric has been playing thisquietarmy full band shows in Montreal since 2013, enhancing the live solo act. We can expect a full band album this fall, being released under “thisquietarmy corps”, followed by a band tour. There may be some more solo tours in Japan, China and possibly Taiwan. His other current Berlin-based band, Hypnodrone Ensemble, with Aidan Baker and three drummers and guests on bass, synth and violin, will also be putting something out this autumn.
Eric is planning on another behemoth tour from the most western point of Europe to the most eastern point and beyond, even hitting Siberia and Mongolia! Then it’s back to Canada for some other gigs, such as his A/V project with 16mm filmmaker Philippe Leonard, who is part of the collective that does visuals for Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Speaking of which he says “I am also working a new project with the drummer of GB!YE – Aidan Girt, and have already played a few gigs in France, Belgium and Germany last year.”
…Lets take a raincheck on that breather.
Interview by Aditya Bhatt