3Teeth's Mincolla Talks Esoterism, Music and Art

Alexis, left, with Andrew Means, Chase Brawner and Xavier Swafford. 3Teeth

I recently blogged about LA-based industrial act 3Teeth's debut album here on Space Music. Specifically, I was taken with the philosophically-tinged, anarchist blend of 90s industrial style and the sort of modern dark electronic ambiance that I've come to depend on in my listening. Their sound feels modern, dangerous and subversive in a way that's often missing from contemporary bands. 3Teeth is currently opening for Tool and Primus on their US tour, so the opportunity arose for me to chat with the band's vocalist Alexis Mincolla about industrial music, Robert Anton Wilson, divination and god-slaying super weapons.

Enjoy the interview (just beneath the playlist) and be sure to explore the band's sounds via Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Spotify and Amazon. Hit play and read on...

Hi, Alexis. Thanks for chatting. Just to kick things off, how's the tour going and what can concertgoers expect?

(Photo by Sebastian Dooris/Creative Commons)

It's been a dream come true. We've been having so much fun. We started things off in San Francisco at the Bill Graham. It was actually just us and Tool -- no Primus -- and then Primus joined us for the last two shows in San Diego. I think each show just keeps getting better than the last one. And Tool's performance is insane. I mean, if you guys are Tool fans, then definitely check out these shows because they've taken their production and performance to the next level.

And of course for us, we take it up to 11 right out of the gate. We're not holding anything back. The whole thing has been such a fun pairing of sounds. Each band is very much their own thing, which is fun because you're not watching the same type of music for four straight hours. So it's definitely a special tour for sure.

I want to talk about the visual alchemy of 3teeth, but first I want to ask you about the music itself. If any given composition is a mental doorway for the listener, where does the music of 3teeth take us?

W e like to come across as a sort of sonic visual assault -- something like throwing sand in someone's third eye.. It's a tough thing to describe, and that's why I encourage people to see it, especially our live performance. Because I don't think we fully captured it in any video yet. You really have to see us as performers mixed with our sound, mixed with our visual context, because it's definitely different.

So you feel live performance is the optimal format?

Yeah, absolutely. You know, we've only put out one album and it was certainly not under the guise that we'd be touring arenas. So for us, the production on the album isn't what we all perfectly wanted. It's very much a band's first album. A little rough around the edges. But in terms of where we've taken it on the live level, it's much different and something we're very proud of. So yeah, we actually got cut back on our visuals on this one since we're an opening band. They didn't want us to use Tool's screen, which is fine because there's so much reveal in the process of their production. But on our standard show, we have a large visual presentation as well.

There are strong elements of '90s industrial music and dark electronics in the 3teeth sound. How do you feel 3teeth updates those vibes for the modern listener?

I think sonically we have a lot of sound design that's very now. It's very 2016. It's very HD. It's something that we're working on sculpting. Maybe it's just a bass patch that sounds so massive -- things that you might consider EDM. We can have a bass in there that feels absolutely massive compared to the '90s. I don't think they had a lot of that. A lot of '90s industrial was written on all-acoustic drums. We're not really afraid. We're not purists. We can make a bass patch on a modular synth and tether it to our v-drums, a midi or something like that and play it. So we're very much incorporating the technology of today in or our music. You can't really compare '90s technology to what we have right now. I think that's a huge difference.

On stage, October 2015.
Photo by Sebastian Dooris/Creative Commons

How to do you approach your role in the band?

My background actually has very little to do with music. I was more of a visual artist and art director. I really approached the band initially when I first met Xavier -- our main producer in the band -- I wanted to build an art product on the chassis of a band. I wanted a band that could provide a great vehicle for art. I always approached the band from a visual context, creating something that could be bigger than the idea of what most people would consider a band.

So I actually approach a lot of my writing process from some sort of visual identity -- a concept for something, maybe a title or an idea for a song and then we all just start designing something and present it to the band as an idea. And then we can all create a sound design around that image in order to create a little bit more of a synesthetic experience. I think that gives us a little bit more of a language to approach out creative process, so that we can say "this doesn't look how that sounds" or "that does look how that sounds." Then you have a good starting point.

So the imagery doesn't all stem from the music? Some of it is a part of the process?

Yes and no. I feel like sometimes it does and sometimes it's vice versa. Every time I feel like we have a process down, we try something different the next time. Because we're a young band, we're feeling out our creative process constantly. So we're also not really into dogmatically constricting ourselves. We're constantly experimenting to see what comes out of it. Sometimes the imagery is first, or sometimes there's a quick riff that Chase comes up with first and then an image comes out of that. Not a lot of one size fits all.

I'm really digging the depth of the project here -- even the band name itself, I'm reading, has a touch of occult wonder to it. Dental divination?

Many Horizons

Yeah, there's kind of two rabbit holes to go down there if you want to. One being there's an ancient form of divination in Greece known as odontomancy, where the practitioner would read fortunes in three teeth, like rune stones or something like that. So there's this element of doomsayer prophesy and also the word "trident" in Latin stems from the words "three teeth," with the trident being this divine weapon of God that brings destruction. It's what Marduk killed Tiamat with -- this caught thunderbolt or trident.

So there's a lot of esoteric and cryptic context -- something that I like to think that Tool helped inspire. I think those guys have done a great job at creating a lot of layers of meaning. Sometimes they're kind of sending you down fake paths, other times they're actually sending you down an intentional path in a way for a lot of polysemic artistic qualities. They definitely inspire my respect.

The track "Dissolve" features sampled audio from Robert Anton Wilson -- and I see "Operation Mindf***" recurring in some of the 3teeth visual components. Does this play heavily into the overall 3teeth mission statement?

Author Robert Anton Wilson, circa 1979.
© Roger Ressmeyer/CORBIS

Yeah, absolutely. I think, for me, Robert Anton Wilson has been a prolific influence on me as a writer and as a thinker and as generally a quirky guy.

I think that sometimes you have to almost become more cynical of language itself in order to create a little bit more awareness of it. Because you come across preachy people and people don't like being preached to. They're very resistant to that, so I think humor is actually a really potent avenue -- cyncisim with a little bit of reverism to back it up. It's sort of a strange path to walk, but I feel like someone like Robert Anton Wilson did a great job of it.

Are there any other key influences you'd care to mention?

There's so much because there are four of us in the band and I can't really speak for the other guys right now. But in that first album, there's certainly a lot of Robert Anton Wilson and some of his colleagues. I was reading a lot of Hakim Bey at the time as well, because strangely enough I do enjoy poetry. But I think he was also a pretty strong influence on the first album.

What can we expect from 3teeth after the tour? A follow-up album?

Yeah, we'd actually been working a lot on the album, half in the studio and half touring last year, so t was one of those things where we wanted to lock ourselves in the studio, and that's when we were asked to go on this tour with Tool, which is obviously really cool, so we put that on the back burner. But we're really excited to get back in the studio in February and just lock ourselves in because we've got eyes on us now and we're not ones to rest on our laurels. We're here to strike while the iron is hot. You know, the sophomore album's one of those things that really defines the band so we're just ready to bleed for it again.

Space Music is a continuous exploration of our expanding cosmos of sound, with a semi-firm emphasis on electronic music. Explore years of posts right here, and sample a little of everything at the Space Music Sampler playlist on Spotify.

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.