Young Male

"I love to see someone who’s halfway crazy doing their thing, whether it’s making dance music using a metal box with some knobs on it, or a guy smashing somebody’s hand with a hammer."
Interview & Portrait by Asher Penn

A year since releasing his first EP on artist-owned label White Material Records, New York based Young Male (Quinn Taylor) has gone from virtual unknown to "local techno god." With a musical background steeped in underground noise, Young Male’s recordings and live performances have brought a remarkably unique voice to today's often homogenous landscape of electronic music. Now an internationally touring DJ and Producer despite minimal hype from the standard industry legitimizers, Young Male is a rare example of an artist reaching a continuously growing audience with only hard work and killer music.

I didn’t know you were from New York.

Yeah, I was born in Midtown I think. My mom owned a loft in Union Square on 16th Street. But it was a different fucking place then. Really different. People wouldn’t walk across the park at that time. It was full of drugs and pretty violent. She moved because she got robbed at knifepoint in her own house while I was in the crib next to her. We ended up on the other end of Long Island in a small farming and fishing town called Greenport.
But you grew up in Virginia. How did you guys end up moving there?
I went to a really good wrestling camp in Virginia the summer between 8th grade and 9th grade and while I was there wrestling, my mom drove around Virginia looking for spots to move to.
How did you get into wrestling?
Going to middle school in Long Island was fucking hell man. I got bullied so much. It was brutal. I just wanted to be stronger and understand my body a little better. I was tired of feeling small and week.

Young Male live @ Source Material, Berlin, 2013

How long did you wrestle for?
Two years. I was a decent wrestler. I would’ve continued in high school if I hadn’t started skateboarding. Skateboarding was so much more fun, and the other people that skated were way fucking cooler than the kids who wrestled.
Were you good at skateboarding?
I was never that good.  I think you have to be this certain type of person to get really good. The best skaters that I knew weren’t that athletic, they were just willing to jump down 12 stairs. You have to have some weird blind faith. It’s not easy to pinpoint. Kids like that don’t necessarily think they’re good enough to do those crazy tricks, they’re just not worried about hurting themselves. It’s pretty amazing.
Did you play any other sports?
I played football in middle school. I loved it. I was a cornerback, the guy who covers receivers. I was pretty good. I got an interception in almost every game.
Were you bigger when you were younger?
No, I was smaller. I’ve always been kind of cursed by being a small athlete. I think I weighed like 112 pounds in high school. But all my life I’ve loved watching and playing sports. I’m a huge MMA fan.
You go to the gym a lot now, right?
That’s a big part of my life. I really consider it an important thing to do. Exercising is essential to keeping your brain healthy. I haven’t been going lately. I have no money and my gym membership is on hold. 
It’s an expensive gym?
Right now I have a fancy gym. It’s expensive but it’s kind of worth it. I mean, there are hot girls to look at, you’re never waiting too long to use a treadmill or to use equipment. The towels are nice. It’s way easier to actually get yourself to go the gym when it’s not a shithole.

Young Male, Distrust, 2012. Video by Keaton & Greg

Let’s get back to Virginia. Were you going to shows in high school?
Yeah, at least once a month there’d be some cool show at the local college. We were close to D.C. so all these bands from there would play. I saw the Makeup play one of their first shows. Blonde Redhead came to play before they’d ever released an album. I saw Fugazi when I was like 13.
Were you playing music?
I hung out with these kids that were kind of music prodigies. They weren’t classically trained but they’d been making music since they were really young. We all played music together in a ton of bands. When I think about it, there’s nothing then or now that sounded like what we were doing. It was pretty weird. It’s so rare that anyone ever makes anything that doesn’t sound like a million things before it. This shit really didn’t sound like anything.
How often would you guys play?
We would play music every day. My friend had a shed that was sound insulated and we had all our music equipment in there. It was a pretty amazing life at that time. You go to fucking high school, you leave at like three in the afternoon, you barely spend any time of your day there, and then you go and you hang out with your friends and play music.
Were you a good student?
No, I was a bad student. I got like Ds and Cs, and the occasional B. I just wasn’t a fucking goody two-shoes kid. I didn’t want to do that shit. I wanted to go skateboard and play music and play video games. So I just didn’t do my homework.

Greatest Hits! volume3, oil on newspaper, 17" x 19, 2008

What about art?
I didn’t give a shit about art until I went to pre-college at RISD. I wasn’t even planning on going to college. I thought it was just this crazy waste of money, and I never liked kids that were obsessed with school. Then my mom convinced me to go to pre-college, which was fun, not to mention there were weird, pretty girls walking around everywhere. It seemed like the coolest thing to do at the time. After pre-college, when I went back to my high school art class, I thought I was a serious artist. [Laughs] I was drawing fruit in a fucking bowl and cow skulls and shit. God…
So you went to RISD.
Yeah. I studied painting and then transferred to sculpture. I don’t think I learned that much. I’m glad I went. I had an OK time. I learned how to draw and got a little better at not procrastinating, but most importantly I got to meet all these fucking strange, cool people that I still know today. People who have truly influenced me in deep ways. I definitely believe that the people you meet in school are what make going to school valuable. I mean those relationships can last the rest of your life.
It’s also really hard to separate RISD from Fort Thunder. When was the first time you went there?
I went when I was a freshman. One of the first weeks of freshman year actually, I went to a big wrestling event there. They had this big D.I.Y. wrestling ring with ropes. Everyone would wear insane costumes. There was a lot of fake blood. There was also some guy doing play-by-play on a megaphone and some crazy music pumped through some totally blown out system. It was honestly chaos. It blew my mind, it was a formative experience.

Wrestling at Forth Thunder

So you’d go a lot?
Everyone went to Fort Thunder events. When you heard that there was something there, you knew you had to go check that shit out. I really consider myself lucky to have gone and seen a place like that.
What was your first impression of Lightning Bolt?
The first time I saw them play was in a parking lot in the middle of a cold-ass Rhode Island winter, surrounded by parked cars with their lights on. Post-apocalyptic as fuck. It was incredible seeing two dudes do so much with just a bass and drums—they were doing so much sonically with just two instruments. The idea of doing a lot with limited means still influences the shit that I do now. I think that’s part of the reason that I use such a simple live setup with just a drum machine and FX pedals. That was also the first time I’d seen a band bring their own P.A. They were people who were obsessed with music and wanted to play it, and they would do whatever it took to make it happen.
Providence has pretty high standards for music.
That’s the hardest place to play. They’re the harshest critics without a doubt. If you play there, you’d better play your best fucking shit because you’re playing for a group of some of the sickest musicians living in this country. They’ve seen a LOT of music and they know some real shit when they see it.
There’s an ethos to it.
Yeah, and there’s also a really high value placed on performers being real human beings there. Expressing yourself in your own fucked up way, however insignificant it might feel. Learning about what the fuck it is that YOU like, not what your best friend likes, not what is popular at that moment, y’know? It takes a lot of courage to do that. It’s not easy, it’s often humiliating, but I think it’s worth the struggle.

Lightning Bolt live at The Pink Rabbit, Providence, Halloween, 2003

What was your first solo music project?
I had a noise project that I never performed where I just used a homemade oscillator and distorted vocals. I would run the microphone through this fucking gnarly distortion pedal so the vocals were unintelligible. That was the first time I did any real experimental shit. I still do some stuff like that in private. I have private music projects that exist only in my bedroom.
How did you learn about electronics?
My friend Christopher who does Brown Recluse Alpha and Daily Life taught me all that stuff. He spent a lot of time explaining schematics and giving me lessons on how to build simple circuits. He taught me how to build all the basic components of a synthesizer. He was kind of my mentor.
I didn’t know that.
He was the first person I saw playing noise music, it totally turned my life upside down. The first time I saw him play was a really important moment in my life musically.  I’ve never seen him play another show like it.
What did he do?
He played this cassette tape that he made. It was drum machine loops that were distorted and blown out, which he sang and spoke over. It was so simple but so powerful. He had a shitload of little toys, plants, and some spinning lights sitting on his amp, too. I remember that he was wearing mismatched shoes and was smiling like a maniac while he was playing. I knew I was watching an unusual person doing an unusual performance. Halfway through his set, the amp died. He kind of threw a fit, and started just smashing the amp on the floor in front of the audience while it was buzzing and feeding back. I actually remember thinking to myself, “Goddamn…THAT was fucking cool.”

Brown Recluse Alpha, Blowing Up The Workshop, 2013

From Sex Magazine #5 Fall 2013
Labelled Music