[sic] Magazine

Noise From The Blackstuff (The Ultimate Underground Scene?)

Last year I started to get MySpace friends requests from some odd sounding customers (don’t ask me to remember how it started). The bands’ pages (though more commonly individuals’) were none more black and featured pictures of a grimly surgical nature. It was debatable, even, whether it was music – the participants seem happy to call their genre “Noise”. I should admit I like bands who offend. Although I have no great desire to upset in real life, I take a childish delight in swearing and shocking imagery in my R&R.

I should admit I like bands who offend. Although I have no great desire to upset in real life, I take a childish delight in swearing and shocking imagery in my R&R. Having swum in the waters of Metal for many years of the 80s I can attest that (and I realise it does me no credit) seeing Alice Cooper (left) getting his head cut off, W.A.S.P. produce a nude lady from a cabinet, slit her throat and sling raw meat at the crowd or The Mighty Thor have breeze blocks broken over his chest by a dwarf with a sledgehammer (honest – I saw it twice!) were not without entertainment value. With the advent of Death/Speed/Thrash things got nastier. Although I was never really a gig goer for this area of Metal, I can remember the impact of Reign In Blood by Slayer (the lyric sheet of which is still a very grisly document). That opened the floodgates and any time I dipped a toe in this particular pond necrophilia seemed to be the prime subject.

I have to say even for a fan of Shock Rock the murder and church burning was a bit much, and it took Napalm Death and Electro Hippies to make sense of the Noise strand in Metal again with Hardcore. Not really until Marilyn Manson did anyone go further in upsetting the grown-ups and that was more to do with his high profile. And he also brings us back to Alice Cooper (subversive name, stage act, religious background).

Now, I’ve digressed here.

Noise certainly isn’t Black Metal but as a scene it seems to share components, not least an utter disregard for mainstream trends and tastes. A propensity for tattoos, piercing and dark clothing. Practitioners could be taken, by the untrained eye, for Goths. And again the Industrial end of Goth is a sign post on the road to Noise. But Noise is not about guitars, though (as with ‘Black Mental’ by Chav Stabber ) it uses them, sampled or raw, set to “pain” for rhythmic effect. It is about the manipulation of electronic sound to alter mood (usually in a somewhat distressing way but some Noise can be gentle if not really Ambient – like the dreams of a machine).

It could probably find it’s originators in Dik Mik from Hawkwind (pictured left) (whose apparent ability to use his noise generator to make people spontaneously defecate was VERY Noise), Silver Apples (a bit) and various Electronic pioneers ( Pierre Henry comes to mind). Throbbing Gristle must surely be the Gods of Noise (along with the lesser known Whitehouse), with an amazing and uncompromised back catalogue that defies easy explanation (though much of it is more musical than you expect). The look of much Noise imagery comes from them, Crass/Flux Of Pink Indians and Anarchist fanzines (whether deliberately or not) that feature weapon diagrams, corporate reports, animal testing photos – and Industrial Alt. Rock acts like NIN and Ministry (who regularly showed surgical videos live – I seem to remember a sex change operation projected during the Psalm 69 tour) .

masami.jpg” height=”250″ width=”250″ />Any good article on music should make you want to hear its subject. In this case it made me search out stuff to at least sound halfway competent to write about Noise. It quickly becomes obvious “Merzbow” is a big figure in Noise. He meant nothing to me but a gentle Google provides info. I recently bought a random album “Cycle” which I believe is from his “Laptop Years”. Perhaps not a golden age for purists but a mesmerizing journey into sound that leaves you startled, excited and, finally, thrown up on a deserted beach to consider life anew in the space of 2 immense tracks. If nothing else this article brought someone who I now consider a major talent in music to my attention.

The question, perhaps, is why was he obscure enough that even someone with a reasonable working knowledge of “outsider” music hadn’t heard of him? The fault may be with me but I rather think the uncompromising nature of his product has frightened away the mainstream writers.

I also bought volume 2 of “An Anthology Of Noise & Electronic Music – 1936 to 2003” (one of 5 double album sets on the Sub Rosa label) and this proved to be a magical listening experience. Some stuff I don’t consider Noise – Sun Ra, Captain Beefheart, Laibach, Scanner – some stuff is Sci-Fi-alike backgrounds. But even though it concentrates on the Electronic and Avante Garde, more than the punishing end, it is a spectacular compilation of experimental musics and one of the better compilations I have ever bought. The other 4 volumes will be hunted down. Listening to it brought another idea to mind. Being a child of the Sixties (and with parents who had me relatively late in life) radio drama was still a big part of my listening experience. Perhaps that golden time spent hearing the technical wizards create spaceships, dinosaurs and creaking galleons shaped my listening habits more than I realised. Certainly later in life I have gained great enjoyment from albums of these programmes (30s US radio to The Goon Show) and other “sound” LPs.


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OK – I’ve tried to give you some background on what I understand by “Noise” as a genre but what do the Noiseniks themselves say about their music? Some admissions… I have released 3 Noise singles on my label in the last 6 months (by Tayside Mental Health, Endometrium Cuntplow and Chav Stabber).This doesn’t make my label their label – as mentioned before most Noise acts release on a plethora of labels. A purpose of this piece is to try to understand why on hearing Noise I was drawn to it, who makes it and why, to point you toward some challenging music that will never be inside the mainstream but may (as with any underground music) influence it in subtle ways. So I asked these perps a few Q’s. To finish up then, here are some journeys to Noise by recent practitioners:

“Assuming you would accept the label “Noise” for what you do – how would you describe Noise as a genre.”

“I am happy to be labelled a noise artist. Although I do incorporate lots of other styles into my music, it really just depends on how I am feeling, as well as how I feel like creating music. I do make a great deal of noise though, and when I perform live, it consists primarily of experimental noise and ambient music. Now to answer your question, to me, noise as a genre is very broad and open. It could be almost anything really. Tons of bands and artists incorporate amazing noise into their music without straight up blasting your ears relentlessly, and to me, the two are still very closely related because the one thing that noise is, no matter how it is used, is pure, raw, and honest.” Endometrium Cuntplow

“For me, noise represents pure creativity and freedom from convention. It’s the only genre I know of which allows that level of experimentation purely because there are no hard and fast rules like so many other so-called ‘extreme’ styles. A noise artist can incorporate any number of influences or samples into their work, we don’t need to worry about copyright issues since I struggle to see some major label attempting to sue someone who makes music which is so blatantly uncommercial! Certainly for me, noise is all about fun and doing what sounds good to you. If you take it too seriously you’ll vanish up your own rectum thinking that people actually give a shit about what you’re doing! There are people within the noise ‘scene’ (damn, I hate that word!) who are too concerned with just imitating what Merzbow done 20 years ago and can’t see beyond that, on the other hand there are people who are actively pushing themselves to bring something different. Like any other genre, there are sub-divisions within noise e.g. harsh noise, rhythmic noise, shitnoise…(I think I was the first person on Smell The Stench to get the tag of “Extreme Noise” which I take as a huge compliment…) but, to me, it’s totally pointless. We all make noise, simple as that. The only time I could justify a sub-genre within noise is when it comes to the more ambient material e.g. dark ambient, black ambient etc etc So noise is, for me, freedom, pure creativity and fun!” Chav Stabber

How long have you been making music, was it always Noise (and is it exclusively Noise – ie do you have a secret C&W band?)

“I have been playing around with instruments as long as I can remember. My mother had a piano, a violin from the 1700’s, and an acoustic guitar (which I took from her and still have and play to this day) that she let me play with since I was old enough to hold them respectfully. I have always kind of written songs since I was a little kid, but I started recording my music when I was 10 years old. I think I got my first 4 track cassette recorder when I was 11 or 12. My music has always been experimental in one way or another. When I started seriously incorporating noise into my music and recording more experimental noise tracks was around 2000. Back then I was playing guitar and programming shit in a band called Fascinatrix, and I ran my guitar through a Kaoss pad and a bunch of other pendals, and made a lot of noise in the songs. It was fun. After we broke up, it just got worse and worse, and here I am today, making and rleasing tons of noise. But in addition to this project, I have a few other solo projects, one of which is a kind of neofolk project called internal improv, and I perform live with that as well. I have also been playing keyboards and noise boxes in a space rock/ shoe gaze type of band called Outer 7th since 2003. Then I have a ton of other side projects with friends. Basically, I love to create sound, and I love to create it with anyone who wants to create it with me.” Endometrium Cuntplow

“The bands we were in previously were punk or metal bands.We did a few projects together before we became Tayside Mental Health.We originally called ourselves Anal Forceps then Brown Noise, Goat Fucker, then Abattoir, then finally Tayside Mental Health.” Tayside Mental Health

Where can I see Noise bands play? Any regular club nights/promoters you could point me towards (doesn’t have to be in UK)?

“El Jardin in Northridge has “Avant Garden” every Thursday night now for $3. They have all kinds of experimental, electronic, and noise music. It’s fucking amazing. There’s also The Smell, The Echo Curio from time to time, The Pharaoh’s Den out in Riverside, and sometimes Art Galleries have noise shows. I know there are lots more too.” Endometrium Cuntplow

“Glasgow is a great place for all kinds of music but there is a great “scene” for Noise and experimental music. The bands we have met thru there have been really cool and supportive .The Halt Bar is a great place for Noise and all sorts of music really, the Thirteenth Note and Stereo all host great bands of all genres.” Tayside Mental Health

What is your Noise top 5? (if you think it’s Noise, I’ll accept it is)

1.Kylie minoise
2.Endometrium cuntplow
3.Wolf eyes
4.Sunn o)))
5.arab on radar (they are not a noise band but we had to get them in there)

Tayside Mental Health

“In no particular order, and not just strictly noise, Sonic Youth, Autolux, Whitehouse, Fantomas, White Mountains”

Endometrium Cuntplow

‘Pulse Demon’ – Merzbow

I don’t actually listen to much noise music if I’m honest, I enjoy making it and listening to my own material but there are too many good artists to limit them to five. Besides, I’m terrible at remembering track names!” Chav Stabber

Links of Interest

Indie Dad’s Own Record Label!

Chav Stabber

Endomentrium Cuntplow

Tayside Mental Health