As promised, here's John Collins McCormick's interview with me about my experiences participating in the mysterious and musky genre sometimes referred to as "NOISE."
Erin Kemp Drew ran THE A/V CLUB at Indianapolis’ Earth House, she also booked shows at SHARED HERITAGE Gallery in The Murphy Art Center (which if you haven’t been to Indianapolis this is a “must see”) as well as booking shows in various living rooms and basements. While not a noise practitioner herself, she’s been exposed to many different forms of sonic expulsion so I decided to send her a few questions I’d had on my mind.
1. What is Noise Music and isn't that redundant? or, shit, what's that thing...like silent thunder, or military intelligence...uh, oxymoron! You're so smart Erin! That would be a great name for a noise band.
Oh boy. The term "noise music" makes me a little uncomfortable cuz it seems to evoke some 80's, "transgressive" aesthetics. Even though I like that stuff alright, it seems kind of knee-jerk and overtly negative--like intentionally off-putting. "Experimental" is a more comfortable term to me, when you think about music-making being an experiment with variables. And like in science, sometimes experiments are repeated and sometimes experiments fail.
2. What is a Noise show like? Is it like a folk show or is it better? You know what I mean...
One notable thing is that energy levels can vary so much. Sometimes people sit with their hands in their laps and really hang on little sounds and you can hear their jackets creak. Sometimes performers maul the audience. It's funny to think this could be the product of the same genre! Oh yeah, and sometimes people dance. That was an important realization I had at one point: you can dance to any music, there doesn't need to be a 4/4 beat.
3. It's normally dudes right?
Actually, one thing that initially appealed to me about the music scene in Chicago where I first started participating in noise was that the scene consisted of so many women! That was such an exciting change from the hardcore and punk scenes I'd been involved in in my hometown (and still different from the DIY psychedelic/garage rock scenes around me today).
There's an openness with noise that isn't always there in more referential genres. The noise milieu I've experienced seems to rub against the visual arts scene, where tons of women are involved. A lot of the first and most exciting noise shows I went to (Caroliner, Fat Worm of Error, Cock ESP--all in 2003) had performative or visual elements--more opportunities for involvement. You don't need to be a guitar virtuoso.
4. If you went to a Noise show and there were dudes playing like guitars would you be pissed? Or would you just be like "I snuck in anyway" ? also is it nececelery to have instruments to make noise music, or what would you use to make noise music? Good question John!
Guitars don't piss me off, I like uncomfortably masculine butt rock. But I am pretty overtly interested in performances that involve a visual/non-musical element. Costumes, theatrics, a slideshow perhaps? I'm interested in shows that engage multiple senses. Dada stand-up comedy? Confrontational story-telling? Something involving animals other that humans? I'd like to see some soundtracked cat corralling. I think most importantly these things share a spirit with noise music. Experiments. Questioning.
5. Do you think in 30 years they will teach Noise music in public school (you know when they start teaching music and art again in public school) and then, do you think they will teach it in art class or music class?
I love to learn but I hate school. Next question.
6. Why can't I find anyone who lives around me that thinks this stuff is cool? i.e. what's wrong with everyone?
It does seem like the "community" for this stuff is kind of nebulous and dispersed and conferences and festivals like INC and Bitchpork are important. Touring is important. I'm ok with having an international network though. Regionalism is kind of romantic…
7. why is most noise music on a cassette?
Noise music as I understand it is some progression or distillation of punk, and the good kind of DIY punk values affordability ("If it ain't cheap, it ain't punk"--Plan-it X Records motto). I've always bought tapes cuz they're the cheapest thing at the record store. Plus the cassette decades have produced some of my favorite music, so it's easier to find on tape than vinyl.
Also, there's a tendency in noise of celebrating under-dogness. Cassettes are kind of underdog and unglamorous. Clunky flipping and rewinding. Plus, those are good sounds. Cassette players kind of facilitate sound manipulation.
8. Give noise music a few new names that are better, or at least something that doesn't sound so predictable...
a. Fake Jazz
b. Peace Punk
c. Future Blues
d Moist Music
(You made that last one up, John.)
9. Where is the best place to listen to noise music? I know you are going to say the library but don't be so selfish and predictable. OK, say Library. What ever, it's cool....
In the parking lot of Big Red Liquor, drinking a 40, cloaked in shadow, watching people in the gym across the street work out their inner thighs.
10. I like how i made this appear to have happened like we are hanging out together!
Fort Wayne is stunning!
11. Remember when Justin and I were too scared to sleep downstairs? Thanks for letting us sleep on your floor.
That's funny, at the time you guys said you were too "bored" to spend the night downstairs alone....
12. Do you have any questions for me? No, I just ate. But yes I do want to go to that burger place by your house. I live in Bloomington now, so it's probably a store selling those weird rubber toe-glove shoes instead of burgers, but we can go there!