Henry Rollins: The Column! Noise Music Is the Real Thing
[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Saturday KCRW broadcast.]
One of the most prevalent and undermentioned genres of music is what is known as noise. You can find it all over the world happening in basements, small venues and even some festivals. Often blown off or belittled by critics, the form for the most part goes unheard and unnoticed. I find it much to my liking, and it comprises a large fraction of my listening. I found this extremely underground, almost secretive scene fascinating. The more I hear, the more I wanted to hear. I am several years and countless hours into it now.
A lot of the noise labels are run out of a house or apartment, quite often by the artist. No one in the scene is making much money and no one thinks they are going to get rich creating noise. These are the jams that not many people seem to want.
Tonight I spent several hours hanging out with John Olson in his Lansing, Mich., home. He's the man behind the most well-known group of the genre, Wolf Eyes, and the American Tapes label. Also in attendance was Mike Connelly, owner of the Gods of Tundra label, and the main component of the bands Hair Police and Birth Refusal.
American Tapes has well over 1,000 releases, many of them in extremely limited editions. Gods of Tundra has hundreds as well. The formats vary from lathe-cut vinyl to tapes, LPs and CD-Rs. Most of the parts are spray painted by hand, inked or hand-drawn.
The music (or sound) on these releases are everything from effects pedals bending synthesizers to more traditional instruments. Some of these releases are the most aggressive recordings I have ever heard.
There are quite a few noise labels, groups and individuals all over the world. Some of them might have some distant relation to or appreciation of punk rock or jazz, but many of them seem to be quite uninterested in the more established genres -- or seemingly in making music at all.
The fact that there is not a chance of radio play or even more than the briefest amount of recognition says to me that this is the real thing. This is more punk rock than punk rock ever was past its first year, and in that, it's bebop strong.