Interview with Joke Lanz (Sudden Infant)

Joke Lanz is a brilliant artist, period.  Trying to write an introduction that does Lanz justice is proving difficult.  Where to start?  Lanz brings an incredible amount of physicality into every performance piece he creates.  His body is truly an instrument.

There really isn't anything to say.  If you are already familiar, hopefully this interview will give you a little more insight.  If this is your first exposure to the vast mental space of Joke, then you're in for a treat!

Why "Sudden Infant?"  The only phrasing I can think of that has "Sudden Infant" involved is "Sudden Infant Death Syndrome."

Yes, you're right.  When my son was on his way to become an earth citizen, I was not only thinking of a name for him...  I was also thinking of a name for my performance and music project.  I read a lot about SIDS, when newborn babies die in their sleep without any clear reason.  This term got stuck in my head, and I decided to use the first half of it for my project.  That was in 1989.

Can you give me some background into your development as an artist?  Did you begin with more traditional music?

Before I started SI, I played in a Punk/Hardcore band called, Jaywalker.  We used tape collages and mixed them with drums, guitar and bass.  We were influenced by Joy Division, Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Throbbing Gristle and Butthole Surfers.  I left the band after three years in early 1989 to focus on my family and my new project, Sudden Infant.  Personally, I've always been into Punk, Fluxus, Actionism, Industrial and Noise.  Bands like Suicide, The Cramps, Birthday Party, TG, Cabaret Voltaire, Einsturzende Newbauten and Whitehouse have been important to me.  But, also French singer, Jacques Brel, was a great inspiration.

What exactly is Fluxus and Actionism?

Fluxus and Actionism are two art forms/movements from the 60's.  The use of physical bodies and different artistic media became the main forces of both art forms.  Happenings, art performances with visuals, Dadaistic elements and experimental provocative noise music.  Some of the main artists were:  Joseph Beuys, Wolf Vostell, La Monte Young, John Cage, Otto Muehl, Hermann Nitsch, Rudolf Schwarzkogler, Valie Export, etc.

In particular, Actionism had a huge impact on Schimpfluch and my own work with Sudden Infant.

After listening to several of your releases, it seems like your voice is your main instrument, unless I'm mistaken.  With so many sound/noise artists going the route of fancy oscillating synths, pedals, and the like, why your voice?

Yes, the energy and diversity of a human voice has always had a big fascination on me.  You can put so much emotional and personal power into a voice; you can hardly find it in other instruments.  I like to reduce myself in order to create a maximum output.

On "Dark Sperm," your use of the turntable as a noise instrument is incredibly intriguing to me since I have always had a love of Hip Hop DJs who use creative means of scratching, etc.  Even though it makes perfect sense hearing you use this as an abrasive instrument, I never really thought of this method.  How did you get into turntablism?

I love vinyl records.  They're like small creatures and they have a lot to say.  I started using turntables when I did Psychic Rally (1989-1994), a monthly radio show on a station in Zurich.  Together with Rudolf (R&G) we played and manipulated records, tapes and cds, and used our voices in cut-up style to place our comments during the show.  It was a big noisy collage!

During the 90's, I developed my unique way of playing turntables and it became my second foothold next to Sudden Infant.  I play a lot of improv shows as a turntablist, i.e. with Shelley Hirsch, Christian Weber, Ignaz Schick, just to name a few.

Aside from performing at shows as Sudden Infant, what are some other types of performances that you have done?  You've done some installations at art galleries, right?

As mentioned, I perform as a turntablist.  I play duos with Shelley Hirsch (vocals), Christian Weber (double bass), Christian Wolfarth (percussion), Jorge Sanchez-Chiong (turntables).  Yes, I have had some exhibitions at art galleries with installations, and also with my paintings.

I imagine that you perform mostly in front of crowds used to experimentalism.  How often do you/have you found yourself performing in front of an orthodox music crowd?  How have the reactions been?

I just performed in a small town in the South of Germany.  A very conservative place, and these people never ever saw anything close to Noise or Experimental Music.  The reaction of the crowd was very interesting.  After my show, they started to ask me questions, and they came on stage to look at my equipment.  They were very much fascinated about my expressive performance although they couldn't really understand it.  But, I think it's important also to perform in front of an orthodox audience who is not familiar with this kind of music/art.

You recently had a biography, of sorts, published about you:  "Noise In My Head."  How did this come about?  I have never read a book specifically written about a sound/noise artist.

Lasse Marhaug wanted to release a SI retrospective CD-Box on his Pica Disk label.  But, there was already a 4xLP retrospective out on Berlin-based label Hronir.  When we bumped into each other in Los Angeles in early 2010, we were talking about it again.  Suddenly, I had this idea of a book.  You know I have boxes full of pictures, drawings, texts, flyers, etc...  And, I thought, "Why not a book?"

Lasse was completely enthusiastic.  And, we are both totally happy with the result.  Lasse did a great job putting everything together.

What do you do for a living, if you don't mind me asking?

I try to make a living with my music.  Next to SI, I play a lot of turntable shows, and I also write music for theatre, radio plays and dance pieces.

Interview with Jason Crumer

Jason Crumer has been around for years.  Killing it.  Seriously.  Rocking out with Facedowninshit.  Creating an impressively diverse collaboration with Roxann Spikula of Relay For Death.  Harsh walls of noise.  Emotional, more subtle moods.  Disturbing sounds made with who-knows-what.  And, more recently, heavy, HEAVY electronics with new project, Reverse Baptism.

I had never given this guy's releases the time of day until a conversation with a friend went something like this:

Friend:  You like Jason Crumer, right?
Me:  Never heard him.
Friend:  DUDE...WHAT...THE...FUCK???

While I didn't connect as much as most with Crumer's "Walk With Me," his albums, "Ottoman Black," "Personal Hell," "What Is Love," and 2011's "High Stakes" (sitting firmly in our Top 10 of 2011) have me asking myself the same question.

You primarily perform under your own name, or with Reverse Baptism.  But, you originally started out playing in "facedowninshit," right?  How did you progress from playing slow, heavy music to the wildly experimental nature of your noise releases of the past several years?  And, is facedowninshit still active?

I started doing noise in Aluminum Noise in 1998, the same year facedowninshit started.  Facedowninshit broke up in, I think, 2006, and Aluminum Noise ended (and "Jason Crumer" began) in 2002.  Before that, I had only been in punk bands.  They progressed separately, going from fast punk to rock-oriented work.  From experimental crap with AN to, hopefully, better composition and overall approach with the solo stuff.  Reverse Baptism started last year; not so serious.

Why bother with experimental music/sound?  Why not just join/start another band?  What do you get from one that you don't from the other?

Experimental music is intellectually more rewarding; rock music is physically more rewarding.  It depends on what you need, ya know?  A real band, every member demands and gets input.  My electronic music doesn't reflect on anyone else.  Sometimes it's fine to have complete control, but it's good to have someone to tell you that your idea is stupid, try again.

I couldn't have made "Walk With Me" or "Ottoman Black" with a band, and couldn't have made "NPON" on my own.  Sometimes you get so far up your own ass that it's impossible to make good solo work.  That's probably where I'm at right now.  I need to find a drummer.  "Waylon Riffs" lives up in Philly, and we're probably going to get something going again.  It's situational.

Your releases under your own name seem to vary from harsher styled ever-changing walls of noise to quieter soundscapes that, on the surface, seem ambient, but the dark undercurrent doesn't really allow for relaxation, so much.  What inspires your work?

Eh, everything.  I don't know what inspires my work.  That's 15 years of stuff inspired by 15 years of stuff.  In super general, I like to make the extremes of any song, edge of hearing ambient and loud noises, and then the rest of the track is the segue between them.  That's about as specific as I can be to that.

Reverse Baptism is one of your newer projects.  Will you give a little background into how RB came together?

I met the other members of Reverse Baptism about a year ago, right when I moved to Baltimore.  We got drunk, what can I say?

"Street Business" is fucking insane!  The sound is intense, and the lyrics are just grimy.hahaha  There is one track where the lyrics were not printed in the insert.  Why?

They were omitted because we couldn't reproduce them for the lyric sheet, and didn't want to have sections labeled, "angry drunken garble."  I didn't write any of the lyrics with exception of the part I sing in "Big Bitch Cathy."  So, I'm not the one to ask about that.  I do support whatever my friends feel they need to express, regardless of how it makes people I don't know feel.

What are some of the strangest things that have happened when you've toured?

It's been years since I've toured, and memories are a little hazy.  Scotty Irving (Clang Quartet) politely asking, "Who shouldn't I talk to today?" on a Clang/American Band/Black Meat tour when everyone was in a bad mood oddly sticks with me.

What are some bands and noise artists that blow your mind?

Eddy Arnold, Joe Colley/Crawl Unit, Due Process, MagWheels, AC/DC, USA Baby, Clang Quartet, Sickness, Masonna, George Jones, Merzbow, ZZ Top, Loop, Jim Reeves, The Rolling Stones, Dilloway, Kool G Rap, Cold Electric Fire, Billy Joe Shaver, Judas Priest, Sixes and Mahler.

You have moved around a good bit: California, North Carolina, Oregon, Baltimore...  Why the move to such far away states?  Change in cultural climate?  Music?

I'm from Southern Illinois, a place people like me can only move away from.  Moving is a part of my life from early on.

Currently, you reside in Baltimore, MD.  I have noticed two main scenes for noise/sound/experimental music there.  There's the fairly straight academic style of the Baltmore Electronic Music Group/Collective, and the more art/party style emanating from The Bank/Tarantula Hill/America et al.  How much have you immersed yourself in the local scene, and how do you feel about it compared to other places where you've lived?

Good things about Baltimore are an Ethiopian Restaurant, great public library system, decent diner, job that doesn't make me want to kill myself and a cool market all within a few minutes of my house.  Bad things about Baltimore are mostly my fault, so I'm not complaining.  I gave up on groups and scenes a few years ago, and don't care to impress or meet or even talk to many people right now.  My social life consists of my roommate and a couple of her friends, and people from other towns coming up/down for a visit.  I'm still in touch with most people from everywhere I've lived; some more than others.

Haven't really had a lot in common with people I've met, so far, in Baltimore.  That's not a moral distinction or judgement but an aesthetic and, possibly, cultural preference.  I want to keep my relations one-on-one and make it through the life kissing as little ass as possible.

What was the "Old Country Buffet Incident?"

Some friends and I got matching Mormon Bible Salesmen hair cuts and dye jobs at a Fantastic Sam's in Jackson, MI and went to the neighboring Old Country Buffet.  Beyond perversion.

What do you have planned for this year, release-wise?

Jason Crumer "Let There Be Crumer" CD and cassette on Second Layer.

Reverse Baptism "Ass Traffic" LP on secret label, so far.
Reverse Baptism "Beep Traffic: The Radio Edits" heavily censored download of the LP for radio play; should be comedy gold.

Jason Crumer "Ottoman Black" LP re-issue (looking for label).
Jason Crumer + Matthew Parsons collaborative cassette (still recording).

And, a few other things I'm going to keep closer to the vest.  But, that's about it.


Interview with Matt Boettke

Boettke pictured in the middle; performing with Sex Complex
Fairfax, VA's Matt Boettke is unique.  Of course, calling someone "unique" can mean a lot of things.  Put 100 people in a room (including Matt), and he'll still stand out.  More pertinent to this interview is his growing body of work through several projects.  Through the harsh noise rituals of Sex Complex, Widow's Bath, and his solo project, the more diverse stylings of Ancient Noir with fellow noiseician, Stephen Palke; Boettke's creative output is impressive considering being in his early 20's.

Why noise?  And, to an even more specific degree...  Why harsh noise?  What draws you to it?

If I was to answer "Why Noise," I would honestly have to just defer to my answer for the question, "Why not 'everything else'?"  I'm drawn to noise mainly because of a reaction to a lifetime of playing "proper music" i.e. drums in various drone/metal/punk/hardcore/noise rock/whatever bands, as well as a lifelong history as a music student.  I was in school band from the earliest age, and even was in marching band in high school.  I obviously have a love and appreciation for sound/music, but I would always go restless playing music but not creating it.  So, I naturally was attracted to being in a band from an early age.

However, there was always something so limiting to me about fitting my thoughts, or a collective's thoughts, into the structure of a song, into a sound of a band.  I felt disconnected from myself through the music I played, especially after turning it into a song because then it was the recitation of a thought; not the thought itself.  In noise, especially improv noise, every sound is a direct reflection of your thoughts and feelings at the moment.  There is no greater way in my opinion to express yourself through sound than playing "noise."  Since noise is so "easy" to make (in the sense anyone can do it; no training to a degree), all that's left to define noise is the aesthetic and emotion that the artist puts into it, and this reigns over the actual sound in most cases.

It is a full product--reflective of the artist in such a way that other forms of music cannot offer.  I still enjoy playing other kinds of music because I enjoy music as a fundamental happiness in life, but I will never feel as deep a connection to playing anything other than "noise."

You have a myriad of projects: Sex Complex, Scant, Widow's Bath, Ancient Noise, Borborites et al.  How do each of these projects differ?  And, why so many?

Widow's Bath
In the spirit of my answer to the first question concerning the connection an artist has to a noise "piece," the answer to why I am involved in so many projects should be obvious.  With different energies being channeled through the project (namely through other participants), the piece is reflective of a different mindset (which translates into a different project), and therefore must be represented as such.  Scant is my solo project.  This is where ideas that exclusive to myself, and what I want to express, are represented.  Sex Complex is my longest running project which reflects the ideas of a multitude of members.  However, it also reflects their ideas influenced by my direction which is what makes the Sex Complex sound unique from just any time I play music with others.  Sex Complex is dedicated to a "collaging" of multiple artists channeling their most meditative thoughts through constant blasts of harsh noise to create the effect of each of these converging for one monster of a final product.

Widow's Bath is specifically a project where me and Justin Marc Lloyd (Pregnant Spore, Rainbow Bridge Recordings) work together to come up with sounds that are representative of what we want to do in exploring the genre of noise, plain and simple.  Borborites and Ancient Noir are both bands I am in that are constantly experimenting with sound.  These are more-so bands than they are "noise" projects, and in all honesty, I typically defer direction to Andrew McCarry and Chethan Kenkermath in terms of Borborites, and Stephen Palke in terms of Ancient Noir.  I play in these because I enjoy sound, I enjoy making music, and therefore, are serving a purpose different than the more introspective approach of the first three mentioned projects.

From an outside perspective, a lot of noise sounds amateur, or like nothing much at all.  Why do you enjoy it from a listener's perspective?

From an outsider perspective, you are correct, a lot of noise IS amateur.  This is not too enjoyable to listen to, in all honesty.  I am not so much about noise that is "do whatever you can do" or "anything goes," in the rich avant-garde tradition of just being weird...possibly just for the sake of being weird.  However, I believe when most people are accused of this, they just don't get what is weird about that artist.  Sometimes, they can be genuinely whacked, and sometimes I enjoy that!

What attracts me to the "noise music" I listen to is that certain artists seem to use the element of "noise" to express emotions that are not touched upon in the normal spectrum of all other music; feelings of extreme pessimism or optimism that just cannot be expressed with notes or instruments.  It is the rawest form of human emotion, and as someone who is constantly trying to find balance with themselves, noise is the most religious experience I know; the same reasons why people are attracted to Buddhism or other eastern religions that search for humble inner-peace are the same reasons why I listen to noise.  It's my meditation, my prayer, my search for something greater than myself.

Improv noise vs planned/written noise.  As a performer, you prefer improvised.  What about when you attend shows, which do you prefer?  Personally, I like some improv noise, but a lot of it seems lazy to me, as in, the pedals/synths/etc are doing the work versus the artist really knowing what they're doing.

Sex Complex
Ahhh, this question tricks me up.  I want to answer planned, but I know the merits of improvisation!  Hahaha, dammit Chris.  Let me answer this by explaining to those reading this that the concepts behind our own live performances (Sex Complex).  We always start with an intentional idea or "plan," so-to-speak.  But, besides a basic framework we leave a lot of room up for improvisation.  To me, this is allowing each member of the collective to fully explore their own interpretation of the basic concept, and this collage of sound is what I find very pleasing in the output of our live performances.

I have played shows with others where it was like "turn on, get loud, make noise," and they literally meant nothing to me; it was just sounds for the sake of sounds.  I think with noise there must be intent, but given the free-form structure of the art form, there must be room to deviate from the original intent if it feels correct to do so.  This is the nature of one who is truly exploring themselves through sound; meaning you must be able to adapt to finding new ideas/thoughts that you didn't intend on having, as they are just as much a viable part of the process as the original intent.  When I record Scant material, I typically work on a concept for a few days before hitting record.  With noise meaning as much to me as it does, I'd find it a complete waste of time for me to not have great levels of intent in my recordings, or else, for what purpose am I creating this.

More information on Matt Boettke's projects can be found here.