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.

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