Interview with Clang Quartet and Baptizer

Clang Quartet

It is a tricky thing to express one's faith in a non-traditional way.  Especially, in music scenes more known for expressing rebellion and a disgust with any kind of authority.  Ridicule and criticism comes with the territory.  However, North Carolina noise performers, Clang Quartet and Baptizer are more than up for the challenge.

First, let's talk about the names.  "Clang Quartet."  I was talking to some people at work about you, and wondered why you call yourself "Clang Quartet" when you are only one person.  And, I'm going to ask you if what one of the ladies said was right.  She said that maybe it was you, and the Holy Trinity.

Clang Quartet:  How I wish that was correct, but, sadly, someone else suggested that too, but I'm afraid my reasoning is less interesting.  More or less, it was a three part show, and still is.  Percussion, noise, experimental sounds, etc, etc...performance art piece.  So, three performed by one.  Sounded more interesting than "Scotty Irving."

In all seriousness, I do some session work, and didn't want to use the name "Scotty Irving" because I didn't want people to think they were going to get the same thing each time.  So, let's give the show a name, so people know what show they are going to get when they hear the name.

And, what about you Jim (Baptizer)?

Baptizer:  Well, if I just called myself, "Baptist," then everyone would just think I was a Baptist (laughs).  People would think I was doing gospel or something.  So, there's...  John the Baptist said, "I baptize you with water, but the one who is to come will baptize you in the fire of the Holy Spirit."  So, that adds like a reference to the apocalypse, to me.  And, the apocalypse is a big part of the message in my stuff.

There's other messages in there, but that's a big part of it.  And, since, a Christian identity, I changed my name from what I used, originally.  And, before that, I used the name "Fading Light" because I was more or less an Atheist.  The name that I've chosen, about two years ago now...  It was intended to reflect the new turn my life took.

(To Clang Quartet)  What lead you to doing this more theatrical type of performance with the costumes and whatnot versus performing in some other way, or did you start out performing differently then changed?

CQ:  Uhhh, it's gotten a lot better over the years.  The first couple of years...  From the onset, it's always been something sound oriented, and something visual.  In the beginning, I think a lot of it was so abstract that even I wasn't sure what was going on.  I told someone that when I look back at those videos of old performances, what I see is a man struggling with God.  Because...that's pretty much what the deal was.

I said I had given it to God, but I hadn't really done that.  I see someone with a little problem with focus, at that point.  I watch him and laugh now because I've moved on.  But, over the years, the costumes, and the masks, have become sound sources.  That's one of the things I try to utilize.  And, I'm not the first person to use a mask.  I'm not the first person to do a crucifixion scene on stage.

But, I am trying to do something with all of those that I don't see someone else doing, in quite the same way.  I don't know very many, if any, other artists that are using masks as sound sources, as well as visual.  And, my crucifixion scene is on one of the instruments not only used as a visual tool but, also, as a sound portion of the program.  That's such a central part of the show.  It's not just the visual.  The visual is obviously a very important part, but I wanted to give it something that not just everyone would've given it.

(To Baptizer)  I noticed with certain parts of your set, tonight, that you definitely had phrasings that you were saying during different parts.  What types of lyrics, or narrative, were you using for those parts?

B:  Uh, yeah, it's pretty unintelligible!  (laughs)  The content has to do with Imperialism, at times.  It has to do with maybe there is a conspiracy...not necessarily a theory but something that is real because I'm not very fond of globalization.  So, sometimes, the lyrics reflect that.  Sometimes they reflect personal struggles with...personal moral struggles.

Tonight...and, I'm not sure how far I want to go in to this one...  Tonight, I was reading from a government document on abortion procedures.  So, I'll just stop there and let people interpret that the way they want.

As far as the typical ways of expressing faith through sound and music is through Bluegrass or other contemporary types of music...Gospel...  So, why do you choose to express your faith the way you do versus a traditional musical approach?

CQ:  To be perfectly honest, I have been a Christian since I was 17.  I did not pursue sound or any other type of music, at the time.  I was a drummer in a band.  During the time that I spent as a musician in those early days, I was getting ready for what would become the Clang Quartet show.  Along the way, I was introduced to sound sources that were not traditional instruments.  I became aware of performers who were more like-minded in what we are talking about, as far as what Jim (Baptizer) and I are trying to do.  It just made more sense to me.

I don't necessarily see people doing it the way that I think I can do it.  And, some of the sound sources, honestly...  I've been a drummer since 1979, and other sound sources that I'm using are extensions of those sounds.  It's still something percussion-oriented for me.  From a spiritual point of view, there's a lot of light and darkness throughout the Bible, in terms of the message being told there.  And, I don't know, I think sounds, other than musical sounds, seem better to present that.

The story I'm presenting is...  Well, I have a lot of people asking, "Are you pointing fingers at the world?"  And, I say, "No, I'm pointing the finger at me!"  The opening montage with all of the words on it:  "Doubt," "Lust," "Anger," that's all me.  That's my shortcomings.  The words at the end:  "Spirit," "Righteousness," etc, etc...those represent Christ.  What I'm suggesting is that my life with Christ is more like those words versus those ugly words, at the beginning, was my life before.

I have learned over the years; don't point fingers at people!  I could sit here all day long and tell you what's wrong with the world, but the world could just as easily sit here and tell you what's wrong with me.  I've learned that cleaning up one's own back yard is more important than pointing out someone else's.  (laughs)

What do you think about that, Jim?  Does it make sense for you to use the sounds that you make in the Christian setting like this?

B:  Yeah, it does!  It started out like...  I have been into Noise, Industrial, and Experimental music since I was 15.  I've been into Punk and Death Metal, but I was rebelling against the teachings of my parents, and what they tried to instill in me.  But, when I got into Throbbing Gristle, Z'ev, and Controlled Bleeding, and some of the others that came along...

CQ:  I have played with three of those! (laughs)

B:  I did not believe in Jesus.  I think there's something beyond ideology and beliefs in Noise and Experimental that is very visceral, that goes beyond words.  And, that makes sense in the Christian sense because if God is beyond words, then there is a connection there.

CQ:  That's the way I feel about it.  But, trying to explain that to people used to more traditional Christian music...  Have you tried that?!  (breaks out into a big laugh)  I have!

B:  I was interested in chaos magic, and I was really fond of Genesis P. Orridge and Psychic TV because I was really interested in the efforts they put forth.  I was interested in the occult, and interested in mysticism after a while.  I can say I was an Atheist, but it wasn't long...  I wasn't a strict Atheist because I believed there was something beyond the limits of the human intellect.

And, now, when I listen to Noise, I still listen to it as the same mystical experience, and it is beyond words.  And, I know people who go to church, and they over-intellectualize the Bible, and the over-intellectualize God, and it's...  But, God is beyond the framework of the human intellect, and the human intellect is finite.  Even Power-Electronics, as graphic as it can be...  There's something in there that is beyond words, and anyone, regardless of what they believe, can recognize that.

What has been the best and worst reaction you've experienced at one of your shows?

CQ:  Want to go first?

B:  I guess I want them to be involved, so the worst reaction was at my first show where everyone just talked together.  Luckily, there were some people who paid attention like Scotty, Vince of Mechanic Hill, and some other folks who did understand that kind of genre.  But, there were a lot of people who were disengaged and disinterested.  That really bothered me.  So, after that show, I understood that I was going to need to have one or two people participate.

CQ:  There have been a lot of really good examples, thankfully.  Like Jim said, sometimes you just feel like you're playing for your shadow.  Then, some nights, you're surprised how many people seem to understand what you're doing.  Sometimes, it's when you're playing with fellow Noise artists, and sometimes, it's not.

The worst example I can think of very easily.  After playing maybe a year, I played this show at this so-called "Christian" place in Ashville, NC.  The people there weren't paying much attention except this one drunk guy who had gotten into the place.  And, he wasn't drunk with the Holy Spirit; he was drunk with something else!  And, he physically tried to stop me from performing!

I discovered something that evening: Christian places have bouncers!  I know that sounds funny.  I remember this very large gentleman gets on stage and says to the guy, "Sir, this gentleman works alone.  You will be leaving this stage now."  Man, was I glad he was there.

He joked with me after and said that he was sorry that things didn't work out for me.  Incidentally, it says in the book of Romans, "Conform ye not to the world."  He said, "I've never seen anyone perform like this.  You don't conform to any world I've been a part of!"  (laughs)

B:  The best reaction, for me, is when everyone wants to be engaged.  I'm honestly not fond of people sitting down.  When the majority of the folks are up and out of their seats, and they want to be a part of the experience.

Have you been able to reach anyone through presenting a Christian message in your performances/music?

B:  I do think, in a sense, that I have.  I've noticed that there have been people who have gotten into it who have had no interest in Christianity.  And, there was one guy this Summer who got engaged in one of the messages that night, and I had it on a sheet, and had him say it with me through a mic: "Forsake the Empire."  I had that one message, then brought up another, and he said that one with me, also.

He talked to me, afterwards, for a really long time.  And, I found out that he agreed with me on some things.  I would never claim that I would make him Christian; it wouldn't be me, anyway, it would be someone greater than me.  He did start to see the validity of the things I was saying.  It wasn't just the political message but also the Christian message, as well.

I think it's possible to spark something in people.  I would never take credit for bringing someone to God.  It would be Him using me to help bring this person in.

CQ:  I had a similar situation to him.  A lot of Black Metal guys are scared of me, which is funny!  At least, I think it's funny.  One guy I played with at a place in New Hampshire...  He was very vocally displeased with me being there, but then, as I was packing up my car, he made sure to look around to see if anyone else was around looking.  And, he walked up to me to tell me he enjoyed the show, then begged me to not tell anyone he said that!

More often than not, people won't say anything to me at the shows, but I'll get emails, afterward.  My wife is like, "Are you still on that computer?!"  And, I'll say, "Hey, come here and read this!"

B:  When people who I was involved with in the past see the change that has happened in my life, they start to see the validity.  When people learn that I've been through addiction, and problems with mental health, and they see how I am, today...  I think there's some admiration, and maybe even hope in that.

CQ:  Since you're in the process of bearing your soul...  I'm also on medication for depression.  Life's like that, man.  You might notice one of the props in my show says, "Depression."  You think I'm not going to use that in part of my show?  (laughs)

What do your wives think about what you do?

(both bust out laughing)

B:  The cool thing is, my wife was already into Industrial.  She was into the 80's Industrial music.  What I listen to wasn't too far a cry from what she was into.  It was more extreme though.  She doesn't like Harsh Noise.  She's ok with it.  She comes to a lot of shows, but we also have two kids.  It's just been us with no family around, but she's very supportive.

CQ:  I have to say that my wife is very supportive.  My wife, her listening habits when I first met her were...  I'm not going to say completely different.  Certain bands that we both like: Queen, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, U2...people like that.  She liked a few AC/DC songs, and she had heard of Motorhead.

It was a whole different ballgame when she heard my show.  There was a documentary on one of my shows in 2001 called, "Armor of God."  It aired on regional PBS in 2002.  And, I had already started seeing her, and she had never seen my show.  So, one night, I knew it was coming on, so I had her watch it with me.  I'm there on the couch thinking, "This is going to be interesting!"

She had seen me perform in a band; completely different setting.  After the documentary, she didn't run screaming out of the house!  She said that she thought it was fascinating.  And, we spent the next hour talking about it.  I thought, "Oooohhhh, I need to marry this woman!"

Every year, she gets a little bolder.  Last year, she went to a full-on Noise festival.  She actually found it interesting!

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