Slaughter-Fetus/BLJ Tour Diary [2011-06-24]In the Summer of 2011, the American harsh noise group Black Leather Jesus went on it’s first and (possibly) last United States tour, focusing primarily on the Midwest and Northeast sections. I performed in the industrial harsh noise wall group Slaughter-Fetus as well as playing several shows as a member of Black Leather Jesus. Also on the tour was Ascites (harsh noise from Dallas, Texas) and Skonhet (strict unchanging harsh noise wall from Sweden).
For your convenience, here is a list of names and affiliated labels/projects to help alleviate confusion.
Black Leather Jesus/Last Rape
Richard Ramirez - influential Texas noise artist and founder of Black Leather Jesus. Operates Deadline Noise Recordings, Dead Audio Tapes, H Series, etc. and behind a variety of projects.
Sean Matzus - Operator of Unlimited Drift Recordings and several projects on that label. Longtime member of Black Leather Jesus, Last Rape, In The Land Of Archers, A Week Of Kindness, Red Hook, The Whitehorse, and other projects.
Karl T - Founder of the Harsh Fucked For Life label out of Sweden.
Nathan Golub - Founder of Ascitic Records and co-founder of Godless Girl.
Randa Golub - Performer in Godless Girl and creator of Ascites’ insane metal twanging device.
Nick Cabrera - Free jazz artist who performs with a wide variety of musicians.
Thomas Mortigan - Operator of Destructive Industries and personality behind RU-486. Also the guitarist of black metal project Octagon, and artist behind the synth project Linda Lovelace.
Joseph Gates - your humble narrator, Co-Operator of Human Ignorance + RSP, Peiiste, etc.
Vanessa Stegeman - Co-Operator of Human Ignorance and founder of Psychic Tapes. Performs harsh noise wall material as Bast, also plays in RSP, Peiiste, L’Exorcisme, etc.
Leeann Rogers - creator of quality contact mics + destroyer of souls as Hierchiss/Biological Girl.
The Tour started a couple days early for Slaughter-Fetus. Thomas and Leeann came over to our house (we live in Hammond, Louisiana) a couple days early to situate and discuss our game plan for the tour. We left for Houston the next day and met up with Richard and Sean at their house, where we managed to get out a recording together along with local noise musicians Zack and Chanel from Protists Of Nebula. The recording session sounded really nice, not sure what that was for or if I will ever even hear it again actually, but it sounded great! Always nice to record at Dogville Studios, and nice to get together and touch base with Richard and Sean before actually going out and gigging, made for a nice and casual start to the whole endeavor. Houston is always very pleasant and it felt like being at home, which made for a nice start to things.
DAY ONE: DALLAS, TEXAS @ THE PHOENIX PROJECT JUNE 2ND, 2011
We showed up to Dallas and met up with Nathan, Nick, and Randa from Ascites for diner food. The show was at a swelteringly hot art-space that Nick had personally done a lot of work at. The place was really nice, but it was indeed going to be a sweaty evening of noise. Habeeb opened the night, a solo project of Larry Kerr from Steel Hook Prosthesis. Using a source contact device that was running through a series of pedals and effects, Kerr unleashed an extreme wall of sound that delivered heavy and layered cascades of rumbling sound and feedback. Technologically impressive with an old-school sound, Habeeb was the sole local non-touring act on the bill. Larry set the tone for a night of loud and abrasive sets. Ascites was up next, kicking off the tour, and they performed a ripping set of harsh electronic synths and metal junk noise abuse. Ascites is a three-person noise group that was responsible for the first No Silence No Sleep event (an almost 24-hour music and arts festival oriented towards noise in particular) in Dallas as well as much of the logistics organizing for the Stiff Discipline tour (this includes original member Alex, who quit the group and was replaced by Nick almost immediately before tour). In addition to all of this, Ascites plays old-school harsh noise with a brutal modern edge and intense sincerity. Randa usually does the metal noise on the floor with a contact mic’d metallic object (often the “springtar,” a large metal board with springs across it that is designed for heavy abuse), Nathan has a suitcase of electronics with synths and a medical device that he holds up to his neck as a sort of contact mic. Nick Cabrera focuses more on pure electronic synth sounds and wash feedback, usually providing a spontaneous and new contribution to the set on each night. Really enjoyed watching them this night.
Slaughter-Fetus is a project that started a few years ago now as a collaboration with Louisiana noise fan and member of the original Harsh Noise Wall board who went by the name “Waratah.” He was interested in doing a collaboration with our project Peiiste (at the time called “Peiste”) and this ended up being the “industrial harsh noise wall” concept and sound that appeared on the Slaughter-Fetus release “Pro-Life Message.” We played a couple of shows in Texas with that guy, and one in Dallas (at the first No Silence No Sleep festival) went especially well. Also at that show I became friendly with Thomas Mortigan and Leeann Rogers (RU-486 and Hierchiss respectively) due to sharing a merch table and conversation at that same event (which was put on by the members of Ascites). At some point that guy Waratah sort of dropped out and stopped responding to my messages, and so I figured that project was pretty much done. However, also at this time Thomas inexplicably began to call me on an almost nightly basis inquiring about Slaughter-Fetus in various forms, and after a couple weeks of this, finally I asked if he and Leeann would be interested in participating in the project with us, making it a four-piece ensemble. We have had several recording and practice sessions at each others houses, and besides this tour we also played a show at the Eyes Behind The Wall festival in Houston that was well-received at the time. For our first ever tour, I had put together a sort of controlled improvisation parameter for our set based around several cassettes (which I can manipulate live in real time), giving us a couple of variables to work with kind of like the “Ascension” sessions of John Coltrane. Each night we played a pretty different set within certain agreed guidelines and it kept things interesting for us.
The set in Dallas was marred a bit by the use of a digital delay rack that perhaps serves us much better in the studio than live. Opening with a sample collage #1 (including a little girl talking to a skinhead on a talk show, a description of a Satanic ritual decapitation from Geraldo, and Lindsay Lohan asking a court for mercy) the set quickly degenerated into random destruction and chaos. Vanessa had brought a hammer to break things with... apparently at some point she was breaking bricks in the venue with it, generating sparks. Most of the set was loud and chaotic metal abuse, which quickly gave way into object and floor, possibly even wall abuse. Just abuse in general. Thomas was doing a lot of stuff with a Crank shaker box as well as some distorted contact mic’d vocals, all becoming absorbed into the wall of sound for the most part. Leeann and Vanessa focused for the most part on just making harsh noise and literally destroying stuff. About half-way or sometimes towards the end of the set, I blow a whistle and play a sample of an air-raid siren. I was at an art museum years ago at a Dada exhibit where every now and again the gallery would sound off an air raid siren (in order to remind people how it felt to be always under the threat of death from above via a bombing raid, which was the reality that many of those artists were living under). I always thought that was really cool idea and I had wanted to incorporate it into a set for many years. There were actually two different siren samples that we used on tour, on the cassette used in Dallas there is an air raid siren from World War II accompanied by explosions and the German marching song “Horst Wessel Lied.” That one has a more serious and “retro” sound to it than the second cassette (which I will describe when that one comes up). Sometimes the air-raid siren ends up being around the same volume as the noise, but you can still hear it and get the effect... I think that this was one of those nights. I prefer it when it is a distinct break and you just hear the siren, which happened a few nights also. A decent show, but it sounded kind of weird... I ditched the effects rack in favor of an analog and tape-dominant sound centered around an old Peavey head and a small mixer. Analog is always better live!
Black Leather Jesus has existed in many different incarnations. Founded by Texas noise artist Richard Ramirez in the late 1980s, in the earliest days BLJ was exclusively associated with homosexual S+M culture, including many elements of that literature and imagery in the artwork and subject matter of releases. The name instantly creates an association of the relationship between pain and pleasure, and how it relates to the role of suffering in religion and in larger society as a whole. The control mechanism of power and domination, and how that relates to our benevolent and ostensibly Christian society. The name literally stems from a news article that Richard had read about a priest keeping a woman prisoner in his cellar, he read the article and then was inspired to think of the name “Black Leather Jesus.” Eerie and thought-provoking regardless of origin, and live Black Leather Jesus has become a focused meditation on sounds and tones projected at an extreme volume that can be felt all throughout the body. Each night on tour Black Leather Jesus performed as a different line-up, and in Dallas the group consisted of Richard and Sean (as always), as well as Vanessa and Leeann from Slaughter-Fetus on this night. Richard’s forte is gloved manipulation of metal sounds, and Sean usually mans a table-top setup with his trademark large radio and giant mixing board. Leeann and Vanessa both provided stark contribution to a set that was like an organic drone wall. I remember watching this performance in what seemed like complete and total darkness, but after a few minutes my eyes adjusted and I could start to see what was happening... I feel that the sonics work in a similar way as well, the longer you listened to the set the more that you could hear. Meditative and thoughtful set with a lot of textures, one of the more relaxed BLJ performances but still very loud and hypnotic. Powerful end to the first night of the tour.
DAY TWO: ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI @ CAMP CONCENTRATION JUNE 3RD, 2011
After waking up fairly early and loading in, the trip to St. Louis set the tone for the majority of the drives on this tour- long and continuous. Most days were spent constantly on the road and geting in and out of the van, with us arriving to the town generally in time to load in gear, merchandise, and prepare to go on. Apop Records is an extremely nice underground-music record store in St. Louis with an air-conditioned dungeon venue that is called Camp Concentration. The first act that went on that night was called Jizzgurgler and they were kind of free-jazz grindcore oriented sort of thing. Missouri local harsh noise wall artist Oblive performed a flawless and ripping set of completely static and unchanging wall noise, with a sound that reverberated through the walls and became very physical. An extremely welcome set of strict HNW early on made up for the fact that we had still not met up with the elusive Karl of Skonhet, who was one more day away from meeting up with us. Sigulda performed next, very strong drone material with cosmic leanings and harsh elements. A very welcome and surprise performance from this excellent midwest artist, it was truly a pleasure to see Sigulda and Oblive perform live. Ascites went on next and were much louder than the previous night, a really nasty and visceral set that completely slayed in a way that picked up the mood a bit. Nasty and violent electronics really set a harsh vibe for what was to come next.
Slaughter-Fetus followed with what was probably one of my two favorite of our performances overall from tour, completely combining the violence and destructive chaos with a properly mixed sound where I was in control of my mixer without too many outside variables (including that of my own insanity, which was still somewhat being kept at bay at this early point in tour). This set started off with sample collage #2 (a man talks about the importance of his tattoos interrupted by samples of George Lincoln Rockwell speeches, Noreen Gosch discusses photos of her son and the tightness of his gag and binding, and samples from the TV show “Small Wonder” that also appear on our cassette “Exterminate All Life” released on Danvers State Recordings)... the acoustics of the room made for a strong and violent echo with Vanessa and Leeann’s percussive metal and junk destruction sounds. The two of them just sounded perfect to my ears... Thomas seemed to be going in full confrontational power electronics mode and the crowd responded to him in kind. Very threatening and violent presentation from both Slaughter-Fetus and the crowd... during the halfway point I followed some of Leeann’s advice by barking out directions during the raid siren/whistle blowing part. Since this was set #2, rather than the vintage air raid this one was a more modern (and very eerie and “neon”-sounding) nuclear air raid siren accompanied by some gunfire sounds, which overall I consider to be a little more “fun” in tone compared to the other air raid siren. I completely blew my vocal cords at this point following Leeann’s advice, and everything was so loud that you probably could only hear it in an ambient way if at all. I very distinctly remember the moments where I was screaming, I felt as if some force was being expelled from my body. Very cathartic experience. Apparently Vanessa broke her hammer on this date using it to destroy some kind of old metal tape deck. After this set I was hoarse until we left Ohio... still it was a lot of fun and a great memory.
Black Leather Jesus this night featured Randa and I as the additional members. My contribution was rubbing a chain onto a contact mic’d cymbal in an abrupt and percussive fashion. Randa dominated her springtar in a violent and vicious display that definitely kept the energy up... I feel that throughout the sets the additional members of the group spoke a lot to each other through their performances.... it was certainly a thrill to lose myself in the sound, just physically thrashing about metal to get pure noise out of it. Not sure how much of what I did on this evening actually made it into Sean’s mixing board, but you could certainly hear the banging and clanging echo throughout the room of the actual physical sound of my hands pushing metal hitting metal and Randa’s metal board being slammed into the ground... I still feel sometimes as if I can still smell the burning wires and metal friction in the air, just under whatever other smells are nearby. A truly memorable and enjoyably loud BLJ set, from my vantage point. Camp Concentration was a really incredible venue, very atmospheric and the folks at the show went all out. Really good show. Some nice people who were old friends of Nathan and Randa put a bunch of us up at their place, and an early morning ahead was to give way to one of the most grueling drives on the trip, the voyage North to Minneapolis, land of the Vikings and corn.
DAY THREE: MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA @ CLUB MED JUNE 4TH, 2011
After the St. Louis show, we stayed with a friend of Nathan and had many a conversation into the night. I laid down and heard the sound of birds and garbage trucks from outside as I closed my eyes, and it seemed like the next thing that I heard was Thomas saying that it was time to leave for Minnesota. Several hours previous I had promised to take the wheel of the vehicle for the day and it was definitely going to be a three-cups-of-coffee kind of morning in order to get us to Minneapolis. Once we arrived, there was a very packed bill for the show that gave the event an almost festival-like vibe. First off was a local black metal group called False... very unusual and artsy sort of influence, nice long songs, and a compelling and serious front-woman made for a great set of metal to open up the night. Juhyo played between acts, and thankfully Karl had showed up from Sweden finally to meet up with us all on tour. I was very happy to see him and converse with him after getting out of the van from that long drive! I had not seen him since the last Dead Audio Festival in Houston and was really looking forward to geting to catch Skonhet sets each night. As Skonhet, Karl performs wearing a hoodie and cap, with his face covered up by a black mask. He plays strict and unchanging harsh noise wall music with a monastic fervor that requires introspective listening in order to fully appeciate. Complete dedication to lack of identity and total envelopment of sound, dedicated to beauty (the literal definition of the Swedish word “Skonhet”). Great set and amazing artist, I was definitely stoked to be meeting up with Karl and it was great that he was really in the USA for this thing.
I am not typically accustomed to going without sleep. I greatly value my rest and see it as a duty and a necessary part of unravelling all of the instrument cables of my mind (so to speak). Also, being from the swampy deep south climate, I had grown somewhat disturbed in my comfort and therefore tonight’s Slaughter-Fetus set was performed entirely from memory and instinct. At one point no sound was coming out before we went on and I realized that my mixer was not connected in any way to the main output. Very delirious and deranged set, and an audio recording of it proves that it was actually much more similar to my intended concept of the set than the earlier attempt in Dallas. Good for us! The other folks in the band once again did a great job. My favorite moments was hearing the pure metal abrasive banging type of sounds distorted and running alongside my cassette noise/wall manipulation. I really enjoyed hearing my bandmates go all out every night, most especially just the pure sounds of banging and clanging. The highlight of the entire tour for me personally was hearing them pummel through the various Slaughter-Fetus sets, just a real blast and a half.
Ascites tonight played a nice loud and ripping set of harsh sci-fi medical-themed noise. After our set was done I apparently hugged Randa and said a bunch of emotional stuff. Once again, I was a bit delirious, but I am definitely extremely enthusiastic about these Texans, who are great people as well as completely unhinged performers. Now, the bulk of the touring acts were done playing and it was time for the rest of the show, with Black Leather Jesus going on much later in the evening and consisting of Nathan and Thomas filling things out as the additional members of the group. Met a lot of people that previously I had only known as email addresses/message board presences... its always really important to meet people in person, I feel like you understand a lot more about who people are really and where they are coming from when you get to know them in real life conversation. Joe and Sam (of Small Doses and Phage Tapes, respectively) did a great job of bringing together noise and metal crowds together into an interesting and very well-attended show.
Orgasmic Response Unit, a duo of Luke and Nate Tandy, played an excellent set utilizing only a chicken coop, a scraper, and a mixing board. No distortion, just the insane screeching and howling of metal against metal run up at full volume. Nice! The Black Leather Jesus set tonight was very brutal and manly, with Thomas punching a piece of metal and folding it in a painful display that was actually somewhat difficult to watch. Very loud and painful junk metal abuse, Nathan also going crazy giving hell to a bunch of metal. G.X. Jupitter-Larsen aka The Haters performed very late into the evening and played his unique set of hole-digging/filling suitcase electronics. G.X. takes a contact device to his actual suitcase and creates a reverberating sound that seems to affect the molecular structure of the room in which it is performed. G.X. brings forward a very restrained and surreal energy to his performances that makes for an individualized experience. After G.X. was done it was time for me to go to sleep... goodbye Minneapolis.
DAY FOUR: CHICAGO, ILLINOIS @ TREASURE TOWN JUNE 5TH, 2011
Woke up in Wisconsin for a brief bit of relaxation time thanks to some relatives of Randa. Beautiful state, and really sweet people. I believe at one point we were on a road that appeared in David Lynch’s film “The Straight Story.” Awesome! The drive down to Chicago was very nice for me personally, and aside from some aggressive local drivers, it was a very relaxing town to arrive into. I have always had good experiences in Chicago in the past. The venue Treasure Town that we were playing in happened to be in an exceptionally bad neighborhood. At one point before the show, I was outside by myself near the van, and a gentleman holding a half-eaten hamburger in one hand asked me for a cigarette. I usually do not smoke cigarettes but I happened to have purchased some for the long drive, and I had one to offer him. He replied to me in a caustic drawl by stating “You all be real careful around here.” I was later informed that a guy was asked for a cigarette in the same neighborhood and after a negative response (the guy had no cigarettes), the fellow was brutally attacked by some locals for his inability to comply with the request.
There was a local PE opener who was really enjoyable. Their set involved a lot of broken glass and chain wielding- at this point in the tour I was getting somewhat bruised up and sat back from a distance to watch it. They played after Crown Of Cerberus. Crown Of Cerberus was a solo drone project (he referred to it as his “take” on drone) by Mack from Insurgent and Bachir Gemayel. Mack’s stuff is always high-quality and considered, and this project follows that into the realm of ambient sounds and often very majestic drones and “pretty stuff,” but always with an almost heavy-metal intensity. Intricately arranged sounds flowed together very organically in a project themed around ancient supernatural punishment and past days of suffering, real midaeval type of stuff. Mack makes for a very reliable and consistent administer of jams, and anyone who has sat through one of his performances can attest to the intricacy and succinctness of his compositions. Very thematic and conceptual, it is rare to hear instrumental electronics that tell a vibrant and cohesive story in the manner that Crown Of Cerberus does. Very awesome new project that hopefully will be around for some time to come. Definitely one of my personal favorites out of the locals that we all performed with.
Slaughter-Fetus’ set tonight was, ironically, somewhat of an abortion. I had gotten tired of us leaving behind wreckage at every venue and made a decision to play a completely sober set on my part and encourage the other folks in the band to do the same and also, to not break stuff. This was a terrible decision. My sick inclination to be 100% sober resulted in my not being able whatsoever to relax and get to the point of zoning out and making our set sound right. There were other problems also.
Some advice for touring noise bands:
1. Always have some sort of identifiable marking on your cables. A lot of cables look similar to each other, cables from your stuff will end up left behind places, and very likely you will end up with strange cables in with your gear sometimes. This is never a good thing however, and often these cables that appear with your stuff are faulty and will screw up your sound. Do not use any unidentified cables, and if possible avoid acquiring these stowaway items. These cables will fuck you up! They will make you sound bad, and everyone will laugh at you.
2. If you have some kind of ritual to get you into the zone, don’t abandon it just because you are on the road. Do what you gotta do, but find a way to make it sustainable on the road. Depending on the kind of drives that you are doing, you might never really have time to relax completely, always loading and unloading to keep your things safe from dirty robbers etc. Sustainability and comfort, relaxation (as much as one can have), these elements are vital for the road.
3. Socks are really important to switch out, especially if you are putting the pedal to the metal all day in the Summer. I had an outfit that I would wear during most Slaughter-Fetus sets due to the fact that I cannot play a noise set without breaking a sweat and during several of the S-F performances we became covered in dirt and mud.
So I wasn’t following some of these rules in Chicago and kind of blew it. At this point in the tour, I was growing weary of the whole “breaking a bunch of shit” aspect of Slaughter-Fetus, and wanted to play a more low-key noise-making type of set. Ironically, we ended up playing a set where the actual sound of the group was completely lost in my mix and the rest of the gang just ran around and broke shit. Regardless, it was my bad and I should have just relaxed instead of keeping myself “on edge” for the show... it was a chaotic and juicy bit of dramatic presentation regardless, but definitely a sonic trainwreck, in my opinion. Earlier in the day I had promised Nate and Randa that we would play a shitty set, and I like to stick to my word so for that part I was happy. Skonhet played a great set on this evening, and in particular I really enjoyed the choice of opening track that he used before his set. Ascites played a blistering and brutal set on this night that just completely slayed. It sounded so pure and clear that it felt like listening to a completed studio recording except that I was watching them perform it live. Nathan gave a full-contact performance via his neck into his doppler reader thing, writhing around like a madman in a shamanistic frenzy. Nick’s performance always finds him alternating between frantic and relaxed assaults onto the items in his case full of gear, adding an element of chaos that always took it over the top each night, and in Chicago every member sounded so clear and on point. Randa of course completely tore it up as the generator of the junk metal noise. Nice fucking set guys!
Black Leather Jesus tonight featured Vanessa and I, and it was a very relaxing and laid back set, with Vanessa and I using chains and metal as our source sounds. Richard and Sean did their thing behind Sean’s mad scientist table, and you could very clearly hear Richard’s contributions... in fact, a proper sound-check led to one of the more distictive sets, with each person’s contribution being heard fairly clearly. Sean does a great job of mixing everything together and even though I was focused more on the physicality of my performance, from what I could hear and from audience reaction, he really took the reins and did a good job of mixing everyone together properly. We had a blast playing in Chicago and it was great to see all of the Chi-town folks who came out to see us and helped put on the show. Definitely had very good vibes and cathartic energy with the Black Leather Jesus and Ascites sets especially. Good people over there in Chicago that set this one up.
DAY FOUR: COLUMBUS, OHIO @ CAFE BOURBON STREET JUNE 6TH, 2011
This was a really good show, but for a little Slaughter-Fetus there were some complications. Unfortunately, due to the presence of a swastika and some images of the grinning death’s head, the Slaughter-Fetus cassette “U.S.A.” (Human Ignorance, 2011) was banned from public display, as well as a split release between Ascites and Blood Oath 88 (Human Ignorance, 2011) due to the fact that 88 can mean “HH” or “Hail Hitler.” To compound the difficulty of this matter, we were also instructed to not play our cassette intro to the set in Columbus, with both intros apparently being deemed too controversial somewhere down the food chain. Despite all of this, we played a very stripped down yet loud set where we all sat down by one another in a little pow-wow, which was far more controlled and wall-like than the earlier performances up to this point in the tour. Although the censorship of ideas really bothered me at the time, focusing on the noise and wall aspects of our set gave it a singular feel and made for a sonically enjoyable and still thoroughly heavy experience. An unusual but still blistering set from the Fetus.
Nyodene D opened things up with a solid and menacing set of death industrial tinged power electronics. Heavy atmosphere, quick and brutal with a heavy mood. Karl played another great Skonhet joint that was very loud, really nice stuff. It was interesting to hear Karl’s stuff through the various different PA’s on tour. He had his preferences for different venues, but to me his stuff sounded great and super-heavy every night. Ascites played a blistering set of noise afterwards and somewhere in between a grindcore band called Pancraectomie (sp?) played a short set of fast grind blasts. Black Leather Jesus on this occasion featured Leeann and Nathan, and it was a set filled with heavy electronics and loud industrial sounds. Extremely violent in propulsive force and I remember at one point just looking up in surprise at the amazing sound that was coming out of these four. A great set, and I think at this point everyone was ready for a day off. The next appearance by Slaughter-Fetus would be our second to last, and so I was looking forward greatly to the next two performances and some rest in between. Overall, tonight’s show went extremely well and we met some nice people who drove all the way out from Dayton to catch the show. I was surprised at how many people that we talked to that had driven long distances to catch the shows... the tour was very humbling in that way and I hope that it was a satisfying experience for all who took a chance to come see us weirdos. Aaron Vilk of Nyodene D did a great job putting on this show, and put on a very powerful performance as well.
DAY FIVE: DAY OFF IN FAIRCHANCE AND UNION CITY, PA JUNE 7TH, 2011
DAY SIX: PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA @ THE SHOP JUNE 8TH, 2011
Pittsburgh was an exciting stop because it is a city with a storied history of noise, and if I am not mistaken this was the first ever performance by Black Leather Jesus in the city. A crucial stop once we got in was Primanti Brothers sandwich shop, where you get a giant sandwich filled with french fries and a unique, non-mayo based cole slaw that is basically like a thinly sliced vinegar/spice salad slaw, all housed in a weirdly-shaped texas-toast style bun. A truly awesome sandwich that certainly seemed to daunt some in our crew... drop some hot sauce and ketchup on that monster and you are in business. Cheap pints of Yuengling Black And Tan were a welcome discovery at Primanti Brothers as well. This was our first cultural stop of the tour due to the grueling nature of the majority of the drives, and I for one greatly enjoyed my exposure to this fine establishment. Primanti Brothers... Do It! The area that the venue was in was very cute, lots of people walking around with their kids etc, definitely a very pleasant stmosphere.
The venue that we played in here was an artspace, and the show was put on by a fellow named Edgar who does a project called Telecorps. Very nice atmosphere and good sized crowd who were all there to enjoy a noise show. Opening act The Last Of England was a young two-piece who did their part to represent the local noise contingent and played a confrontational feedback-drenched set that was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sort of violent ordeal. Slaughter-Fetus was on second and we played a set that was similar to the one in Columbus, a more reserved and controlled performance but with a bit more focus on the physicality of the metal banging, and I was able to play the tape intro that was forbidden at the previous show. A very successful but still very controlled Slaughter-Fetus set that I can definitely stand behind sonically. I was pretty surprised to find out that a local noise icon (from a tape/metal junk-based noise project that definitely inspired Slaughter-Fetus quite a bit) showed up and watched our set, even going up to Vanessa at the end of the set and complimenting our use of live metal sounds. I did not see him or get to meet the guy, but several people told me of his presence after we were done (he left right after we finished up), and I’m stoked that he seemed to enjoy the set. Thanks for checking out the Fetus.
Ascites played another excellent set, this time with a really varied and spastic sound that highlighted Nick’s insane sonic performance. Very nice and brutal set... Karl’s performance tonight in Pittsburgh was completely perfect, just a totally flawless and unchanging wall of sound that killed, people were definitely ready to hear what he had brought to the table. Black Leather Jesus performed a marathon harsh noise set with Thomas and Randa at the helm slamming metal objects and creating quite a ruckus. Richard really shined in his performance with BLJ on this occasion and gave a very personal and involved set, extremely dynamic utilizing gloved metal contact source and manipulating the feedback and washes of noise with a lot of changes on his end. I feel that this was one of the more powerful sets by Richard in particular, and really enjoyed watching him do a lot of dynamic metal manipulation at this gig. Sean, as usual, did a bang-up job mixing everyone together and creating cohesion from the sonic chaos, and Richard’s sounds were very clear and present throughout the whole thing. Very nice and brutal. This one was one of my favorite Black Leather Jesus sets to watch, really good crowd and energy in Pittsburgh. Thanks to Edgar for putting this one together, wish we could have made the show that was happening later, but we had to head out early for Boston and hit the road for one of our first night drives... through the back roads of central Pennsylvania.
DAY SEVEN: BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS @STARLAB JUNE 9TH, 2011
Another nice scenic drive, this time through the mountains of Pennsylvania, part of lower New York state, and then Connecticut into Massachusetts. We managed to drive directly through a gigantic summer storm during a Tornado Watch, hitting some traffic and making us fairly late for the show. The Boston locals did a good job with their sets, especially the solo set by The Vomit Arsonist, always a thoughtful and strong presentation that Andy has with his work. Skonhet performed a nice and loud set, which he cut a little bit short due to some interference from a Peavey sub (which was not a part of the main PA, but nonetheless cutting out) and causing Karl to dislike some of the sounds that he was hearing. Nice and loud set nonetheless. Hierchiss performed utilizing her trademark contact mics and metal sheet that she uses in Slaughter-Fetus, as well as tape manipulation of some ambient material that she had created beforehand. Excellent control of various live sources while simultaneously staying on top of her mixer and keeping all of the sounds flowing and dynamic... lots of stuff going on with constant metal sounds running throughout. Lovely set, really haunting and enjoyable until some guy just walked up and pulled the plug for some reason, then apologized. WTF! Vanessa sat in with Ascites tonight due to an illness on the part of Randa, doing junk noise type of stuff along with their set, they did their thing and ripped it up for the Boston heads.
RU-486 played a full-contact set of power electronics featuring backing from Peter and Andy from Bereft. The set was very menacing and heavy electronic sound with a circle pit atmosphere in the classic Boston style. As a veteran of the hardcore punk scene, I knew what to expect and was not disappointed with Boston’s notorious “tough but fair” dancing style. I stood in the back with my elbow up and enjoyed the sounds, and the crowd was really friendly and having a good time. Black Leather Jesus was again Richard and Sean performing with Vanessa and I, and the set was different from others in that there was almost no live metallic sounds and the entire set was static wall. Although not entirely unchanging, it was crushingly loud and I was definitely satisfied with the heavy and aggressive waves of sound that was emitting from our source material. For this set, I used only field recordings going through a cassette player that has a speed control option that I was manipulating slowly throughout the set. Loud and oppressive rumble that hopefully got across the heaviness and singularity that we were shooting for. Afterwards Egan put a lot of us up in his place and provided beers, salsa, and little ice cream sandwiches for the touring folks, as well as doing an awesome job hauling around the PA and getting people to come out to the thing. All in all Boston was a cool experience, and nicely documented as well. Glad that we could make it out!
DAY EIGHT: BROOKLYN, NEW YORK @ THE SILENT BARN JUNE 10TH, 2011
On our way out of Boston, we made sure to visit the RRRecords store in Lowell, Massachusetts. First off, Lowell is a beautiful town that looks like part of a theme park, with lots of stone buildings and large fountains, really nice small-town atmosphere with plenty a great restaurants and little shops. And among them, the legendary lp shop RRR. Ron Lessard, proprietor of the store, had actually closed for the day to take time and fill orders for an LP that he recently cultivated featuring just the sound of people in record stores. We knocked on the door, and like the Wizard of Oz he peeked from behind his gates and allowed us entrance into the Emerald City of RRRecords. Ron is a great guy and it was incredible to see the shop and meet him in person... he has done a lot to cultivate and keep alive the world of noise cassettes, helping keep labels in touch with one another or at least aware of each others work. Everyone came out of the shop happy and with great stuff that we would never have been able to find anywhere else. Very happy with my “America’s Greatest Noise” LP signed by “Emil” himself with the message “Just Say No!”
Unfortunately we hit some intense traffic on our way up to the show and missed the set by Anthony Saunders aka E.I.D., who went on first and apparently played a completely crushing noise set based on the sounds of artillery fire and explosive devices. Big fan of his noise work and it was great to meet him and be able to talk for a bit. Karl played a nice and loud set, and before too long it was time for the big 8-person Black Leather Jesus performance. Vanessa, Leeann, and Randa were all in the front making some serious harsh walls of metal feedback, with Thomas and Nathan backing them up with equal intensity. I walked around with a metal pipe playing my field recordings and making sure that no one from the crowd tried to “participate” and eventually my tape ran out before the end of the set and was just feeding ground into Sean’s mixer. Sean and Richard stood in the back concentrating on their source materials as Sean’s mixer dealt out everyone’s abrasive sounds. Very loud and cacaphonous ear-buzzing set from Black Leather Jesus tonight, and a nice start in NYC as well as a farewell to BLJ for the tour. Nice loud set, lots to look at, I’m sure.
That night we headed to the next night’s venue, The Red Light District in Far Rockaway, New York. The venue is also the home of several folks who had recently played fun gigs with Vanessa and I in Louisiana, so we were looking forward to being able to kick back a bit with some familiar and like-minded folks. Slaughter-Fetus, Nick from Ascites, and Skonhet were able to load in all of our gear and relax until it was time to leave out on Sunday, which was a nice respite from the constant, militaristic sort of lifestyle of constantly loading in and out that we had grown accustomed to. Hanging out with some nice people, listening to Madonna’s “Erotica” album and gradually falling asleep while several conversations were going on, it was definitely very nice to already be at the venue and not have to worry about going anywhere.
DAY NINE: FAR ROCKAWAY, NEW YORK @ THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT JUNE 11, 2011
Not long after we woke up, some of the touring crew came with us and John and Caitlyn (from Red Light District) to take a look at Rockaway Beach, where Vanessa did some swimming and we all had the chance to chill out and relax for a bit with the ocean. Very grey and overcast, drizzly day but it made for a nice and breezy (as well as quiet) beach experience. We came back to the house, where food was being grilled and a nice group of partygoers was already beginning to form. The backyard of the Red Light District is an impeccably trimmed and gigantic thing (although they have a person who mows the lawn, most of the work is carried out by Jeremy Nissan, our pal from Teeny Bopper) filled with a variety of trees and bushes, slate rock, and some plump and happy squirrels. The atmosphere and mood were right for the final show of tour, it was laid back but definitely a celebration.
I was extremely excited to see the first artist of the night, Pharmakon, who kicked things off in style. Margaret, the sole member of Pharmakon, allowed threatening pulses of synth to create a thick bed of menace before unleashing her very intense and “force-of-nature” like vocals. The distinct sound that each of her source materials created was very impressive, every change and movement was extremely controlled and deliberate. Industrial electronics that exhibited an intense degree of control and menace, Margaret’s set was brief but very powerful. Would love to hear some recordings from this project! Such a nice person, and to see the other side of vicious intensity that comes through in her project, there is definitely something very intense and deep behind her presentation and performance. Excellent set and a great way to start the night.
I opened the Slaughter-Fetus set with cassette intro #1 and sure enough as soon as the noise started to kick in, the power strip was somehow tripped. Not to fear, a simple turn of the switch and the heavy wall of tape noise begins again. Thomas, of course, is going into the audience and thrashing about wildly, and Leeann gives an intense performance as always giving hell to a contact mic’d metal sheet. People are hit in the face somehow. Vanessa destroyed a vacuum cleaner with a baseball bat at this show, and although it was not the first time that had happened, this particular one seemed to be filled with a high ratio of dust, which managed to meld with sweat and beer into a sort of wet “dancing sand” that lubricated the floor for the rest of the night. I saw a photo of Thomas holding a shaker box from this set and it looks as if he is having a religious experience. The middle part of the S-F set, with the air raid siren and my whistle-blowing, went well tonight, and I was able to close out the set by playing cassette intro #2 while we continued making horrible sounds, getting the most out of my collage material. After several (five?) minutes of scraping a chain onto the cymbal, my hands had become covered in a black muddy film while Vanessa thankfully took the reins of the mixing board and kept things heavy. After going on a bit longer than usual for our final blast of the tour, I pull the plug from the mixer... all you can hear at the end is the feedback coming from some shattered and destroyed contact mics of the rest of the band, through the reverb coils in my trusty old Peavey head. Thank you, New York!
Skonhet was up next and Karl totally slayed it with a perfect set of HNW meditative sonics. Opened with the crucial “Moon River” intro with Audrey’s vocals and then just a crushing wall of sound. Great last set for this Swedish noise artists first American tour, and Far Rockaway gave Karl a great reception (as well as one of the loudest sound systems of any night on tour). Ascites ripped it up hardcore and the crowd responded very well to the interactivity and fast pace of the Dallas trio’s harsh noise material. Another perfect sounding set from these guys, they just totally ripped it up and repped Texas big time. Loud and pummeling! They even did an encore and Nathan gave a shout out to his favorite basketball team, the Mavericks. Lussuria went on next with a beautiful set of dark and ethereal electronics, similar to Crown Of Cerberus in the intense precision of the sound arrangements. Lush concoctions of synth and atmospheric sounds blend together with light and organic percussion to create a very otherworldly sound. It was a pleasure to see Lussuria perform live and definitely want to give a listen to the LP that he recently released on Hospital Productions, which is sure to be killer if the performance from this night is any indication of how that slab of vinyl sounds. Thomas had told me a lot about this project... I was prepared for something amazing and definitely got it. Extremely distinctive and cinematic experience in sound that provided a stark and atmospheric addition to the evening of harsh brutality. Awesome project, and an extremely welcome respite of extreme atmospherics.
Richard and Sean closed out the touring acts with a set from their strict harsh noise wall project Last Rape. Basically, they turned on their well-prepared gear and did not touch it for the duration of the set, just staring out into the crowd and allowing the machines to run their course for the 10-15 minutes that they were on. The sound was rippling, intense, and emotional, almost as if it was carrying out a level of communication that did not need to be manipulated physically. Very heavy and monolithic set, loud and memorable. I was beyond stoked to get to see the next performance, a rare set from New York power electronics artist F.F.H., and that definitely met and exceeded expectations. Extremely minimal set-up, old-school heavy wall of electronic noise at the with some spot-on and intense vocals, slowly melting into a more reserved and menacing industrial kind of sound... heavy throbbing electronics and impassioned vocals. It was a fairly quick blast, but filled with interesting bits that provided food for thought, and definitely delivered a harsh and cathartic experience that went beyond the excellent recorded work of F.F.H. into a more hellish and personal location. Not sure if these were tracks from an upcoming release but it definitely made me curious to hear any upcoming recorded work from this project. I was incredibly stoked to have gotten to see Richard Dunn from F.F.H. perform live and hope that he continues to do more gigs in the future, because he definitely represents a very individual and important voice in American Power Electronics. Very personal, different from any others in the genre that I can think of. A great way to cap off the “live” portion of the evening, which continued for quite some time with an extended discotheque experience in the dark basement. Thanks to the entire crew at Red Light District (Jeremy, Frank, Margaret, John, Caitlyn, Ryan, Nick, and everyone else that showed up and partied with us at this show...) for throwing down big time and making it a night to remember. Best sounding-sets of the tour, and the best energy overall- pure orgonic explosion.
So that was that. Hopefully, Slaughter-Fetus was enjoyable and did not cause too many problems for any of you out there in the end, and thanks to the other people on the tour for being a part of this whole endeavor, it was really a great thing to do for a couple of weeks. Thanks to Richard and Sean from BLJ, Randa + Nate + Nick from Ascites, my bandmates, and especially Karl for coming to America and doing his thing. Thanks to everyone who put on shows or just came out to enjoy the bands... would not have been as much fun without you! Good times.
01:Black Leather Jesus live in Boston, MA (Photo by Egan Budd). 02:Slaughter-Fetus Live at Red Light District (photo by: Mary Cassidy - zincink.com). 03:Slaughter-Fetus Live at Red Light District (photo by: Mary Cassidy - zincink.com). 04:Skonhet Live at Red Light District (photo by: Mary Cassidy - zincink.com). 05:Ascites Live at Red Light District (photo by: Mary Cassidy - zincink.com)