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Mr Noise-Maker [2010-02-07]

Richard Ramirez is one of the most respected, influential & prolific names in American noise, he also openly gay & a fashion designer too. He has been creating noise since the early 1990’s  under a myriad of different project names some of his most know project been: Black Leather Jesus( which is an noise collective instead of a solo project), Werewolf Jerusalem, Vice Wears Black Hose(with  Sam McKinlay of the Rita), An Innocent Young Throat-Cutter(with Cristiano Renzoni of Alo girl & Italian HNW label Urashima)- these are just a few of the 50 plus projects his name is connected with. Richard kindly enough agreed to give me an email which has been done over a period of 3 or 4 months.

m[m]You’ve often been quoted as saying your first introduction to experimental music was Nurse with Wound- what was the track/ album you heard? And do you still enjoy Mr Stapleton’s more recent NWW work?
Richard My introduction to NWW was a track from the comp. "Devastate to Liberate". Then I heard "Homotopy to Marie" and absolutely loved it!!! Still my favourite Nurse with Wound album. That and "Ostranenie 1913". I actually have not heard a lot of recent works since like 2003. I prefer his early works. However, I do love "Salt Marie Celeste"!!!

m[m] Talking about NWW Salt Marie Celeste - have you ever thought of doing something long form ambient, surreal & dread soaked like this?
Richard I have done a few long form ambient/drone works with projects like Release Helen Rytka, Threshold of Sleep, and Autopsy Experiment. Also, some collaborations with Crawling Iris would be labelled as such.
m[m]Your other career is as a fashion designer- how did you get into this? & do you ever use any of your noise works for fashion shows?
Richard I've been into fashion since I was a kid. My mom was into designer stuff. She got married in Christian Dior and I would notice labels she'd have like Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, Givenchy, etc. That's always been there. When I was a teen, I could not find men's clothing that I liked, so I started making my own. Then, some female friends asked me to make them clothing, and so it started.  It's 1997 when I decided to start my own fashion line under the name, Richard Saenz. Saenz was my grandmother's maiden name. Ramirez is my real last name, but didn't think the fashion industry would take too kindly to the serial killer of the same name. I didn't want them to think I was using the name for that reason. My first collection was shown Spring 1998. My clothing designs are "avant-garde". I like using non-traditional methods of creating my clothes. Some look unfinished or destroyed. I like that. Some seem pretty, but up close are more unconventional. I am fan of designers like Rei Kawakubo, Martin Margiela, Susan Cianciolo, Jessica Ogden, Junya Watanabe, and Ann Demeulemeester. No, I don't use noise in my fashion shows. For me, it would seem arrogant or pretentious. I don't use noise at all. I like to keep them separate.

m[m]What tools did you use to start making noise back in 1989 with your first project Flesh Puppets? And how has you equipment & your way of making noise changed over the years?
Richard Back then, I'd make things using springs, metal, chains, and other found objects. I had this piece I called, "Meatrack", it kind of looked like a tamborine, but was an oil lid strung with wire, guitar strings, and a contact mic. I used a meathook to scrape the strings. It was my toy to use, at that time. I made it in '89, but it was destroyed at a BLJ show in 1994. I mostly use junk metal with two or three pedals. That's it. I'm not big on using tons of effect pedals. Flesh Puppets was a project more inspired by experimental works of NWW, Strafe Fur Rebellion, Das Synthetische Mischgewebe than harsh noise.

m[m]How do you think the noise scene has changed since you started out?
Richard I think the scene has its ups and downs periods. In the early 90s, it was great to see lots of mail promos out there, flyers included with packages (tons of them). I think it was a bit more creative than now with the internet being most if not all artists' promo outlet. I think now, it's a bit more about how good your site or release looks rather than content. Back then, the packaging was a bit more creative too. It was also more gritty, total diy feel to it. There are few artists (like myself) who love those old school methods. To each his own.

m[m] Did you ever put anything out with the Flesh Puppets project? And if so any thoughts at reissue it? And who did Flesh Puppets consist of & how did the project come about?
Richard Yes, Flesh Puppets appeared on two compilations and had a full-length, "Medusa". No plans for a reissue. Maybe if someone's interested I might consider it.
m[m]How did the flesh Puppets project come about? Who was involved & it sounds from your description the work was less noise based- so what do you manipulate/play in the project?
Richard It was less noise. It was a solo project of mine. I came up with it before Black Leather Jesus or near the same time. The works have some synth/drone sounds with clanging metals and some dark moments. It seems to be influenced by Nurse with Wound, SPK, and Lustmord.

m[m]Your hugely prolific (even by noise standards) seemingly releasing works every few weeks or so from one project or another your involved with. do you record or produce something every day & what’s your work pattern like? Do you for example survive on little or no sleep like Masami Akita(Merzbow) & make noise all day & night?
Richard I have a horrible sleep pattern. I stay up until 5 or 6 am most of the times. I am trying to be better about it due to my health. I need to be better with it. I don't record everyday, but sometimes when I do record, I'll work on 2-4 things in a day. I get bored working on just one or two projects. That's the reason for my insane amount of projects. I get bored with names and move on. Some I'll do more with and some I won't. I also love working with different people. Others inspire me.

m[m]A lot of your projects names & track titles are named after or based on horror films or Giallo- what are your ten favourite horror/ Giallo & why?
Richard I always loved horror films. As a child, I think I saw my first film when I was 5 years old. It was Night of the Living Dead. My first horror films to see at a theatre were The Fog and Phantasm. My favorite genre of horror are "giallo" thrillers. I love the mystery, the dark shadow, masked killer. My favorite directors are Sergio Martino, Umberto Lenzi, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Pete Walker, and Mario Bava. Each film I love for many different reasons, too much to go into.
Ten favorite horror/giallo:
1. Torso
2. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
3. The Black Belly of the Tarantula
4. The Fog (original, not the horrible remake)
5. Eyeball
6. Who Saw Her Die?
7. The New York Ripper
8. The Girl who Knew Too Much
9. House of Whipcord
10. Noroi: The Curse

m[m]Are there any films you’d like to re-score? And have you ever thought of doing more traditional giallo type soundtrack work?
Richard I'd love to score a film. That would be great. I only did two S&M fetish films years ago on Zeus Productions. To re-score a film, I'd love to do The New York Ripper and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. I'm not too big on the music on some giallo films. The jazzy psychedelic music is not always my taste. I like more dark and eerie soundtrack for horror. I hate when films use metal music for horror especially those of today. Just horrible!!!

m[m]Can you tell us a bit more about the soundtracks you did for the S&M fetish films & how did it come about you been involved in the projects?
Richard I was a fan of several S&M/B&D film companies like: Graphic Arts, Zeus, Tom McGirk, etc. I had sent some of my work to Graphic Arts and Zeus explaining that I felt these films needed a more extreme soundtrack than what they were using. Some didn't even have a soundtrack which is not bad, but I wanted to see what they thought. G.A. and Zeus both responded. We did a trade off where they gave films for free for the use of the "noise", which is not bad since their films were like $70 each, or at least, I was fine with that. I have thought of re-releasing them, but not sure yet.

m[m]A lot of Harsh Noise wall projects( many of yours included) use Italian Giallo films as an influence- why do you think this is? And have you ever thought of using the slasher genre as influence? As one could really call these the films the USA versions or take on the Giallo genre.
Richard Slasher films to me were the teenage versions of classic Giallo films. I love both genres, but prefer Giallo. I do use influences from slasher films too. I can't speak for other artists' reasons for Giallo images/inspirations. I record a lot when I watch these films in the background. The intensity of the films represent the intensity of the recordings. For me, it's the perfect soundtrack for such films. You don't need voice for it to capture the moment or understand what is happening. It's just an obsession of mine.

m[m]Talking about intense & violent films been a influence to make noise to – have you ever record to or been influenced by the likes of ultra violent films like Japanese torture films such as The Guinea Pig series or any the fake snuff-like films put out on the August Underground label?
Richard No. I do like and have watched some, but I wouldn't say they've been an influence in my work. I did have a project called, Snuff Prom, which was to be based on such films. We did a few releases, but didn't really use the images from such films as planned.
m[m]Do you also design your own cover artwork? And what are some of your favourite covers thus far?
Richard Not most of them. I usually have the label create it. I'll sometimes send them a photo or art to incorporate, but then they come up with the final design. I'm not a perfectionist and have to control all aspects of my releases. I like to see other interpretations of my sounds with images. Jovan also does a few of my covers as well. He is a great artist and I love what he does.

m[m] On the subjects of cover & artwork & in particularly Black Leather Jesus work- have you ever got into problems with the projects often gay pornographic artwork? And have you ever been turned down by venues due to this?
Richard I've had a few problems. I have had labels reject art because it was too gay, which is really stupid on their part. I mean, do you not know what I do and like? So, why ask for a release if you don't want that subject matter? I've turned down a few labels that wanted me to use Richard Ramirez, the serial killer, as the image. I don't do that and hate it. Venues have been pretty good about it. I think it's the public that has issues more so. We've had our posters/flyers torn down, especially for the project, Priest in Shit. That name seems to bother a lot.

m[m] You’ve put out a new Black Leather Jesus album entitled “Yes, Sir(Filth Play) on Mask of Slave records this year- what’s the concept behind the album & what does the title mean to you?
Richard Well, BLJ has always been based on the S&M/B&D theme. This particular release is a tribute to a late 70s gay porn star, Kip Noll. He was famous in his day. He was a controversial porn star/hustler.  He did a few incest theme porn or underage themed ones (He was of age to do them, just FYI). When I was a teen, I adored him and his films. He was one of my favorites at that time (not because of his themed films, but because of him). I was also a fan of such porn stars Joey Stefano (whom I met a year before his death), and Chris Steele. These days, I am all about Damien Crosse. Ok, I went off track here. Kip Noll (accidentally misspelled on cd) was the main theme as well as the film, Boot Black. I have a "thing" about boots, licking and polishing them with spit/tongue, cum, whatever. It's a big turn on. I love the smell of leather!!!

m[m]Talking about Yes, Sir(Filth Play) the artwork in particular; like a lot of BLJ records covered in bondage imagery- are any the pictures featuring any of the band trussed up in masks ect?
Richard There are some older releases that do have actual pics of band members in bondage gear/scenarios/sex acts. BLJ did a show back in 1993 where we had a bondage show happening during our performance. I don't think the current members would be too much into showing themselves in bondage gear, but enjoy it privately.
m[m] How does it differ working with a larger group of people when you do BLJ? And how do the songs get written as a six piece or solo & then each person adds elements?
Richard we get together (when we can) and record together. We choose parts(excerpts) that we like the best or record more. We don't use everything we do. At times, we send each other source material and pass it on to the next member to fuck with it.

m[m] I worked out that Yes, Sir(Filth Play) is your 90th releases with Black Leather Jesus- have you every thought off putting together a boxset of the projects out of print releases?
Richard I have done several box sets. Those are out of print too. I like to do a pro cd box of our early work, but we'll see if that happens. I also think there are more than 90 releases, I don't think they're all listed. I probably couldn't remember them either.

m[m] How do you think sonically Black Leather Jesus has changed since you began the project?
Richard I think it got more harsh but also more dense. You can hear more sheet metal feedback more so in the earlier years. Since there are more members, it's become more dense.

m[m]Why do you think the more S&M side of your interests is kept more towards Black Leather Jesus releases?
Richard I think it's because that was the initial intention of the band. It was our interests in S&M/B&D, so that's why I've tried to keep it that way. It wasn't a gimmick thing

m[m] Also on Mask of Slave records you’ve put together a compilation of Houston Noise artists entitled “Eleven Notes in Black”- how did you managed to select the 11 tracks for the compilation & was it difficult to narrow it down? And are there any plans to do a similar compilation in the future?
Richard I chose artists that I thought should be heard via pro CD format that had not or rarely were heard in that manner. It was tough to decide, but I felt I chose the right tracks for it. There were a few that I wanted to include, but didn't make the "deadline" for it.
Also, Freak Animal recently released two old Houston comp. that I also compiled back in the early 90s (Tension State of Collapsing). It was released as a double pro CD. Austin Caustic and I are compiling a Texas vinyl release soon. As for as another Houston comp., no plans as of yet.

m[m]Why did you decide to form Deadline label? How much of your time is taken up with running this? And any thoughts on putting out non CD releases? And what are some of your favourite releases on the label since its start? & why?
Richard I started Deadline because initially when I started, there were not too many labels willing to give a new artist a chance. Most wanted already established names. I wanted Deadline to not only be a vehicle for my own releases, but other new artists that were having the same issues as myself. Deadline releases vinyl, tapes, cds, cdrs, vhs releases. I like tapes a lot, but they can be a pain in the ass. I don't have dubbing machines. I dub in real time, one at a time. Deadline takes up a lot of my time. It's difficult to balance my fashion work, Deadline orders/trades, and releases on other labels. I try my best, but I run it alone.

Richard Some of my favorite releases are:
MSBR/Richard Ramirez "Sonic Aggression" tape. I love it because it my first collaboration with the late, Koji Tano. He was a dear friend of mine.
Fetus Furs "Dogshit" tape. Kevin Ogg was my ex-boyfriend that passed away in 1996. This particular release was just raw and dense. It was his best Fetus Furs release in my opinion.
Black Leather Jesus "Jesus is Stoned" was a personal favorite of mine. We (Scott, Randi, and myself) recorded this at Scott's house in 1993. It was a lot of fun and all done in one take. That's my favorite BLJ sessions with that line-up. BLJ "Event" would be another of my favorites. This is one of the first with Kevin Novak (TEF).

m[m]Have you found it been difficult been openly gay in the often very male, hetro sexual masculine based noise scene?
Richard At times. It was more difficult in the early 90s. I had loads of hate mail and threats. I've been attacked before. I get a few hate emails from time to time, but it doesn't bother me, it's just immature. Those who take the time to write hate mail obviously have issues with their own sexuality.

m[m]One of your most recent project Fouke is named after the small town on the Arkansas Texas Border that’s most know for a Bigfoot like monster which was made famous by the 1970’s film Legend of Boggy Creek. What’s your thoughts about the legend, have you visited Fouke yourself & if so did you see anything?
Richard I visited a small area near Boggy Creek in Texarkana with a friend of mine in 1992. It is kind of a creepy area. Her sister lived along Boggy Creek. one road in and out only, so if it floods, then you're trapped or can only travel by boat. I never saw anything, but you hear strange growls in the night, but whatever it is, it's pretty creepy. I guess the legend of a "bigfoot" seems crazy, but you never know what could exist out there and that's the scary part. I love legends like that. It gives mystery and fright to some.

m[m]Did the influences for the Fouke project come from your visit to the area or was it the movie?
Richard Both. I had already seen the film before I visited. I have always been so interested in eerie tales, folklore, legends like these.

m[m]I really like the tense claustrophobic air you got on the first track on the Fouke- how did you go about making this? And have you ever thought of using organic & elemental matter like trees, vegetation etc to make noise?- as this would fit in with the Fouke theme?
Richard For this particular Fouke release, I used a contact mic against a floor fan and heavily saturated it with four different distortion pedals. It would interesting to incorporate other elements as source, so that would be a great challenge to try to create Fouke material.

m[m]You talk about using a floor fan as source element for the Fouke release - what sources have you used over the years to create your noise? And what have you found yourself returning to again & again because it’s sound & scope?
I mostly use sheet metal. I also use static from radio and television. I've used field recordings for a few projects including my work with Baptist Skin Communiti.

m[m]what are you working on at present & what’s out next? And have you any thoughts of doing some shows over in Europe?
Richard Soon, there will be the Werewolf Jerusalem 4xCD box set, "Confessions of a Sex Maniac" on Second Layer Records. There's a LP from An Innocent Young Throat-Cutter due out soon on Urashima Records. A split LP between Black Leather Jesus and The Homopolice. A Richard Ramirez retrospective CD soon on Skeleton Dust. A lathe with An Innocent Young Throat-Cutter/...Massacre on Phage. A Meat Shop Rapist LP on Trash Ritual. Priest in Shit/Smell & Quim collaboration LP on Little Mafia forthcoming.
Richard Yes, I am still planning to visit some European cities for shows. I was invited to perform in Eindhoven. I am still planning that for next year. I also am doing a fashion show in Riga, Latvia. So, I hope to do some noise shows while there. I also want to do a show in London, but finances are an issue right now. My boyfriend, Jovan, and I want to move to France (not sure which city) in a few years. He seems set on it, but we will see. I've wanted to live in London. We have a close friend there, so that may be an easier transition.

m[m]Why do you think you’ve released so many recordings under the Werewolf Jerusalem name? & were does the name come from?
Richard I've released a lot with Werewolf Jerusalem because it's one of the projects that I love doing the most. I'd say the others that I love are An Innocent Young Throat-Cutter, Last Rape, S-21, and Priest in Shit. It seems to be the most requested of my works too, which is nice. The name was a Black Leather Jesus title. There's no real meaning behind it. I've been asked if it had anything to do with the SS/Nazi references, and it doesn't. It's a project that seems to be banned in Germany for that reason.

m[m]Can you tell us a bit more about the Werewolf Jerusalem 4xCD box set- is it old or new material & what can we expect package etc wise & when is it out?
Richard It's all new material. There's some live stuff too. One disc is full of collaborations with Tissa Mawartyassari, The Rita, Baculum, Mike Payne, and others. Liner notes by Sam McKinlay (The Rita). Cover art is by Jovan Hernandez. The cover case comes with individual sleeves with art. Not sure the release date. Keep an eye out on Second Layer Records' website. I think after the release of the box, I'm going to take a break from Werewolf Jerusalem recording. We will see.

m[m]You mention that after the Werewolf Jerusalem 4xCD- you might take a rest from the Werewolf Jerusalem name, why have you decided to do this & does this mean you’ll be releasing more stuff under your own name?
Richard I have done so much with Werewolf Jerusalem, I just feel I need to slow down on its releases. No, I won't focus on releasing stuff under my own name in terms of HNW. I'll focus on other projects (i.e. Four Flies, One on Top  of the Other, AIYTC, Knife of Ice, Crash at Every Speed, Oasis of Fear, Fouke,etc.). I had thought of ending Werewolf Jerusalem after the box set, but I doubt that.

m[m]Your recent Werewolf Jerusalem release on Syzmic Records is entitled “Nang Nak” which seems to related to a famous Thai Ghost - how did you come across this tale & are ghost stories something that interest you in general?
Richard I have a book entitled, "Dark Tales from the Orient" that was given to me over 15 years ago. I read the story there. Of course later, saw the film that was about that story. I really love the film too. Yes, I do love ghost stories. I lived in a house that some odd and scary things occurred in it. I know it's something not too many people believe in, but I sadly experienced it in this home that I used to rent. It's fascinating but when it happens to you, it gives you a different perspective on it.

m[m]You mention about having experience with ghosts yourself- can you go into more detail?
Richard to make a long story short, I moved into a house with three other friends. At first, two of my roommates heard someone whistling outside (in the middle of the night) on different days. I didn't hear it at first, but after a few months being there, I did hear it and it sounded like it was coming from one of the bedrooms, not outside like others heard.
Another night, I had seen a reflection of an older woman standing in the kitchen. I had seen it while I was in the breakfast room which was attached.
My roommate had his sister come over for a visit. When she came into the house, her 5 year old son started to cry when he was in our hallway. I mean cry like he was being murdered. As soon as they left, he immediately calmed down. He never wanted to go back there.
We've had objects thrown at all of us. My boyfriend, Jovan, never wanted to stay over.
Richard However, the night that was the worst was we had gone out to a concert. One of my other roommates called us to say she was locked out of the house. She said we had locked the deadbolt one, which she didn't have the key to. I told her I didn't lock the deadbolt because Jovan was the last to leave, and he only locked the doorknob one. He couldn't have done it, he didn't have the key. The other roommates were out of town. So, we left the concert early and when we got home, the deadbolt was locked. That freaked us out because there was no way it could have been locked. When we got in, we all (as a group) went around the house double checking everything. Then we noticed the light in the attic was on. No one had been in the attic in months, and the light would have been obvious if we had left it on. So, we looked and nothing. We then noticed in the hallway an object was inverted in the hallway. We freaked out. We didn't spend the night there.
Shortly after, we all moved out. We knew the previous owner had died in the house, but we honestly didn't think much about it until all of this started.
I was constantly having nightmares while living there. They were always about the house. It was just odd. I know it may sound silly to most, but there were other things that happened as well.

m[m]What were your feelings about acts like Wolf eyes that brought noise more into the indie mainstream?
Richard I don't really think of Wolf Eyes as total noise. It's fine that they were appealing to a more indie crowd. There have been other artists like that. I see Rusted Shut (a Houston based band since 80s) as a possible influence on Wolf Eyes. I think Rusted Shut could have been in the same boat with success, but Rusted Shut just want to play and fight. They're not too concerned with getting out releases. I believe in all of the years of existence, they have MAYBE 4 or 5 full-lengths. I'm not bothered with indie mainstream. If it happens to artists, good for them. I just don't really group myself with Wolf Eyes. They're great people though. I've performed in front of indie crowds. It's cool. I opened for Sonic Youth and that's as mainstream as you can get with this genre. It was so scary, but the crowd responded very well to us.

m[m]What would you most liked to be remembered for your noise or fashion work?
Richard I think my noise work simply because it was what I did first. I love both the same. I'm a huge fashion fan/label queen, but I cannot live without noise and creating it. The fashion world is so far from the noise scene. I don't mix the two. I would feel pretentious doing so.

m[m]When not listening to noise what else do you listen to? And would there be anything that might surprise people?
Richard  Wow! Yes, I am sure there's quite a bit that would surprise some, and then again, maybe not. As a kid, I loved music like: Cocteau Twins, Bauhaus, Chris & Cosey, Skinny Puppy, The Fall, Clan of Xymox, Echo & The Bunnymen, Gene Loves Jezebel, The Mighty Lemon Drops, Alien Sex Fiend, The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Woodentops, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Germs, Fugazi, Killing Joke, The Railway Children, Husker Du, Front Line Assembly, X, The Cure, A Split-Second, a;GRUMH..., Einsturzende Neubauten, The Mission UK. I am also a fan of Olivia Newton-John. That's the gay coming out hardcore!!!! It's a childhood thing.

To finsh off here's here's a list of Richard's favourite & must have releases:

3. CHOP SHOP "POWER DRUNK" TAPE (was reissued on CDR).

Thanks so much to Richard for all his time & efforts in answering my many questions. As an idea of what to expect from Richards many projects it best to check one of his many myspace pages- here  are a few for his more know projects & some from his less know but still very rewarding projects: Richard Ramirez here,Werewolf Jerusalem here, Black Leather Jesus here, An Innocent Young Throat-Cutter here, Last Rape here, Nurse unit here, Four Files here ,- but there are many more to explore too
Richards own  label Deadline Recordings can be found here & offers a whole host of self released projects.

Roger Batty
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