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A different kind of Ďwallí [2010-09-30]

Italian HNW project TFT take a very different, stripped and often futuristic sounding sonic path from many of the acts under the Harsh Noise Wall banner. The projects all the work of Alessio Mininel who lives in the Gorizia area of Italy . Alessio kindly agreed to give M[M] an interview via  email

m[m] At what point did you first become aware of  noise and more extreme forms of sound? And is there any particular song or album that got you hooked on HNW form and made you decided to start making your own stuff?

Alessio I'd like to tell you the whole story. I think my very first contact with harsh noise was when I found The Japanese-American Noise Treaty double CD on the shelf of a record store where I was buying techno (I still wondering how it ended up there..), I gave it a quick listening cause I was after everything weird and Japanese, but didn't like it.

The second and definitive encounter was while reading the Italian edition of the classic Industrial Culture Handbook (which has an entire chapter about japanoise), it was around 2002, I guess.. I remember it being like WOW! Then I eventually bought that compilation and started to search desperately for other releases.

Alessio I was already listening to a lot of 'strange' and extremely experimental stuff, but harsh noise kinda filled a deep need. I also remember had hard times in finding stuff, for example I wasn't able to track down any Alchemy title at first.. eBay wasn't popular as it is today and I was riding a stupid 56K.. Seems like ages ago..

I eventually found the Freak Animal distro (I also had some very interesting email exchange with Mikko) and Artware (Donna had a huge list of incredible stuff, ranging from noise to fantastic books, I bought a lot of shit by her, RIP)

Alessio At that time I was already making electronic music as 'mikai'. I've always been into the whole electronic music thing, from experimental stuff to the techno movement and everything in between. I also play as DJ sometimes. I was deeply influenced by minimalism, in every field, especially in visual arts (like monochrome paintings or Rothko), and minimal electronic music (Pan Sonic and labels like Sub Rosa and Mille Plateaux). My latest 'electronic' stuff was a collection of almost unchanging patterns..
After discovering harsh noise I simply went into that direction.

My favourites/influences were Incapacitants and Hijokaidan (at that time I did only care about the Japanese scene), because of their 'sound spectrum' and their almost constant flow.  My noise quite immediately developed into a style that today would be labelled as pure HNW (

Alessio I think what really got me into that direction (apart from my influences and some concepts I was writing down along the way, like for example 'wall of noise'), was the great pleasure I was getting by some very specific passages in harsh noise records, moments which were unfortunately too short and suddenly changed into something different and not equally pleasurable. Or simply the fact that whenever I found a texture I liked, I never had any interest on its development, so to say.
I was just recording those textures untouched for like 5 - 8 minutes (funnily enough, I was considering that time span quite long, while nowadays would be incredibly short for any HNW track).

I was also planning to apply some minimal architectures (live geometrical volume variations or silences) on some of those raw chunks of noise, but never did.
Then I quit Mikai (and also listening to harsh noise), for several years..
Mostly because I had no connection outside my geographic area (quite sterile and where the existence of harsh noise itself is probably not even known, so I was getting a lot of critics and strong reactions from people all the time). I think I simply lost interest, I don't remember exactly..

Alessio But I also quit because wasn't seeing any future for that particular kind of stuff and didn't ever try to find a label which could release something, like "who the hell could be interested in listening to several minutes of unchanging noise?!?" (if I think of that now, it really gives me huge LOLs).

m[m] When did you decide to form TFT? Was it your first project? And whatís the origin of the name?
Alessio In life a lot of things just happen by accident.. 2009, after several years with almost no noise in my life, one day in one of those automatically generated eBay mails a noise tape pops up. The cover image attracts my attention and I end up on the Crucial Blast website, where I casually find out that since some years there's this 'new wave' in harsh noise, called harsh noise wall, which consists on unchanging walls of noise.
You can easily imagine my shock.. I went COMPLETELY bananas..
That's basically when I decided to start making noise, again.
Initially my strong electronic music background influenced my point of view, which I translated into TFT, a sort of conceptual/minimalistic approach, deeply rooted on electronic minimalism and developing a research around pure sound/noise lines.

Alessio As for the TFT name- I wanted it to sound cold, meaningless and 'humanless', just like a product's acronym, in line with sound and imagery.

As for other projects, I had 2 of them: the aforementioned Mikai and Unsound (a double bass + electronics duo, playing contemporary, minimal stuff, with a strong 'academic' approach, but very experimental).

m[m] Your first album ďfoams | HFs |Ē was released on your own  label TTM Incisioni Musicali- what made you decide to form your own label & whatís the meaning behind the labels title?
Alessio Starting a label is a great and simple way to spread your own work at the beginning, you know.
Then, as a graphic designer, I wanted to do some cool design myself ;)
The name is in the same vein of TFT: no meaning, cold acronym-like style ('Incisioni musicali' is an Italian old fashioned way to say 'recordings').

m[m] All you packaging thus far with TTM Incisioni Musicali has been very slick, Minimalistic  and futuristic- why did you decide to go down this route and will new releases follow a similar pattern?
Alessio Yeah, that was completely in line with my initial approach, and my personal design style.
I guess those releases don't even look like containing harsh noise related shit; I was finding this aspect interesting, sort of breaking a canon.
Then I completely changed my point of view and everything else. Future releases won't follow that style anymore, TTM is probably dead too, like TFT.
I will continue releasing stuff (from time to time), but with a different approach and much likely under a different label name.

m[m] How long did it take to conceive and record ďfoams | HFs |Ē?
Alessio Not much, like 2 months since I restarted making noise.
I had a clear idea of the sound I wanted to achieve, so it came quite easily.
That first release wanted to be a severely minimal take on HNW: where HNW is usually based on complex textures, I was pursuing a sound with no textures at all, just one simple noise (at least that's what I had in mind).
Heaviness was another obsession which inspired the sound. I was also fascinated by the idea of combining HNW with classic ambient music; an HNW which wouldn't attack violently, but instead would create a sort of heavy physical space where to be immersed for some time.


m[m] Your second untitled album(also on TTM Incisioni Musicali) saw you taking more of a clean, piercing, precise & digital take  on HNW- what influenced this original and seared take on the form?
Alessio The second release simply continued (and extremized) the ultra minimal approach of the first one, just being the white side, in term of frequency spectrum (while Foams was the heavily lows dominated black side).
It also wanted to experiment a clean, sterile and futuristic view on HNW.
This has been the release that has taken the greatest work among everything Iíve done till now.
Although it may sound incredibly simple, I did a lot of fine adjustments and worked on several variations for every single track.
I think the result is still a pretty 'weird' and singular piece of nausea-inducing futuristic HNW ;)
(and it got very contrasting feedbacks, like I was expecting)


m[m] You talk about making different variations of tracks to get your prefect idea of futuristic HNW- do any of these failed attempts still exist & if so will you put the out at some point or rework them?
Alessio  Actually, those were just very little variations of the tracks you find on the CDr, not different tracks.
Right now Iím not interested in following that direction anymore, I almost reject that whole way of producing noise (I mean a very precise and clean post-production laptop work).
Anyway it may happen that in the future Iíll approach the digital world and that kind of futuristic view again, who knows...
But much more likely, I could soon work on similar frequencies and 'form' within the new different approach.

m[m] On the same subject as above question- I know you say now your no longer interested in making futuristic HNW, but is there anything you havenít released under this bracket that youíd like to put out?
Alessio  There are couple of TFT tracks that I would like to spread out of my hard disc, so it may happen, but that's not my focus right now.
(Actually one of those tracks is about to be released on a split tape, not sure if it's still exactly in that 'futuristic' view, more a glitchy soothing affair; then couple other TFT tracks have just been released on the Zvukovina 'In girum' box set, those are pure crackling studies)

m[m]  Whatís your usual set-up and how often do you record Ďwallsí?
Alessio Well, this is an aspect where things have drastically changed as of late.
AlessioI recently shifted from a digital laptop setup (Propellerhead's Reason) to the classic harsh noise analog gear: pedal effects (my very first analog equipment ever; as for Mikai I was using a Yamaha groovebox).
Every setup is never composed by more than 4/5 pieces (usually less); right now I want to be in control of the situation (as much as I can) and to keep everything simple and basic.
I use no sound sources, almost everything is just no-input chains (where the very first pedal's input pot is left empty; I find it very interesting, conceptually speaking).

Alessio I'm probably still in the exploratory (and very exciting) phase of this world, but I find it much simpler than the digital world, so shifting hasn't really been an issue, quite the contrary.
My setup (which changes every time I get bored of what am getting out of it) is always ready on my side (literally, as I work at home) so I usually get it powered almost on a daily basis and push the record button whenever something reflects the idea of noise I have in mind and gives me the right feeling.

m[m] For the excellent Stasis: 001( Stasis records) compilation you used the project name of fragile for your three tracks- why did you decide to use a different name & will we see new work under this name?
Alessio You definitely will.
Fragile (it's intended to be read in Italian; the word is exactly the same as in English but pronounced differently) is a fresh start.
I started feeling uncomfortable with what I was doing because my point of view and approach on noise were drastically changing, so I just needed a cut.
Now Iíve completely abandoned the digital/electronic/minimalistic perspective.
It's like if along the way I begun to finally 'understand' the true and peculiar nature of noise, which now I consider, quite literally, as confusion, rawness, dirtiness, imperfection, lo-fi, filth. Nothing really new then, although I feel HNW is slowly losing those characteristics, or at least loosening its bonds with them.
Fragile, which from the name itself is more organic, 'real', will simply follow the new perspective.

Alessio Focus won't be 'sound', well calibrated, interesting textures or anything like that, but, quite on the contrary, confusion, undefinedness (as the opposite of meaning), the sense of dirtiness and filth or just straight harsh and raw violence. Everything produced in the simplest and most direct way, that means no overdubbing or anything contrived or complex (like pre-recorded sources, structures, planning..).
I'll also try not to apply any mastering process and to keep the material raw, just like it comes out of the pedal chain.

Alessio I recently had a discussion about that on the HNW forum, I was saying that maybe noise isn't supposed to 'sound good', that maybe all those processes aiming at 'pumping', adjusting or refining a track are processes related to 'music' production and that may 'corrupt' the raw nature of noise itself.
Some fragile stuff, like what's on the Stasis compilation you mentioned and couple other forthcoming releases, is still digitally produced (some of the latest stuff I produced before changing gear), and when the new perspective was still not completely achieved, but already in a different direction (an 'in-between' production, so to say).


m[m] You seem to shy away from the more horror based ,often grimly charged  and dark /murky vibe of a lot of HNW- what do you see as your key influences be it art, books or movies?
Alessio Actually that was completely true for TFT, but has changed. In the future Iíll (kind of) go back to the old school noise/PE visual style and spirit, which means raw, gritty shit (and probably try to have something released on those labels that carry on that style).
I see this 'switch' like (sort of) moving on the contrary direction most HNW has been taking (not only visually), I mean, covers are becoming more defined, clear, stylish, with elaborate fonts and full colour high definition images.
Just to be clear, I don't consider that to be a bad thing, in fact there's a lot of great design going on, just something I really would like to avoid right now.
I may be wrong but to me it seems like (some) HNW is heading in the direction I was initially coming from (while Iím going where HNW initially came from, funnily enough).

Alessio I guess for most artists involved into this 'scene', making walls is about a study on textures ('Static Studies', just to quote an important release) in a way more similar to electronic music experimentation than to raw filthy harsh noise. HNW itself has shifted from a way of making harsh noise to a study on noise itself. Some of it it's not even harsh anymore and could definitely fit into a minimal electronic compilation (Iím thinking of the Smrznik's latest work and some ideas Cole/Gomeisa explained for his future project, for example), actually the only difference is that stuff isn't a laptop/MAX-MSP affair, although I guess they would definitely benefit by leaving pedals for a software/digital setup ;)  
I'm not giving any value judgement of sort or saying it is true for every artist involved in the scene, but that may be an interpretation on how things are developing.
As for influences, right now Iím mostly influenced by that idea of noise I expressed above. Probably also by some old school noise/PE raw imagery and sound.

m[m] Have you ever played live & if not is this something youíd like to do?
Alessio Yeah, several times as Mikai (very funny times!) and some with the Unsound duo (also on a little tour around Italy).
Mikai performances always had risks for my physical incolumity, several times I got menaced of being beaten up, and I was never knowing what to expect to happen... (that's the situation when you play harsh noise to people who aren't expecting it)
Let me tell you couple of stories.

Alessio One time I played near a mental asylum and they came to stop me because noise was turning bananas the asylum's guests.
Another time I played what at today standards would be called a pure wall, just by slowly raising the volume from silence to very loud, one of my 'live standards' ;) At the end of it, the (very smart and respectful) sound guy, to mimic my set (that he probably didn't completely appreciate), like a monkey raised all main mixer volumes to get some noise, definitely funny!
Another time I got kicked on the butt by another very open-minded drunk member of the audience...

Alessio I guess you can now better understand why I quit making noise LOL
Not that there weren't people who actually appreciated, on the contrary, some were going completely bonkers when fed by that unexpected loud noise.
I think it was also having interesting effects on girls, couple of them told me what they were feeling into their bodies... Funny times!
Seriously speaking, the last couple of lives I did were actual theatrical performances with a strong visual and conceptual aspect to them; I wish I had some pics.. (one friend said he has some, but it's more than 1 year I asked to get them, and they still haven't shown up..)

m[m] Whatís next for the label and your projects?
Alessio For the (new) label, next future will see me finally working on a release which is on stand by since months, and that I hope will be ready for the Venice HNW festival.
After that Iíll probably manage to get some of my new work down to tape.
Then I don't know, but Iím not in a hurry.
About fragile, funnily enough while answering this interview things have already developed a little and following my new approach Iíve finally got to a sound I was searching for since some time.
What Iíve been doing in these last couple of weeks is, say, approaching HNW in a harsh noise way, where the static flow is built through a pretty standard harsh noise 'procedure'.
I'm not even sure purists would still call it HNW, 'unchanging harsh noise' may suit better, but like HNW it's based on a completely obsessive, focused and monotone approach to the harsh noise matter.
Then something Iím probably gonna apply is trying to have something released on harsh noise labels.. So if anyone may be interested, just get in touch ;)

m[m] Have you got a name for your new label yet & will you still put stuff out in CDR format as you did with TTM Incisioni Musicali, or are you planning to move to tape or vinyl?
Alessio  Well, I don't even consider what Iíll do as a 'real' label, so to say, more just as a way of getting something out from time to time.
I have a name in mind (strictly connected to my geographical background), but still not sure.. (Iím never completely sure about names, there are so many interesting out there..)
I would love to release some tapes/tape box sets, but also have a lot of blank CDr's left and I think Iím not gonna throw them away ;)


m[m] Can you tell us a bit about the release thatís been on stand- by for months?
Alessio It will be an Italian job. I have half of the material, the title and a clear idea of the whole presentation, just need to choose my own track (which could be some of my very latest work) and contact one of those involved because he still doesn't know it LOL but I hope that won't be a problem.
Another one of those involved thought the whole thing wasn't going to happen anymore but I always try to respect every commitment I take, so it's gonna come soon.

Thanks to Alessio for his time, efforts and great pictures. Heres TFTís myspace were you can find a bit more a bout the project and of course hear samples of Alessio work

Roger Batty
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