Wallkeeper & Forecast Interview [2013-06-18]Sisto Rossi is a noise artist originally from Germany, but now residing in the swamps of Florida after a brief spell in the Pacific Northwest. I got to know Sisto last year after playing at a mini-fest with him on Floridaís Suncoast and Iíve been an avid fan of his work ever since. Sisto is perhaps best known for his wall noise under the moniker Wallkeeper. However, he also dabbles in harsh noise, drone, minimalist HNW, and power electronics under a variety of aliases such as: Forecast, Hatred, Colony Collapse, Earth Chaos, Houses in Texas, and more recently performing under his own name. I appreciate Sisto giving me the opportunity to talk with him about wall noise, his projects: past and present and creating a new genre.
m[m]:What was your entrance into noise?
Sisto While many people get introduced to noise through the old japanese stuff, especially Merzbow, it was the american noise scene that I was more aware of in the late 90ís. I was into hardcore at the time and one of the bands I listened to a lot was Man is the Bastard. I later found out about their project Bastard Noise, which was more or less my springboard into noise. Of course, Bacillus and Black Leather Jesus were also extremely influential to me.
m[m]:When did you start making your own noise?
Sisto I started in 1999/2000. Iím not sure you could consider it noise, but I started to do experiments with circuit bent stuff.....it was weird to say the least. Was this when you still lived in Germany? Yeah, this is when I was still living in Germany. The internet was getting bigger at this time and, like a nerd, I spent a lot of time researching what was out in the world noise-wise.
m[m]:You build quite a bit of your own gear. How did you get into creating your own sound devices and what were some of the first things you built or modified?
Sisto I started with a tape player I found. I modified it to where I could record one track onto a cassette, rewind it and record over that track again...creating layers of sounds. So I started recording tracks over tracks of stuff. I think the first noise track I ever created was made using layers of samples from a godzilla movie. [laughter] That was how I started, because I didnít really know how to make noise at the time. From there I got into circuit bending. I circuit bent toy keyboards and stuff like that. However, I didnít really find what I was looking for in circuit bending, because it was too unpredictable and I didnít have the degree of control I wanted. I wanted that control. I began to research what other people were doing, mostly from just looking at pictures of live noise performances. From there, I started building simple oscillators and then chain them together into distortion pedals.
m[m]: Do you strictly use gear youíve built or modified?
Sisto Itís a mix of both gear Iíve built and purchased. My setup always has at least one piece that Iíve built myself. I like building my own stuff, because I know what sound Iím looking for. However, I also like to support other people/companies who make quality gear. So itís a balanced mix of both.
m[m]:How did you get into wall noise?
Sisto The first time I heard about wall noise was back when Ronald from Cannibal Ritual had his first noise board. It was a forum on his labelís website. This mustíve been around 2006. I found it by accident doing some internet research and found a thread with people discussing wall noise. I found it really interesting because that was the first time I found people who were into steady sound, instead of bloop bleep (noise) or cut up harsh noise. My music or noise has always been (even when I do harsh noise) very repetitive. I like it that way. Iíve just always had a penchant for minimalist sound. So thatís what got me into wall noise. From the forum, I was excited to see that there were others creating steady blocks of noise. Then I started experimenting with it.
m[m]:Recently, there was a discussion on one of the noise boards regarding whether there is an over proliferation of HNW artists these days. That it is becoming quantity over quality. What are your thoughts on this?
Sisto Thatís true...I really only listen to 3 or 4 HNW acts these days. I think thereís just too much coming out with not enough quality. For example, I showed my wife Mariela how anyone can do wall noise. In Audacity, I basically recorded 8 minutes of white noise, cranked up the bass boost and you have wall noise. I could've said this is a new Forecast track ďUntitledĒ....does anyone want to release my new wall noise track? I donít want to imply that thereís a lot of people who do that. Iím sure thereís a lot of artists really passionate about HNW, who form their own concepts, and try to make it different. However, I donít doubt that there are some who are just like ďcool wall noise....iím gonna start making wall noise.Ē Itís like back when I was heavily involved in hardcore, I used to listen to what people coined ďscreamoĒ. I always hated the term, but when it got popular, screamo bands were just popping up everywhere. It seemed like everyone was just trying copy Orchid or whatever ďitĒ band was cool at the time.
Sisto There are a lot of people doing wall noise these days, despite the fact that everyone hated it a few years ago. I have the feeling that a lot of people, and it might be unpopular for me to say, just try to copy Vomir. He has his own concepts, and heís perfect at what he does, and I really like his work, but he has a lot of imitators.
m[m]:Arguably, you are most recognized for your HNW project Wallkeeper. How do you make your walls?
Sisto I usually come up with an idea for a sound and just try to go there. I use tape loops, my own noise generators, and contact mics. I use the usual stuff that others use. With my own noise, I like to hide almost unrecognizable sounds underneath the wall. You really have to be an active listener to pick it up. I actually prefer people listen to my stuff with headphones because, in my opinion, thatís when you pay attention most to what youíre listening to. So yeah, I like to hide really minimalist sound within my walls. For example, Leonardo da Vinciís (not to compare myself to him) paintings are so detailed and perfect, but he always hides something in the painting. For example, his signature is somewhere in the painting and you don't notice it or recognize it until you really pay attention. And even then you might not recognize it. So I like to bring a little something more to my walls.
m[m]:For a while you stopped Wallkeeper, but recently you said you were resurrecting the project. Why the change of heart?
Sisto I stopped it because I wasnít really satisfied with it. I wouldnít say I got bored, but I was looking for something new, so I started the Forecast thing. Plus I tend to over-dramatize things and one day I just said, ďI want to stop this project and Iím not going to do it ever againĒ! Especially with all the project names Iíve gone through, I just wanted to stick with one name and Forecast started around that time. So I was like okay, Forecast is the new shit! Itís funny you should mention it, because 2 days ago I was actually thinking about all the Wallkeeper stuff and I listened to few a of my earlier recordings and I almost cried...I missed it. [laughter] So Iím going to start recording again as Wallkeeper and maybe do some live performances as well. I got new motivation I guess.
m[m]:Letís talk about Hatred, your self-described ďvegan scum electronicsĒ project. How did this come together and have you always been into power electronics?
Sisto That project started last year during the first months of moving to Portland. I couldn't find a job, it was really tough, it was winter and everything was just fucked up. I didn't find what I was looking for noisewise, so I got really pissed and decided to start a power electronics project. Iím way into power electronics, I just never thought about doing my own project. The timing just felt right. Of course, I despise some of the fascist, racist, homophobic, and sexist themes sometimes associated with the genre. Iíve been vegan a long time and using that as a topic seemed perfect. I mean what else am I going to scream about other than animals getting tortured? Do you see more Hatred to come and perhaps some live performances? Yes definitely! The thing is Iíve never done power electronics before and I want it to be good. So right now I want to focus on writing lyrics and just take my time with the project. I definitely donít want to rush it.
m[m]:Another project youíve been deeply involved with is Forecast, your natural disaster inspired HNW project. What was the impetus behind Forecast?
Sisto I came across extreme low frequency (ELF) recordings, where you use super sensitive receivers to record earth or rather magnetism of the earth. Itís a lot of minimalist crackling sounds. Thereís also sounds called ďwhistlers,Ē which are real short whistlings. This got me interested in thinking what does nature sound like? Or what does a hurricane sound like? So I think about nature or natural disasters and I try to imitate it or cover it. So for the new album Iím covering melting ice. Thatís how I got into it.
m[m]:The first time I saw you, you played as Houses in Texas. Your harsh noise project. Whatís the status of that project?Sisto Oh yeah, well I donít do that anymore. [laughter] I wanted to get rid of all these projects, because it was getting ridiculous. One time, A friend of mine in put on a show for me in Germany. On the flyer he put Sisto Rossi and underneath my name he wrote ďhe always changes his name because he doesnít want to get famousĒ. Which is not it at all. I just felt like for every idea I had, I also had to come up with a new project name. Is that why youíve been playing out just under your birth name lately? Yes, exactly! I still have a lot of projects, but Iím trying to keep it to a minimum. So everything from harsh noise to drone Iíll be doing under Sisto Rossi. That is of course unless the mood strikes me to do otherwise.
m[m]:Since Iíve gotten to know you, I know that we share a love for 90ís hardcore. Youíve covered Left for Dead on an album. Do you still listen to a fair amount of hardcore and does it continue to inform your own work?
Sisto Oh yes, I still love it! I take breaks every now and then, where I donít listen to it anymore and then one day I wake up and Iím in the mood for Left for Dead or The Swarm. Iíll put on the ďParasitic SkiesĒ 10Ē and listen to it for a long time and then pull out some other stuff. Hardcore is just a part of me, what I do and who I am.
m[m]:Your wife Mariela has been doing her own noise lately. Do you see any collaborative projects with her in the future?
Sisto I think its going to remain a separate thing. We try collaborating, but weíre both headstrong in what we do and what we want our noise to sound like. So we usually get into arguments and she tries to meet me halfway, but I just stop, unplug and tell her we can't do this anymore. We try it every once in awhile, but it doesnt work. I'd love to collaborate with her. I like the stuff she does. It just never works out when we try, so weíre just going to remain solo artists.
m[m]:You recently returned to Florida after living for a year in Portland. The Portland noise scene was the subject of the documentary ďPeople Who Do NoiseĒ. What was your experiences with experimental/noise scene in Portland?
Sisto There are some people that do noise, but most of the people that did noise that I know from the documentary are into chill synth music these days. I occasionally like that stuff, but it seems like everyone who was into harsh noise or went to harsh noise shows just dropped out and moved onto something completely different. I can understand people look for different stuff after a while. What I donít understand are people who used to be very supportive of new noise projects and going to shows, who now all of a sudden don't give a shit anymore. That was a big disappointment.
m[m]:What new releases do you have on the horizon?
Sisto Dan Greenwood of Diagram A just released a new tape of mine. He gave me some of his noise cans and in return I recorded something for him. Itís released under my name Sisto Rossi. I was very happy to have that opportunity. I also have some Forecast recordings coming out on Static Wall Recordings. Richard Ramirez and Sean Matzus asked if they could release some of my stuff on either of their labels. So when I get around to recording for that, it will likely be Wallkeeper stuff.
m[m]:If you could direct people to one release that is most representative of your work, which would it be?
Sisto My absolute favorite release is the first Wallkeeper tape ďContamination.Ē It was released on Richard Ramirezís Dead Audio Tapes. I was just getting into HNW and it was my first wall recordings. There weren't many made (10-15 copies). I still have the recordings, so if anyone is interested Iíd be happy to share them. Just shoot me an email.
m[m]:So you mentioned you are creating a new genre, harsh drone walls. Tell me about that? Sisto I love drone and wall noise, so it seemed natural for me to want combine the two together. People might think it sounds ridiculous, but Iím going to experiment with it.
m[m]:Whatís an approximation of the sound youíre going for? Sisto Well Iím into Emaciator and God Willing stuff. So maybe those projects mixed with....the Rita? [laughter] Maybe? I guess Iíll find out. The noise I do under my name will largely be going in this direction. I want to work with tone generators, like old test oscillators. I like that tube sound, especially how they distort or overpower. Iíll likely also use equalizers and white noise generators. Iím going to experiment with it. I thought itíd be funny to start a genre that everyone would complain about and then end up doing a few years from now. HDW? HDW [laughter].....before you know it people will start getting HDW tattoos. It will be fun.
Thanks to Sisto for taking the time to answer my questions. He can be contacted at: email@example.com Hal Harmon
Some of his work can also be found on bandcamp: http://forecast1.bandcamp.com/