London Walling [2020-10-15]Londoner James Shearman has been one of the most active & present figures in the UK/ Euro wall noise scene for some years now- releasing walled noise/ static texturing under A Raja's Mesh banner as well as his own name, he runs the prolific & respected HNW Netlabel, and has been involved in the organization of wall/ noise shows in and around London. So it seemed high time to track James down for an interview- the below lengthy, but most interesting interview took place via email over the last month or so.
M[m]: Please discuss how and when you first heard walled noise and is there any particular album or track that impacted on you to start creating your own walled noise?
JS I first came across walled noise through Last.fm - I had been delving through some early industrial like Throbbing Gristle and then some early power electronics artists like Ramleh and Genocide Organ and was unearthing more and more as days went by, eventually, I came across some tracks of straight-up HNW. When I first came across it I had thought it wasn't for me - it wasn't until a few months or maybe even a year down the line from that initial discovery that I heard The Rita's 'Obsession' (off of Magazine) along with Vomir and Clive Henry's split through Youtube uploads that I was suddenly hooked. Another early discovery when it came to walled noise artists that really helped draw me in was Placenta Lyposuction (and Harald's other non-wall projects as well) who I found through rabbit-holing at Soundcloud. I remember a time a while back now where there seemed to be a lot happening at Soundcloud, a really vibrant and active noise community almost entirely centered there - I'm sad to say I've dropped off the platform considerably since then, with Bandcamp majorly usurping - but I think that scene I describe may well have dissipated on its own accord anyway. It was only when I discovered a bedrock of projects (and the people behind them) such as Distorted Souls Within A Corrupt Vision, Social Drift, Koobaatoo Asparagus, Wallmaster, Willowbrook, Robert Ridley-Shackleton, and a handful of others I'm ashamed to omit (but this list can't go on forever), that I began to not only immerse myself in what felt like a very active and friendly community but also to begin feeling like I should start trying to make my own.
M[m]: what was you first released try at walled noise?- I think the first time I became aware of your wall work was around 2014/15 with a few of the releases you put out under the A Raja's Mesh men banner.
JS My very first release under the A Raja's Mesh Men alias, 'My Personal Noise Virus' was intended as an attempt at walled noise - ultimately, it was hyper-dynamic and escaped qualification as wall noise multiple times by my own admission, but it was a step in the right direction - it was one of the first times I had gone that self-contained and long-form with industrial/noise sounds. That was in late 2013 - the next year, in February, I put out 'Apathy is ascribed to the modest man' which took in five tracks each of roughly five minutes that really tried to explore individual textures placed side by side - and their stagnation in an actual wall noise context, as well as the idea of "letting a wall do its thing". I think it's very easy for folks with a background in very dynamic music, especially industrial or noise-based music, to approach HNW "their way" and never really give in to the "proper tenets" of wall craft as such - as much as I sort of have an issue with the kind of elitism that might require us to insist upon a "properness" to a given idea of HNW, I think there is a line to be drawn between subjectivity, experimentation with "the form" of HNW and just pure pedantry - e.g. when someone points out "wall" is a metaphor and a metaphor can be taken to mean anything in the abstract - no, that does not make your dark ambient track a harsh noise wall. I think with my own wall work, I didn't exactly "give in" myself, but I gradually lent more and more towards a better understanding of what it is to be a waller and make wall noise - properly delving into the work of The Rita, Vomir and Sean & Richard Ramirez-Matsuz played a huge part in opening my eyes to that and I have long considered them a sort of "unholy trinity" that all those hoping to make wall noise should become acquainted with at some level.
M[m]: Talking about A Raja's Mesh men- please give us a little background behind this project, and how you came up with its decidedly quirky name?.
JS Before beginning the ARMM project I had put all of my output entirely on the Soundcloud platform and I had bounced from alias to alias never really settling on one. ARMM was a sort of "settling on something" that came with the decision to branch into the Bandcamp platform and begin crafting actual releases with a unifying theme and visual representation rather than putting things out track by track. I was heavily inspired to do this by Reece who ran the Vanity Pill tape label from here in the UK, in Folkestone, who also put out my very first tape release, and who did some amazing noise under aliases like Flesh Prison, Penetration Colony, and Alocasia Garden (to name a few). I've always felt a bit anxious about naming things which has also felt simultaneously bizarre and ridiculous - and I've gone from cringing at "silly sounding" aliases to absolutely loving them - Cementimental, a noise legend who is also from London as I am and who has been making amazing noise for years and years is a kind of "silly but not too silly" alias that just rolls off the tongue so well, in my view - another I really liked in that vein was Tinnitustimulus. Unfortunately, as imaginative as I can be sometimes, other times I just go with what ends up feeling like a bit of a cop-out - well, A Raja's Mesh Men was one among many possible choices from a list of anagrams of my full name, James Shearman, and so it feels a bit like an unimaginative name in a sense, I didn't exactly "come up with it" - but it doesn't feel entirely phoned in because I did spend a long time pouring over the potential choices. I liked the idea that most people coming across the alias would never have an inkling of this hidden context and would imagine some supposed other context or reference that simply wasn't there. The project had always begun with the intention of being an amalgam of noise styles - harsh noise, power electronics, drone, plunderphonics, cut-up, you name it - when I began it I had no intention of going HNW-heavy with it but that just ended up happening naturally as time progressed and the project began to come into its own a bit. Though I never let go of that "any shoe fits" mentality and I continued to make several power electronics releases with the alias well into its lifespan even as it began to become mostly known for HNW releases. I was always quite fond of the PE releases 'Decay' and 'Living Flesh' and felt (and continue to feel) that they had been somewhat overlooked as a result of people pigeonholing the project a bit due to the HNW releases.
M[m]: How has your wall set up changed/ altered over the years? And do you still have any bits of kit you’ve used from the start?
JS My wall set-up for those initial runs at wall noise with A Raja's Mesh Men just involved a single pedal, the Boss ME50 multi-FX which was given to me by my dad, and a cheap mixer, a Eurorack MX602A - I bought this thing for something like £30 and it's taken some serious beating and always pulled through, it's admittedly a hardened "noise mixer" at this point with little practical use for ~actual mixing~ but who needs that, eh? Those two devices have remained a somewhat central part of my process to this day but there have been a lot of changes over the years too. I've run through periods of always using feedback looping for source, using no-input, using field recordings, using radio static, amplifying metal or other objects, adding additional pedals to the chain (the Boss DS-1 and the Nine of Swords 'Headache' were particularly memorable), applying post FX additions and slowing and layering tracks in Audacity (my most consistently used audio freeware) - I'm sure there's tons of further experimenting to be done, of course.
M[m]: seemingly your most recent wall-work has been released under your own name as is the Mask series- Mask of Architectural Excavation, Mask of Hypnos, and Mask of Warming Tendrils- all released this year. Please could you discuss the themes behind this series, and are there sonic connections between each release too?
JS Yes, sometime in 2017 I decided to hang up the A Raja's Mesh Men alias for good and release more noise-leaning things under my own name - I had begun releasing only ambient and drone material that didn't gel with my existing ambient/drone project (Echoes...Leytonstone) under my own name but when I found it had come time to lay ARMM to rest I felt it would be a good idea to continue some HNW exploration under my own name as well and really begin to broaden the palette for what I might possibly consider to release this way. This decision coincided with several golden opportunities to release physically as well and I now have HNW works under my own name in physical media more than with A Raja's Mesh Men. Where with ARMM, I had released physical copies of HNW work only with the great label of Cory Strand, Altar of Waste (a monstrous monolith of a label with an overwhelming and stellar body of work making up the catalogue) - under my own name I have released HNW with Sergey Pakhomov's Reason Art Records, Johan Hammarstedt's Ominous Recordings, Paul Kervegan's Static Dreams and Polwach Beokhaimook's Perpetual Abjection (and every release has been sublime, my undying thanks and love go out to all of those lovely people for bringing me into their folds). I think the very first HNW release I made under my own name was 2017's digitally self-released "Trials of the Night", which was recorded in one take over an evening and comes in at nearly six and a half hours.
The Mask Series is an ongoing look into the textural side to ANW, I have described it elsewhere as being loosely focused on visualization and interpretation - the visual aesthetic is that of framed pictures of cloud formations in sunset skies, with the frame being a color chosen randomly from the images color palette. I have a lot of personal ties between cloud gazing and wall noise and it just seemed like a natural thing to explore. It's definitely one of those series I'm probably going to make last forever and ever and continually return to even beyond a point at which I think it's concluded. As for sonic connections - all of the releases use the same setup, it is a 'crackle-centric' one which I also used for my [SSN] Technologist and A Ghost's Ghost projects that uses a Dan Electro Honeytone clip-on amplifier as part of the chain for extra sinewy, almost bit-crushed, crackling.
M[m]: one of the longer & more curious wall release you put out was 2015’s Sleep Of Death- which saw you recording a ten-hour wall as you slept and your set up batteries drained. Tell us a little bit about how the concept for the release came about, and what were some of the issues you faced with recording such a long work?
JS The term "sleep of death" comes directly from that infamous line in Shakespeare's Hamlet, in which Hamlet describes death as the long sleep. I happened to be reading that at a time where I was experimenting with longer and longer walls, when I first began using that aforementioned Honey Tone miniature amplifier I soon realized that the 9-volt battery would drain somewhat quickly compared to pedals that use AA or some other kind (I had and continue to have a habit of seeing what I can get out of battery life with pedals over using power supplies), and I also noticed a shift in the sound produced at the very cusp of the battery dying. I decided I wanted to track this properly over a long period. I spent a first "preliminary" wall discovering settings I was happy with and then slept to the wall as it played and recorded. The waveform alone showed that there had been a gradual shift in the sound - though, similar to the hypnagogia we experience before sleeping, it was a near-imperceptible one. Another issue I faced was chopping the complete recording up into sections so it could be uploaded to Bandcamp - in hindsight, I think the release suffered a bit for being turned into sections but it's a choice most wallers who go long-form end up making.
M[m]: Since 2014 you’ve run the HNW netlabel- please tell us how, when the idea of the label came about?
JS I can't exactly explain the "idea of the label" as it wasn't my idea, it was something I was brought in on. The HNW netlabel was founded by Luke of Social Drift in mid-2014 and he was running it on his own for the first thirteen releases, until later that year when he asked me to come on board and help him curate it as a partner of sorts, and so the first release I personally curated for the label was Uitgeschakeld's self-titled release in September. Fast forward to November 2015 and Social Drift's "The Ancow spectre" release and Luke decided to "pass the torch" so to speak and suggested I continue curating the netlabel alone from there on. I can't really thank him enough for bringing me on board in the first place and then also seeing something in me - an enthusiasm, most likely - that he decided to spur on with this gesture - and it noticeably had a profound effect on me because from that sixty-first release onward I really began to throw myself into the netlabels curation. The early days of the netlabel have a lot of nostalgia for me as do the early days of the 'HNW Harsh Noise Wall' Facebook group where I first came into contact with not only Luke but a large number of the artists who were present on the netlabel, who I would come to admire and even revere and some of whom have become close friends who I cherish a great deal as well.
M[m]: Thus far HNW netlabel has released an impressive 250 plus releases since it started- I know this will be a difficult question to answer but could select ten or so releases that stand out as your favorites & explain why?
JS That is a very difficult task to attempt but I'm going to do my best (and apologize profusely in advance to anyone and everyone who feels snubbed by their omission) - in chronological order:
1. Asleep in the Lake - Whispers from a Haunted Passage
This release was only the fifth or so selection from my side to the netlabel curation in the early days and stood out to me as a release I'll always remember fondly - I remember being surprised at how easily I had procured this very soon after discovering the project and being blown away.
2. Big Hole - Terror Of Abrupt Entombment
I recall first coming across Christopher's Big Hole project and being really impressed with how staunch and cold the walls palpably felt - and in online conversation, he seemed so friendly and down to earth and that pushed me into eagerly seeking out a release from him, I could not have been prepared for how much I fell in love with what he sent in.
3. Distorted Souls Within A Corrupt Vision & A Raja's Mesh Men - Moomin
It might seem a bit "off" including a release I feature on myself but this one has especially significant nostalgia for me as this was a live collaboration myself and Erika of DSWACV created when she came all the way down to London from Newcastle and we met in person for the first time after being in touch through the HNW group for a while - getting to make this collaboration felt like something out of a dream and the end result sonically really lived up to my high expectations - I also really love our joint decision for the thematic and visual focus.
4. Widow Park - A Natural Fear
Widow Park is Shaun Mara who ran Palinopsia Recordings and now runs the HNW imprint Needle & Knife (I'm not sure if this is still going or not but it has some phenomenal HNW works contained within already). Almost everything I've ever heard from Shaun has been incredible, this release especially crystallizes that for me.
5. Shurayuki-hime - Kanno Sugako
The second-ever release from the project (by Erika who did DSWACV among a handful of other amazing HNW projects) following the Rite of Love and Death release which was borne out of Lydia Musonic's 'Noisevember' initiative (like with NaNoWriMo, the idea is to dedicate yourself to making a noise track a day for the entire month of November as a sort of creative experiment and training exercise) which I also took part in a few years running with my own A Raja's Mesh Men project. Shurayuki-hime always had a giant sound and this release typified that well - the project itself came to stand out and define a tone and caliber of wall-craft that was very influential to all those around it at the time (I would just speak for myself but I really do know that I'm not alone in this).
6. Eurydyka - Decay
The Polish HNW project Eurydyka always struck me as criminally under-rated and I was so happy she was interested in taking part in the netlabel and even was up for allowing me to create some visual artwork for the release - several artists accepted my proposition or even expressed interest but didn't have a clear idea for artwork or even personally asked me about doing artwork for them, and this was a particular case I'll always remember where I was quite happy with what I came up with and how it reflected the release (you might see a pattern forming with me and pictures of clouds or skies in general).
7. Various Artists - 100 : Celebrating 100 Artists With HNW
I really couldn't omit this - when the netlabel had finally climbed close enough to this milestone I set about curating a huge compilation to mark the occasion and it really became such a beast of a thing - so many of the amazing artists involved returned to take part, many projects who had never released on the netlabel before found their debut and made a lasting impact, many were invited back for their own solo standalone releases following said impact as well. This thing is impossible to listen to in one go but it's really great to dip in and out of at your own discretion there are a handful of walls present that stand out among the respective projects surrounding catalogues.
8. Vide Médian - The Test Dream
Paul Kervegan has been a really great HNW connection for me, he's such a kind and friendly guy and he has a really good ear for wall noise that he's been developing for a while and it's been coming on in leaps and bounds. This release has a nostalgic element to it for me as it begins a charted journey of listening to Paul's walls and "growing alongside them" in a sense, I watched and listened carefully as Paul progressed through this project and eventually evolved onward to his current project, Runway.
9. Various Crackling Demons - Crackling Armageddon
Of all the themed compilations I've done with the netlabel, this definitely felt the most "successful" - much more carefully curated than usual - inspired in high-concept by Nemanja Nikolic of Dosis Letalis (and several other great projects) - every waller present offers a really strong contribution.
10. The Ebony Tower - Les Rougon Macquart
Mitchell Rotunno of The Ebony Tower project (and also Urban Decay and (A)sex among others) has a perfectly realized vision of literature-influenced wall craft and, in my own opinion, a dedication to long-form walls that goes above and beyond the calibre set by all other long-form wallers since and prior. This was a physical self-release of Mitchells that he honored me with allowing to host the digital archival version for - many of Mitchell's best releases have been self-realized in this way, from conception to physical realization everything is very detailed, very controlled, and simply immaculate - another one of my early HNW discoveries that dropped my jaw and sucked me into the world of wall.
As this list suggests, I have something of a nostalgic penchant for the older releases in the catalogue but that is not to say there haven't been some amazing standouts in the more recent releases - particularly Chuck Steak, Morosed, Solar Chrysanthemum, and Clive Henry have all recently brought releases to the netlabel that have really impacted and impressed upon me.
M[m]: What have been some of the most & least popular titles put out by the label?
JS The most played release of all time on the netlabel is The Rita's Tiberius Hetairai Korai, which is not unexpected at all, with almost 700 complete plays since it was released. That track is followed closely by La faille's Turgai vs, which opened the "100" milestone compilation and Vomir's Untitled from February 2015. There have been over 50,000 complete plays in total for the netlabel since it's inception - I'm not sure if that's good or bad, to be honest, it's not really something I'm concerned about. As for least popular - I can't really say, I don't like to hone in on that and pay close attention to what doesn't seem to grab listeners. There are a small smattering of gaps in the catalogue - at least two artists have retroactively asked for their releases to be removed for whatever reason (usually being unhappy with the sound in retrospect, which I find personally quite understandable, I'm a perfectionist about a lot of my own work and have removed some things of my own from places in the past too) - you could say these are the least popular since they are literally unavailable to current listeners and were never particularly well-listened to while they were still up either (as far as I recall, in most cases). If you were wondering what follows Vomir in the listening charts - you have Shum's Édes fény, élete utolsó órájában, the first Untitled from Shurayuki-hime's Kanno Sugako, Diamond's I'm waiting for you to make up your mind (from Pink and Blue),
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu- PONPONPON (HNW REMIX) by static KPP - then it's :0: by : "Colon-Atom-Colon (altered for site functionality)": - followed by Stand Master's You Have Two Possible Paths, First is to become a Chosen One, Your Other Path Is Death (from Black Sabbath). The charts look very similar for downloads - but with Valvan's Macabre and Chier's Empty Body joining the fold.
M[m]:Please discuss how you go about selecting what to release and are there any certainly themed releases you’d never put out?
JS More recently I have not been doing an incredible amount of outreach, most of the releases that come out have been sent into me as submissions by the artists. I do try my best every now and again to try and get back on the curatorial horse but it's something routinely met with phases of inactivity - often real life gets in the way as ever it does with everything like this. When I'm blown away by an HNW artist, I generally consider the feasibility of asking them to contribute to the netlabel pretty soon after the initial impact. As far as having any prohibited themes goes, I'm not willing to put anything out that contains explicit hate speech - this includes hate speech spurred on by racial prejudice, transphobia, homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, and so on. As with any musical release, sometimes the symbols and iconography, and the broadly abstract themes and motifs, implicitly point towards something which, ideologically speaking for myself, is not something I want to promote or be a part of in any way - in this sense, some releases don't have to be as "explicit" to still warrant omission from the catalogue, but this will essentially be more on the grounds of personal taste rather than necessarily principled prohibition.
When it comes to ideology there are always grey areas but I don't believe in platforming fascism or fascist artists in any way whatsoever - so if a release comes in from someone who has openly outed themselves as such elsewhere, and I'm privy to that, the release can be as innocuous as it likes but it won't be worming into the catalogue. There are several people who I won't work with simply because they hold a differing opinion to this one about the curatorial role within the netlabel platform and the responsibilities we have as curators - if you are willing to platform Nazism on the grounds of "free speech" or "neutrality" you have made a fundamental misstep in the logic of curating a platform - you are not willing to include anything and everything - get real - you curate your label to your own personal taste and to say "I have far left and far right projects featured, so I'm neutral" is to act as if your platforming does nothing and says nothing about how you relate to either ideology. It is my view that you cannot be a non-political label, to try and pick "no side" is in itself a political action still - as Tutu said, if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have sided with the oppressor.
M[m]: As you been involved with the wall scene for more than a few years now- how do you feel the scene has developed/ changed over the years? And what do you see as the both positive & negatives with-in the scenes development?
JS I really feel like the scene has changed so much in the time since I first felt myself becoming a part of it - back in 2014 some six years ago now. Understandably, the people who I was only beginning to become acquainted with back then, have continued to learn and grow and achieve as I have, alongside me, admittedly more often than not in a totally different country with a totally different life very far removed from my own, but all the same, it has felt concurrent. I would have to say that this time has felt like growth - even if there were in fact fewer people doing HNW now than there were back then I would still feel this is the case, as it's a kind of abstract growth. As things are currently though, I don't think that's the case at all, I think it really has grown in terms of numbers as well, though it's hard to accurately tell.
It's tricky to ascribe positive and negative attributions to the scenes development - I am personally of the opinion that growth is not necessarily quintessentially positive, there are possible forms of negative growth or an overwhelmingly positive growth that maintains negative aspects. One positive that comes out of a proliferation of artists is a renewed sense of perspective and a renewed sense of what HNW even is, or could be - the more new individual perspectives that take in HNW and attempt to become 'part of it', and the more increasingly diverse these perspectives become, the more the collective idea of what HNW is and means to us shifts and grows and diversifies itself. We see this in the emergence of the ambient noise wall descriptor for wall noise that is essentially still wall noise but lacks the immediacy and harshness of "HNW proper" - we see it again with the further sub-categorisation of drone/doom nosie wall, which goes a step further to suggest that, rather than there being a finite line between drone and noise, and a finite crossover point at which HNW turns into drone and vice versa, that we could begin to see forms taking place that specifically integrate the two in a way that we can recognise as symbiotic. All the while, the umbrella of 'wall noise' is being expanded to encompass new and interesting forms that take "HNW proper" as a starting point and feel outwardly from there.
A big negative that comes with the scene's growth is that as numbers grow, more people with no real interest in what the scene represents dip their heads in for a quick sense of it - either out of morbid curiosity or out of some sense that they stand to gain something from the scene despite not really wanting to be a part of it in any real way, there will always be opportunists out there but obviously, the more popular or even the more 'known' that wall noise becomes, the more these types will stumble upon it specifically. It's not exactly avoidable, of course, but it's worth considering and being careful about. Thinking about the HNW scene as a scene is not really something I spend an awful lot of time doing - let alone thinking about how the development of that scene might have negative or positive attributes - so I would say these answers are very much off the cuff but will have to do for now. I do spend a lot of time thinking about how others relate to HNW as a community though (and I feel there has to be some distinction here between the idea of a 'community' and that of a 'scene', even if it does end up boiling down to semantics) - mostly because I have received some of my most powerful and lasting senses of community from other wallers (even some whom I have never physically met).
M[m]:Are there any wall acts you particularly miss who have stop recording since you’ve been into the scene?
JS I've missed most of Erika's projects as they've come and gone, DSWACV and Shurayuki-hime particularly, for a long time it has seemed like she would not return to HNW and it still seems that way a bit but I have come to hold out hope for the eventual possibility of a return of some kind - though at this point it doesn't really seem necessary, she has already provided such a monumental body of work and she continues to make great music outside of wall noise regardless, and even continues to make great noise outside of wall noise too.
The same goes for Andrew's A View From Nihil, I discovered that project when it was still active and I recall the HNW BBQ event at Brixton Windmill with Andrew, Clive Henry, Marlo Eggplant, James of Small Hours, Tom of Genetic Noose, Robert of Unearthed was on that one too I think? I'm probably forgetting everyone. Clive still works on wall noise to this day. James still works on wall noise albeit under new aliases and I suppose I could say I miss Small Hours. Most of the artists behind wall acts who I have come to know and love are actually continuing to record to this day and I'm pretty grateful - it makes it hard to 'miss' one project when you know the creative force behind it is forging on new paths.
M[m]: I know you’ve played more than a few shows now- please discuss some of your favorite performances?
JS It's funny you should bring this up - while I have performed live a great deal by now, I have very rarely tried to perform an entirely HNW set live. One of my most recent attempts was also one of my most recent live performances in general - I performed HNW live while eating a pizza at New River Studios in Harringey, to open the first night when very few folks had turned up, for a two-day noise event I put on to welcome Johan of Ominous Recordings for a London date on a tour he was doing. I think the same goes for a lot of wallers, they will often try and go a bit more "interesting" for a live performance even if they have recorded a great deal of outwardly very "monotonous" wall noise. Clive Henry is a great case in point - I have been very fond of his HNW ever since I came across it, but I was even more dumbstruck by the great chasm between that and his live performance (even though he has a knack for interestingly dynamic HNW that often fails to break free from the shackles of "HNW proper" whilst really experimenting with what's possible within that) - although I have come to learn to see the two as going sort of hand in hand in spite of their great difference. Seeing Erika perform as both Distorted Souls Within A Corrupt Vision and later as Shurayuki-hime supporting Vomir - these three sets have stood out to me as perfect examples of "HNW proper" done live and done in such a way that the monotony does not "overcome" the audience or the sense of the performance that they receive in a meaningful way. Alongside this, there was also the time I got to see Black Leather Jesus play here in London, with Svartvit supporting as well - this night of performance definitely goes down in my memory as one of my all-time favorites. As for my own shows, I don't think I could ever pick a favorite - I'm not sure I even have the memory to appropriately determine which live performances of mine were specifically wall noise focused and which stood out on top of those.
M[m]: Could you discuss your eat pizza set in a bit more detail? Where are you using the eat as a source for the wall?
JS Honestly, there wasn't much else to it. I had billed the opener for that night as an alias I'd never used before so nobody was expecting it to be me eating pizza to wall noise - in fact, even I hadn't expected it to take the shape that it did. The visual aspect was entirely unplanned and uncared for - I just happened to be hungry and got some pizza from the on-site kitchen at the venue - the set itself was all about the aural aspect of what I was doing, I was entirely focused on the wall and didn't really want people to focus on what it was I was doing but what it was the wall was doing.
M[m]:Talking of HNW shows in general- why do you think it’s difficult to often get these off the ground?, and why do you think that more often than not the turnouts are so small compared with the seemingly fairly large following online?
JS I think it's hard to get noise shows off the ground in general and there is always the most obvious reason - it appeals to a very small niche of people. In London there is a fairly active but splintered scene going on for noise broadly. You have the industrial and power electronics bubble, shows for big groups like Genocide Organ really pull big numbers and even smaller acts have pretty good turnout too. You have the free jazz, musique concrete, etc. division of experimental music that leans into noise often with relatively well-attended noise shows happening at places like Café OTO - for The New Blockaders or Taiwanese noise label Kandala Records for instance. Then you have straight-up harsh noise stuff, often with a preoccupation for wacky instrument-building and the use of circuit-bending, folks like Cementimental come to mind immediately.
For HNW - there is no such bubble, no such splintered fragment of the scene, it really is a group of people you can count on your hands that are ever likely to care enough to show up for a show. With that said, an international HNW artist will pull a good turnout on their reputation in the wider scene - the shows I've been to for Vomir and Black Leather Jesus here in the UK were well attended, for instance, but the HNW BBQ I mentioned wasn't in comparison (honestly I can't recall too well, I don't think it was a bad turnout as such but I certainly can think of times I've been in that very same venue with it actually packed and it was far from it for the wall noise show). I think there are plenty examples of HNW artists who are lesser-known performing well-attended shows, often because they're paired up with a not entirely wall noise line-up - when it comes to trying to do a totally HNW show, you're really narrowing the appeal down to that small niche I mentioned
M[m]: What have you got coming up next both from yourself & the label?
JS Part of the feelings I have of success around the HNW netlabel coupled with the sombreness of its eventual "slowing down" in pace has caused me to take my sense of enthusiasm for curating off the back of that and invest it in new ventures with more of a focus on crafting a specific visual aesthetic that accompanies a specific sonic identity as well. I began this with SSN Technologies, a netlabel for all things vapor. I had, at the time of founding it, begun to notice a lot of experimental vaporwave and vapor-leaning noise work and I was really interested in this intersection. The netlabel is meant to be for all things vapor and all things noise - while the visual side reflects this commingling. Then a while after this I founded Terrarium - somewhat similar to Bose Mann's Nature Noise Wall netlabel - Terrarium is specifically focused on biologically themed noise works (and not exclusively HNW ones). Now, currently, I have begun a fourth platform that had started out in my head as a direct result of lockdown and a sense of creative exorcism I was experiencing in the heat of the pandemic period we've all just been through - Small Worm. Initially, it began as another netlabel, with really no limit on what sound could possibly fit it, the entirety of its exclusivity rested on my requirement for the visual side - that my minimalist artworks make up all of the platform's visual aesthetic. I have developed this idea a bit since starting and now intend to do super limited tape runs with the platform alongside digital releasing as well. I have already put out the inaugural release - D.E.S.T.T.C.C.O.L.V. - which is a very old online collaboration between myself and Erika Leaman, this goes all the way back to my initial inception into wall noise, back to 2014 through to 2016, and it has sat on my hard-drive all this time since then - this was limited to ten copies and they managed to sell out within a day and a half of going up on the Bandcamp! Off the back of this, feeling enthused, I have put into motion plans for an inaugural batch, that will feature the next four releases similarly on very limited runs of cassettes. This has been practically my main focus for the past two months or so - with the Mask series being semi-shelved as a result (though I do have one new one in the pipeline) and work towards new 'blackened noise wall' as Roadside Dead being semi-shelved also (though something I had actually worked on a while back was recently released on Jan Warnke's Northern Flame sub-label to Gerauschmanufaktur). I think it's reasonable to assess that my focus on Small Worm is most likely going to mean for the foreseeable future I will maintain the lack of outreach I mentioned earlier when it comes to the HNW netlabel and mostly field submissions only. I do intend to begin compiling for a 300th release milestone compilation when I come around ten releases, maybe five, within that number, though I may try to get creative with it and give it a theme and curate it more carefully rather than try and drum up another free-for-all that tries to break the bank of submission numbers, as that kind of compilation feels a bit tacky after a while.
Thanks to James for his time & effort with the interview. James Bandcamp can be found here here, and HNW Netlabel is here, where you can check out the two hundred & fifty-plus releases.
Picture credits: menu picture Gen26 / Matjaz, first picture Luca Migliore, college by James ShearmanRoger Batty