By now, many of you are enjoying Decibel’s August issue, #118. Perhaps you’re excited because it’s The Godflesh Issue, and the emphatically awesome return of that project is certainly worthy of your enthusiasm. Maybe you’re psyched about it being The Melvins HOF Issue, a look back on an extraordinary record by an influential band that never settled for less than exactly what it wanted from the medium of recorded music. Maybe you’re stoked about the MDF-in-review section because you either a) weren’t there and want bite-sized accounts of a handful of performances, or b) you were tragically stoned during several sets you wish you could remember better.
Or maybe, if you’re one of the true degenerates, you got all hot about the new issue because it’s The Noise Issue. Details about new Boris, Theologian, and a survey of some of the best Noise albums to have been recorded. Noise, when separated from clearly musical endeavors, can piss off just about everybody all of the time, but without those scarring wave forms there would be no way for metal to achieve its attitude and its aggression.
In celebration of this month’s noise theme, TMaFLH focuses on skull-rattling harsh noise that defies musicality and grasps at the outer edges of sound production and appreciation. I recently attended a metal showcase at Stonewall’s Pub, a bar in Shepherdstown, WV located in the basement of Tony’s Pizza, and the opening acts were jarring and profound. One of the first to play was Guillermo Pizarro, a local noise performer who I’ve spent some time with at various other area shows. His slow decimation of the venue (the content of which you’ll understand better by reading the interview below) shocked the audience with its single-minded strangeness. I was most intrigued by a contraption that looked a little like a robot porcupine – a “little black box” of contact mikes and lengths of guitar strings.
Check out Pizarro’s Bandcamp presence for the full range of recorded material he has made available. You can listen to some of that work right here while you read about Pizarro’s current inspirations and collaborations.
Can you outline the trajectory of musical interest that eventually led you to making harsh noise?
I’ve never felt fully comfortable making conventional music. Be it in content or actual skill as a guitarist. I was just fully aware that there were better musicians out there making better albums, but I still felt like I could offer something to myself and an audience. So I started experimenting with drone. That slowly started evolving into harsh noise.
What was the first recorded piece that you recall being excited and proud of? How did you make it?
I would have to say that the second, self titled track from my Glasswerks album would be the first recorded piece that I felt proud of. I just knew I wanted to make something caustic and crashing. I remember Anal Cunt’s “5643 Song EP” being an influence for that track as well, in that I did 3 different takes and stacked them on top of each other. There are some pretty neat synchronized moments. I want to come back and explore more of that style at some point.
Can you describe some of the pieces of equipment that you use (or have used) and where you got them from?
As with many other noise artists, I rely heavily on contact mics. Pieces of scrap metal and broken drum cymbals are my go to sound source. Most of the scrap metal are just things I’ve found on the side of the road or at these abandoned train tracks a couple of miles from where I lived.
I just recently started messing around with a 4 channel mixer which has helped in dynamics and creating layers. I still kind of dislike them, cause it’s just something else I have to hook up and worry about. I normally play through a Mesa/Boogie Mark IV amp through a Boogie 4×12 cab or a 2×12 cab if I know the venue is a little smaller. I feel that using that set up has helped me keep a reliable, consistent sound at each show.
My pedals are pretty consistent. A few get switched out depending on the situation or piece that I plan on performing, but mostly it consists of a looper, reverb (Boss RV-3 or Hardwire RV-7) LAL Thunderbox, a couple of fuzz or distortion pedals and a Whammy.
When you play live, do you use the same equipment as when you record, or do you use less due to portability constraints?
Yes and no. I use the same materials and pedals, but amp wise I use much less. When recording I usually run through a Marshall or Mesa/Boogie halfstack and an Ampeg SVT through an 8×10 cab for extra oomph. Live, I use my Mark IV halfstack or sometimes with a 2×12 cab if the venue is smaller.
What is your performance experience like? How widely have you performed (geographically) and at what kinds of shows?
I try to play in dim settings, mainly for comfort and to separate the audience from identifying sound sources. Not for secrecy reasons either. I just feel like a lot of audible impact can be lost if you clearly see that, that really cool sound was maybe just a guy scraping a knife across a drum cymbal.
I’ve been really lucky to be able to travel to some states I’ve never been in because of experimental music. The furthest north I’ve played is New York, south was South Carolina and out west I’ve made it to Kentucky and Ohio. Oberlin, OH was one of my favorite places to play. Great crowd, hosts and town.
Shows can take place in someones basement, bookstores, warehouses, yoga studios, art galleries, universities and cafes/restaurants. It takes a special kind of someone to allow these things to happen in their homes or place of business.
Have you found a community of supportive artists to work with and book shows with?
I certainly have. A pretty wide community, too. Christopher S. Feltner, it’s safe to say, is my partner in crime. I’m very grateful to have him as a friend, tour mate and collaborator. I’ve also had a rare opportunity to work with Gleb Kanasevich as well. He’s just a phenomenal musician who luckily has a passion for weird music. James S. Adams and Chris Videll are frequent collaborators, too.
To what extent have you incorporated musical instruments into your work? Who are the players you’ve worked with for that material?
On my most recent split release with Charles Wright: “Handsome God Within Us” I used guitar, bass and clarinet on most of the tracks. Gleb Kanasevich of course [takes] clarinet duties. Gleb will also be appearing on the “Tribute to Jack Dempsey” recordings that will take place soon.
Arterial is a guitar noise trio with Christopher S. Feltner and Stephen Palke. I also participate in un[KNWN] with Gleb which is his project.
What are your current sources of inspiration for your material? Do you feel like your noise project has continuing forward momentum?
The majority of my inspiration comes from where I live, people I interact with, other people’s music and creativity and books. I feel like performance wise, I’ve hit a plateau. Partly because I haven’t found ways to translate newer recorded pieces into live performances, so I’m still playing variations of older pieces. I see the plateau as a good thing though, it means I’m aware of myself as a performer which will allow me to get to the next phase.
In the studio I feel opposite. I’m always working on new ideas and concepts that don’t feel stale to me. I definitely think that things are moving forward in that department. Hopefully my audience will agree when these next few recordings get released.