A Brief History of Noise with Producer Martin Bisi

There are those bands that are a “Band’s band.” They may not end up on massive tours or sell 10,000 t-shirts, but other musicians have a deep, abiding respect for them. And for nearly 40 years Martin Bisi has recorded a whole lot of those bands. 

Whether it’s Sonic Youth, Boredoms, John Zorn or even Herbie Hancock, the NYC producer/musician has forged a truly incredible career recording groundbreaking and eclectic music that’s helped shape multiple genres.

Bisi is headed on tour next week to promote his solo work which, to no one’s surprise, shoots off in whatever experimental direction the man finds interesting, and is absolutely fascinating. Those dates are below, but first watch him spill anecdotes about his work with bands like Swans, Helmet and Unsane. 

Mind Over Matter – “Suffermouth” from Automanipulation

This band really immersed me in the Long Island post-hardcore sound. Actually, singer George Reynolds’ “Strong Island” accent was pretty pronounced, even he was taken aback. He insisted on going back in spots and cleaning up his accent.

Season To Risk – “Jack Frost” from In A Perfect World

This band was my first band from the Midwest. Really a synthesis of opposites – part math-rock purists, part psychedelic. Really a great noise band at heart. With seriously, one of the heaviest, in a gnarly sense, basses I’ve recorded.

Unsane – “Body Bomb” from Total Destruction

When we turned this in, I got a concerned message from someone at the label, Matador, that something was wrong with the masters. I started to worry, but then there was a follow up, that they’d played it for Gerard Cosloy, the label head, and he said that’s how it was supposed to sound. But it got me paranoid for a long while. It got me thinking I messed up the sound. Was it all the vocals going through a Rat pedal? Was it the cavernous room the drums were recorded in? Now I think it’s pretty perfect. Nothing sounds like that anymore.

Psalm Zero – “The Drain” from The Drain

This duo come from the “cult of precision” in music, and metal specifically. An odd match with me as I relish some slop. But nevertheless, great to hear Charlie Looker’s Medieval/Gregorian sounding chants, contrasting Andrew Hock’s metal grunts. They can’t have one without the other to make their point – precision as a mantra, as a prayer on this record.

Cop Shoot Cop – “Surprise Surprise” from Ask Questions Later

“The government lies” – ha. Good to remember. Probably the heaviest non-electronic industrial band of the time. People thought the higher of two basses was to make the low bass heavier – not quite. It was to make the samples and keyboard more twisted and bigger. This was a real learning experience in recording car parts incorporated into a drum kit – contact mics on a radiator! 

Swans – “I Am The Sun” from The Great Annihilator

I still stand by this monster 80’s reverb overload. Really, put this on big speakers in a carpeted room, sit back on big pillows, really turn it up, and disappear.

Helmet – “Wilma’s Rainbow” from Betty

I think they succeed musically despite their nerdiest intentions – gated guitars so it’s “even tighter” (why?), as little personality as possible, as un-pop but still with a structure. And yet, it’s catchy. And I never noticed while recording it. Years later in a bar, I’m like “who is the catchy Helmet-y band,” and it was this song.

Cinema Cinema “Shiner No. 4” from A Night at The Fights

This band were Superstorm Sandy refugees. They lost all their gear in the flood, blocks from my recording studio, which narrowly escaped. I met them as they were pulling their ruined stuff from their space, two days after the cyclone. We forged a bond over the topic of survival. Shortly after they recorded this record with me. And year after that, they went on the Black Flag Victimology Tour.


US – Martin Bisi w/ Tidal Channel
Apr 7 – Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
Apr 9 – Durham, NC @ Duke University, Brickside Festival (matinee)
Apr 9 – Asheville, NC @ Static Age Records
Apr 10 – Nashville, TN @ Drkmttr
Apr 11 – Arlington, VA @ Galaxy Hut

Europe – Martin Bisi
Apr 19 – Zurich, CH @ Rote Fabrik + Sound and Chaos documentary screening
Apr 20 – Geneva, CH @ Urgence Disk
Apr 22 – Brussels, BE @ Magasin 4
Apr 23 – Ghent, BE @ Cinema Off Off + Sound and Chaos documentary screening
Apr 24 – Ghent, BE @ Cinema Off Off + Sound and Chaos documentary screening
Apr 26 – Grenoble, FR @ Cinema Juliet Berto + Sound and Chaos documentary screening
Apr 27 – Paris, FR @ Detail
Apr 28 – Lisbon, PT @ Lounge + Sound and Chaos documentary screening
Apr 30 – Porto, PT @ Sonoscopia + Sound and Chaos documentary screening
May 4 – Stavanger, NO @ Cementen

US – Martin Bisi
May 13 – Brooklyn, NY @ Alphaville
May 26 – Brooklyn, NY @ Shea Stadium