AIM LOW “Our mantra throughout booking this was to make it the most negative show ever,” says fest organizer Shane Broderick, arms raised at right, with Twodeadsluts Onegoodfuck.
Inside the dusty corner room of a dungeon-like warehouse basement, Karl Giesing dumps out a bag full of pedals, samplers, grimy cables, and homemade synth boxes. Their functionality seems questionable. Giesing, clad in black leather jacket, scratches his goatee, and it starts to come back to him.
“Shane Broderick did a backflip into my gear at the end of my last set. I’m not sure if any of it’s going to work.” Turns out everything’s fine when he plugs in — you can tell from the awful, tortured-livestock sounds suddenly bleating from his speakers. Crisis averted!
Performing as Karlheinz, Giesing plays a kind of music called power electronics, a well-worn format in experimental circles hated by plenty for its vicious noise, violent shows, and creepy lyrical content obsessed with murder, fascism, rape, and worse. There are no beats, no melodies; there’s nothing resembling a sing-along chorus. It’s Hell’s Angels without the bikes, horrorcore without the fans. “This is a very anti-social type of music.”
This weekend, the second annual Northeast Noise and Power Electronics Festival promises to cram into O’Brien’s and Jacque’s Cabaret the nastiest line-up of diseased audio spew imaginable. Locals like Karlheinz will bash heads with relatively world-famous pioneers like Consumer Electronics, Bloodyminded, and Strom.ec (from Finland), with bits of grindcore thrown in for good measure.
I meet with Broderick — who organized this edition along with Egan Budd’s Existence Establishment, and who’s headed the vile trio Twodeadsluts Onegoodfuck for almost 10 years — at his apartment on a quiet street in Medford. “Our mantra throughout booking this was to make it the most negative show ever,” he explains.
They’re off to a good start. The bill includes names like Anal Hearse and Vomit Arsonist. Broderick’s outfit is known (but not guaranteed) to strip naked, tackle audience members, and throw chairs. Others are reported to have used arc welders and tear gas on stage. Peter Sotos, a member of the British group Whitehouse, was once arrested on child-pornography charges (which were dropped), and he’s been known for decorating ’zines with swastikas. On top of all that, local anarchists Anal Cunt are playing. Seems like a miserable time all around.
Power electronics as a genre began when Whitehouse broke out in 1980, and it’s gone through remarkably little change since. It was brutal electronic noise on the heels of the industrial howl of bands like Throbbing Gristle and Einstürzende Neubauten, the last frontier of shock terror music. Scads of US and European bands followed suit, never breaking big but building tiny, fetishistic fan bases around the world. Power electronics is the end of the line, way out past the last vestiges of taste and sensibility. And it’s lonely out there.
I ask Giesing whether he or others in the Boston PE crew have been banned from anywhere. “In a sense, we’re banned from everywhere, because the club owners all think no one will come to see us.”
This stuff was not designed to get fans — pulsing, churning growls forced from racks of electronics, mic feedback, vocalists barking and screaming. Over the phone from Chicago, Mark Solotroff, founder of Bloodyminded and the influential Intrinsic Action, puts the appeal bluntly. “I just want to see a good show. I want to be entertained, and I want to see something I can’t see at every show.”
Solotroff, who runs the label BloodLust and dabbles in freelance trend research for advertising agencies, has eased up on stage lately. “I don’t go out of my way to be mean anymore.” I ask whether it’s gotten any easier to reconcile a normal day-to-day life with one that involves walls of feedback, puking noise loops, and screaming songs like “Shotgun Held to Face by Severely Cross-Eyed Addict While Attempting To Remove Girlfriend from Known Drug House.” “When you’re at dinner with your parents and they want to know what you’re working on, you just kind of slump down in your chair, because those conversations never go well. There’s never been a point where this stuff has been socially acceptable.”
I wonder whether that will ever change. “No,” Solotroff says. “And probably for good reason.”
THE NORTHEAST NOISE AND POWER ELECTRONICS FESTIVAL | November 6 at Jacque’s Cabaret, 79 Broadway, Boston | November 7-8 at O’Brien’s Pub, 3 Harvard Ave, Allston | $25 | 21+ | http://lasciviousaesthetics.blogspot.com for full line-up and ticket info