MUSIC: walls of sound, noise, and me

dyingmotherFor most people, my m2 music project is an unlistenable collection of self-indulgent wankery. They might be right. I can’t claim it’s particularly musical or tuneful. For me, though, it’s very personal. It’s something I’ve been doing for a long time, but only recently for others to hear.

For years I’ve recorded music like this for me and me alone. There is something very cathartic about getting lost in a wall of sound. I’d been doing it since I got my first guitar in 1992 or so. Most of the time I never even recorded it. I’d just plug in and let wail. It was ear-splittingly ugly — and I loved it.

The first recording I can remember was a 45-minute piece made up of layered feedback. I didn’t have a four-track at the time (this was in 1993), but I could sorta do multi-track recording by plugging a pair of Walkman earphones into the mic jack of my cheap bookcase stereo. It was one of those dual tape decks where you could dub tapes, and if you dubbed a tape while also recording through the mic you could layer things on top of one another. It was really rough and you had no real control, but it was something.

So one afternoon I took a tape — I remember it vividly — which had R.E.M.’s Green on one side (written with green ink) and Document on the other (written in orange ink). Plugged in my shitty yellow guitar into my shitty Gorilla practice amp, cranked it way up, and let feedback drone and shift and swell for an entire side of the tape. Then I rewound and did it again, layering a new set of feedback on top of the old. I did this maybe four or five or six times.

It was probably unlistenable, but for me, at least, it was damn near meditation music. It was soothing. Relaxing. Think of the last few minutes of the Smashing Pumpkins “Drown,” but without drums or bass. I listened to it quite a bit until I discovered this Flying Saucer Attack collaboration. (That’s around when I discovered that “real bands” actually did this stuff, too, and that others actually liked it.)

I have no idea whatever became of that tape.

musictotriptoIn fact, the vast majority of those early recordings are long since gone. I once had a shoebox filled with a few hours worth of four-track tapes that were primarily either early noise music, or recordings of me and the guy I did Slumbersigh with making walls of noise in my dad’s basement. This was around 1994 and 1995. We’d go down there, drink a load of Sam Adams, and drive the neighbors crazy with wall-rumbling roars.

Sadly, Only two or three clips survive from those days. You can a very brief surviving clip in “Asshole” from Music To Trip To: The 1994 Xmas Single, the first cassette of music I ever gave out. (You can download the whole thing in this zip file, including bonus “songs.”)

A track that sort of shows what kind of ear-splitting feedback I used to do is “Forgetting Prozac” from that same tape. I say “sort of” because it wasn’t meant to be a bunch of layered tones, it was meant to be the abrasive, annoying, chaotic end to a “real” song. It’s taken from the end of a joke song I did called “Fat Boys Need Love, Too.” It was a goof (on someone who didn’t deserve to be goofed), and at the end of the song I flailed around with my guitar and made a bunch of noise. This track is the end of that song. I no longer have a recording of the song itself, only a few minutes of the ending feedback.

When I finally did with the first m2 record in 1998 and sent it out to the world — I first “released” it on cassette and CD, and years later on mp3 — it was on a lark. Some obscure college station in Arizona actually played some tracks during its overnight experimental music show. That was cool. But I considered it a one-time thing during a time when I was doing a lot of noisy experimentation. Didn’t do anything else like it for close to 10 more years.

eighttimesaloneIn 2007, I decided to go ahead and release some more m2 music. The result was Eight Times Alone. Amazingly, people liked it. Not many, of course, but people who appreciate tones and drones seemed to enjoy it. I just kept on recording from there, kept putting stuff out there for people to hear, and haven’t stopped since.

The thing is, for me these records are cathartic. Behind all that fuzz and the bizarre song titles and vague looking album art, they mean something to me. Some of them tell stories. Others are experiments in sound. ALL of them are an important part of the way I vent things from my system.

And yeah, I do listen to them. A lot, actually. Maybe it’s weird, but I put these records on and get lost in them. They’re all recorded spontaneously, always improvised, never planned out, always unexpected, always the first take, so in that respect it’s pretty easy to maintain a distance from the music since it tends to pour out all on its own. Once recorded, I could not replicate these pieces if I tried. I may have created it, but in an odd way it’s new to me.

So my tones, drones, and walls of sound and noise? Now you know.