Archive for September, 2008

IfIHadAHiFi / White Wrench Conservatory "Search for Snufflegus" Tour 2008: Vol.1

September 30, 2008

Photo by Logan Jacobs

Milwaukee rock scene mainstays White Wrench Conservatory and IfIhadAHiFi (pictured) embarked on a three-week, 15-show tour over the weekend, playing their first date in Indianapolis this past Sunday; Bloomington, Ind. on Monday before heading to Columbus, Ohio en route toward the east coast. HiFi’s Dr. Awkward will be checking in from the road once a week until the band comes home in mid-October. st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) }

Howdy, y’all, DJ a.k.a. Dr. Awkward from IfIHadAHiFi here. The Fan-Belt folks for some reason have allowed me some space on their blog to distract you from more important Milwaukee music news to recap the tour we’re currently on with our partners in crime, White Wrench Conservatory. Currently we’re chilling in Bloomington, IN at the abode of our pal Rob from the tremendous Tremendous Fucking. Since today we discovered a suspicious thumping noise down by one of the wheels on the van that will need to be looked at tomorrow, I feel like now’s a good time to recap a phenomenal first day before unanticipated repair expenses ruin our damn mood. So! On with the show.

Fantastic first day. The drive was uneventful and a slew of buddies and pals were waiting for us in Chicago. Bear Claw are old friends of ours from their days in Carbondale, which they referenced onstage (“hey, remember when we played Bo Jr.’s in Carbondale and you threw your cymbal stand in the river?” Note: I was sick and that stand had been giving me shit, ok?). And Ellie Maybe and Dixie from WWC became fast friends at this year’s Steel Bridge Songfest in Sturgeon Bay, making the show just a big ol’ sick gross lovefest. Adding to the fun was the fact that the Brewers took game one of their season-ending series against the Cubs, putting the Crew a game up on the Mets for the NL Wild-Card. So obviously I needed to talk shit from the stage while proudly sporting a Milwaukee t-shirt.

We were also surprised by an appearance from the great Thax Douglas, Chicago poet about town and music scene mainstay. Thax is known for writing poems about rock bands and reading them before they play; the first time we met him was when he showed up at a show we played in Chicago in 2001 and asked to read a poem he wrote about us. Tonight he wanted to debut “IfIHadAHiFi #2” before our set, and obviously we obliged. Totally made my entire night. The set itself was pretty furious—we slammed through a solid mix of old and new songs, plus threw in our cover of Killdozer’s “The Buzzard” to give Yale some mischief time in the audience. Response was great, we played well, and Yale stuck his head through White Wrench Thom’s shirt and carried him on his back. Good times.

Tonight got us off on the right track financially, too–$120 for us and the same for White Wrench, which we knew would be the most we’d make for the next two days. After the show we made our way to Thom’s friend Mark’s place for late night wine and Mexican food. A certain adult-themed video in Mark’s possession entitled Bring Back the Pussy 8 has now fueled approximately three straight days of horrible n-stage banter and in-van jokery. It’s hard argue with packaging plastered with phrases like “whatever happened to good old-fashioned pussy fucking?” and “what about girls who don’t do anal? They need to work too!” With logic that difficult to refute, how can you go wrong?

Final Night 1 Tally: Bottles of wine consumed between two bands: 4

Stories above ground Slater from WWC puked off of outside the apartment: 4

Number of “Bring Back the Pussy” jokes told: approximately 25.


Review: 10 things we love about Milwaukee Noise Fest

September 29, 2008

Climax Denial pulled out all the stops to blow the minds of the Milwaukee Noise Fest audience at Borg Ward this weekend. The third annual event assembled by Milwaukee artist Peter J. Woods hosted 28 acts from across the country over three days.

-Photo and story by Dan Agacki

Peter J. Woods is a great man. For three straight years, he has managed to put together Milwaukee Noise Fest. This year, it was 28 acts in three days. I stood through each and every one of them. And I have to tell you, for being labeled “noise,” the groups were a lot more diverse than you would think. Something for everyone, probably not, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come out to noise shows and give ‘em a try. Here’s my list of the top ten sets of Milwaukee Noise Fest:

10. Sonic Typewriter Having previously witnessed them and thinking they were terrible, I was willing to give them another shot. Glad I did. Their set started out as a sonic swirling mess and later transformed into a more structured Neu-like instrumental jam. A good start to the second day.

9. Druids of Huge Guitar flailing teamed with erratic drums and harsh electronic rumblings. Brief and intense.

8. Drunjus I had to laugh initially, because these guys looked like Devendra Banhardt cronies. They set up with the only light in the room being the red glow of an amp. Pedals sprawled all over the floor. Gradually warping sounds, it really reeled you in.

7. Slow Owls Mike had been performing as one half of Mildew for years, so I expected good things. No letdown here, just a harsh but diverse set.

6. Stillbirth Coming all the way from Boston, Stillbirth closed out the second day. Layers of guitar loops with distortion added as the set moved along. A nice bookend to Sonic Typewriter’s opener.

5. Boy Dirt Car Not sure of the exact number, but I know that they hadn’t played in at least 20 years. Their low placing on my list may have a bit to do with the fact that they were following two harsh and intense acts. The psychotic poetry read over churning death dirges didn’t quite evoke the same reaction as the preceding acts, but as the set wore on I was won over.

4. Anal Hearse A single red bulb lit the room. The crowd lined up on all sides for a barrage of violent electronic wailing. Visually and sonically appealing, this set was the total package.

3. Peter J. Woods The curator of the event put in one of the best sets. After a lengthy and much heckled speech, he pulled off one of the more gripping displays I’ve seen. Starting with ambient violin samples, the set became more aggressive as it went along. Afterward, Peter looked exhausted, a true sign that he put everything he had into the performance.

2. Burial Hex By the might of the Burial Hex set, I left the first night of Noise Fest astounded. A single candle and incense burning set the tone. Dark aggression flew through the room. The crowd responded with fists raised above their heads.

1. Climax Denial After Peter’s set the crowd was pretty rowdy. Alex was just the guy to bask in it. With the red lighting ambience, similar to Anal Hearse’s set, Climax Denial blew my mind. He balanced the rumbling electronic blasts with amusing crowd interaction. Even when he tripped over a chord and shut off all his equipment the crowd kept egging him on. Never have I seen anything as dually brutal and hilarious.

TGIT: Our Weekend Picks!

September 25, 2008

Image of Mondo Lucha courtesy of Myspace
Thursday, September 25th
Milwaukee Noise Fest @ The Borg Ward, (through Saturday, September 27th), 7 p.m. (823 W. National Avenue)
Fan-belt blog recently has covered two highlights of the Milwaukee Noise Fest (Boy Dirt Car and Climax Denial). The Peter J Woods-run event takes over the Borg Ward from Thursday until Saturday, featuring a roster of originality of the upmost. Check it out *here*.

Friday, September 26th
James @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m. (1032 N. 4th Street)
Dye my eyes and call me pretty…all eyes will be on the band from Manchester, best known for songs “Sit Down” and “Laid” and for being part of the ‘Madchester‘ scene. In response to their newest release in nearly seven years, Hey Ma, James is touring Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis, before heading to the West Coast and then back to Old Blighty.

Saturday, September 27th
Mondo Lucha Variety Show @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7 p.m. (1032 N. 4th Street)
Because Turner Hall Ballroom so aptly described this event, we’ll leave the words to them:

“The gears are turning and the parts are falling into place. The live spectacular that is Mondo Lucha Variety Show is starting to take shape. Never before has the city of Milwaukee been so unaware of the next ‘big thing’ hurling towards it like an out of control Haley’s Comet set to leave a path of destructive fun…the total package. A live performance showcasing the art of Lucha Libre Mexican wrestling, Burlesque, Comedy, and the best in local music. A gonzo variety show unlike anything you have ever seen!”

Is it true? Only those who venture to experience the chaos, will find out.


Interviewed: Climax Denial at Milwaukee Noise Fest

September 25, 2008

Image courtesy of Myspace
It can’t be denied — Alex Kmet of local noise band Climax Denial doesn’t view or approach music the same way as most people do; in fact, he’d probably be grouped into a slim ten percent of the entire global population. For true musicians, though, music is not just a high school popularity contest. Those that view it as such would most be unlikely to hear the overtones of one, singular note played continuously for minutes on end, nor would they find music in the screech of feedback, the wash of pedal fuzz or various eerie, looped sounds as thrilling as three-part harmony. 

For Kmet, that’s okay, because he’s got the proper viewpoint to gain full appreciation of all this and use it to create some of the most interesting compositions and arresting performances that win him an esteem that is genuine. This weekend, Climax Denial will be launching Boy Dirt Car’s reunion performance at Milwaukee Noise Fest at The Borg Ward. Kmet talks to Fan-belt‘s Erin Wolf about this, and the true beauty of noise.

Creating feedback is done in many genres besides noise music, but most feedback is guitar-manipulated…without the guitar, what is your essential equipment for creating the desired feedback for your music?

Guitars are for wimps, let’s make that clear. A cheap microphone and a heavy-duty distortion pedal cranked to the maximum are all you need for optimal eardrum-damaging feedback. 

Feedback is often the staple of my live performance — it’s simple and effective. I don’t go for all the pretentious frills like ‘guitars’ or ‘rehearsing’ or ‘bass guitars’ or ‘pleasing my audience’, like musicians do.

Where do you prefer to perform — smaller or larger venues/spaces?

I have played in tiny holes and I have played in larger spaces, but it’s not the size of the venue, it’s what you do with it. I prefer to perform for an energetic crowd. The more psyched, the better, using as loud of a sound-system as possible. It’s a matter of vibe and volume, only.

As far as collaboration goes, would you consider it, or is it better to write independently?

I like to have total control. I have collaborated in the past, but I much prefer flying solo. If you write a song with your left hand, it’s like someone else is writing it. My project is my means of personal expression, so I don’t want anyone else involved who would only inject their own silly problems.

Who do you admire in experimental/noise music in Milwaukee? Nationally?

Peter J Woods is my hero. Custodian is one Milwaukee harsh-noise dude to look out for. Everyone else here is doing some great stuff. Let’s not talk of any acts who are not from Milwaukee, as this is Milwaukee Noise Fest.


I really like Enya, actually. Oh, and Kate Bush.

What’s going through your mind about playing alongside (specifically, right before) an act such as Boy Dirt Car, who paved the way for many Milwaukee musicians, such as yourself?

It’s exciting that they are playing, but I wish Eric Lunde was still in the band. I’m a little nervous about playing directly before Boy Dirt Car, though…I don’t want to upstage them!

Climax Denial is performing as part of Milwaukee Noise Fest this Saturday, September 27th at The Borg Ward (823 W. National Avenue). 6 p.m. door, 7 p.m. show.

Boy Dirt Car — A Joyful Noise

September 24, 2008

image courtesy of Myspace
Milwaukee Noise Fest (Thursday, September 25th-Saturday, September 27th) will be offering locals a pretty complete lesson in the truly loose term that is ‘music’. Forever a term-defied, nobody in the city was more defiant than Boy Dirt Car, Milwaukee’s first footprints of noise music, formed in 1981 by Darren Brown and Eric Lunde.

Playing shows with Sonic Youth, appearing in Ann Landers columns and wreaking general sonic havoc was all in a day’s work for the original group comprised of Brown, Lunde, Keith Brammer, T.S. Wahlen, Dan Kubinski and Dave Szolwinski. Described as “[creating a] sound not like being in a car crash, but of being under one”, Boy Dirt Car pushed the limits of their boundaries, both near and far. Perhaps there were never any boundaries to begin with? This is apparent, as Boy Dirt Car has just released fresh music and are now partially reunited to make an undeniably indelible performance at the Borg Ward this Saturday. Fan-belt‘s Erin Wolf speaks with Darren Brown about history, technology and the future of music with no boundaries.

Milwaukee Noise Fest is the first live performance Boy Dirt Car will make since the 80s, and there’s newly released music (Spoken Answer to a Silent Question). What was the impetus for creating music as Boy Dirt Car again: recording, releasing and playing a show?

Survival. Boy Dirt Car was never to be taken lightly, it’s a hearty breed of survivors that have taken to the stage and studio.

Some of our collaborators are unable or unwilling to join us in our twenty-seven year re-emergance at Milwaukee Noise Fest. Spoken Answer to a Silent Question was created in 2006 and released in 2007. So, it would seem that 2008 is the year to have the opportunities of collaborating with old friends to record and perform.

Could it also be a response to the musical environment in the city now, with events such as Milwaukee Noise Fest and enigmatic musicians and collaborators such as Peter J Woods solidly backing noise music?

Forward with abandon — using our collective past as stepping stone. I am encouraged and proud of the current situation in Milwaukee. The city has a long tradition of supporting original and experimental music. Boy Dirt Car was active in the 1980s; that was a vibrant time in Milwaukee, but Boy Dirt Car has always had a strong isolationist stance.

How did the change in recording/instrument technology change the approach to writing and recording from the last Boy Dirt Car release to this one?

All pre-2006 Boy Dirt Car recording projects we made on multi-track 1/4″ tape or cassette. No digital recording at all. We begged, brewed and stole our way into simple home recording studios. Spoken Answer to a Silent Question was shaped in a digital era. The multi-track first version of the project was lost when the only hard drive containing our recordings was destroyed.

We were left with rough mixes that were used as the bed tracks providing direction to Spoken Answer to a Silent Question. The vocals were recorded in Seattle and added to the final mixes.

Who were Boy Dirt Car’s local supporters and enthusiasts in the 80s? How has the receptiveness of the environment for noise music (your music was labeled as ‘industrial’ back then) changed?

Wall Street Journal labeled us ‘junk rock’ in ’86.


The ‘top ten’ on the wall of shame:

1. Glenn Branca encouraged us to just make it happen for ourselves.

2. Tense Experts — we used their space and gear when they were on the nod.

3. University of Wisconsin (especially art school) — our first gigs.

4. Die Kreuzen — collaborations and supporters who took us on the road (and why not? If you are too young to recall, Die Kreuzen f*ckin ruled the world. You would have never seen a harder-working pop group).

5. Tony Selig — booked us on many shows with Psychic TV, Sonic Youth, TSOL, Fred Frith…also presented Boy Dirt Car countless times at his club, The Underground. Joined in on the Metal as well. Bless him; R.I.P. Good man.

6. F/i — introduced us to RRR for our first LP release.

7. RRR — released three vinyl LPs

8. …

9. Bill Stace, aka ‘Pa Dot’ — first recorded us.

10. Anne Landers introduced us to the nation.

Photo courtesy of Myspace

Is Boy Dirt Car’s reappearance a fleeting thing, or are there plans to write and record more in the future?

Check with me after the show on Saturday.

Yes, we are recording, doing performances and rehearsals, and I hope to put out a live album of the noise festival appearance to share with the world. The first Boy Dirt Car double live LP RRR Records released in 1986 is in the process of being re-issued for the first time on compact disc in Poland.

So, the Boy DIrt Car virus spreads in our absence through the Lexicon Devil re-issues…

What/who has got your attention in noise music in Milwaukee right now, and what do you think about the terms ‘noise’ and ‘shit-gaze’? Is this type of music forever unpin-able to a term or genre, or does the word ‘noise’ suit it?

I currently reside with my wife of twenty years and daughter in Minneapolis. My recent experience in Milwaukee was November, 2007 when TEXAR (my duo with Rick McCollum) performed at Hotcakes Gallery. TEXAR received a wonderful reception, performing on a bill with Karl Paloucek. That kind of opened my eyes to the current Milwaukee experimental scene. ‘Shit-gaze’ is a new category to me. Not sure if we have this scene in Minneapolis. We have Ice Volt in the northland. Which Milwaukee composers are ‘shit-gaze’? Are there going to be ‘shit-gazers’ on the festival bill? I better check with Peter J Woods about ‘shit-gazers’…

This is the legacy of Boy Dirt Car.

We make a joyful noise.

Boy Dirt Car will appear as part of Milwaukee Noise Fest on Saturday, September 27th at The Borg Ward, 823 W. National Avenue. 6:00 p.m. door, 7:00 p.m. show. More information can be found *here*.