Blk/Mas returns to Noise Fest

It’s almost that time of year again! Central Florida’s loudest tradition returns on November 11th when St Pete Noise fest returns for its historic tenth year. Taking the form of a single day onslaught, SPNF will feature a myriad of some of the harshest, weirdest, and eclectic group of sound artists both local and national. The party starts at noon downtown in Williams Park and continues through the evening at Cage Brewing.

I played my first SPNF way back in 2010 with Stickfigure, and have played several since as one-half of Blk/Mas. I am happy to be a part of the milestone tenth anniversary, and to be a small part of the last decade of noise.

If you’re a fan of strange music/sound, or just plain curious I hope you’ll check out SPNF in some capacity. Click here  for the complete line-up of acts.

Come on out and say hi!

 

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Why Noise?

When faced with the walls of static/skeletal percussion/electronic blips and bleeps the average person has to ask, exactly why in the world would anyone make noise? Why would anyone listen to this stuff? I’ve fielded these questions on more than one occasion, and I never quite know what to say. I usually simply shrug my shoulders and just tell them “I dig it”. Yet, the answer may be more complex.

Why do anything? Why make music? Why write poems? Why paint a picture? All art comes back to self-expression; it’s a matter of what medium best suits you to express yourself. As an artist whose primary function is that of writer I can express most of my innermost feelings with words, and when words reach an impasse and can‘t adequately say what I am trying to say cut-up technique can take me even further.

However, there are things that are so unspeakable or literally beyond words and that is where sound comes in. Sound for me expresses those indescribable, abstract things that even I can’t put my finger on, or even know that I’m feeling. Noise expresses those primal emotions buried deep and beyond words. I can’t go those places within the narrow parameters of traditional music. How can I discover new places that are not on any psychic map if I’m following a very strict road map that dictates tonality, rhythm, and musical alphabets?

I am just not as interested in creating music as I am in creating sounds. I am interested in creating atmospheres, moods, and soundscapes. I am interested in how sounds interact with other sounds and I am interested in how they affect human consciousness. Much like with words, or interestingly enough most any medium I pursue, I am fascinated with deconstruction rather than construction. Above all, I am concerned with self-expression and navigating inner space rather than outer space. I am simply not interested in formula, song structures, tonality, rhythm, etc.

I am not “anti-music”, in fact, I find comparing music to noise very much like comparing apples to oranges, similar but vastly different. I’ve always enjoyed listening to traditional music but it did nothing for me as an artist. I suppose I could look back honestly and say it possible I did not have the discipline to become a talented traditional musician, but I could also wager it did not hold my attention enough to demand discipline from me. I listen to music a great deal, and sometimes I will sit around my house with my trusty bass guitar and play for the sheer joy of it. However, when I feel the need to express myself music does not come to mind as an option.

Let’s put all that introspection aside. As much as those are possible reasons many of us make noise, I’d wager it has little to do with what started many of us on this noise path. I stumbled onto noise as my path of musical discovery started getting more and more weird and extreme. I can’t put it any more plain than to simply say I thought it sounded cool. Soon after I discovered it was fun to do as well. I guess it really does come down to the simple fact that “I dig it”. The catharsis I feel after playing a set of noise is incredible, the places I go when listening to noise music is limitless. That is all I ask for in art: no limits.

Korg Volca Drone Machine Trick

From time to time I’m going to be posting not only some noise jams over at my YouTube channel, but also some tips and tricks for my various equipment… or using musical equipment in non-musical ways. The above video is the first of Volca Sample videos to come, this one is a simple trick to turn your Volca into a drone machine.

Hope you dig the video, if you do I hope you’ll take the time to subscribe to my YouTube channel!

First Impressions Of The Moog Mother 32

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A few days ago, I finally got my hands on the Moog Mother 32. This semi-modular synth has been out roughly a year now, but I am often a day late and a dollar short… or in this case, six hundred dollars short. However, as the saying goes better late than never and that certainly rings true here.

Before I go further, let me give you a disclaimer. I am not a technical guru, and am not a professional musician. I am a noise artist who is new to anything beyond your basic synths. If you want a technical review, it is probably best to look elsewhere.

First, a shout-out to Sweetwater Sound, I truly won’t order my gear from anywhere else. They offer fast free shipping and have impeccable customer service. No, they don’t pay me to say that. My package arrived safe and sound, and I had the contents ripped out of the box in record time.

The obvious first impression is that the Mother 32 is a gorgeous machine, sturdy and handmade like you’d expect from Moog. It also comes with a pack of five patch cables, and an extensive user’s manual.

This machine boasts all the controls you would expect on your average analog synth, but with the inimitable lowpass and highpass Moog filters… a difference you’ll notice as soon as you start tweaking knobs. I already had an Arturia Minibrute, which I love, but nothing can beat that classic Moog ladder filter. That’s not a knock on the Minibrute, which is still a valuable part of my rig… but rather a testament to how great Moogs sound really is!

The Mother also boasts a 32-step sequencer, which has a bit of a learning curve, at least for me, I’m sure more experienced, and knowledgeable musicians could dive right in. However, after just a little reading I am more than in love with its features, which include the ability to program in KB or Step mode, accents, ratchets, etc.

Then of course, there is the 32-point patch bay for extended modular possibilities. I have a lot to learn in this regard, but there are enough resources out there to get you started in the right direction. The patch bay was a major selling point for me, as I’ve always been interested in learning modular, and this is an affordable option. Once you find yourself going down the modular rabbit hole the Mother comes out of its desktop casing and is eurorack ready!

This synth also plays well with others via the patch bay and a MIDI input. I have hooked this machine up to other synths, sequencers, and even my theremin… as if the Mother wasn’t already awesome enough!

Whether you are a total synth novice or a seasoned pro, you will be having fun with this minutes after it’s out of the box. If you are like me and have always wanted a Moog, but didn’t necessarily want to spend the money, this is a great starting point.

I absolutely love this machine, and can tell it’s going to be a part of my live rig for a long time to come.

Of Noise And Random Self-Analysis

We pulled into the industrial complex around dark, parked, and I cracked open a beer in what is the usual pre-show ritual. A small crowd was starting to build and there were already a few familiar faces of folks just as strange as us, people gathered here at the Venture Compound to do strange things in the name of art.

The Venture Compound is St Petersburg’s best-kept secret, and easily the most important destination in the Tampa Bay area for avant-garde youth, weirdos, and outsider artists of all disciplines. While nestled inside the warehouse arts district, the graffiti covered façade is hard to miss… standing out like a beacon to purveyors of all things odd.

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This night was a special; it was the kick off of the ninth annual St Pete Noise Fest, a two-night celebration of noise/experimental music. Once again, our band Blk/Mas was lucky enough to be a part of the festival.

Due to my job’s constraint on my schedule we don’t play shows anywhere near as much as we used to… in fact, I had to hold on to my very last vacation day just to insure that I would make this, my favorite show of the year… the first night, anyway.

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Three beers later, it was already time for us to play. My buddy Shawn took his place behind his modular system, while assumed position behind a theremin and a turntable. It’s comical that no matter how many times I do this I am utterly nervous beforehand. However, once we start our set I lose my self-consciousness, and what we do becomes the aural equivalent of spontaneous prose. Fifteen minutes and it was done, another one in the books.

I got to see many bands I hadn’t had the pleasure of watching before, and I don’t think our set was half-bad either. It’s odd. We have been doing this since we were teenagers, I don’t think I ever really imagined ourselves in our forties taking on the role of reluctant elder statesmen of the noise scene amongst some people half our age. It’s fine… and I imagine myself still doing it another twenty years from now provided the scene will have me.

Of course, I use the term “elder statesmen” because it sounds cool… dignified even. The truth is we are probably more accurately described as a couple old weird middle-aged guys. However, here at this place, a haven for the adventurous and the outcast, it is okay. Perhaps we signify hope in the fact that you don’t ever have to grow up.

I’m overthinking it though, we are two shy wallflowers likely not noticed by anyone until we take the stage. That’s fine though, it is not about us… it never was, it was always about the sound.

We left several acts later in the night as festivities still rolled on. As always we found ourselves reinvigorated and inspired by the St Pete Noise Fest. However, hunger and real life was calling. It would be back to the factory soon, but I would be returning to work feeling much lighter on my feet… the result of another catharsis of glorious noise.

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4 Poems and The Return Of Blk/Mas

I’m pleased to announce that I have four poems up in one of the best blog/zines around for challenging literature, Otoliths. It is another issue packed with exceptional writing, if you’ve never checked out Otoliths you are missing out.

The electronic/noise/experimental project of Shawn Blackburn and myself, Blk/Mas has finally returned with a new album download. X + Quantity Of Me may be our best effort yet, and I hope you’ll check it out, along with all the other stuff we have to offer over at The Awareness Factory.