Stone Age HAA The Holy MAA

Stone Age HAA The Holy MAA

Writing - Noise - Magic

Monday, July 22, 2013


David Russell Stempowski (b.1977 - Lorain, Ohio) is an experimental Musician, designer and art preparator. He is absolutely one of my favorite performers, who considers all aspects of expression in his work.

You can find his work here:

ARH: What are you working on now? Please describe current projects you’re most excited about. Are they collaborations or solo work?

DRS: This past year my focus has been on my "hard goth" band MURDEREDMAN, where I'm the singer. We are a rehearsed band that incorporates performance art elements into our live shows. Sonically we're descendant from late 70's goth punk and 90's Amp Rep / Touch & Go style bands. MURDEREDMAN is the band I've been waiting all my life to perform in, the musicians are all veterans of the Cleveland rock scene and they provide me with an alternating palette of heavy and melodic songs on which I can express myself through vocals, visuals and body language. Beyond my voice I like to use an assortment of lights, mirrors, flowers and eccentric outfits. However, as much as I've been in an "only one band" mode I seem to find myself being called upon quite often to perform under my solo moniker, Collapsed Arc. I actually prefer to play with other musicians, I greatly enjoy collaboration whether improvisational or rehearsed. Playing solo is mentally taxing on me but I must say that it does generate an exciting outcome live. Beyond my band and solo project I frequently collaborate with Wyatt Howland (Skin Graft) in a number of forms. Wyatt and I have a highly developed musical language that relies on texture, pattern and volume rather than on chords or measures. 

ARH: When and how did you get into performing? Feel free to discuss any influences and early experiences.

DRS: I started playing the drums at age ten and quickly found myself playing in school bands soon after. I've always been attracted to a life on stage. I went to a small elementary school and then a small high school where, at times, I was the only drummer so I ended up playing in a wide variety of academic musical groups. It was in my high school marching band where I felt the most satisfaction though. The combination of musicianship and physical showmanship excited me. I also enjoyed the fact that marching band situated itself within football and cheer-leading to create an amalgamate of cultures. I love the cross pollination of cultures, I suppose this is why I combine aspects of visual and performance art, ritual, music and non-music into my artistic endeavors.

ARH: Since you’ve started performing, have you noticed repeating cycles in terms of style and energy of experimental music? How would you describe the current zeitgeist? What interesting regional differences have you noticed from traveling?

DRS: The cycle that first comes to mind is that of the generations, of youth and of aging. I am currently 36 and watching young artists in their early 20's discover experimental music. At the beginning there is a purity, an excitement, possibilities to be explored. Discovering what a contact microphone does as opposed to honing what you yourself do with it. The younger generation is inspired by the scene that proceeded them and in turn they often lend renewed inspiration to the older generation. This is a cycle I am curious to experience as I move into my 40's and 50's.

The current zeitgeist I experience in northeastern Ohio and the surrounding American midwest and east coast is one of innovation. There are two directions I see my peers moving in, one that embraces modern technology and one that rejects it for a backwards dystopian exploration of things. But regardless of whether an artist is exploring modular synthesizer or junk metal harsh noise I see a lot of ingenuity.

To be honest I haven't experienced too diverse of regional differences on this side of the country. But when I spent some time in San Francisco it seemed to me that musicians out there paid more attention to performance, to their bodies, their costumes, their physical movements and expressions. Many of the cities between the midwest and east coast see the same acts touring through and listen to the same musicians growing up, the real diversities happen when geography separates the influences or when the actual geographic environment varies greatly. Within the midwest and east coast the differences I've picked up on are in attitude not necessarily in technique or style.

ARH: What qualities excite you in performances of others? What takes you by surprise and keeps your interest in experimental music?

DRS: I respond to visual ingenuity, movement, feats of physical endurance and the use of non-musical elements. Some of my favorite artists (like Ryan Jewell, Headboggle, Bee Mask, New Pledgemaster) utilize atypical approaches and objects in their practices. Overall I think that experimental music and "noise" music has kept my attention because it is filled with outsiders searching for new techniques and new sounds. The fact is that experimental music, most of the time, is not music at all, it is sound art.

ARH: How does language factor in your creative process? Does your inspiration often begin with words or sounds – how do these interact? Does crossing of the senses factor in your work, such as sound and image?

DRS: Regarding language, as a singer, I typically begin to write a song by creating rhythmic patterns through scat syllables before attempting to construct sentences. I've always been most comfortable approaching music through rhythm so I often find myself using my voice to lay down a foundation first even when I'm creating sound outside of my role as a vocalist. I remember my first drum teacher telling me "if you can't say it, you can't play it", we would begin reading through sheet music vocally before letting the sticks hit the drum heads. Regarding the crossing of the senses, when I first moved from the drums on to keyboards, voice and various noise generating devices I composed music as a series of gesture drawings, I found it very easy to interpret visual marks into audio expression. I love incorporating visual elements into my sound performances with video and slide projections. I feel that experimental music, especially when it is instrumental in nature, lends itself heavily to visual companionship.

ARH: Do you feel performing is a spiritual act and/or ritual? If so, how does that work – how do you use ritual awareness in your work? If not, how would you describe the performing process in terms of mental, physical and emotional transformation?

DRS: This is a difficult answer to put into words. Spiritual? Eh, no. Ritual? Absolutely. I have different modes of mental preparedness I go through depending on the situation. Before I perform with my bands MURDEREDMAN or Jerk I go through a period of getting into character much like an actor would do before a play. Sometimes this requires a period of no social contact before the performance. When I am playing experimental music I go through a process of channeling my overall non-verbal perception, my emotions, into a cohesive connection between my hands and mind. When playing solo the entire performance is a series of ritualistic motions where each movement informs the next choice. My solo equipment consists of an assortment of pieces of metal, glass and hand percussion instruments along with non-sound generating objects for visual effect like baby powder and flowers. I have very ritualistic motions I make with each object, some of them overt, some of them intimate and unknown to the audience. I was heavily influenced by the rituals of Catholicism as a child, I always loved the structure of mass, the blessing of the hosts and the swinging of the incense. Catholic mass and marching band both offered captivating structure and pageantry to me in my youth.

ARH: What do you think the future holds for you as an individual artist and experimental music generally? What is the relationship between local and global experimental music now?

DRS: My future will always be to continue walking the line between chord and discord. No matter what genre of music / sound I am applying myself to I find that I always take a sideways approach that incorporates something beyond what the ear perceives. My professional career installing art in museums and galleries continues to inspire me to bring visual elements into my personal endeavors in the audio arts.

The future of experimental music is no different than the past history of experimental music. Artists who find themselves outside of the accepted constraints of their medium will always continue to explore new ways of thinking, listening and handling the tools of their trade. There are infinite sounds to be made and recorded.

It seems that throughout the world experimental musicians often come to similar simultaneous end points given the technology available at any point in linear time. These end points take on different flavors when they are informed by specific regional cultures, having the opportunity to listen to music from around the world cross pollinates these local scenes and we all become a little bit closer as we influence each other throughout the decades.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Michael Credico is an MFA candidate at Cleveland State University, where he is the editor-in-chief of Whiskey Island Magazine. Michael and I were in several classes together in the NEOMFA program, and I always enjoyed reading his short stories, which buoyantly carried me into a poignantly familiar surreality. I also enjoyed his insights on writing in our class discussions. 

ARH: What projects are you working on right now?

MC: In between working on a literary journal called Whiskey Island and live-tweeting baseball, I’m writing a good amount. Toward a collection of short stories, I think. But who knows? Really.   

ARH: When did you start writing, and what changes have you seen? Do you feel part of a local writing community? If so, what’s it like, if not, how important do you feel a writing community is? Do you feel a sense of community with writers you read but don’t know personally? What excites you about the writing of others? How would you describe the literary zeitgeist?

MC: I’ve been writing since I was little. Scribbles here. Scribbles there. I wasn’t one of those kids that wrote endlessly. I still think Little League is more fun than writing. Drew a lot. In high school, I’d write my own words to various song melodies that I enjoyed. That was probably what sparked my interest in the sounds of words and sentences. Other than that, I’ve been writing seriously for about two years. 
I don’t feel like part of any writing community locally. I know they’re out there, but I am generally not comfortable with community-type situations.  
With that said, however, community is important. Absolutely. There should be some sense of competition when it comes to art. Not in the I-am-better-than-you way, but in the that’s-great-now-how-can-I-top-that sorta way. At least that’s how it worked for McCartney, Lennon, and Brian Wilson. 
As far as community with the writers that I love but do not know personally, I relate to guys like WC Fields (who is not merely a comedian, but also a preeminent artist) and JM Coetzee, because I think our aesthetic and personalities are similar.  
I only get excited about the writing of others when the writers are excited about their writing. 
I don’t know what the literary zeitgeist is at the moment. I’ve been reading a lot of bad poetry lately, and the only word I can think of is “playfulness.” My goodness. 

ARH: Who are your favorite writers and influences – and how do those other voices interact with your voice as you write? Do you ever read literally as you are writing, creating a mental back and forth? Do you read certain things while working on certain projects? Or on the other extreme, are there certain things you avoid reading when you write?

MC: I won’t list all my favorites, but the two biggest influences on my writing have been Oscar Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant,” which is my favorite short story, and the news. Ninety-percent of what I write can be traced back to a news story or an article in National Geographic. I’m also constantly reading the “List of Unusual Deaths” entry on Wikipedia. 
When I write, it’s usually in silence. Most of my stories form in the shower or during naps or on walks or while reading the news, though, so my actual writing time isn’t my most creative time. I think often and write rarely. I should probably change that at some point. Balance the two a little. But so far this has worked out well for me. 
Also, I cannot read Donald Barthelme or Lewis Carroll when I write or want to write, because I end up imitating the piss out of them, which is a terrible thing to do because imitating ingenuity is self-defeating and boring.

ARH: What is story? Why do human beings make stories?

MC: Stories are curiosities. The what-ifs or whys or remember-whens we all have. It’s probably innate to humans like language, which brings up a question I’ve always had, but never bothered to think about completely: Are stories born out of language? Or is language born out of the need to tell stories? 

ARH: Fictional structure seems to mimic the structure of ritual, which mimics natural cycles of regeneration. A space is created, or a world is entered, the reader becomes the protagonist and experiences ordeals that lead to climax and change. Do you feel that when a reader enters a story, he or she is entering a ritual experience of sorts? How does that work?

MC: This is true, though it isn’t limited to fiction. Spirituality is necessary to art. And I actually think it’s necessary to the sciences as well. The question is, what is spirituality? I think it’s the feeling of being moved, or wanting to be moved. 
As far as rituals: I guess life is a ritual, or cycle. And we realize this, whether looking at it scientifically or not. And life informs art. Life informs life, for that matter, which is a pretentious thing to say, huh? 

ARH: The act of writing involves transitions both difficult and pleasurable: between the right and left brain, generation and revision. The senses are engaged in weaving details of sight and sound, touch, smell and taste and other bodily sensations to mimic experience. The writer also must step back and look at the macro structure, the conflict, the patterns of movement. This mental/emotional shifting can be intense. How do you handle it? Do you have set ways to trigger your way in to a story? Do you have writing rituals?

MC: This question makes me think about sex. And I think I might handle the process of writing the same way I handle sex: Let one thing lead to another and hope for the best. Sometimes it’s special. Sometimes it’s not. The only difference is that when I’m writing, I’m able to edit the sad parts. 
My only writing ritual (not related to sex) is napping. It has always sparked my creative side, and I read somewhere once that Ray Bradbury encouraged napping as part of the creative process, so that lessens the shame a bit.  

ARH: How does sound work in your writing? Do you ever listen to music when you write, if so, what? Do you ‘hear’ the language or voices of the characters as initial inspirations?

MC: I focus a lot on the sound of the sentence. But not in a way that is musical, necessarily. I have a pretty unique way of writing, which I’m proud of, mostly. I guess I just like my sentences to sound a certain way, or at least they come out a certain way and it makes me happy. Sometimes I think my sentences are ugly sounding. So much so that they seem kinda pretty. 
I don’t listen to music when writing. I prefer silence. Or a blowing fan. 
My stories are generally inspired by phrases read in the newspaper, or a sentence I write that makes me smile a little. Sometimes I’ll I latch onto an overheard phrase. I listen to people. Watch them. You never know what you’ll see, or what you’ll discover. Eavesdropping is a great way to break writer’s block. Sometimes you see a person at a gas station or mall and think, Yes. You. I know exactly who you are and what you’ve been doing. It’s now up to me to put it on the page. 
Again: Let one thing lead to another, and the buttons may just unbutton themselves for you. 

ARH: What are your writing plans? What are you excited about?

MC: My writing plans? Lots of nothing-in-particulars. I’m just typing away and seeing what good or bad can come of it, which, if I’m being honest, is actually very exciting.

Monday, July 8, 2013


I was delighted to next pose questions of noise, language and consciousness to Kristen Ban Drake, one of my favorite performers. Kristen often performs under the name Ann B Klorox, whose Facebook page describes as "a one woman band of Voice, Vowel, Nostril & Analog Synthesizer & other ready noisemakers." She plays low to the ground, using everything: her toes, her many voices, mysterious texts.  

I asked Kristen for a brief biography, and she efficiently synthesized her impressive body of work as follows:

Bio by Decade

20’s--Mad Dog 20/20 Induced Poetry Readings.
30’s-Sound & Language Group Improv Work: MommieHood.
40’s-Slam Poetry & Audio Art Work. 
50’s Gone.
60’s Back, sorta. GranmaHood.

ARH: What are you working on now? Please describe current projects you’re most excited about. Are they collaborations or solo work?
KBD: Well now Amanda I do wish I was sitting across from your gorgeous head & body now and we could just hear this interview. I know (snaps finger) I will just write in the sounds I would be making like they do in dramatic scripts, how’s that? (nod and shake swish of Amanda’s gorgeous hair).
So I am sorry to say I am never working on anything. If you take the ING of it, you might say that I have work in my head, but I rarely entertain the thought of doing much about what is in my head unless someone asks, and I feel like I have the time. But right now what is in my head is Aunt Kris’s Dance Party. It’s either going to be an actual party or a performance if someone asks me to fill a slot-- maybe both. It will be a dance mix featuring my baby synth, my feet and exciting toys I am going to steal from my huzband and grandson (cackles merrily)... But yes,  Aunt Kris’s Dance Party is just the sound and motion about how my body has changed as time has gone on. Lucky for me I have been doing Yoga since I was 16 and I danced all through college and practiced a marital art for quite a while too. But  much of that (twirling sound of desk seat as I spin round and round happily) was 20-30 years ago. And I still love my body. 

ARH: When and how did you get into performing? Feel free to discuss any influences and early experiences.

KBD: I am realizing that I was very to fortunate to HEAR at an early age both the sound of Alice In Wonderland being read out loud and Shakespeare. I remember being furious (snarls)  that I had to wait for this babysitter I did not care for to come and read it to me, and that was a huge impetus to teach myself to read rather early--so I could read it out loud to myself. And In the fourth or fifth grade, I saw Macbeth onstage.  I was totally blown away.  I mention this as way of performing because when I began writing, nothing I wrote was ever unspoken--even if I did it up in my bedroom closet.  The first time I did a reading In Cleveland in the early seventies, no one was more surprised than me at people being surprised that I could do it so well --for a girl (giggles). The other big surprise was how wonderful the whole sound of it was--bar sounds, whooping from my friends---a bunch of hookers were clapping and dancing along, it was fantastic.  That’s probably when I realized how elemental sound was, and how it was nothing more than Cause & Effect.

ARH: Since you’ve started performing, have you noticed repeating cycles in terms of style and energy of experimental music? How would you describe the current zeitgeist?

KBD: Hmm..experimental music. Talk about Cause and Effect. Sometimes I think experimental music is really just the deep respect for cause and effect--so respectful that you leave everything else you know behind when you play and/or listen to it. It’s been around forever. I could not tell you about any cycles but I expect my huzband Bob Drake could, and I have to say, when I dropped the notion that he was just this dopey hippie boy (big laugh) who was following me and my cool avant garde friends around many years ago and sat next to him to watch Tom Cora and Skeleton Crew play, I felt that openness for the first time. I knew very little about improvisational music at that point, but it changed my ears forever. 

ARH: What qualities excite you in performances of others? What takes you by surprise and keeps your interest in experimental music

KBD: I could not tell you how I decipher this but--but I like mastery. It is quite wonderful to watch someone who knows their equipment, their craft, their body & mind & therefore knows and embraces all the infinitesimal possibilities that come from putting all that together. Knows--and (chuckles) has no fear.  Because that’s when the essence escapes.  Even when someone becomes momentarily furious or absent  because something didn’t work--that can very masterful too.  And when you get that among a group of people who are also really REALLY listening to each other in a collaborative effort, the surprise is--(claps hands excitably) you get to go along with them too. So that is my interest & surprise, yes. I am happy to report it STILL surprises me, even after all these years. No one will ever hear it all. That’s quite grand.

ARH: Do you feel performing is a spiritual act and/or ritual? If so, how does that work – how do you use ritual awareness in your work? If not, how would you describe the performing process in terms of mental, physical and emotional transformation?

KBD: It’s so hard to say why people perform. There must be several reasons and I expect for some people, it’s a need to be heard, to express themselves, to be  Somebody. There is nothing wrong with that unless it often leaves you disappointed or somehow feeling even less heard. That could happen.  (Big sigh) What I know of spirituality which comes from being a practicing Buddhist (Tibetan-Vajrayana) is that the more you dissolve your I am This and I am That the closer you come to who you (and who we all ) really are.  I will say that this is not an especially calming, comfortable, therapeutic  or um, stress-free process.(guffaws). Here’s is an interesting story. When our kids were finally on their own, I elected to go on a seven year home retreat with my Sangha. I made some serious commitments to my practice, which abruptly changed my priorities and the way I spent my time. At about the same time, my huzband, who I had always performed with, got himself back out in the world again with his wondrous  talents and a whole new group generation of people rediscovered what an incredible musician he is. And I just pretty much disappeared. On the rare occasion I would go out, people I’d never seen 
before  would come up to me and say things like “do you know who he is, he’s like the Synth Godfather blah blah..” and they wouldn’t even know I was his wife, much less a performer myself. I was no longer my Stories. It was very very difficult--until it wasn’t. 
I suddenly found myself back at square one, muttering to myself in my bedroom again & possibly more sure about the value of performing than ever before. That indeed, it had never been about  me, but about what was happening to everyone around me and how I fit into that.  Now its interesting to think that possibly performance is just a Ritual that enables to to get back to that,  to let sound & language & motion trip us into a present tense that might actually be our true nature after all. I have no idea if that is the case.  But I do know you don’t necessarily need a power strip to do that. Well, maybe you do at first......(twirls around on chair giggling)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


I interviewed my husband Mitch, aka The Doctor, for the second interview in this summer series. Mitch has had wonderfully diverse music experiences from living in several countries and playing in many genres. Mitch has always been interested in pushing his band Fascist Insect into all kinds of strange eclectic places, especially the farthest regions of grind and abstract electronics, as well as all kinds of in-between cut-ups/mash-ups. He’s also put out many beautiful releases over the years, including annual four-way splits. He used to release under the name Black Maggot Noise Productions but has lately preferred to simply describe his releases as self-released. When he chooses to book shows or fests, he always puts thought into booking diverse bands, as he is a strong believer in cross-fertilization. He puts energy into every aspect of whatever project he’s working on, including developing a unique style of flier art. 

MRR: Hi, my name is Mitch Ribis, 36 years old from Cleveland, Ohio. I go by the name The Dr. in Fascist Insect. We formed in 2007 as a Hardcore/Metal outfit but veer wildly between anything we consider heavy. Right now we (Fascist Insect--which is also Ammo Killson on vox and drums) are working on super-short/bursty HC/thrash/Doom songs with myself on vox and guitar.

ARH: When and how did you get into performing? Feel free to discuss any influences and early experiences.
MRR: I come from a family of performers – my first public musical performance was with my then-band Slum Scum in Shah Alam, Malaysia when I was 18. There was another band on the bill that night called Happy Nightmare whom I sat in with on vox for covers of "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "Creeping Death" at the end of the show. Other unusual performances? Lessee...opening for Japanese grind legends Damage Digital with my old band Enslaved Chaos in Kuala Lumpur in 1997, winning a litre of vodka at an open mic contest in Britain in 2001 (doing "Looking Out My Back Door" and similarly terrible), doing Anthrax's version of "Got the Time" at karaoke in Budapest in 2005, and doing "Rocket Man" at our DFAC (cafeteria) during lunchtime karaoke in Iraq in 2008. General experience? Practice as much as possible for even the seemingly most insignificant performance...

ARH: Since you’ve started performing, have you noticed repeating cycles in terms of style and energy of experimental music? How would you describe the current zeitgeist?
MRR: Before, you could get several different genres...let me revise: before people (well fuckit "I") didn't know there were even different genres of Noise. Now there are more shows but each show is a different subgenre of Noise/Experimental...Noise bands are migrating to different scenes/genres like Doom and Thrash. There's more crossover than ever. It's like jazz-fusion all over again but with heavy post-Industrial era music.
ARH: What qualities excite you in performances of others? What takes you by surprise and keeps your interest in experimental music? 

MRR: Energy and originality for sure. I guess what grabs my attention the most is originality, heaviness, and emotional response to the jams being played. I'm not super-into comedy or irony.

ARH: How does language factor in your creative process? Does your inspiration often begin with words or sounds – how do these interact? (Mitch is fluent in Indonesian/Malay and can read and write Arabic)

MRR: I think that different languages lend themselves to different melody, tonality, and scales, and languages and their syllables are like different notes on different scales. If you have four syllables you basically have four words, which means, you have the complete lyrics to a song. “Tetsuo” (off of the split with Generichrist), had words in Malay, Japanese, and English. Different syllables and words in different languages have interesting possibilities for rhythm and timing as well. If possible I will definitely try to start a lyrical composition with a cool vocal hook or song title and then I reverse-engineer it, putting lyrics, and whatever content in. Saying this—this process can go in any number of orders, as well. But if you have a good basic title and chorus/hook, 85% of your songwriting is done in my own personal experience.

ARH: Do you feel performing is a spiritual act and/or ritual? If so, how does that work – how do you use ritual awareness in your work? If not, how would you describe the performing process in terms of mental, physical and emotional transformation?

MRR: There is definitely some rituals I like to do beforehand and it does put you in a different state of mind that is a state of focus and release at the same time. It's almost as if you are have a dialogue with both your self (or selves) and a dialogue the audience simultaneously. I'm screaming into a mic, so I'm highly oxygenated and there is definitely an adrenaline rush in addition to the mental/emotional reaction to hear the live music.

ARH: What do you think the future holds for you as an individual artist and experimental music generally? What is the relationship between local and global experimental music now?

MRR:  Not sure but I hope to continue to write, perform, and record with Fascist Insect. For Experimental music in general? Hard to say. I like to believe that if the majors wanted to get hold of it (Experimental and Noise) and popularize it to the general public at large and sell it to them I think they would have by now, but Experimental music is still sonically unpalatable to a lot of people, to say the least. The farthest the majors will go (for now) is Skrillex but Wolf Eyes being on Sub Pop (and to another extent Merzbow being on Relapse) was an interesting study in the parameters of the general public's acceptance of Experimental, particularly Noise and it didn't take off the way some other stuff on Sub Pop did. There's still widespread hostility and belligerence to Noise. It's still on the fringes. But there are further experiments by the majors (no pun intended) in fielding softer and softer quirky bands so who knows how that will go? I think Experimental and Noise will continue to get bigger and fragment again and again but remain underground for the most part. And Crossover? Oh yeah.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Robert Beveridge, noise name XTerminal, was the first noise performer I ever saw. My brother and I came to Cleveland in 1999 to check out the underground venue Speak in Tongues. We were into extreme abstract music, but had never been in a venue for that kind of sound before. We stuck to the corners, shy kids with our cardboard box of canned beer, feeling warm excitement at the strangely textured walls, the strutting weirdos and the darkness. Then - the harsh sound began - coming from a man with a computer and a table. XTerminal.

Speak in Tongues closed months after we moved to Cleveland, and we lost touch with those strangers until nearly ten years later when Steve Makita's Audio Visual Baptism (AVB) series brought the former Speak in Tongues crew together with those of us performing at Bela Dubby, Now That's Class, and other venues.

My brother and I were at an AVB at rugged gallery Doubting Thomas, when he nudged me and pointed to a man with a table and a computer, and he said, "Hey, do you see who that is?" And our friendship with Robert Beveridge was ignited. 

We discovered that not only was he a killer noise artist, but also a poet and reviewer of poetry and film. I am excited to share his thoughts. 

ARH: What are you working on now? Please describe current projects you’re most excited about. Are they collaborations or solo work?

RB: “Excited” seems entirely the wrong word to describe my feelings for the musical project I'm working on now, an album-length piece (with the working title “Larvatus Prodeo”, which translates to “I Advance Masked”; it may be a quote from RenĂ© Descartes, or it may be William Gaddis quote that Gaddis attributed to Descartes, no one seems to be sure anymore) that focuses on my perception of clinical depression. It's solo, but I did borrow a bass from Jason Rodriguez...

I'm also getting back into the grind of writing, prepping, and submitting poetry to magazines. I had forgotten how much work that is.

ARH: When and how did you get into performing? Feel free to discuss any influences and early experiences.

RB: I started out in marching band. I think a lot of drummers started out in marching band... I honestly can't remember what year it was, but it was sixth grade, so it must have been around 1980-81. The first rock band I was in—I like to say I was in it for fifteen minutes, but in actuality I was a member on and off for a few months over two or three recording sessions—was called D.I.N. (it was supposed to be a secret, I think, but the name stood for “Drug-Induced Noise”, and was a pretty accurate reflection of our mental and psychological state when we recorded), and since I gate-crashed a recording session at my friend Steve's house and he was already the drummer, I switched over to vocals. I've since tracked down two of the other members on Facebook, and all three of us are still making music... I do XTerminal, obviously, Steve has been in a string of bands (the best-known of which was Brownie Mary), and Jeff was the guitarist for The Floors. Those two guys were both on major labels, I gotta step up my game...

The switch over to noise happened in June of '99. (Specifically, June 26th.) I'd been wanting to get into noise since I first heard it back in the early nineties, but I was a computer kid with no disposable income to pick up pedals, so I had to wait until I could find a computer program that did the right kind of noise/tone generation for the stuff that was in my head. That took eight years. Then I found Audiomulch, which I'm still using fifteen years later—though I've added some analog components along the way. The rest of the world started off making analog noise and are now using laptops... I started out using a desktop and am going the other way.

ARHSince you’ve started performing, have you noticed repeating cycles in terms of style and energy of experimental music? How would you describe the current zeitgeist?

RB: With the Cleveland scene, I think things move slower than they do in most places. Hell, we still have a thriving Industrial scene. So yeah, there's definitely something cyclical, but I think we're still on the second spin. The first probably started before I moved to Cleveland in 1994; I know Bacillus was on the scene back then (he moved to Seattle right around the same time I moved to Cleveland), and by the time I went to my first noise show in '96 (Quell and an early Stephen Petrus project were the openers, and I no longer remember who headlined), Speak in Tongues had become the focal point for a lot of what was going on. That first cycle lasted until Speak closed at the end of 2000, and things kind of went dormant for a while until the rise of Bela Dubby and Doubting Thomas in 2007-2008. Bela Dubby almost had that same gravitational pull that Speak did, but when it went the way of the great auk last year, there were a lot of other places that stepped up and took over, so we haven't gone back into dormancy. Hallelujah.

To me, that says the scene is stronger than it was back in the nineties, and with a larger outreach. Back in the nineties noise kids were noise kids, and no one else really noticed. Noise shows didn't come with sold-out crowds unless you were Merzbow or KK Null, and the idea of a noise band getting on the bill with other kinds of music was outrageous, really... eight years later I go see Caustic Christ and Satanic Threat, and Steve Makita's closing the show. (I don't think most of the hardcore kids there had ever seen a noise gig... hilarious...) The same year, Prurient opened for Xiu Xiu at the Grog Shop... WHAT. I think that expended a lot of minds. Less than a year later it wasn't uncommon to see grindcore bands playing noise gigs and vice versa. Hell, we had a power-pop band open for one noise gig at Bela Dubby at one point. I think it's great.

ARH: What qualities excite you in performances of others? What takes you by surprise and keeps your interest in experimental music?

RB: It happens on a case-by-case basis, and I often can't put my finger on it. You get guys like Jeff Hatfield (Field of Hats) or Tristan Trump (Poverty Hymns) who just sit there with a guitar and mess with a couple of effects pedals and make this absolutely mind-blowing music that I can sit there and listen to for hours on end, and the way I'm describing it it sounds like the most boring thing imaginable. But it's so, so good, both recorded and live, and for the life of me I can't tell you why. It's a lot more obvious with bands who have a theatrical aspect to what they do—the show PascAli played at the Black Cat Factory last summer is a prime example, these two guys doing absolutely ridiculous things with upright basses, watching them is interesting because you never know what prop they're going to pull out next and what it's going to do to the music. Incredible stuff.
ARH: How does language factor in your creative process? Does your inspiration often begin with words or sounds – how do these interact?

RB: Almost everything I do musically is vocalless (or at least lyricless, I throw in various nonsense syllables now and then, heavily effected), but there's usually some sort of core of language at the bottom of it, whether it came from the title of the piece, a poem I wrote years ago, someone else's song, a news item, etc. “Larvatus Prodeo”, since I was already talking about it above, is a good example; I ran across the phrase in Camelia Elias' book Pulverizing Portraits: Lynn Emanual and the Poetry of Becoming and within two or three minutes I had the basics of the thing in my head—I've revised it over the past couple of months, but not much. It still sounds in my head a lot like it did right after I conceived it. I'm in the process of trying to replicate it in the real world now.

ARH: Do you feel performing is a spiritual act and/or ritual? If so, how does that work – how do you use ritual awareness in your work? If not, how would you describe the performing process in terms of mental, physical and emotional transformation?

RB: Not at all—I am not a believer in things beyond us. The second half of that question is something that has always intrigued me, the idea that more extreme modes of physical performance can lead to altered states of consciousness (specifically, the work of Fakir Musafar has fascinated me for decades), but I am both too much of a control freak and too pain-averse to ever actually go there. If I allow lizard brain to take over, who knows what would come out of my mouth? I do know it would probably end up pissing people off even more than I already do...

ARH: What do you think the future holds for you as an individual artist and experimental music generally? What is the relationship between local and global experimental music now?

RB: The great thing about XTerminal being a solo act is that it's guaranteed to never break up... I've gone on hiatus at times in the past, but XTerminal will always be there in some form or other. Even if I get to the point where I'm no longer releasing anything, I'll still keep doing it. It's always been my way of making sense of the stuff in my head.

Regarding the relationship between local and global music's incredible. There's always been something of an international link with the Cleveland noise scene; back in the nineties, we had our share of international acts come through, and XTerminal was actually getting radio play in Croatia in the early 2000s from what I've been told. But things are on a whole other level now. It almost seems like Tatsuya Nakatani has made Cleveland his second home. And with the wealth of places we have to play now, we've gotten to the point where it's a semi-regular occurrence to wake up on a Saturday and say, “my god, which show am I going to be able to make it to tonight?” because there are so many great choices to be had. I've been known to complain about this, but it certainly beats “every show I went to between 2002 and 2008 either I booked or it was out of town”...

ARH: What else has been on your mind lately?

RB: Berberian Sound Studio. Must-see for noise kids, especially those who utilize field recordings in their work.