Stone Age HAA The Holy MAA

Stone Age HAA The Holy MAA

Writing - Noise - Magic

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. 

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