Interview: Pure Harsh Noise Worship Fest

Ella St. Social Club has become one of the hubs for the experimental and noise scenes here in Portland. The bookers there have proven to have some adventurous taste, and considering the relatively small size, they are willing to give up-and-coming and more uncompromising acts a chance to play live.

One of the most exciting things on their upcoming schedule is the Pure Harsh Noise Worship Festival, a two-day event that does exactly what its title suggests: worshiping the artists that are making noise music. Organized by two great experimental musicians – Charlie Mumma and Gorden Ashworth (the two play together in the group Vile Horrendous Aerial Bombardment on top of their own solo efforts) –  the August 17th and 18th event features a stunning array of talent. Just check the poster below for a taste of what’s in store.

In the days leading up to the festival, I’ll do my best to highlight the work of as many of the acts appearing at the festival as possible. But first, I wanted to give you a look behind the curtain at how this was all put together, so I caught up with Gordon and Charlie via e-mail to learn more about their role in the festival and what is in store for fans of noise art.

Forgive my ignorance, but is this the first PHNW Festival – or have you done these in the past? I saw some footage of KAKERLAK playing at the Grindzebo…did you have something to do with those events?

Charlie Mumma: This will be the first two day gathering with the title of PURE HARSH NOISE WORSHIP. We organized an event in June 2011 called HC.HN (Hardcore. Harsh Noise) with HN acts and punk/hc bands at the Gazebo. It was very successful despite some rain. The lineup consisted of MASS GRAVE, THE RITA, BASEMENT ANIMAL, FROZEN BODY, RUSALKA, OKHA, ROHIT on the first day. TOTAL WAR, KAKERLAK, MURDERESS, TASKMASTER, DR. LOOMIS, REDNECK, VILE HORRENDOUS AERIAL BOMBARDMENT the second.

CM: Last year was great but this year there are no “bands”. It seemed a good move to do something more focused, specific.

Was there any prevailing philosophy or theme behind the lineup that you two put together for the shows or were you just pulling in people whose work interested you?

Gordon Ashworth: The lineup was curated to present the most passionate, sincere and interesting harsh noise artists throughout western US and Canada, as well as bringing KAKERLAK and JOE ROEMER/MACRO from the East Coast. Most of the artists have been involved in harsh noise for many years. Rick & Jackie of THE TENSES and SMEGMA have been developing experimental music since 1973, and Joe Roemer formed the legendary MACRONYMPHA with Roger Stella 22 years ago. THE RITA, JOHN WIESE and DANIEL MENCHE have all been very active and influential harsh noise artists since the mid-1990s.

CM: Theme is HARSH NOISE FOR HARSH HEADS. All artists are friends and co-conspirators.

All the acts booked for the event come from North America…was there any attempt to try to pull some folks in from overseas, or was that just too cost prohibitive at this time?

CM: More “time prohibitive” than “cost prohibitive”. Life schedules conflicting with PHNW schedules.

GA: We invited a select few artists from Europe and Japan but it was not possible this year. We would especially love to bring over THE INCAPACITANTS, GUILTY CONNECTOR, SEWER ELECTION and MAAAA.

Did any thought go into setting up the lineup so as not to oversaturate people with too much of a similar kind of noise approach? Are you worried about testing people’s patience or limits with this music?

GA: This is a fest for connoisseurs of pure sound, sonic catharsis, expression through deliberate, powerful textures of sound. There are infinite details in the realms of loud harsh noise; walls of cascading distortion, amplified junk metal, crude electronics manipulated into pure trembling chaos, the ultimate untamed, atonal, emotional expression through sound, free from the obvious expectations of melody, rhythm, voice, etc. Testing and trespassing people’s limits is ideal and leads to deeper understanding and effect. The skill, obsession and technique of each artist is unique and will be apparent to observant attendees.

CM: Everyone attending will know what they’re getting in to. Or will understand very soon after false entry. People are ready to have their limits tested.

What do you think makes a good noise artist?

CM: Sincerity.

GA: Obsession.

How do you feel about the state of the noise/experimental scene here in Portland/Oregon?

CM: Good. But I wouldn’t be able to give an accurate scene report and can’t attempt to. There is always someone doing something interesting. You should read Kate Rissiek’s Vancouver, BC scene report if you haven’t already. It is what is up.

GA: I’ve felt that Portland has had a very active and supportive noise community since I first starting coming here about a decade ago. I don’t think as many DIY venues hosting noise shows exist as in the past, but it seems to ebb and flow over time. Experimental Half Hour and noise-welcoming venues such as Ella Street Social Club, Little Axe Records are definitely helpful to our city.

How has the world of digital downloads/free music issues affected your bottom line as musicians? How do you see it affecting the noise/experimental worlds?

CM: Home fucking is killing prostitution? Has it been suggested that blog sharing is just the new tape trading yet? I’ve heard people (under 25, haha) say “It’s hard to buy records when you can just get the music on the internet for free”. I would say the people who think like that never really bought records, tapes and CDs that much or actively participated in the underground music community anyway so their lack of support doesn’t negatively influence us who do “support the arts”. Most are just tourists anyway. “Time will tell who’s in it for life” – Hellnation. I see the noise/exp worlds thriving. Lots of great releases coming out all the time!

GA: Neither of us make a living off of music and are in favor of both sharing music freely and supporting artists.

Do you plan to/hope to make the PHNW Fest an annual event or are you waiting to see what happens with this one first?

CM: Can’t really speak for 2013 just yet. I’m very excited about this 2012 lineup right now. I smile every time I see it.

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One thought on “Interview: Pure Harsh Noise Worship Fest

  1. Pingback: PHNW Fest Preview: HHL | Experimental Portland

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