It's a tale often told: in late 2013, John Olson of iconic Detroit avant-garde troupe Wolf Eyes told the Miami New Times that noise was over—and that Wolf Eyes were, in his words, "what I call a trip metal band." Two-and-a-half years and several thousand memes later, what trip metal is exactly remains unclear. Nonetheless, there's a whole festival now for the genre Olson coined: Trip Metal Fest in Detroit, taking place this weekend (May 27 to 29). The festival (which has free admissions) features performances by Hieroglyphic Being with Marshall Allen and Danny Ray Thompson of the Sun Ra Arkestra, Rubber (O) Cement, Morton Subotnick, and several more luminaries in the world of out-there music. There will also be film screenings, including a never-before-seen film by Aaron Dilloway and Andrew W.K. called Poltergeist, as well as Tony Conrad's Articulation of Boolean Algebra for Film Opticals and Kenneth Anger's My Demon Brother. Are all of these things "trip metal"? Maybe, maybe not. In any event, we got some oblique background on the "genre" and the fest from Wolf Eyes co-founders John Olson and Nate Young, plus the group's manager (and festival co-organizer) Forest Juziuk.
Nate Young: Trip Metal is elevating the role of confusion and jokes over the endless discussion of authenticity—the threat of joking is the ultimate destroyer of creativity. People ask if something is authentic, but they don't ask if it's good or funny—or confusing which is a feeling that encompasses all that. We are concerned with rejected people, total misfits, and freak scenes from every era. These are our people. People freaked out about noise being dead, but trip metal is just an injection of confusion—why splinter the misfits? We're all in this; there's no reason to take sides.
Forest Juziuk: While wrapping up TM Fest, we realized we had gone into the red—not by much—but it was an exciting realization because we put this together with no corporate money or sponsorships outside of the Knight Foundation grant, private donations, and the good will of a lot of our friends playing, who agreed to not a lot of money.
We're so used to seeing massive bureaucratic institutions go into the red blowing a ton of money on weird, inhuman festivals that we thought: what if Trip Metal was free? We're going to refund the tickets, give people an option to donate to cover the additional costs we incur (which there most definitely will be), and give Detroit a free, all -ges festival of experimental music. It rules. It's so crazy that it's happening.
I've been managing Wolf Eyes for a couple years now and I run the archive, so I feel like I've begun to have an understanding of all the influences that make up their sound and inform noise in general and I feel like we got a pretty great cross-section of weirdness to showcase—including Morton Subotnick's first-ever Detroit appearance. To me, the festival is almost a giant context-builder for Wolf Eyes and noise/experimental/electronic music in general. I consider this the unofficial 20 Years of Wolf Eyes Party.
John Olson on jazz: Wolf sound has always been jazzy influence. The double title "dread" was taken from concept of playing around and adding to the big solid electronic back beat that can be seen as a musical "head." The soloist—language has always added the detail and flow of the jams, especially now in this era. There has always been a simple sketch or rhythm and the jamming over that sketch has been the M.O. from nearly the start of the trio years. Great concern upon lines, harmony, embouchure, and note selection is commonplace in the post Stare Case blues structure Wolf game nowadays. Jazz has always been about personal communication in as many combinations and the "playing" of said ideas as immediately possible. The Eyes shake hands with that concept daily—as well as the music of Clifford Brown, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Jackie Mclean, Eric Dolphy, Art Tatum, Bud Shank, Gerry Mulligan, Sun Ra, Sonny Stitt, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Lol Coxhill, Abe Kaoru, and countless others. "Jazz it Up."
Nate Young on Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica: Beef-man is self-taught and I listened to Trout Mask until it flipped backwards on my cassette copy on my first trip across country—15 years old—heading to Tucson to get a GED with my pet rat Jack in a bowling bag. Never got that GED but kept on listening to the tape backwards. Then I bought and heard Pussy Galore and Caroliner on the same day. Toxic Ranch Records, Tucson.
On Morton Subotnick's Silver Apples of the Moon: My ex Anna's sister died when she young. She was a magician's assistant, and that was one of the records Anna treasured. Never heard it before then. Heard of it, but never was able to get a copy. Anna introduced me to hip-hop and graffiti culture too. She was a good five to seven years older than me. Older women have always been a big thing in my life.
On Detroit, Michigan: I moved to Detroit with Anna. Southfield and Warren. She was a major player in my Wolf background. She sent me to Europe with frequent flyer miles—first Euro tour. Dilloway too. Love that woman but she got tired of my childish, broke-ass self. Alivia and I moved back to Detroit because we were going to gigs so much in Detroit and needed studio space.
The scene conjured by Wolf Eyes' new track T.O.D.D. resembles your uncle in his extraordinarily well-lit basement wearing tube socks and drinking Irish coffee; you go down there to check on him, and he's performing some kind of ritual, and there's smoke everywhere and his creepy friends are there, and they stare at you beneath bald flourescent lights and there's a glint in their wraparound Oakleys that you don't trust, and they're all wearing Adidas Sambas and there's wood paneling everywhere. It's droned out doom metal, a departure from Wolf Eyes' dystopic horror soundtracks, but it rings true to their statement that they want more "discipline" in their music making.
Also: The band has officially announced Trip Metal Fest in Detroit, Memorial Day weekend 2016. The festival is curated by Wolf Eyes' Nate Young and will feature "experimental, industrial, funk, punk techno and more," which is about as close to an explanation of the genre Trip Metal that we've ever gotten.
Detroit’s Wolf Eyes make music which embodies the blackest pit of darkness, so discovering certain people are Wolf Eyes fans sometimes just makes sense, while other times it comes as a total surprise. Not surprising: whoever organized the unveiling of the Baphomet statue in Detroit last month, where Wolf Eyes played a set. Surprising: Andrew W.K. Not surprising: Henry Rollins. Surprising: Jack White. This last one we discovered via Wolf Eyes’ recent announcement: that their new record, I Am a Problem: Mind in Pieces ,will be released on White’s Third Man Records, which incidentally will finally be opening a Detroit location in November. However this went down, we can all hopefully look forward to some strange/novelty packaging for I Am A Problem or some kind of happening around the time of the record release date. For the time being, just check out the album’s lead single “Enemy Ladder”, which you can pre-order now as a 7-inch.
You may have heard, but legendary Michigan-based trip metal group Wolf Eyes started a Bandcamp page this week. When most bands start Bandcamp pages you probably go, "Oh, this band started a Bandcamp page. Okay." But for fans of a band with as many hard-to-find CDRs, tapes, and records-- literally hundreds upon hundreds-- as Wolf Eyes, the prospect of being able to sample and buy their music is incredibly exciting. In terms of logistics, the band says they'll upload five releases a month, which is probably just scratching the surface of the Wolf Eyes (and co.) archives. But it'll give listeners previously hip just to Wolf Eyes' "studio" albums a chance to experience the manic energy of live, on-the-road, in-the-van trip metal. (A personal favorite aspect of them being on the platform, too, is that it gives precise chronology to a hitherto unwieldy catalogue.)
Head over to their Bandcamp page now, and catch them on tour soon (if you live on the eastern half of the U.S.). Dates are after the jump, but we'll mention now that, although we can't say if Wolf Eyes is playing, we can say that the Trip Metal Inzane All-Starz will be at Palisades in Brooklyn on Saturday, July 18. Check out 2003 release "Undertakers Pt. 2" in the meantime.
This is the second in a series of essays chronicling the intersection of humor and music.
Napster was great for an elementary school kid. I could download all of the Eminem and Limp Bizkit songs that my parents wouldn't buy for me on CD, and finally get to hear this song they mentioned in Wayne's World called “Stairway to Heaven.” But also, Napster was bad. As the first notable, pervasive peer-to-peer file sharing network, Napster acted as ground zero for an epidemic which presaged one of the truest plagues of the internet age. Somehow our society, one fully entrenched in and dependent on the internet, has yet to learn how to negotiate a hard lesson that we should have learned from Napster a decade and a half ago.
Misinformation then, just as today, dies hard. When you downloaded “Kiss From A Rose” it could be attribted to R. Kelly. Harvey Danger's “Flagpole Sitta” would often show up as “Green Day – I'm Not Sick But I'm Not Well.” A version of that song I heard about in Wayne's World may be attributed to Led Zeppelin, but the audio itself may be an awful cover version. These tracks would get downloaded over and over, making sure that there were always peers to seed these dubiously labeled files. Misinformation has the tendency to multiply like a splitting amoeba. Remember when we thought Beijing was televising a sunset because the real thing was blocked by smog, or that Ciara was born with a dick?
One artist was on the truest business end of Napster's most brutal collective cataloging errors, a man who has reemerged in the public consciousness this summer, years after decades of success with America's preteens. As one such preteen, I was thirsty for any and all things “Weird” Al Yankovic, and Napster offered a litany of gems which didn't appear on any of the albums my parents would buy me. On Napster you could find, “Livin' La Vida Yoda,” “My Fart Will Go On,” “The Devil Went Down To Jamaica.” As a kid who craved parodies of all stripes-- lamenting the fact that Dr. Demento's show wasn't syndicated on any radio stations in the New York metro area-- Napster allowed me much-needed access to serious deep cuts. Even better, these were songs that I could sing along to with friends during lunch. All of my friends might own different Weird Al CDs, but we could all download “Elmo's Got A Gun.”
The Look Alive Fest is a new event curated by Ad Hoc, Spilt Milk Projects,-- a South Florida booking collective run by Jacob Israel and Andrew McLees-- and Gramps-- a bar located in the Wynwood Arts District of Miami. As part of next week's Art Basel Miami Beach, Look Alive brings names in noise and experimental music to Miami for two nights of performances. The inaugural lineup features both local and national bands; Wolf Eyes, Indian Jewerly, Guardian Alien, and Pontiak are just some of the acts slated to perform.
The December 6 show is $8. The December 7 show is free with RSVP before 10 pm. Check below the jump for full lineup info.