Wednesday, March 31, 2010

919 Noise Showcase: April Fool's Edition

This Thursday, April 1, Ashley and I will perform at Nightlight as part of the 919 Noise Showcase. Curated by the inexorable Bryce Clayton Eiman, the monthly showcase features four to five local acts investigating the broad spectrum of noise music. The event begins around 9:30 and should wrap up by midnight. We're sharing the bill with Zeke Graves, Sydney Koke, Khristian Weeks, and Weather Machine. Ashley and I have performed at this showcase once before, although this performance will be nothing like that one--when we do things like this, we always take the opportunity to put together something unique. We're really excited to be performing on a day dedicated to trickery. Hopefully I'll have some video to post after the fact.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Infinite Body to crush Carrboro

Obviously, I'm stoked.


MONDAY 3.29 @ Ethan's House :::::


Infinite Body + Earn = remnants of L.A. harsh noise reforming into hi-def austere morning dew dream fuzz tone floats, blissed cathedrals

America Reads = Carrboro's mod-synth cold psych head

Yohimbe = the thing I love about Yohimbe is that I keep getting older and they stay the same age

bring $$$

904 W Main St Carrboro
right across from Johnny's Sporting Goods

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

2 readings in Raleigh this weekend

Recently, for the third or fourth year in a row, I was a preliminary judge for the Independent Weekly's annual poetry contest. The reading to celebrate the contest is on Friday, March 26, at 7 p.m., in Raleigh's Flanders Gallery. I'll be on hand to read a few poems with the contest winners and the other judges.

And then on Saturday, March 27, my friend kate pringle will read in The So and So series, with Kate Schapira and John Dermot Woods, at Raleigh's Morning Times Cafe.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Boys love toys

the Korg EMX-1 Music Production Station, in all its affordable glory

My new Korg EMX-1 Music Production Studio arrived via UPS on Thursday, which explains my blog silence since then. It has a beautiful metallic blue finish with just a hint of sparkle, and many buttons and knobs and sliders and flashing lights, and a little window at the top so you can admire the shapely valves. Inside, it contains a magical sound world of infinite potential, densely yet obscurely connected, i.e., shaped just like my mind. This sort of device is seductive and a little dangerous for me, because I want to get to the bottom of it right away. I spent about 8 hours on the floor with it on Thursday, and gave myself a terrible headache, while only scratching the surface of its functionality. Totally worth it. 
I tend to be a late adopter when it comes to new technology. I refused to get a cell phone for years after they were de rigeur, relenting only when my housemates refused to pay for a land line anymore. And years later, I'm still using that same old phone, which has no camera or internet connection or quirky apps. It's not that I'm a Luddite or anything. In part, my choice to make a living as a freelance writer, rather than getting a "real job," requires me to be frugal. Furthermore, a lot of new tech strikes me as merely noisy distraction or neurotic time-suck. But there are technological marvels I lust after like everyone else. They tend to be either musical tools or video games--things that entertain and philosophically stimulate me in equal measure. (And they complement each other: When I've melted my brain with musical tools so badly that I can barely even read, video games are there for me.)

I've wanted a sequencer like this for a very long time. For my studio jams as Glossolalia, I've always used various lo-fi freeware, like Audacity and the excellent TrakAx (highly recommended to PC users), and some very cheap software like WavePad. For live stuff, I've often rocked the basic but deathless Boss Dr. Sample for electronic effects. But the Dr. Sample is ill-suited to the kind of composition I'm interested in right now, and I've often wound up using it more like a glorified effects pedal than a sampler.

My dream device, the Akai MPC5000, costs like two thousand dollars, and even the much cheaper Korg Electribe series has been out of my price range until recently. Because--I'll tell you a secret--the EMX-1 (and its sister product, the ESX-1 sampler) have been price-slashed to less than five hundred dollars. With free shipping. And free headphones. I assume Korg is preparing to introduce the new models of these consoles, or to integrate them into a super-console, and is clearing out the warehouse. At any rate, if you've been in the market for an affordable, surprisingly powerful music production station, I can't recommend this device highly enough. 

You know, there was a time, long ago, when I thought electronic music was kind of bullshit. This was not an uncommon position for an indie rocker in the late-nineties. That only lasted for a little while, but even after I came to love electronic music, for a long time I believed that playing a sequencer was fundamentally different from playing a guitar. And of course, it is, in the same way that, say, playing the guitar is fundamentally different than playing the piano. But at this point, I feel as if the only crucial difference is that one requires manual dexterity and one requires conceptual and technological dexterity. And even this is shaky--after all, a live MPC jam does require a lot of agility, and good guitar playing is about so much more than manual dexterity, or else we'd all be listening to Yngwie Malmsteen all the time. 

The guitar and the sequencer are both tools, designed by humans, to vibrate the air in certain ways, producing a limited repertoire of sounds. The interfaces are different, but the effect--the actualization of human imagination and desire--is the same. The rise of the consumer-grade sequencer does mean that we're all using a lot of the same synth sounds, the same oscillators, the same drum patterns. But the dominance of guitar means we're all using the same chords. The unique human stamp that rises from subtle inflections of timbre and rhythm on guitar--that we use to make an ancient C chord our own--finds expression in the endless customization options of the sequencer, the spontaneous twist of a knob turning a stock tone into something emotive and specific. The ghost in the machine is you. 

I'm not even sure who I'm having this argument with, except myself ten years ago. I still hear people say things about how all techno sounds the same, which is how I feel whenever I hear a new rock song with a dude going "baby baby baby" over three direly familiar chords. But it's not like I want to put the guitar out to pasture. I'm certainly not breaking out the sequencer when hanging out by the sea on a camping trip. The contrast just fascinates me. I'm looking at them right now, side by side--my sequencer and my acoustic guitar, both of which are leaned against my piano. They all look so different it's hard to believe they have anything in common. Yet they share a common soul, which is another way of saying "common desire"--the sound coiled inside, latent but tensed, ready to leap out at the lightest caress and become radically specific in the crucible of my imagination, my dreams, my limitations.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The reading so good they canceled it twice

Ryan Martin, before transforming into this horrible tin-foil faced creature

My certainty that my reading with Brian Evenson was really going to happen last night proved rash. For the second time, inclement weather prevented him from flying through the air. I joked with Brian that people here must think I'm just inventing appearances by famous writers to lure them to my readings. (By the way, I hope you'll come out to my reading with Thomas Pynchon next month.)

Brian Evenson wasn't the only person stranded in a distant airport. My friend Maggie Zurawski, the organizer of the Minor American series, was too. By this diabolical turn of fate did I become both entertainment and host for the evening. I get gregarious on red wine, so this was no problem. We'll give the Evenson event one more try at some point, but probably not until the next reading season, which will hopefully be less star-cross'd.

Despite our disappointment, we managed to pull together a really fun event. I got Chris Vitiello to step in for Mr. Evenson at the last minute. He just ran home and pulled some old forgotten manuscript out of a drawer that blew everyone away. I told the audience that it was always a bit humbling to read with Chris. It's like getting up to do a magic show, and then the next guy reveals all your tricks. Chris sees through the devices of language like lace. "No one ever calls sunlight starlight," is the line I keep remembering today.

Tony Tost had prepared an introduction for me, which saved me from the indignity of introducing myself. It was a really amazing and generous introduction. He was amazingly apt in his reading of my new work, which is just beginning to see the light of day, and which is so very different from the F7 stuff I'm "known for." (Scare quotes!) It made me think about how long I've known Tony now, and how insightful and valuable an observer of my writing's evolution he's been.

The new book I've been reading from recently is called Wolf Intervals. A wolf interval is impossible to describe with total accuracy without sounding baffling. But basically, it's a rogue interval in a musical tuning, which does not fit in, and beats or howls out of tune. They exist because a tuning is basically an elaborate series of compromises, where all this messy chaotic stuff gets swept under the rug to create an illusion of order. This is especially true of the tunings most common to Western popular music. And this seems almost ridiculously symbolic of Western life as it was taught to me. There is a lot of dismantling going on in these poems; a lot of two-way excoriation. I don't want to belabor this point, only to mention that the title, while admittedly cool-sounding, is more than cosmetic. I also read, for the first time, from an even newer book called It's Been This Way For So Long, which I began as soon as I finished Wolf Intervals.

We closed out the night with a powerful set by Ryan Martin, a.k.a. Secret Boyfriend. As I said last night, Ryan is someone who I like personally, and whom I appreciate for the energy he puts into this area. He was a founder of Nightlight, an indispensable out-music friendly club; he runs the Hot Releases record label; and is just generally a tireless creator and advocate in noise music, locally and beyond.

His set started off deceptively gentle-- new wave synth and indie guitar jams, swathed in friendly interference. But it finished with a punitive harsh noise workout, with a contact-miked tin foil mask that turned Ryan's shrieks into a symphony of distortion. Watching the transformation from sweetness to horror that guides Ryan's performances is riveting. You really get a sense of something coming unleashed, some fundamental heartbreak or vitality, something magnetic that you can't look away from and can barely stand. "You hear scribbles/ in the silence, oblivion/ in noise." I read a poem that said that because I was thinking of Ryan.

The next installment of the Minor American series takes place on Sat. March 20, at 715 Washington in Durham, at 8 p.m., and features Therese Bachand, Magus Magnus, and Joe Ashby Porter

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

So, I'm reading with Brian Evenson soon

The casual tone of my subject line is feigned. I'm really excited about this reading, which was snowed out in January but is really happening this weekend.

Brian Evenson is one of my favorite fiction writers (Altmann's Tongue particularly thrills and terrifies me) and I'm really grateful to the Duke-sponsored Minor American series for setting me up with him.

And for letting me book a musical performance to follow the reading by Ryan Martin, a.k.a. Secret Boyfriend, who should round out the evening perfectly with his noisy pop terrors, or his poppy noise ones.

So you get a little fiction, a little poetry, a little music. We like to mix it up. In any case, a Brian Evenson appearance in the Triangle is not really something you want to miss. Unless you are scared. I wouldn't blame you. They're scary stories. But so good.  

Everything you need to know should be in the official announcement copied below!


Minor American Presents:
Brian Evenson
Brian Howe
Secret Boyfriend (Ryan Martin)

Saturday, March 13th, 8pm, at 715 Washington Street, Durham, NC

(This event is co-sponsored by the English Department and the Institute for Canadian Studies at Duke University.)

Brian Evenson is the author of nine books of fiction, most recently the novel Last Days and the story collection Fugue State. His novel The Open Curtain (Coffee House Press) was a finalist for an Edgar Award and an IHG Award and was one of Time Out New York's top books of 2006. He lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island, where he directs Brown Universityís Literary Arts Program. Other books include The Wavering Knife (which won the IHG Award for best story collection), Dark Property, and The Brotherhood of Mutilation. He has translated work by Christian Gailly, Jean Frémon, Claro, Jacques Jouet and others. He has received an O. Henry Prize as well as an NEA fellowship. A limited edition novella, Baby Leg was published by New York Tyrant Press in late 2009.

Brian Howe is a freelance journalist, poet, and multimedia artist living in Durham, NC. His work appears in Fascicle, Effing Magazine, Word for/Word, Apocryphal Text, Octopus, MiPO, Cannibal, Soft Targets, Drunken Boat, and elsewhere. He has issued three chapbooks: Guitar Smash (3rdness Press); This is the Motherfucking Remix (with Marcus Slease; Scantily Clad Press); and Foreign Letter (Beard of Bees). His videos (with Ashley Howe) have screened at minor american, the Asheville Fringe Festival, the Southeastern Electronic Music Festival, and elsewhere. His multimedia project Glossolalia is available at

Secret Boyfriend (Ryan Martin) represents a range of outsider genres: electronic pop, warmpop, harsh noise, storytelling, nylon string midnight folk, dance, power electronics; sometimes under the interpretive influence of 70s-80s horror, crime, and freak films, the VHSs themselves sometimes deformed by the passage of time. The lyrics suggest narratives with emotional, violent, ecstatic, and occult themes. Secret Boyfriend shows vary also, spanning from abusive electronic noise to single-mic singer-songwriter performances from behind a leather mask.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Wax Wroth Reading and Music Series, #1

I became familiar with the poetry of Heather Christle when we were both in the "New Poets" issue of Octopus a few years ago. (Now, I suppose, we are slightly used poets.) I really liked Heather's work then, and her 2009 debut book on Octopus, The Difficult Farm, is one of my favorites in recent memory. I could say a lot about it, but two words will suffice: pure mojo.

When I found out Heather was doing an East Coast tour, I knew I had to bring her to Durham. And luckily, it worked out. I set up an event for Heather on Thursday, March 4, which launched her tour. I set her up with the invincible Joseph Donahue, who read some exciting new work outside of his Terra Lucida project, and Josh Moore, a local musician friend with a piercingly sweet voice. I wish I had some pictures, but my camera is broken. It was great to hear Heather read these poems, which sounded like they do in my head: quietly alert, with muffled concussions. Durham has heard a lot of poetry lately, but Durham was very pleased.

The reading was held at the collective art and performance studio I maintain in Durham. I don't have any pictures that do it justice either--but I like for it to be a little secretive anyway. It's a working studio space, for music, writing, painting, video, dance, etc. But sometimes it opens to the public: Some of our members do installations, and we often host readings there.

The point being, I've got a neat, unique space where people come to readings. So if you are looking for somewhere to read in NC, on an East Coast tour perhaps, let me know and we can talk. This has been retroactively dubbed the first installment of my Wax Wroth reading and music series, since I've decided to keep doing it. Installment two, on May 9, will feature Chris Salerno, Chris Tonelli, Jon Leon, and Joe Fletcher.

At any rate! Heather's tour is ongoing, with several dates left. I really think you should go:

Tuesday, March 9
at 7 PM
Moonshine Poetry Series
with Michelle Taransky
Robin's Bookstore
108 South 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107-4532

Thursday, March 11
at 8 PM
with Andrew Dieck
Manor Cafe at Bard CollegeAnnandale-on-Hudson, NY

Friday, March 12

at 10 PM
with Andrew Dieck
St. Mark's Poetry Project
131 E 10th St.
New York, NY

Saturday, March 13
at 8 PM
with Matvei Yankelevich
Poetry Time at Space Space
390 Seneca Ave.
Queens, NY

Wednesday, March 25
at 8 PM
with Kristin Naca
VOX Reading Series
Cine Art Theater
234 West Hancock Avenue
Athens, GA

Saturday, March 6, 2010

This is totally my new blog

It's been a while since I've abandoned a blog. I seem to be doing a lot of stuff lately, so it's time for number three. Welcome to Wax Wroth.

Sometimes I'll use Wax Wroth to document things I've done recently, like this reading at the So and So series in Raleigh, with Amy King and Ana Božičević. Amy took some video of me and Ana, but no one took video of Amy! Unfair. Some of the new poems I read, from Wolf Intervals, are in So and So Magazine.

Sometimes, I'll use Wax Wroth to promote things I'm going to do, like this upcoming reading with BRIAN EVENSON, which I can't believe is happening and you should totally come to. Ryan Martin is going to rock the jams too.

And sometimes, I might mention new published work I have, and cool journals, especially when they intersect. (I might, for instance, sheepishly request that you check out these sound pieces in the fabulous new issue of Drunken Boat.)

And there will probably be some real talk about my life as a professional slash creative writer and some pithy ephemera.

Speaking of ephemera, here is a recipe for vegan oysters to make this introductory post less coldly functional and boring:

To make a vegan oyster:
Kill an oyster
and replace the meat in the shell
with a nugget
of soy or wheat gluten.
Each hundredth nugget
might be made of gold,
each thousandth
a lion's testicle. Garnish
with an ostrich plume,
et voila!
A drugged oracle's body
being shuttled around
like stolen art.