Arts Desk

Sonic Circuits: GX Jupitter-Larsen Knows How to Make an Audience Riot

GX Jupitter-Larsen is probably one of the most infamous noise musicians in the world. A dubious distinction, yes, and if you find the term “noise musician” a bit counter-intuitive, you’d be right once again. Jupitter-Larsen has long maintained that what he makes, whatever you call it, isn't meant to be musical. His brand of noise is more performance-art send-up than sweaty, aggro fukitol. Of course, that’s not to say it’s any less loud or any easier to comprehend. Jupitter-Larsen has led his mask-wearing troupe of noiseniks, The Haters, since 1979, but the band's Friday Sonic Circuits concert is its first appearance in the area. And if all goes according to Jupitter-Larsen’s best laid plans, I doubt they’ll be asked back anytime soon.

Washington City Paper: Over the past 30 years, from Albuquerque to Zürich, your Haters have performed some 400 times. And yet, this is your first time going to Washington. Why so long a wait? Something Reagan said?

GX Jupitter-Larsen: Ha, don't get me started on Reagan! But no, there is no real reason actually. My life on the road just always pointed me somewhere else. Funny that I should get to perform north of the Arctic circle in Norway before I even get to visit our nation's capital. Such is life.

WCP: After so many years on the road, you’ve finally set up shop in Los Angeles. Given the vapidity of Hollywood, one would think the noise scene there similarly shallow. To be fair, there’s The Smell and Not Not Fun Records, but of all the places you’ve gone, I’m wondering why L.A.?

GX J-L: Forget about the silliness of Hollywood; you can’t take any of that seriously. There's so many great and creative people in Los Angeles. Damion Romero is probably the greatest noise artist of all time, anywhere. You actually haven't been to a noise show until you’ve seen him live. But then, there's artists like amk, Geoffrey Brandin, John Wiese, and Joseph Hammer who all do some pretty awe-inspiring noise. Artwise, you have excellent creative spaces like Machine Project, The Museum of Jurassic Technology, and the Center for Land Use Interpretation. Groups like The Institute for Figuring will definitely make you think. For myself, personally, there's a kind of psychical emptiness to the place. I like that. It's easy to be left alone, easy to hear yourself think. Los Angeles is the closest thing to an urban desert you're ever going to find.

WCP: Any parallels then with Washington, D.C. — the oft-cited “Hollywood for ugly people?” I know they’re from Miami, but To Live and Shave in L.A.’s Tom Smith was in D.C.’s Peaches of Immortality.

GX J-L: I've never heard that "Hollywood for ugly people" thing before. That's pretty funny. But really, self-loathing only serves your enemies.

WCP: Tell me about the call Sonic Circuits head honcho Jeff Surak made to get you to come play the District. (Well, Silver Spring, anyways.)

GX J-L: He told me Sudden Infant was performing. And there was no way I was going to miss that!

WCP: Speaking of Surak, he just put out the fourth volume of his all-Beltway District of Noise compilation. Vol. 3, though, was a record of 100 locked grooves. As someone who’s cut more than a few locked vinyls, what is it about that medium that so entices noise’s message?

GX J-L: Noise fans love all discarded things, be it an unwanted sound, or an obsolete technology.

WCP: You’re recorded with almost every card-carrying member of the noise scene, many of whom have played the Sonic Circuits Festival prior. Live, Haters has swelled to a power-tool trio including Paul Dickerson and Bob Ferbrache. What’s the collaborative process like for the music you make?

GX J-L: I just like collaborating because it always leads me to a conclusion I doubt I would have reached on my own.

WCP: At the same time, however, there have been Haters gigs where you, yourself, didn’t even show up.

GX J-L: OK, so there's two answers I could give: the funny one, and the serious one. Both are equally true. I guess the funny one is, in my way of thinking, just because I didn't have the money to psychically get somewhere shouldn't stop me from actually performing there. Just because I couldn't get there, that shouldn't stop me from "being" there. Something like that, anyway. Otherwise, at the time I did these so-called non-performances, I really did think of them as a means of getting to touch the substance of nothingness. This was back in the early ‘80s; I was young and quite obsessed with the idea that nothing-at-all could still be a psychical thing. Just not one which was either concrete or abstract.

WCP: Likewise, you’ve never been afraid to break the fourth wall between you and the audience.

GX J-L: The best thing about the early punk of the ‘70s was that the audience was a bigger part of the show then most of the bands were. In my own performance art, in the ‘80s and ‘90s, I tried to keep that dynamic—by using inside agitators to lead the audience to riot. That was a wild ride, let me tell you.

WCP: The Haters remain notorious for their, how shall I say, idiomatic offerings. I’m thinking of already classic pieces like the amplified-calculator-on-an-open-fan of Dirwyn. Will we witness one of these oldies, or do you have a new goodie up your tat sleeve?

GX J-L: My current performance is entitled Loud Luggage / Booming Baggage, in which an amplified suitcase gets to be the centerpiece of it all.

WCP: Alone, you’ve developed some rather complex theories of how you think noise should be experienced. Here, I’m speaking mostly about your “polywave” and “totimorphous.” Care to explain, in layman’s terms?

GX J-L: The funny answer would be to forget about metric conversion; we're talking about GX conversion. The polywave is my own personal alternative to the inch. The serious answer is that any nation, any culture, keeps its participants in line by having them unconsciously believing in, and acting upon, certain things. The power of any culture is in its ability to automatically direct the actions of its participants, without the participants actually realizing it. Any nation, or culture, forces its participants to conform to a master narrative, as if its story was the only one worth telling. Well, I have my own story to tell. That's where the polywave and totimorphous come in. They are the inches I use to measure my life.

WCP: You’ve stated before that you never really intended to be a noise artist; sound was merely a way to signal the beginning and end of a performance. Known primarily for your sounds now, have your intentions changed?

GX J-L: Personally, art has never been about making a statement. It's been about going on a journey. I may have started at one location, but I've since moved on.

WCP: It’s no secret that your own politics swing left—hell, the entire Haters oeuvre could be described as downright anarchic—so what’s your take on the recent Republican debate? Might we hear a Red Line ode to Rep. Bachmann on Friday?

GX J-L: Republicans are the real anarchists here, with their self-fulfilling prophecy of government as the problem. Republicans have a long history of slashing taxes so the government's ability to fund basic services is greatly curtailed. They then cynically campaign that they are the only ones that can fix the very problems they, themselves, created.

The Haters headline the 2011 Sonic Circuits Festival at Pyramid Atlantic on Friday. Also on the bill: Les Rhinocéros, Valentina Vuksic, Elena Aitzkoa, Infant Factory, and Rind (Doug Stailey & Beau Finley). 8:30 pm. $12.

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