by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & N & lt;/span & o drones, no mixers, no laptops. The last thing you'd expect to find on a flyer advertising a noise show is a bunch of rules.
It's not unheard of, after all, for shows in the genre to feature someone playing a chainsaw or using percussion to rattle windowpanes. At this particular event -- the International Noise Conference (INC) -- don't be surprised if one performer convinces the prettiest women in the audience (or from a nearby bar) to take the stage with him and hack away on guitars for the entire set. Noise can't be described by Western musical notation. It's the kind of thing you feel pushing though your bowels -- rearranging your organs -- as much you hear it tickling past your eardrums. The name itself suggests patternless randomness, dissonance, chance and cacophony. Glorious chaos.
How can there be rules when you're shooting for glorious chaos?
Well... Thing is....
The rules, "they aren't hard and fast," Lewis Pardum says impishly. Pardum is curator of the Spokane leg of the INC, a traveling symposium that hit some 29 cities this year and will roll into Spokane on Saturday night. Pardum seems a little uncomfortable with the rules, and how to explain them in the larger context of noise, especially since his own love of the genre derives from "the formless nature of it." Some of his explanations involve statements against intellectualism and in favor of deconstructionism. The simplest answer he finds, though, is "Rat thinks it's boring."
There's no better way to put it. Rat Bastard -- founder and cultural ambassador of the INC -- thinks drones, mixers and laptops kill a party. The way self-serious kids stand in front of their computer screens clicking a mouse, adjusting knobs, barely moving, faces bathed in green and blue light -- it drives him nuts. "I call it suitcase rock," Rat says. "They started that crap in Detroit."
The rules, then, are a somewhat paradoxical attempt to create chaos from order. Or at least from onstage languor. To get artists to step away from the laptop and grab a guitar or a meat grinder -- or a pretty girl who's never held a musical instrument before -- and see what happens. To give aural art a visual component, and also to go nuts onstage, sending torrents of sound cascading off the walls, maybe hurting yourself in the process -- all in the name of that great, deep, precognitive rush of sound.
You can label INC anyway you want, Pardum says. You can philosophize about it. "You might say it's an intellectual statement against everything else," says Pardum, "but more it's just these people going nuts and forcing people to watch."
It's about turning the audience into voyeurs of the most uncivil kind of musical act. Rat Bastard's rules, then, are meant to draw out the exhibitionist in every performer. For him, it's all about the show, the atmosphere, and so is his festival. Some people get it, some people don't. Certain segments of the noise community in Detroit don't. In his estimation, neither does most of Japan.
"It's a certain type of party," Rat says. "They have crazy bands in Japan, but they don't understand the party. They take it too seriously. It's like work."
Though they don't share his tastes in performance, Rat defers to these noise traditions. Detroit got an INC event this year. Japan would have, if he could have found enough bands and a venue. There's really only one scene that's completely metropolis-non-grata with Rat Bastard: Seattle f---ing Washington.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & hough it's not really a conference and is only marginally international (playing shows in Seoul, South Korea, and the barely not-American Toronto), the International Noise Conference is still accustomed to bigger cities than Spokane. In 2008, Nashville, Austin, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Baltimore and San Francisco were all stops on the tour. Seattle, notoriously, was not.
"They just couldn't get their shit together," Rat says. "It was, like, three months I was calling people." The best the town could pull together was a tentative house show somewhere, but Rat is a person of principle. "I was, like, 'I'm not looking at a house show, man.'"
INC events sometimes have dozens of performers (and often that many fans watching). A house show wouldn't cut it. So the festival stayed in Portland an extra day and coordinators down there threw a noise barbecue (an idea absolutely ripe with food-based noise-generating possibility). And the next day, Rat drove to Minneapolis.
INC Spokane was born, in a sense, from a seed of annoyed disappointment with a town renowned for its music scene. Rat and Pardum saw each other at No Fun Fest in Manhattan this year. Because it was a noise event not given to INC's rules (read: it was rife with suitcase bands), Pardum and Rat had time to talk about the idea of a Washington show. If Seattle couldn't bring it together, maybe Spokane could.
Spokane would not be the smallest city to have an INC show. That honor falls to Easthampton, Mass., population 15,994. Spokane is, though, far enough under the national radar that Rat commits to the frequently used, perfectly logical, utterly wrong "spo-KAYNE" pronunciation. Still Rat has a highly positive image of Spokane -- "I don't consider SpoKAYNE a small town for music," he says. "A lot of musicians come from there -- good ones." He's excited for an event that (with 19 acts playing at two per hour) could have Object Space bumping until 6 am on Sunday.
Pardum is excited too. Having grown up in Cheney before moving to Phoenix for college, Pardum characterizes himself as a fan of most types of avant-garde music. Returning home and settling in the near reaches of Spokane Valley, he didn't expect to find any kind of noise scene here at all. Spokane's noise horde isn't huge, but it's lively. Half the bands at INC Spokane are from the area. The rest are coming from Seattle and Portland and Vancouver.
Both Pardum and Rat relish that fact especially. "I think Seattle has some residual guilt," Pardum says, smiling broadly.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CHECK OUT:
Bruce Hormann (http://www.myspace.com/bruce_object)
International Noise Conference featuring the Laundry Room Squelchers, Bruce Hormann, Takedown UAV, the Earwigs, Daedelum, Mahoogleus, the Bivenators, Penetration Camp, Napdance, Merdique, Burrow Owl, Argumentix, Soup Purse, Forrest Friends, Algiers, Aural Antithesis and Gohger at the Object Space, 1818 E. Sprague, on Saturday, Nov. 8, at 7 pm. Donations requested. Visit myspace.com/incspokane.