Wednesday, April 27, 2016

See Through Buildings: CALIFORNIA SCREAMIN'

Thanks to the warm response to the KIRA feature, I knew another noise interview was
more than inevitable, and you can be damn sure this one won’t be the last either!

For those of you who don’t know, let me introduce you to Ben Rehling, hardened veteran of the US noise scene in the late 80s and throughout the 90s, playing in hell-raising duo Jennifer Wolski. 
A true noise architect and experimentalist to the core, he now resides in GardenGrove, California under his new guise ‘See Through Buildings.’

He champions fellow underground artists and regularly dishes up sanity-crushing splits as well as full lengths that push him and his sound to the places others wish they had the conviction to tread.

On April 15th, Ben released “brain scans revealed a general lack of knowledge” which as the title suggests, takes actual sounds from different levels of Brain Scans, one of his most mind-melting efforts since re-joining the noise fray in 2015. 

In 3 tracks, ‘BSRAGLOK’ picks up your mind, throws it boomerang-style around the room, then slam-dunks it back into your skull. Even me trying to describe it won't do it justice, so listen below: 

Ben gives it to us straight about the good ol’ days of buying music before paypal, the state of the current scene and reveals all about his drone jar….

DMD: When were you first introduced to Noise/HNW and what first inspired you to start experimenting with Noise/HNW/field recordings of your own?

Ben Rehling: Tough one to answer as it was almost a natural tendency that I would end up in this realm at some point. Growing up I also leaned toward the weirder side of music. If it was Top 40 radio music, I tended to like the stranger looking bands, weirder lyrics, things like that. The dirtier and sleazier the hair metal, the faster the thrash metal, the more brutal the death metal, the darker the industrial etc. 

I have a huge pallet of musical interests but honestly if I narrow it down, jazz really was the clincher. I spent a lot of time listening to my father's jazz collection and jazz in general. You begin to listen for odd time changes, chaotic drum breaks, saxophone solos that wail seemingly aimlessly...

The improvised nature of jazz was a huge stepping stone to seek out band leaders and performers that stretched their projects to the maximum. Whether it be Miles Davis bending genres, John Coltrane taking long spiritual trips, Yusef Lateef playing every instrument known to man or John Zorn tying together many genres into a chaotic harmony. Obviously Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman blew my mind with what they did. 

I moved in 1988 to Livonia, Michigan when I was 15 years old. I was heavily obsessed with record stores and music and used to ride my bike to Record Collector. There I would spend hours with the guys at the shop who had their own noise band, Princess Dragon Mom. 

Finally I found a place that actually sold noise that I could buy whenever I wanted instead of (like today) having to hunt it down in message groups online to buy. Back then there was no streaming or downloading music. My first Black Leather Jesus cassette was purchased by sending cash in a damn envelope not via PayPal. 

In college I met a guy named Jay who was annoying as fuck. But through him I met Dave and we had a mutual interest in noise. We started the noise project Jennifer Wolski and recorded a ton of self releases cassettes, 3 7" releases (the final was with Macronympha) and played some shows around Detroit. We just did very loose chaotic noise improvisation coupled with all kinds of crazy recordings. Nearly 98% of what we did was recorded live to tape in one take with whoever was there with us joining in. I played mostly drums, broken cymbals, vacuum cleaners, etc. I have no real musical experience. I moved out of Michigan to California in 2000 and that ended my first experience being knee deep into noise. 

Work and life got in the way of doing noise and then via a chance meeting with Cody from Kearne on a damn Instagram post, I decided to start recording again as See Through Buildings. The rest is history at this point. I had never heard the term Harsh Noise Wall until I saw an old article with an old acquaintance who said that in his mind my old noise duo was on the forefront of that genre.
 I started working on building up my gear and went into making long form pieces like I used to.

DMD: On April the first, you posted ‘ride the grooves into the morning’ stating that it was a return to your ‘chopped up sound’ roots, was that an April fools joke?

Ben: Not a total April Fool's joke but a sad attempt at a tribute to one of my favorite projects Violent Onsen Geisha. Always loved how there was random noise and music playing at the same time. When I first started doing noise in the early 90s I had zero equipment and recorded live to tape by using all found sounds and random music.

I Also did vinyl cut ups using Barbara Streisand records that were donated to the library I worked at when I was 15. Now that I have some equipment it is fun to mess around and see what comes out but sometimes it is just experimenting as this is the first time I have actually used a mixer, 8 track, pedals, etc. 

DMD: From growing up until now, what musical instruments did you play? 

Ben: Drumming was always something that I did. Starting out in around 4th grade I did all percussion for school bands and things like that. I don't consider myself a drummer because I don’t have the memory for music. I mainly improv everything. As for bands, I did play drums for a grind/punk/noise project called 5 Deadly Venoms when I lived in Michigan. We recorded a Slayer tribute 7" compilation on our label and our only live show was opening for Melt Banana in Detroit around 1997. I have played drums for some one-off sludge side projects and at noise shows with my first project, Jennifer Wolski.

DMD: You have been using the Tascam DR-05 personal recorder for your field recordings, would you say that it’s a reliable piece of tech?

Ben: The Tascam DR-05 was the first piece of recording equipment I have ever worked with. In my other projects, I just did the noise and the other guy did the mixing and mastering. So once I started out on my own I had to learn everything. The DR-05 worked amazingly well and was able to capture all kinds of sounds and tones "live" during recordings and especially when doing field recordings. One of my first releases for a label was all ocean waves recording on it. Back in December I finally got a Tascam 8 track and started to learn how to use that for most of the recordings done this year. 

DMD: Please tell us about the gear you use to make noise, I am also interested to find out about the ‘drone jar’ I have seen in your Facebook photos…

Ben: Like I said, I had zero gear when I started See Through Buildings. My wife had a couple pedals and guitars but those are her babies so I did not want to use them for noise. When I met Cody from Kearne he turned me onto the Palindrome from Audible Disease so all my early recordings used that and a BOSS Distortion pedal. Then I bought my wife an Eventide Space pedal and used those three for a while. Currently I have added a Big Muff, some cheap FAB Metal and Distortion pedals and my little KORG Delay Monotron. 

The drone jar is a crazy little machine. Pretty much a glass jar with 3 light sensors. Any change in light will either send it off whining and screaming or I will use painter's tape and get more of a rumble out of it. The sound is very unpredictable so if I am doing a solid wall I will use it in the dark so the tone doesn't change. If I am just going all out noise, I'll just have flashing lights on it. I picked that up for $45 from Rucci Handmade Electronic Instruments. I Definitely will be adding more pedals to the gear soon. I also layer in the usual AM/FM radio stations and use the loop station a lot.

DMD: What would be your Noise Desert Island Disks and who are some of your favourite current noise artists?

Ben: This is almost impossible to narrow down, so I may have to go the cheap route and list artists. I was a huge fan of early Boredoms, Merzbow and Masonna in the early 90’s so there are some standouts from those that would be there. Aube, KK Null, Slap Happy Humphrey, Violent Onsen Geisha, Haters, Smegma, Black Leather Jesus etc. Gravitar was one of my favorites from Michigan and a band I played with a lot with my old noise duo. 

Current ones would be Bullshit Market, Kearne, Black Sheet Servitude, Melinoe, Big Hole, Misery Ritual, Monological Terrorist, Curses, Phantasm Nocturnes, Methlab Explosion, Condo Horro and so many more. Of course Macronympha also as I did do some releases with Mother Savage Noise Productions back in the day as Jennifer Wolski and we were featured on the Underground USA compilation with many great artists. 

DMD: I know it's kind of old news now, but what were your thoughts on the Full of Hell and Merzbow collaboration album back in 2014? and....What are your thoughts on the younger generation picking up the mixer and pedals and making noise? (i.e Kira)

Ben: In regards to the younger generation, I have to say I am incredibly impressed with what I have seen in my last year or so of starting to do noise again. It was not hard to make noise when I originally started but you did not have all the forums to present your projects like you see now (Facebook, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, etc). It was much harder to get info out there but that also made it fun. I figured that I would just do releases on Bandcamp, possibly figure out how to self release some items and just do that. I never expected to meet so many people and projects and get to work with many great labels.

All these new avenues are definitely giving a lot of the younger people a great foundation to work with. Vincent from Kira already had multiple projects but once he started doing noise it was amazing to see how he had no real gear but just kept focusing on developing his sound and then started to add more gear as he could. What impresses me about him is how seriously he takes but how professionally he presents all of his projects. 

I have also had the pleasure of working with Logan from Monological Terrorist (now ruiner.) and the moment he started his latest project, his sound just morphed into this crazy suffocating noise. The passion he has for the genre in general is infectious but what is great is that while he takes his shit very seriously, he also has a lot of fun and a great personality. 

While I could cop out and say it is so much easier now to be into and do noise, the problem is that there is the appearance "that anyone can do it" because you can self release all day long and barely need gear. But it is really about how much you put yourself into the music/project, how much you appreciate it, how much you are willing to experiment and grow and stretch your sounds. Some people like Kyle from Misery Ritual will take all of all that and package it together into an incredibly intense and physical live show and some will prefer to leave it all in the studio and let the tracks speak for themselves. There is a lot the younger kids can offer as long as they care about the genre and take their craft seriously.

On the Full Of Hell and Merzbow release, I can honestly say that I do not have much of an opinion. Have not spent much time listening to Full Of Hell and honestly haven't listened to anything Merzbow has done in the past 20 years. I think the overall release sounded mostly like Full Of Hell and less of Merzbow with the exception of maybe a couple tracks. I also feel though that it is not some big stretch in regards to the pairing. Honestly I would prefer to listen to OLD to get that spastic noise feeling like that instead of the FOH/Merzbow. Maybe it sounds a little weird but Full Of Hell can feel a little "clean" to me at times in regards to production. Not a horrible band but I tend to like Hellnation, Drop Dead, Siege etc. Merzbow had his place in my early views of noise but as the decades went on I was always looking for something more than what he offered. Either more experimental like Keiji Haino or just more extreme in  general... 

DMD: For those just getting into noise, could you tell the difference between HNW and just plain old fashioned Noise?

Ben: My personal opinion is that there are just too many labels and I just always referred to everything as either noise or harsh noise. But in general most people will look at HNW as just being a wall of noise. Some prefer an almost unchanging long track that you can just get lost in the longer you listen. Some like to layer some textures and sounds so there is a shift in the tracks as they listen.
If I am set up and turn on my pedals and it sounds like it would make for an interesting 10-20 minute unchanging track I will run with it. If I start out and something sounds a little too static and less dynamic, then I will start making changes throughout the recording either to the EQ, blow out the mid ranges, let the Palindrome just go off all over etc. 

I tend to like texture and volume, whereas some people will go with "ambient noise wall" with a quieter rumble. Unless the piece I am recording is expected to be HNW I usually don't start recording with a specific idea in mind to just make that. Sometimes I honestly will get sidetracked, forget I was recording directly to the 8 track and come back 35 minutes later to some massive track that was only supposed to be 10 minutes!

listen to See Through Buildings on bandcamp here

on soundcloud here

and like his facebook page here

For more HNW reading, check out:

Interview with James Shearman of A Raja's Mesh Men here 

Interview with Nemanja Nikolić of Dosis letalis here

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