"Certain Sounds Turn Me On": John Brady Interviews G.X. Jupitter-Larsen of The Haters
Issue #41, December 1998
"It's not hate because you're angry about anything. It's hate because you love attitude."
— The Haters
The performance group the Haters specialize in 'destroyed music.' On their recordings they mix the sounds of breaking glass, burning materials, explosions and other sounds of destruction into complex collages which are simultaneously alienating and mesmerizing. In front of an audience, the Haters have been known to destroy everything from a school bus to stacks of vinyl records.
The way G.X Jupitter-Larsen tells it, the noisy, chaotic mess that is the Haters began in British Columbia in the late 1970s. Back then, G.X. was one of those punks who refused to learn how to play his instrument. This devotion to musical incompetence got him kicked out of numerous punk bands. Unwilling to buckle down and start practicing, G.X. went ahead and formed his own band with its own special rule for membership: The only people allowed in the band were those who couldn't play an instrument.
The Haters arose out of this collection of musical misfits. The band soon abandoned their instruments for sledgehammers, chain saws, grinders and knives. While no longer playing punk music, they looked to preserve the social theater of punk, a theater in which the performance is everywhere -- on stage, in the audience and beyond. And so the Haters -- 'part noise crew, conceptual performance troupe, and fraternity of the absurd' -- embarked on a career of breaking, burning and blowing things up in the name of noise, rot, decay and, above all else, entropy. The result has been over 250 performances and more than a dozen CD, cassette and vinyl releases.
People are beginning to take notice. After many years of making a racket in relative obscurity, G.X. and his loose collection of collaborators have recently been getting more attention outside the confines of the noise world. The first to take notice were the metal and grindcore crowds. Indeed some of the first reviews of the Haters that weren't nasty and dismissive appeared in metal zines. From metal and grindcore, it was a few short steps to the punk community and an even wider audience. Longevity and passion are key, Jupitter says. If you stick around long enough and do your thing with intensity, sooner or later people will begin to notice.
G.X. Jupitter-Larsen is a busy man. He's shepherding his latest release Cultivating Calamity (Vinyl Communications) through the labyrinth of the cultural underground and also preparing two more releases for 1999. If that weren't enough, G.X. has also been writing fiction, doing sound design for Survival Research Laboratories and publishing a zine Paper Cuts: The Drifter's Journal of Urban Sensitivity. Still, he had time for a chat about breaking glass, making a mess, and the pleasures of noise. What follows is an excerpt from our talk about white noise as a fetish.
BS: Where do you take your inspiration for your various performances? And where is the fun or where is pleasure in it? Is it in the physical act of destruction or is it generating the sounds...?
G.X.: Well, the inspiration -- if you want to speak about details -- every performance piece, each strategy got its inspiration from a different source. I guess at one point as I was smashing up clubs -- you know there is only one way that you can smash up a club -- so the idea then was how many different ways can you break something, how many ways can you make a mess. Smashing up a club is one way. And then you know, we got into taking live microphones and shoving them into power grinders. That was one strategy. So that kind of became part of the fun, coming up with different ways to make a mess. As far as the actual enjoyment, well, I mean it's a combination of actually doing the event. I wouldn't do something that I didn't enjoy. A performance usually runs about twenty minutes because after twenty minutes I start getting bored, so I just quit because there's no point in dragging it on. As my mum would say, always leave them wanting more.
And the sound is also important. The reason I got interested in noise was because there were certain sounds that I really enjoyed, like the sound of breaking glass. I liked the sound of fire, explosions. Any metal getting crunched. I wanted to generate those sounds because that's what I liked to listen to.
BS: When you say you like to listen to those sounds do you mean as part of your everyday life...
G.X.: You know, yeah, I certainly have an audio fetish. I have a fetish for certain sounds -- certain sounds turn me on, especially glass breaking and fire. In particular those two. But also just generally the amplification of erosion will put me, you know, in a very sexual mood, as my wife will attest to. These sounds -- the sounds of destruction and decay -- have a very sexual connotation for me, and I think they always have. So those are the sounds that I like to generate and those are the sounds that I like to listen to.
BS: In terms of fun and pleasure, what is your favorite performance?
G.X.: The most fun show I ever did -- just in terms of pure fun -- was one we did here in San Francisco at the old Kennel Club. I can't remember the exact year off-hand. 1994, maybe. Greg here at SRL [Survival Research Laboratories] designed and built a giant ion gun for me and we charged the audience to 2000 volts. They weren't aware that there was an ion gun there. I mean we were on stage cutting cardboard up with knives. So we created the illusion that Haters were going to do "one of their more conceptual shows, god how fucking boring." And then people began to realize that if they got too close to one another they would give each other shocks. They had all been charged to 2000 volts, so the closer you get to someone, you know, you started arcing from person to person. And so, of course, less then ten minutes into the show people started to realize what was going on, they might not have known how it was going on, but they knew that something weird was going on, so they started chasing each other, giving each other shocks. It was pure pandemonium for like twenty minutes. You had a couple hundred people chasing each other, torturing each other, trying to electrocute each other. It was a real spectacle because the show wasn't on stage, the show was the audience and the audience's reaction...
BS: Talk about erotic energy being produced....
BS: Is that what the Haters are all about, making a mess and having fun, erotic or otherwise? Is there a larger social, political meaning?
G.X.: Well, you know the body of work as a whole speaks on a lot of different levels. And certainly there would be a political connotation to a lot of the work. It has a lot to do with having fun. You know the sexual connotation is there even if no one else sees it. But certainly I think a strong dissatisfaction with political ideologies as they now stand is also expressed. I think the general attitude that is exhibited or represented is that you have to take responsibility for your own actions in all of this chaos. You have to find solutions for yourself, you can't let other people come up with answers to your own problems, you have to find your own solutions. I think that attitude is represented in the work as a whole. The performances aren't protests. I'm not protesting rot and decay. I'm celebrating rot and decay because I used rot and decay to solve my own problems in my life. Judging by conversations that I have with people who attend the shows and who listen to the CD's, I think the general attitude does come across. You know a do-it-yourself attitude taken to an extreme.
BS: Is that the reaction that you want to get from the listeners?
G.X.: Well if that's the reaction that they have, then that's great, but certainly different people are going to have different reactions depending on their own state of mind and point of view. Certainly not every one shares the same fascination with the sounds of decay or decay in general as I do. Now some people don't find decay very sexually stimulating. And that's fine, I'm not dissing people because they don't share my fetishes. But I think for anyone who does, they are going to get clued into my own motivation very quickly. Everyone is going to have an opinion, regardless of whether it's pro or con.
BS: If there is so much passion behind your work, does it concern you that you will be misinterpreted? Are you concerned that these things that you care a lot about might be missed by the audience?
G.X.: Well, there's always going to be a certain level of misunderstanding. No matter how well you explain something, there's always going to be a certain percentage of the audience that just doesn't get it. There's nothing you can do about that. That's the social entropy of the situation. I think that over time that anyone who gets involved in the work or has more than one experience with what I do will get a sense of the passion and the aesthetic fanaticism that is there.
BS: In one of your publications you wrote, "Wherever you're going, you only ever get halfway there." What half way point are you heading towards now?
G.X.: I haven't the slightest clue. You know I always knew I wanted to be involved in the creative process whatever that might mean. I wanted to travel and I got to do that. I wanted to experience certain outrageous, extreme things and I have for the most part. I wanted to release records, I wanted to write books and I wanted to produce films. And I've done all of that. And so I guess you know its just a question of getting better at what I do. It's about seeing what kind of adventure chaos is going to deliver at my footsteps and trying to keep my mind open to whatever experience chaos is going to dump on me. That's all that I can say. It's been like that for a few years. I have no idea where I'm headed and I am constantly surprised by the things I stumble into.
John Brady is a doctoral candidate in Political Science. In his spare time, John spins everything from 1950s self-help records and Bikini Kill to jungle and drum and bass under the name DJ Johnny North. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.