Interview with Obfuscated Records
Interview from Noise Without Borders Issue #1/Nov. 2015-Feb. 2016
NWB with Adrian Obfuscated of Obfuscated Records
NWB: Tell us who you are.
Adrian: I'm Adrian Obfuscated the proprietor of Obfuscated Records. I also maintain noisewiki.com which is a user maintained wiki for noise
and related genres.
NWB: Nice, how long have you been running Obfuscated Records? Has there been any help over the years?
Adrian: It started it about 5-6 years ago. It's mostly a DIY label although I had put out releases that required professional manufacturing services such as vinyl records. On some of the early releases I was silk screening the art onto the CD and CD sleeves.
NWB: What made you decide to run a label in the first place? Any releases you're particularly proud about?
Adrian: Well it kind of goes hand in hand with the DIY nature and culture of the noise scene. When I first got into experimenting with "noise";
back in the late 80's everyone was trading tapes. Although back then I guess I considered what I was making as industrial music. I didn't hear the term noise until much later after I had quit making music and got into making sound via circuit bending. I guess I'm most proud of the glow in the dark 7" I did for Pulsating Cyst.
NWB: Have you noticed any changes in the Noise scene? What was your first exposure to noise/industrial? Can we still hear your stuff?
Adrian: Well there is some changeover in who is active making and releasing noise. I know many people who are hitting the ten year mark and others who have been at it for 30 plus years (SMEGMA). There are always new comers. Some people get busy and stop being active. I had the fortune to be able to go to an out of state arts program my senior year in high school (NCSA) in Winston Salem NC. It was there that I was exposed to industrial music such as Psychic TV, Throbbing Gristle, Einstürzende Neubauten, Nocturnal Emissions, Zoviet France and many others. I suppose the first noise recording I heard was a collab between Nurse with Wound and William Bennett called 150 Murderous Passions.
I wouldn't say I was immediately compelled to follow suit. It'd still be at least another ten years before I'd get into making "noise". At some point in the mid 90's I saw Merzbow play at a bar in Chicago. It was probably the 2nd loudest show I had ever been to. The loudest being the time I saw AC DC when I was in high school and my ears rang for 5 days. Merzbow had them ringing for 3 days.
Anyway... my earliest work is not online. It was after all done prior to the internet that we know today. As far as changes go well the internet has changed much. When I first got interested in this I mostly just traded tapes with people I knew personally. Now you can exchange sounds with people in any part of the world. Also in the past 5 years I have noticed a huge decline in interest in tangible media.
NWB: Man, that's really lucky, did you pursue arts in college? What do you do outside running of the label?
Adrian: I eventually graduated from SAIC in Chicago with a BA. At the time desktop computers were just really catching on as far as media production goes. I got involved with a project that was being co-produced by a company called H-Gun Labs who was well known for producing many cutting edge music videos at the time for the Chicago Based record label Waxtrax.
H-Gun relocated to SF in 1998 and then the owners decided to go their separate ways a few years later. So I decided to move to Los Angeles and continue to pursue freelancing in computer graphics. One of the owners of H-Gun was friends with Jack Dangers (Meatbeat Manifesto). He would come by the studio to visit and one day he brought a circuit bent speak and spell with him. I had never heard the term "circuit bending" before but it was not long before I realized I had performed my own "circuit bending" experiments back in 1987 when I was in North Carolina.
My first experiments with noise involved fiddling with the electronics of a semi broken stereo receiver, an alarm clock and an electric guitar to record "industrial music".
Anyway I have worked in computer graphics for over 25 years now. Currently many of the projects I work on are video game related or film related and the company I'm working for is getting more involved in virtual reality projects.
NWB: Do you still trade tapes with people you know?
Adrian: There is a lot of trading involved in the noise scene. I consider the CDR to be the equivalent of Bitcoin..let's call it Noisecoin. Basically artists self-produce their own work and trade with other artists. So basically the way I distribute new releases is to trade them with other noise labels. Of course there are labels who are out to make a profit and manage to but there really aren't very many artists who manage to make a living making "noise". It's still a very small scene and the great thing about it is that it has a low threshold for entry. That is not to say that you would not encounter elitism.
NWB: What do you think of vinyl being unfortunately lumped in with hipsters nowadays?
Adrian: As for hipsters and vinyl.. I don't know.. I'm considering a couple LP releases and I have heard that some pressing plants are backed up with orders.
NWB: You mentioned AC/DC, what other non-noise stuff you're into?
Adrian: I wasn't especially into AC/DC at the time but my friends were and I wanted to go with them but it was great show none the less. At the moment the disc changer in my car stereo is loaded with Zoviet France, Chrome, Skinny Puppy and Mr. Nogatco (Kool Keith).
NWB: What about noise-rap? Do you have any opinions on groups like Death Grips, Clipping, Atari Teenage Riot, B L A C K I E, etc?
Adrian: I like some of Death Grips' work and of course ATR although.. I had never thought of them as being rap or noise really. I've heard of Clipping but I'm not familiar with the output.
NWB: Any notable projects you worked on?
Adrian: Well my main project right now is Pulsating Cyst.. although it's not strictly noise. It's a science fiction themed project using mostly modular synth equipment. Two of my favorite pieces of gear are the Metasonix S1000 Wretch Machine and a homemade device called the AnalAmp both of which are tube based synths. One of the LP's I'm hoping to put out is a split/collab with Bastard Noise.
NWB: I'm guessing (please correct me if i'm wrong) Pulsating Cyst's sound is similar to stuff you'd hear in the soundtracks of "B-movies"?
Adrian: Heh..well maybe if you played all the B movies at once!
NWB: Hoo boy, I keep thinking of MST3K in hell lol. I've noticed noise music in general has been anti- everything, anti-music, melody, etc.
Would you agree?
Adrian: Not surprisingly you might have a hard time getting the noise scene to come to a consensus on that topic. Certain aspects of the "anti" come from noise's roots in Dadaism and Fluxus are movements where you aren't really supposed to like things for their traditional aesthetic value. There was also a rejection of commercialism and commodification of art. Over the years there was much lamenting from certain members of the scene about how the internet was ruining noise because anybody could do it… I still consider noise to be music though even though that is a bitter argument for some and you'd have to really stretch the definition of music to make all noise fit. Especially HNW which is essentially static.
I do object to some groups that call themselves noise rock or whatever and they are more or less rock band trying to appropriate the word to make themselves stand out.
NWB: I thought the whole anti-stuff came from Futurism and John Cage tbh, I forgot about the Dada movement for some reason too. I don't
blame the lamenting, it sorta reminds me how people got mad over rap music being commercialized and how old reggae artists give dancehall shit.
Would you consider Big Black a band that doesn't deserve to call itself 'noise rock'?
Adrian: Sure a lot is owed to Luigi Russolo and of course Cage. But I associate the word "anti" with those movements specifically.
No I'd never consider Big Black noise rock. I dunno I think maybe some groups just don't want to call themselves grunge.. cause that's too 90's or they don't want to sound like Nirvana so they are noise rock. I don't lose any sleep over it. Lol.
NWB: They're just punk/post-punk?
Adrian: There is a lot of punk attitude and ethics to noise but just sonically speaking most of the Big Black output I'm familiar with is pretty clean sounding to my ears. They might be noisier live.