Lost System: No Meaning No Culture

“Everyone needs a ‘local band’,” writes zine czar Jay Hinman in his Dynamite Hemorrhage review of Dark Times’ Give LP. It’s a sentiment I wholeheartedly support. I’ve resided in both sprawling urban zones and cozy college towns, the coasts as well as the country’s middle; I always seek out the freaks making strange noises, even when they’re nothing more than a handful of lonely shagsters lurking in a dank basement or a sports bar that allows bands to make a ruckus in a seedy back room. Some of my cosmopolitan pals think culture beyond their bubbles is a dead zone. That’s garbage thinking. I’ve encountered so many great artists who were perfectly content living far outside the big shitties. To this day, I rank The Sinatras, whom I fell in love with while attending Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo (pop. 75,000), as one of the most talented DIY rock bands of the early ’90s. Another example is reverb-spewing psych-rocker Jamie Hepler, whose outfits Soft Opening and Nest Egg, always blew my mind when living in Asheville, North Carolina (pop. 84,000). Dude would be a badass anywhere he threw down his mattress.

Like Hinman, I’m an older dude who came of age when local culture and DIY culture were inextricably linked. Zines, mail order and, if you were lucky, a local record store with a decent indie/punk section all helped me learn about artists from around the globe. But that stuff didn’t dwarf the local scene, which was important to support and help foster whether you were a musician or a fan. Making your own scene–an extension of the “our band could be your life” ethos–was the primary focus. That was as true of little Kalamazoo in the mid ’90s as it was bustling Boston, where I moved post-graduation.

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Lack: Undoing Gaze

My time in the Triangle, North Carolina’s Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill zone, wasn’t long. Just three years: 2013 through ’15. But my timing couldn’t have been better. I was fortunate to have witnessed the development of the underground scene centered around the performance space and bar Nightlight, as well as All Day Records, a very cool shop with an impressively obscure inventory, including a ton of 12-inch singles and cassettes. When I lived there–and this probably hasn’t changed (though the faces surely have)–the scene exuded the shaggy, anarchic spirit of DIY punk, yet the music emanating from it veered towards rhythm-based electronics, noise, industrial and performance art. As older heads know, the Triangle has long been home to an independent rock scene, one that has always boasted a unique balance of artists with professional ambitions (however strange their music may be) and the kind of outsider musicians who gravitate towards college towns because they’re too weird for any place else in this fucked up country. This cool mix definitely extended to the Nightlight-All Day Records posse.

In terms of talent, I’ll put the scene (as it was constructed at the time) up against any one of America’s big urban centers. Moreover, it lived and breathed inclusiveness. In all my years of underground dwelling, I’ve never been around a group of musicians and artists so thoroughly mixed in terms of gender and sexual identity and committed to creating art spaces that foster safety, comfort and equality. There was Ryan Martin, who runs the wonderfully unpredictable Hot Releases imprint and whose Secret Boyfriend project has records out on the experimental heavyweight Blackest Ever Black; Emily Withers, poet and singer for brainy synth-punks VVAQRT; veteran underground traveler Jeremy Harris (Lazy Magnet, Meager Sunlight, Jerome); imposing performance artist and sonic poet Viszk; noisy industrialist Noah Anthony (Profligate, Night Burger, Social Junk, Form a Log); Daryl Seaver, who has recorded for L.I.E.S. and Jeff Witscher’s Salon label under her Samantha Vacation moniker; chaos-spewing noise freaks Yohimbe; producer Andrew Peterson (a.k.a. Doom Asylum, whose 2014 12-inch on Hot Releases unloads shuddering basement acid); multi-media artist Chrissy Jones; DJ and producer Nathan “Sponge Bath” Taylor; Alene Marie, whose Liquid Asset project has been on fire in the last year (her latest cassette, Night Gardening, descends into ghostly squelch and late-night throb); and Luciann Waldrup (the woman behind Housefire, for my money the most underappreciated noise-beat project in the United States).

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