From West Coast Power Violence progenitors of Man Is The Bastard to the static drenching of Bastard Noise (and many more), Eric Wood’s career is as uncompromising as it is animated. Across monikers, Wood’s commitment to sonic violence is fused with an unapologetic assault against humanity’s susceptibility to corruption and materialism. His 30+ years of work being the ultimate assurance, if one was ever needed, that the man is not fucking around.
Staring down the barrel of a brand-new Bastard Noise album, Discipline Mag jumped on the opportunity to speak with Eric Wood, BN’s founder and most consistent thread. Across our chats we discussed collaborations, the legacy of power violence, animal rights, and the cesspit of cultural waste that is the internet. Outspoken and never understated, take heed of the man whose bastard sounds have come to provide a road map into the demise of our species…
All your money – will it buy you peace?
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Hi Eric, thanks a lot for taking the time to speak with Discipline Mag. How have you been and how are things in Los Angeles right now?
I’m honored for the opportunity. I’m ok. Los Angeles is full of ignorant human waste that care nothing about “slowing the spread” of the virus we as a species have earned. I do not go out virtually at all except to the market right when they open at 5:00 am and to wash my clothes. Horrifically enough, I just found out that the owner of the laundromat I go to right across the street from me perished from the virus. I don’t know the details but he was a very kind soul. There is a memorial posted inside the laundromat. The shit is knocking on everyone’s door. They just don’t know it…
In your work there has been this running idea that humanity is akin to some kind of incessant plague or sickness bestowed upon the earth. How has the emergence of a deadly global virus, and the actions of many humans over the last year, affected this view and future outlook?
It’s truly the “same old song and dance” to be honest at least in my humble opinion. Humans (aka our “SHIT SPECIES”) except for a very few, DO NOT “get it”. Other select countries/societies “get it” much more than America does that’s for sure. Human ego is an enthroned cancer that ruins everything. But I’ve had this outlook as long as I can remember…
It would seem that you have a new Bastard Noise album coming out. Sonically, what can we expect from this new record?
Yes, it is on DEATHBED TAPES and my first full length on cassette format. I agreed to do cassette format (which BN has only used in the past for live releases) due to the fact that Alex Ford (DEATHBED TAPES) helped me selflessly with the studio time. He has been nothing short of a “skull blessing” during these times of psychological horror and global pandemic mass death. The release is titled : “THE SKULL SCRIPTURES” and in my opinion is my finest achievement next to “ROGUE ASTRONAUT” which was co-written and composed with W.T. Nelson in 2007.
It is nearly one hour and two minutes in length and contains NO “FILLER”.
You can expect a glimpse into the horrors of extraterrestrial sound investigation. It has been crafted with true compositional feel that encompasses a wide variety of lush dynamics and vast production. Michael Rozon produced it as did he produce “ROGUE ASTRONAUT” for that matter. Michael Rozon has produced BASTARD NOISE for the last fifteen years. “THE SKULL SCRIPTURES” raises the bar significantly for me and Michael as my producer. I believe you will understand this statement when you experience it. It’s a great time to be excited about new material for sure.
As it’s coming out on Deathbed Tapes, does that mean this new record is planned as a purely cassette format?
Yes, cassette and electronic digital download. That was something I agreed on with Alex when accepting his assistance. He’s extremely professional and I believe our working relationship will be extended beyond this release.
Obviously much of your new record was recorded and worked on during 2020. How has the global pandemic affected your process, both creatively and practically?
Actually “THE SKULL SCRIPTURES” was done from mid-December 2020 through early February 2021. It took six separate sessions to track, mix, edit and master. The global pandemic has been a true inspiration. Make no mistake. This is why BASTARD NOISE ran alongside MAN IS THE BASTARD for seven and half years and now nearly twenty three years beyond M.I.T.B’s demise : because experimental sound can survive through the darkest and the brightest times our shit species gives birth to. I read a lot about early post WWII experimental composers prior to ever uttering a single sound myself. They thrived through misery quite often. Nothing like we do today. I just took that information to heart and “ran with it” personally. Upon meeting Henry Barnes and W.T. Nelson I knew BASTARD NOISE would persevere.
Bastard Noise has had a few personnel changes of late – who has come? Who has gone? And what does the lineup on “THE SKULL SCRIPTURES” look like?
Many have come and gone. The best alliances have been with founding member BARNES (who now and then periodically still works with me), W.T. NELSON (who was in BASTARD NOISE for eighteen years from 1992-2010. Other members have come and gone due to not being “lifers” or due to not wanting to put the real work in.
I currently still intermittently work with sound designer Anthony Saunders but I now prefer to work alone in most cases. “THE SKULL SCRIPTURES” is myself alone working with BASTARD NOISE long time producer Michael Rozon. I find the most peace and creative promise working by myself.
After 30 years in the game, you have a long list of collaborators that you have worked with. Do you have any upcoming collaborations we should know about? Also, are there any artists you want to collaborate with that you haven’t yet?
The only collaboration on the way is a full length double 12″ L.P. collaboration with Tokyo, Japan’s MERZBOW upcoming on RELAPSE RECORDS. It is titled “RETRIBUTION BY ALL OTHER CREATURES”. All recording is finished but there is no set release date as of yet. No other collaboration-based releases have been decided upon but hopefully in the future there will be a G.C. SKULL ELECTRONICS/BASTARD NOISE collaboration effort. KOHEI NAKAGAWA is a great friend of mine who is always up for the challenge and “journey” !
I want to ask you about some of the phrases you’ve used to describe Bastard Noise. In noise music, there is a small tradition of ending band names and sounds with the word “electronics”. Bastard Noise has claimed two, Insect Warfare Electronics and now Alien Pregnancy Testing Electronics. What is Alien Pregnancy Testing Electronics, how does it relate to your upcoming release, and what are the key differences from Insect Warfare Electronics?
“ALIEN PREGNANCY ELECTRONICS” is simply one of many descriptions I use to convey the sci-fi angle of BN’s persona. Just like “INSECT WAR ELECTRONICS”. Nothing more, nothing less. One’s attention span and imagination are still required if the “journey” is to be successful.
Your career spans both the pre-digital era and the era of digital ubiquity. Nowadays in music, discussion, debate, and marketing typically play out online on various forms of social networking sites. What are some of the key changes you have noticed as a result of the digital transition? And what is your take on the way online discussion often manifests into heated disagreements?
I feel the “SHITERNET” is essentially a cesspool for human waste to be enslaved by. There is so much knowledge but the access to so much knowledge creates laziness on steroids. It was a much better time pre-internet to be honest. You had to have it “in you”. You had to be truly hungry and want it. It’s a travesty now. A Frankenstein’s monster that will never die.
Do you agree with the idea that certain artists have over-prioritised their online presence? And what impacts have digital platforms had on your own practices?
100% !!! As I said above, it is a toxic waste dump for the most part. It has devalued the physical medium of releasing sound/art in general. Totally absent of soul in my humble opinion. Certain labels that have released BASTARD NOISE do have digital versions of the physical releases but that is all agreed upon beforehand. Sometimes you have to meet halfway. In a perfect world, I would have no internet or cell phones.
Noise music seems to be one of the most repelling, yet misunderstood genres of music. Its practitioners and audience also tend to be quite committed to the discipline. What was it that initially drew yourself from the power violence/hardcore ethos of Man Is The Bastard to noise? And similarly, what has kept you working in this medium?
I wasn’t “drawn” from one to the other. I was equally interested and doing both simultaneously as I mentioned earlier. Certainly, I did not have the equipment early on during musical projects that predated MAN IS THE BASTARD but my interest and listening tastes reflected it. I do not come from hardcore as a person or listener. I come from rock, soul, classical and experimental primarily (before I ever played an instrument that is). Again, it was when I met Henry Barnes that everything “opened up” and additionally when I met W.T. Nelson through Barnes, that was when things just exploded in a positive and in a very creative direction.
What has kept me working in this medium is truly the love of it. Investigating the unheard and the unexplored. I have “the bug” for life.
Your name and Man Is The Bastard are synonymous with the genre power violence. According to some online sources, the sound originated from the band Siege, but Matt Domino of Infest coined the term in the early 90s. Does this sound right? Are there any holes in the recorded history of power violence that you would like to fill us in on?
Really ? It came out of SIEGE ? That’s news to me. Matt Domino coined the phrase at one of the earliest NEANDERTHAL rehearsals in my presence. It wasn’t “Power Violence” It was “West Coast Power Violence” just to be clear. Never heard about the SIEGE connection in my life. I have nothing further to add that wouldn’t take a “book” to document to be honest.
Are you interested in contemporary power violence at all? What do you think of bands like, say, Full Of Hell or Nails?
No I’m not at all interested in something that doesn’t exist any longer. Power Violence took its’ last breath the day Shawn Elliot of CAPITALIST CASUALTIES passed away – PERIOD. These silly fuckers who will remain nameless that “claim” Power Violence need to look in the mirror and start their own sub-genre. Grow a pair. Today it’s “NUTSACK VIOLENCE” !
I’m not interested in NAILS or FULL OF HELL. There’s no ill will, just not my “cup of interest”.
The MITB track, Moloch, takes its lyrics from the Allen Ginsberg poem, Howl. I must say, the effect of these words is incredibly powerful. How prevalent are literary influences in your work? Are there any other notable mentions that audiences may have missed?
There are not really any literary influences in BASTARD NOISE‘ material. That idea to put Ginsberg’s “MOLOCH” to original MAN IS THE BASTARD music was KENYON’s idea at the time. A great idea which worked out beautifully but just not my idea. I think it was my favorite track to perform live with the band however ! For BASTARD NOISE, I prefer to focus on environmental and animals rights issues more.
You are quite vocal about the importance of animal rights and this also seems to be reflected in your plant-based lifestyle. Correspondingly, there is a small, but prevalent movement of artists who pursue such stances in their work. I’m mostly referring to yourself, Merzbow, and certain groups in the grind/hardcore/power violence communities. How do you think these themes spilt over into extreme music and why do you think such “free form” genres have become vehicles for this message?
The reason for me personally is : one life to live. I would rather make a positive difference by speaking up for the voiceless than instead do nothing. I cannot really get inside the heads of every artist but for me it definitely started with listening to FLUX OF PINK INDIANS, MILLIONS OF DEAD COPS and CRASS (among many others with similar values and ethics). experiencing the work of JANE GOODALL, ELF, ALF animal rescues around the world among so many others and also forcing myself to become aware instead of staying ignorant. We are guests of this world. We can be shaken off like ants. We should enhance the beauty not relinquish it to greed. Animals and nature are everything. Without them we are doomed. The force of the earth mother is greater than any man’s evil or good. She will recycle us all. I choose to care about sentient beings and love animals. Looking the other way is bullshit cowardice. That’s all I can say. It would take an entirely separate interview to scrape even the smallest surface of this subject. There are many good souls doing good work. Too many to mention here.
To me, one of the defining qualities of your work is your deep, guttural growl. As much as I love the whole package of your work, I’m always searching for your growl amidst the chaos. How did you develop your voice into what it is, and what were some of the central influences for this?
Some of it was obviously from extreme bands of the time that I was listening to when CHARRED REMAINS formed back in 1990. Bands like AGATHOCLES, NAPALM DEATH (LEE DORIAN ERA ONLY) and so on who told me (subliminally) it was “ok” to apply this “general blueprint” into BASTARD NOISE/MAN IS THE BASTARD. I realized though that it shouldn’t be overused. I had to develop a few voices to contribute to the material when it was written and recorded. This allows for variety and therefore no one voice is heard too often. I took vocal styles also from NEANDERTHAL and PISSED HAPPY CHILDREN (my previous bands) and applied them as well. Also early sci-fi television such as THE OUTER LIMITS (they had better monster than THE TWILIGHT ZONE), film noir, accounts of alien abduction, unsolved disappearances and horror movies (especially NON blockbusters). Life in general has been an influence too. Working with W.T. Nelson really had an impact on me. You must remember he was in BASTARD NOISE for eighteen years !!! There is no one I have ever worked with that worked harder and had more spirit than Nelson and Barnes.
You have a diverse background of collaborations in your back catalogue, but the one I want to talk about is the late Koji Tono aka MSBR. Obviously, he had a great impact on you, as demonstrated by Bastard Noise’s “Dedicated To Koji Tano” – Live In Montreal, Canada 2015. What was it like collaborating with Tono during the 90s (in pre-digital times)? And what are some of the lasting memories you have of working with him and of him as a person?
Well the only true collaboration recording we ever did with KOJI TANO was the M.S.B.R.B.N. one sided 12″ collaboration L.P. from 1995. Other than that, his influence on me “keeping my hunger” to stay prolific was that he was the reason BASTARD NOISE toured Japan for the first time in 2000. He set up a phenomenal tour for us. It was busy and fast paced but extremely positive and with great sound and amazing bills throughout the tour. It was where I met so many, I also did vocals for MAGMAX live when BN toured Japan a different time prior to Koji’s passing. He was a “lifer” and good friend who deeply cared about sound and cared very much about BASTARD NOISE. He was an extremely good person too in general. I miss him every day.
Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share?
Miles Seaton Rest In Peace brother
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Edited photos by Kevin Bernier