number 15    SUMMER BREEZE 2003



Emil Beaulieau/Prurient/Immaculate: Grotesque July Tour plays Chicago

report by Chris Sienko

pics by Chris Pottinger (from Detroit show the previous night)

Sick, sick show last night. [Tuesday, July 15, 2003.] Everything I could have hoped for from my multi-year wait to see "America's Greatest Living Noise Artist," Emil Beaulieau (aka RRRon Lessard of RRRecords). The whole lineup was (in order of appearance)

- Crippled Insectual (local noisers Blake Edwards and
Julia Gilman in on-again, off-again collabo)
- Emil Beaulieau
- Prurient
- (Immaculate Grotesque)

In attendence: somewhere between 20-30 people.

Deadtech has a new partition wall near the entrance, which means you now have to walk through a short "tunnel" of sorts before entering the space proper. While, as Philip Von Zweck noted, this gives it more of a "gallery" feel (as opposed to the previous "deserted warehouse loft" vibe it had before), it also means that anyone coming in late has to walk the gauntlet between performer and audience, which could be profoundly embarrassing for the more sensitive Deadtech attendees.

Crippled Insectual did their thing, Julia in one of her bug masks, Blake being Blake, stoic and focused. Amplified saw blade, lots of pedals and mixers, a box with something mysterious inside and a wire trailing out which was repeatedly shook and kicked around by both. There were a few more obvious loops than at the Mutiny show (which was a MASTERPIECE of "Sweet Electronics" as opposed to harsh noise), but they were also obliterated under more feedback and heavy grit. The saw blade (or maybe just a long piece of thin metal?) sounded great being hit on the floor, kicked, etc. (thoom thoom!), and the loops were pretty good, particularly when allowed to run untreated. Not the best I've seen from these two (this is the second or maybe third time I've seen this pairing), but excellent. RRRon Lessard rrran over and shook Blake's hand in the most exaggerated way possible (legs all akimbo, other arm flailing, something like "GOOD! THAT WAS SO GOOD!"), followed by a hug for Julia, who looked very nervous by the sudden attention from this wildly gesticulating man.

And yes, it's true, Mayor Beaulieau was on next. Guess he wanted to give the new kids on the block the favored spots on the bill. First thing I noticed....NO MINUTOLI!!! [1] What the fuck?!??! Maybe it's just too delicate to be travelled with, but only a one-armed turntable for this show, plus some pedals and contact mics, and a big metal cylinder that might have been some kind of king contact mic or something, I don't know. Emil was at his crowd-pleasing best from the perspective of physical comedy, really mugging for the eager audience. After admonishing everyone to "not be lame" and stand the hell up (most, but not all in attendance followed his mayoral advice), he would stand in the crowd, look at the running turntable, look back and forth, and start "sneaking up" on it, like Elmer Fudd hunting wabbits. He'd bob this way, weave that way, hide behind the pillar, and then RAAAAAACK! he'd drop the needle elsewhere on the record, and with a flurry of arms and machinery, hit a bunch of settings on the pedals, causing something else huge would come screaming out of the speakers!

Not too long after this, his sneaking around became more pronounced and less jovial, and he began examining his equipment harder. It seems that the heat in the room was causing the PA speakers to overheat. After about six or eight minutes of tinkering, and finally getting some fans up against the back of the speakers, Emil was in business. As the first set of noise loops ran, he did his traditional Mr. Rogers thing and dance around while he put on 1) the pinkish-red shirt, 2) the red tie, 3) the gray button-down cardigan sweater that is the uniform of Emil Beaulieau.

Once the uniform was on, so was the persona! Off went the pedals, and Mayor Beaulieau was addressing the assembled members of the community, just like I'd always imagined it.

"Hello, ladies and gentlemen. My name is EMIL.... BEAUUUULIEAUUU...and tonight, I will perform more, no less, but THREE...of my compositions. I hope I give a good performance, and I hope you enjoy them, as much as I enjoy performing them. Thank you."

Like the intro to Star Trek or the preamble to the Gettysburg Address, die-hard fans know this monologue by heart. Of course, none but the most diehard realized that Emil had a new album out (cuz it's not in the catalog yet!), and that the compositions he played for us tonight came from this new album, titled "Moonlight In Vermont." He started out by making rolling "R" noises with his mouth for a long time. "Rrrrrrrrrrr, rrrr, rrr, RRRRRR!" At first, it sounded like he was going to do Kurt Schwitters' "Ursonate"
(he frequently did this in concert a few years ago). Then he started breaking them up with other syllables, two specific and maddening ones. "Rrrrrrr, rrrr, rrr, rrrrrey Poo! Rrrrrrr, rr, rr, rrrrr, rrrrey poo! Rey
poo! Rey Poo!" Like some sort of scat-obsessed bird, Emil ran around the space trilling "rey poo! rey poo! rey poo!" until someone yelled "I'm going to kick your ass!" Eventually, he ran over to his stack of records, brought one over to use, and showed us the play side. Sure enough, painted in large letters on the record itself, were the words "Rey" around the top, and "Poo" around the bottom. He pointed to these words as he showed them to us, like an elementary Spanish teacher trying to teach a new language to kids who barely know their mother tongue. "Rey poo, my love, oh Rey Poo! I love her so. Rey Poo!" He drops the needle on this record, and it’s showtime!

Now, without the Minutoli, there are a lot less loops and skips than I like, and more "regular" noise stylings, but Emil, like all great noise artists, has a definite style that can't be missed. It always seems weird to some people, but hardened noise lifers/fans who have put in the time can often tell, within maybe 20 seconds of putting a tape on the stereo, what noise band is being listened to, even if it wasn't explicitly mentioned. The best ones have a certain sound, and a certain way of moving things along. Even without the trademark weapon, Emil still sounded like Emil. At one point, he stood in front of us, two contact mics in his mouth, yelling, grabbing at his hair, hitting himself in the head, eyes bulging, spazzing out like an autistic David Byrne. (Ron later looked exhausted and said, "Man, that really took it out of me. I'm getting too old for this shit," eerily invoking the spirit of Danny Glover.) The sound was a kind of nervous, overloaded whine that seemed to come from his whole choreography, not just the mouth area. It was funny, and it was definitely magic. Few noise performers are so willing to put themselves on the line like Emil Beaulieau. Fewer still have injected REAL HUMOR (not dark or ironic humor) into the noise and still managed to sustain the ferocity.

After this, Emil told us that he and his lover Rey Poo liked to walk in the moonlight. This is when he told us about "Moonlight In Vermont," his new album, and how it was available (waves hand to the merch table) OVER THERE. Always the salesman! Anyway, for track two, Emil plugged in two contact mics, and then surprised everybody by lifting up the turntable and throwing them UNDER it, so that they'd pick up on the drive motor sounds, I guess. Sure enough, this "composition" was more stationary, with lots of low end, but very little movement in the midrange. At this point, my ears started really hurting, so I put in my new industrial strength professional ear plugs (as used by gun enthusiasts and scientifically made to dampen sound without completely losing the nuances of the outside world, or so says the catalog), which seemed to work pretty well without taking away ALL the fun of the show! Again, Emil started stalking the turntable, and shaking the weird canister-thing over his head, but this one was still his most "mellow" piece. Very fine!

For the third and final, Emil took three LPs, all of which looked like "Anti-records" (i.e. they all had holes brusquely punched into them and sharp cuts along the skin), and ran over to Julia. "For my final
composition, I need the assistance of THE LITTLE BUG GIRL." (Cuz of her bug mask, I suppose.) "Please choosea record, any record," he said, holding them out like three novelty oversized playing cards. She chose the middle one (who doesn't?), and Emil replied, "Excellent choice! That's the one *I* would have chosen too! Thank you!" He then dedicated the composition to "The LITTLE BUG GIRL," and there was some halfhearted and slightly confused applause, Julia looking just as appalled as every kid who ever had their parents jump up and wave to them during their big scene in the school play. This was the WILD piece of the three, with Emil waving the contact mics in the air, twisting knobs all over hell and back, and really turning the whole setup into a bit of a royal rumble. A few things were knocked off the table, but mostly empty water bottles (ah, the decadent '00s!). People laughed, nodded their heads, and then applauded and hooted wildly. RRRon (Er, I mean Emil Beaulieau) looked very pleased.

I briefly introduced myself to Ron after the set, while browsing the RRR merchandise table. He was glad to finally meet me, he said, since I'd been ordering from his store in Lowell, MA, for over 10 years! We chatted for a bit, I bought the three CDRs related to Emil Beaulieau ("Moonlight In Vermont," plus a split CDR with Richard Ramirez [the noise artist/fashion designer, not the Night Stalker], and one by Human Is Filth called "Destroys Emil Beaulieau" which Ron described as "better than MY albums!"). Prurient (Dominick Fernow)'s label, Hospital Productions, had their full array out too (as well as lots of product from a record store in Providence that I assume he works for, called Armageddon Shop), but he was over setting up his equipment, so I figured I'd catch him later. How wrong I was.

Dominick was a slight fellow, sort of unobtrusive to look at. In fact, when I saw him and the other guy who was Immaculate Grotesque (all on the same tour together, and also from Rhode Island, I believe), I juxtaposed them in my mind. The other guy had the
Posdnuos thing going on, bald with a thick scraggy beard, and he looked perpetually pissed. I figured anyone who made noise as intense as Prurient (certainly THE big name in US noise right now) must look like a thug, but no. I forgot how these things work. Dominick looks like he probably got his ass kicked in high school a lot, and retained a quiet but very intense presence wherever he stood in the room, decked out in a very raggedy Hospital Productions T-shirt (just a red shirt with a giant black version of the red cross you'd see on ambulances, full of the kind of holes you'd get from having audience members tear at your during a performance). He and the Immaculate Grotesque guy were setting up a rather large double-speaker setup in the middle of the performing area, in front of the table both Emil and Crippled Insectual were standing. In typical record geek fashion, I stood around the merch tables and talked shop with other record geeks (while RRRon, the One Who Will Lead Us All, piped in at opportune moments) until we started hearing a high pitched whine coming from this big speaker set up. It sounded great from where I was at (behind the speaker), just the right volume, leading me to believe it was going to be hellish as soon as I got in front of it. I walked over to the other part of the room, and sure enough, the waves of ultra-high pitched cocclea-destroying feedback was so intense, I literally felt my legs buckling under me! I really wanted to try to ride this one bareback, but I’ve done that sorta crap for too many years in a row, and immediately started groping (my hands even shaking!) for my industrial strength earplugs. Even a lot of the tough guys in the room without earplugs had fingers in their ears. I stood in the back of the room, just slightly to the left of the action, and in the back of a loose "U" shaped group of people, all sitting in chairs and leaning on tables. In the middle, Dominick Prurient stood, directly in front of what had to be a 10 foot tall speaker set up, two giant Peavey cabinets sitting on top of a storage locker, the pre-amp leaning on its side next to it, a small mixer on top, and three or four pedals on the ground. Very simple setup. Dominick held two microphones, one in each hand (you know what that does, right?), and was standing stock still in front of this howling din, moving the mics closer and farther away.
In the hands of just about anyone else, this might have come off as lazy, or boring, or simple. But there was such a concentrated focused INTENSITY coming from both the speaker and the performer, it was impossible to look away. Either a pedal was occasionally hit, or some sort of acoustic property occasionally caused the unwavering high-pitch to occasionally drop down and then re-start, like a faulty generator. Even through my maximum-strength earplugs, my inner ears were vibrating madly (though not as painfully as they would have otherwise!). The main light was out, so the scene was backlit, and we were frozen, almost unable to move. Just the slightest change in position between mics caused thick, seismic shifts in the sound, with a minimum of physical movement. It's a really hard image to describe, but the mental picture of this young man, standing before a giant obelisk/amp, slowly performing this very precise incantation, basically staring down something much larger than him or any of us, will be with me for many many years. Looking back on the whole effect of it, it’s like one of those fleeting moments in your favorite movie, where you remember EVERY detail of it and can recall it instantly in your mind. At a moment’s notice, you can be deep in thought, concentrating on the image of the obelisk approaching the bed in 2001. Or the slow-motion shootout in Taxi Driver. Or, I don’t know, Rocky climbing the steps of the Capitol and jumping up and down to that "Rocky" song. Anyway, this moment is in my brainfiles just like all of those…Prurient with his back to us, right of center in front of a big-ass, loudly vibrating obelisk, staring it down and actually WINNING.

Then, all of a sudden, he’s throttled backwards, like an unseen hand slapped him into the back wall. With a complete and total abandon, he threw himself backwards, right in the path of a chair, tumbling ass over teakettle. He swiped at my leg as he scrambled up, took another tumble in the forward direction, like a shambling drunk (or someone in one of those nightmares where your limbs are like molasses) trying desperately to run away from a very sober cop, knocking over surprisingly little (and none of the valuable merchandise on the other side of the room), but exerting a tremendous amount of kinetic energy, finally throwing himself down the little hall, and out of the door of the performance space (and down the stairs? I didn't see that far). It was like a miniature physics lesson, watching potential energy be very forcefully converted to kinetic, all at once, like applying enough heat to a stone that it vaporizes! Dominick Fernow was gone with a puff of smoke, leaving only thunderous applause behind.

Everybody, even the cynics, was walking around in a stupor, saying "That was so GOOD!" We had obviously seen the high point of the night. That point was hammered home about two minutes later.

All of a sudden, Rob, the owner of Deadtech, wearing a very panicked look on his face, started yelling, "Okay, show's over, we gotta go NOW! Everybody! Get the fuck out NOW, I'm not fucking kidding. GET OUT! GET OUT! Don't talk, go, go, GO! The cops are coming, we gotta clear out now!" People are obviously quite confused, but there's no doubt that he's serious. He's hustling people off couches, out of chairs, like a teacher in a grade school fire drill. Single file, down the stairs, no pushing kids.

Once we get downstairs, we start hearing what I assume is the whole story. Seems there are some people who live near Deadtech, and it seems that while they often hear these low rumbling noises from this semi-frequently used experimental music space, it's seldom this loud, this high-end, or this punishing. A neighbor has called the cops, saying the Prurient set made her baby's ears BLEED. Bleed, folks. Now, personally, I think that might be a crock of shit, unless the kid was actually in the space with us, but I have no evidence for or against. I'd think that living next to Deadtech, you'd be used to this, but if it is true, most of the shows are more of a low, grainy, ambient rumble (like TV Pow), and this was something else entirely. Ears.......bleed. Man, Dominick has to put that little accomplishment on the front of every Prurient release from now until doomsday. For all the Power Electronics bands that assert claims of violence, how many can say they actually made somebody’s ears bleed??? As Blake and I discuss these events (Me: "What's someone doing with a baby so close to Deadtech?" Blake: "What's someone doing with a BABY?") on the street [2], someone is explaining this to Dominick, who looks shocked and confused. I can't tell if he's sympathetic for the tyke, or just fiery pissed at the turn of events. One thing's certain...the whole touring lot has to be pissed over the take for the night. They depend on lots of merch table purchases to pay for gas and food for the next city, and most people, myself included, were planning on waiting until the end of the show to really lay some serious green down. But more than that, one of the three touring groups didn't get to play at all! Mr. Immaculate:Grotesque yelled something inconherent, and stormed past us down the street for about three blocks before walking back, still (rightly) pissed. I hope he comes back some day, and we can try this again. Maybe Ms. Living-In-A-Zoned-Industrial-Part-Of-The-City could close her window next time!

[1] The Minutoli, a device created by Lessard’s friend
Mike Minutoli, is a four-armed turntable used by Emil
Beaulieau in many of his performances. Each tonearm is
of a different "quality," ranging from hi-fi to
child’s toy, and each arm (some of them locked into
fixed position, allowing for locked grooves regardless
of where the needle is dropped) is given its own
channel on the mixer, for a wealth of sonic

[2] Footnote by Daddy Dolman:
A "baby" is a common result of regular
sexual intercourse, something most noise
musicians don't know anything about.