Lucas Abela has been touring the world relentlessly with his latest and most brutal musical instrument to date, sheets of broken glass. He become enamored with the sonic possibilities of glass during a soundcheck in 2003 and has been having a love affair with the material ever since. Simply amplifying the sheets using a high end transducer designed for grand pianos. It's played in what’s been described as “a trumpet player trapped in a two dimensional universe” pressing his face against the surface whist employing various vocal techniques ranging from throat singing to raspberries. Helped along with the addition of various signal processors he create a wild variety of noises that are surprisingly controlled and strangely musical.
Performing professionally for the past 12 years, since Oren Ambarchi and Robbie Avenaim stumbled across his late night radio performances in 1995 and asked him to play their 2nd What is Music? Festival. Since he's conducted 9 international tours, performing in over 30 countries.
Justice Yeldham is his latest alter-ego, with various past sonic experiments conducted under monikers like Dj Smallcock & Peeled Hearts Paste. Initially he was classed as an experimental turntablist, although his early work rarely resembled anything in the field. Early feats, saw him stab vinyl with Kruger style stylus gloves, bound on electro acoustic trampolines, perform deaf defying duet duels with amplified samurai swords, hospitalized by high powered turntables constructed from sewing machine motors, record chance John Peel sessions with the Flaming Lips, & be Otomo Yoshihides’ favorite entry into his Ground Zero remix competition; ‘Consummation’ even though instead of sampling the CD he destroyed it using amplified skewers!
He also founded and still runs dualpLOVER (recording label, cd/dvd replicators, distributor and promoter of gigs and tours) in 1995.
Selected Festival Appearances.
Unsound Festival, Prague, Czech Republic
Donau Festival, Krems, Austria.
Sonic Protest, Paris, France.
Observatori Festival, Valencia, Spain
La Weekend, Stirling, Scotland
Venn Festival, Bristol, England
Liquid Architecture, Melbourne, Victoria
Tiny Noise, Sofia, Bulgaria
Electrograph, Athens, Greece
Franko B, Colchester, England
Unsound Festival, Wagga Wagga, NSW
Straight Out of Brisbane, Brisbane, Queensland
No Trend; London, England
Les Voutes, Paris, France.
Ertz, San Sebastian, Spain
Lausanne Underground Film Festival, Lausanne, Switzerland.
Ekko Festival, Bergen, Norway
Unsound Festival, Krakow, Poland
Jon Roses’Panikkin (The Melbourne International Arts Festival), Melbourne, Victoria
Liquid Architecture, Melbourne, Victoria
This Is Not Art, Newcastle, NSW
No Fun Festival, New York, USA
GAS (Glass Arts Society) Conference, Adelaide, South Australia
Ideal Festival, Goteborg, Sweden
Transmediale, Berlin, Germany
Noise Festival, Ljubljana, Slovenia
LEM Festival (Caixaforum), Barcelona, Spain
Brake My Brick (Liverpool Biennial), Liverpool, England
Turnament, Los Angeles, USA
Now Now, Sydney, NSW
String Em Up!, Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Exiles, Berlin, Germany
EAR stage Big Day Out, Sydney, NSW
What Is Music?, Sydney / Melbourne, NSW / Victoria
Anthony Pateras, Make It Up Club (Fringe Festival), Melbourne, Victoria
Maja Ratkje, Oslo, Norway
Jon Roses’ Panikkin (Melbourne Festival), Melbourne, Victoria
Robin Fox, Ding Dong Dang, Melbourne, Victoria
Alex Davies, Lanfranchis, Sydney, NSW
Andy Boulus, Kraak Festival, Hasselt, Belgium
Chris Abrahams, Oren Ambarchi, Dr Martin Ng, Robin Fox, Now Now, Sydney, NSW
Oren Ambarchi, Robbie Avenaim, Dr Martin Ng, Dave Grohl & Curser Ov Dialect (performing as Testicle Candy) Big Day Out, Melbourne, Victoria.
Yamatsuka Eye, Noise Ramones Remixes, Sydney, NSW
Otomo Yoshihide, Bob Ostertag, Jon Rose, String Em Up, Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Flaming Lips, Peel Session, BBC Studios, London, England
Masami Akita (Merzbow), Tokyo, Japan
Robbie Avenaim, Dr Martin Ng, Big Day Out / Sydney Fringe Festival, Sydney, NSW
Lucas Abela - Amplified Sheet Glass
Cicatrix; CD Album, Sweatlung Recordings, Australia (2007)
Live in Seoul, 7” Single, 8mm Recordings, Italy (2007)
Live in School, 7” Single, Load Records, USA (2007)
Live in Beirut, 7” Single, Chondritic Sound, USA (2005)
Live in Lisboa, 7” Single, Freedom From, USA (2005)
Live in Germany, 8” Single, dualpLOVER, Australia (2005)
Selected Pre-Justice Discography.
DJ Smallcock: Yinyue, CD, dualpLOVER, Australia (2000)
Peeled Hearts Paste: Plover Brand, CD,dualpLOVER, Australia (1997)
A Kombi: Music to Drive-by, dualpLOVER, Australia (1994)
227 nottingham 151105
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"Yeldham's live performance consists of grinding his face into a sheet of mic'd up plate glass. It i..."Yeldham's live performance consists of grinding his face into a sheet of mic'd up plate glass. It is hideous for a variety of reasons. One is that the transparency of the glass means you get to view his face all squished up against the other side of the glass like a kid on a special bus wiping his nose down the window as you overtake them on the motorway. Another reason is the sound really is quite nasty. The resonant properties of the glass means as he yells onto/into it and then pulls and squeezes at the sheet, the pitch of his voice wildly varies and wavers and this in turn is run through some truly ugly processing that makes it sound like a Dalek in it's death throes."
221 bristol 081105
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"Blood. Noise. Broken Glass. KY Jelly. DJ Smallcock [justice yeldham] is once seen, neverforgotten. ..."Blood. Noise. Broken Glass. KY Jelly. DJ Smallcock [justice yeldham] is once seen, neverforgotten. Working at the bleeding edge of performance art and noise terror mentalism with adash of carny showboating, he screams and hyperventilates into contact microphones while his laptop morphs the nightmarish results into inhuman ring-modulated torture. This is a perfectly formed miniature that says a great deal about the principles of performance, entertainment and the wisdom of standing at the back."
174 denver 030405
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"A writhing, contorting, nauseating, sensational screamingfuckingbloodymess, the 33-year-old Austral..."A writhing, contorting, nauseating, sensational screamingfuckingbloodymess, the 33-year-old Australian glassjaw who performs as Justice Yeldham And The Dynamic Ribbon Device has a show so visceral, so alive, that it can move a room full of the most jaded noisenrrds to gaping-mouthed wonderment. The pock-marked bloke born Lucas Abela, mischievously takes the stage of Denver avant-loft/noisenik playhouse Monkey Mania wearing a belt surrounded by distortion pedals and a single contact mic limply dangling from a wire. He squeezes a tube of KY Jelly all over his weathered mug and into his mouth. He clicks on the pedals and presses he face to a triangle of glass. Hideous black garglescuzz pours out of the speaker, each yelp, hum and fart matching his face’s disgusting rubbery contortions. The sounds are inhuman, but their patterns are most definitely familiar, a hyper-distorted screech-tantrum howling in bone-rattling harmonies, all set to the bittersweet aroma of warm lube. He leaps into the crowd, face twisted into apoplectic distortions, and begins seizuring. And here is where everyone starts flipping the fuck out. Abela gnaws on the glass like a lion gutting an antelope. Each sickly crack jettisons through the distortion pedals, blorts out the amp and is followed by the screams of shock, fear, joy and various combinations of the three. The glass comes smashing down on his face. He waits, panting, for the cheers and screams to die down. His cheek is oozing blood from a sharp red line. His earlobe is sliced open and spitting a steady stream down his neck onto his KY-soaked shirt."
152 los angeles 020405
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"It was louder than anything that had preceded it, and it had an organic quality that demanded my at..."It was louder than anything that had preceded it, and it had an organic quality that demanded my attention - so I took a look. The Australian stood in the middle of a semi-circle of onlookers, the DJ and a hospita lgurney behind him. He wore a belt of effects peddles about his waste which were wired to a contact microphone affixed to a three foot long triangular piece of plate glass that was balanced on one shoulder and pressed wickedly against his face with both hands. It was like some perverse facial ham press. He blew into the glass like a trumpet player trapped in a two dimensional universe, sliding the glass back and forth across his face to change the pitch, vibrating and adjusting pressure to alter the tambour. The sound was a combination of the vibrations created by his manipulations and the feedback from the amplification, and he truly played it like an instrument. In totality, it was kind of like a cross between a dental vacuum and a jet engine - two of my favorite sounds. The first cuts I noticed were on his shoulder where hewas supporting most of the weight of the glass. His tee shirt had been sliced in two or three places, and a little bit of blood was starting to show. It was evident that this was going to be more than anyone had expected, and to drive that point home, he stuck the narrow end of the triangle as far into his mouth as he could fit it - and bit down. Breathing through barred, clenched teeth, a whole new sound appeared and then the glass gave way, shattering in his mouth. Quickly spitting out what he could, the larger, unbroken section of glass was again up against his face - smaller now, higher in pitch and somehow more urgent. His mouth was bleeding, and the distorted image of his face took on a new aspect of horror as the blood formed an organic liquid gasket between man and instrument. The intensity of the noise had not let up one bit, and with a few quick twists of the knobs on his belt any sense of waning was replaced by a new level of sound and violence. He bit the glass again, removing another big chunk, and then returned to the "first position," now with a piece of glass less than half it's original size. Again, the sound advanced to a new intensity, and at this point his entire face was red with blood that was mixing with his saliva and mucus to drip in tendrils from his hands, chin, and of course the glass. By this point, he was completely unable to stand still. The focus and control of is initial stance was replaced by a twisting, stomping, arching tangle of odd dance moves clearly inspired by the drive to continue the performance to it's conclusion. The final moments of the performance are hard to describe - suffice it to say that there was no piece of glass remaining that was larger that two inches in size. I was definitely left with an awareness that I had seen something that was totally for real - and I know that I've been a better person for it in the three days since."
094 beirut 020604
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"A barefoot Australian in faded jeans and a beer shirt was strapping on a belt of electronic devices..."A barefoot Australian in faded jeans and a beer shirt was strapping on a belt of electronic devices. Two wires led from the belt. One was attached to a large set of speakers and the other was attached to a jagged piece of glass. This was Justice Yeldham and the Dynamic Ribbon Device. The sound man turned on the power and the whole contraption started to hum ominously. Meanwhile our shoeless bloke was squeezing half a tube of KY jelly onto his face and into his mouth. The live music performance was about to begin. He played the device by rubbing his face up against the glass. The sound traveled down the wire and into a set of amplifiers and distortion boxes attached to his waist. This distressing music then came squealing out of the speakers at incredible decibels, instantly deafening all other sounds. Eyes widened in uncertainty and hands covered ears but he played on. He played with agonizing passion, sliding his face against the glass while flecks of KY jelly flew in all directions. The front row of spectators inched backwards out of spray range and some fled altogether. I was transfixed. As he glided his cheek across the glass he played with the switches on his belt. The squealing noise varied in pitch but never in intensity. It was like electrified teeth rubbing on a blackboard. It was like uncontrolled guitar feedback played backwards. It shouted of sorrow. It screamed of pain. It was art. Five minutes into the performance and his mouth was cut by the glass as he played the edge. Blood mixed with KY jelly in a red smear. More spectators fled. The sound continued to attack us in volleys of crazed noise until the final spike as he smashed the pane of glass. Then it was over. I didn’t know whether to clap, laugh or pray."
Through the pane barrier
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It may not be music as we know it, but Lucas Abela's act is smashing all the same. Lucas Abela st...It may not be music as we know it, but Lucas Abela's act is smashing all the same.
Lucas Abela steps onstage carrying a large sheet of plate glass. He squeezes KY jelly into his mouth and smears it onto the pane of glass, to which he has connected a contact microphone and a series of noise-effects pedals. There's a distorted squeal as Abela pushes his lips against the glass, as though he's blowing a raspberry, and then he starts moving his head to vary the pitch and timbre. Soon, the pressure causes the pane to shatter. Abela plays on undeterred, spitting out mouthfuls of glass and ignoring the blood that is now dripping down his face. The response of one reviewer seems typical. "I didn't know whether to clap, laugh or pray."
From Tokyo to Bratislava, Wagga Wagga to LA, Sydney-based Abela has taken his don't-try-this-at-home act all over the world. Next week the self-proclaimed noisician will play at the Liquid Architecture Sound Arts Festival in Melbourne.
Abela maintains he is not a performance artist but a musician developing a new form of instrument. "The sound is the primary concern," he insists. "But over the past decade experimental electronic music has become one of the most boring things ever to watch live. People have done some amazing things with computers, but I think audiences are very fatigued with that now and want to see music performed again."
Abela's sonic terrorism began in the early 1990s when he was hosting the graveyard shift on a community radio show. "I was getting really bored," he says. "So I started chopping the records into pieces and reassembling them, creating machines to make loops."
His twisted sound effects happened to be heard by Oren Ambarchi and Robbie Avernaim, the founders of What Is Music?, a festival dedicated to experimental sounds. "They rang up to find out who I was and asked me to do a gig," Abela says. "I've been gigging ever since."
At first Abela toyed with alternative forms of turntables, speeding them up with industrial motors and replacing styluses with skewers and swords. After a while he moved on to amplifying pieces of metal, manipulating them with his lips like a sort of DIY mouth organ. Then two years ago at a gig in Sydney he spotted a piece of glass in the corner of the venue and decided to try it out instead. "I fell in love with it instantly," he says. "It had a better resonance than metal and gave the audience a clear window so they could see the techniques I was using. Plus the comical effect of my face pressed up against the glass is a big element of the show."
Abela certainly suffers for his art. In 1995, a drum cymbal attached to an exhaust-fan motor flew off and cut his wrist open; one of his fingers no longer bends properly due to a glass-puncture wound. But Abela denies he's a masochist. "I liken it to walking on hot coals," he says. "I start to play and work myself up into a frenzy and by the time the glass starts to break I'm impervious to any pain . . . Then afterwards I go clean my face, put some disinfectant on and go out and meet and greet."
By Luke Benedictus
June 26, 2005
Cicatrix, Album Review.
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Cicatrix is the first full length CD from Australian noisician Justice Yeldham, aka Lucas Abela. Abe...Cicatrix is the first full length CD from Australian noisician Justice Yeldham, aka Lucas Abela. Abela's career in sonic terrorism began in the early 1990s – his violent sound effects on a local radio show were heard by Oren Ambarchi and Robbie Avernaim, and he's been gigging every since. This CD features his work with glass, which he first took up in 2003, for its peculiar resonances, the comic/disturbing effect of his face squished up against it, and, I guess, for its tendency to shatter during the performance. Contact mics and noise-effects pedals are connected to a large sheet of plate glass, and Abela smears KY jelly onto the surface and then vocalises – mostly, screams – into it.
The CD features studio recordings, soundchecks from a 2005 tour, live recordings from Zurich, Sydney & Toronto. As a "bonus file" we're a url for the video filmed in Bologna, Italy that youtube rejected for inappropriate content – "inappropriate" because Yeldham is likely to have blood streaming down his face by the end of a performance, from the shattered glass. The sets I saw in Melbourne and Durham were performance art – Abela toys with exhibitionist masochism, and his act has been called a freak show. But he maintains that "The sound is the primary concern," and the CD shows the possibilities of his bizarre medium. The soundchecks in particular have a more reflective, musical quality, but elsewhere Abela motormouths through squalls of feedback scuzz, bubbling and seething noise-terror and mayhem. Over the long haul this is a gruelling listen, but the integrity and obsessiveness with which Abela pursues his unlikely artistic vision can't be questioned.
ANDY HAMILTON -
Cicatrix, Album Review
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What initially sounds like a super distorted overblown recording ofHendrix playing his wild "Star Sp...What initially sounds like a super distorted overblown recording ofHendrix playing his wild "Star Spangled Banner", or a super grinding fuzz drenched synth noise psych rock blow out, or some insane ultra processed Japanese psychedelic solo guitar freakout, is in fact, a 40 something man, covered in blood, holding a huge piece of contact mic'ed broken glass in his mouth. Huh?
Such is the musical world of Mr. Justice Yeldham. We weren't sure what to expect actually, conceptually we were definitely intrigued. A guy who records himself smashing his face against panes of glass, moaning and humming into the glass resulting in all sorts of bizarre alien sounds, and often ending up with the glass shattering and much blood being shed. He had us at glass and blood. The cd sleeve is even a patchwork of bloodied band-aids (euwww).
But when we finally got the disc, the sounds were just as amazing, maybe even more so than the process, which is definitely a rare occurrence. How many records have we gotten, where the story of the recording was way more fascinating that the resulting music? Way too many. The thing with this Yeldham disc, is it's actually quite listenable as well. Ostensibly a noise record, the sounds here are anything but run of the mill noise, they range from strange fuzzy drones, wailing streaks of coruscating feedback, crumbling synth like blasts (parts of this almost sound like samples from the Justice record!), grinding gnarled squalls of super distorted buzz and every strange fuzzy buzzy stop in between. And every once in a while you have to remind yourself that THIS IS A GUY WITH HIS FACE PRESSED UP AGAINST A PIECE OF GLASS! A piece of glass that just may shatter at any second. And the more feverish and frenzied the sounds become, the more strain is placed on the glass, and the more imminent shatter and bloodshed becomes. So weird, and so goddamn awesome.
Comes in a cool velour lined cd sleeve, adorned with images of band-aids and blood, inside a full color booklet with tons of photos of Yeldham performing live, amazing and intense, some weird, some strangely beautiful, some super disturbing, most of them really bloody!!
WORST COVER OF THE MONTH
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What’s a Justice Yeldham show when it’s at home? A cathartic struggle against the conditions of exis...What’s a Justice Yeldham show when it’s at home? A cathartic struggle against the conditions of existence and a pataphysical howl against the means of expressing oneself through conventional artforms or; a hilarious pastiche of masculine-metal angst and avant-garde posturing? Well, it’s usually both, but on this CD it’s none of these things. It’s a nice Sunday walk through a plague of bees. It’s a fine slab of power electronics. But nothing can prepare you for what it means to see this man mashing his face into chunks of glass, biting off the shards, shattering plates on his face and bleeding all over the audience to inflict his reality.
CORRUPTED BY MR. SOCIOLOGICAL MEMORY MAN.BY SEYMOUR GLASS
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SEYMOUR GLASS: I'm unsure about the kind of automobile used on your CD. Is A Kombi a brand or model ...SEYMOUR GLASS: I'm unsure about the kind of automobile used on your CD. Is A Kombi a brand or model of car, or was it your nickname for the vehicle?
LUCAS ABELA: The word Kombi is widely used Australian slang for any VW van of classic '60s or '70s origin. You know, the kind hippies drive.
I suspected it might be a Volkswagen, since the disc art depicts a VW logo.
You are the smart one. I believe the word came from the Volkswagen company themselves. It was the model name or something for their campers, the ones with the pop-up roof, gas stove and fridge. If you inspect the cover of the CD, you'll see to the right of the Popemobile a mustard-coloured van. That's A Kombi.
What were you doing driving alongside the Pope?
I was just driving southbound over the Sydney Harbour Bridge one cloudy day when I noticed a string of police cars in the lane to the right of me. At first I thought, Fuck, what have I done? Four motorcycle cops came into view besides me. Then the next thing I knew, A Kombi and I were directly parallel to the Popemobile.
Were you tempted to misbehave?
All I had to do was swerve into him and I could have been world famous in a matter of minutes. I thought about it as I paced him along the bridge, laughing uncontrollably all the while.
How did you happen to get a picture of yourself driving next to the Pope?
It was news footage. He looked more dead than omnipotent. I think he was asleep. You can see one of the cardinals reaching for his arm as if to wake him.
What a photo op-sleeping religious leader in a rolling bubble. When you made the recordings what kind of setup did you use?
My friend Severin, who owned a DAT, and I took A Kombi out to Waverly Cemetery, a beautiful graveyard on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We strapped the DAT to the roof and let A Kombi perform magic for about 70 minutes, 40 of which made it onto the CD.
How much of the CD is raw, as it happened, and how much was processed by you later?
Each track is live and in real time. During postproduction, Severin thought the three tracks in the "Moonlight Serenade" series sounded better with some reverb. A tape of a live-to-air radio performance of mine happened to be in A Kombi's tape deck at the time, but besides that, it's pure Kombi.
Other than the scenic view, why did you choose Waverly Cemetary for your recording site?
It occurred in a six-month period, during which I was living out of the back of A Kombi. You can imagine the lifestyle: waking up at sunrise sweating, fixing myself some muesli, and sitting out on the cliff face before heading out for a full day of fun. I liked to sleep at another cliff at Bondi, the pavillion, Pleaent Ave in Erskineville, and the National Park in North Sydney. That was the best place to sleep, except that the policeused to wake me up in the middle of the night asking stupid questions, so I sooned learned Waverly Cemetery was my home.
Do you have a history of recording things like this?
No, not at all. Besides some taped radio shows, the A Kombi sessions were my first experiences with recording.
If I looked into your past, I wouldn't find less ambitious projects documenting the death of an air conditioner and duets with malfunctioning washing machines?
Before I discovered A Kombi's abilities, the only musical exploration I had made was drilling holes into records after hearing about Non. At the time I was unable to purchase or even listen to that kind of music on the Gold Coast, so I decided to replicate some of Boyd Rice's experiments by smashing and drilling records, just to hear what it sounded like. That was years before A Kombi came into my life, which was my true introduction to the loveof making music.
Before A Kombi I wasn't involved in making music. I didn" start doing live-to-air radio performances until mid-'94. Music to Drive-by was recorded September 1994. Since then I've been building my own musical instruments. Currently my favorite is this instrument I call The Bridge, because its first incarnation looked like the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It has a series of exhaust engines with discs attached to it.
What are the disks made out of?
LP record, circular saw blade, industrial vegetable cutter, stainless steel plate, drum cymbal... They spin at high speeds. Then, using the magnetic carts from turntables, I can turn items like swords, bowie knives, skewers, springs, barbecue grills and claw rings into large-scale styli, which I grind against the discs. It's like table work, but larger and more powerful.
I imagine many hazards await the untrained player of this instrument.
Yes. During one part of a show by Peeled Hearts Paste (one of the names I perform under) at the Harbourside Brasserie (which, incidently, is my place of employment making desserts), I was grinding a stylized spring against a drum cymbal that was bolted to one of those exhaust engines used to suck the air from aroom.
I never found it necessary to suck the air from a room, so I'm not familiar with the device.
Find. Just imagine this fucker spinning incredibly fast. One of these engines, with the drum cymbal attached, lacerated my right wrist. It happened so quickly, this is what I figured happened: the spring I was holding got caught on the cymbal's jagged edge (because I'd attacked it with a knife on previous occasions), forcing my arm down into it. My right wrist was cut down to the bone, severing my radial nerve 100 percent and lacerating two tendons-one 50 percent and the other 75 percent. It was funny because Al, the Brasserie's bar manager, was just finishing a paint job on the hallway floor when I came off stage bleeding all over his efforts, before being rushed to hospital. The microsurgeons were great. They didn't bother to put me under, only anesthetizing my arm. We got to chat all the way through the procedure.
I'm thinking of dropping this whole experimental musician thing and changing the focus of further issues of the magazine to people who've been to the emergency room.
To this day I have limited feeling in parts of my hand.
Jeez. Any other instruments?
The first instrument I built was this silver ladies' right -up-the-arm glove. On the end of each finger I attached a stylus and had the cords run up under the glove, giving my arm this alien vein type appearance. It was great. I could play four record grooves at once and change them them randomly with ease, but instead I tended to punch the shit out of my equipment in short bursts of premature ejaculative performance. I'm still experimenting with stylized metal sheets on which I blow air via an air compressor.
What sort of stylization is involved?
I say stylized because all my pickups are made from old turntable cartridges.
Does it sound like anything other than hissing air?
Yes. The sounds of the vibrations of the metal when the air hits it are what you hear. They vary depending on the air compressor's angle and distance and on the texture of the metal-like a storm usually. Very dark and ambient, but I have plans to rectify this with some metal tubing attached to the sheet to give it some high-pitched whistles or something.
I heard about a performance you did with a mate that involved needles going through the heads of your cocks.
That was one of Severin's performances. He built this black box noise circuit called Severin's Erotometer, complete with two wires with piercing rods on the ends. For the show we simply gave ourselves frenum piercings and then, to make the music, just touched each other. In doing so we completed the circuit, creating noise.
You're not Psychic Youth, are you? I'm trying to recall the last time I heard somebody use the phrase "simply gave ourselves frenum piercings."
We finished the piece off by doing a rendition of Burt Bacarach's "this Guy's in Love."
An acquaintance mentioned another performance where you were "sucking back bulbs and spraying metal with some air gun thing." What were these bulbs you were sucking back?
I remember nothing of this show.
That's a good sign. I've also been informed that your "lack of concern for [your] own health and safety" is somewhat legendary. This was in evidence at a boredoms show where you dove off the stage without many people to catch you. Supposedly you "rivaled the Boredoms as number one entertainment factor" that evening.
Who have you been talking to?
Some easily entertained Australian, apparently.
I was kicked out of the Boredoms show before they took the stage. In order to get back in, I disguised myself by cutting off my shoulder-length hair.
You stage-dove at a different Boredoms show. Isn't it true, Lucas, that you had to cut your hair because you and a friend tried to prevent the premature ending of a set by the support band, Phlegm- an injustice for which you should be commended for attempting to correct, granted- and were bounced out of the premises?
Did someone else give you a version of the story? If so, print that.
Watch me. You were also described as "very reckless and bold, charming, passionate and committed."
Who said all this rubbish?
Someone who cares about you very deeply. What did your friends and family say when you told themyou were going to release a CD of car noises?
My parents said they were proud of me but wore vacant expressions when they listened. My friends, the only people in Australia to actually purchase the CD so far, were more supportive. Generally, everybody I know outside of Australia's difficult music community think it's crap and wonders why I waste my time, except, of course, Kombi enthusiasts who support all things Kombi.
What do you mean?
When I first purchased A Kombi, I heard an expression "Kombi drivers of the world unite." I didn't know exactly what it meant until I noticed the waving. When you sit behind the wheel of your Kombi, you instantly join this unoffical club that exists around Australia. That's when the waving begins. Whether young, old, crusty or conservative, all Kombi drivers do it- the Kombi wave- when passing other Kombis. To me, it's the most powerful form of national consciousness existing in Australia that I know of. After some time behind the wheel, you stop thinking about it. The waving action becomes a reflex triggered by the sight of other Kombis.
Do you think it enriches the listening experience if one is aware of the recordinds' origins?
I like to think the recordings stand on their own and are as good, if not better, than some of the drivel being released under the guise of noise these days. They have a feel all their own but when combined with the sound source, it just adds weight for the ear.
Judging by the wording of the credits, I'd guess you consider the car the artist and yourself the recording engineer.
A Kombi is definately the artist. I'm not even the recording engineer. That'd be Severin. If anything,I'm Yoko Ono, living on the fame of a dead lover.
I know it's just an analogy, but I'm going to have to step in and defend Yoko Ono. Her husband may have been more popular, but she deserves more respect for her artistic endeavors than she has received. Her's is one of the most incredible, forceful and distinctive voices in modern music, and it's only one of the several avenues of expression she's used. She's worked with the likes of Ornette Coleman and John Cage. Plus she had the sense not to be in a band with Paul McCartney for 15 years or attempt to have a disco hit in the '70s by singing a duet with Elton John.
Fine, I didn't mean to discredit Yoko Ono by comparing her to myself.
Don't give me that disingenuous bullshit. You didn't try to discredit her by comparing her to yourself and you know it. You're making her sound like a Beatles estate leech, which is actually Micheal Jackson's turf.
I had no idea what a hideous person I am.
Now you know, scumbag. Knock it off. How about delving into some of the highs and lows throughout your relationship with A Komb?
While living in Grafton, I had a gig in Sydney that I was unable to get to. I told the organizers I would do the show via the phone lines, so it became a simple matter of finding the right location to make my call. On the night of the show, I headed out with A Kombi and my dad's mobile phone to fine a remote location to make the call. I ended up taking A Kombi off-road a little to get to this secluded beach with a rocky outlay. I parked A Kombi and headed out towards the edge of Australia. Standing on the rocks with the waves spitting up huge walls of whitewater around me, I went to make my call, only to discover that Mobilenet didn't cover the area I was in. Devastated and with less than an hour until show time, I turned to hurry back, only to find the rocky outlay quickly disappearing under the approaching tide. With shoes full of saltwater and sand I jumped back into A Kombi and sped off to find mobile access, but I wasn't to get far.
My right rear tire had punctured during my off-road adventure.
Did you have a spare?
My spare was the tire in question. I'd replaced the old right rear tire with it just two or so days before.
What did you do?
My never-say-die attitude allowed me to persevere. I drove on the flat tire for about 10 kilometres at a slow pace, finnally finding a caravan park that had a phone. I didn't have any change so I called my parents collect. My mom finally arrived some time later and took me home, where I argued with my dad about using the mobile in a nearby cow paddock in order to do the show. He refused for reasons that can't be explained.
Maybe he was afraid part of your show would be accidentlly dropping his phone in cow manure.
With minutes left, I grabbed a pile of change and headed for the nearest phone booth, which happened to be in the parking lot of McDonald's, where, after much inspiration, I creamed for about 20 minutes down the phone line to Cafe De Lane in Sydney, where Nick Rizilli accompanied me on piano.
When that kind of stuff happens at a McDonald's here, people automatically jump under the tables.
A bunch of hick teenagers came up and asked me what I was doing. I handed them the phone and walked off, leaving them to finish off the show with inane questions.
What a feverish tale?
Once I had to get from the Gold Coast to Grafton, a four hour drive, in the dead of night during a heavy storm without headlights or windscreen wipers.
You're a glutton for a challenge, Lucas.
A Kombi always had some kind of malfunction. Feeling at the time quite suicidal, I hit the pacific Highway at 100 kph. How let me tell you, I could not see a thing. The streaming beads of water on my windscreen resembled thousands of pixels, each one reflecting the bright headlights of semitrailers coming the other way. My vision was rendered useless as each mass of yellow dots spread across the screen until after the truck had passed. Then black again. I kept my eye fixed on the faint white line beside me. It was my only guide to prevent certain death.
What other malfunctions have you had to contend with?
In Redfern, A Kombi suddenly stopped working. I called the roadside service people, who came and simply found the ignition plug had come out. They plugged it back in and left. I pulled out and returned to my driving, only to find that the car's electric system was so fucking messed up that INDICATE LEFT would indicate right, INDICATE RIGHT would sound the horn, SOUND THE HORN would turn the high beams on, and TURN ON THE HIGH BEAMS would indicate left. As you can imagine, this caused some confusion with my driving.
But you adapted, right?
It took me months before I bothered to have it fixed. Once I did, it was confusing to indicate left when I wanted to turn left.
Did you ever crash A Kombi?
I was following my friends Troy, Kalindi and their daughter (my goddaughter) Shasti down Henri Roberts Drive, not James Ruse Drive, as stated in thr liner notes to the CD, on Tambourine Mountain in 1993. I was transfixed by the bobbing head of Shasti, who was sitting in the back of their Valiant. She was so gorgeous and I loved to watch her head bob up and down. I noticed I was going a tad fast and was veering into thr erong lane when cornering, so I tried to correct my position by pulling the steering to the left. This fucked up A kombi's center of gravity, sending her ass over. It sure looked strange watching the bitchamin come straight for my face as the driver's side window met the ground before completing a flip-flop. I found myself back on my wheels facing the wrong way.
A form of road surface commonly used in Australia. I believe you Americans call it asphalt.
What was going through your mind?
I was high on adrenalin and wanting to see Shasti's bobbing head once more. I whacked A Kombi into reverse, turned back around, and kept on driving. Once on the highway peering through the largest piece of shattered glass on the windsheild, I became annoyed with other drivers' frequent attempts to indicate something was wrong with my vehicle.
Are you sure you weren't seeing a regional strain of A Kombi solidarity you weren't familar with?
They dipped their lights. As if I wasn not aware that the entire back end was crushed in.
Have you ever driven across the country?
All up and down the east coast of Australia. As far up as Rainbow Beach and down as far as Melbourne.
Do you know anything about the previous owners and their history with A Kombi?
I bought A Kombi in early 1993 from a Japanese tourist named Gyn Kashima. He had just driven it from Cairns and was looking to unload it before returning to Japan. I met him through June, a close frirnd of mine who works in the Jap guide buisness on the coast.
He wanted $1,000 for it but I talked him down to $700. That was on a Monday. By the following Friday, I was en route to Sydney to go raving when A Kombi died in Newcastle, which is some sort of Bermuda Triangle for cars. Ironically, Newcastle was to be the eventual resting place of A Kombi.
Fate's a tough one to cheat.
I was going to abandon her there and then but decided against it when Severin said he would lend me $1,200 to have her engine repaired. It was the beginning of a serious fund-sucking period on A Kombi's part. Over the next three years, I saw thousands of my hard-earned dole dollars going into keeping her on the road. Gyn won't be pleased if he ever tries to reenter the country, because I never bothered to change the registration over to my name. By the time she died, A Kombi had over $3,000 in parking tickets, all in Gyn's name.
People are so unethical. Where exactly is A Kombi's final resting place?
A Kombi came to a halt en route to Queensland in a real shithole called Motto Farm. Me mate Maya and I were stuck there all night trying to convince the NRMA and ourselves that everything was okay, even though they kept telling us everything was completely fucked.
Why was their prognosis so bleak?
Something to do with oil presses destroying the entire pistons system.
So you gave up?
I would have preferred to persevere and drag the near dead body of A Kombi all the way to Queensland with me, especially after investing all that money to put its damned CD out. But I'd spent my last monies on crap petrol station food waiting for some mechanic to say, "She'll be right." I had to sell A Kombi to scrap early the next morning for a paltry $120 to Raymond Terrace Auto Dismantlers, a complete bunch of pricks, I must tell you.
Those ghouls will never get any buisness from me. Did A Kombi's noises occur only when she idled?
I should explain a common misconception about the Music to Drive-by CD. When people hear it they think it's the engine making those sounds. I can't see how people come to that conclusion.
Why? It doesn't seem that far-fetched to me.
Have you ever heard an engine make sounds that even vaguely resemble what's on the CD?
No, but I've never heard any other part of a VW make sounds that even vaguely resemble what's on the CD.
Sound only occurred when the stereo was on. It was A Kombi's stereo that made all the noise.
Do you have any idea why?
As far as I understand, it was grounded strangely when it was installed, causing all the car's bits to become trapped in the speakers somehow. Take the first track, "St Thomas St." That's the only track recorded while driving. You can hear the engine reverberating through the stereo system.
But the normal engine sound is inaudible?
You can't hear it raw. It's hard for me to explain without having you sit in the front seat with me. It's so much more than misguided radio signals. In parts of the CD, you can hear a backward and forward screech; that's the windsheild wipers being amplified.
You didn't have any elaborate setup to make it happen?
Just pure confusion. I remember when I first discovered the noises. It was outside this venue called The Artery. I was parked outside doing an impromtu Kombi performance with Maya jamming to a Beastie Boys tape. I accidentlly hit the windshield wipers, which sent a high-pitched screech through the car. We were blown away, as was Helen, the girl we hadn't yet met who strated dancing in the middle of the street.
How did you meet her?
Eventually she stopped dancing, jumped in the car and demanded that we drive. We jammed A Kombi all throughout the city that night, even taking a trip under the harbour tunnel, where A Kombi sounded the greatest I've ever heard.
The liner notes mention "drive-by recitals at bus stops and traffic islands."
Those were things I did when I was bored and faced with a large crowd gathering. I would open all the windows, turn up A Kombi as loud as she would go, pull up. play crazy shit for a minute and then leave.
How did you decide to tape it?
If your car made such noises would you not record them?
I couldn't help but document it. It's just a shame I only did it once. The sounds had so many qualities that weren't apparent on the day we recorded.
Lately I've been on the lookout for plastic bags caught in the wind. I find it quite arresting, the grace and silence and aimlessness. It makes me wonder how many tons of garbage are flying around in the air all over the world at any given moment. I've been known to stop dead in my tracks, transfixed, only to find myself standing in the middle of traffic getting honked at as my wife frantically pulls on my sleeve.
I've always had a thing for bags myself.
15 to 20 minute improvisation.
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