Full Metal Booty
By Lester Alfonso
Strange sounds coming out of Artspace on a Friday night. I walk in and encounter Full Metal Booty, the Artspace “house band” hosting the weekly open jam. Lead Terrorist David LaRiviere (aka Sky Low Low – named after the Canadian midget wrestling champion of 1925) is slowly screaming “Oh. My. God.” over and over again as the sonic wash from various “modified” instruments reach their crescendo. The small crowd gathered here tonight are not dancing; they either smile or sit slack-jaw stunned. Others walk away. The “music” is decidely not for everybody. None of the “songs” are pre-written and often degenerate into chaos. Since improvised music can’t be rehearsed, each show becomes a unique performance. LaRiviere, in addition to his arsenal of noise making gadgets, repeatedly picks up a microphone and voices his slogans or mantras so many times that they begin lose their meaning or take on strange new ones.
The band also boasts Michael Waterman (as Porter Hall), Brian Wagner (as Pilot K-9), Hans Finkledey (as Sensehertz) with David Morris, Hartley, Stewart Chamberlain and Wayne “Webmadman” Elliott. Inventing musical instruments (like the electric water jug) or taking existing instruments and modifying them (Wagner has fashioned a three-record turntable with multiple needles on each record) or approaching a conventional instrument in an unconventional way, Full Metal Booty manages to confront, exhilirate and make the faithful audience laugh with their free form sound experiments. It’s an incongruous mix of musicians coming from varied musical traditions. They are the Silver Hearts of the art / noise music set.
“Noise-making is a formal quest for sound,” says LaRiviere, “while changing the parameters of what sound or music might be.” Inspired by seeing Canada’s own legendary noise band the Nihilist Spasm Band perform at the Gordon Best Theatre, they started jamming every week about a year ago for “fun and catharsis.” LaRiviere says “We might find ourselves wanking up there. Then, comes a point when all the sounds come together. It’s a magical moment. And makes the wanking worth it.”
There is, in fact, a great tradition of noise music worldwide. A quick search on Google reveals thousands of entries. The Nihilist Spasm Band, has toured the world, inspired the creation of the “No Music Festival” in London, Ontario and has signed with Alchemy Records (founded by legendary Japanese noise artist Jojo Hiroshige). Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth is a big fan. Noise can be heard from Paris to New York City. “Noise,” says Hiroshige, “transcends language and culture. It's about images and the beauty of conveying them mentally through sound.”
Their billing with punk bands at the Trasheteria last August reveals a common misconception that their music is “punk.” The noise band rejects the rules to which punk music rigidly adheres. The noise musicians inevitably find themselves sabotaging the structures that the other musicians might play. It’s no coincidence that the members of Full Metal Booty have found themselves relating to each other. Band member Michael Waterman comes from another noise ensemble called Manlicher Carcanno. Each bring their unique personality into the mix. David Morris even writes his own digital sampling software for use with the group. Together, the members of Full Metal Booty present an organic, kinetic and of-the-moment musical stream of consciousness that is at once ironic, absurd and political. “There is no way to predict what kind of sound will come out at any given gig,” says band member Hartley. “There is no way to calculate those moments of beautiful unrestrained beauty.”
Full Metal Booty performs on stage at the Trasheteria Thursday Oct. 3, 2002; they host an open jam every Friday night at Artspace and are also planning to perform a live improvised score for a movie screening in the tradition of the old silent films. “But we actually want to use a recent movie and just turn the volume down,” says David LaRiviere. The movie they’re thinking about: James Cameron’s Titanic.