On December 25th, 2018, from midnight to 4:01am, WMNF DJ Ira Hankin hosted a very special event on his weekly show The Event Horizon.
WMNF is a community-sponsored radio station based in Tampa, FL. According to many of the volunteers and DJs at that station, it is "Tampa Bay's LAST LOCAL RADIO STATION."
The Event Horizon is a program that airs every Monday night (well technically TUESDAY MORNING) from midnight to 4:01am (yes, it actually ends right at that time). The show specializes in more freeform eclectic programming, ranging from garage punk to industrial to twee pop to death metal to outsider folk to harsh noise ...and everything in between.
You really never know what you're gonna get from song-to-song, and that's why it remains one of my favorite programs on WMNF.
The host of the Event Horizon is Ira Hankin, who is originally from Maryland and has served a long historical stint in San Francisco at their KUSF station. He's interviewed many greats in the field, including Holger Czukay, Lemmy Kilmister, and the members of Faust.
Ira, on the origins of White Noise Christmas:
"White Noise Christmas' first broadcast was on the now defunct University of San Francisco's KUSF 90.3 FM. That was X-Mas 1992.
I only started at KUSF 6 months earlier but quickly everyone there became a new family to me. Many of us DJs hung out together of course going to shows but also bike riding, protesting doing all kinds of things together in San Francisco in the early 90s.
So Christmas was approaching and there was an unfilled air shift at midnight as Christmas started.
My memory is real fuzzy on who actually came up with the idea to do a three hour noise show and call it White Noise Christmas. But all of us DJs that had nothing else better to do that evening piled into the small radio station studio and played everything that was available (2 CD players 2 Turn tables and three reel to reel players) producing noise, feedback and general chaos for three hours.
Someone from the station's publicity department sent a press release to the newspapers in town announcing the 'White Noise Christmas Special.' And the San Francisco Chronicle gave our 'White Noise Christmas Special' a listing in their radio schedule listings... And as I remember it, the listing said:
'December 25th at Midnight White Noise Christmas on KUSF 90.3 FM featuring Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music.'
I'm not really sure where they got the Metal Machine Music from but we started out with it for a few minutes before it became even purer noise on the airwaves.
From time to time over the years KUSF did subsequent White Noise Christmas Specials, probably the most recent one was in 2002."
Ira no longer has reel-to-reel players at his disposal, so to compensate, he went on various computers and had each one play a different audio track (usually from YouTube or Bandcamp) in true 21st century schizoid collage fashion.
Early on, our friend Mullarkey called in to perform their set (as Watchable Wildlife) via phone. Mullarkey was not able to be there physically so they literally phoned their set in. Minimal ambient Casio tones permeated throughout.
Up next was Apoc Siren, the solo industrial noise project of Justin Gazmask. Justin is an employee of WMNF (and not a volunteer like 90% of the station) and was even kind enough to share his mixer with some of us to plug into the board (myself included).
I performed next, under my own name. My set consisted of a looped keyboard melody (probably in some odd time signature, not unlike Devo's "Gut Feeling") with distorted improvisations on top. My sources varied from the hum of the keyboard to a bowed dulcimer that I found in the front lobby to field recordings from my Sony ICD-PX470 recorder, to me singing into aforementioned recorder while the record button is still on.
Following that set was a collaborative set between local improv percussionist Meghan Eliza, Justin, and myself. I mostly stuck to messing around with the dulcimer for this set.
There was a bit of downtime after that: Ira played more sound collages and portions of the last White Noise Christmas (from 2002), while the rest of us went to the back lobby to get some coffee and eat some of the broccoli and asparagus casserole that Meghan brought in.
After the break, Vallam busted out some bass-heavy drones, industrial rhythms, and samples from some tapes and records (including a Chipmunks Christmas record) that they had modified.
Whitey Alabastard followed up with a set of harsh noise and dynamic vocal manipulations. Every set Whitey does is always different from the last and this was no exception.
The final performance of the night was another collaborative piece, this time between Vallam, Whitey, Meghan and myself. We wrapped up ten minutes before the top of the hour and had our equipment cleared out in time for the host of the next show to start.
I had an amazing time and was honored to be part of this monumental event. Thank you again to Ira and everyone who played. It's a great way to cap off 2018 for sure. I'm looking forward to White Noise Christmas 2029!
You can listen to the most recent broadcast of
The Event Horizon here:
Or you can listen to WMNF online anytime!:
— Dylan Houser, December 27, 2018
Christmas came early, as a package from our good friend from Sweden, Per-Arne Hognert, arrived in the mail on December 14th!
Included was a spooky one-of-a-kind collage with a handwritten letter on the back, as well as his latest CD, BONG WITCH.
With a title like that, you would think it would be one of those Sabbath-worship "stoner doom metal" bands like Electric Snoop Wizard or EyeLoveDogs or REO WeedDragon or Willie NelSunn O))), right?
Nah, only a few tracks have that thick, sludgy bass guitar (or is it just a regular six-string guitar tuned to drop z?) tone.
What we have here is actually a decent variety of genres! Mostly midi-sounding, but there's nothing wrong with that! Many of these tracks have kind of a krautrock vibe going, and wouldn't sound too out of place in a 70s or 80s Italian horror movie! One song even reminded me of Pat Benatar for some reason...
I shouldn't leave out the album artwork either: the cover is black and white, but printed on green paper, so it's really black and green. Type O Negative would be proud.
All in all, the ooky spooky contents of this great package complement the holiday season all too well. Thank you, Per-Arne!
Happy Mother's Day, pilgrims! Hail Santa! FUCK BONGUS!
On December 8th, 2018, I carpooled from the Tampa Bay Area with a pair of friends (Vallam and Penny Grune-Fae) in tow to play a show in Jacksonville.
Jacksonville is one of my favorite cities to play in the sunshine state. Ironically, the very first time I played there was quite possibly one of the worst shows I've ever played (quadruple-booked show, which I didn't find out about until I arrived at the venue; the curator also bailed right before their part of the show started), but every gig I've played there since then has always been a blast. I've even driven up that way sometimes just to attend some shows that friends of mine were playing.
This particular show took place at the Backroom, aka Thomas Milovac's house. Many acts from throughout the state of Florida played this marvelous event.
Thomas Milovac is a virtuoso jazz bassist that I had originally met when he was living and playing in the Orlando area. Currently residing in Jacksonville (as of this writing), he usually plays standup bass, either finger-picked or with a bow.
Up first was Bongus, the Orlando free improv collective consisting of core members Milovac, Syoma Klochko (drums), and Zach Muth (guitar), plus occasional hankin' from St Pete's Zachary Hickerson and several other collaborators. This performance ended up being a duo of just Milovac and Syoma, the latter of whom alternated between piano and drums. It's also worth noting their catchphrase, in true Primus or Green Jello fashion: "FUCK BONGUS!"
The second performance was by Penny Grune-Fae from St. Pete. Her setup was more minimal than usual, with only a few pedals run through a small amp that she conveniently packed up in small backpack. Ambient field recordings giving off a cinematic vibe.
The third performance was by Formaldehydra, a moniker I had been playing and recording under over the past year. It's my attempt at making more atmospheric noise. Recent sets under this name have consisted of a rhythm run through a looping pedal while improvising over the top of it. I was quite pleased with this set. (Photo courtesy of Penny Grune-Fae, because I don't take selfies when I perform)
The fourth performance of the evening was by local free improv husband-and-wife duo Tomokie's Cup, aka Adam and Aimee Naworal. They drafted Penny and I to collaborate with them for this particular set. The Naworals played tiny electronic devices run through Honeytone amps, while Penny played a theremin and I fumbled around with a ukulele bass. (I unfortunately could not get any photos taken of this set)
The fifth performance was by Fiver's Stereo, the long-running project of our good friend, Jacksonvillain Jay Peele. Jay played a variety of instruments (often simultaneously), including prepared guitar, Moog synth, and a microcassette recording of one of his old prog-metal bands from the 90s rehearsal sessions, played against his guitar pickups. One of my favorite sets I've seen of his to date.
Up next was Vallam, from Tampa, and one half of Tampa Bay noise booking collective the In-Between. Their set consisted of industrial rhythms and textures plus a broken guitar (no strings attached - literally) and what looked like a defibrillator being used on aforementioned guitar.
The final set of the evening was Venus Envy, from Panama City, which consisted of guitarist Scott Bazar and drummer Charles Pagano, plus Milovac sitting in with them on bass and various spacey effects. Scott an Charles usually play and tour together as Plutonian Burrito, but this time they decided to visit an entirely different planet. With the sounds ranging from chaotic free improv to more droning ambient soundscapes, the outer space theme is more than accurate here.
All in all, a great time was had. I look forward to coming back to Jacksonville (at the Backroom or otherwise) more often, perhaps at the upcoming Pre-INC show. Thanks again to Thomas Milovac for hosting the whole thing in his home and for having us!
Oh, also, fuck Bongus.
YouTube videos by Thomas Milovac.
View Aimee Grace Naworal's report on the same show.
(Currently nothing online of theirs at the moment, so here's a link to a Plutonian Burrito set in the meantime)