Lucy Bonk Interview
has been an integral part of the Florida noise scene since the start of the new millennium. In addition to her own amazing noise work, she also collaborated with other great noise musicians/groups such as Dan Reaves, Kris Gruda, Adam Naworal and Canned Ham. She has performed at a number of Hal McGee’s magnificent Apartment Music shows as well as other noise festivals, galleries and clubs. As a big Canned Ham fan, I was thrilled and overjoyed when Hal suggested that I check out Lucy’s work on-line and reach out to her for an interview for the EC site. I was thrilled and overjoyed again when she agreed.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Saint Augustine, Florida.
When did you start making music? Did you start with playing drums as a kid?
I guess I technically started with failed piano lessons as a kid, and then progressed to the usual recorders-and-marimbas stuff in elementary school, and then was actually a low brass player (euphonium, tuba for a short spell) in middle and high school, marching band, the whole schmear. I never played drums as a kid, I was taught drumming basics by a crust punk who showed me how to play the beat to "Hey Ya!" on a crappy drum kit that was stored at the local lefty bookstore/show venue when I was about 18 and from there I just basically messed around with any kit someone would let me use.
Who or what do you consider your biggest influences?
Who- Negativland, Reed Ghazala, Forrest Mims III, Nicolas Collins, Simone Giertz, Sun Ra, various comedians.
What- Garbage, doing things because you think it’s funny and pretending it’s art.
How did you get interested in noise and the noise scene?
Circa 2004 or so my best friend and I were very into absurdist and dada stuff, even though we wouldn’t have called it that at the time. We used to do "noise busking" before I was even really properly familiar with what noise was, bringing ridiculous stuff into the streets of a tourist town to see if people would give us money for making sounds with it. They did. Mostly really drunk people. Musically it was probably realizing that the most important thing about punk rock to me was the DIY part more than the sound. And we just liked to do things that made us laugh, like "covers" done with instruments that made no sense and forcing our friends to listen to Amway tapes, etc.
Lucy Bonk/Adam Naworal at +SoLo, August 24, 2012
Bulky Acronym is a great moniker. What are all your other monikers and how did you come up with them?
Bulky Acronym is just an anagram of my full name, Lucy Mary Bonk. I mostly used it for screen names and internet stuff, but have performed under that name a few times. I actually stopped using it a while ago and will probably never revive it. ALL the monikers I’ve ever used, oh my god. I have been doing noise and stuff off and on since I was about 17 and have literally never settled on something I wanted to use forever, and I probably never will. Let’s see if I can make a list. These are mixed solo names and "band"/project names.
- Reality Executives
- Reptile Theater
- Terror Probe
- Guilt Trip (what I’m using the most currently)
- Big Church
- My real name, which people don’t believe is real half the time anyway
- SHOUEZ (a recent one off for a showcase of bad bands created on the fly)
- ECM3 (not my name idea)
- HOW RUDE
- Phantom Prank Device
- I’m Pregnant (another one-off)
That’s all I can think of for now but I know there are more.
You’ve got a wonderful critical and absurdist sense of humor with the way that you use sampled audio material from TV and radio. One of my most favorite performances of yours that I’ve seen is the one you did under the moniker of Aggressive Investment at Apartment Music 19. What do you like about using found material?
Aggressive Investments happened because I had just gotten a job doing transcription for mostly financial industry clients, and was suddenly dumped into all this bizarre jargon I had never heard before. I usually think of something first and then go and find the audio later, thank you sketchy YouTube-to-mp3 websites that have probably given all my computers viruses over the years. But of course, like most people who are into this stuff, I’ve come across a lot of strange cassette tapes over the years. I enjoy improvising along with the cadence of speech and emotional state/volume of a person talking. I regret some of the things I’ve sampled in the past, because I feel like it was insensitive or exploitative ("gangstalking" channels on YouTube, etc.) and my running joke obsession with Alex Jones because, well...we all know what’s happened with Alex Jones.
I also really enjoy shortwave radio and have a small rig to pick up signals from CB and different stations, found a lot of great cult/religious stuff that way, also strange to me pop music from around the world of course.
Aggressive Investment at Apartment Music #19, September 14, 2013
You get some really cool, heavy sounds from your gear. What kind of equipment and software have you been using to create your music and artwork? Can you share some background about your circuit and data bending/modifications?
I learned how to circuit bend when I was about 23 and was immediately in love. I saw it as a way to get sounds I thought only synthesizers I would never be able to afford in my life could make, and also to demystify my own gear so that I could fix things when they went wrong, or make them functionally wrong if they were boring. Toys, of course, are full of mysteries.
I don’t do much out-and-out circuit bending these days. My last hardware project was adding a bunch of arcade buttons to glitch points on a Casio PT-100.
I modify toy arcades, and have been unsuccessfully trying to build my own cabinet that will only play the worst bootleg games I can find.
Lucy Bonk at Apartment Music #10, May 28, 2011
Lucy Bonk at AR179, February 6, 2018
Databending/datamoshing/controlled data corruption has been an interest for a while. I started out just using Notepad and Audacity and importing image or music or program files incorrectly to see what they puked out. Basically a computer doing the best it can when being asked to do something it isn’t supposed to, i.e "open this text file as a .wav". Datamoshing is, in short, just removing certain types of frames from video, creating the effect you’d get from a bad digital antenna connection.
I know it’s uncool but currently I am very into video games on several levels. I can’t play with anything without wanting to get inside the guts, so when I discovered rom corruption, which is basically taking the data of a video game and mashing it all up via rearranging bytes, abusing cheat codes, replacing values with a hex editor to get amazing visual AND audio artifact, it became what I do the most and is pretty much an obsession. I use a program called Vinesauce and another one called Real Time Corruptor, a hex editor called Cygnus, and a pixel editor called YY-CHR. It doesn’t sound exciting but I recommend it to literally everyone.
(A link to a YouTube channel with three great pieces of rom corruption)
(A link to the YouTube channel with some music and video along with a weird fake anti-reading PSA that Lucy made in collaboration with a bunch of her internet pals and coworkers.)
hover your mouse over the slideshow below to activate controls for Pause, Back, Forward, and Play
click the Play button in the video below and be sure that your sound is turned up
A link to some of Lucy’s songs/pieces on Soundcloud
I really like how your work moves around from the circuit bending to all out percussion with pots and pans—the electric to the acoustic of sorts. What is/was your inspiration for in both of those areas?
Ah, I almost NEVER use acoustic instruments any more, but someone gave me a giant mixing bowl that sounded like a gong, and from there I hunted down a bunch of other bowls for different sounds. I then started building stuff like a xylophone made of water-filled contact mic’d mason jars and various glass bottles, etc.
Lucy Bonk at There Must Be Something in the Water, July 23, 2011
Derek Prommasit and Lucy Bonk at Laboratory Music #5, March 3, 2012
Do you have any pets?
I have four cats (two indoor, two outdoor) and an Eastern Gray Squirrel.
And now for the question that a colleague of mine used to wrap up every interview with:
What is your favorite Pepperidge Farm cookie?
Uh, all of them? I haven’t ever really met a cookie I didn’t like. If I gotta pick, it’s these toffee and chocolate chip ones I am about to smash. They don’t have a goofy name like most PF cookies. Did they stop doing that or did they just shaft this cookie for no reason? Excuse me, I need to go write a letter to the company.
Editor's Note: below are additional media files from various shows and compilations I have produced.
Lucy Bonk at Apartment Music 18, January 19, 2013
Lucy at Apartment Music #25, June 22, 2014
Great interview, great videos and great music!
Adam J Naworal
What an excellent interview between two of my favorite noise sisters! Well done, Leslie and Lucy! I'd like to humbly suggest letting Aimee and Penny in on this ;)
I was so looking forward to this interview and it answered like every question I have ever had or never knew I had and wowza!!!
Excellent interview! Great performances also. I had to laugh at "forcing our friends to listen to Amway tapes".
A wonderful interview lots of info & cool music. Videos etc. Nice to learn more about whhat makes you tick. Interwiew wise that is which I am sure only scratches the surface. Thank you Leslie for this interview on a artist I knew very little about.
Great interview! Lucy Bonk has been one of my favorite artists for some years now. I am always excited to see her at shows and find out what amazing things she is up to artistically. I remember her running a recording of Alex Jones through a Korg Monotribe (“Stalin took the gun! Mao took the gun!”). The unexpected musicality of it astonished me. Thank you for this interview!
Hi Trevor! You can re-live those magical moments via the Apartment Music #18 YouTube player above.
"YouTube-to-mp3 websites" lol yep I found a good one the converts to wav https://www.files-conversion.com/youtube.php ...and I am now like thanks Dan for your tools.
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After high school and a year in the DC noise band, Psychodrama, I moved to SF in 1982.