Since 1977 NON (Boyd Rice) has systematically set out to destroy every assumption held sacred in the recording or performance of music. His first album, with a label showing pieces of records spread out on a floor, was more than a critique -- the recording actually was a compilation of excerpts from many records, "treated". (For example, Boyd assembled one track out of every time Lesley Gore sang the word "cry".) The next 45 was the first to offer extended possibilities for listener-modified playback, with 2-4 (he would have liked more) holes in the center for multi-axial rotation. The history of NON-musical innovation is documented and still available on Mute Records. Two new albums will soon be released.
NON's live performances offer sheer (but varied) noise at the pain threshold -- the objective being to offer the listener "personal freedom" to impose shape, rhythms and organization on the offered input. He's used a shoe polisher, a guitar with a fan on it, as well as processed tapes of sounds generated by his own inventions. Cut in are various subliminals taken from sources like the last 45 minutes at Jonestown, quotations from newspaper headlines ("Water Balloon Prank Fatal To Pedestrian"), and excerpts from tapes made at Disneyland, Playland, Winchell's Donuts, and other fun spots.
NON considers his performances "de-indoctrination rites" -- as he once said, "I think that most music is dangerous because it tends to systematize thought -- you think in patterns -- you "know" what's coming before you even hear it." After two European tours and numerous American dates, NON still succeeds in outraging audiences anywhere, "Especially" music lovers...
R/S: Do you know of any actual physical reactions to your noise?
NON: One girl told me it had induced an acid flashback in her--she'd never had one before, and didn't believe they existed. Another girl reported it jarred one of her fillings loose, giving her a toothache. Some people find it torturous...some people find it extremely soothing and relaxing. Some people find it painful but like it anyway--at the end of one Deaf Club show some girls spontaneously started yelling in unison, "More pain! More pain!" I've always liked the idea of one stimulus being able to cause completely different reactions in people.
R/S: When did NON begin performances?
NON: Well, I did performances before I did NON--although they weren't really performances. "Z'ev" did them too--me and him did them at La Mamelle long ago when there really wasn't any other place. I just happened to be in San Francisco, and a guy called me up and said, "Hey, Boyd, there's going to be a sound poetry event at La Mamelle--you can do sound poetry, can't you?"
I'd always known that words structured thought, and thought structured reality, so I was already interested in that area although I wasn't the least bit interested in "sound poetry". So, I did these things where I'd have about 8 people, and I'd give them a word and tell them to repeat the word until it became completely incomprehensible, until it was just syllables repeated...if you repeat a word enough it becomes something else, like a blanket of sound, a big blur of sound. But that was just something I had an opportunity to do so I did it.
When I first started doing NON, I'd been making noise music for myself for a long time.......
......The first actual NON performance was in 1978, even though I'd been making noise for years before that. It's not like I started doing something and then progressed, because I started doing exactly what I wanted to do, and it's changed here or there, but it's been more or less the same because "how can just noise progress"? It's hard to get it more noisier, if it's just noise!--you can get less noisier, and more musical or more structured.
R/S: In your earlier performances you used a shoe polishing machine and other devices--
NON: Actually we used real devices so that people could see more real sound being made right before their eyes. We would use a shoe polisher as an instrument, playing it through a guitar, changing the settings, and get amazing frequencies. We had a roto-guitar too--a guitar with a fan on it.
R/S: Who made that?
NON: I did--it was an obvious idea to produce more noise with less effort--it sounded like a squadron of bombers taking off. But eventually it was just too much trouble to bring a shoe polisher and all this stuff. I was always interested in the idea of "doing less and getting more".
R/S: Once at the Deaf Club, you had Laurie from "Monitor" behind you. Why?
NON: I had her come on and sing one song. She'd sing it so you could almost hear it, but not quite; ever once in a while you'd hear a couple words and start listening harder...then the mike would go away from her mouth. And it would be something innocuous, like a line from an Annette Funicello song: "All the chicks are bikini-clad" which would then fade back into noise...
R/S: What effect would you want, ideally, in an audience?
NON: I don't want specific responses. Like when people react really favorably or don't, I'm not moved by it one way or the other. If I had the audience in mind while thinking about what I wanted to do, it wouldn't be what I wanted to do. I'm trying to do just what I'd like to hear, with the minimum of intent, almost.
R/S: Well, when I've heard the intense noise you've generated, after a while I start to impose patterns and structures on what I'm hearing, but at the same time they don't seem to really be there.
NON: Yes, I think a lot of the noise suggests structures in people's heads that aren't really there. Which is what I think it should do. I've made a lot of tapes of pure noise and I know there are no voices on them, yet you listen back to them and you'd swear there are voices. And on "Pagan Muzak", even though that's just loops of noise, you can hear definite little melodies coming out...the most subtle elements can become very pronounced.
R/S: Describe the "Black Album".
NON: Okay. It's my first record and my earliest recordings, from '75 on. I put it out in 1977, I think. It's the first record you can play at any different speed, so you get 4 times as much for your.....! I followed that with the multi-axial single, which can not only be played at all 4 speeds but off-center too, so you get way more for your money.
R/S: Didn't you have some difficulty getting the single made with more than one hole?
NON: The record company wouldn't do that--I had to drill all the extra holes myself.
R/S: Didn't you want even 3 or 4 holes?
NON: I did. some of them have 3 or 4 holes.
R/S: Ah, rare collectors' items. I only have a two-hole one.
NON: Oh, sorry. Ideally I'd leave a big hole in the middle and people could put it anywhere they wanted to, but people won't do that. You've got to force them to--if that extra hole's there and it's real for them, they'll do it, but if it's not, they'll (pathetic tone of voice) "Oh, I don't know, I'm not going to play it off center." But if they see it's in the record, "Well"....
In the first record I even wanted loop grooves--I wanted "overlapping" loop grooves.
R/S: What are overlapping loop grooves?
NON" Theoretically there would be about three of them, and they'd overlap at certain points, and they might do random things--the needle might go in a pattern for awhile, then change. But over the phone, long distance, I couldn't even get the pressing plant to do a loop groove. On the second record, I persevered, and finally got it.
R/S: How many copies were made of the first record?
NON: Eighty-six. I ordered 75 but they accidentally made 11 extra.
R/S: Was that all you could afford?
NON: Well, at the time I thought, How many people in the world are going to want to listen to this kind of music? I wasn't aware that there might be a market for it. You're sitting alone in your room doing this and you think, Gee.....Like I thought I invented tape loops--I thought I'd found the perfect way to make repetitive music. I was real--I hate to say "bummed out"--to find out there were other people doing this....
R/S: After the multi-axial single, didn't you do the world's first 7" album in a 12-inch sleeve?
NON: "Pagan Muzak", all loop grooves. Then a 12" single: one live song, one studio song I did in London, and another real old thing I did in 1978--more poppy, repetitive, really dense material. I did the "Frank and Boyd" album (don't know when that's coming out, hate to think it's lost in the vaults. That was done with Frank of "Fad Gadget".) Now there's a live album that should be out any time a "real" album, of performances all over, in different styles.
R/S: Sort of like "The Best Of"?
NON: Well, I've tried to present noise as simplistically as possible, but I've found a whole bunch of different ways to go about it--different styles, different approaches. So it's kind of like a spectrum of those different possibilities. p.53-57
THE BLACK ALBUM. First "Boyd Rice LP". Released with solid black cover and no title. Later re-released on Mute with glossier cover embossed with "Boyd Rice" in lower right corner. Playable at any speed.
KNIVE LADDER/MODE OF INFECTION. First NON single. Besides the songs it came with 3 loop grooves. Extra hole allows record to play off center. Re-released on Mute records. Live recording of "Knive Ladder" was the first song of the first NON concert.
DARKER SKRATCHER (compilation LP). Contains "Cleanliness & Order" by Boyd Rice and Daniel Miller. Also contains version of Non-Watusi that somehow changed completely between the time the tape was mailed and the record was pressed. Exactly what happened still remains a mystery to all those involved.
PAGAN MUZAK. First NON album. Contains 17 loop grooves, playable at any speed. Also has second hole for off axis playback. First pressing contained one side with grooves, the other blank. Second pressing contained the same grooves on both sides. 7" disk in 12" cover. Second pressing had serial #3301 etched in record. p.67