Saturday, May 23, 2015

Interview with Sharlyn Evertsz

Pop music's ubiquity is often reliant on fitting an ultimately hollow mold. Songs filled with major key Five One chord progressions, engineered to clear that mind and tighten that smile, leave no room for a world or mind in a chaotic state. But why would John Q and Jane Doe invite disorder anyway? People want innocuity and comfort, not mental gymnastics. Life is hard enough when you're told how to feel and what to think - why exacerbate things by turning off autopilot? Well, that's certainly a way to go through life, but is it the most fulfilling one? Most likely not. But, as Judge Smails said in Caddyshack, "World needs ditch diggers too."

A significant joy in noise is breaking from tradition, which is an asymptotic misnomer of sorts - as soon as the first person recorded static, there was a form into which "noise" could be fit - even if you don't lump noise into "music," it unequivocally falls into tradition, like all other categories of music, sound art, or whatever-the-fuck you want to call it - semantics is the faux-intellectual's favorite science, after all. But noise can be conceptual and smart without firmly resting its axis on an argument over meaning and catalog.

That's not to say it isn't still fun as fuck to talk about that shit, though. I met Sharlyn Evertsz at Churchill's while Pedestrian Deposit played, after becoming familiar with her debut cassingle on Chris Donalson's Drugged Conscience label. Sharlyn makes noise, but that's a bit of a sophomoric description. As prominent as distortion and dissonance are in her music, Sharlyn will frequently feature blues vocals or danceable beats. We met up a few days after the Pedestrian Deposit show to talk about noise, what makes music compelling, and her history as a sound artist.

Jordan Reyes: So you started with more singer-songwriter stuff and then moved into more experimental territory?

Sharlyn Evertsz: Yeah, I started making noise five or six years after my singer-songwriter phase. I was living in Kendall, which is somewhat suburban, and eventually gravitated towards Churchill’s, which is where I met Rat. He approached me out of the blue and coached me on singer-songwriter music. At the time, I didn’t realize that noise existed or that Churchill’s had anything like that. I would only come out Wednesdays when it was singer-songwriter night. In 2010, I went to my first INC and was blown away. It was irresistible. I started buying small pieces of gear soon after.

JR: What was your first set up? And how has it changed?

SE: My first set up was with a Korg Monotron, the cheap $50 one, and a Kaossilator. I eventually got a DSI Tempest. I figured that I needed something more reliable. The Tempest is analog, meaning I don’t have the limitation of presets. I needed versatility and a solid platform. I wanted my music to feel genuine and get rid of the “toy-ish” feel from earlier on.

JR: Does having an open-ended instrument help you craft your music?

SE: Totally! Well…I guess it’s music. [Kenichi & I] were discussing this in the car. It lets me have a greater hand in shaping my sounds and gives me more freedom. I can also make things from scratch, which is a plus.

JR: You guys were talking about noise being music? Any definitive answers?

SE: In my opinion, it’s one of the most honest and present forms of sonic expression. It’s timeless too, because it isn’t necessarily attached to genre or preconceived notion. There’s less nostalgia too, unless an artist is trying to mimic someone else, which is rare. It’s all about the now, which makes the act of making or seeing noise fulfilling and satisfying to me. There’s no resistance in my psyche. It’s also not overly emotional, which makes it therapeutic to me. I always come off a performance feeling awesome.

JR: I forget who said this - I’ve read a bunch of books about noise - in one of them, the author was talking about photographing a noise artist’s set up, which I think is kind of fucked up because noise performance can often be a discovery process. You have gear and it can go to shit or it can go really well. Even if it doesn’t work, it’s still a meshing of time, place, and composition. How many power electronics sets have you seen where some pedal doesn’t work? I think part of the joy is seeing things fail. It reminds you that you’re human and that noise is an organic form - it’s not just machinery doing everything.
SE: Ultimately, the performer is the conductor. It’s not about some static, programmed thing. Any time I’ve felt tempted to do something like that, I’ve just said “fuck it.” Literally, as cliche as that is, double middle-finger to that shit, I’m just going to do what comes out.

JR: So what is a good set for you? How do you know if you’ve had a good set?

SE: A good set for me is one experienced with heightened awareness. There’s a connection, an alignment of mind, body, and emotion. You end up having the honesty and courage to take what’s inside you and improvise. Obviously, if you’re experienced, you know the sounds to avoid, which ends up creating a defined aesthetic or desire. For me, a good set is one in which no part of me feels lost. I don’t care who critiques it or what they’re going to say, but for me, the goal is to be one hundred percent present. And, of course, having it be super loud and brutal.

JR: So when you put all of yourself into music, and forgive me if this sounds cheesy, do you think you end up building a relationship with your gear? Do you begin to love it?

SE: Well, not the object itself. It’s an instrument or tool used to access sounds that can satisfy yourself or others. I understand what you mean by building a relationship with your gear, though. For me, the Tempest is the most complex piece of gear I’ve known, and certainly a relationship has been built. I still haven’t learned it completely even after a couple years. It’s beautiful to see that evolution. It’s like “A-ha! You again! Let’s see what I can do this time!”

JR: I think in regards to the trajectory of noise, there’s this false projection that noise is untutored and wild. That’s total bullshit.

SE: That is total bullshit. We were talking about that last night too. I told [Kenichi] that the beautiful thing about noise is that even the most amateur artist can perform. By the same token, there’s also a level of mastery, higher-mindedness, and experience. That’s what I admire in a performance. I’m impressed by consciousness. It’s chaotic, impulsive, and the gear might fail, but a good performer still has a handle on it. There’s a weird balance between chaos and control - it’s taming a wild beast. The best performers aren’t defeated by it - they’re conquering this unyielding force.

JR: I think you’re right. So, how many releases have you had?

SE: I remember having one through Tom Anderson productions, which was on a website. The only physical release I have is the cassingle you wrote up

. I post stuff online frequently. I guess having something on the internet makes it more informal. I have some pending releases I’m working on. It comes down to real life, which isn’t an excuse, but jobs and situations arise and get in the way, and sometimes that deters me. My music project sometimes can’t be my only focus, unfortunately.

JR: Yeah, you gotta pay bills.

SE: I know! I feel like I have to explain myself because it’s been such a long time - I think the tape I put out is from 2013. It feels like ten years ago.

JR: The cassingle was the first thing I bought at Sweat. I came in asking for some noise and Emile was like “Get this.” I was surprised because it was clearly “noise,” but it had R&B elements too.

SE: I’ve always been a fan of the blues, soul vocal. I have a deep appreciation for that display of emotion. As nerdy as this sounds, I love the blues scale. I like the notes and mood - it’s a reflection of an emotion. At the time I made that song, I was feeling that way.

JR: So what are you working on now?

SE: I hate labeling shit, but I think it’s unavoidable. It’s noise - it’s always noise for me - that’s where my heart is, but I’m a fan of incorporating that with beats. I like the gung-ho aspect of noise, but I like order too. Anything that I’m working on is a mix of noise, heavy beats, and vocals. If I’m going to put a name to it, I’d say it’s techno-noise.

JR: So what do you think makes a piece of music compelling?

SE: For me, what makes something compelling in music or performance is the artist’s intent. I’m moved by the degree of intensity in an artist’s presentation - it becomes a genuine reflection of who they are. The artist performs because he or she has to perform. The creation process is one of survival. How much does the artist mean this?

JR: Do you feel you have to create?

SE: I’ve had periods when I’ve felt creatively paralyzed, but yes, I do. That’s a driving force in my life.

JR: Well, that’s all I’ve got. Anything else you’d like to say?

SE: I’m grateful for the artists unafraid to explore new territory, disregard preconceived norms, and express emotion publicly. When I stop seeing people perform, my inspiration goes into a lull or a limbo. I’ll go out and see an awesome performance and be reignited. I feed off artists. Forget me. If I get the chance to perform or do something musically, I’m thankful, but without others, I’m nothing. To me, that’s the importance.

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