[ there's no place like home ]
by Mark Teppo

Far away from the formulaic smaltz of the earnest arena rock star and the calculated juxtapositions of peaches and cream innocence and back-room brothel sweaty sexuality is the place where there is no sun -- no sky -- for it has been blotted out by the nuclear storm of mankind's overbearing hubris. This is the realm of noise, and this post-industrial, post-biomechanical land is overrun by artists who fashion music from the clip of the overdriven speaker, the spark of a split cable, the buzz and the snarl of proximity feedback, and the growl of tortured machinery. Their symphonies take elements from the cacophony of a wrecking yard at full production, much like 19th century composers took the sun and the rain and the ducks and squirrels as inspiration, and use these as their sonic palettes. One of the experimentalists riding the edge of noise and rhythm is Jonas Johansson.

Johansson's first full-length record as Tarmvred (released on Germany's Ad Noiseam label) is Subfusc, a seven-part symphony which bristles with beats and static overload. It opens with a knife wind across a scoured plain, a sinuous dust devil that builds in energy as it approaches. It explodes above you, a bursting thunderhead of torrential acid rain and tumultuous lightning. The individual movements tumble like massive underground movements if you keep the stereo low, and, if you turn it up (and, really, it should be played as loud as you can get it), the sound is a calamitous avalanche of released energy and overloaded static discharge. It does, at first, feel like getting the shit knocked out of you by three hulking brutes with steel-toed shoes and aluminum bats.

Shortly before the opening show of the Tarmvred and Iszoloscope Do America Tour, I sat down with Jonas and Nicolas Chevreux, the man behind the Ad Noiseam label, and put the thumbscrews to them in an attempt to discover the source of the noise.

Ad Noiseam's first release was the Krach Test three CD-R compilation. Tarmvred sent something in to the first compilation, didn't you?

Jonas Johanssen: Yeah, I did. I wasn't supposed to be on it at first. When I contacted Nicolas the first time, he -- more or less -- had the track listing for Krach Test done. I guess I ended up on it by accident almost, I think. Since he was going to release a whole CD of mine -- which was supposed to be a CD-R, by the way -- he thought it would be a nice idea to have me on the Krach Test compilation since I was releasing a whole album.

jonas johansson aka tarmvred
photo by mark teppo

Nicolas Chevreux: I already had a full tracklist for Krach Test before I heard Jonas' first demo. We spoke and there was a time when I wanted to do something else afterward. So we decided we would have a Tarmvred album shortly after the compilation and I thought maybe it would be good to introduce that act with something on the compilation.

Jonas: I think I asked first and you said you didn't have enough space.

Nicolas: Yeah, but it was only going to be one CD at that time. When it became three, I was like, "Okay, let's have one track from you." So Tarmvred and maybe a couple of others acts came later in the project -- I didn't have them planned initially -- but it all evolved that way. There was a track from C-drik of Ammo that, I think, also came later.

Subfusc may be the record which first put Ad Noiseam on the map. Were you surprised by the reactions to your record?

Jonas: I was really surprised by the impact that it had. I never pretended to be a rhythmic noise artist or anything like that. I don't think that Subfusc was rhythmic noise in a way because it is just music that I wrote. I've always been into the hard drums and the rhythmic stuff, but I had never heard of "rhythmic noise" until 2000 or so. I knew about Ant-Zen and all that, but I never really bought any records from them because I thought it was more like power electronics, more droney type music.

That's why I even went ahead and created Tarmvred actually because I heard -- I guess it was -- Imminent Starvation. I didn't think there was an audience for that kind of music before that. That's why I made this demo and sent it to Recycle Your Ears, the Ileus EP. That's how it all got started for me. Along the way, I got branded as "rhythmic noise."

That's the thing about sub-genres in general, I think. They seem straight forward, but have blindsided other sorts of music which are actually very similar. Lately breakcore has been giving a lot of impact on the rhythmic noise scene. Like Venetian Snares. There are a lot of industrial people who are listening to that right now, even though it isn't "industrial" music.

But what's "industrial" any more?

Jonas: Yeah, exactly.

Nicolas: People are realizing you have different genres of music that are exactly the same, but which have been labeled differently. They are listened to by people who are totally different, but the music may sound exactly the same.

Jonas: When I do a show, it is mostly gothic-type people who attend. That's kind of surprising to me because I don't consider myself part of that genre.

[ tarmvred and izsoloscope do america EP ]
[ give a listen! ] "Fixtur Tre" MP3

Nicolas: You just play Sisters of Mercy covers anyway. [Laughs]

You didn't consider yourself part of the rhythmic noise scene before this album, but do you find yourself pigeonholed now? Is there an element which hangs in your head which says you must be this sort of artist or do you find yourself thinking, "Okay, I'm going to do something completely different now."

Jonas: I get influenced by a lot of stuff that I hear or that I buy. I don't feel like I need to put out a rhythmic noise record as my follow-up to Subfusc, whenever that happens. Lately, well I don't really know when, but I started to do a lot of electro stuff along with the rhythmic noise and the breakcore that I do. I don't think electro has that strong a following in industrial music so I don't know if I should release a whole album that has a lot of electroclash -- that's what it's called in Europe now -- elements to it. I don't know if it would be received well by industrial types. But I don't care about it like that. I don't believe in being forced to do a follow-up to Subfusc, and I don't want to do a follow-up to Subfusc soundwise.

Even just listening to your sound check, I can hear pieces of Subfusc but they've been altered. You're definitely adding other elements. There is a strong evolution going on.

Jonas: I think I have a hard time sticking to just one thing. I recorded Subfusc over a period of three weeks so it could have sounded completely different if I had done it another time. It just happens to be -- more or less -- what it is.

It's a nice snapshot of time.

Jonas: Yeah. But, I mean, the distorted drums will always be there. [Laughs] That's what I care about. I'm a real addict to hard drums and rhythm in general so Tarmvred will always be about that in a way.

Does the name mean anything?

Jonas: Yeah, it's Swedish for "intestinal obstruction." Ileus, the first EP I made, that's the Latin term for that. It's basically when your intestines do a knot on themselves. It's a very painful condition.

So I shouldn't wear one of your shirts in downtown Stockholm, should I?

Nicolas: [Laughs] Yeah, there has been some strange reaction in Sweden.

Jonas: In Sweden, that name for a band would more of a local punk rock band. Doing local shows, perhaps. I took the name by chance basically when I sent this demo to Nicolas. And it just stuck to me when we released the album and all that. At one point, I kept changing it. [Laughs]

[ tarmvred ]
photo by mark teppo

Nicolas: You were shifting names a lot and then you just decided to go with this one.

Jonas: I think it looks good also, in writing.

I've read that there is a story behind Subfusc as a concept and as an album. You know I have to ask if you want to tell us what the record is all about.

Jonas: It means something to me, I can tell you that. But I really don't want to give that story away also. I think music is something personal and if you say what it actually means then it sets the mood for everyone else. That's not what I want to do.

I notice the tracks are all untitled and all of a similar length. Is the record meant to be heard as an unbroken unit?

Jonas: Yeah. Well, I think so, personally. But I don't know if other people do that as well. If I see a playlist from a show, for example, there is almost -- almost -- always "Subfusc Part 5" because it is the most accessible track, I think. It doesn't have the long intro, it starts pretty quick, it has the vocal bit also. But, yeah, I think you should listen to it as a whole.

Nicolas: I was in a store recently that was selling Subfusc, and a customer came in to listen to the record. He took it and listened to it -- to just the intros -- and took it back to the counter and said that he wasn't interested in the CD. The guy in the store put on the CD -- loud -- and, after a couple of minutes when all the intros were done and the rhythms were kicking in, the customer came back to the counter and said, "What is that playing? It is really good. I want it." And it was the CD he was just playing, but he had been just listening to the intros. And once he had heard -- well, not the whole thing -- but the music building up and building up and then kicking in, he really liked it. It is an album that I feel is stronger if you listen to it as a whole.

It's the middle and end of "Part 1" that really kicks in and grabs them.

Jonas: Yeah, there's that whole electro influence as well.

Nicolas: That's an important part of the CD. Yeah.

[ tarmvred - subfusc ]
[ give a listen! ] "Subfusc (Part I)" MP3

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