Inside International Noise Conference's Alien, Intimate, Ear-Busting Scene

Give it a chance. You might like it. Pictured: Chris Dougnac of Passed Lives Excessive Futures
Give it a chance. You might like it. Pictured: Chris Dougnac of Passed Lives Excessive Futures
Photo by Walter Wlodarczyk
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Every year, the International Noise Conference descends upon Churchill's Pub in Little Haiti for a week of alien frequencies, outré performance art, and late-night debauchery. After more than a decade of bizarre and frequently brilliant shows, the event has endeared itself to attendees and performers from Florida and beyond. It's a truly international showcase, and similar events crop up in cities across the globe over the month, but to many, these are mere satellite happenings orbiting the center of the action right here in Miami. With the 14th-annual INC looming just around the corner, New Times caught up with a few artists of INC's past and present to talk about the show's unique communities, its roots, and what's on the horizon for the revered festival.

"I think this might be a good place to start for people who have never been to a noise show because of the extremely broad range of sounds and sights," explains Scotty Irving of the 20-year-old Clang Quartet, the first act in INC 2017's lineup. "Even if they don't enjoy every single thing they see or hear, they will probably see or hear something they do enjoy if they give it a chance. Acts change quite rapidly at an event like this," he enthuses.

Irving's praise rings true: One guarantee of the yearly showcase is that no two acts are ever quite alike. You're just as likely to see a metal-suited humanoid playing boulders via contact microphones on its mask as you are to witness a tender, intimate synth set in a humid, crowded green room. Remarking on the inclusive nature of the acts and attendees, Irving notes, "The atmosphere is always one of fun, creativity, and a spirit of togetherness that may be a little hard to explain to someone who has never been to one of these events."

That spirit of collaboration and anything-goes audacity has drawn performers such as Human Fluid Rot's Robbie Brantley. "In the beginning I was a participant, but over the years I've become a curator. I found out about the conference by accident in 2010, or possibly earlier — there's been a lot of head trauma," he jokes. "A good friend of mine, who has played every year since, asked me to perform with him to shake his nerves from the intensity of playing his first INC. I agreed and was dumbfounded by the experience."

This induction-by-fire was a transformative moment for Brantley. "Finding out there was a community for this type of stuff fed my soul in ways I cannot describe," he recounts.

Irving's first INC show sparked a similar revelation. "That one was such an eye-opener. I could not believe the number of people there and how into it they were," he recalls. "Rat Bastard told me that he had 'juiced up' the PA system for the event, and I had no idea what kind of volume level I was about to unleash on those people, or me for that matter. I remember some of the feedback made my teeth itch, and lower-pitched sounds actually made the stage vibrate."

Regarding the conference's legion of devotees, Brantley insists the event's growth has been certified organic. "The INC community builds itself. It's still a word-of-mouth deal, which can easily be said about the noise community in general." This self-sustaining ethos has been central to the continuing success of the shows.

"The Miami INC is all free; nobody is getting paid," Ironing's Andrew Chadwick notes. "So the enthusiasm of the performers and attendees who show up from around the country has to be high by default. They all have to go out of their way and into their own pockets to be there."

The location is as much a pillar of INC as the community, and many observers view the Miami showcase as the true locus of the global event. "INC reaches audiences in several different countries all over the planet and all within the same month or so. Everyone anywhere can experience what INC is," Brantley says. "Regardless of its international location, Florida is the heart of INC. Always has been and always will be."

International Noise Conference 2017
Tuesday, February 7, through Saturday, February 11, at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-757-1807; squelchers.net/inc.htm. Admission is free.

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