Rat Bastard on the Evolution of Noise: “We Are Always Trying to Come Up with Something New”

Much like music, noise is everywhere.

“People are so used to listening to noise that they’ll sit for hours and see it [on film],” Frank Falestra AKA Rat Bastard claims. “Take away the picture, and it’s just noise.”

Sitting in the living room of his South Beach apartment-turned-recording studio, the 305's King of Noise plays a Bill Nelson record.

“He's like the Picasso of rock," Rat expresses. "But you'll never catch people just listening to this. As is with any music, visuals make it [noise] easier to understand.”

Bringing the sounds of art to life, the Miami noise legend will be giving his audio-visual interpretation of the Wolfsonian-FIU's Art and Design in the Modern Age: Selections from the Wolfsonian Collection, as part of the museum's bi-monthly Takeover Tour.

“It's a new type of program that debuted last October,” explains Heather Cook, the mastermind behind the initiative. “The concept is we invite creative and interesting people from the community to give tours of what we have on display.”

Led by the museum's Deputy Director for Collections and Curatorial Affairs, Sharon Aponte Misdea, the 45-minute tour will give insiders a look at modern-era pieces such as furniture, radios, paintings, and sculptures. With nothing but a battery-operated amp, guitar, and a “bag of tricks” filled with old cassettes, contact mikes, and other noise essentials, Rat will be “walking around and making noise, trying to relate the pieces to noise.”

While modern art and noise seem like two very distinct art forms, a deeper look into their history reveals that the two concepts share similar roots.

“It [noise] dates back to the Dada movement,” Rat proclaims. “Those were the first noise guys. They came up with this in the 1900s.”

Originating in the early-20th century, the experimentalism of Dadaism grew during the post-Industrial Revolution at a time when society was exposed to modern inventions that created these new, unheard-of sounds.

“The best connection I could make is that the Dadaists and the futurists were interested in this idea of sound around us that resulted from the Industrial Revolution,” Misdea discusses. “All of these modern advances in technology and manufacturing, these things that are producing sound, by the early-1900s, it's in full-swing.”

This led to the found-sound movement, which later evolved into the noise movement. And while the noise scene has been around for over a century, it wasn't until the late-80s that the genre really started kicking off in the Magic City. 

"Our scene was related to the Rochester and Minneapolis junk noise scene," Rat compares. "There are two types of noise: academic and junk. Academic is more of a classical type of noise, like John Cage. Junk noise is all about causing a racket and pissing people off."

“You had Slap, King Felix, and Dimthings,” the noise junkie recalls. “King Felix was covered nationally with write-ups on Sound Choice and Option magazines."

All hailing from the 305, the Miami noise scene gained a solid rep, paving the way for other notable acts including Harry Pussy and Rat's Scraping Teeth (named the worst band in America by Spin magazine in 1993) and Kreamy 'Lectric Santa. But with the annual International Noise Conference, which just completed its twelfth run in February, South Florida's noise scene is louder than ever.

“We as noise artists are always trying to come up with something new,” Rat summarizes. “Noise is more futuristic. It's all how you accept it.”

As for his Takeover Tour at the Wolfsonian-FIU: “For those who don't know about it [noise], I'm gonna look like I'm talking to myself in the middle of the street.”

Rat Bastard's Takeover Tour. 7 p.m. Thursday, April 2, at The Wolfsonian-FIU, 1001 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-531-1001; Free with museum admission. RSVP is required via [email protected].
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Laurie Charles
Contact: Laurie Charles