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Aaron Dilloway
Aaron Dilloway
Photo by Lena Shkoda

Wolf Eyes' Aaron Dilloway Gets Noisy in Miami

Aaron Dilloway may be best known for his sound art on tape loops and his time with the Michigan noise act Wolf Eyes, but he began experimenting with pushing the acceptable limits of recorded sounds long before then. Look no further than his sixth-grade band, the Dead Roosters, which did groundbreaking work with capturing bodily functions on tape.

“We had songs,” he assures, “but we were [also] doing pause-button collages of us burping. It’s like a full minute of burps.”

Dilloway grew up in Michigan. His father played organ on Sundays at church, his brother played hockey, and his sister was a cheerleader. He received his first instrument — a plastic Kiss guitar — before he started elementary school and immediately displayed a keen understanding of rock 'n' roll tropes.

“I smashed it in the garage because that’s what I saw Paul Stanley from Kiss do,” he says. “I remember smashing it and then immediately bawling. Why did I do that?

As a young kid, he walked around his house recording sounds he liked, including clips of early Neil Young and J. Geils videos on MTV. In middle school, he used his brother's cassette player to create mixtapes; it had “the most perfect pause button on it," Dilloway says.

"You could record something from a CD player or another tape that was absolutely precise, so I would make these medley tracks of full albums, but just my favorite parts," he says. "I would painstakingly try to put them together in song form.” He took only one guitar lesson but taught himself to play one-string songs.

Dilloway created Hanson Records in 1994 while he was still in high school in order to release his music. He collaborated creatively with friends he shared a house with in Ann Arbor, Michigan, including preeminent party rocker Andrew W.K. He joined acts such as Couch and Universal Indians but found international success with Wolf Eyes, which he cofounded in 1998 with Nate Young. Wolf Eyes went on to become one of the most influential, prolific, and well-known noise acts ever. He continued Hanson Records as a print catalog while touring with the band and sold music he collected from artists that performed with Wolf Eyes, cheap CDs from the record store where he worked, and music from friends’ labels.

In 2004, he left Wolf Eyes and moved to Nepal for six months with his wife, who was studying Nepalese sign language. “Every day, I would get up and go find music with my MiniDisc recorder or go search shops and barter for instruments,” he says.

He last used recordings from that period of his life while touring with Throbbing Gristle’s Genesis P-Orridge, a fellow influential noise-maker who also spent time in Nepal. “That’s how we first kind of connected,” Dilloway says.

When he had his first child, his work on Hanson Records slowed. He still made music and even incorporated recordings of his offspring into his new productions, but having children changed the way he consumed sounds. Before becoming a parent, he listened to and distributed harsh noise, sound art, sound poetry, and abstract music; he wanted to expand his musical range for the kids.

“I’ve never heard the first Foghat record — I’ll throw that on,” he laughs of his shifting interests. “Or I’d buy a big bluegrass collection, and for the next two months I’m just immersing myself, listening to bluegrass.”

Once his second child was in daycare, he finally had time to open a by-appointment shop in his house where touring bands could check out experimental and underground music. Six years ago, he opened Hanson Records as a brick-and-mortar shop in Oberlin, Ohio. Reflective of his expanded sonic interests, the store carries a much wider variety of music than Hanson's initial offerings.

Dilloway's performance at the Center for Subtropical Affairs on Saturday, January 18, will be the first time he has performed in the Magic City. Although he has never played here, he says he was hugely affected by one of the city's weirder cultural exports: the work of Miami's Frank "Rat Bastard" Falestra. Dilloway says To Live and Shave in L.A., the noise act cofounded by Rat Bastard in 1993, made an immense impact on him.

“When I heard that first CD they did, it was maybe the most alien music I’d heard. It really blew me away and changed how I do things musically," he says. "To this day, it’s still influential on the music I make.”

Dilloway is coming to town courtesy of the experimental collective Miami Music Club. He'll play tape machines, manipulate sounds he makes with his body, and use random items found at the show. “I’m kind of working with the room and atmosphere I’m in at the time," Dilloway says. “I never really know how things are going to go until I do a sound check."

Miami Music Club's Rob Goyanes is excited to bring Dilloway to the 305 and says audiences are in for a treat. “His use of tape loops as compositional material, his textures, his semipsychotic live performance...," Goyanes trails off. "There's a lot of imitators, and he inspired a whole generation of artists, but there's no one like him.”

Aaron Dilloway. With Rat Bastard, die Reihe, Pewbert, Ironing, and Diablita b2b DJ Shhh. 8 p.m. Saturday, January 18, at Center for Subtropical Affairs, 7145 NW First Ct., Miami; facebook.com/miamimusicclub. Tickets cost $8 via eventbrite.com.

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