No Wave was a short-lived but influential art music, film, performance art, video, and contemporary art scene that had its beginnings during the mid-1970s in New York City and continued into the 1980s alongside punk subculture. The term No Wave is in part satirical wordplay rejecting the commercial elements of the then-popular New Wave genre—a term imported into the New York contemporary artworld by Diego Cortez in a show he curated called "New York/New Wave" held at the Institute for Art and Urban Resources (1981).
East Village Eye cover featuring James Chance
In many ways, No Wave is not a clearly definable musical genre with consistent features. Various groups drew on such disparate styles as funk, jazz, blues, punk rock, avant garde, and experimental. There are, however, some elements common to most No Wave music, such as abrasive atonal sounds, repetitive driving rhythms, and a tendency to emphasize musical texture over melody—typical of the early downtown music of La Monte Young. No Wave lyrics often focused on nihilism and confrontation.
No Wave poster for film by Amos Poe
No Wave is often better defined in terms of the artistic environment in which it thrived (the downtown scene of minimalist art) and the character of performances typical to its context. No Wave performances drew heavily on performance art and as a result were often examples of a highly theatrical minimalism in their renditions.
In 1978 a series of punk rock influenced loud noise music was held at New York’s Artists’ Space that led to the Brian Eno-produced recording No New York. This recording was the first attempt to define the no wave sound, documenting The Contortions, Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, Mars and DNA.
The Noise Fest was an influential festival of art noise music curated by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth at the art space White Columns in June 1981. Sonic Youth made their first live appearance at this show. Each night three to five acts performed, including Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham, Jeffrey Lohn, Dog Eat Dog, Built on Guilt, Rudolph Grey, the Avant Squares, Mofungo, Red Decade, Robin Crutchfield's Dark Day, Ad Hoc Rock, Smoking Section, Chinese Puzzle, Avoidance Behaviour, and Sonic Youth.
No Wave had a notable influence on noise and industrial bands who formed after, like Big Black, Lev Six, Helmet, and Live Skull. The Theoretical Girls heavily influenced early Sonic Youth, who then emerged from this scene by creating music that eventually reached mass audiences and critical acclaim. Also for new bands like Liars, Ex Models, Neptune, and Erase Errata the influence of the No Wave scene was important.
Simon Reynolds, author of Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984, wrote:
And although "affection" is possibly an odd word to use in reference to a bunch of nihilists, I do feel fond of the No Wave people. James Chance's music actually stands up really well, I think; there are great moments throughout Lydia Lunch's long discography, and Suicide's records are just beautiful.
No Wave music inspired the Speed Trials noise rock series organized by Live Skull members in May 1983 at White Columns with the music of The Fall, Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth, Lydia Lunch, Elliot Sharp, Swans and Arto Lindsay. This was followed by the after-hours Speed Club that was fleetingly established at ABC No Rio.
Monday, 5 January 2009
Boyd Rice is one of the most provocative and debatable underground figures of the post-punk era. A pioneering noise musician and countercultural maven, from the late 1970s to the present he has worked in an array of capacities, playing the roles of: musician, performer, artist, photographer, essayist, interviewer, editor, occult researcher, filmmaker, actor, orator, deejay, gallery curator and tiki bar designer, among others.
First coming to prominence as an avant-garde audio experimentalist (recording under the moniker NON), Rice was a seminal founder of the first wave of industrial music in the late 1970s. In the 1980s, through collaborations with Re/Search Publications, Rice further endeared himself to the underground with recountings of his uproarious pranks and the promotion of "incredibly strange" cult films. Rice's influence on subculture was further exerted through his forerunning exhibition of found photographs and readymade thrift store art, as well as his adamant endorsements of outsider music, tiki culture and bygone pop culture in general.
By the 1990s, however, Rice's underground acclaim had been turned on its ear as a result of his public associations with nefarious figures both infamous and obscure. These included friendships and ideological collusion with the likes of cult leader Charles Manson and Church Of Satan founder Anton LaVey, among others. Rice sparked further controversy through public flirtations with "Nazi" aesthetics and fascist ideology, a flaunted disregard for political correctness, and an espousal of antisocial doctrines such as Satanism, Social Darwinism and elitist misanthropy. The culmination of these affiliations and endorsements established Rice as one of the 1990s' foremost countercultural antagonists and provocateurs, alienating many of his erstwhile fans.
The 2000s saw Rice turning away from the culturally proscribed (and its attendant controversy), and instead to esoteric occult research, the co-founding of an art movement and the design of his own tiki bar. Rice continues to explore these and other realms of artistic and musical expression as the decade nears its end.
Alternately amusing, insightful, confrontational and offensive, Boyd Rice has proven one of the most consistently influential and contentious characters of the last 30 years of American counterculture. He's covered an incredibly prolific amount of artistic, conceptual and ideological ground, and his work continues to profoundly affect the countercultural underground at large, inspiring and enraging in equal measure.