The Pure Harsh Noise Worship Festival last year was two full nights of righteous sensory overload. The organizers packed about 100 people into the humid confines of the Ella St. Social Club, subjecting them to sparks, blood, clanging metal, terrifying visuals, and towering masses of volume. Everyone escaping outside for fresh air after each short performance looked downright shellshocked.
This year's edition of PHNW is a much more pared down affair happening on only one evening this Saturday the 17th, and it will likely be a more physically comfortable one considering it is booked into the Ash Street Saloon. But it should be no less intense on the ears considering the artists involved.
The lineup this year includes Sacramento-by-way-of-Tokyo rager Xome, a gaggle of folks from Los Angeles (Sissisters, Wrong Hole, and Constrain), as well as Pieces, a collaboration between local noise acts Redneck and Oscillating Innards, and Baltimore-based Kakerlak.
To dig in to the mindset behind this annual celebration of the discordant and discomforting, Outer Worlds reached out to organizer Gordon Ashworth (aka Oscillating Innards) via e-mail.
The previous edition of PHNW was two days...this one is kept to only one. What was the thinking behind that?
We wanted this year's event to be as concentrated as possible, to maintain full attention of the attendees, rather than spread it out and give people the option of just seeing half of the performances. It's one night, and one chance to experience it.
How do you go about booking an event like this? Do you just track down folks that you would want to see perform and coax them out?
The latter, this event is purely focused on showcasing the highest quality harsh noise artists that we are able to bring to Portland. It is 100% based on our opinions and tastes with no regard to social scenes, trends, and broader inclusion.
How did the Pieces collaboration come together?
During the weekend of PHNW MMXII, we were all at Vinegar with our equipment and spontaneously decided to record a live collaboration. Nolan Throop and Matt Jenkins are absolutely integral members of the harsh noise community and Charlie and I needed them involved in this year's event, but decided to avoid repeat performances. This year will be our first public performance as well as the release of that initial recording on cassette by the White Centipede label.
What is it that attracts you to this type of sound?
Harsh noise is a wholly unique expression and art form that is highly capable of manifesting visceral, raw emotions and psychedelic experience. On an aesthetic level, all humans capable of hearing are drawn to certain sounds, and harsh noise is simply another deep, inexplicable magnetism.
Who are the acts that you booked that you're particularly excited to see perform live?
Personally I am most excited to see XOME, one of the most intense performers in America, who is incredibly adept at channeling the energy of classic 90's Japanese harsh noise. I am also very excited to see Wrong Hole, Burrow Owl, Constrain and Lifestyle Pornography for the first time.
There's also only two local acts. Was that a purposeful move to? To emphasize the larger reach of this style of music? Or just to make sure you weren't repeating yourself from last year's event?
There was a conscious decision to have no repeat performances, but we mostly curated artists from outside of the NW in order to create a rare experience and not just a local showcase.
It feels to me like the Internet has been a real boon to the noise music world, allowing smaller artists with small run cassette labels like yours to really get themselves heard by a wider audience. Would you agree?
As the internet is an incredible tool for sharing information, it has exponentially increased exposure and access to esoteric arts such as harsh noise. Despite this, I think that there will always be a desire for the fetish culture of tangible releases, particularly tapes, and the powerful experience of live harsh noise performance. Without these facets of our specialized culture, it would perhaps wither into an entirely asocial being, and events like Pure Harsh Noise Worship wouldn't be viable.