‘Maximum volume yields maximum results.’
Harsh noise as a concept is a particularly strange one, as it exists in parallel to itself in terms of simplicity and complexity, evoking both enjoyability and rebarbativeness solely dependent on the listener. Obviously, the world, and the musical one especially, is full of divisiveness and dichotomies contained within a single stylistic leaning, but I’d argue that in harsh noise’s case, that particular duality is more extreme than in others. Either you have the (usually) natural temptation towards it, or you don’t. Either you can see and feel the compelling attractiveness and meditatively absorbing value, or you can’t, and just characterise it as, well, noise.
And I don’t mean any of that in an elitist sense, mind you, but quite the contrary; I myself am — all things considered — quite novice and partly uninitiated when it comes to this distinct genre, and have slowly gotten the gist of it only during the past few years, and not purely for the sake of it either, as my taste towards it has stemmed from tangential leanings that have utilized noise as an aspect rather than as an all-encompassing definitive tag. It’s taken a while to reach the bottom of that deep, deep rabbit hole, but here we are, and I have no doubts that I’ve only begun to comprehend this scheme as a sum of its parts, having scratched a surface or two so far. But there’s been one artist in particular that has been aiding my quirky treks and eventual realizations regarding the genre as a whole, one artist that so happens to be our Weekly Featured Artist this week.
Earthflesh is a one-man experimental noise act adding flavours from drone, industrial, and ambient along the way, that’s been active only from 2019 but already has an immense amount of releases under its belt, and of which I’ve been very fond of since the beginning. Spawned from the mind of Bruno Favez and located in Switzerland, Earthflesh represents the most interesting angle that the genre has to offer, according to myself, and therefore it’s been obvious for a while that I need to cover him here when I get the chance, and there’s no time like the present, as they say. I was fortunate enough to talk with Favez about his starting points and ambitions, and it’s only logical that we start from the very beginning.
‘I come from the hardcore, doom, and black metal scene; that’s where I belong. That’s where my strong DIY ethics come from. That’s where my roots are. As far as I can remember, I have always been surrounded by music. I remember pretty well, as a child, that [for a] period, my mother got dozens of tapes every week from a friend of hers who used to work for a local radio station in our area in Sintra, Portugal. That was such an amazing time; we used to listen to music all day long, every single day. I remember my mother working from home and I was sitting there under her worktable, playing and listening to music. I was four or five years old maybe. It seems like music has been everywhere, since forever, since I was born.‘
Being surrounded by music from an early age has popped up often when I’ve discussed with artists from varying degrees, and it’s only fitting that the same goes for Favez. Aside from musicians, the whole of humanity is sculpted around sound one way or the other, and some are capable to further feed and carry that flame onwards for future generations. Having been subjected to the wonders of music and what it can offer affects all of us, apart from a few probable exceptions that can just keep it to themselves as far as I’m concerned.
‘That most probably explains my sensibility, passion and interest for music in its vast diversity and the fact that I now like doom, black metal and grindcore as much as I like fado, pop, noise and hip-hop… We moved to Switzerland when I was eight, in 1992, and that’s how I got to meet the ones responsible for my introduction to punk, hardcore, and heavy music. One of my best friends was already a huuuuge Slayer fan at the time and that’s where it all really began. The first record I ever bought with my own money was Undisputed Attitude, true story. Time passed and one day we eventually decided to form a band, somehow got our first instruments, a little place to practise in and do our things. I then started to play bass with my mates in the basement and the rest is history; I basically learned it all from there on.
There’s been lots of work since then, but also tons of fun, especially at the time we were touring through the squats in Switzerland, learning and blasting all around like the true savage kids we used to be. That lasted for about six or seven years until I decided to quit the band to focus on another project I was already a part of. I then kept playing with some of my greatest friends for another ten years, this time focusing on things doom and black metal in a band called Rorcal — a band which some readers of Everything Is Noise have probably already heard about. That second period in my career most definitely contributed to enriching my vision once more and forging my own identity as a musician, expanding my love for all things dark, noisy, and heavy.‘
Ah yes, Rorcal. I’ve been highly vocal about my love towards that band recently and continue to do so, as I’ve featured them here in this series earlier, and reviewed their excellent collaboration with Earthflesh earlier this year too, but more on that later.
I can relate to Favez on multiple levels when it comes to him detailing his interests and tastes in music. This ingrained evolutional curve is by no means linear, and one shouldn’t assume that either, but I’ve noticed that I personally tend to gravitate towards the deep end the older I get, when it comes to music and generally everything else in life. This pattern follows my earlier statement about finding the taste for noise only during the past few years. Growth, whether through positive or negative connotations, comes in waves, and we’ve all experienced that in one way or another.
‘When I quit my former band Rorcal by the end of 2016, I kept putting up shows for other bands. That was a super busy period, I used to put up lots of shows at the time. When I look back, it was definitely the right moment for me to have a break from band life and enjoy things another way — watch my children grow and put in a bit more effort for the scene here in my hometown. At some point, it just became evident that I was missing some form of self-expression, some outlet allowing me to purge my anger and my frustrations, some creative output I could use to serve my own self. I had reached a point where I was just exhausted of everything and everyone.
Getting back to music and something creative was not an immediate decision, either. Compromises being a thing I can barely accept, I eventually decided to quit all music-related activities and focus on a new project I could drive all by myself, at my very own pace, something pure and simple, some project I could be doing by myself without having to consider anything but me and my own will. When I do a thing, I like to do it at 600%. so doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that — while taking elements D and F and G into consideration so that I can eventually make it all work together — is something that truly makes me feel anxious and uncomfortable, mostly because in the end I just end up realising that I can’t make everything work and have to sacrifice a thing for another. Compromises have always been a hard pill to swallow for me, to be honest.
Earthflesh, then, is me doing my shit all by myself for the very first time since I ever approached an instrument. No one backing me when I suck at what I do; nobody telling me to move my ass and do stuff that I possibly am not wanting to do at the moment I am supposed to do it. No pressure, no obligations, no stress. No anxiety in having to be a ‘good’ musician and being careful with respecting tempos and song structures — zero compromises. There can be weeks that I just do absolutely nothing related to the project and there are weeks that I just work ’til exhaustion after I’m done with everyday life stuff and get done putting the kids to bed.‘
The idea of lacking the need to compromise, adjust, or meet anyone else’s demands really shows, not only in the steady surge of releases, but also in the aural side of things. Sometimes solo artists, especially in the experimental realm, suffer from a certain kind of monotony in their output, but that couldn’t be further from reality with Earthflesh, with his first album, JUGULAT, and the following few singular pieces (ILLUSIO, MARE, and FEEDBACK MEDITATIONS) already being a testament to that exact fact. Any band is but a sum of its parts, and there’s simply no reason to why those individuals couldn’t stand on their own. Or, did you think that these so-called band members each only know how to play their own instruments and bring nothing but a single idea of their own to the collective table? Think again, honey.
‘Earthflesh is, to me, the purest form of expression I ever put out of my own mind; nothing less, nothing more. Talking about noise now, I could possibly trace my attraction for these kinds of sounds back to the early 2000s when I got to listen to a band called Koreisch, and later on hearing as well as seeing live such bands as Piz Urlaun, 5/5/2000, KK Null, and Svartvit. I never thought, until witnessing the lastly mentioned perform live, that I would ever do something like this on my own. I always asked myself how the hell one could just be able to do such kinds of sounds — that really used to be a thing which I never thought I could approach. I guess, however, that all things put together ended up opening perspectives which I didn’t even see coming, so it just feels good to me the way things flow at the moment. Earthflesh was born from the need to do something raw and pure but I never really anticipated the way it would sound and how I would deal with it all.‘
That last sentence resonates with me on some profound level, as it not only sums up Earthflesh‘s modus operandi, but encapsulates life and living as a notion as well, if you think about it. None of us have any idea about how things will work or turn out, and our only option is to jump in free of prejudice, make the most out of it, and see where the tide takes us.
Being able to have a creative outlet can be seen as a luxury of sorts. Albeit that many of us possess the capabilities of applying it to our everyday lives, the chances to express it can’t be taken for granted. Some musicians spend years to refine a single release, or even single songs, while some approach the matter from a more undefined and definitely less obsessive stance. Even though looking at Earthflesh‘s discography so far can feel overwhelming, and perhaps generate questions about whether or not it’s necessary to produce so much material, you have to understand that it represents another end of the spectrum than that of what you’re accustomed to. More often than not, artists putting out a lot of material also work mainly independently, which generally offers a wider kit to work with, expanding the frames of what can be seen as one’s artistic canvas.
‘I can’t say it’s been a long road so far but lots has been done in such a short period, definitely. And I’m quite happy the way things keep flowing. Opportunities keep popping from nowhere and I just decide to take them or not; it depends how I feel about it all. I sincerely never expected all the interest and sympathy I get for this project, ever, so anything really appears to me like a bonus, in the end. Concerning independence in creation, it just sounds to me like a natural path to follow. From my past experiences in bands, I remember well the difficulties we met when we first tried to release recordings and get financial and logistical support from labels and individuals out of our own circle.
Years and experience eventually help and make things much easier, of course, especially when you get to work with the right people, but having a record ready for release as you intend it and having to wait for a label or someone to support you and do the job for you can really be a pain-in-the-ass situation — a total loss of time and energy, sometimes. I strongly believe, as an underground artist, in the good old do-it-yourself motto. That’s what, for me, in my very own opinion, works the best for such underground projects. It doesn’t make sense to me to get an album ready in all its process and have to wait months and months and months for it to be released, especially in such a niche genre as noise.
I will add, on another subject, that I really appreciate the freedom we have now since the birth and development of the world wide web. I may sound like an old prick here, but this shit really changed the game and the way we can get things done in almost total independence and communicate it and share it with people living on the other side of the globe. That, most probably, is a thing ‘younger’ people nowadays don’t even think about, as I assume it’s just the new ‘norm’ now, but it still is a thing that surprises me every single time I look back at the way things used to work before. I never thought, for example, I would ever have the chance to collaborate with some of the artists I admire the most, but the internet just made it happen for me with people like Ken Jamison from Portland, USA, and his Crepuscular Entity, and Jean Souza’s Interzona from Bahia, in Brazil. Really, the internet changed it all for the music industry in general and the genres ‘underground’ in particular.‘
This global connection also helps artists reach a wider audience than ever before, which is something that Favez underlines as well. Granted that operating quickly and releasing material constantly makes it more and more difficult for independent artists to invest in physical mediums, let alone work with labels who’d agree to their schedules, it’s still the music itself that matters at the end of the day. I understand perfectly fine how getting an official physical release can be seen as a justification of sorts, but I equally comprehend that it can be just as limiting. Releasing things in a physical form takes more time and preparation, and while being able to see and touch the product is a wonderful feeling, that’s only the other side of the coin.
In Earthflesh‘s case, evacuating feelings and emotions in an immediate fashion reflecting a certain point in time is more important. Not being ashamed to use and abuse platforms like Bandcamp is an integral idea in the niche noise genres, and being able to upload material onto these sites and hit publish ensures that the material never gets outdated for the artists themselves. Apart from this, you have to factor in the width, or in this case the conciseness, of the audience, which ultimately dictates whether or not something should get a physical release.
‘It would make no sense for me to press a thousand physical copies of my latest feedback overloads while only a few 20 people really care about it. It makes no sense, really, for me to think the way I used to think when I was a part of my past bands. Noise is a niche genre, definitely, and not that many people care about it to the point of getting to buy records and tapes, especially from a newcomer in the scene like me. Who knows, maybe in a couple months and years I will easily sell out a hundred copies of every single release I will do, but not now.‘
Favez also points out how being a newcomer of sorts in this particular genre can be partly bleak due to the fact that there’s only a few big names out there, like Merzbow, Vomir, and such, who’ve made it to the mainstream, while the underground scene is absolutely boiling over the brim with amazing artists getting none of the recognition they deserve. Modern times require modern solutions, and in the past few years there’s also been a surge of labels focusing solely on digital releases and having a better reach. This has proven to be a key element in carrying the genre onwards as a whole, even though it’s still easy to get trampled by the likes of the aforementioned artists. This is the way it goes with most genres, but for some reason noise draws in a lot of elitism as well, which would be better off weeded out than nurtured. I’m pretty sure you agree with me on that, no? When the truth, however, still is what it is, being content with oneself and abiding to reality’s confines when necessary is a liberating sentiment Favez emphasizes.
Now, let’s zoom up close. We have established a firm grasp of harsh noise as a construct and an overview of the people delving within it, so it’s only apt to take a deeper look into Favez’s own manner of creation. Harsh noise is all about being meditative and gripping, and the process behind it mirrors the outcome.
‘I basically enter the room, turn off the lights, press the rec button and start to mess around with my knobs and machines. I rarely have a particular idea in mind before starting to record: most of the time it just comes and develops while torturing the machines and listening to the sounds evolving by themselves. What matters the most to me is the mood in which I am when I enter the room — that generally conditions it all. I need to be in a good mental disposition to work and immerse myself in the sounds. If I’m not in a proper mood, it just doesn’t make sense — it doesn’t work, it doesn’t lead me anywhere in a constructive way. Earthflesh is a project in which I don’t wish to push myself to produce at all costs, so there can be weeks I just do nothing. Like I said before, I use it all mainly to channel my feelings and emotions, anger and frustrations; the creative process shall then not be a source of anxiety in itself.‘
As apparent, this experimental aesthetic has its own downsides as well. Sometimes things flow right out and click together, sometimes they don’t. Going in without pre-conceived ideas can be both fruitful and exactly the opposite of that; as to where the product ends up on that scope, is dependent on the occasion.
‘Writing music and taking hours to build a track, step by step, is a form of process I try to avoid as much as I can. I like editing and mixing and melting a live session with another — it can definitely bring great results to life and generate unexpected surprises — but assembling things and spending hours trying to put them together is definitely not my favorite part in my creative process. In the end, such creative technics lead me to record quite a lot of material, but the thing is, I only release a sound when I’m really happy with it, which is not always as easy as it may seem — even if, from the outside, it may seem like I do produce a lot.
If I don’t find my recs good enough, I most of the time just tend to throw it all away and start a new session. Pure and simple. Some other times, I eventually save a couple of recordings for further use, but it all depends on how I feel about it all. Creative process can be super chaotic at times: sometimes it just flows nicely but sometimes I really have to push it and take the good things out of the shitty ones. Either way, when possible, I like my noise to be as raw and direct as possible, a reflection of what comes out of my mind at the moment it is processed through my fingers and machines.‘
It’s because of this style’s creative, unforeseen nature that I find the idea of collaborating with others quite interesting. Earthflesh has done its fair share of those, a prime example being the recent work with Favez’s previous band Rorcal, entitled Witch Coven. That release stood out for me due to incorporating both bands’ aesthetics seamlessly, which is something that I see as a necessity when it comes to collaborations as a whole. Ideally, the listener can’t tell where one artist ends and the other begins, and when executed properly, the outcome is nothing short of astonishing.
Besides the one with Rorcal, Earthflesh has done collaborative works with the likes of the mentioned Crepuscular Entity, Juanito))), Hana Haruna, White Square, and Deconstructor — the last of which came out as recently as last Tuesday — just to name a few. Each of these, and the others unmentioned here, are fine examples of what it means for two distinct artists to become one greater entity. This is noteworthy also due to the fact that they fit right in to Earthflesh‘s musical continuum, one that has bloomed throughout its existence regardless of its length.
‘I love to do things on my own but I really like to collaborate too. Collaborations allow me to expand my sound and experiment with new things. It brings new ideas to the table and that’s really exciting for me. My approach of collaborations is totally different from the one I use while processing my own noise. So far, we always worked more or less the same: someone one brings a first sound, a first track, and then we complete it all together until we both are happy with it. When collaborating, I do spend a lot of time listening to both sides of the production, I mean listening to my sounds and the ones provided by the collaborators involved. Besides creating sounds which could fit the ones created by my collaborators, I also spend a lot of time mixing, editing and experimenting with assembling and superposing sounds and files together. That’s basically how it’s been working so far when collaborating. It’s really an enriching, evolving process.‘
As it happens, there are also quite a few of these kinds of endeavours in motion as we speak:
‘There are lots of collaborations in the works. Some of them which have been started months ago already ; some which are slowly taking shape; some others which are probably ready or will even be released at the moment you read this statement. Earthflesh is in perpetual motion so far and I’m super excited about it all and the support I keep getting worldwide. So if you want to do some noise with me please drop a message! I might just say yes.‘
Open mind and the interest to work with others usually yields good results on the ground level, and being upfront with the kind of honesty Favez demonstrates is a breath of fresh air for me, personally. While I also respect artists keeping to themselves to execute their own vision, it’s a nice change of pace to have musicians being open about every aspect concerning their creation processes and mindsets. This doesn’t mean, of course, that I’d wish for all artists to drag everything including their grandmas out there in the spotlight, but at times it really helps to connect with the music, to have all this insight to it.
One thing that has come up during my discussions with artists during the past year and a half is how much the current global situation affects their doings. As evident, some have been struck massively, while others can continue their business pretty much as usual. Please note that I don’t intend to add any kind of undertones to either of these outcomes, so if you picked one up, it’s on you.
‘One of the reasons I quit my former band Rorcal is because I was tired of getting in the van, driving for ten hours to play 30 minutes and do it again the day after, carrying the amps and shit. That, for sure, was the best time of my life for the few years it lasted but I’m done with live shows. I’m comfortable doing my things from home at the moment I decide to do it. It’s not in my plans, getting back on stage, for now. I can’t say I won’t perform live ever again, that was the main reason for me to be a part of a band when we started to do music, but that’s not in my plans for now. I don’t even feel ready to make noise live, to be honest. That would imply lots of engagement and logistics which I, for the moment, am not ready for.‘
While live shows do offer their own environment and setting to experience things, it’s of course possible to convey a plethora of emotions and aural imagery purely based on recorded sound. As per usual, some do this better than others, and in Earthflesh‘s distinct case, I find being able to produce such vivid mental sceneries quite interesting, even more so when considering the ultra-violent and abrasive nature of the music itself. With Earthflesh, this ideal extends to actual visuals in the form of artworks as well, each of which reflects the tones, either stylistic or manifestational, contained within the music on any given release of his.
Favez explains that the imagery really depends on the recordings, on the sounds and the way they make him feel. Visuals tend to be impressions brought forth by the recordings, but sometimes, albeit rarely, it’s the other way around, and the art ends up molding the sound. Either way, it all begins from abstract forms that start out vague and blurry, but eventually clear out in the end. This idea holds up oddly well when taking into account the music’s monolithic, wall-like appearance, too. Everything is interconnected, and it’s all a part of the same creative process, most of the time beginning from scratch without a single clear idea or intention.
‘Talking about noise walls, now, I really have been developing a true passion for them, even if I don’t consider them to be the major part of my production as a soundmaker. I really like, much more, the phases in which I drone and build up things more progressively or mess up with everything in pure chaotic, harsh noise style. Harsh noise wall as a genre, in contrast, has its very own codes and rules and I initially really took it like a challenge until I realised how interesting it was for me to build it and listen and get absorbed. I can’t say if I’m good or bad at doing such noise walls, as I feel I’m not particularly respecting its so-said rules, but I do especially appreciate the ones I did lately.
Extreme harsh noise wall and monolithic aspects, at least, really have a strong evocative power to me. It feels pretty much the way I like to feel when listening to a good funeral doom riff on repeat. I like to get lost in the sounds and let them take me away. When listening to any tracks I recorded, and noise walls in particular, before final approval, I just like to lock myself [away] for a couple listening sessions. I then close my eyes and let myself get lost into it. Those immersive sessions eventually give birth to feelings and moods and emotions which I later on try to illustrate on what will be the cover art of the final record; that really is a part of my creative process.
I know these kinds of raw noise walls in particular make some people anxious; some do feel a bit claustrophobic too, but I guess it really depends on the listener and their state of mind. We are all different, after all. Feelings and emotions channeled through sound are things I hardly can put into words, and I can easily understand such sounds may just sound uncomfortable to many but that’s another subject we could discuss here. In the end, all I can say is that imagery basically follows the purpose of the sounds. There are, however, no limits in here, as much as I set no limits in my noise and creation. I like to experiment with sound variations and colors and forms. Imagery generated through sound just comes as it comes. I do really like noise and sound in its diversity and therefore am not willing to be trapping Earthflesh into any specific genre or sub-genre but that, once again, is another subject.‘
In essence, Earthflesh is much more than what it may seem at first glance, and something I’d characterise as an experience. Abiding to his own statement on how maximum volume yields maximum results, Favez might’ve been conjuring these massive pourings of noise only for two years, but the trajectory is clear, and it’s one headed upwards. While not yet recognized by many, I have a firm belief that the moniker will start to pop up here and there more and more often as time passes, and eventually, perhaps, Earthflesh will break through the underground roof to bask in the praise it, and ultimately Favez, deserves.
But until that happens, be sure to make yourself aware of Earthflesh‘s existence and efforts from early on by following him on Facebook, and subject yourself to the weight of his trademark noise over at his Bandcamp page. It’s a lot, yes, but if you’re still reading this article, going on for days and days, and haven’t given up, you’re cut out for it. I believe in you.
Header and featured image photo taken by Nicolas Schopfer.