Beyond Cease to Exist

homage to mike kelley patron saint of filth_smKEEP IT DIRTY, vol. a., “Filth” (2016)



Christian Hite


The subliminal message of most music is that the universe is essentially benign, that if there is sadness or tragedy, this is resolved at the level of some higher harmony. Noise troubles this worldview. This is why noise groups invariably deal with subject matter that is anti-humanist—extremes of abjection, obsession, trauma, atrocity, possession . . . .

—Simon Reynolds[1]


I have heard this record [Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed] characterized as “anti-human” and “anti-emotional.” That it is, in a sense, since it is music made more by tape recorders, amps, speakers, microphones and ring modulators than by any set of human hands . . . .

—Lester Bangs[2]


What sort of song was the Siren’s song? . . . The answer some people have always given is that it was an inhuman song—no doubt a natural noise (what other kind is there?), but one that remained in the margins of nature; in any case it was foreign to man, and very low, awakening in him that extreme delight in falling which he cannot satisfy in the normal conditions of his life.

—Maurice Blanchot[3]


CH — I want to begin this interview with three epigraphs (above) linking “noise”—or, in the case of Lester Bangs, a specific recording, LOU REED’S Metal Machine Music (1975)—to “anti-humanism” and/or the “inhuman,” i.e., to that which, according to Blanchot, is “foreign to man, and very low, awakening in him [an] extreme delight in falling.” The particular provocation for these epigraphs is the release of Beyond Cease to Exist, a fantastic, new drone/noise recording by ACRE (Aaron Davis), on Monorail Trespassing (



Fig. 1: Cover Art. ACRE, Beyond Cease to Exist (Monorail Trespassing, 2016).


With an opening track entitled, precisely, “Low,” and cover art featuring the figure of a man (the artist?) on his back, sprawled out on a dirty floor (fallen? collapsed? intoxicated? asleep?), eyes closed, face obscured, head partially buried under bent arms, in a kind of paradoxical, double gesture of withdrawal and exposure (dis-closure?)—or what Jean-Luc Nancy might call “dis-enclosure,” in relation to the spacing-out, or self-dissolution, of that supposedly intact entity “man”[4]—, Beyond Cease to Exist, I would argue, points to certain inhuman, base/bass extremities in amplified, minimalist drone/noise.

And yet, in a recent “bio” for ACRE, we read the following:

Aaron Davis (ACRE) was born in Cambridge U.K. and grew up amongst the vast wheat fields outside Minot, North Dakota. At age 17 he dropped out of high school and moved to Olympia, WA, where he lived in a series of punk houses and played in the bands The Lords of Lightspeed, Dead Weather Radar, the bay area band, Gowns, and later EMA. The austere landscapes and sensibilities of the Great Plains still inform the sweeping structures of his work, and the DIY ethos of the Pacific Northwest is apparent in his deep knowledge of cheap electronics, and system based music. He lives in Portland, OR. [5]

While I appreciate this “bio” (as even in an age of so-called “social media,” Davis has managed to keep a low profile, with ACRE interviews being scarce to non-existent), I nevertheless wonder about its pastoral lexicon—the “vast wheat fields,” the “Great Plains,” etc.—and how this lexicon seems to invoke a certain notion of “nature.”[6] The Pacific Northwest, of course, has spawned a number of drone/doom/noise bands for whom a certain “blackened nature”—or “dark ecology”—figures prominently (e.g., EARTH, SUNN O))), VELVET CACOON, WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM, etc.). So much so that Steven Shakespeare has recently asked, regarding the figure of “nature” in the Cascadian black metal scene of the Pacific Northwest:

Black metal and nature: a betrayal of roots, or a new baptism of the earth? In any case, can this relationship be thought apart from the “truth,” the authenticity of a fantasy of origins? Is the embrace of nature particularly associated with [Pacific Northwest] black metal-related bands and projects . . . a “hippy” romanticism, a far right celebration of blood and soil, an American primordialist vision of the virgin wilderness/brutal mother? Or can it offer an aural thinking of nature that troubles such “truths”? [7]

Such questions, I think, are crucial to ask whenever a pastoral vision—blackened or not—is being put forth. And yet, other drone/noise projects out of the Pacific Northwest (i.e., GROWING, WHITE RAINBOW, PULSE EMITTER)—while also evoking “nature”—seem to approach this in a more ironic, mock-New-Age fashion, as if playfully appropriating a history of experimental, avant-garde (“Eastern”) drone/noise (i.e., LA MONTE YOUNG, TERRY RILEY, POPOL VUH).

So, Aaron, I guess this is a rather long-winded way of asking you to situate ACRE within a certain “genealogy” of amplified, minimalist drone/noise. Is this something you’re even conscious of? And is there a relationship between ACRE and the Pacific Northwest “scene” I’ve invoked above? If so, how? And am I wrong to think that Beyond Cease to Exist marks a new “dark” turn in your corpus of recordings, sort of how Metal Machine Music could be seen as marking an “anti-humanist” break with—or even negation of—the already “dark” drone/noise romanticism of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND (and JOHN CALE)? As REED himself stated (of MMM):

John Cale made me more aware of electronic music, and he had worked with La Monte Young. He introduced me to the idea of drone and I was involved with the idea of feedback and guitars and playing around with tape recorders. So I decided to make music that didn’t have lyrics and didn’t have a steady beat and concentrated on feedback, and the guitar not being in any particular key, playing with the speeds . . . . [8]

The original review for Metal Machine Music in CREEM magazine (Fig. 2) manages, I think, to capture this sense of negation—a one-word review in the form of a series of “No’s” repeating endlessly—appropriate for what is, perhaps, the seminal “noise” recording of NYC’s “No Wave” scene.[9]



Fig. 2: CREEM magazine (1975).


AD — ACRE was started in Olympia, Washington in the early 2000’s, which is also the starting place for a lot of the acts you mentioned above: EARTH, of course; Stephen O’Malley [SUNN O)))] attended Evergreen; and WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM are also from there. In fact, my first “real band,” THE LORDS OF LIGHTSPEED, was with the two brothers and founding members of WITR. I also briefly lived with Kevin Doria before he began GROWING with Joe DeNardo. There is also a close connection to WHITE RAINBOW: Adam [Forkner] ran a label with Honey Owens at the time called Yarnlazer and they released my first widely available cd-r, Candy Flipping (2007). PULSE EMITTER and ACRE have done a few split releases over the years as well. I do feel a connection to all of these groups, but personally feel that my sound has been located in the “colder” middle ground to all the above groups. ACRE has a more industrial bend to it which I hesitate to compare to Metal Machine Music, but I do see a connection. I love that LP.

As far as my connection to nature is concerned, it is very different from most of the Pacific Northwest acts. They are “one” with nature. Where as I—growing up in North Dakota—am almost doing battle with nature. It could get to be -60 degrees in the winter time, and over 100 in the summer, so I spent a lot of time indoors defeating boredom, playing in punk bands. Sometimes it feels like you have to play as loud and slow as possible for the chords to even reach civilization when you live in Minot, ND. I remember that, after hearing Loveless [MY BLOODY VALENTINE, 1991] for the first time, while my parents were away, I went into my basement and turned up my amp as loud as it would go and played two chords for an hour or two solid. It was my first magic experience, feeling the sound hit you at that volume. Nothing else is the same.

I’m glad you asked about the “bio”! I had a friend help me come up with one and I embellished it last minute! I have a hard time with those things. It seems these days you really do have to add a romantic or obscure back story to get people’s attention and I find that quite boring. The connection to nature, etc., in the “bio” was probably the quickest way for me to relate my work to the audience so quickly. I’ll do a better job next time!

With Beyond Cease to Exist, I did in fact make a break for new territory. I, however, thought I had headed in a more “pop” oriented direction! I guess it’s all in the interpretation. I’ve been doing the pedal drone records for a very long time and wanted to branch out. I’ve played bass and guitar in bands since high school, so I wanted to return to my roots, as a way of moving forward. If you can find a copy of the ACRE split with CHURCH OF GRAVITON from the early 2000’s, it’s all guitar based material. Beyond Cease to Exist is the first release to feature laptop as well. I had been a laptop skeptic for quite some time. The best way to overcome that was to start using one in a way that I would feel comfortable with, and I am very pleased with the amount of control of the overall sound it has given me. Some of those early shows were rough though!


CH — Well, again, I want to reiterate my appreciation for that “bio,” since finding information about ACRE can be difficult. Perhaps it’s no accident that one of your recordings is titled Isolationist (2009)?[10] In any event, I didn’t mean to criticize the “bio,” but rather to underline what I would call a certain rhetoric of “drone” (drone and nature; drone and the pastoral, etc.). In her recent book, Drone and Apocalypse (2015), Joanna Demers notes an apparent “discrepancy between the great duration of [drone] works and the dearth of words we can use to describe music that seems to change so little,”[11] and yet she herself goes to great lengths to develop the trope that “drone music is the sound of death” (DA 8)—“it aestheticizes doom” (DA 7)—even comparing WILLIAM BASINSKI’S The Disintegration Loops (2001) to a rotting “corpse”:

Like a funeral cortège . . . [this music] slowly recedes, is overtaken by noise, and is eaten away like a corpse. And yet Basinski has made this so beautiful, so invincibly and serenely beautiful, that I can half-believe that the collapse of my culture is also beautiful. [. . . ] These recordings indulge my apocalyptic desire, my curiosity about the destruction of bodies. (DA 83)

Although I too am fond of this figure of the “corpse”—especially in relation to “filth,” which is etymologically close to the word “foul,” meaning “rotten, unclean, vile, corrupt, offensive to the senses”—, I nevertheless think this linkage of drone and apocalypse (like the linkage of drone and the pastoral) betrays a mystical religiosity—like the longing to be “one” with nature that you mentioned above—such that the (Christian) figure of the “apocalypse” comes to signify a kind of rapturous, metaphysical “revelation” (parousia).[12]

And yet, the figure of collapse—of falling down—that I read in the cover art for Beyond Cease to Exist—not to mention the title itself—could easily lead one to similar “apocalyptic” conclusions about your work, which is why I was intrigued by your use of the word “industrial” to describe ACRE. Clearly, this is one way of distancing, as you say, the “colder” sonic register of ACRE’s amplified drone/noise from the pastoral “hippie romanticism” we discussed above. And indeed, my reference to Metal Machine Music earlier was less about comparing its sonic texture (its high-end squeals and feedback loops) to Beyond Cease to Exist (with its low-end bursts of prismatic distortion), but more about this “colder,” “darker,” “industrial” break within drone music itself. As Marcus Boon notes in “The Eternal Drone: Good Vibrations, Ancient and Future” (2002), “drone has often been used as a sacred technology”[13]:

The cathedrals of medieval Europe . . . functioned as a resonant chamber that amplified the organ so that the space was saturated with rich overtones, as strange psychedelic color effects created by the stained glass windows illuminated the walls and faces of the congregation. (ED 60).

As Boon suggests, it’s as if the re-appearance of drone music in the 1960s (LA MONTE YOUNG, TONY CONRAD, JOHN CALE)—along with psychedelic drugs—was tied to a countercultural longing for such “sacred technologies,” hence drone’s frequent association with a vaguely New-Age (“Eastern”) spiritualism prior to Metal Machine Music. Is it a mere coincidence that THROBBING GRISTLE released The Second Annual Report (1977) two years after Metal Machine Music, effectively coining the term “industrial” (“Industrial Music for Industrial People”)? And, more to the point, is it merely a coincidence that side B of The Second Annual Report is titled: “After Cease to Exist”?[14]

Interestingly, Jon Savage’s Introduction to RE/Search’s Industrial Culture Handbook (1983) is also littered with the rhetoric of “apocalypse.” “The apocalyptic feelings of 1977 and 1978 have burned out,”[15] Savage says, adding:

In the gap caused by the failure of punk rock’s apocalyptic rhetoric, “industrial” seemed like a good idea. Punk’s implicit concentration, in its purest form, on situationist theory . . . had left the door open for an even more comprehensive investigation of capitalism’s decay. (IC 4)

More than “apocalypse,” then, it is this investigation of “decay”—of “filth”—that distinguishes “industrial” from “punk,” for Savage, who describes a visit with THROBBING GRISTLE thusly:

The street where Gen and Cosey [THROBBING GRISTLE] live is unremittingly grim: 1850’s artisan housing—dirty brick facades, gaping wounds stretch the length of the street, broken only by a low railway, almost mathematically. Exactly the kind of street where you can imagine Victorian murders of the cruelest, meanest kind committed, and no one ever knowing. (IC 4)

Indeed, more than just mimicking the “dull, percussive, hypnotic” (IC 4) drone of nearby factories, THROBBING GRISTLE—with “After Cease to Exist”—evoke the cult murderer, Charles Manson, who recorded the song, “Cease to Exist,” in 1970.[16] Once again, if ever there was a “dark” break within the “hippie romanticism” of the psychedelic 60s, then perhaps the “Manson Family” was it. Which makes me wonder, Aaron, about your title—Beyond Cease to Exist—and how it relates to all this? Moreover, when you describe it as “pop,” I wonder if you also have THROBBING GRISTLE in mind, since they too considered “After Cease to Exist” as a sort of “soundtrack” to their earlier art actions as COUM TRANSMISSIONS. In other words, they considered THROBBING GRISTLE to be a “pop” version of COUM TRANSMISSIONS, as it enabled them to extend their exploration of “filth” to a popular audience via the “entertainment industry” (IC 15). GENESIS P-ORRIDGE describes some of these early art actions of COUM TRANSMISSIONS as follows:

I used to do things like stick severed chickens’ heads over my penis, and then try to masturbate them, whilst pouring maggots all over it . . . . In Los Angeles, in 1976, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (LAICA), Cosey and I did a performance where I was naked. I drank a bottle of whisky and stood on a lot of tacks. And then I gave myself enemas with blood, milk and urine, and then broke wind so a jet of blood, milk and urine combined shot across the floor in front of Chris Burden and assorted visual artists. I then licked it off the floor, which was a not-clean concrete floor. (IC 17)

This reference to a “not-clean concrete floor” allows me to return, once again, to the cover art for Beyond Cease to Exist and its grey-scale figure of a “dirty floor,” along with all its connotations: “lowness,” “baseness,” “collapse,” etc. Not only is this a break from some of your earlier minimalist, monochromatic covers (Figs. 3, 4, 5), which often featured bright, primary colors, but even track titles like “Low” seem to stand in stark contrast to the more ethereal, skyward titles of, say, A Shield of Air / Born of Light (Fig. 5). All of which leads me to pose the question, following Georges Bataille, of a certain “base materialism” in amplified drone/noise: namely, an operation of bringing everything elevated downward; a lowering from the vertical, or erect (“man”), to the horizontal. Here, perhaps I differ slightly from Boon, who also cites Bataille’s notion of the “formless” (informe)—i.e., the universe as a “gob of spit”—to theorize drone:

There is something of this quality of formlessness at work in “dark” drones, with their dissonant tones, the endless decay, distortion and degredation of pure tones, in the name of entropic noise. This formlessness, which blurs and loosens the boundaries of individual identity, could be the source of the ecstatic, “high” quality often stimulated by drone music. (ED 67)

Clearly, Boon’s notion of an ecstatic “high” stimulated by drone music is one way to account for that “magic” MY BLOODY VALENTINE moment in your basement in Minot, ND. (And is it any wonder this happened in a “basement”?) But I don’t think you’re the only one who was turned on to drone through MY BLOODY VALENTINE. I also had, what we might call, a (de)basement experience upon hearing “To Here Knows When” for the first time on the Tremolo EP (1991).[17] Steven Sharivo, too, has written about experiencing MY BLOODY VALENTINE live in terms of ecstatic “self-obliteration”:

It’s loud, very loud. Swirling, churning guitars, aggressive distortion and feedback. Endlessly repeated, not-quite-tonal riffs. Blinding strobe lights. Noise approaching the threshold of pain, even ruptured eardrums. This music doesn’t just assault your ears; it invests your entire body. It grasps you in a physical embrace, sliding over your skin, penetrating your orifices, slipping inside you and squeezing your internal organs. You’re brutalized by the assault—or maybe not quite. For beyond the aggression of its sheer noise, this music is somehow welcoming, inviting, even caressing . . . . My Bloody Valentine’s music leaves you with a strange post-coital feeling: as if you knew you had an orgasm recently, but you couldn’t remember when, or even exactly how . . . . [18]

In addition to MBV, I could point to the “rural psychedelia” of FLYING SAUCER ATTACK, or the experience of witnessing SUNN O))) or INFINITE BODY (Kyle Parker) live. And indeed, Aaron, I’m wondering about your own relationship to a certain “rural psychedelia,” so to speak, since some of your earliest recordings—such as Candy Flipping (2007)—do feature psychedelic cover art, along with references to psychedelic drugs (“candy flipping” being a mixture of LSD and MDMA). Is this still an aspect of ACRE? Was it ever?

But beyond this ecstatic “high,” it’s the self-obliterating “volume” you mentioned above (“Nothing else is the same”) that really interests me: a kind of visceral “base materialism” that leaves one, once again, curled-up, post-coital, on the floor. Steve Goodman has extended Bataille’s “base materialism” with his pun—“bass materialism”—which seems appropriate when thinking about the voluminous low-end drone of ACRE. (In fact, when I saw you perform at Pehrspace in Los Angeles, I believe you were playing bass through a laptop effects array?) As Goodman writes:

Vibrational force is constructed through bass materialist research concepts and practices. Bass figures as exemplary because of all frequency bands within a sonic encounter, it most explicitly exceeds mere audition and activates the sonic conjunction with amodal perception: bass is not just heard but is felt. [19]

The artist MIKE KELLEY wrote something similar when discussing DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, the lo-fi experimental drone/noise project he founded with JIM SHAW in 1974. “I was convinced,” recalls Kelley, “that what had been interesting about Rock all along was just the volume, your physical response to it. Everything else was just packaging.”[20] Like THROBBING GRISTLE, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS grew out of an art school context (Ann Arbor, Michigan) and pursued a similar comprehensive investigation of “filth” via base/bass materialism until 1976. So, to make a long story short, Aaron, I’m wondering if you can talk more about the sonic texture of ACRE and how it has evolved (vis-a-vis base/bass materialism)? How has the gear changed or stayed the same? And to what effect? I’m particularly curious about Sacrifice (2010), since that is a recording in which you explicitly state your (sacrificial) manifesto: “No synths, No looping, No laptop, No guitar.” On one hand, this kind of subtractive, sacrificial renunciation makes perfect sense within an ethos of “minimalism.” On the other hand, as a fan of MY BLOODY VALENTINE, it seems like a naive form of technophobia. I remember hearing GLENN BRANCA say something similar about effects pedals, that he would never use them! But, then, with the notion of “sacrifice,” we’ve also re-introduced a rhetoric of religiosity, along with certain (Christian) spiritual techniques of emptying-out (kenosis). But enough for now.



Fig. 3: ACRE, Isolationist (2009).


Fig. 4: ACRE, Sacrifice (2010).


Fig. 5: ACRE, A Shield of Air / Born of Light (2007).


AD — Well, ACRE started out of the dust of DEAD.WEATHER.RADAR.—a loud guitar-bass duo thing I did. We had tons of amps like EARTH, but came from a more DIRTY THREE meets FLYING SAUCER ATTACK idea. I still add little sayings to each record to honor FSA. At that time I was obsessed with the idea of the purest feedback, and had started writing guitar material that allowed the amps to basically play themselves. But it turned out not to be very controlled. I didn’t have a car or license at the time so I had to make a compromise. I ended up selling all the amps and guitars and just kept my pedals, which at the time were a couple EQ pedals, a few phasers, a flanger, and most of all a Boomerang Phrase Sampler. I had a Roland SH 101 at the time as well, but I didn’t feel like I was doing the synth justice—it had so many capabilities beyond just playing one note for 20 minutes. That seemed lazy. So I began turning the EQ pedals into feedback loops and processing them, and then looping them with the Boomerang to create dense layering. It was much more involved and very dense! I was able to tour like crazy with this setup, all of it fitting in one bag, with merch and clothes in another. I became very mobile and toured all over the U.S. at this time. In fact, Isolationist (2009) was recorded all in single takes with no overdubs on that setup, if I remember right?

Sacrifice (2010) was all about not repeating myself, so I stopped using loopers (they were all the rage at the time), and got into using long FX chains, with multiple tremolo pedals, and delays with really short times and no feedback control. It allowed me to be more rhythmic and I did lots of overdubs with this record. At the time, I was really into [the Scottish/Canadian experimental animator and film artist] NORMAN McLAREN and his piece, Dots (1940).[21] All of the audio on Dots was hand-painted onto the film stock by McLAREN and it sounds like a synth. Check out McLAREN’S piece, Lines Vertical (1960), too, as it’s really informed my recent work, as well as DAVID TUDOR’S Pulsers (1976), which was a big influence on Sacrifice.[22]



Fig. 6: Film still. Dots (McLaren, 1940).


Fig. 7: Film still. Lines Vertical (McLaren, 1960).


Fig. 8: Film still. Lines Horizontal (McLaren, 1962).


I think quite a few people—especially in the synth community—read my “No synths, No looping, etc.” the wrong way. I always wanted to make it known that I wasn’t just pressing hold and making an arpeggio; I had to dial all that stuff in by hand, a painstaking overdub. Try making drones with a few EQ pedals and you will see what I mean! Speaking of Metal Machine Music, take a closer look at the liner notes on Sacrifice and you will see I inverted the LOU REED quote “my week beats your year” to “your week beats my year”!

As far as “rural psychedelia,” yes, I have been there, but in a more American West sense. In North Dakota in the 90s, if you wanted to get high, it was trips to Walmart to buy Dramamine and cough syrup. So that’s where my psychedelic origins begin. It wasn’t until I moved to Minneapolis in ’98 that I got the chance to take a ten strip of LSD a week (laughs). Actually, the title Candy Flipping came about because I was poking fun at the modern fake psychedelia stuff you mentioned earlier, but in a lighthearted way. That cd-r was a great opportunity for me!

With Beyond Cease to Exist—the title came out of reading an article about GENESIS P-ORRIDGE, in which s/he said something about how words—or a combination of words—have a symbolic power. Around that time the title, Beyond Cease to Exist, popped in my head. I always thought THROBBING GRISTLE had a record of that name. When I realized they didn’t, I used it, only to hear THE BEACH BOYS’ cover of the Manson song, “Cease to Exist,” a few weeks later. It became extra weird, because I had unintentionally just made some new shirts and buttons featuring a drawing of Charles Manson that was done by John Wayne Gacy. I removed the sawastika and placed ACRE on his forehead! I chose that design because it looked cool, but it was also a critique of merch in general—kind of poking fun at the idea that you have to sell trinkets to make $$$ as an artist these days.


CH — Yeah, apparently Gacy did a whole series of “Mansons” while in prison, which, to your point, were fetching big money from “art collectors” in the 90s (Fig. 9). But, again, I think Manson does mark a break with—or, more diabolically, a fulfillment of—a certain “hippie romanticism” of the 60s, and its utopian cult(ure) of spiritual psychedelia, which is why his figure seems so ubiquitous in the counter-counterculture “punk” scene of the 70s/80s, particularly in the work of RAYMOND PETTIBON and his BLACK FLAG flyers (Fig. 10). As Cary Levine notes, the figure of the “bloodthirsty hippie” appealed to the black humor of artists like PETTIBON, (and KELLEY), who saw in Manson a “Christ figure,” with his long hair, beard, and loving disciples (Fig. 11):

A hippie gone haywire, the cult leader exposed contradictions within society’s most sacred categories by clouding their distinctions, mixing utopianism and Nazism, faith and fanaticism, Christianity and Satanism, the Beatles and the Bible. [23]



Fig. 9: Manson Drawing (John Wayne Gacy).


Fig. 10: Black Flag Flyer (Raymond Pettibon).


Fig. 11: No Title [“I am your reflection”] (Raymond Pettibon).

Of course, “punk” had its own cult (of) leaders, which is why, for PETTIBON, as Levine says, “hippies and punks are complementary,” adding: “Pettibon presents the 60s as the progenitor of punk, which in turn is depicted as a mindless rehashing of hippie lunacy” (P 77).

All of which leads me to pose the following question: To what extent does amplified drone/noise constitute a kind of acéphalic (to cite Bataille again)—or headless—sonic (de)formation? In other words, Aaron, when you talk about “writing guitar material that allowed the amps to basically play themselves,” I think you’re talking about cutting off the head, i.e., the spiritual (cult) leader (“your highness”). And this, I think, is also the radicality of Metal Machine Music, and why it was perceived as “anti-human” (“music made more by tape recorders, amps, speakers, microphones and ring modulators than by any set of human hands”). MMM, we might say, undermined a certain author(ity) of humanism—and its assumptions of “intentionality” and “authenticity”—, which “punk” had left largely intact, if not exacerbated. Indeed, the emergence of “Industrial,” as Savage notes, was a “thorough reaction against what ‘punk’ had become—good ol’ rock’n’roll” (IC 4), with its cult(ure) of charismatic personalities and conventional guitar/bass/drums format. If “punk” didn’t go far enough in decapitating, so to speak, the upright cult (of) leaders (man/sons), then it’s my sense that a certain practice of amplified minimalist drone/noise does do something like this, particularly with respect to the sprawling “FX chains” you mentioned above, which, of course, are often spread across the floor. It’s no surprise, then, that Aquarius Records has referred to ACRE as “FLOORcore”:

[ACRE is] one of our favorite purveyors of what we’ve taken to calling FLOORcore (short for crouched-on-the-floor-core), the constantly evolving genre, which is marked by live shows featuring performers on their knees, surrounded by a kitchen junk drawer’s worth of equipment, coaxing all sorts of noises from a battered assemblage of broken effects pedals, old synths, and homemade devices.[24]

What to make of this lowly (dis)position? And has your recent adoption of the laptop invalidated this designation: “FLOORcore”?

I wonder, too, if you’ve noticed a growing number of women artists in the Pacific Northwest drone/noise scene adopting this lowly (dis)position (“FLOORcore”), most notably, perhaps, GROUPER (Liz Harris), but also BLOOM OFFERING (Nicole Carr) and PINK VOID (Crystal Perez)? Of course, there’s a long history of women doing drone/noise stuff (see ELIANE RADIGUE’S Feedback Works, 1969-1970, for example),[25] but I’m wondering if there’s something specific to this lowly, base (dis)position of “FLOORcore” that opens a space for women, unlike, say, the notoriously hostile (macho) spaces of “punk” and its upright, erect cult (of) leaders (man/sons)? I know you’ve worked closely with ERIKA ANDERSON in the past, specifically in GOWNS and EMA. Can you talk a bit about that experience and how it has (or has not) informed aspects of ACRE? I don’t mean to romanticize this—or posit some kind of idealized utopia for women artists—but I’m reminded of Simon Reynolds’ analysis of MY BLOODY VALENTINE as creating an androgynous (even queer) space of immersive drone/noise, which he calls a “border dissolving, spine-melting oceanic wash.”[26] Reynolds even links this figure of the “spine-melting oceanic”—with the help of psychoanalytic theory—to unconscious memories of “the womb” (E 129): “Some people believe our very ideas of heaven stem from unconscious memories of bliss suspended in the amniotic, long before alienation constituted us as an individual and separate ‘I’” (E 129). Like Shaviro’s notion of “self-obliteration,” Reynolds’ notion of an immersive sound-envelope (“womb”) evokes an image of spine-melting surrender and ecstatic fall—much like the cover art for Beyond Cease to Exist. Thoughts on any of this?



Fig. 12: GROUPER (Liz Harris). “FLOORcore”


AD — As far as the “FLOORcore” thing goes, it was unintentional, at least for me. Traveling the way I did, having a table or even a keyboard stand was too much added stuff to carry around. I now have a PA and a lot of other gear—it helps having a car and a license these days! I don’t think I can speak for GROUPER, PINK VOID, or BLOOM OFFERING, but they are all really great though. I have played with all of them, with the exception of GROUPER. There does seem to be a more open field in regard to gender/binaries, in that particular [Pacific Northwest drone/noise] scene, I will admit. I really like that aspect, because it does remind me of the late 70’s and early 80’s scenes, in the sense that the acts appear the same but none of them sound anything alike, the good ones at least.

The connections between punk and drone that you mention above are quite interesting. One of the things that really inspired me to keep going was a quote in the book, Please Kill Me (1996).[27] It was from one of my favorite artists ever, IGGY POP. He mentioned sleeping to the sound of his guitar just laying against the amp at night and how that was in a way one of the purest forms of music. I have always meant to do a record that way, as an homage. Hopefully this winter sometime I can finally get to that!


CH — I want to shift now to a series of shorter, perhaps more conventional, interview questions. First, how did you hook up with the label, Monorail Trespassing? I know the label for their releases from INFINITE BODY (Kyle Parker), whose work, I think, is similar to yours. Also how do you feel about cassette releases? I know your previous recordings seem to be mostly CD and vinyl. Do you have a favorite media-format for amplified drone/noise? I’m particularly fond of your 7” vinyl release, A Shield of Air / Born of Light (2007). I love it because it’s a total oxymoron, going against the conventional wisdom that “drone” must be a long-playing, long-duration recording. Was this another attempt to poke fun at drone purists?


AD — I met Jonathon Borges (Monorail Trespassing) years ago actually. I booked a show for him [as PEDESTRIAN DEPOSIT] in Olympia, Washington, in maybe 2005? I still have the flyer. EMIL BEAULIEU, CRANK STURGEON, PRURIENT, CAN’T, ACRE, and PEDESTRIAN DEPOSIT all played. He and I have just run into one another over all those years, and we did a tour together in 2007. It was just the West Coast, with BRANDON NICKEL, INFINITE BODY, PEDESTRIAN DEPOSIT, ACRE and WORK/DEATH. Such a crazy trip. Fast forward a few years later and PEDESTRIAN DEPOSIT and ACRE played at S1 here in Portland, and Jonathan and Shannon [Kennedy] asked if I would do a tape for them, which might have been in the works for a long time, but only really got started then.

I do like cassettes. I have done quite a few actually—check my Discogs page.[28] I think I’ve released 11 of them over the years! I don’t have a favorite format really. I would love to do another 12”—I have done very few. I did enjoy the 3” CD’s. They’re a really cool and exclusive format. I’m glad you like the 7”! Not many people have picked that one up. It’s the only release other than Beyond Cease to Exist that is still available from the label that put it out [Eolian]. For some reason, people don’t buy 7” drone records. It really only came about because my friend who owned Eolian at the time wanted to get some vinyl out for me on a tour, and he only had enough for a 7” and we had toyed with the idea of it being a drone single, sort of like all the old records back in the day. I recorded some of that material in his studio: one side is a drum machine running through a bunch of effects; the other side is a broken Zoom 505 multitracked. It’s a pretty cool record—still proud of that one.


CH — Second question: what have you been listening to lately? Besides NORMAN McLAREN and DAVID TUDOR (whom you’ve mentioned already), who—or what—has been inspiring you?

AD Lately I’ve been listening to SPACEMEN 3, Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To (1990), AUTECHRE, LP5 (1998), MAIN, Dry Stone Feed (1993), CLIPPING, DENNIS WILSON, Pacific Ocean Blue (1977), and the LOU REED track, “Like a Possum” (2000)—that shit is great. It might be his best work in his later catalog.

CH — Third question: do you have any new projects you’re working on? Is ACRE recording new material? If so, without giving it away, how does it compare to Beyond Cease to Exist? Will there be more minimal percussion? Since the addition of percussion on Beyond Cease to Exist was a significant shift, is that why you referred to it earlier as a more “pop” oriented release?

AD — I’m currently working on a few things. I have been recording a few new versions of songs from the cassette [Beyond Cease to Exist], and I finished a retrospective of unreleased material from the “FLOORcore” days, soon to be released on CD, pending the artwork. I am also looking to record a new EP that I might self-release, and there is a possible LP in the works. I plan on spending most of the fall/winter working and recording and releasing new material. I can’t wait for the rain!

CH — Finally, is there anything we haven’t covered that you want to mention, or perhaps a site or an address for people to keep up with ACRE?

AD — At the moment you can find ACRE stuff here:

CH — Sounds good, Aaron. Thanks!


* Interview conducted June-August, 2016.




[1] Simon Reynolds, “Noise: The Powers of Horror,” in Blissed Out: The Raptures of Rock (London: Serpent’s Tail, 1990), 57.

[2] Lester Bangs, “The Greatest Album Ever Made,” CREEM magazine (March 1976). Online.

[3] Maurice Blanchot, “The Song of the Sirens” [1959], trans. Lydia Davis et al., in The Station Hill Blanchot Reader: Fiction and Literary Essays (Barrytown: Station Hill, 1999), 443.

[4] “We need to begin questioning anew the entire thought of ‘man,’” writes Nancy, “the autonomous, self-enclosed sense of a human (‘too human’) world.” See Jean-Luc Nancy, Adoration: The Deconstruction of Christianity II, trans. John McKeane (New York: Fordham UP, 2013), 5 & 51. See also Jean-Luc Nancy, Dis-Enclosure: The Deconstruction of Christianity, trans. Bettina Bergo, et al. (New York: Fordham UP, 2008).

[5] ACRE “bio” courtesy of Debacle Fest 2016. Online:

[6] Such versions of the pastoral, as William Empson notes, are often (Christian) figures of reconciliation. Thus the figure of the “simple man,” who, being “in contact with nature, is therefore ‘one with the universe,’” unlike his complex, city-dwelling counterpart. Here, it’s as if “Christ is somehow diffused through all Nature.” See William Empson, Some Versions of Pastoral (New York: New Directions, 1974), 13-14 & 78.

[7] Steven Shakespeare, “The Light that Illuminates Itself, The Dark that Soils Itself: Blackened Notes from Schelling’s Underground,” in Hideous Gnosis: Black Metal Theory Symposium I, ed. Nicola Masciandaro (Lexington, KY: CreateSpace, 2010), 7. See also Timothy Morton, “At the Edge of the Smoking Pool of Death: Wolves in the Throne Room,” Helvete: A Journal of Black Metal Theory 1 (Winter 2013): 21-28.

[8] Lou Reed, “Talking About Metal Machine Music,” in Critical Collage: Metal Machine Music. Online.

[9] On the connections between “No Wave” and Metal Machine Music, see Marc Masters, No Wave (London: Black Dog, 2007), 25.

[10] ACRE, Isolationist (Isounderscore, 2009). CD edition of 500.

[11] Joanna Demers, Drone and Apocalypse: An Exhibit Catalog for the End of the World (Winchester, UK: Zero Books, 2015), 2. Hereafter cited in the text as DA.

[12] On the rhetoric of “apocalypse” as a metaphysical figure, see Jacques Derrida, “No Apocalypse, Not Now (full speed ahead, seven missiles, seven missives),” Diacritics 14.2 (Summer 1984): 20-31.

[13] Marcus Boon, “The Eternal Drone: Good Vibrations, Ancient and Future,” in Undercurrents: The Hidden Wiring of Modern Music, ed. Rob Young (London: Continuum, 2002), 66. Hereafter cited as ED.

[14] See Throbbing Gristle, The Second Annual Report (Industrial Records, 1977) (Reissue: Mute, 1991).

[15] Jon Savage, Introduction, in RE/Search’s Industrial Culture Handbook (San Francisco: RE/Search Publications, 1983), 5. Hereafter cited in the text as IC.

[16] Before becoming a cult murderer, Charles Manson penned the song “Cease to Exist” for The Beach Boys, having befriended Dennis Wilson. The Beach Boys subsequently dropped the title and the line “cease to exist” and recorded a version of the song as a B-side, “Never Learn Not to Love” (1968). Manson’s version appears on his album, Lie: The Love and Terror Cult (1970).

[17] My Bloody Valentine, Tremolo (Sire, 1991). CD EP.

[18] Steven Shaviro, “Belinda Butcher,” in Doom Patrols: A Theoretical Fiction about Postmodernism (New York: High Risk Books, 1997), 24-26.

[19] Steve Goodman, Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear (Cambridge: MIT, 2010), 79. On the bass materialism of Jamaican dub sound systems, Goodman writes: “Unlike the futurist, avant-garde legacy or rockist legacy of (white) noise music and its contemporary disciples, with its fetishization of midrange frequencies, the dancehall system simultaneously immerses/attracts and expels/repels, is hard and soft, deploying waves of bass, an immense magnet that radiates through the body of the crowd, constructing a vectorial force field—not just heard but felt across the collective affective sensorium” (28).

[20] Mike Kelley, “To the Throne of Chaos Where the Thin Flutes Pipe Mindlessly (Destroy All Monsters: 1974/77),” liner notes to Destroy All Monsters 3-CD box (Ecstatic Peace, 1995).

[21] See Norman McLaren, Dots (1940).

[22] David Tudor, Pulsers (1976), reissued on Three Works for Live Electronics (Lovely Music, 1996). CD.

[23] Cary Levine, Pay For Your Pleasures: Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, Raymond Pettibon (Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 2013), 77. Hereafter cited in the text as P.

[24] Review of ACRE, A Shield of Air / Born of Light.

[25] Eliane Radigue, Feedback Works, 1969-1970. 2-LP vinyl reissue (Alga Marghen, 2012).

[26] Simon Reynolds, “The End of Me,” in Blissed Out, 121. Hereafter cited in the text as E.

[27] Leggs McNeil and Gillian McCain, Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk (New York: Grove Press, 1996).

[28] See:





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