“Reticence” is the newest release from NRIII. The CD showed up on my doorstep several weeks back and since then it has been a regular player as soundtrack to my work commute and night time artistic endeavors. Consisting of 2 slowly unraveling and multi-layered pieces of subtly woven sonic chaos and padded room ambient noise, it is all kept tied together and cohesive with the breath and spirit of black metal. It’s like a two ton belch from the bowels of hell mixed with the breeze of a summer evening on a distant planet in another galaxy. It doesn’t sound like it should make sense or work, but it manages to do just that without ever becoming boring or pedantic. It is, without question, just the type of stuff that Grindthieves (and especially yours truly) has become known for going absolutely apeshit about; let’s not forget that last years “Solus Patior” ended up my 2011 year end list. “Reticence” takes some of the same sonic concepts from “Solus Patior” and “Paint Your Teeth”, and many moods subsequently created on both releases, and shaves some layers away, showing new veins flowing through the NRIII being. Those veins are then, themselves, sliced open and everything that flows from them is turned into and upon itself, mulled over a bunch in this sort of oddly inviting yet alienating mindset and mood. The outcome is incredible.
I consider myself pretty lucky for being asked to create the logo for NRIII back when the project was first taking form, it’s been remarkable seeing the way it has grown and changed and adapted. From punk tinged lo-fi black metal cassettes to the newest black ambient offering on CD that is “Reticence”, plus the whole aesthetic that NRIII brings to the table visually on it’s own accord – it’s safe to say that I’m thrilled to have gotten to know the people who house the minds responsible for birthing this creature and helping it grow. I got to have some words with Ryan from NRIII, although I suppose it could be fairly argued that it was, in fact, he who had some words with me. Either way, those words are shared in this entry and are accompanied by an absolutely stellar mix session that serves as the 10th in our current podcast series.
Grab the podcast here and cue it up as you read. Podcast link and tracklist following the interview, as well. Read on…
I did the logo for NRIII and have been following and/or connected with the project nearly from its beginning, but for those who haven’t and might not know a thing about it – could you give us a brief history of NRIII?
I really feel that NRIII has three distinct beginnings that built off the one before it. At the very beginning, Robert Pitts (the other member of NRIII) and I had come up with an idea for a transgressive performance art piece that planted the seeds for what would become the band.
The idea was to create a grinding, noisy, and aggressive noise/power electronics band that sardonically praised the extremes of capitalism. We started creating these lofty scenarios where we would book country clubs, 5-star restaurants, and other likeminded venues for shows and charge $100 at the door for tickets. Only to then ridicule and mock the audience through by presenting an exaggerated version of themselves.
Naturally, this was mostly abstract ideas of a couple of guys having a good laugh while hanging out and working on music. Nothing that would ever come to fruition.
After some time we joined up with a drummer and decided to revist the idea of creating a band with a mean sense of humor. Something confrontational that would truly unnerve, annoy, piss off, etc.etc.etc. the audience. The extreme capitalism idea came up again, but since we had the benefit of a full band, we moved away from the heavy electronics and rested on a scathing blackened crust assault. The results were good, we recorded our first demo and built a lasting relationship with Sam from Primal Vomit Records and a handful of touring acts, but for a variety of reasons the full band couldn’t sustain itself and we broke up.
It is funny that you mention the logo; because that was part of the reason the band rebuilt itself. I was sitting there, wondering what I should do next musically and I kept coming back to that logo. It sort of forced me to not let the project die. So I decided to regroup myself, make the music and the lyrics much more personal instead of antagonizing, and bring the band back to life into its current state.
When you say the more recent version of NRIII is more personal, is that referencing the fact that it’s just you operating as NRIII lately? If so, how did that come to be and can we expect a revisit to the former version of itself as a black noise rock outfit?
I guess part of the project becoming more personal does have to do with the breaking up of the “band.” I realized that you can’t really sustain a project for too long running on sardonicism alone. So I stripped away a lot of those elements by the time “$” came out and all of them by the time “Solus Patior” was released. I started writing lyrics that showed the fear and paranoia that I feel, if not everyone else as well, in today’s modern world and tried to create music around them that expressed the same feeling sonically. The fear I’m talking about isn’t just like the fear of war or the fear of death or any of these sort of moribund topics, but those existential fears of being animals that have created this huge, convoluted, and inescapable dungeon of bureaucracy in our personal, professional, and artistic lives and are stuck with it. That nagging that creeps from back behind your eyes as you start to go to sleep at night.
After “$”, which was a solo effort, I started working with Robert again. He contributed to around 3 tracks on “Solus Patior” and has been taking more and more of an active roll in each release since. How we work is I’ll give him some ideas of sounds, feelings, ideas, etc. that I have for a track and have him create a sonic expression using these ideas as a template. Then I take his stems and break them apart and completely mangle them to fit the music I’ve recorded. Sometimes I might take an entire piece he created with minimal changes, sometimes I might take just 4 seconds in reverse, but I think it helps create the uneasy, yet cohesive sound of the albums. These contorted ideas junk shopping together to add an even deeper sense of claustrophobia.
Would we ever play as a rock outfit again? Probably not. I’d like to say anything is possible, but the path we’ve started down is eschewing proper sounds and instruments more and more. It would almost seem like retrogressing to go back to guitar, drums, and voice and, besides, there are so many other bands that do that sort of thing much better than us. Robert, our guitarist, hates playing the guitar and I was uncomfortable and confrontational before, during, and after any live performance in that setup. It seemed almost like punishment to us, which brought out a strong and vicious performance, but wasn’t fulfilling in any shape or form.
We rated Solus Patior highly last year, including it in the year end list. This is not to say all the releases aren’t awesome, because they are all incredible in their own way. But, it really seems like NRIII is almost its own entity, that you just let it out and let it happen – things don’t seem planned or plotted. Is this true?
Yes and no. Every aspect of NRIII is poured over in meticulous detail. The concepts, ideas, and general song structures are pretty firm in their creation and have layers of thought and theory behind them. For example, “Solus Patior” took months to write, create, and record. There were plenty of failed songs, songs that just weren’t good enough, and dead end ideas that just couldn’t capture the sort of manifesto I had created for the work.
With that being said, my background is in the experimental improvisational scene, which when I first started working in it back in 1998 was just called “noise.” I can sort of understand that, over time, people have wanted to distance themselves from the “noise” title and name it something more grandiose (especially since the genre hit a fashionable boom in the middle of the last decade that made everyone with an effects pedal think they were Merzbow) since it implies more of a racket than actual musicianship.
“Properly” played noise music, or experimental improvisation, actually has more in common with the free jazz and neo-classical movements than the usually associated industrial or even no-wave sounds. The instrumentation is usually more inline with industrialistic sounds, but the instinctual playing and listening to the other performers is jazz through and through. This music can truly speak to you on a level that is, at once, both incredibly sophisticated and extremely primal.
This sort of thought was the blood running through the recording process. I had everything in mind for how the songs were going to be played, what they were going to sound like, and how I wanted to present them. But I never locked it down. I allowed the emotions and the moment of the performance to take complete control so that each song could “breathe.” I’d like to think of it almost like one of those plastic, jelly-filled toys you can buy from a science store. Where it has a defined shape, but the inside is just a gelatinous mass being forced into this form. This, I think, is how the songs are able to bring the correct atmosphere, sense of urgency, and claustrophobia to the record. They become something very organic and recognizable without falling apart into a cluttered, formless mass.
The name actually is a hold over from the band’s origins, back when the project was never going to go beyond a joke between friends. Originally, NRIII stood for Nihilist Richard the III, which fell into line with our idea of presenting a hyper bourgeoisie image during performances. As the band became a real entity however, the name did not alter and we just shortened it to NRIII.
After the original incarnation of the band it was decided to distance/remove the original meaning from the letters and just present the band as NRIII. I’ve even taken to referring to the band as “NRI” as opposed to “NR3″ in most conversations. I figure the name should be something ambiguous. This allows the listener to put their own meaning behind the letters instead of allowing the band’s name to dictate the music to them.
The band name is nothing more than a place holder for the content held within the performances.
Robert and I have been working together for a number of years in various different forms and styles. We both have a deep love for early techno, house, gabber, and minimal and have worked under a number of different aliases to try and give our spin on these genres.
Robert used to be very active in the breakcore/D&B scene under the alias of robad pills for many years. He was also one of the principals for the classic digital breakcore label Sickmode, which released records from Xrin Arms, Realicide, Vlado Ketch, Lucas Aldrich, and Owl Challenger.
He started his first black metal band back in high school under the name Aborted Christ. Pretty harsh, extended, poorly recorded blasts of black that, when you take into account he was only 14 when he recorded them, hold up pretty well.
Currently, Robert has been recording solo work under the names Moth Mouth and Brrrapture.
Most of my time from 1998-2010 was spent in the experimental noise band Whimsical Fetus. A ever evolving collection of musicians, artists, and free thinkers that were trying to find new ways to express themselves while not trying to devolve into the overstated posturing that many noise and experimental musicians have to fall back on to legitimize their work.
My high school years were spent in a shitty punk rock band that would try and book shows just to trash the place and cause a scene. Maybe more performance art than real playing ( though don’t tell a bunch of snotty teenagers they are doing performance art).
The best story I have from those days is that there was (and still is) a local punk rock venue in Jacksonville that only allows Christian bands to play; to the point that they make you sign a waiver stating your love of God before you ever hit the stage. Well, an audience is an audience, so we set up the show, signed their paperwork, and hit the stage when our time was ready. We made it about 1 ½ songs in before someone in charge realized all of the lyrics were anti-Christianity and attacks on the Southern Baptist culture of the city. We had also made really cheap inverted cross shirts using markers and white tees and revealed them to the crowd.
I wouldn’t say we quite “ran for our lives” but we did have to make a hasty retreat before some big knuckleheads for Christ got a hold of us. Not quite the peace and love scene.
Most of my time now goes towards NRIII and Neon Doom Records, but I also perform under the name Electronic Teeth and am in a band with Sam Morgan from IVES/No Pleasure in Life/Primal Vomit Records called IXTAB.
“Blackened psychedelic therapy”, funny you put it that way. The mix you’ve put together almost feels like an exercise in that realm, albeit with a lot more variety and flavors as well. But, there’s definitely a blackened air, for lack of a better term, to the mix. Any commentary or insight to share about the artists, track selection, or what have you?
For a number of years now and especially in NRIII, I’ve been interested in space of silence and how it can evoke emotions that even the most brutal blast beats, screeched vocals, and distorted swells just can’t seem to touch. It is something that soundtrack composers and movie effects people have known and utilized for a really long time, but rarely transfers over to more populist forms of music. We ache for every spot to be filled because we don’t want our mind to have the free control to fill those spots for us. And, with the right prompting and responses from the accompanying music, these spots of silence, that ethereal ambiance of nothing, can pull out our strongest fears, insecurities, and emotions.
The idea I used when putting together this mix was to sort of play on that. To bring together some of the musicians that have been effectively using space to create a atmospheres that bring you directly into their mind space. From the more dark ambient and black drone/psych stuff like Enslaved by Owls, Black Vomit, Zweizz, and even my own track to more traditional ambient and synthesizer tracks, such as Area C, Ambient Temple, Cortex, and EROC, these musicians are able to put together a mood that keeps you entranced, even if the parts are fairly simple.
To add a little bit of flavor to the proceedings, I did pull some tracks that I felt brought everything together and peppered the mood some. Belketre is a French Black Legions band that usually spent their time playing really raw black metal, but on this mix they pull back the veil some for a truly breathtaking moment of vile. Ghost’s track was featured on a Bludclot Recordings compilation, but is completely removed from its element to find a new, hidden meaning in the song. Joe McPhee and John Snyder are avant/free jazz greats, and Andrew Quitter and BONEDUST anchor a feeling of aggression and unease.
I’ve book ended and peppered the mix with samples from the Church Universal and Triumphant, which was a doomsday cult that was led by Elizabeth Clare Prophet and her ability to rapid-fire tongue chants and prayers like a possessed auctioneer.
Quite a nice variety of important material, as one might expect- especially if they’ve been following your work as NRIII and beyond. You mentioned Neon Doom and I probably didn’t mention enough. Care to share anything about the label?
I don’t have the best patience in the world and when you are trying to release stuff through other people it becomes a really big waiting game. I had run a small Internet-based label back in the late 90′s, early 2000′s that specialized in noise and experimental music and decided to give it another goal with Neon Doom. Because the label was started during the midst of a number of different projects, all under different names, I figured it would give the people interested in what Robert and I were doing an easier way to keep track of everything.
After using it as a home base for our more dance-oriented producer stuff for awhile, I decided to take down the original Website and just route it to a tumblr where I could post classic and current releases from the archives. I’ve had a lot of music cross my stereo over the years and love being able to share it.
Eventually, I decided to start putting out NRIII CDs, instead of just the tapes through Primal Vomit Records. While, with metal, tape culture has been strong and hard since the 1980s, Over the last handful of years the more Williamsburg crowd has latched onto it as almost a post-ironic/exclusive fad and I’m just really not that interested in it. Coming into my own in the early 90s, my music collection is CDs and I have a passion for them. So in 10 years when CDs become post-hip-cool again (which if VHS and Cassettes are, than it is only a matter of time…) you’ll be able to comfortably pick up these releases.
But yeah, I found a good way to cheaply make high-quality CD-Rs and jumped on the chance. “Solus Patior” may not have been released if I hadn’t. And after that I started to open up into releasing other material that I felt deserved a physical release, including a gabber/snot punk project called Muscle Boys and old Whimsical Fetus recordings.
All of the physical and digital Neon Doom releases can be found at neondoom.com. Additionally, out of simplicity, there is a facebook page for both NRIII and Neon Doom. I tend to upload both on a semi-regular basis and even do giveaways here and there. Some of the releases are also available through Amazon.com as mp3 albums, though I’d always urge a person to buy a hard copy than a digital download. Still, I won’t shun or refuse the “future of music” even if I think it is a big sham.
Any final words or parting shots?
Be excellent to each other and party on, dudes.
Thanks to Ryan from NRIII for taking the time to share a little more insight to the project and other things. Here is the mix from NRIII, our 10th podcast in our current series. As part of our ongoing effort to continually bring you only the best – and usually the most slept on or left of center – collection of music and artists, this session from NRIII flexes some serious muscle in the crate digging realm. Bringing together a varied and seemingly disparate batch of artists and offerings, some new ideas and moods are imprinted upon the pieces when taken in the context of this mix. Definitely for the more daring and seasoned Grindthieves reader/listener, if you know what we do then this will come as no surprise. If you’re new around here, this is a crash course in armchair extremism. Difficult listening for the easy chair, to the fullest. But absolutely astounding and breathtaking at the very same time. Ladies and gentlemen, the “Behind Every Gasp” mix from NRIII.
NRIII – “Behind Every Gasp” (Grindthieves Podcast 010)
02. Black Vomit – Last Cries of the Lost
03. Ghost – Crystalize