Q&A: Ende Tymes Fest Organizer Bob Bellerue On The Apocalypse And The Evolution Of Noise


It’s possible nobody told you, but the world will come to an abrupt, ear-rupturing end this weekend. If you’re planning to be anywhere near Brooklyn, you’ll probably hear it before you feel it; blame underground musician, teacher, and author Bob Bellerue, who’s bringing the Ende Tymes Festival of Noise and Experimental Liberation to Silent Barn and Outpost tonight and runs through Sunday.

Or just blame the miscreants he’s brought along with him: mold-spore drone farmers Hex Breaker Quintet; fluid-obsessed upstarts Yellow Tears; serrated sonic strobe spewer Kyle Clyde; wall-noise slammers Work/Death; avant legend Phill Noblock; tinnitus crusaders Haters. (Also poised to crack foundations and wreck equilibriums: Fatale, Twisty Car, Rust Worship,Cowards, Al Margolis, Mike Shiflet, and Vertonen. Some of these names are unfamiliar to Sound of the City, too, but in this particular scene ignorance often quickly gives way to psychotic bliss. YouTube is your friend.) In an email interview earlier this month, Bellerue clued Sound of the City in on Ende Tymes’ genesis, how to launch a big-city festival, and how there’s no need to anticipate the end of the world because it’s already happening.

The first thought one comes away with after perusing your website: damn, this guy has organized and performed at a ton of festivals. So my first question is this: what are the key things to consider when curating, coordinating, and executing a massive underground music/cultural festival in New York City?

The main unifying element in creating this fest was my own selfish desire to bring together friends and respected colleagues, and have a great time listening to awesome music & watching amazing video art/movies. That’s the only reason to ever do anything, especially when there is no money involved. Festivals sink when there is a concerted effort to bring in performers for financial reasons—”Well, I don’t care much for them, but they will bring in a crowd”—rather than for desire of great experiences and spreading the dharma of ecstatic sub-garde revelatory art creation.

So it began as a series of questions: Why not? What venue do I know who might want to put this thing on with no guarantee that we’ll sell a million beers?

If you arrange things well, the ball is rolling before you ask anyone to play. All I had to say was “I’m doing a fest, you want to play?” and nearly universally the answer was, “Fuck yeah, I’m there.” The ship is on the water, the people are all on board, and all I had to do was give it a little push to send it on its way. That’s the beauty of the noise scene: no guarantees, no riders, no negotiation, no hotel rooms, just pure love of good times. I am lucky in that I have a lot of friends who are great performers, and I do my best to run good shows that stay on schedule and don’t fall apart with drama, disorganization, politics, bad art, bad sound, etc. I’m in awe of people who pull off killer fests with real funding, but I’m happy that i don’t have to let that hinder my fest, thanks to the enthusiasm of the artists to go thousands of miles in some cases to rock my world.

Tell me a little about Ende Tymes as a unifying concept, about its genesis.

I don’t share an interest in death and despair and negativity that you see in some of the noise scene, but I’m not afraid of monumental change which is happening around us, even though I wish as a species we could limit our impact on the environment. With the end of the Mayan calendar approaching, the problems in Japan, Chile, New Zealand, and Iceland, the financial crises, the failed rapture, it just seemed useful to remind ourselves that no matter what epoch we live in, we always have to be prepared for the end of our time, whatever, whenever, and wherever that is, and we need to liberate ourselves from attachment to comfort & security & traditional ways of thinking.

How this relates to noise I don’t know, because when the apocalypse comes we’ll need a lot of hamsters to power the PA. We need to shift gears to move forward, we need to reinvent ourselves as a civilization. But capitalist systems don’t like to change the power structures that benefit them, so I’m not hopeful it will be an easy process. People do seem to be waking up and getting the picture of what is going wrong, even though we also don’t want to give up our way of life with all the comforts of year-round tomatoes. So, if anything, it’s a name that inspires me to think of how to end these nasty dirty stinking times that we live in, which I and all of my friends help perpetuate in some way, and move forward to new times where we can live within our means and not starve the planet of resources so we can have a new phone every month.

What inspired the name?

I had a hard time choosing a name. Finally End Times just seemed right, and I got a few votes of support from some of the performers. I used that name in the public call for video works, and then I finally Googled it and discovered it had been used before in Minneapolis, with such notables as the Boredoms, Smegma, Borbetomagus, Yellow Swans, and Burning Star Core, who is also playing at Outpost under his given name, C Spencer Yeh. There was enough overlap that I reached out to them and they asked that I not use the same name in case they ever want to use it again. That’s why it ended up with this silly spelling, with “Ende Tymes.” I think now I should’ve stuck with the other contender, The Sound of Music, but I figure Ende Tymes has a couple of years to it and then it will be on to something else, like “Mayan Eden.”

As a presentation title, “Apocalypse Wow: Harnessing Rodent Power for Post-societal Noise Performance” has a nice ring to it. This description from the literature—”street-level experimental music and the evolution of interface and community”—seems like it could go in a lot of directions, from multimedia presentations to flash-mob interactive experimentation to looping, kneading, and unspooling found sounds, ala MIMEO. Who will take part in this event, and what form is it expected to take?

That statement is the kernel for a discussion that will happen on Saturday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Outpost. I had another simple desire, which was to get a bunch of older artists together and get them talking about art, culture, and technology. I’m going to be inviting anyone who has been active since the ’80s to sit down and have a discussion with very basic talking points and some helpful encouragement to keep the conversation going: how things change, how things stay the same; how does the so-called progress of civilization affect our creative lives; how does the underground change when it emerges to fanfare for a moment; are changes in technology more important than changes in culture? I’m interested in “street-level avant-garde” wherein the artistic front isn’t driven by degrees and credentials, but rather enhanced vision of the gaps in expression and the motivation to create greater things with the materials around us, in spaces we can occupy for the time being, what Hakim Bey calls “Temporary Autonomous Zones” but with permanent independence of hearts and minds.

GX Jupitter-Larsen, AMK, Damion Romero, Rat Bastard, Phill Niblock, Gen Ken Montgomery, and Al Margolis are among those invited to tell us how the cows chew the technological / conceptual / cultural cud. I’ve sat through some of these types of things where the moderator was the central narrator and I want to avoid that, and I also didn’t want to have too many people. I thought about having another one on Sunday with the younger crowd, but I decided a party would be better at that point in the weekend, so that’s when the closing reception will be, unless we’re all still sleeping.

Will you be a performer at Ende Tymes yourself, or will you be more of an overseer?

Yes, both. My project KILT is performing on Saturday, and I’ll have a sound installation up all weekend. I’m also the stage manager, executive producer, stagehand, sound recordist, sound engineer, photographer, etc.

Noise and extreme experimental music have become more visible than in the ’80s and the technological means of creation and dissemination have multiplied. What similarities and differences do you see between noise groups then and now?

People still work in a vacuum, making their weird sounds without reference; people are no longer in a vacuum, they have reference of thousands of others doing similar things. It’s still a discovery that each person makes on their own: they turn something on at the wrong (or right) time, and it sounds crazier than they’ve ever heard before, or they have an idea that sounds absurd but they figure “why not,” and a new project is born.

If they were to intently recreate a noise work by another artist, it would inherently be a personal creation, because even if there are lyrics, it’s the sound of the voice more than the meaning of the words that carries the aesthetic of the music. Most of the time, it’s pure sonic content, so even a “cover song” is an “original.” Non-practitioners are blown away, surprised / amazed, and scared by the strange sounds in the noise and experimental music scenes, never having been exposed to it before, intentionally listening to non-musical-sound as music; non-practitioners are cynical, jaded, apathetic, and/or pissed off about noise and experimental music. They have seen enough already and it sucks, they just gave up trying to play guitar so now we have to listen to this shit.

Where will you be on May 12, 2012, and what will you be doing?

I’ll be the same place I was on May 21, 2011: nowhere and everywhere.

The Ende Tymes Fest takes place at Silent Barn and Outpost today through Sunday, June 26.