Perfect Sound Forever

MUSIC AS A DEADLY WEAPON

Music helicopter
Our attack copter, wired for noise

by Jason Gross & Eric Kauz
with Kenric Ashe & David Watson
(originally published November 1996, with updates through 2010)


I'm sure that all of us like to think of ourselves as being good people who try to do our best. Unfortunately, there are many assholes that populate the planet who make a peaceful existance impossible. We're not talking about evil dictators or crack dealers but the annoying neighbors who won't let you get a good night's sleep or seem to think it's their god-given right to blast their music as loud as they want. I'm sure they have their reasons for being inconsiderate but if they really don't care about my space or peace of mind, I ain't one to be sympathetic.

Now mind you, I'm no sadistic monster who would do this to spite anyone. In the past, I've given people the benefit of the doubt, asking them to be considerate. Because they're inconsiderate fucks to begin with, this usually doesn't work very well. As a result, I've had to resort to unleashing musical noise to drive them crazy so that they get the point. As a result, I've had a lot of neighbors move out.

I rated the music below based on a number of things to create the maximum amount of annoyance and discomfort for anyone inconsiderate enough to deserve this cruel and unusual punishment. ANYTHING played loud enough will be painful to hear but I've found that voices (esp. with a LOT of treble or bass) can be especially effective. For some reason, AM radio talk programs carry a ton of bass so that it really reverberates. Also, little tricks like positioning your speakers to the right direction will help. If you're really desperate, I suggest an outdoor loudspeaker that you can hook up to your stereo (any electronics store would have this). If you don't want to go through this trouble, you can back up the sound on your stereo with a smaller radio on the same station, blasting near the ceiling or floor. If you can position it RIGHT ON the ceiling or floor, it's better because the sound will carry more. As for police noise complaints, it's only a matter of making short, consistent blasts of noise to do the job.

Timing is also important- this all means nothing unless they're home. If they're screwing with your schedule (making a lot of noise late at night or really early in the morning), then play the music when you know they're going to be asleep.

"The important thing is to know your enemy" says Eric (who claims that Dead Kennedys, Husker Du and Fear are too poppy to work for this). This is good because if you get an idea of what kind of music they like, you can pretty much figure out what they're going to hate also. If they blast Led Zepplin and the Who, they probably won't like Black Flag and the Descendents (and vice-versa). Country fans usually don't care for rap (and the opposite likewise). You get the picture.


Robert Ashley "The Wolfman"
Though this fascinating composer is usually quite mellow in his work (has a wonderful reciting voice), this early '60's work supposed was an inspiration for the Stooges' "L.A. Blues" and you believe that just listening to it. Ashley insists that he was quiet as a mouse on the mike but his sonorous chanting are only matched by the screeching waves of punishing feedback that come at you. The electronic madness that makes up the background isn't as nutsy as Cage's "Williams Mix" but it's heard at a much louder volume and thus perfect for our purposes here.

Big Black
Almost anything that Steve Albini and friends unleashed is a guaranteed eardrum wrecker. A lack of ballads definitely helps. His screams and screeches made a big impression on a lot of bands who didn't go deaf listening to it. Even his productions try to cover the same scorched earth policy.

Borbetomagus
At a live show (captured on one of their records), an audience member asks at the end of the number 'are they done tuning up?' What that dolt didn't realize is that these mad, inspired geniuses take the free jazz they love seriously and as a challenge. Most free jazz though (sonically at least) couldn't match their overpowering sound. The sheer lung capacity of the saxophone players alone would be enough to blow down the Three Little Pigs' abodes ten times over (even the one made out of stone). Warning labels for small children, the elderly and people with health conditions should come along with their records- not even extra-strength aspirin will save them.

Boredoms
Heavy metal? Art rock? It's much funnier and noisier than either of 'em. The way that they time and choreograph all the guitar blurts, belching, screams, howls, stomps into something resembling songs is truly awe-inspiring. The singers sound truly sick-in-the-head and the music matches it. I guarantee you that these Osaka cut-up's know exactly what they're doing and you have to admire their committment to producing such truly beautifully demented, juvenille music: honest to God, they make the Butthole Surfers sound MOR (which they ain't). Most people will think that you're flipping through the radio dial and having a knock-down argument with loved ones.

Can "Augumn" from Tago Mago and "Soup" from Ege Bamyasi
Some of their early stuff with Damo Suzuki is pretty mellow and some of it is really beserk. These two items are kind of improvisations with a lot of long repeating passages and sudden bursts of noise- perfect for getting someone's attention.

Ornette Coleman
As much as I admire his music and his ideas, I'd be the first to admit that he's not for everyone. His mission has been to break down peoples' thoughts on music and he's done this so single-mindedly for a good four decades now that you either love him or go crazy from him (or both). If you're a fan, this is great since the chances are that others hearing this will run for the door. Even snotty jazz fans will most likely find this ear-splitting and painful and most rock or pop fans will probably go nuts from his disregard for chords or steady rhythms. God bless him.

Contortions Buy
A lot of practioners of free jazz would probably be ideal candidates but James White/Black was a lot more obnoxious (though not better by a long shot). His "vocals" are more headache-inducing than his sax playing. The band (esp. Pat Place) is good and funky but that's not the point here.

The Fall "And This Day" from Hex Enduction Hour and "I Am Damo Suzuki" from This Nation's Saving Grace
When Mark E. Smith and company hit a groove (esp. a flat one) and ride it out for a long time ('Repition' was a song title and a rule of thumb for them), it's music terrorism in lots of ways.

Fugs First Album
Especially early on, musicianship and singing weren't the point here. Tuli Kupferberg's chants are great for annoying people and you can yell along with them to boot!

Phillip Glass Einstein On The Beach
Four-and-a-half hours plus of repetitive music is what I'd call overload. It's on CD now I think, so if you have a multi-disk player, just pop the whole thing in and let it rip for the whole day. Included here mainly because Eric (who was known in college as "ear-ache") said it almost drove him to suicide.

Half Japanese 1/2 Gentlemen and Horrible
Even though Jad Fair insists he wants to write the perfect pop song, a lot of his music goes against his ideal. Intentionally bad production, instruments wandering and ignoring each other (like Beefheart) and most of all, his air-raid siren voice add up to difficult listening. I love it myself but I guarantee that this will do the trick just fine. Jad is so lovable that he made so much to hate about his music.

PJ Harvey
Especially good because of her high voice, pounding drums and the quick switches between loud and soft that she does- sudden surprises are really jarring. There's a Monty Python stetch where a performer says I suffered for my art, now it's your turn to his audience. Go get 'em!

Husker Du New Land Speed Record and New Day Rising
Early on, they were all about assault and noise. Even more than the shouted vocals, Bob Mould's guitar was a whole wall of noise to itself. It's like a vaccuum cleaner or plane taking off. VRRRRROOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMM

Huun-Huur-Tu Orphan's Lament
The Tuva throat singers bring a whole new meaning to "carry a tune." This gives you two good options because their voices hit hit registers like whistles and also really low down bass tones that would put Howlin' Wolf to shame.

King Crimson Thrakattak (from Mats Eriksson)
Experimentation and improvistation, is supposed to lead somewhere, but I cant figure this one out. Its almost totally unlistenable. Doubling bass, drums and guitar, they produce a pretty awful cluster of noises sometimes. Some people go to the movies to be frightened by a horror movie...well, if there is music equivalent to that, this is it. The sound of the album is not clean and polished hi-tech guitar synths, instead, a lot of barbed wire, but not INDUSTRIAL in any way. There is, apart from the powerful introduction, no hint of melody, theme, or set pattern or rhythm, that one can relate to. Everyone seems to be playing without listening to each other. It's perfect for when you want a diplomatic touch, instead of telling people "I want you to go home now...its late!"

Master Musicians of Joujouka
The 6000-year-old rock band that Burroughs and Brian Jones dug was described as "an attack of elephants in heat" by a non-fan. High end squeals will do the trick well for you. I happen to like them but have no doubt that many/most people would have a really hard time listening to this. It's enough to make any yuppie want to kill Paul Simon or Peter Gabriel for bringing them 'world-music'

Merzbow
No question about it: Masami Akita is really some kinda genius. Very few arists work this hard to craft such abrasive sounds. In fact, he might be the most ideal candidate of this whole list if only because one of his express purpose is to destroy your mind and/or eardrums. Melodies and rhythm are beside the point here. Safe to say that he's REALLY EFFECTIVE at what he does. Phrases like 'art of noise' or 'extreme noise terrorism' should really be his mottos. Even his 'remix' CD (supposedly a commercial sop) is unbelievably pain-inducing yet quite lovable to some (like me).

Meredith Monk Dolemn Music
Another prestidigitator of the voice. Like Diamanda Galas, Monk deals mostly with high pitch sounds in a rapid flurry sometimes (like a sax player). Leon Thomas also fits into this pattern but Monk may be more preferrable because (esp. on this early album) she works with a whole chorus doing the same thing, backed up by drums and piano banging away.

My Bloody Valentine (live tapes)
They really know how to mix hard/soft well but live, they're all about assault. I actually lived through one of their shows but not without my ears ringing for a week. Sonic Youth was MOR to me after this. Anyone you find who actually does have live tapes must be deaf by now. At the show I was at, one fan yelled "more pain!" during the "encore."

Napoleon XVIII They're Coming To Take Me Away B-side
It's this demented classic backwards- as if played the right way wasn't painful enough. Another great room-clearer so loop it and watch the mayhem.

Yoko Ono Fly
That crappy new wave song "Voices Carry" must have really been about Yoko. When she started out making records, she had nothing to do with pop, making her an ideal candidate for evacuating neighbors. You might want to be careful though as some other animals might mistake this for mating calls.

Pearl Jam "Foxymophandle" from Vitalogy
Appropriate here since child abuse would inspire aural abuse.

Portsmouth Sinfonia Plays the Popular Classics
Even more than Spike Jones is Murdering the Classics, this crew did it for real. It sounds like an orchestra with guys who just started learning their instruments (which it supposedly was). Funny as hell but pretty painful to hear. The music goes all over the place so that it's loud and annoying.

Public Image Limited Flowers of Romance
The original inspriration for this. Eric was looking for a record to get back at a neighbor he hated. Someone said that this was what he needed. With the shrieking and drums that are all over this makes it perfect- the sound carries well on it. If there are any tapes of the original band that the album's named after (featuring Sid Vicious), that should probably be on this list too.

Public Enemy
Good especially because of its noise-some quality and the really thick bass. As an added bonus, this will probably scare away any white-bread asshole who thinks that one of "those people" have moved in next door.

Revolting Cocks "(Let's Talk) Physical"
Industrial music as a whole is pretty solid for this purpose but this time Alain really went over the edge. A version of their own "(Let's Get) Physical" (not the Newton-John song luckily) is a loop where the singer yells the same word for seven minutes. You might want to leave your place while this is playing just so you don't have to suffer through this art-wanking yourself.

Wire "Former Airline"
This B-side is good because it's repetitive and full of random noises (including air-raid sirens and piano banging). A good two-prong attack. Loop it and clear out your (least) favorite room.

Frank Zappa Weasals Ripped My Flesh & Freak Out
Frank's early years were full of musique concrete. Edgar Varese was his inspiration but he upped the ante. With help from engineers and electronics wiz Don Preston (who would work with the Residents later), these were sound paintings as if Jackson Pollock did the music. Faust and Throbbing Gristle learned a lot here but Frank was truly the master of this. His furious onslaught of bleeps, honks, howls, whirls and other ungodly sounds made Metal Machine Music sound like Mitch Miller. It's so single-mindedly, maddeningly uncommercial that it's inspriational and a great weapon.


If you really need more, this is where I'd start: Einsturzende Neubauten, early Albert Ayler, early Glenn Branca, late Ministry (one of Eric's favorite weapons), Rudimentary Peni, Foetus, G.G. Allin, Napalm Death, Kluster, Rema Rema, Shockabilly.

Of course, this is all subjective. I actually like and/or respect most of these bands a lot. To me, U2 (their recent stuff), Alanis Morrisette, Michael Bolton, Mariah Carey, Sheryl Crow, Oasis, Eddie Brickell and Whitney Houston are REALLY painful to hear. Don't get any bright ideas though- as I said, I've cleared out more neighbors than a slum-lord. Otherwise, have fun and don't worry about driving anyone crazy because it's probably a short drive anyway.


And now, Kenric's corner....

Okay, I'd start with Fear "Let's Have a War." It's best to make your intentions clear, I say. Then, maybe some Dead Kennedys to keep that angry spirit going, but then they would probably start to enjoy what I'm playing, so I'd throw 'em off balance with the Melvins' "Charmicarmicat". They'd be like, huh? Now you got to really freak them out so you slip in some Renaldo and the Loaf, and then you play the entire Residents Commercial Album. But let's go back to some punk rock kind of shit before they get used to that, so crank up some Killdozer Snake Boy, Hammerhead Evil Twin, and Stooges Funhouse. Notice everything I've played is loud? It's gotta be or else they won't hear it. Anyway, they ain't dead yet? Allright, blast 'em with some Cows (older the better), then twist their ears with Ed Hall's Motherscratcher. By this point, if they haven't been pummeled into submission (and if the cops haven't arrived yet), it's time to bring out the secret weapon. Put Jeno's Music to Eat Pizza By on the turntable, set it to the Clarinet Polka, infinite loop (ya gotta have a special turntable like my Technics SL-J33 to do that), and go out and drink beers for about 3 hours. By the time you get back, you will have driven out ALL your neighbors.


Our man in hell Dave Watson takes a bit of an unorthdox approach to this. His theory is that scare tactics are prime weapons. If the neighbors think that horrendous, pitiless acts are being committed, they might not find it too hospitalable to reside next to you.

Any WHITEHOUSE you can get your hands on (esp. The 150 Murderous Passions, side 2)
If the forefront sounds don't drive the neighbours nuts, the high pitched hissy whine in the background of the entire piece will induce migraines and sterilize domestic animals.

THE GEROGERIGEGEGE 45RPM Performance
It sounds like 46 minutes of explosions, and at the right volume, it could weaken building foundations.

Any of the HANATARASH live CDs issued by Mom 'n' Dad
They'll think that you're committing horrendous crimes against nature and property, esp. if you play the one where Eye cuts a live cat in half with a power saw.

PAT METHENY Zero Tolerance for Silence
They'll beg you to put on one of the Big Black songs where the drum machine and bass actually kick in and something resembling melody occurs.

any MASONNA
With all the screaming and other abrasive noises, they'll think you're filming Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 at your house.



MUSICAL WEAPONS IN THE NEWS

GENERAL NORIEGA'S NOT A HEADBANGER
January 1990
President Manuel Noriega retreated to his compound to hide after the United States miitary invaded Panama to arrest him. According to press reports, during the stand-off, the military (among other things) blasted heavy metal (supposedly including Bon Jovi and AC/DC) and hip hop music to try to get the General to surrender. He did eventually give himself up but it is unknown so far what role the music played in his surrender.



WACO INCIDENT
February 28- April 19, 1993
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) attempted to arrest religious leader David Koresh at his Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, resulting in a deadly shoot-out and an almost two month stand-off. During the siege, the ATF blasted music, including Tibetan chants and Christmas music through the night to disorientate Koresh and his followers. During a press conference, an ATF spokeman actually joked about considering the use of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus' then-recent hit "Achy, Breaky Heart" for this purpose (it's rumored that Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walking" were also used but it would be interesting to learn what the criteria here was). The result of this psychological warfare was that several negotiations with members of Koresh's sect were broken off. The siege ended with a controversial move by the ATF and Attorney General Janet Reno to raid the compound, resulting in a mass suicide by the members of the cult.



ISRAELI STEEL
The Guardian Unlimited reports: "During the siege of Bethlehem's Church Of The Nativity in (May) 2002, Israeli soldiers, perhaps mindful of the splendid results their ancestors had with trumpets at Jericho, blasted the occupying Palestinians with heavy metal."



WHAT'S OPERA, JUDGE?
In 2003, Miami Beach judge Jeffrey Swartz (who once had P Diddy in his court for a misdemeanor involving a scooter) decides that noise law violators will be punished with either a $500 fine or listening to 2 1/2 hours of the entire opera La Traviata in his chambers. Since then, more than 100 violators decide to take the second option. The judge's bailiff plays the opera on a boombox for the perpetrators who can only sit and stare back and not look out the window or nap. Between court sessions, Swartz himself will occasionally visit to explain the opera. Interestingly enough, the St. Petersburg Times (Soothing the savage stereos, February 1, 2004) reports that Swartz himself was not a long-time opera fan himself- he was dragged to the opera about six years before that by his former wife and then started enjoying it willfully.



REAL WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
2003- Guardian Unlimited reports that America has used music to battle Iraqis who aren't being co-operative. "Army psy-ops teams have helicopter-mounted loudspeakers with a range of three miles, and similar equipment which can broadcast as loud, if not quite as far, from Humvees and backpacks. The soundtrack used to berate Iraqis this time out has included old favourites AC/DC (one hopes AC/DC's management are hitting the Pentagon for the appropriate royalties) and Jimi Hendrix's apocalyptic version of The Star-Spangled Banner - conceived, ironically, as a protest against a previous unprovoked American war." In particular, The Globe and Mail reports on April 16, 2004 that in a stand-off in the city of Fallujah, the Marines are using AC/DC's "Hell's Bells" to subdue their enemies.



COMPANY SELLS MP3 GUNS (story from Ananova)

2004- "A British-based company is selling MP3 players which can be attached to an assault rifle. The "AK-MP3" player is built into the ammunition clip of a Kalashnikov. It can be swapped with the real magazine carrying bullets and inserted into the weapon. The device is being advertised on the internet by a Buckinghamshire-based company set up by a group of Russian businessmen. It comes with enough storage space to hold 9,000 songs.

"Former Russian rock star Andrey Koltakov, a partner in the dotcom company offering the AK-MP3 for sale, said: "This is our bit for world peace - hopefully, from now on many militants and terrorists will use their AK-47s to listen to music and audio books."

"The accessory costs just over 200 or around 400. According to those marketing it the stainless steel body makes it "uniquely suitable for outdoors". AK-47s are the choice of killers across the globe from Marxist guerillas in Colombia to Saddam Hussein loyalists in Iraq. They were also used by IRA snipers. They are capable of firing 600 rounds a minute."



Cruise lines turn to sonic weapon
By Adam Blenford
BBC News, November 8, 2005

How did the crew of a fancy cruise ship avoid attacking pirates? With the use of noise. "The long range acoustic device, or LRAD, is a high-tech loudhailer capable of causing permanent damage to hearing from a distance of more than 300 metres (984ft)... The LRAD uses a high energy acoustic beam - in layman's terms, a very loud noise - to disable and disorientate a opponent or a crowd." It's also found use elsewhere: "US troops have also used the LRAD in action in the Iraqi cities of Falluja and Baghdad, and it was deployed for crowd control in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina."



Disco Inferno
by Moustafa Bayoumi
The Nation, December 7, 2007

An excellent and disturbing article about how the U.S. military is using music as part of its torture techniques in the war on terror and how brutal and inhumane its use has now become.



Will Ruffians Run From Mozarts?
by Melissa Santos
News Tribune, July 30, 2007

"The first speakers are being installed at the Tacoma Mall Transit Center and should start piping classical music radio sometime this week. They will be tuned 24 hours a day to KING 98.1 FM." I'm all for cutting down gang violence but doesn't this also send a message that classical music is something bad that you should run away from? One wise person involved in security comments "Classical music as a stand-alone solution is not going to solve our problem."



Welcome to the 'Disco'
by Clive Stafford-Smith
The Guardian, June 19, 2008

The shameful story of how the U.S. military is using music to inflict cruel and unusual punishment on enemy combatants, some of them who still await trial. Needless to say, the army has no comment but most of the artists whose work are used for torture are mum too, except for a metalhead who's amused and the author of the Barney "I Love You" song who is resigned to the perversion of his sappy song.



Musicians Tell U.N. to Ban Using Songs As Torture
by Rosie Swash
The Guardian, December 10, 2008

The legal team for the Guantanamo Bay tries to get musicians to support a measure to keep their songs out of the torture techniques used there. Rage Against the Machine and the composer of the Barney the Dinosaur theme song were down with the program already.



Mall wants Manilow music to drive out unruly teens
(Associated Press, March 3, 2009)

'"The intention is to change the environment in a positive way ... so nobody feels threatened or intimidated," Central City Business Association manager Paul Lonsdale told The Associated Press.'



Weaponizing Mozart: How Britain is using classical music as a form of social control
(Sign of the Times, February 26, 2010)

"In January it was revealed that West Park School, in Derby in the midlands of England, was "subjecting" (its words) badly behaved children to Mozart and others. In "special detentions," the children are forced to endure two hours of classical music both as a relaxant (the headmaster claims it calms them down) and as a deterrent against future bad behavior." End result: many of the kids now hate classical music (ala Clockwork Orange). The article also notes similar efforts in Yorkshire and Hollywood.



US fight Taliban with heavy metal and rock music
(AFP, April 6, 2010)

A psy ops (psychological operations) unit is blasting The Offspring, Metallica and Thin Lizzy so loud that it can be heard a mile away, to drive the Taliban out of an Afghan village. It might be effective the the local kids aren't happy with it and neither is the area commander who claimed that he didn't know about this before and was going to put a stop to it.



British Navy employs Britney to Ward Off Pirates
(Guardian, October 29, 2013)

Other than her long-term tenure in Vegas, pop star Britney Spears also has another prestigeous gig, working for none other than the British navy in their mission to repel pirates off the coast of Somalia. Though she won't be about the boats singing or lip synching, her songs have been drafted into service. In a priceless quote, an officer had this to say about blasting the pop stars' music as a way to scare off the sea-going baddies: "Her songs were chosen by the security team because they thought the pirates would hate them most. These guys can't stand western culture or music, making Britney's hits perfect. As soon as the pirates get a blast of Britney, they move on as quickly as they can."



Last but not least, some noise pollution from an interesting source:

Barbra Streisand marries James Brolin
By Michael Miller

MALIBU, Calif. (Reuters), July 2, 1998 - Entertainer Barbra Streisand and actor James Brolin tied the knot at her Malibu estate in a romantic but high-security ceremony befitting Hollywood royalty and a star with a passion for privacy.

Given Streisand's notorious distaste for the media it was no surprise organizers went to great lengths to ensure the pack of reporters outside could neither see nor hear the nuptials. As guests arrived, a large black van was parked just yards from where journalists were corralled, and blared Heavy Metal music for more than four hours. It was one song over and again: "Thunder Kiss '65" by the group White Zombie. "It's psychological warfare," said one photographer.

"At least it's not Streisand music," joked one television cameraman. One neighbor, annoyed by the music, said, "Not to take away from her day but she's a b----."

Rob Zombie managed to plug his new record and toss a barb at Streisand in a comment cited by the New York Daily News. "Hopefully, the Funny Lady will use a track of my new album, 'Hellbilly Deluxe,' to ward off meddling paparazzi at her divorce hearing," he said.


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