Earthflesh is a harsh noise artist operating independently out of Switzerland. Having only materialized in 2019, he already has an impressive back catalog of surreally, soothing, and thematically diverse albums.
From homages to noise-rock pioneers Koreisch to the distillation of the sacred, Earthflesh’s output defines a taxonomy of cathartic, existential quandary and penetrating, emotional countenance that is consistently surprising even in the world as unorthodox as that of harsh noise.
We featured Earthflesh’s Carving Paths to Self-Destruction as part of our Bandcamp of the Day series back in September, so when he reached out again to inquire about coverage of his more recent Distance – Life’s Erosion LP, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to gain some insights into the project.
Below is a transcript of a conversation that we conducted over email with Earthflesh on December 17, 2020. It has been altered only slightly for the sake of clarity.
How did you come up with the name Earth Flesh, and does it have any special significance for you or the project?
Earthflesh are the combination of two universal, super-strong terms. “Earth” representing, for me, the essence, a main, spiritual element. “Flesh” being then a form of its very own palpable, tangible expressions. It’s all, for me, a matter of primitive forces in action—pain, suffering, life and death, creation and destruction, exultation, and the annihilation of the senses. A grand collision of feelings and emotions channeled in a unique, sonic, transcending, and deafening form of expression.
What does your music career, pre-Earthflesh look like, or rather, what is your musical background?
Such term sounds pretty weird to me, but 20 years in the scene probably justifies calling it a career somehow. That being said, I come from the hardcore, doom, and black metal scene; that’s where I belong. That’s where my strong, DIY ethics come from.
I originally started playing bass with my mates in the late 90s. 10 years passed doing some kind of chaotic hardcore in the vein of acts such as Botch, The Dillinger Escape Plan, and Converge in a band called Lost Sphere Project, and then another 10 years playing doom and black metal in a band called Rorcal. Many readers of the New Noise probably already heard about the latter.
What was the impetus for starting Earthflesh?
Earthflesh is me doing my shit all by myself for the very first time since I ever touched an instrument. No one backing me when I suck at what I do; nobody telling me to move my ass and do stuff that I possibly am not wanting to do at a moment I am supposed to do it. No pressure. No obligations. No stress. No anxiety in having to be a “good” musician and be careful with respecting tempos and song structures. No compromise.
Earthflesh is, to me, the purest form of expression I ever put out of my own mind.
I initially quit doing music by the end of 2016. Then, I just kept putting up shows for other bands, and look at my children grow until it just became evident that I was missing some form of self-expression, some outlet allowing me to purge my anger and my frustrations.
What does your equipment set up look like?
Equipment I use often varies from one session to another. I have a bunch of distortion and reverb pedals and a matrix mixer, which I bought from Pladask Elektrisk manufacture in Norway. I recently also got myself a HNW machine from Gen Thalz from the Philippines which allows me to bring additional textures to the whole thing while leaving enough space to generate other sounds with the rest of my material.
Initial noise signals may come from various sources; they can be my Minibrute and Microbrute synths, contact mics attached to a piece of scrap metal, or just some good, old, no-input feedback generation. It’s then all linked together in different ways through the matrix mixer, giving life to some unpredictable sounds and noises that I, most of the times, just can’t explain myself.
Equipment really differs from my experiments and needs and the type of sounds I’m looking for. I’m also slowly learning to appreciate the multiple accidents generated by the machines themselves and their diverse routings through the pedals and the matrix. I also like such ideas as letting the machines work at my pace. Sometimes, I plug it all together somehow, then I go out of the room for a coffee or two and come back afterward to see what happened in-between. Losing control of your own equipment can turn out to be the greatest experience at times.
You tend to favor live recordings or recording with minimal post-production. What do you like about this recording style, and have you found that it has any limitations?
I spent quite a lot of time experimenting with noise and feedback since I started this project by the end of 2019, and live recording is definitely the process I appreciate the most. I always record my sessions live, just pressing the rec button and messing around with the equipment and machines I have decided to put into action. I love the idea of improvising it all and having no structures and rules to respect. There’s no preconceived ideas such as building an introduction, then having a development, and then a so-said conclusion. Writing music and taking hours to build a track, step by step, is just some sort of process I try to avoid with this project.
In the end, such a process leads me to record quite a lot of material. But, the thing is, I only release a sound when I’m really happy with it, which is not always as easy as it may seem, even if, from the outside, it may look like I produce a lot. If I don’t find it good enough, I most of the time just tend to throw it all away and start a new session, pure and simple. Some other times, I eventually save a couple of recordings for further use, but it all depends on how I feel about it all; the creative process can be super chaotic at times.
Either way, I like my noise to be as raw and direct as possible, a reflection of what comes out of my mind at the moment it is processed through my fingers and machines.
You have a very consistent aesthetic for your album art. What are your inspirations, and how do you go about making it?
I basically record the music, then work on a visual representation while listening to the tracks. The sound eventually also gives birth to a title; it all comes from there. Visuals and mental images usually flow quite naturally from my mind while I listen to the music itself.
In terms of process, I like to use my own photos when I do have something which I believe serves the purpose. When not, I also like to find inspiration in other people’s work. There’s a site I use a lot called Unsplash which hosts tons of photos free to use posted by creators and photographers from all around the world. I like to use abstract pictures, architectural photos, and natural textures in particular, assembling things coming from different sources, and turn it all into something which one sometimes can’t really identify. Photoshop’s been my greatest ally for such operations so far.
I’d secretly like to dismiss my computer at some point and craft my own visuals by hand, but I’m not there yet in my personal development.
The environment you record in seems to be significant for each record. How do you go about selecting a space to record in? What are the criteria?
The environment in which I record has absolutely no importance to me, as far as there is no light. I just need a little room to set up my equipment and access to electricity to feed my machines.
What matters the most to me is the mood in which I am when I enter the room. That generally conditions it all. I need to be in a good mental disposition to work and immerse myself in the sounds. If I’m not in a proper mood, it just doesn’t make sense; it doesn’t work, it doesn’t lead me anywhere in a constructive way. Earthflesh is a project in which I don’t wish to push myself to produce at all costs. I use it all mainly to channel my feelings and emotions, anger and frustrations; the creative process shall then not be a source of anxiety in itself.
You tend to build your releases around a single sample. How do you decide which samples end up being the centerpiece for each project? Please give us an insight into your process here.
I have been using a couple samples lately, but that’s really not my main practice. I have been digging the Sounds of Change industrial sounds database for a while prior to throwing myself into this project. Same for the huge BBC sound effects database and the gigantic amount of material hosted on Archive.org. Three absolute gold mines for anyone willing to explore the almost-infinite realm of sounds it contains. I got myself a couple samples from sources that I like to use from time to time to add a little different ambiance to some of my pieces, but building things from such point is definitely not my thing; self-generated noise will most probably always be the centerpiece of my work as Earthflesh.
What does the noise scene look like in Switzerland? Do you find that you have many peers?
I don’t have much knowledge of the Swiss noise scene, to be honest. Moreover, noise is not a genre I listen to a lot. I then feel quite disconnected of it all. I don’t even feel I am a part of something here; I got way deeper connections with artists from abroad. That said, it looks like the noise and affiliated genres scene here is quite extended, at least compared to the somehow-ridiculous size of the country. There are, however, a couple great artists and performers which I’d suggest to check, like Púrpura, Daniel Maszkowicz, Dave Phillips, Simon Grab, Hostile Surgery, Yinsh, or D.C.P., just to name a few.
Who are some of your favorite noise artists, or artists who you think are doing interesting things in this field?
Like I said, noise is not a genre I listen a lot, so I’m not even sure my suggestions are totally on-point with the question. I would, however, recommend everyone to dive into the massive discography of Kazuyuki Kishino’s KK Null, which is, for me, a true master in the genre—even if his work generally, widely outgoes the noise field. I’d also suggest interested parties to check the multiple works of Jean Souza’s Interzona and Ken Jamison’s Crepuscular Entity, which I find particularly inspiring. Prurient, The Rita, Svartvit, Kollaps, Púrpura, and Pharmakon are some other names I could drop here, too.
Who are your non-noise influences?
I had various periods in my life. I used to listen lots of thrash, grind, and hardcore when I was younger, then tons of doom and black metal, and now lots of hip-hop, electronic music, and folk … I don’t even try to keep my mind so wide open; it’s just the way it is. I really enjoy such diversity. Still, doom, sludge, and black metal are probably the genres that, even unconsciously, inspire me the most.
If I had to absolutely name one major influence, mentioning an act which totally changed my mind, I would with no hesitation say Koreisch. That band totally blew me away the day I got into it for the first time in 2000 and something; Koreisch were an active band by the end of the ’90s in the U.K. which used to mix hardcore, doom, and black metal with some really disturbing industrial and noise influences. Their sole and unique album [This Decaying Schizophrenic Christ Complex] definitely left an indelible mark on my mind. Earthflesh’s track “Distance / Life’s Erosion” can be seen as a very modest tribute to such a legacy and features a sample from one of their songs.
Who do you listen to for pure enjoyment?
I have been listening to a lot of hip-hop lately. “Chill Dummy” by P.O.S., Prof’s “Pookie Baby,” Run the Jewels, EL-P, Oddateee, Cannibal OX, and lots from a Swiss collective called L’Axe du Mal. Agnes Obel’s “Philharmonics,” Asaf Avidan’s “Different Pulses,” Madredeus, and every single Low and Sophia records have been great companions to this weird times.
What are your top five records by other artists that were released in 2020?
Visions of Bodies Being Burned by Clipping. Altered Mindfulness by FOTO Collective. Spirit World Field Guide by Aesop Rock. Something Went Wrong by Louis Jucker. Holding On / Letting Go by Sophia. Apart from that, Terry Date’s remastered version of the Pantera classic Reinventing the Steel has been blasting my stereo likely everyday since it arrived home.
Any recommendations for managing tinnitus?
I’m afraid I have no particular recommendations for managing tinnitus; I ain’t no doctor. I just try to give my ears enough space to breathe between my sessions and avoid exposing myself too much to such extreme sounds. I have been pushing my audition quite a lot for the past 20 years with my bands and the multiple shows and tours and rehearsals. I know I should most probably behave a little bit more responsibly and be a little bit more cautious, but I like it when it’s loud, so there I am.
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