Thanks to the work of local musicians and visual artists, the noise scene in Corvallis has expanded from local to coastal, its network stretching from northern California up to Bellingham, WA almost exclusively through word of mouth. Neighborhood noise musicians Chris Durnin, Miles Morris, Nick Gerken, and GalexC describe the local movement as “home grown” and “organic.” The collective has come a long way since they started hosting shows in town four years ago; last year the group hosted Corvallis’ first Noise Fest, an all-day series of performances by various experimental musicians from all corners of the PNW, and they will be hosting a weekend-long extended version of the festival during the last weekend of March.
The last few years have demonstrated Corvallis’ importance as a central point in West Coast noise music. When Human Flesh Body World, a house in Portland that hosted the majority of noise shows in the Willamette Valley, shut down about a year ago, noise no longer had a home in the valley. That’s where Corvallis comes into play; since experimental artists and fans lost their primary gathering place, Interzone has served as a major point of contact between experimental artists of all kinds across the valley. For a while now, the collective has been putting on monthly variety shows in an effort to combine visual and performance art with music. In Durnin’s words, they have strived not only to build community, but “use that community to build a platform for trying new things.”
For Durnin, Morris, Gerken, and GalexC, the most important aspect of noise music- a genre categorized by its purposeful rejection of traditional and institutionalized musical conventions and refusal to conform to existing genres- is its inclusivity. By hosting these shows, Durnin and other members of the local noise scene foster a “context in which people can perform how they want to perform.” This freedom of expression allows for spaces where people of non-normative identities, experiences, and skills can make art in a welcoming environment that doesn’t have a script. Essentially, this community exists as a space to challenge paradigms in the traditional music world, whether they’re conventions concerning tonality, technique requirements, or genre criteria.
The underlying issue in the world of experimental art is that it is virtually impossible for noise musicians and other unconventional artists to find gigs outside of experimentally-minded events- the Eugene Noise Fest being an example. In the face of this limitation, the Corvallis scene serves as a crucial space for non-normative artists to thrive. It serves as a space of freedom, and is definitely about more than just noise. According to Durnin, they will book almost any genre. Monthly variety nights at Interzone have featured puppet shows, comedy, and experimental electronic music performances from young children.
The collective operates on a punk philosophy that encourages going against the grain and shaking free any expectations of what are, should, or needs to be. To be a part of this unique and quick-growing community, check out an experimental show at Interzone and come to the second annual Corvallis Noise Fest on March 29 and 30, at the Majestic and Whiteside Theaters, respectively. Lose all expectations and, as GalaxC suggests, “get a good case of the f*ckaroos.”
By Maria DeHart