I don’t mean to start an article about the New Orleans underground music scene in such a negative light, but I will highlight a link to show my limited understanding of such obscure tunes. A few weeks ago, somewhere after the latest round of mass shootings, Vice reported that the Dayton, OH shooter had been a member of a band that played under a subgenre known as “pornogrind.” The music and lyrics, known for aggressiveness against sexual partners (usually women), was an outlet for the attacker to live out some twisted dream or intent that he had been hiding for years.
Does this kind of music breed and harbor mean-spirited people? Not necessarily, and not any more than any other brand of rock, punk, or metal.
I was determined to learn more about this, especially since in the article I read, former bandmates expressed grave concerns over the shooter’s behavior and tones. Of course, they did – they’re just like everyone else, really. And, if indeed like everyone else, this makes them all the more fascinating for being of this lifestyle.
Of the local scene, I only knew of a handful of bands, mostly off of soundtracks for movies from Terror Optics (our horror filmmaking collective). I needed more information. Thankfully, we have a zine fo’ dat.
Paranoize, run by Bobby Bergeron, features interviews and reviews of our underground scene in New Orleans, covering various bands and performers who’d make GG Allin proud (or angry). In perusing the site and listening to some tracks from their Bandcamp, the therapeutic nature in expression became clear to me. The multitude of emotions to be had within the screaming and the hardcore strumming and the headbanging I was doing made me realize that absolutely, my simplified notions of what punk, hardcore, and extreme metal is needs a swift kick in the face and a reality check.
So I asked Bobby a series of basic questions, trying to get my feet wet into this territory. He was most helpful, but do expect more interviews in future editions where this novice (me) attempts to grasp a culture within a culture that he wishes to know more about.
Can one be progressive and transgressive? Are these lyrics a joke or a stream of unfiltered consciousness meant to be taken on a deeper level? I want to find out more. Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re a fan or a performer and want to educate me:
Bill Arceneaux: When NOLA comes to mind, Jazz music almost audibly plays in my head. How prolific is the hard-rock, punk, and metal community in the city and region?
Bobby Bergeron: The New Orleans metal scene is legendary. Bands like Exhorder, Eyehategod, Crowbar, Acid Bath, and Flesh Parade have influenced bands worldwide. For a good bit of the 90s and early 2000s, there was what was considered a “New Orleans Metal” sound, which was the slow, heavy, doomy music with a bit of a Southern twist. That sound has sort of faded over the years, but there are bands of all different styles of rock playing on any given night in dozens of venues around the city and suburbs. Some names I’d drop if you were to ask me my current active favorite bands are Ekumen, Die Rotzz, Fat Stupid Ugly People, Sounding, Morbid Torment, Dead Machine Theory, Severed Mass, Dummy Dumpster, The Pallbearers, Trampoline Team, Crossed, AR-15, Cikada, Torture Garden, Witch Burial and The NoShows just off the top of my head. In that list are punk, stoner/garage rock, punk, hardcore, death metal, sludge, ska, and thrash bands. Look ’em up and check ’em out, or just go to a show and figure out yourself if you like ’em or not.
BA: Who, in your opinion, is the most popular local band of this variety? Hardest playing/working?
BB: Well, if I had to pick one band, Goatwhore would come to mind simply because they are ALWAYS on the road, touring the world and cranking out new albums. It’s hard to just pick one band though because all of them work to push their music and shows. On the punk end of the spectrum, Pears is another band that is consistently touring.
BA: Does New Orleans have a similar subgenre of metal to pornogrind? How do you feel about the cultural and personal influences this kind of music has on fans (if any)?
BB: The only New Orleans band that I can think of that even remotely resembles “pornogrind” would be Pussyrot, but they’re just a bunch of goofballs playing fun grindcore with silly song titles and a vocalist that 9 times out of 10 will get naked at some point.
I’m honestly not familiar enough with the genre or its fans to give much of an answer, so I can’t add to it from a personal perspective, but as with anything, it all depends on the individual as far as the subject matter having an influence on them.
BA: In producing your zine, what message do you hope to get across to readers near and far?
BB: With Paranoize my goal is to promote metal/punk/hardcore/etc. bands from the region (but mainly the New Orleans area) while also interviewing people who were in bands during the 80s and 90s to give a bit of a New Orleans underground history lesson. I have mp3s, uploads of old ‘zines and flyers on my website (www.paranoizenola.com) in a section called “The Way It Was”, and a youtube channel (look up username “paranoize”) where I’m converting old shows filmed on VHS to digital and uploading them there.
BA: What events and festivals should more people be aware of and why? Are there things that newcomers should expect to encounter and prepare for?
BB: Creepy Fest, put on by Bill Heintz (of The Pallbearers/The Bills/Nick Name And The Valmonts/Dummy Dumpster/etc.)happens mid-July every year and is spread out over multiple venues around the city with 50 bands playing over the course of 4 days covering everything from surf rock to punk to thrash to goth rock. At any given high energy show, expect drunken shenanigans and trash cans to be tossed about. Don’t call the cops. Other notable underground music fests are/have been Ebola Fest and Gulf Coast Slaughterfest.
BA: How does a city like New Orleans inform and inspire the music played by in our underground?
BB: While the influence isn’t always obvious, the jazz, funk and blues historically present everywhere in the city, combined with the carefree lifestyle is subconsciously ingrained in us that were born here. We grew up with The Meters and Dr. John as background music at cookouts and parades and whatnot. While it may not directly be at the forefront of the sound, it’s definitely part of the recipe that makes New Orleans music, no matter the genre, unique to the area.
Bill Arceneaux has been an independent writer and film critic in the New Orleans area since 2011, working with outlets like Film Threat, DIG Baton Rouge, Crosstown Conversations, and Occupy. He is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association and is Rotten Tomatoes approved. Follow him on Twitter: @billreviews