Monday, November 24, 2014

noir sur noir - an interview.

here's the first entry in what will hopefully become a regular feature...but interviews are hard, at least formulating the right questions to make one interesting is hard. most "journalists" go through rote, hackneyed questions that don't really elucidate anything new about the artist or creator at hand.

but a few interviews lately have inspired me, and a large part of my day job is to ask questions and understand problems, so I figured it shouldn't be too hard to get that to translate...although at this early stage, I'm certainly open to suggestions.

anyway, I've shared several NSN releases before. and not only is the musical content itself superb, the aesthetic presented by the label is one of the most cohesive, dark, and mysterious I've found. and with precious little information available about founder bruno julian available online, I'm sharing this interview so that all of you can see both the struggles that go into running such a well-curated label and the genuine sense of the gratification this type of creative effort is able to bring out despite some extreme hardships.

it's a long read, but what emerges is a portrait of modern artist who pushes himself harder than almost anyone I've ever encountered and perseveres in the face of circumstances that would reduce most people to nothing. and like all artists, he channels everything he has into his creations before letting them stand on their own.

that inner strength comes through so clearly in his work - I hope you all find him as inspiring as I do.


why did you start NSN? what does it represent to you?

A few years ago, close friends of mine had releases ready to go, which they intended on publishing by themselves. I offered to release these tapes under a new label, which would be guided by very strict aesthetics, encouraging teamwork rather than having everyone working on their own.  NSN was born. NSN means a lot to me because it’s been founded with true close friends. It was also a pretty rough period for me health-wise. I still fight against the odds and NSN is really what keeps me sane and positive; having projects to work on, even if progression is a bit too slow for my taste.

when were you first drawn to noise and other experimental music? what drew you in and when did you know that this was something you wanted to dedicate yourself to?
I was drawn to noise because of my desire to push the extremes of sound even further. I’ve also been interested in the underground ever since I started listening to music, honestly. I've been into a lot of different underground metal sub-genres and around '92-‘93 I stumbled upon Ministry, NIN, Skinny Puppy, Sielwolf and the like. In the late 90s, let's say around '97-'98, I bought my first pure noise records. They were Aube's “Cardiac Strain” and Masonna’s “Frequency LSD,” both on Alien8 Recordings. I moved to Montreal in '99 and I was instantly hooked on the noise underground, giving a lot of my money to Malignant Records and a record store named Cheap Thrills. I also remember a Daniel Menche show where I said to myself, “this is what I want to do.” It was so intense musically and physically, so pure... I was sort of in a trance, the brutal wall of noise being so rich and textured it engulfed my whole self. It was a very important moment in my life. I had always wanted to be in a band or involved in something music-related and this event confirmed it. I worked on different projects since the mid-90s. Nothing was satisfying enough until 2005. I met a unique person and we founded HYENA HIVE. We did shows in Montreal, building a strong reputation with our short but intense live sets. In late 2009 I quit my job to dedicate all of my time to music and it started to be quite interesting with invitations to play outside the country. We did shows in San Francisco to start 2010 and a couple of live events in the province. Things were going great, we were as tight as we have ever been. On June 4th 2010, we were booked to play at the MUTEK festival in Montreal, but I never got there. I was in severe pain at the hospital, about to get an emergency surgery performed by a butcher. My life radically changed from that day on.

what other types of art do you draw inspiration from? what are some of your favorites?
I'm really into photography, although I can’t name many renowned photographers... Joel-Peter Witkin is certainly on top of them all, without a doubt. I can spend hours looking at the details of his work. The art of Pierre Soulages is also a very big influence. I’d love to see an exhibition like the one that Le Centre Pompidou has showcased. That must be colossal. The works of Karl Lemieux are also very inspiring for me, as are Bruce McClure’s. Writings by L-F Céline, Georges Battaille, Cormac McCarthy, Maurice G. Dantec and Caryl Férey, just to name a few. I'm also a big fan of Lamashtu and Kristian Olsson for their stunning visual works. I can list a lot more, like Kubrick, Peter Watkins, Werner Herzog, Alberto Breccia and Héctor Oesterheld for “L'éternaute,” Brian Wood (DMZ)... All of them have, in different ways, inspired me.

what do you think of the renewed interest in cassette tapes? does it make you hopeful or cautious?
I think this renewed interest is a good thing. There's a lot of independent labels emerging which started with tape releases, and they’re now releasing vinyls. Artists can have nice, DIY, low cost items to put on the merch table. The only negative point I can see, as a label owner’s point of view, is that the production of pro-duplicated tapes takes more time than it used to.

how do you find material to release? what do you look for in a potential release?
For the first releases, I've worked with close friends of mine. I'm lucky to be surrounded with talented individuals who are dedicated to their art. Unless it's someone from my surroundings, I directly contact the artists that I feel would be suited for NSN. I'm always looking for the same thing: dedicated people who can deliver unique material with a strong concept and/or signature. I also apply very strict and coherent visual aesthetics to NSN releases, so those working with me have to accept that.

have you been successful in maintaining what you originally set out to do?
As for the aesthetics, I'm perfectly into what I've intended to do. But, as I mentioned earlier, the only drawback is with the amount of releases and the too long intervals between them. Ideally I'd like to release batches of minimum 2 or 3 items at the time, 3 to 4 times a year. I'm quite far from this pace, but as soon as I get better I'll work hard to make this happen. But make no mistake, I still prefer to have no release for a while than releasing stuff just for the thrill of releasing. I want to be proud of each item with the NSN crest on it.

can you talk a little about the medical problems you've had over the last few years?
Yeah, sure. I'll do a summary of it. I think I have to do it so people will have a better understanding of some subjects I approach with MAUSSADE. It's also the main reason why NSN hasn't been as productive as I intended it to be. Since 2010, I’ve spent 29 months at the hospital. Each day there's something happening with your body or with your immediate surroundings. It can be just about anything, and most of the time, ranges from not fun at all to downright dramatic. I'm actually surprised I haven’t been more mentally affected.
About my health issues: I’ve always had digestive problems from as far as I can remember. Nothing to worry about, I thought. At times it was more painful, but I used to bear with it since pain and physical discomfort have always been part of my life. I knew it would eventually get worse, but I was thinking some time in my old days, if I even get there. On Friday June 4th 2010, I was having dinner with two good friends of mine and we were preparing for a HYENA HIVE performance at the MUTEK Festival later that night. Suddenly, in less than 10 minutes, everything went from “nothing to worry about” to a pain so intense that I was sweating huge beads, lying down on the bed, unable to walk. They brought me to the closest hospital and an emergency surgery was needed because of a sigmoid volvulus situation. It was pretty serious because I had tissues that were in the process of necrosis. Because of the sedation, I don't remember much of that night. One detail though: the nurse's fuckin' big raelian pendant, the one with the swastika in the David's star. She gave me the first shot of morphine and I thought I would wake up on a spaceship. It wasn't a spaceship and the surgeon did a horrible job. I spent one month there, mostly in the intensive care unit. Three months later, thanks to the generalist surgeon's job I had, I was in septic shock. I had another volvulus, but at the site of my surgery. Friends of mine were with me and called the ambulance. They insisted on going to a different hospital than the first one I was treated at. That decision saved my life for sure. I remember “touching Death's Hand” while in the ambulance. The pain was unbearable, but when I closed my eyes and “let it go”, the pain disappeared instantly and I felt that I was going. It was so tempting to stop fighting. The paramedic brought me back three times during the ride. It's one of the most intense episodes of my life for sure. In November 2010, after two surgeries and a couple of complications, I was out for good to recover at home.
Fast forward to November 2012. I had to undergo another surgery, but a simple one: repair an abdominal hernia via laparoscopy. Unfortunately, something bad happened during to process and they had to cut me open once again. They had to do an abdominal reconstruction, so I was in very bad shape when I woke up. I'll skip details, but the situation went from bad to worse with numerous complications. The chronic pain is always reminding me of my situation. There's also the dependence to opiates that came with the package deal. I'm still hospitalized to this day. It's been 23 months so far. I'll probably get out in November (2014). However, through all of those events, I've discovered a mental strength I wasn't aware I had. It has also redefined my meaning of pain.

how have your health problems affected your outlook on your own life itself and the lives of those around you?
Since I'm still hospitalized as we speak, there are probably a lot of aspects of my personality that have changed which I'm still unaware of. However, I do recognize certain changes. Before, I wasn't living as if there’s no tomorrow like I am now. I know my life won't be as long as I thought it would be and what’s left of it will probably be rough most of the time. I have to grasp every moment, I'm used to making the best out of them. I have to produce and work on my passions more desperately than ever before.
I don't waste time with people that are not my closest friends. Before, I was open to hearing anybody’s story and even helping them with their issues. Now, I've realized that most of them are just complaining because they are too lazy to move on and face the truth of their pathetic existence.
I'm way more direct and to the point. I've lost some friends because of that. Some people don't accept being criticized for their life choices. They ask for advice or your opinion and when it's not the way they want it to be, they get offended. I've burned a lot of patience credits in those hospital beds... But as for the select few I've chosen, and who have decided to stay with me even in those difficult times, I would die for any of them, anytime. 

how have these traumatic, life-altering experiences changed your view of noise and what it's capable of expressing?
I've always been closely bonded with my noise creations. I use them as a way to express the most intense side of my personality when I perform live and also alone in the studio. When the noises are loud enough I can immerse myself in a trance-like condition. Nowadays, those bonds are even more meaningful and strong, since music is the only thing that I have left to keep myself sane. I've been dispossessed of my physical health, so letting the steam out by doing intense biking or any other demanding activity has not been possible for a long time. I don't even know if it will ever be possible again. So yes, those experiences changed my view of noise and what it's capable of expressing. Before, it was very important for my equilibrium. Now, it's still there for my mental health, but  it's also vital for my survival. It's the last line of defense. If I stop doing my noise-related activities, in the situation I'm in now, I'll feel like I'm just a chunk of sick meat, waiting for the end. MAUSSADE was born while I was hospitalized in 2010. I wanted a project to express my inner self and approach subjects very close to my feelings and emotions. It's even truer today and there’s now a large dimension dedicated to pain, the chronic one I feel every day and the unbearable ones that I've been through.

is there a philosophy behind both hyena hive and NSN? has that philosophy changed since you've been hospitalized?
With HYENA HIVE, there's no philosophy if not its negation in act. When we perform, we create a closed space of volume and energy where all the structures are temporarily suspended. This is witchcraft: it expands time and strikes the body: no one left unscathed, neither we nor they... I really miss those live events.

is there anything about your label that you'd like to go back and do differently?
Probably do better promotion right at the beginning. I should’ve been more pro-active to find projects wanting to have a release on NSN. 

vomir's "en dehors, en rien" is probably my favorite release of yours, not only for the sound but for the statement and "raison d'etre" that it puts forth about a genre that would bewilder, if not frighten, most people. what was it like working with romain perrot and how important do you think philosophy is in a genre as ambiguous as noise?
Working with Romain was pretty easy. I asked him if he wanted to do a release for NSN and suggested the concept of including in each oversized case a badge and the HNW manifesto he had written. He accepted right away and I had “carte blanche” for the artwork, which is a good thing since I have pretty strict guidelines regarding this aspect.
As for the importance of philosophy in noise music, I'm personally really interested into any theory, manifesto or intellectual aspect of a project and/or release. Even if it's about a theory I don't accept or follow. Food for thought. Also, when it's well done it brings a lot more deepness to the whole experience. 

with NSN coming back to life, what are your plans for the future?
I wish I were able to release material on a more regular basis than what I've done so far. Circumstances have obviously been against me with all those health issues, but I'm working hard to keep NSN rolling with a constant flow of releases on different analog platforms. Ideally, I'd like to release LPs in a near future, but it all depends, just like everything else, on when and how I'll be able to get back in shape. I'm still quite proud of NSN06 and NSN10 which have been conceptualized, designed and assembled entirely from my hospital bed, with the help of good friends for the printing stage.

with all that's happened, what inspires you to continue releasing new music?
My passion for it and the need to have something creative and worthwhile to do. As I said before, if I didn't have those projects running, I would probably be half-crazy, really depressed or maybe dead... Actually, without it, I would have killed myself, plain and simple.

do you have any advice for fledgling labels?
Have a strong visual identity and be attentive to details when assembling your releases. DIY doesn't mean it should look like it's been conceived by a five-year-old kid. Be aware that shipping costs are now very expensive. Have good communication with your artists and various partners. Keep them informed about the progress of your work. Quality over quantity. Anytime. Do it because you're passionate. You'll lose money for sure at the beginning.

care to go into a little more detail about any planned releases?
I'm currently working on releases for my other label, MYZANTHENOTAPH. It will be a series of very limited tapes about recent conflicts, a subject where there's a lot of material to work with lately...I have a couple of releases ready with MAUSSADE. I'm also working on a compilation to be released on NSN in the first quarter of 2015, if everything goes fine. As soon as my physical condition allows it, HYENA HIVE will be back on track to record new material. But don't expect a live performance anytime soon from this act, since HYENA HIVE's shows are quite intense, to say the least. There are a couple of other releases in the NSN pipeline, but I'll keep them secret for the moment... Let’s just say that one of my favorite Scandinavian acts will offer a release for NSN. I hope that my health will be better and that I'll finally have the chance to manage a decent pace between the releases, although I’ll always stand for quality over quantity. 


quality over quantity...a sentiment I definitely stand behind.

I'd like to extend an enormous thank-you to bruno for sharing so thoroughly. I'm astounded by his journey and his ability to soldier on in the face of constant life-threatening setbacks...truly inspirational, and I don't use that term lightly.

and guess what - he's out of the hospital now and I know that he's eager to get back to all things music- and label-related. and, of course, living a fulfilling life far from any hospital beds.

so...please support NSN and all affiliated projects - everything comes highly recommended. check out hyena hive's most recent release via the link below, and then buy a copy for your collection. you should all already own NSN's vomir release, but in case you don't, it's still available.

don't hesitate.

(support NSN.)

(listen to hyena hive.)


  1. Great interview. Pure noise/PE isn't really my thing and I can't listen to it for long, but the people who create it are fascinating. Hopefully you get some more interviews in the future.

    1. that's the plan...more to come in the new year.