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The Anarchist Song Book

Noise musician BLACKIE searches for total freedom in music.

The Anarchist Song Book

It is 3:58 p.m. on a spitefully hot, humid Saturday. And B L A C K I E, a local musician and growing force in the nation's indie scene, is getting ready to perform. It'll be his first show in Houston since he returned from a successful tour earlier this summer that took him through Europe and Canada. He's eager to start. And probably just as eager to get inside. The sun has hidden among the rain clouds for portions of the last eight days, but it's flexing hard now, pressing its thumb down on everyone's forehead. The heat is almost visibly soaking into the thick tuft of hair on his head as he wheels his speakers from his car to the venue.

B L A C K I E (complete with stylized, all-caps, spaces-between-the-letters name) is a noise artist. His music is a variant of a combination of punk rock and hyper-aggressive rap. It is kinetic energy actualized and then verbalized. Loudly. He literally brings his own sound system to shows now because he's grown tired of venues turning down the volume while he performs; they're afraid he'll blow their woofers out.

Last year, The New York Times referred to him as "a one-man noise ordinance violation." When he raps or yells or even talks, it sounds as if his words are being dragged through gravel. His voice is just naturally large. Still, for the racket he is capable of making onstage, he is noticeably quiet off. In conversation, he initiates few to zero chains of dialogue; not to talk about his budding music career, not to talk about his infant son and certainly not to talk about the temperature of the day relative to his cranium.

B L A C K I E's "noise" music has caught on here and in Europe with fans of his combination of punk rock and hyper-aggressive rap.
Marco Toress
B L A C K I E's "noise" music has caught on here and in Europe with fans of his combination of punk rock and hyper-aggressive rap.
B L A C K I E, performing at the Villette Sonique Festival in Paris, did 23 shows across France and Canada in 30 days.
Photo courtesy of Matt Sonzala
B L A C K I E, performing at the Villette Sonique Festival in Paris, did 23 shows across France and Canada in 30 days.

Today B L A C K I E is playing as part of Countercrawl, an every-three-months event that tries to bring together all the arts of the counterculture. Fundamentally, the gathering is meant to champion independent art and independent music, but philosophically it's meant to champion independent thought. B L A C K I E as an act couldn't be more appropriate.

He has spent the last few years accidentally growing a passionate following within Houston's music community, earning a reputation as a manic body singularly driven by achieving what he refers to as "total freedom," the ability to think and act outside of external influence. More and more, his songs have become laced with the free-spirit ideology that now seems to define his existence. He isn't making music to make noise, or even to make money; he's making music to make a point. Ironically, it's starting to get rewarded.

In 2011, he played a show in Austin put on by Matt Sonzala, a music dot-connector who most recently organized all of the hip-hop performances for SXSW 2012 (Kanye, Jay-Z, Wayne, Em and more — basically, every major rap star in the universe). That led to an actual spot at SXSW, which led to shows at the Pop Montreal music festival and the North By Northeast music festival, and the aforementioned European tour. In addition, B L A C K I E recently entered into business with local label Tooth Records, which put out his new album, Gen, an acoustic noise project monumental in its progressivism. Of course, he doesn't talk about any of this.

"If you need to know one thing about B L A C K I E, it's this" says Sonzala, who now operates as B L A C K I E's default manager. "He has to make music. Nothing about anything he does is contrived. It's like, what else could he do? Look at Jimi Hendrix. The guitar was an extension of him. He couldn't ever do anything else. All of the greats, that's how it was. They didn't sit down and try to be stars. They had to get the music out. That's how B L A C K I E is. What else can he do? He has to make music."

The house B L A C K I E is performing in, a cog in Houston's alt community referred to as The Ponderosa, is sectioned off into three separate areas, each serving as a stage for different acts.

B L A C K I E sets up his speakers in the back room. He builds two nearly seven-feet-tall towers. In between them, he hangs an American flag. When he's done, he stands in front of it and waits.

In the front room, a thin man in a muscle shirt is performing. His name is Papaya. During his set he sings in English, Spanish and French, vacillating between vibing out and bouncing around like a ferret. He smiles a lot. The show is energetic and happy and fun. When it's finished, people high-five and shake hands. In the other room, the back room, B L A C K I E simply lingers.

As Papaya breaks down his equipment, B L A C K I E faces towards the speakers and the flag but looks at neither. He is silent. There are two other people in the room, and there's a loose dog roaming around as well, but the world might as well all be invisible.

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5 comments
MinistryofTruth
MinistryofTruth

Dug the article.I have seen B L A C K I E play a few times, first at Avant Garden in 2008.  I was trying to figure out what the fuck he was doing, blasting a beat machine through the PA and screaming at 10-15 kids.  When I last saw him play as the opener for Aesop Rock at Fitzgeralds, it finally clicked.  I cannot think of any other time I have seen local fans so rabidly dedicated to a local musician, and most musicians can only aspire to performing with that kind of all out commitment and energy.I'm glad this guy is in the scene, he has my fullest respect, and I see nothing but good things in his future if he stays on his current path. @b_l_a_c_k_i_e

JusticeTirapelliJamail
JusticeTirapelliJamail

One of the best artists I know of, local or otherwise. Perfect summation of what he does. Pure awesomeness.

KING
KING

Great write-up.

 
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