The Anarchist Song Book

Noise musician BLACKIE searches for total freedom in music.

Eventually, he went back to school. LaCour was left alone again.

In 1988, John Carpenter directed a movie called They Live. It's a sci-fi flick that, among other things, serves as a commentary on American greed and ragged consumerism. It stars Rowdy Roddy Piper (for real) and sees him, through the use of magic sunglasses he finds, identify and out a race of wealthy aliens on Earth (for real).

Naturally, B L A C K I E enjoyed it.

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.

Maybe five years ago he would've thought it was charming and opaquely humorous. Today, though, he sees its core values as profound.

"After he gets the glasses," says B L A C K I E, discussing They Live's protagonist, "he can see all these hidden messages in society. Like, that we need to obey and consume. That's what I see too when I look around. So the music, that's what it's about now. It's got more focus. Now my focus is on total freedom."

He uses the term "now" to reference the past. Because everything is different today.

After J.T. left for school, B L A C K I E continued on. He adopted the name B L A C K I E, "all caps with spaces," as his own. (He and J.T. had operated under a different name, one he won't even say "because it's so wack.") He was now without a drummer, so he began really working on beats, creating them on an old AKAI MPC500, basically a box slightly bigger than a Game Boy, with gray squares on it that you tap to create noise. He avoided using computers to make sounds, a practice he still follows today, instead recording straight into a tape deck. He developed his own sound, a brand of noise music too hip-hop to be strictly noise and too noisy to be strictly hip-hop. People clamored for it.

"He's a genius," says Fernando "Papaya" Alejandro, a longtime friend and former drummer of Cop Warmth, a band that grew its own popularity around the same time as B L A C K I E. "I look up to what he does and respect it so much. It's so real. I listened to one of his first albums for an entire year. It changed my life. He had one song that said, 'I ain't waiting on you slow niggas. I'ma achieve something, then reach for some mo', nigga.' When I heard it I was like, 'Whoa.' I went and quit my job right after that so I could get serious about music."

Early on, B L A C K I E's music functioned as catharsis; it served him directly and others incidentally. But as he grew into his music persona, as the passing of his father was dulled by time, as he began to gather the bits of freedom in performing music that he had never found in school, and, eventually, after the birth of his own son, his anger shifted over to focus. And it's paying dividends.

He toured nearly all of June, playing 23 shows through France and Canada in 30 days. (The best: There's a video on YouTube of him performing at a festival in Paris while two kids, one probably seven and the other probably five, dance and scream and laugh.) And when he returned home, it was to an equally auspicious setting: A proper record label ready to try and make him viable.

"We really wanted to focus on gaining national attention for B L A C K I E," says Bubba Hightower, who helps run Tooth Records. "He's amazing."

The obvious question, then: Can B L A C K I E — or any comparable musician, really — be popular enough with this sort of sound that he needn't do anything else?

There are acts that have made the sound marketable nationally, most notably Sacramento's Death Grips, who have basically homogenized the sound B L A C K I E invented. But such acts are rare.

The answer, predictably, doesn't matter.

"That'd be great," says B L A C K I E, his baritone voice somehow sounding heavier than normal, "but it's whatever. I plan on doing this regardless of money."

Two seconds ago, B L A C K I E wasn't performing. Now he is. And it's hard to tell that it's even the same person, or if the person making all of the noise is even a person at all and not some sort of megaspeaker with eyeballs. The metamorphosis happened instantaneously.

He didn't introduce himself. He didn't check to see if people were ready. He didn't petition the girls hula-hooping outside to come in and watch. He just went.

As soon as it was silent long enough, he turned the speakers on. And as soon as the speakers began to vibrate, the instant sound came out, he was at full froth. It was like he'd been hit with a defibrillator. Everything was quiet, and now everything is mayhem.

People outside hear the ruckus immediately and come charging in. After a few moments, the room is full of people watching B L A C K I E thrash about.

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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


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


Great write-up.

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