Bloated Subhumans recently released Execution 3, a live 6-track session recorded at Strange Matter during Queer Bait Ball last year. This is easily my favorite release of theirs so far. While Commemoration is perfect for dissociating to, Execution 3 manages to encapsulate a powerful, even dance-y energy that studio recordings can’t capture.
Right away “Portent / Worms” has a faster pace than I’m used to hearing from Boated Subhumans, but it still has that dissociative, hollow noise style. “Worms” was originally released on the Operation Grindcore Vol. III compilation, but this is the first recorded release of “Portent”. “Altruistic” is originally from Commemoration, but this sounds absolutely nothing like either version on that album. “[Name]” is where the album really starts to peak for me, it’s a masterpiece as far as I’m concerned. It has a great beat and the live noise emphasizes its sound incredibly. You listen to this and wish you could have been there.
This is the third time “Cum” has made an appearance, having previously been released on Execution I and II in 2016. This version has a lot of cool noisy elements. “Anomic” is another song off Commemoration and once again, this sounds almost nothing like what you hear off that album. There is a fantastic explanation for this in the interview below. The set finishes with “Embrace” which to me sounded more like their studio recordings. This is the longest in the set at 7 minutes, although the original version off Execution I was over 14 minutes. It’s impossible for me to say which version is better because they’re both great for completely different reasons. You really can’t compare the different versions of these songs to each other. But it’s all sounds incredible in all its haunting, despondent glory.
First of all, how did Bloated Subhumans first come to fruition?
It started in my room in December 2014 when I experienced a death in my family and realized I felt absolutely nothing; I wasn’t sad or relieved or anything – I felt totally devoid of feeling towards the whole thing. I have always been obsessed with death and mortality to some degree, but that turmoil (or lack thereof) was an inspiration. I recorded one track that night, entitled “Numb,” which was never officially released; and it wasn’t until a month later in January 2015 that I actually recorded and released anything substantial. The original 3 tracks on Vessels were recorded over the course of an hour in my room, using a drum loop track and practice amp.
Bloated Subhumans was born out of my mental illness, and is not so much an expression but an extension of my existential self – it’s a view into the dark recesses of my mind (excuse the cliche).
A digression: in 2012 I did a project called Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee (named after the Lovecraft character) which was conceptually similar to Bloated Subhumans and in many ways was its predecessor. It was more of a deconstructed hardcore punk project than anything else, but it was a solo project which featured only bass, drums, rudimentary electronics, and vocals; the lyrics also all focused on death, mortality, time’s indifference, self-loathing/destruction, hopelessness, etc. And like Bloated, it was surrounded by suicide attempts.
But as far as Bloated Subhumans is concerned, that night in December 2014 was the starting point. I just let my mental illness take over and it gave birth to the sonic despondency you hear today.
What can you tell us about Execution 3? Was there a reason for recording at this particular show at Queer Bait Ball?
I always want to record every set I play (which doesn’t always happen, obviously) because of the inconsistencies inherent in performance of any kind. Live performances are chaotic and there is always a level of uncertainty about everything. And because of the semi-improvisational nature of Bloated Subhumans’ music, none of the material is ever played the same way twice. It’s kind of a nod to bands such as SPK, Flipper, Throbbing Gristle, Stick Men With Ray Guns, and others who put out numerous live releases during their existences (or posthumously as is the case for SMWRG). Capturing the raw intensity of this particular style (well, styles) of music as it’s delivered in a live setting allows for a depth which studio recordings never can; that is not to say that there is no depth to studio recordings, but there is definitely a different and more unbridled type of intensity present on live recordings. Plus, I never play the same setlist twice – it’s different every time.
That show in particular, however, was the first show I played outside of Delaware and Philadelphia. I am not a local act anywhere (despite being treated as one) because of my geographical isolation, but playing in Richmond, VA is the farthest out I’ve played, and I wanted to document that specifically. Plus, it was nice to emphasize the genderlessness of Bloated Subhumans (and of me) at an LGBTQ fest.
Who did the cover art for Execution 3? It reminds me of Minimal Man’s “The Shroud Of”.
I did the artwork for it. Bloated Subhumans is a very personal project, and so I always do everything related to the aesthetic (whether that be visual or otherwise). The only things pertaining to the project which I don’t do are the drums, electronics, various other elements of the cacophony present on live recordings since I’m playing bass and doing vocals on those and am backed by collaborators. Otherwise, all instrumentation for my releases is done by me.
Minimal Man is definitely an influence on me (with Bloated and other things), and this art can certainly be seen as somewhat of an homage to them since I was listening to them nonstop when I made it last year (Execution 3 was originally supposed to be a set from November 2016, but the recording was indecipherable, so I scrapped it and kept the art).
The re-issue of the Commemoration LP is coming out early next year. What can you tell us about that album?
Commemoration was first released digitally in October 2016 coinciding with the one year anniversary of my last (and closest to being successful) suicide attempt in October 2015. The title is intended to evoke a sense of ambiguity, in that it is neither a celebration nor a condemnation of the attempt – it is simply a commemoration of it. Suicidal urges and ideations are a part of my everyday life, and have always been a force behind Bloated Subhumans, so it really just made sense.
The album is divided into four parts, each inspired by one of classic sociologist Emile Durkheim’s forms of suicide, which are all relatively self-explanatory: Egoistic – feeling isolated; Altruistic – wanting to remove one’s self from an equation for the benefit of others; Anomic – driven by anomie (e.g. loss of control/familiarity), and Fatalistic – feeling suffocated and trapped. While Durkheim’s study was incredibly flawed (not to mention that his theories in general are both reductionist and leaning towards fascism), those four forms resonated with my own suicidal ideations and urges; that is to say, I have experienced them all on their own, in various combinations, and all at once.
The reason for the dichotomous “I” and “II” tracks was to create a before and after so to speak; the album as a whole is intended to be jarring (obviously), mimicking the emotional turbulence which comes with suicidal urges, anxiety, rapid cycling manic depression, etc. The noise rock based “I” tracks are the buildup, and the electronics based “II” tracks are the release. The back and forth was also inspired in part by Album Generic Flipper, which is split into two parts – Side A, the descent into depression, spiralling downwards from “Ever,” through the soul crushing 8 minute “I Saw You Shine;” and Side B, the embracing of nothingness, from the sardonic “Way Of The World” through the totally inane 8 minute finale, “Sex Bomb.” Obviously, Commemoration is divided into four parts, rather than two, but the concept is the similar.
All of the tracks were recorded and mixed over the course of the afternoon/evening before the anniversary, and like all of my recorded output with Bloated Subhumans, they were all done in a single take. It was put out digitally on the exact day. The original physical release was a run of 12 tapes, each sealed with a sticker and housed in a ziploc bag also containing a small print of the collage I made during my inpatient hospitalization following the attempt, and labeled with months instead of numbers; those all were reserved as preorders almost instantly, but due to delays from various mental illness-related causes, the artwork wasn’t printed properly until just recently. In general, Bloated Subhumans is a very slow-moving project.
For the vinyl reissue, the whole album has been remixed/mastered, and the new mixes will be going up on bandcamp in the near future. The LP is coming out on L’Entorse, a label based in Belgium, who reached out to me and offered to put out a 12” for me; and since Commemoration was always intended to be an LP, it made the most sense to finally give that the proper release I wanted it to eventually have, rather than putting out all new material (some of which has been featured on the Executions, but hasn’t been properly recorded yet). The official release date isn’t set in stone yet, but I believe it is due out sometime between January and March. It will be limited to 365 copies.
What is your creative process usually like and was it any different for Commemoration or Execution 3? Do you generally come up with the sound first and then add the topic/lyrics after the fact, or base the sound around the subject?
There is not so much a creative process as there is an unleashing. The entire project is intended to be an honest representation of mental illness and and embrace of the void. There is no romanticization or quirkiness – there is only pain, disillusionment, emptiness, uncertainty, turbulence, detachment, alienation, hopelessness. It’s not fun music, because mental illness isn’t fun. It’s an assault on those who romanticize mental illness but alienate those who suffer outwardly and express it in sincere ways, and on those who commodify mental illness as a way to sell their art or as a personal brand (e.g. being a “tortured artist” or just generally using a fabricated persona to manipulate people); it’s a way of saying “This is what mental illness really feels like. Is this what you want? Yea…I didn’t fucking think so.” It’s a turning of tables and – more importantly – a decommodification.
To bring up Flipper again, it’s similar to what they did with their music. I’ll never forget the first time I heard them because I sat there in awe and thought “Holy shit, every part of this sounds exactly the way I feel.” Their ability to express the aforementioned feelings through every aspect of their music – the lyrics, vocals, instrumentals, concepts, presentation – was uncanny, and I aim to do something similar. Their methodology has always resonated with me: Flipper suffered for their “music”…now it’s your turn.
Execution 3 is just a live recording like the other Executions, so obviously its creation was different from Commemoration. For live performances, I meet with my collaborators a week before (or the week of) the show and run the set once or twice so everyone has a loose idea of what’s going on. Also, Execution 3 has trumpet and a Brainbombs cover.
Do you have other creative non-musical outlets that contributes to the music?
I write and make visual art (collage is my medium), which both are integral to Bloated Subhumans’ aesthetic. I also sit in or pace around my room (sometimes with the lights off) and talk to myself while getting lost in my thoughts a lot, but I don’t know if that counts as a creative outlet.
Do you have a favorite track to perform live? Do you usually play all your songs in a particular order like you did for Execution 3?
That’s tough. I think “Cum” and “Embrace” are up there; neither has seen a proper release (although there have been a couple versions I’ve done in “studio” which haven’t been used), but those are among my favorites I’ve written. Because I play them differently every time, they can speed up and slow down; and as is especially the case with “Embrace,” can drudge on and on, lasting for 7 minutes or even 15 minutes, and fall apart into false endings only to swell back up and continue to limp along. I guess they’re my “signature” live tracks. I also enjoy playing tracks from Commemoration, but have yet to play “Fatalistic.“ Honestly, it really depends on what I feel like playing at that particular time.
As I mentioned before, the setlists are always different for each performance, so there isn’t a specific order I always play songs in. Usually if I play “Embrace,” it’ll be a closer, but I’ve played it as an opener and in the middle of a set.
Who are your musical (and non-musical) influences?
The biggest musical influences on Bloated Subhumans are Brainbombs – masters of riffs, expressions of emptiness, and brilliant commentary on the toxic masculinity and abuse which are so pervasive in rock/pop music; Grim – one of the greatest and most haunting industrial acts of all time; Flipper, obviously; SPK, but every industrial project owes the world to them; and of course Rudimentary Peni – who everyone knows – especially their 90s-00s material, which I’d argue is some of their best, and absolutely is their bleakest and darkest.
Other musical influences – aside from those I’ve mentioned already and Man Is The Bastard/Nosie who are the project’s namesake – include, but are not limited to: Esplendor Geométrico, Fang, Billy Bao, Happy Flowers (oddly one of the first punk/noise bands I ever heard as a kid), Gasp, Minimal Man, Swans (specifically Cop), Drunks With Guns, Stick Men With Ray Guns, Christian Death (Rozz-era, obviously), Skullflower, Dissecting Table, Throbbing Gristle, Your Funeral, Genocide Organ, White Hospital, Cosmonauts Hail Satan, Twin Stumps, Le Syndicat, The Danse Society, Siege (fucking “Grim Reaper”), Ramleh, Cicciolina Holocaust, The Gerogerigegege, and No Trend.
As for non-musical influences, I’d say the biggest is probably David Lynch – his ability to capture nightmares and dreamscapes on film (and with his visual art) is uncanny, and his work has certainly had an effect on how I approach my art because of it. I’d also say that leftist theorists such as Karl Marx, Pierre Bourdieu, and others have been inspirations as well; their methodologies can be applied to everything, and their influence can be seen in some of my lyrics and concepts. Bloated Subhumans is – in addition to what I said about it being an honest portrayal of mental illness – a representation of the end result of capitalist ideology; if it is allowed to continue to exist with the force that it currently has, there will be nothing (and no one) left.
What’s next in store for Bloated Subhumans?
Well first up, there is going to be a record release show in February or March 2018, somewhere in Philadelphia, with some fantastic artists. In addition, there is talk of doing a small tour in spring/summer 2018 with a band who are incredibly important to me, but it’s still in the planning phase; and if it does happen, it’s going to knock people on their asses. I also plan to record another LP and a 7” with material I’ve written over the past couple years, but I would like to make the rounds with Commemoration before jumping into that. I actually wrote the first half of an LP during 2016, but I need to record it and record the B side. Other than that, I’m probably going to continue to remain in relative isolation.