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Drowning in Noise: An Interview with CHESTER MASANGYA

Power electronics and noise often feel like a gauntlet thrown down for the average extreme music fan. For the growls and blast beats, pure noise proves to be a bridge too far most. Yet for the few who are finding their death metal albums are not quite capturing the existential dread and anxiety, there is always a deeper path to take. Noise is, from an aural perspective, arguably the most violent “music” form out there, yet the waves of distortion can also produce a meditative state. There is some sort of necro-nirvana out there waiting to be discovered.

If noise listeners are a rare breed, noise musicians are even harder to find. That’s where Chester Masangya comes in. Hailing from the Philippines, Chester produces harsh music at a truly astounding rate and he let us pick his brain about his various projects, power electronics, and noise in general.

As extreme as the Metal scene has gotten, Power Electronics and Noise leaves most listeners behind and leaves them trying to figure out what happened. Do you remember the first time you heard the genre and what attracted you to it? When did you start making these sounds on your own?

Ches: My introduction to noise, industrial and power electronics was when my friend Glen (Coalminer) introduced me to some sick artists like Masonna, Incapacitants, Hijokaidan, CCCC, Ramleh, Bastard Noise, SPK, Black Leather Jesus, Whitehouse, and Suicide. I started digging from there. Glen was already pursuing Lush Death (his solo project; we then later formed Coalminer).

I started recording as Francesco Terrini way back in 2019. The project was originally conceived as a monicker for an analog collage project yet eventually manifested its form as sound.

The story goes, after experiencing extreme episodes of depression and solo backpacking, I came back from the Visayan islands to Metro Manila and lived in an apartment just outside the biggest city in the Metro (BGC).

I had a bass and a guitar amplifier and a Zoom recorder and some guitar pedals to mess with. Glen (from Coalminer) lent me a DIY drone synth. I started experimenting with those. I was living alone and was a corporate salesman during the night. I’d work graveyard shifts and when I get back from work, I’d exhaust myself with noise experimentations until I passed out. I repeated this pattern and never stopped. Francesco Terrini was born from this existential cycle of modern-day slavery.

Me and Glen later on that year formed Coalminer. We’ve only played one local show since we formed. I recall it was a punk show near an abandoned garbage dump site. They called that show Squatfest.

Coalminer then recorded a demo (Evocation for the Damned) and put out Borrowed Joy on limited cdr-s early of 2020 locally. I then reached out to Ken Jamison of Basement Corner Emissions and he introduced me to an international network of noise freaks and started my way from there.

­White Widow (with Nel Briones of Sandy Good) was formed later part of 2019 and as well as Recovery Center (with Pow Martinez).

Recovery Center, later on, put out its first cassette through Haunted Amplifier (Pow Martinez’ DIY tape label). White Widow recorded several demos and splits; one of which was our work with MO TE from Japan which got released as limited cdrs through Bizarre Audio Arts (run by Nelson Sabatto- Armenia).

When the pandemic struck March of 2020 down here in the Philippines, the country imposed strict lockdown restrictions and that left everyone house arrested. That’s when I had the idea to research, write and send ‘noise’ emails to record labels from around the world. I kept recording and motivated friends to produce outputs for each project we spawned. I made sure that I keep in touch with correspondences, developed a healthy routine out of it. I made good friends in the DIY noise community this way and the friendships are forever cherished.

From the look of your videos, you use a lot of hands-on equipment to generate sound rather than computers. What kind of equipment do you use and was it difficult to learn all this stuff?

Currently, the gear I use revolves around the Trogotronic 669, Electro Lobotomy’s Particle Smasher, some fuzz, and distortion pedals, a Roland’s Space Echo, and Gen Thalz MDAS 4. I also make use of field recordings.

With field recordings, I capture whatever catches my attention. Random noises I hear from machines, people’s voices, crowds cheering, animal sounds, etc. I keep a library of these recordings stashed on my hard drive (sound sources). I would then later incorporate these materials when writing records (depends on the necessity, mood, and intention at the time of writing).

Do you use computers to do any editing or post-production?

Yes, I do on certain works. Mostly with my experimentations on my solo project Francesco Terrini.

I recall around January of 2020, I was hired as a product trainer for this company and they lent me a Macbook. I abused the machine and recorded several works with it and a drone synth. I archived those works on the old Francesco Terrini Bandcamp page.

They then, later on, had to let go of me and I had to return the device. They did not know that I abused it for personal endeavors. hehe

With White Widow, most of the recordings we put out were recorded in one space. I’d do a little tweak on the gain here and there. Coalminer and Recovery Center would sometimes experiment using these methods too. Nowadays, I lean to using analog equipment and recording directly from the mixer.

Gears are expensive and I’m working class so I make sure I like the gear before getting it.

I make sure to allot hours navigating and learning the gear so I can effectively use them and maximize their potential.

This is rather abstract music, do you have specific meanings in mind when performing or does “meaning” become something else in these pieces?

When I record, I often would write pieces of poetry, lyrics and prepare images. During certain situations, I would try recalling traumatic experiences and remember how my body felt during these traumatic events that happened in my life. I would then use these negative mental images and emotions and translate them by making noise.

Some of the titles of your pieces with Recovery Center, “The Daath Portal” and “Qlippoth” for instance, give a nod to the occult. Does occultism influence your music at all?

Myself, I am a fan of the supernatural and ancient knowledge.

My curiosity began exploring this knowledge when I had the chance to ingest this natural substance they call DMT. I accessed the Akashic library and downloaded as much universal knowledge as I can and got back to this dimension. hehe

I find it an intriguing and perplexing subject to explore.

From your Facebook page, it is obvious you are a metalhead. Do you see a relationship between noise and metal?

I don’t go about calling myself a metalhead. I’m more of a pothead that enjoys good (and mostly heavy) music. hehe.

I dig bands like Primitive Man, Eyehategod, Unearthly Trance, Coffinworm, Krallice, Fistula, Darkthrone, Leviathan, etc, and I would also listen and smoke out to Willie Nelson, Beastie Boys, Neil Young, Dr. Dre, etc. There’s this shoegaze band called Slowcrush that I’ve been following recently. Lebanon Hanover (minimalist darkwave) is a favorite spin on my turntable too.

I also think Encenatrakh is brutal. Lightning Bolt is nuts. There are too many gems out there and I like to listen to new music everyday.

Metal and noise are two extreme sonic art forms. I gravitate to both. On top of my head, Endon (from Japan) could be the closest definition of metal and noise blending together well. The Body (one of the sickest projects me and Glen follow from the USA) put out endless experimentations and collaborations that try and bridge noise and metal. I am a fan of Lee Buford and Chip King. I think both of them are madmen. hehe

Full of Hell with Merzbow merged death grind with noise. Sumac with Keiji Haino sounds massive (love the two records they put out together). Gnaw Their Tongues and Maurice de Jong’s endless experimentations on his several projects incorporate elements of extreme black metal and noise.

Bands in the powerviolence and grind scene like Agoraphobic Nosebleed, The Endless Blockade, Water Torture, Man is the Bastard, Pig Destroyer, Sete Star Sept and a lot of other insane bands have been at it merging the boundaries between these two heavy sonic forms.

It seems you primarily work in collaboration with others. Is there a specific reason for this? Do you have solo material as well?

Yes, that is true. There are two main reasons for this. The first reason is to fulfill the excitement in working together with artists I listen to and admire. We also gain wisdom in the process. Second, is to document and immortalize these works in physical form.

I might not be able to meet everyone physically this lifetime but recording and collaborating together on projects is like mentally performing ‘noise rituals’ together in one space. Whenever we get to finish a record, the fulfillment is priceless.

I imagine, one day when I am too old to play, I’d be living in a beach town and spinning these noise tapes and records.

Your collaborations seem to occur both locally and internationally? How do you usually work, meaning do you send files back and forth or get together to record?

It’s a mix of both.

With Recovery Center, we usually email sound sources back and forth. Pow Martinez (my bud in Recovery Center) works full-time as a visual artist (painter). He’s a busy , productive man. He flew to Madrid, Spain a few weeks ago for his solo exhibition. We still make sure to give the project time and put out records.

White Widow and Coalminer do everything together in one space. With White Widow, I work with my partner (Nel Briones). We jam and work on recordings almost every weekend.

Coalminer is me and Glen Dilanco. I’ve worked with Glen for years (since I had this doom band going on called Kushagra). We make sure to meet and hang when we’re working on projects.

The international projects curated are currently pursued via email exchange of sound sources.

I’d use the space below to talk about some of the records that were put out since the projects started…

Orchestrations To Paradise 

by Recovery Centre / Yantra / Astro 

Released: September 28, 2021 

Released by: Korobushka Records 

About the work: 

I am a fan of Deafkids so getting this work done with Douglas Leal and Hiroshi Hasegawa is an absolute honor. 

I wrote to Douglas Leal (Deafkids, Yantra) and told him about the idea of working with Hiroshi Hasegawa (CCCC, Astro) on a collaborative experimental project. We exchanged sound sources and ideas via email correspondences and we were able to build up the materials for Orchestrations to Paradise that way.   

Justice Yeldham/ Recovery Center 

Released: March 5, 2021 

Released by: Mutual Aid Records (USA) 

A friend of mine who plays in the band Et Mors (Albert Alisuag) uttered a stoned idea of me working with Lucas Abela (Justice Yeldham) after exchanging thoughts about music and life. A few days after, I wrote to Lucas and pitched to him the idea. Lucas agreed and the tape was immortalized. It was one of the first works I forwarded to Mutual Aid Records (based in Boston). I knew the label because of Pain Chain (Sam Gayheart). I received a copy from Ethan McCarthy of their split tape (Pain Chain/Many Blessings) and I connected the dots and wrote to Sam about it.   

G.X. Jupitter Larsen and White Widow 

Released: July 30, 2021 

Released by: Cruel Symphonies 

You probably know The Haters. That’s how I knew about Gerald and his project G.X Jupitter Larsen. I’ve read about him on several webzines and interviews and I knew that he used to snail mail Masami Akita and Maurizio Bianchi back late ’79 to 80s (wasn’t even born then). 

I wrote to Gerald and told him about our idea and concept and he agreed to make the work happen.  Caleb Crittenden (head honcho of Cruel Symphonies) who I worked as well prior to this endeavor with his project Flesh Shuddering agreed to get the tapes done on his label. The rest is history.  

Sete Star Sept/ White Widow (featuring Roman Soleno) 

Released: April 9, 2021 

Released by: Black Ring Rituals 

Sete Star Sept is a malevolent force in the noisecore/grind scene. They call their sound nutscore. Perfect! haha.  Kiyasu worked with a lot of crazy artists like Hiroshi Hasegawa, Keiji Haino (Fushitsusha), Andrew Nolan (The Endless Blockade), and a lot others. I met him on several occasions down here (as Sete Star Sept and as his solo snare drum project). He inspired me in a lot of ways (especially his stories about quitting work and touring around the world). Kae on the other hand, I met her during their show down here as Sete Star Sept and it blew my mind. I had the chance to talk to both of them and drink beers together. 

One random day, I wrote to Kae about the idea of publishing work together. She said yes and we then proceeded in manifesting the work. I recruited the assistance of my dear friend Roman Soleno (from the band The Exsenadors) and we booked studio time and went nuts inside. The results of our insanity were documented on this split tape. 

A few weeks after, Roman was set up and caught by the pigs/police for possessing marijuana and is still in jail as we speak. I hope he gets out real soon and we’d make sure to record something together on wax. 

You mentioned you had performed a show with Coalminer. Have you performed any other live shows? Is there much of a scene for seeing Noise live in the Philippines? Have you always lived in Manilla and if so, do you feel like its had any influence on you as an artist? 

Yes. We didn’t play that many shows down here. 2020 was when the pandemic struck so plans for live appearances had to wait. Though I personally envision touring the projects globally when the opportunities are presented to us. We’d make sure it happens sometime soon. I don’t see any other higher purpose in life than pursuing this vision. 

Recovery Center (with Lush Death) was lucky to be invited to play with Eyehategod back 2019 when they visited down here:

We also played an art gallery show and on a birthday party with Recovery Center.  

A noise scene you ask?  

Glen is a co-founder of a local collective called Noisebath. It’s a collective of noise artists from down here.   

If you ask me for recommendations, I’d recommend Shinrikyo (they worked with Kiyasu of Sete Star Sept, The Endless Blockade, Fushitsusha, etc) and seeingtheir explosive set live. I worked with Gabe Tiano (1/2 of Shinrikyo) on a split recording two years ago. We wrote this recording called Deadhead Chemistry

There are these two cut-up artists that I like too, one called Sigalot.pjx and another called Egne.  

I lived most of my life in Metro Manila but way back 2018-2019 I went down south the islands and lived there for a year traveling.  

Back in 2017, when my mom passed away, I suffered from severe depression (PTSD). I had to help myself get out of the void so I traveled alone. 

Metro Manila’s daily scenes on the streets and real-life dilemmas are way harder than the first world. It’s a constant life struggle. Being part of the working class, I feel the resonating pain of everyone. I use this pain as a source of hate and I channel these emotions when I record.  

Thank you for the opportunity and friendship Todd, 

Ches 

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