Carlos Giffoni is a well-known leader in the experimental, noise and avant-garde electronic music “scenes” in New York City and around the world. He is the founder and curator of the No Fun Fest, an annual music festival in it’s 6th year. He took some time to discuss No Fun in Sweden, the appeal of noise and popular mainstream music.
Q. What are you currently working on?
As far as my own music I just finished a split LP of electronic music with Keith Fullerton Whitman on No Fun Productions, and a CD for Hospital Productions titled ‘Severance.’ Both things should come out in a few months. I am also working on a series of 45’s I can’t talk much about yet, except that it will be different from anything I’ve done so far. There is a few other solo projects I am working on for next year, and also should be working on duo recordings with cellist Okkyung Lee very soon.
Q. You’re from…Venezuela? How did you get to NYC? Do you live in Brooklyn? What do you think of the “scene”?
Yes the city of Barquisimeto to be exact. I moved to Miami when I was 18 with part of my family. Moved to New York in the year 2000 to work more directly on music and because of the energy in the city. Yes I live in Brooklyn. What Scene? There are many and none at the same time! But yeah right now in Brooklyn for me is exciting because there are a lot of new young bands that are starting to come up and there is a young audience that seems very open minded.
Q. Why did you decide to do the No Fun Fest? What kind of help did you have and who else helped? How did No Fun Productions come about?
Because I felt it was needed, after seeing many bands I liked on tour and setting up some shows in New York it seemed to be that there was something brewing that made sense across underground music that could work well as a fest. There was never an attempt to make this a ‘noise’ festival per say, and I think there might be some reason to its success in there… it’s always been a festival of bands / musicians that are AMAZING but that are obviously not trying at all to become part of any mainstream activities, they are in this out of passion and the drive to create something unique, interesting and sometimes even beautiful. The fest has always reflected my current musical interest, other stuff is secondary.
Q. How has it changed thru the years? Different bands, scenes, types of attendees?
Yes of course, it has grown in size and venues have changed, and I think it has gotten more mature in both the level of the bands playing and my choices curating the event. The type of attendees has always been an interesting mix of international audiences mixed with locals, and there is all kinds of people that remains the same. As far as ‘scenes’ I don’t really play that game.
Q. Will you do it again?
Yes. September 17,18,19,20 in Sweden. Nothing else to announce yet.
Q. Why are you having no fun in Sweden? Where? Will it be hard to get acts to come out there? Or is the idea to get all NEW acts?
Because I’ve been trying to make the fest happen overseas for a few years now and the right situation finally came together for Sweden. It’s in Stockholm at a venue called Fylkingen. You can see the lineup at the site. First Tickets (the full event passes) go on sale July 1. For me is a logical step in growing the festival horizontally (across different places in the world).
Q. Why do you think people like noise?
Well I can’t tell you why other people do, but I can tell you why I like it. The freedom of sound infinity and its assault on the senses, a music that can have a strong emotional resonance within me, just by its sound content.
Q. Does it seem to you that the noise scene is getting a bit more mainstream? There are many bands around now that incorporate harsh noise and sounds into pop and punk songs. HEALTH comes to mind….
I am not familiar with he band called ‘Health.’ For over 30 or 40 years there have been pop bands incorporating noise into pop music, this is nothing new. What has been new is the interest by the youth in the use of abstract sound purely as the main component in a sound composition or improvisation. The breaking of the barriers where obsolete ‘musical rules’ can be thrown or the trash or transformed tremendously if necessary.
Q. Is anti-mainstream as a value something that’s important to you? Are those the only kind of acts that “fit” with No Fun and “noise” in general?
Absolutely not. For me the most important thing is that it sounds good to my ears. Normally that does end up being bands that do not ‘fit’ anything mainstream. Just my taste. I mean there are bands that you can qualify as pop bands that have played the fest. But they are making amazing and very original music. If mainstream music wasn’t so fucking formulaic and boring it would be a different story. I mean, god listen and look at the artwork on the new Black Eyed Peas record. that shit is FUCKING DUMB.
Q. Do you see growing popularity as a threat to the “purity” (for lack of a better word) of the noise scene? Or does that not even factor into your thinking?
No I don’t think about purity, I am probably 30% Italian, 20% Native Venezuelan, 10 % Spanish, 10% African, 5 % German… you get the idea….
Q. So what can be seen as a threat to the authenticity of a type of music, or expression? (if not mainstream popularity)
The main threat I see for authenticity in any style of music are people feeling like they have accomplished everything they could and just quitting (even just mentally) or getting successful and scared enough that they keep doing the same record again and again.
Q. What other bands, artists, people are you into right now? What are you listening to?
Currently I listen to a lot of good older synth music (Heldon, Schulze, Schnitzler) on a daily basis. Out of the newer bands I listen to a lot of my friends music (new Wolf Eyes CD, new Wiese and Spencer Yeh solo and collab records, Prurient), as well as recent new bands that are pushing forward like Oneohtrix Point Never, Emeralds, Noveller, Xeno and Oaklander.
Q. It was a coup to get the whole Sonic Youth line-up to play together at this years No Fun. Was that an idea of the bands, or you?
My idea, I been trying to get them to do it for a few years now and the stars finally aligned properly….
Q. What do you think of the new SY album?
I have not heard it yet, Thurston just sent me a vinyl copy along with the new MSBR LP he just put out on Ecstatic Peace but it has not arrived yet, I am always looking forward to hear their albums I been a fan of the band since I was 13 or 14.
Q. They are a band that has been able to be somewhat mainstream and palatable for many tastes but then also have an underground following of their noisier, more avant-garde stuff. Is that an ideal situation for a band?
It’s certainly a great situation for them I think, but you would have to ask them directly if they consider it ideal. The ‘Ideal’ situation for a band these days is to make shitty popular music and quickly sell Millions of records and fill the bank with money and then get shittier and not worry about anything ever again, right? Certainly that’s not SY.
Q. What do you hope to achieve with your music?
Something that moves people to be creative and makes them feel inspired to destroy the corporate machine and the rules that govern it.
Q. What helps you, inspires you?
Good food, a Caribbean beach, a good synth sequence, my girlfriend, my cat, my friends and family, fans at shows, and maybe a new band or project I never heard of blowing my mind, o and Ninja Warrior.
Carlos Giffoni: “The Endless Mirror”
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Carlos Giffoni: “The Endless Mirror”