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The Baltimore Sun

Q&A: GayBomb on Vivaldi, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Antique Computing

By day, Andrew Barranca works as a special educator, assisting children with autism. In his spare time, the Fredrick native (who now resides in Rockville) moonlights as GayBomb, whipping up sonic-slurry shakes--created in part using a card reader Barranca discovered "in the supply closet of my first classroom"--that suggest a hybrid of industrial noise pollution and the gnashing laptop fury of John Wiese's Teenage Hallucinations. When Barranca feeds vocals into the maw of his distorted slipstream--see dithering, see-sawing "Tongue Out," or the trash-compactor kazoo scrapes of "Crank Bang"--his artistry breaks through into new dimensions. In a late May e-mail interview, Barranca discussed influences, gear, and Charles Nelson Reilly.City Paper: When did you realize that you wanted to be a musician?Andrew Barranca: My first record was a 7" of horror sounds. I think this is when I felt the impact of sound recordings, and became interested in all the potential.CP: The "gay bomb" is the name of a supposed military weapon. How did you decide on it as a sobriquet?AB: There are so many meanings that can be inferred and so much subtext that I felt it would be enough to make people curious.CP: When you play a show, what preparations are necessary? Do you go onstage with a predefined idea of what you want to accomplish or get across, or does the situation sort of dictate things?AB: Before I play a show, I select the cards I want to play. Using the drawings on them, I sort them all out into groups of similar drawings. After they are all sorted, they are all laid out in the performance area so they can be grabbed quickly. I used to write descriptions of the sounds on them, but the pictures make the process of identifying a card easier. When the set starts the samples are set, but how they will be mixed is improvisation. Most my sets have similar samples with beats and noises being recycled, sometimes they have a narrative, but over the course of a year sets vary greatly.CP: What sort of equipment set-up do you use to generate sounds? AB: My samples are recorded from myself, machines, CDs, and records. Once everything is recorded onto cards, I use two Califone Card Masters plugged into one Berringer Keyboard amp to mix it.CP: Some of your tracks are unabashedly abrasive, but at times there's a hint of melody lurking under avalanches of noise, born by corkscrewed vocals or the scree itself. "Crank Bang" is an example of this; it's almost like Lightning Bolt distilled to its id. Can noise as a genre, in your opinion, transcend its inherent ugliness? Can noise beguile in the way that, say, an Antonio Vivaldi piece can? AB: People have become acclimated to abrasive sounds. Some people might think that the sounds in "Crank Bang" are ugly, but I know that--ugly or beautiful--they are stimulating. When I play a set, my brain is sparking with excitement, and I can feel my mood and emotions heightening. I imagine that same elation is felt by people who really love listening to Vivaldi. I don't know what noise will do or how it will be perceived, but my intention is to engage myself--and hopefully the audience--in the sensory experience of the music.CP: If you could curate a dream festival that you yourself would perform in, who else would appear on the bill with you? Who would you collaborate with, live, in this setting?AB: In my dreams, Charles Nelson Reilly would MC. Antonin Artaud would read nursery rhymes, Jimmy Hendrix would play a guitar solo, Andy Kaufman would do whatever. Playing music would be the Laundryroom Squelchers, Narwalz of Sound, Ex-Pets, The Jauntees, What's Yr Damage?, Small Pox, Occasional Detroit, White Suns, Sebadoh, and This is My Condition. Shams and DJ Dog Dick would take the festival into the morning. I'd like to play with Charles Nelson Riley, Occasional Detroit, Jason Willett.CP: Do you have a current musical obsession--an artist, song, or album--that you can't quite get enough of?AB: Lately I've been enjoying Narwalz of Sound, the Dramatics, Sentridoh, Lemon Kittens, and Phil Hendri.CP: Who or what do you consider your most important influence?AB: Antonin Artaud made me question the purpose of performance arts. His writings changed my ideas on art and legitimized my creative impulses. I felt inspired after reading his book, The Theatre and Its Double, and his radio play "To Have Done with the Judgment of God."CP: Do you have any special surprises in store for the June 10 show? Any new or forthcoming releases?AB: I'm playing some new samples from drums and electronic devices. I just bought a drum set, so I've been playing it and making new cards with the beats. The Hexagon has a no covers policy, so it will all be original music. I just released a CD-R collaboration of Sensible Nectar and Gaybomb on Rainbow Bridge Records; at the Hexagon, we'll be releasing a split cassette of Gaybomb and Newagehillbilly on SpleenCoffin. I also record new material for self-release of an edition of 10 tapes. Every month or so, I record an improvised live set, and put it out. They are called GDJ tapes. Currently I am in the 10th set of GDJ tapes. They are available at shows and on my web site.CP: Which do you find more satisfying as an artist: the process of recording or performing before an audience?AB: Both of them are extremely satisfying. One great thing about playing for people is that I don't have to stop in the middle of my set to flip the tape.Gaybomb plays the Hexagon June 10 with Newagehillbilly and Decapitated Hed.

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