Growing up in quaint, historic Fairfield County, Connecticut, was awful, says Tim Aher. "I was alienated in this way that was so profound it couldn't be reduced to some weird group-politics thing. So I spent a lot of time in my room woodshedding on the guitar and listening to metal."
In his senior year of high school he found salvation on IRC, a clunky on-line chat forum where he met other self-described "lonely teenage guys," striking up a particularly close friendship with one named George Moore. They bonded over music and their mutual hatred of school and decided to start a band. When Aher went over to Moore's house for the first time, he saw a ton of records by groups like Whitehouse and Acid Mothers Temple--bands he'd never heard of. Moore told him his uncle Thurston (yes, that Thurston Moore) turned him on to almost all of the experimental music in his collection.
Aher and Moore, and later Moore's younger brother, started rehearsing as the Duvet Cover, switching off on guitars, electronics, and drums. They played in basements and coffee shops to like-minded kids from IRC channels, and felt triumphant whenever they got kicked out for making an intolerable racket.
Currently in his third year of linguistics studies at the University of Chicago, Aher's also filling in as program director at WHPK, the school's radio station, for a friend who's in London for the quarter. He says he was initially attracted to noise and experimental music because it alienated unsuspecting passersby in the same way he'd felt alienated in high school. Once he moved here, however, he realized there was a community based around what he loved; he saw "people having fun and acting silly at the shows." Now he wants to share his noise addiction--what he calls a "corporal pleasure"--with as many people as possible.
Earlier this year he started putting on shows at the U. of C. "It's good for the university," he says, "because it makes them look hip, and they've got a big stake in that, especially right now, because they're trying to expand the college and not have everybody be socially inept." But his idea of the best way to socialize the school, it seems, is to get everyone involved in some sort of antisocial activity. A few months ago, when his "improv psych" band, False Sex, played at a party, one of his friends threw a garbage can through the wall and Aher body slammed a band member onto a couch full of girls. Later, when someone asked him what his "deal" was, he replied, "Don't you get it? It's an excuse to act retarded."
Aher's latest project is this weekend's Festival of Marginalized Subgenres, featuring New York sheet-metal bangers and body slammers Cock E.S.P., California whizzbangs Mummers (Eype), and Ohio superserious darkwavers Burning Star Core, as well as local acts Panicsville, Behold! The Living Corpse, Vertonen, Winter Carousel, and others. At some point in the evening, the music will stop temporarily and Chris Sienko, director of WHPK's Radio Dada program, will host a discussion--ostensibly on identity and the politics of noise music, but who knows--with Spencer Yeh of Burning Star Core and video artist Adam Chao. And since, says Aher, "in actual panel discussions they have dissenting opinions," he's invited his friend Jonathan Edward Couperthwait--who doesn't like and doesn't know much about noise music but "has a really distinguished-sounding name." The all-ages show starts at 6 PM on Saturday, November 23, in the third-floor theater of the University of Chicago's Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th. It's free; call 773-702-8289 for more information.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Suzy Poling.