It happens that nowadays making political music is often considered gauche, and everything needs to be dressed up in nine layers of irony in order to be considered legitimate. Ironic detachment is itself an attitude and aesthetic born of a feeling of political impotence against a backdrop of rapid technological change and the immense, constant, and overwhelming deluge of contradictory information. Like it or not, artists must grapple with this ironic detachment and find ways to appeal to or circumvent it.
Pandering to that ironic detachment is risky, because the work will just get lost in the wash, or will reinforce a detached affect that defuses political power. In some ways, Shit Man is meant to seem like a couple of guys nerding out about music and what is or is not more or less “metal.” We wrote a whole song about a time period in which the earth was covered in lava (“Magma Earth”) because it was, we decided, extremely metal. In this sense we are completely sincere in our nerdy dedication to the forms, vocabularies, and aesthetic conventions of extreme musical genres. On the other hand, our extreme sincerity can appear as a kind of parody of itself. This illusion of sincerity-as-irony is often what reels people into the world of metal.
But on the level of the music, we break down traditional musical forms in favor of creating moods. Our music started out as totally improvised. In this way we let our subconscious sounds out to interact with each other; we perceive what we are creating almost unconsciously and respond to it, creating an evolving sound that fits into and expresses the spaces we immediately occupy. Then song sketches emerge that quicken our pulses, and we hammer on these ideas until our pulses quicken still more. We eschew melodies in favor of building songs around evil-sounding tri-tone chords and sound patterns that build into iterative groupings around lyrics that are really sketches and vignettes of fractured and apocalyptic narratives. In a strange sense the music we make is utopian, because its playfulness is an expression of freedom, yet the content of the music is very dark. The positive freedom is expressed by the playfulness in form, but the dark content is what we consider most expressive of our political and ecological reality. In content there is hopelessness; in form, there is hope. It channels our conviction that, as long as we cooperate, there are limitless ways in which we can respond creatively to disasters.
Yet our most politically urgent song (besides “Racist President,” which we thought was awesome because it just bludgeons you over the head), “Extinction,” is one of the few that hews most closely to traditional melody-centric verse-and-chorus song forms. It stands out in contrast to our song, “Life,” which is a seemingly random burst of noises and patterns that build into something larger. In this way we mean to suggest that elaborating our lives in terms of conventional forms and traditions is a kind of death in life, and that the most meaningful forms of life start out as illegible. This means that our most important solutions to crises will emerge creatively in struggle, through ruptures of political subjectivity through which emerge new forms, new tactics and strategies, new theories that exceed the categories with which we attempt to trap them. However, just like in improvisation, it requires that we remain open to what we’re hearing, to what we respond to.
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Shit Man is a noise punk band based in Los Angeles. These pioneers of “scream jazz,” known as “Daniel Pope” and “Sean Winnik,” transcend their identities and flesh prisons and manifest emergent realities through the intra-actions of sound waves. They are available for bar mitzvahs, weddings, funerals, and (especially) Satanic rituals. Check out their music at Bandcamp.