Friday, 4 July 2014

Interview with Limbs Bin

Interview by Brayden Bagnall

Josh Landes is the man behind Limbs Bin - a project that fuses the extremes of power electronics and noisecore into extremely potent, violent art form. I spoke to Josh about his project, his numerous influences and confusing hardcore kids.

FBN: Hi there! What's your name and what's the name of your project?
Josh: Hello Brayden! I’m Josh Landes, and my project is called Limbs Bin. The name comes from an actual box of severed arms and legs I encountered in a Tel Aviv University anatomy lab as a teenager.

FBN:  Aside from Limbs Bin, are there any other projects or bands you are involved with?
Josh: I am half of the reclusive Crashing Bores duo with Erik Brown as well as being half of Two Jacks with Dan Cashman, and I’m a founding member of Science Camp, Reaver Space, and Spiner Femmes.

FBN: I saw that top 10 list of bands on your blog that influenced Limbs Bin and it included punk, hardcore and even poetry - as well as noise oriented material. How did you decide to incorporate all these elements into your music - was it an immediate decision or did you ease into it gradually? 
Josh: The beauty and peril of flying solo is that there’s very little filter on what influences the noise. With no one to negotiate with, anything from a science fiction novel to a particularly good sandwich can enter the Limbs Bin lexicon. I grew up in the moldy basements, blown out amps, and violent physicality of hardcore punk, and latched on to the extremes of the music that was mostly treated as a byproduct or a device- mic feedback, the crunching distortion, the wall of sound from a battered crash cymbal. When I discovered a world where those elements were embraced and heightened, it was very exciting, though at first I was seeing a lot of knob twisting that didn’t produce the same thrill as the sweat and bruises of hardcore. Seeing Dan Deacon in his early days was also exciting, blown out electronic music with a fiercely positive physicality had a big impact on me. I was exposed to power electronics on an early tour while still in college- particularly a set by Peter J Woods in 2009- and that blend of human voice and electronic barrage delighted me. It’s hard to not influence me. I saw the poet Hiromi Ito just tear through her work almost foaming at the mouth at a pretty staid academic event, and it made me want to focus even more on writing words that I wanted to rip into like that. Intelligible or not, making sure the text comes from a place of passion is still very important to me. The most recent turn in my interests has been to noisecore and grindcore, and while several of my releases have entirely improvised vocal parts (certainly inspired by one of my favorite bands from Western Mass, where Limbs Bin started and was nurtured by an explosively creative scene, Grey Skull) I think lyrics are important to the band even if the music is even faster and more fucked. Living in Western Massachusetts influenced me, and now living in New York City is driving the music in a totally different direction as I incorporate a drummer and increased improvisation into the set. For every super harsh evil album that drives me, so does the pop I hear on the radio or the Steely Dan records my dad played in our car when I was a kid. Entire tapes have emerged from one bad argument, one walk in the woods, one moment in a book. I’ve even written a love song at this point. So to pirouette back to your question, I am constantly influenced by more than I know, more often than I’d care to admit.

FBN: What does your live setup usually entail?
Josh: The core elements of Limbs Bin are my voice through a distorted mic- a development I learned only after playing live shows and taking the project out of my dorm room- and the drum machine. For a long time, my accompaniment was a backing track from an ipod that I screamed over. On my last tour, I played the drum machine live, and over the last two years I’ve added a noise generator built by Dan Greenwood. I’ve also played the songs as a hardcore band or a sort of improvisatory orchestra of different players, both as Limbs Band. One memorable show captured on the first collection tape features a second vocalist and a saxophone. Some sets have been straight up harsh noise or drum machine explorations. Any set up that lets me feel lost in something and ecstatic I will try.

FBN:  Do you play many non-noise oriented shows? How does your stuff go down with the typical metal/punk/hardcore crowd?
Josh: I used to almost exclusively play hardcore shows given my longer relationship with that world. The wonderful thing about my set is that it’s usually too short and loud to heckle. I’ve definitely played to a lot of blank faces and snickers and accusations of irony or over-artiness. It’s fine. No one has to like it, and I realize that even if I see Limbs Bin as a punk band, I can’t insist anyone else does. I think the ironic thing is that as someone who spent many years voraciously consuming hardcore, I was trying to take everything I loved about the music and condense it into one performance. So it came from a place of trying to take two of my favorite bands who already essentialized and exaggerated hardcore, Napalm Death and Infest, and push it into an even stranger extreme. When I discovered Masonna and the rich world of noisecore, I realized I was hardly the first person to do this, and as a result I continued pushing into different directions.

FBN: You've toured pretty extensively, mostly in the US - but you've also toured Israel. How did your noise go down over there? And what's your best tour experience?
Josh: I travelled to Israel in 2012 ostensibly to see my brother for Passover with my family, and under that guise planned three dates with the help of Tom Sveta, who I had met through his grind band D9. I wanted to take the opportunity to reverse some of the Zionist propaganda I had been raised in by seeing the parts of Israel most concealed by that unapologetically racist, militaristic ideology. I attended a demonstration in the West Bank and met Palestinians on their own soil for the first time in my life. I saw the plight of African refugees left to voicelessly fend for themselves in Southern Tel Aviv, a true urban dystopia. I did this all with the impunity of a white American man who could travel unimpeded and unquestioned through one of the most policed areas in the world. It was an intense ten days, and the shows reflected that. From the Rogatka in Tel Aviv- an anarchist bar/vegan restaurant where I played D9’s last show with the brilliant Frequently Humiliated- to the bagel shop basement space called the Thrash Hole in Jerusalem, I met some amazingly passionate people playing music from grim political crust/grind like D9 to bands that sounded like the Minutemen, to a polished metal band on Relapse and a pornogrind band called Dirk Diggler. The third and final show was at a noise compound in Tel Aviv called the Zimmer Improv Center, where I smoked joints continuously rolled and passed to me by a stoic older man who assured me it was organic while we watched a free improve ensemble play harp, violin, reel to reel, and electric bass for forty-five minutes before Tom and I collaborated on a harsh noise/power electronics set. The activists I met there- mostly from the group Anarchists Against The Wall- were clearly traumatized by their experiences facing down the military state and watching their friends across the wall languish in prison and suffer endlessly. I wish I’d had more time in Palestine, but hopefully I can return someday. I have a long unpublished, amazing interview with Ben Ronen, an eloquent and constantly active voice for justice in a cruel world who I spent time with. It all certainly put my armchair activism to shame. From motorcycle rides around Tel Aviv to long talks about animal rights and Red Dwarf marathons, the experience was something else.

As far as best tour experiences go, playing with Globsters well after midnight in a tiny bar next to an international 8-bit music convention in Kentucky was amazing, as was a recent moment on tour where Sangre Y Tierra and I found ourselves hiking through the gorges of Ithaca in between wonderfully warm, friendly shows in Syracuse, NY and Lancaster, PA.

FBN: Noisecore is notorious for joke-songs and generally not taking itself seriously - but on the other hand it's just as brutal and unforgiving as any other form of noise music. Does Limbs Bin have an elements of humour or self parody, or is it straight-up, sonic assault? 
Josh: I would hate to be involved in anything that doesn’t have a sense of humor about itself. There’s plenty of references, in jokes, winks, and nods in the music that reflect that, and I’m completely aware that it’s impossible to look super cool and be taken seriously all the time when you’re onstage alone losing your mind and sweating violently. I don’t like the idea that artists are sacred beings sharing a gift with the world. I like the idea of artists as public amateurs learning in front of people. Something about the pompousness of people thinking that being in a band or having been published means anything special makes me want to embarrass myself and be defiantly vulnerable on stage. I also can’t stand bands that thrive on straight frivolity. Acts like Crank Sturgeon are my favorite live acts; you’re lead through an improvisation that is as hilarious as it is a revelation. All that being said, this is my chief means of being creative and expressive, so I perform it with the intensity and earnestly Limbs Bin deserves and can be very defensive about it if pushed.

FBN: If you could collaborate with any three noise artists, living or dead, who would they be?  
Josh: Eric Wood, Masonna, and Brian Eno.

FBN: What have you got planned for Limbs Bin for the rest of the year? Shows, splits, other releases? 
Josh: Limbs Bin is playing with Sete Star Sept on August 14th in NYC, and working on a fall tour with Sunken Cheek. I just got my side of a 7” with Shitnoise Bastards mastered, so expect that before the year is out. The “Live In Israel” tape is coming out on Bonescraper Recordings at some point. I’ve got a long list of splits to record for, among them a tape with Gutterpriest and a collaboration 7” with Kusari Gama Kill.

FBN: Finally, and words of encouragement, shout outs or thank yous you wish for the internet to look upon?
Josh: As far as encouragement goes, remember that you always have choices no matter what the situation, and that the longer you do something the more rewarding it gets.

Gowl’s new 7” is fantastic. Gay Kiss, my favorite contemporary hardcore band, has a devastating new LP coming out this year. I salute my fellow members of the Titans Of Noise Trio, Wish For Skin and Permanent Waves. The aforementioned Ben Ronen is in a band called Marmar Streisand. Check out Tom Sveta’s noise project Sinister Sveta. I’m excited for Limbs Bin with Marc Grillo on the drums this year. Hail to Sangre Y Tierra, Pyka, Hunted Down, In Her Rotten Cheek, Japanese Furnace, Building 7, Ya Te Veo, Crazed, Noise Nomads, Demonbrother, Tacomaniacx, Subsist, Violent Gorge, and Generic Death. I have a show on WFMU called Infinite Distortion that you can hear at on Wednesday nights at 8pm Eastern or stream from the archives. You can reach me at - I love trading stuff and meeting other weirdos. Thanks so much for the interview!

Thanks to Josh for that interview! 
Head on over to the Limbs Bin bandcamp HERE to check out the multitude of releases there. Highly recommended.

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