Smokin' in the Boys' Room
It's an unusually busy night in the First Avenue men's room. No, the club's patrons aren't experiencing a diarrhea epidemic. Those coming into the cavernous room's bright lights to get this or that out of their system have to circumvent the two dozen or so folks assembled near the radiator, all gazing raptly at the spot opposite the urinals where two men are making, uh...music. Techno, even--not unlike what's playing in the larger, Woody McBride-driven room next door, but considerably more raw, as befits the venue. One of the men manipulates a GameBoy controller that's plugged into a boombox. Notoriously reclusive local musician John Crozier (of Ninian Hawick and Shebrews fame) watches from a perch on the radiator with a hunting cap pulled over his face. Standing nearby, the crowd's sole woman, is electronic artist Dolores Dewberry, defiantly oblivious to the guys streaming into the men's room to do something other than listen to the music. A patron complains to security, and Dewberry is asked to leave. Seems the presence of a woman has given him a little case of urination anxiety. You can't blame Dewberry if she isn't thinking about the more practical functions of the bathroom. She's here to see the guy with the GameBoy: Graham Bozeman, a.k.a. Fuckstorm.
"I'd hate to become known as that GameBoy guy," says Bozeman--who now uses two GameBoys and a tiny battery-powered mixer--between pinball games at his workplace, Know Name Records in Dinkytown. "It does seem a bit gimmicky. But I like to master one piece of gear before I move on to another, and the GameBoy still presents plenty of challenges. And I do appreciate the battery-poweredness of it all. It allows me to play in places other electronic musicians wouldn't even think of."
Like the Mainroom's can. "That was one of my most interesting shows," Bozeman recalls, "except that it was so smelly." Fuckstorm is no stranger to unusual venues. In addition to playing various house parties, he once tried busking outside his home (also in Dinkytown), where he was received somewhat less warmly. He describes the experience as "awful." "People just walked by without even pausing." (Hopefully they'll stop this Friday, November 1, when Fuckstorm joins Poor Line Condition, natOsha, DJ Tool, and others at Profile Music in Minneapolis.)
The grand enabler of Fuckstorm's mobile technomancy is Little Sound Dj, a combination synth, sequencer, arpeggiator, and drum machine, all packed into a tiny GameBoy cartridge. It's not the only piece of GameBoy music-making software in circulation right now: The more established Nanoloop software has already provided the fodder for a compilation featuring monsters of electronica Pita, Felix Kubin, and Hrvatski. Granted, the LSDj's sound is distinctly lo-fi, and its features are limited compared with Mac and PC-based systems. But who needs bells and whistles? The LSDj can emulate the Roland TB303--the classic "acid machine" that sounds like nice little frogs turning into big angry frogs, then back to nice little frogs. And its drum-machine section offers the same sounds you hear on nearly every house, trance, and techno record ever made.
The LSDj's inherent rawness provides Bozeman with the kind of sonic palette he's looking for. As he puts it: "I come from a background in experimental music, but I got tired of playing noise, because you're lucky to get seven people to show up at a noise show. So what I'm trying to do now is create noise in a danceable context." Fuckstorm's structural strategies conform to the fairly rigid rules of techno, but the sounds he shoehorns into those structures run considerably more aggressive, recalling first-wave industrialists like Throbbing Gristle and SPK.
The fact that Bozeman's grind is every bit as big as his bump can create some interesting audience polarities. A recent Dinkytowner performance saw a gaggle of frat boys covering their ears with their hands and grimacing, while a flock of devotees stood mesmerized in front of the stage. But Fuckstorm's admirers are starting to outnumber those with daintier earholes, especially within the world of local dance music. He counts his recent DVS1-promoted parties among his greatest triumphs to date. "It feels very rewarding when people dance to my music," he admits.
Bozeman's penchant for performing live is rare among fledgling techno producers. "I keep thinking I should make a record," he says, "but I just haven't gotten around to it." If this attachment to live performance makes Bozeman something of an anomaly, it's also the source of his power. Gone are those halcyon days when dance-music producers, like DJs, maintained a comfortable Wizard of Oz-like anonymity. Now that electronic musicians are, like rock stars, the center of attention, they can no longer afford to hide in their garrets and make tracks. And Fuckstorm's dinky but formidable rig makes setting up for multiple live gigs very easy for him. Like your typical local rock band, he plays two shows a month--far more than any other local dance-music producer. And when this techno troubadour does finally get around to making a record, people will know who he is. Best of all, he'll be able to tour on a Greyhound--and, if it suits him, he can perform in the vehicle's bathroom.
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