Clang Quartet Talks INC 2013 and Harsh Christian Noise: “I Am a Follower of The Crucified and Resurrected Christ”

Noise music is riddled with freaks.

Just like the circus, urban downtowns, and Ultra Music Festival right as the clock strikes fuck-a-tree-o’clock – this envelope pushing, challenging, and potentially full-of-shit genre is a straight up 24/7 weirdo convention.

But out of all the beardos, hippies, art crusties, masked perverts, LARPers, Burning Man types, people from Tampa, etc., no other act at Rat Bastard’s annual International Noise Conference – a 4 day survey of experimental and retro-experimental music from Florida and way beyond – is more provocative than Clang Quartet.

Like many that frequent the INC year after year, Scotty Irving builds viscerally industrial and highly-personalized personalized noise-making sculptures that he uses as instruments. He also wears masks, is dedicated to groovy non-sequitor free-drumming, and, when at the roaring peaks of an uproarious Clang Quartet performance will completely ruin your hearing.

However, Clang Quartet rises above the deaf and unwashed hordes of blaring power electronics solo artists by consummately defying all expectation. For starters, Irving is the Quartets lone member.

The real essence of Clang Quartet, however, lies in its evangelical motivations: Irving’s in-the-red performance of undulating wall noise, and sharp, smeared feedback, is an expressionistic component of a sonically dense theatrical depiction of Irving’s torment before he accepted Jesus Christ as his lord and savior.

Your FB lists your repertoire with the added note that the project has been “for Jesus since 1997.” Tell us about the noise and/or music you made before Clang Quartet.

My first Noise experience was seeing Einsturzende Neubauten on Night Flight, a show on the USA network, in 1984. Seeing Neubauten was a little too much at the time, and I did not really pursue that side of sound until several years later. 

I played in a couple of cover bands, but it was not for me. I put that aside to join a band called Geezer Lake from 1989 until 1997.Geezer Lake was a learning experience of many sorts for me. I was introduced to many styles of music and ways of playing that were largely new to me. During this time, I rediscovered Neubauten, and also checked out other acts such as Throbbing Gristle and Z’EV, who made a HUGE impact on me as a listener and a performer. One day, when Geezer Lake was in Texas, we were in a record store and I noticed a videocassette on display called ‘Kingdom Of Noise’. Later when I saw the same video listed in a Relapse/Release Records mail order catalog, I ordered a copy. I have not been the same since!

My interest in extreme sound became much more intense. My bandmates were not happy with this new found knowledge, and this caused much friction within the band. It seemed I was trying to take things in a direction that they would not or could not allow me. It was time to move on. I performed the first Clang Quartet show in January of 1997 and Geezer Lake split up in the spring of that same year. There was no going back.

Where/when did your faith begin to intersect with your music?
I became a Christian in 1984 and I began to try to bring my faith and music together from that moment on. My early attempts were unintentionally hilarious. I think I will shut up on that note!Do you subscribe to a particular school of Christianity?
I am a member of a United Methodist Church, but I don’t like to focus too much on the denominational side of things. I am a follower of the crucified and resurrected Christ as the son of God, and ultimately I feel that is what makes a person a Christian and not whether they are Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, etc.

Do you consider your work evangelical? Do you prefer to play in the company of non-Christians?
My show is evangelical in the sense that I am telling a story of my life without Jesus, then my life with Jesus. I present the passion play as a representation of what I feel Jesus did for me to give me another chance at life. As far as what type of audience I prefer, I am fine with either. It just happens that most of the time I am performing for non-Christians.

I imagine, along the way, you’ve bummed out Christians with the intensity and harshness of the performances, and bummed out noise folk with the message. Any notable experiences from either end of that spectrum?
I had an experience in the early Clang Quartet days with someone trying to physically stop me from performing during a show. This was at a so-called Christian place and a bouncer had to come and assist me. You read that correctly: some Christian places have bouncers!I have had other experiences where I was not allowed to perform at certain Christian venues unless I was willing to change certain elements of the show, namely some of the masks, which I do not feel the need to do.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have had some opposition in the form of internet insults. From time to time, someone will approach me at a show and try to engage me in a pointless argument over an aspect they do not like or understand. One guy walked up to me in Portland, Oregon and said right to my face “Jesus SUCKS!”. I very calmly asked him if he believed that statement enough to bare his soul in a performance in front of people who might not agree with him. He did not really answer me at the time, but later on the Noisefanatics website that he did know I was really a Christian when he made the remark. Interesting.

More often than not, the discussions are very civil and usually I discover that people are picking up on personal aspects of the show that I did not think they would. Also, many people who called themselves “Satanists” are far more civil than some Christians I could name!

Has your message evolved over time?
Not so much the actual message, but the delivery of said message is far more prominent than it was in the past. I have become more confident with the performances, and even though the show still has major abstract qualities, it is much more clear in terms of the statement I am making.Does your act always involve the “Passion Play” style components? Do you ever perform without any of the faith-based significations?
I cannot imagine a Clang Quartet show without the elements you mentioned, but I do perform in other settings where I just play drums, or play some electronics, or even sing. I do session work for varied artists who would be probably not know how to handle a Clang Quartet show!

How does that giant noise cross work?
Every device in the show is both a sound/ visual element. They all pull double duty, as it were. For the cross, I use a combination of guitar pedals and acoustic guitar microphones on the actual cross body, which is actually pieces of several crutches put together with spring clamps and a number of small sound making devices, like springs and other small pieces of metal. The other items on the cross (words with reflective letters, trinkets, etc. ) are only visuals. This device is not nearly as complicated as some might think!

When NYC straight-edge hardcore act Youth of Today broke up and the members went on to form Hare-Krishna hardcore band, Shelter, they received flack from members of the religious community that believed they shouldn’t bother playing rock ‘n’ roll at wild concerts. They should just chant “Hare Krishna” and live the life of a devotee. I don’t personally subscribe to that thought process, but how would you respond to that critique? As in, why don’t you just become a monk or preacher?
I had forgotten about Youth Of Today! I read part of an article on, I believe it was Connie Hopper of the Southern Gospel group The Hoppers, about this same thing some time back. I share her opinion on this issue. It is weird to me that there is someone in the Christian community who feels that being a speaker or minister is the ONLY way to serve God as a devotee.I usually refer people to Romans 12: 1-8 The entire passage deals with Christian conduct, but in verse four it begins a section on the diverse talents of the believers in question. “We Have Many Members In One Body (comparing the number of members as one group with the number of different parts that make up the human body) And All Members Have Not The Same Office”. As I understand it, this passage is referring to the varied gifts that people have that are different from one another that can all be a part of the same cause.

Not everyone can reach people through speaking in a public setting. Not all can work in hospice or a care facility. Not everyone can prepare food for those who cannot prepare it themselves. And not everyone can be a performer of some sort. Somehow, all this diversity is working together to help the cause. It boggles my mind to think that there is someone out there who thinks their way to do things is the only way.