Fri July 18
If music is organized noise, then Smegma represent pre-musical genius. For 30 years now the Portland via LA noise (dis)organization improv ensemble has been creating quite a racket.
"We were all people who were not musicians," says founding member Ju Suk Reet Meate of the group's early days. "Things (in LA) seemed like they were as bad as they could get, so our solution was to go make it worse. We were going to make the worst possible music we could make."
Reet Meate and a couple others escaped from LA in the mid '70s when the scene "was the worst it could possibly be," he says. The burgeoning punk rock scene in Portland opened many doors for them. "Previous to playing in punk rock clubs, we'd never thought we could play in a club." They went on to play over one hundred times at the legendary X-Ray café.
Their goals have changed a bit over the years: "We're trying to either be the worst band or the best band, maybe both at the same time. We're trying to get out of the comfort zone and trying to do something that might be horrible or incredible," says Reet Meate. For help, they use unique instruments like logs and toys and "make them do something they've never done before."
Their sounds are a result of group improvisation and described by former Smegma singer and rock critic Richard Meltzer as: "Free Music in its grandest, and least superficial, sense a ritual fusing of any and all musics and non-musics." It's effect, according to Reet Meate, is that it "stimulates you to think, or sometimes people just start screaming."
The nine or so current members may fluctuate, but Smegma will probably create whatever it is they create for at least another 30 years. "We're still trying to come up with something new. We're always trying to do something that will surprise everybody."
Whether you're surprised into thinking or screaming, Smegma's anniversary show is a chance to witness the birth of something truly original.