There are some people who support their local scenes, and then there are some that play a huge role in creating that scene. While the supporters attend shows, the creators are bringing those shows to town, getting up on stage, and spreading the word about new artists. Peter Lee is a creator. He is the enthusiastic prophet, the passionate marketeer, for dark music. He is doing all the things that the rest of us wish we were doing, but won’t put the effort into.
Peter hosts the radio show “A Dark and Tranquil Place” on WRIU (heard around the world on wriu.org, Sunday morning 3-6 AM Eastern Time — GMT -5), where he showcases the latest mutations of the industrial genre. He also runs the record label “Force of Nature“. He has put on all-day shows featuring noise and electronic bands from all over the world. Recently, he has teamed up with noise bands Prurient and Immaculate:Grotesque to create the band :Moment:, a harsh assault on your eardrums. He is doing it all, and most of us are not.
Read this interview so that you may live vicariously through Peter. This interview was conducted via email in March, 2003.
Chain D.L.K.: How long have you been hosting your radio show?
DJ Peter Lee: We Just had our 5th year anniversary, what a great time it’s been.
Chain D.L.K.: Is there ever a disconnect between what you want to play on your show and what people request?
DJ Peter Lee: No, unless it’s that drunk frat boy that calls up and wants to hear Dave Mathews. Then you know he isn’t listening to the show before he calls.
Chain D.L.K.: How would you describe the mix you play?
DJ Peter Lee: I feel like my true love is Dark ambient. I play as much as possible, but will say I have never done a whole show of it. I play a pretty decent mix of the whole scene and its never really specific. You will never really hear more than an hour of each type. I lump it together as rhythmic, ambient/death industrial/ritual/neo folk, and noise/power electronics, usually an hour of each set.
Chain D.L.K.: Thoughts on excessive genre-splitting? Have people gone too far? Or do you argue the difference between “Zurich Pulpcore” and “Powerclash”? (those are fictional, as far as I know. . ).
DJ Peter Lee: It can’t all be called “industrial” anymore. But there has to be a point where people stop being so specific and confusing the hell out of me.
Chain D.L.K.: Over that time, would you say the type of music you’ve been playing has changed?
DJ Peter Lee: Yes, in the beginning I started with ebm and experimental music, but as time progressed and I found that labels like metropolis and bloodline were not interested in promoting their material. Labels like DSBP and Ant-Zen, Hands, Triumverate, and more were. I grew with the sense of underground unity in the scene, which reminded me of my punk and hardcore years, I felt at home.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you see much crossover between the music you play on A Dark and Tranquil Place and the punk scene? Why do we hear more about crossover with Italian and Norwegian Death Metal?
DJ Peter Lee: I believe that there is a crossover with the dark ambient crowd and the death metal, because a lot of the death metal artists are doing dark ambient. Punk and noise have kind of always gone hand and hand because of the aesthetics of the scenes. I don’t see them as being the same. I seem to notice that noise is generally accepted amongst the Indie Rock noise crowd.
Chain D.L.K.: Along those same lines, what are some noise bands that maintain the passion of punk? Is rhythmic noise too sterile to have any punk in it? Is power electronics closer to punk?
DJ Peter Lee: I feel like some of the harsher chaotic bands, like Prurient, are sustaining the chaos of punk, but most noise has become structured, even if it is not rhythmic. Rhythmic noise isn’t necessarily sterile, as it is over saturated. Some of the rhythmic noise bands, like Pal and Synapscape, still have the aggressive and unpredictable edge to them and don’t fall into the formulated sound of copycat bands. There are still original bands coming out of the rhythmic noise scene, but you have to pick and choose. Power electronics can share the same use of political thought as punk does, but it’s too militant and structured to ever be considered punk.
Chain D.L.K.: Many Rhode Island noise projects are fronted by young men with shaved heads. Your head is shaved. Tell me about the relationship between “skins” and noise. Do people (that is, the public at large) often misinterpret a shaved head or see political significance where none is intended? How do you counter this?
DJ Peter Lee: I’m not going to go into the difference between traditional skinheads, the only true skins, (which is different than Neo Nazis), a person with a shaved head (a lot of people who are into the “militant” look have shaved heads) and a racist. I kind of expect that by now, most people in the noise subculture know the difference. However, when they do not, then I am very happy to confront them and explain the difference, sometimes in a very lengthy monologue on one of the various lists that I post to. I encounter very few other skins in the noise scene; they are still more into punk, oi, ska etc.
Chain D.L.K.: It used to be that Boston and Lowell were two centers of noise in New England. Now Providence is growing bigger than both of those combined. What is causing this growth? Is it the number of noise-friendly venues in Providence? The number of active bands? Your talents in promotion?
DJ Peter Lee: Providence is growing because of a collective effort of a couple of individuals, including myself. We have four labels doing noise and two doing indie noise. That’s a lot for a small city. Plus Providence is also very friendly to the underground promoter. I don’t feel that there are a lot of bands in Providence, per se, but there are a lot of them in the New England area that are willing to come to Providence to play.
Chain D.L.K.: Tell me about some of the large live shows you’ve put on.
DJ Peter Lee: Well we have done the God Blast America tour, the Providence Industrial/Noise Fest 1, Tarmvred, etc. Klangstabil and the noise fest is still my favorite. We have Law [rah] collective coming May 2nd, with the supporting lineup of WILT, Navicon Torture Tecnologies, and Mindspawn, plus a special open the doors set by MOMENT.
Chain D.L.K.: Is it getting easier to attract bands from Europe to play in Rhode Island?
DJ Peter Lee: Yes, I am starting to have connections with the booking agents. They ask me to do shows regularly now, and we will continue to do shows in Providence.
Chain D.L.K.: Who would you like to have play in New England?
DJ Peter Lee: Militia, or Karljaln Sissit. I really like both of these projects. I am always open for tours though.
Chain D.L.K.: You often lose money on your large shows, but you appear to have no regrets. How long can you keep this up?
DJ Peter Lee: As long as I continue to have the passion and the energy to support the scene.
Chain D.L.K.: What musical trends of 1998-2002 are you glad to see fading? What were the most overblown?
DJ Peter Lee: Nu metal. It’s sterile music, prepackaged for the angry white male, who didn’t like the Back Street Boys, but wasn’t willing to look for new music because he was too busy doing things with his frat brothers.
Chain D.L.K.: Tell me about the “Dark Transmissions” compilation.
DJ Peter Lee: Dark Transmissions was a concept to bring attention to bands that had sent material to my radio show. So had already built up a following, while others were new. I plan to do another in 2005.
Chain D.L.K.: For such an anti-rock musical style, have you encountered many bands with rockstar attitudes?
DJ Peter Lee: Hmmm, yes, but I wont be specific. Seems a lot of people from certain places britches are too big for their own good.
Chain D.L.K.: Fans of extreme music constitute a niche market. Within this niche, there seems to be a great deal of cooperation and cross-promotion. There’s little back-stabbing and bad-mouthing. In this nurturing environment, are some people unwilling to “call a spade a spade” and provide authentic criticism? Do we deny Darwin by praising projects that should be culled?
DJ Peter Lee: Once again, I feel like the noise scene is oversaturated. There are bands that should spend some time refining their sound before performing. Because somebody always knows somebody else and this scene is so incestuous, it’s hard for people to tell them such. We need to have a better system of constructive criticism, where bands realize that you are helping them grow and not coming down on them. This is hard because we are all societal misfits.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you have any pets?
DJ Peter Lee: Yes, an orange cat named Perry.
Visit DJ Peter Lee on the web at:
[interviewed by Eric Ewing] [proofreading by Marc Urselli]