steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

20 questions
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with a cock e.s.p.'s emil hagstrom

Cock E.S.P. needs no introduction.


1. Cock E.S.P. took its name from the title of a Hanatarash track. Why was this name chosen, and how influential have Hanatarash's infamous antics been to Cock E.S.P.'s style and philosophy?

The Hanatarash was one of the first acts to really realize the performance potential of noise. The genre has always been heavy on concept and theory, but the chaos and intensity rarely translates to live performance. The Hanatarash were true professionals and artistic geniuses who presented the cacophonous heritage of everyone from the Futurists to Cage to free improvisation, and complimented it with actions such as driving a bulldozer through a venue wall. They truly brought a dynamic and visceral aspect to noise of which Cock E.S.P. can only hope to be a worthy tribute. Also we thought the word "cock" was funny.

2. Your earlier shows gained notoriety for their debauchery as well as their brevity. Has this changed at all as the band has aged?

The sets have gotten shorter as our physical ability to perform them has decreased - we'll never be able to play our full five-minutes sets again, so we now accept three minutes as our limit.

3. What happened to P.C. Hammeroids? How did Cock E.S.P. change after he left? Are you still in touch?

Like most noise artists, P.C. lost interest in experimental music when he found a girlfriend. He is currently a house-husband in Atlanta, raising three young girls and occasionally playing bass in an 80's Top 40 cover band called Who's Johnny?. A doctor recently told him he has permanent hearing damage dating from his days in Cock E.S.P.

4. What is the story behind Coward Electronics?

Emil began trading tapes with Shaun Kelly of Rotten Piece in 1994, and the pair immediately found a lot of common interests, in particular a love for comedic noise/power-electronics acts such as Macronympha, The Gerogerigegege and Intrinsic Action/Bloodyminded. Coward Electronics is a direct homage and tribute to these brilliant and groundbreaking artists, among others.

5. A large part of Cock E.S.P. is the humour around it, something which was bizarrely rare on the noise scene prior to the band's formation. (How) do you think the scene changed as a result of Cock E.S.P.'s absurdist philosophy?

We wouldn't classify ourselves as being humorous per se. Absurdism certainly can be funny, but we actually don't overtly attempt to be comedic or entertaining. It can happen, but often doesn't, and the result then is anything but funny. To answer the second part of your question, we believe that our antics tend to turn off many young noise artists, thus driving them to create more delicate, droney noise of a higher artistic standard. We would hope that, as a result, Cock E.S.P. has lifted the status of the noise genre as a whole, making it easier to take seriously in artistic circles.

6. How has the noise scene changed IN GENERAL since you got involved? What are your thoughts on recent trends towards noise drone and ostensibly "artistic" (as opposed to, perhaps, "cathartic") noise?

The main change seems to be the time it takes other artists to set up their equipment when we play shows with them. These days, it can take only seconds to plug in a MacBook and start droning; whereas it used to take at least ten minutes for an artist to carry in his Apple Lisa, plug in the keyboard and mouse, boot it up, load the software, then boot it up again after it crashed the first time.

7. What current acts do you particularly admire / respect?

Bulleit, Makers Mark, Knob Creek, Fighting Cock, Sazerak Rye, Jim Beam Black and The Caretaker.

8. How did the legendary Monsters of Cock record come about? Where did the idea come from, and how did you come up with all those brilliant track names? How did so many record labels become involved?

Multiple labels were involved because no single label was willing to risk the full pressing cost on their own. The concept, cover art and all the clever titles were the work of Evil Moisture's Andy Bolus, a true professional, an artistic genius and one of the noise world's most prolific thinkers.

9. Cock E.S.P.'s discography reads like the New York phone booth, which makes this question both difficult and crucial... Name the band's most important release, most elaborate release, most coveted release, and most regrettable release, and briefly explain why.

Our most important release was the "Cocksville" collaboration with Panicsville because Andy Ortmann is a true professional, an artistic genius and one of the noise world's most prolific thinkers. There are 113 Cock E.S.P. releases we would consider "most regrettable" - although the "Excessive Size Punisher" and the split 10-inch with Suffering Bastard stand out due to the large amounts of money we lost producing them. The most elaborate release was the USB flash drive full of MP3's hidden in a condom full of heroin and swallowed by a West African drug mule emigrating to the U.S.

10. On the subject of lengthy discographies, it often seems that noise acts tend to "spread their seed," churning out releases like dandelions in the wind (the original simile was going to involve unwed teen mothers but I thought better of it). Does such an approach risk devaluating the individual releases? Is production more important than the individuality of each release? Or is that the point in a genre so closely tied with industrial music?

Like an unwed teenage mother, most of our activity happened early in our career, but is now fewer and further between, resulting in less money and appreciation, and involves performing alongside older men.

11. Why did you decide to shut down E.F. Tapes (three times)? Any chance of another revival?

We tried to turn a cassette label into a record label because it worked very well for Ecto Tapes, which became Little Mafia Records. The flaw in that logic occurred when people realized that our SunShip Records releases weren't very good.

12. Along that same vein, which director would Cock E.S.P. most want to produce a film score for? What would the movie be about?

We would like to do a soundtrack for one of Jason Wade's 8mm films, especially his biography of Fever Pitch founder Jason Verhagen - because it has a lot more drugs and gay sex than happened in real life.

13. You've worked on splits with countless collaborators. What do you like about the split format, and do you have any notable stories about collaborators?

Twodeadsluts Onegoodfuck insisted on swapping girlfriends with us for a night before proceeding with our split cassette, so that we would all have a better understanding after walking a mile in each other's shoes, so to speak. Also, we had to wash Thurston Moore's car before he would consent to jam with us.

14. It seems like you've been working closely with V/Vm on the Freenoise archives, as many of your out-of-print releases are available there. How involved have you been in the project, and what is your relationship with V/Vm?

V/Vm was the handsome and popular captain of our high school football team who bought us our first beer one weekend when our parents were out of town, and when we were tipsy as a result, encouraged us to record our first noise cassette on a bearskin rug in front of the fireplace.

15. This may be like asking a dog to describe his favourite bone, but tell us about your strangest live experience.

It was probably the one time we played a crusty art-punk warehouse which housed a pitbull named Sally. During our set, Bacon accidentaly kicked her bone across the room -- apparently it was her favorite bone, because he ended up needing 17 stitches.

16. Do you own a copy of everything Cock E.S.P. has been a part of? Any gaps in your collection?

We are missing copies of many early releases - especially on the cassette format - but we do have an extensive collection of unsold t-shirts, unused backstage passes, broken equipment and bitter grudges against former bandmates.

17. Would you rather have sex with a leopard or a leper?

The Jaguar.

18. What are you doing when you're not making music?

Depending on the member, you would most likely to find Cock E.S.P. masturbating, putting clothespins on a businessman's testicles, or processing credit card payments for Metallica CD's.

19. What is your favourite colour? Justify your selection.

The specific shade of blue used in the Facebook logo, because many of our Facebook "friends" are true professionals and artistic geniuses. Except for Richard Ostrom.

20. Some advice, for the young'uns.

Get over it.

interview conducted by Michael Tau
April 2009
published May 2009



all content copyright 2009