The Houston Music Blog section of the Free Press Houston.

Tuesday, April 1, 2024

Richard Ramirez

posted by Ramon Medina - LP4 @ 12:01 AM

Richard Saenz Fashion
Fashion Photography by Jessica Molina

Richard Ramirez Photo by Jovan Hernandez

Richard Ramirez has long been recognized as one of Houston’s most important Noise/ Experimental artists. Whether designing fashion or making music he has been producing challenging work for nearly 20 years with a fierce sense of daring and independence. Ramirez recently was good enough to answer a few questions for us:

FPH: What are you expressing through your music?

RR: At times, I would say aggression through 'noise'. I utilize metal items, chains, broken equipment, film samples, and field recordings for my work. For the most part, it is about taking sounds (natural and electronic) to its extreme. I say extreme because it pushes sound sources to the highest volume that can be created for a recording.

FPH: What attracted you to the noise/experimental genre?

RR: I liked that the artists were pushing the envelope of sound and thinking outside of traditional instruments and structure.

FPH: How do your other endeavors relate to your music?

I am also an 'avant-garde' fashion designer (under the alias, Richard Saenz). In fashion, my work is also about thinking outside of the 'box'. An extreme form of creating garments with irregular stitching burned fabrics, frayed hems, deconstructing items. I think my methods in my 'noise' is very similar to that of my fashion work.

FPH: In what way?

RR: I treat garments for my fashion in unconventional ways. 'noise' is treating equipment/sounds in unconventional ways. With both I sometimes see an item or hear something (field recordings) and I just want to deconstruct what I see or hear. [Noise/experimental is] more 'art' than 'music' for me. It is similar to abstract expressionism.

FPH: How are you distinguishing Art and Music? Isn't Music an artform?

RR: I just would not consider 'noise' to be music. The way I describe what I do is that it's 'sound art'. It may sound pretentious and it's not meant to sound that way. A lot of experimental/noise artist perform in galleries and artspaces. I guess the preference is to be linked to the art community. Maybe it is more accepting than the music industry.

FPH: Can you elaborate on any festivals or international performances you've played?

RR: I performed in Tokyo, Japan a few years back. It was a two day festival. Great turn out!!! They treat you like a 'rock star' which was kind of funny and strange. Last year, BLACK LEATHER JESUS, did a show opening for SONIC YOUTH in Marfa, TX. It was during the Chinati Open House weekend. Thurston and Lee are fans of my work and asked if I'd do it. It was the second time I had met them. My boyfriend, Jovan, and I met them a couple of years ago backstage at their show here. I was scared that their audience would not like us. However, it turned out well.

FPH: Why does noise exists and what part of modern life does it reflect?

RR: Noise is all around us everyday. Noise is part of the destruction of our environment. Sadly, we add to the pollution that exists. IT IS the soundtrack for the end of the world. As horrible as it may sound, I feel it is true.

FPH: Why so?

RR: Noise is chaos to some. Noise is destruction to some. There can be beauty in the ugliness of this genre. It really depends on the artist that creates it. I can only speak for myself and close friends that do this, as well. Not all noise is about negative issues and imagery. Some are about pornography (not necessarily a negative issue), eroticism, fetishism, and humor. There are noise artists are very political, as well.

FPH: How have things changed over the years?

RR: At first, it was difficult. I came 'out of the closet' early on. I got a lot of hate mail from that. There were not too many 'out' experimental/noise artist. I have been here for quite a long time. I am happy with the notoriety and respect that I have gained over the years. I've done so much with my solo and with my side projects. I feel more accepted now more than ever. I now see other 'noise' artists use 'homo-erotic' art (even though some are heterosexual). I don't receive as much hate as previously. I hope it stays that way.

FPH: Do you feel it really informs your music? Do you really think your music would be any different if you were straight?

RR: The artwork would be different (laughs). The noise/power electronics genre is known for its machismo and, at times, misogynist theme material. I wanted to show men in the same manner as women were being shown. It was a 'in your face' attitude with my imagery. I took a chance with it. It represents 'ME'. This is what I love to do (noise) and I so happened to be gay. It was necessary for me to do this regardless of the outcome.

Richard Ramirez will be performing as Werewolf Jerusalem at the No Fun Fest (link) in New York City on May 18th at the Knitting Factory. Later this year, he will also be performing in London. Closer to home he will be performing as Last Rape at the International Noise Conference (link) April 6th at the Jet Lounge.

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