For the last two decades, Eric Wood has anchored either power violence pioneers Man is the Bastard, who disbanded in 1997, or power electronics beasts Bastard Noise, a band that remains more prolific—and, ostensibly, more energetic—than acts with a tenth of the catalogue and half the years.
Given the names of his bands and their misanthropic political bent, one might expect Wood to be a grim sort. Indeed, the third time we spoke by phone, the conversation included lengthy discussions of what cell phone towers are doing to bees, the prominence of sports in news media and Wood's working definition of the middle class—"a dying entity, an entity being destroyed by politicians, war-funding, special interest groups, lobbyists, anything you can name that keeps the rich richer and the poor poorer." And Wood's music in Bastard Noise—a web of tortured tones that strangle and suffocate—pushes the definition of intensity.
But Wood applies positivity with power, too. He raves about other people's music, and he's a spirited collaborator. Experimental giants Keiji Haino and John Wiese have both worked with Bastard Noise, and the band's latest release, a brazen split with Toronto roarers The Endless Blockade, was the byproduct of a mutual admiration society. Wood, who laughs often, is quick to share and stretch his stories. And, even after 20 years of putting it all on the line for music, he seems absolutely committed to reinventing Bastard Noise. On the tour that will bring the band to Raleigh, drums and bass will join the electronic assault, finally connecting Bastard Noise's vitality to Man is the Bastard's legacy. But, for Wood, a self-proclaimed servant of the same iconic skull that's long served as the signifier of all things Bastard, that's been the case all along.
I'm a poor Skull Servant. If my agenda was to just work and not be in a band, I guess I could label myself middle class. But because I basically have nothing to my name all of the time and have put everything into this band and Man is the Bastard and any of those bands that were part of my life, I would consider myself lower middle-class at best. It's the drive that one has inside of himself. Music always excited me, and real good bands that I see in the parallel time period really keep me going. There are a lot of bands that don't tour, so those people might be more stable in their employment. But there's just something about seeing people go for it and making a difference and exceed farther. Those are generally the bands with the people who will take greater risks to improve that band, whereas others might take the risk to improve their employment. Who knows how long any of us are going to be here, man? I just figure life is short, so I just figure we might as well go for it since we're on a roll.
Everyone called Bastard Noise, prior to it having conventional bass and drums integrated into it, a side project. It was never a side project. It has always been a parallel-existing entity alongside Man is the Bastard, at least until Man is the Bastard disbanded. At that moment, it got all the love.
I don't have many side projects right now. I'd like to do something. But Bastard Noise is getting all the time. There's really no time for it anymore. We've got a lot of things on our plate, especially this third record, where we adopted long lost MITB tracks from two splits that never happened back in early '98. Three of the five tracks are getting finished, and they're going to go on this third full-length we're putting out.
Reaching as far as possible musically and having enough downtime to keep wanting to do it and trying to attain peace of mind throughout all that. Those are really the most important things. Staying healthy so that the music can survive and progress to higher levels of satisfaction to ourselves and those that care about us.
You see it a lot in the review "department," they say that Bastard Noise is a side project of Man is the Bastard. It doesn't make me curse like a sailor, but it's just not. It never was. It was born six months after Man is the Bastard, and we gave it a lot.
It was introduced to me through AM radio and driving around. I lived far from school, so my mom had to take me. She was a schoolteacher, and she would take me in her 1968 tan VW Bug. Pop music to me is not the pop music of today—that's robotic, money-making, synthetic audio landfill. In the day, pop music meant soul music. It meant rock music. It was an analogue era, which really does reflect a soul, if you will, because it was much less machine-oriented. Real orchestras existed on recordings. There was no taking the 32nd vocal track of take two and splicing it with the 16th vocal track of take three to ultimately Frankenstein a song together. You basically had to be very good. Pop music was AM radio and being exposed to the rich vocal tone and musicianship of bands like War, Focus, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Minnie Ripperton, Carly Simon, the Stones, The Temptations, Main Ingredient and The Dramatics. They really opened my eyes to what vocal talent and true soul were about.
Yeah, I just say off with their heads, man. It drains me. I don't have too much to comment on there. Most news is bad news. Off with their heads—there are not enough guillotines to go around.
I do still consider Bastard Noise to be a political statement, but I try to, in a more modern sense, keep it more vague. I dig the whole idea of mutated humans due to the Earth disintegrating slowly and recycling itself to squeeze out this horrible animal called human—fucking squeezing it out of the picture. But I try to keep it in a more vague context nowadays because how can you top stuff like early Conflict or Crass? You can make it your own and do things on your own level and make them original by your own standards, but I prefer to go a little more vague and descriptive and monstrous. The experts have already done it.