We recently interviewed the maniac at Novichok Electronic Warfare Systems. Novichok is a homegrown label that specialises in noise and experimental music that pushes the boundaries of music, culture and good taste in general.
We’ve just chucked some of their releases on the webstore, so check that out if you crave the fringe of the underground. You’re here reading this, so you’re probably a bit cracked anyway…
BAD HABIT: Hello. Why do you release these records?
Novichok: Novichok Electronic Warfare Systems is a private contractor dealing in vinyl records, providing weapons-grade audial salvos for financial gain. It’s best to accelerate, solidify and capture the production of a more capable, integrated label platform for Australian noise and power electronics.
The establishment of an industrial-noise vinyl only label – or at least to strengthen the tendencies in this direction – is its reason for being.
It has begun operations with split 7″s of Australian-International & Aust.-on-Aust. noise. The aim is to attempt to present everything currently happening in this country from an objective point of view, primarily to an international audience. Hence some of the local acts sharing sides with international allies.
To reiterate, the main aim is to promote and export Aus. noise/P.E. on vinyl.
BH: They’re all splits – what’s the connection between each band?
N: Splits are an opportunity for two acts to collaborate, in as much as they share sides of a record together. There’s a real opportunity for some unique creations to be carved out in this format.
Splits are important for consistency in establishing the label, but the Novichok label won’t necessarily continue on the splits ad infinitum.
BH: What made you think they should be on records?
N: Every release that’s come out is deserving of the format. Vinyl is the superior medium, and all of the names that have been released on the label have been long overdue for a vinyl of their own.
BH: Tell us a bit about each of these records – how they came about and what made you think they should be on records…
N: Most recently, we’ve done our first archival record, an extract of the debut Krang Music cassette by John Murphy. This is the landmark Krang Music tape that is one of the most sought after items by collectors of early industrial noise and power electronics.
It is apparent that for many long decades, before the internet and Discogs et al, this tape was only really mentioned in the Inner City Sound book.
It’s important to note that this extract was taken from the original master tape of the release, not an original copy of the release back in 1981, unlike the inferior versions currently uploaded to YouTube. I implore all to seek out this superior version cut to high quality vinyl, to listen in your audiophile bubble or pod or bunker or what have you.
It’s also interesting to behold the original tape cover where it can be seen how John literally wore his influences on his sleeve. Not sure if you could call this a formative influence or fully formed work in its own right.
This record was a great honour for Novichok to release. Put together in a timely manner by Andy Lonsdale to commemorate the 40 years since the initial tape release. Buttressed nicely with a tribute on the BM side.
N: It was really satisfying to bring back Ebola Disco in 2021, the big guns of the local power electronics scene, with not one but two records. It’s no small feat to have existed as a noise duo for nearly 25 years.
Ebola Disco exist uniquely, having begun as a teenage band with 7MON and noisecore as much of an influence as noise/P.E. Indeed they’ve got an approach influenced by that which can be heard on many recordings.
The track pressed for the first release on the Novichok label, “River Ratz”, was initially intended for a split 7” with another group but that was later abandoned in favour of inclusion on their Discography compilation CD. So, it seemed natural to finally give it a proper release of its own.
Armenia, from the other side of the Pacific, is perhaps the only noise act who could have combined with Ebola Disco’s suffocating and humid form of power electronics. He had previously offered to do a split 7” with Ebola Disco, so it was a great opportunity to fulfill that ambition and see a release come to fruition.
When I hit him up for a torrid harsh noise assault to put on wax, he was locked down in Ecuador during a devastating wave of coronavirus and described the bodies piling up on the streets that he saw daily at one point.
N: In that same sense, it has been very satisfying to finally get out the debut Psychward vinyls. The two long-overdue debut vinyl releases from long time local apocalyptic harshhead Psychward really do a great job at shining a light on the diversity of the project, which is very satisfying to hear and see on vinyl.
As an act and a label operator (Magik Crowbar), his approach has been very influential across the scene. He began doing runs of tapes at a time when there was little of anything resembling a local noise scene. Indeed Psychward began back then as an outlet among his many other powerviolence/no wave projects. Contextually, that is important in noting the variety of Psychward’s output (and The Psychward Cult collective).
The circumstances in which he has been operating since the late 2000s was very influential and I hope that Novichok’s debut Psychward vinyls capture something of that.
The latest 7″ has been aptly described as post-mortem junk/abstract P.E., but what he brings to the table to me sounds almost like Will Over Matter at times or a Genocide Organ loop. It’s split with the debut release of Concentration – a new act stationed in Byron who contributes a killer track with a heavy sound of the death industrial denomination. Stylistically, these two sides complement each other very well.
N: This came together in the aftermath of lockdowns when a Psychward/Крот show in Georgia had to be cancelled. So, despite the long distance between Melbourne and Tbilisi, they have managed to get together this artefact instead.
It’s a weird one. It really has its own vernacular stamp to it, rather than fitting any expected mould. The cover is a photograph of an old character on the streets of eastern Ukraine, and the record’s sides have been informally dubbed the “nang side” and “k-hole” side.
This has been the biggest leap of faith so far in the label’s catalogue; to just take a step back and let the acts come up with whatever they wanted. Indeed, the Крот side has been described as somewhat akin to the style of Angus MacLise’s “Dreamweapon” but recorded in a remote Georgian village.
Крот is something of an enigma; the man behind it is an Aussie expat in the Caucasus who would probably prefer to keep more of a low profile. The output and gigs have been sporadic and haphazard at best, so it’s good to have been able to press something on wax.
BH: You don’t have a Bandcamp or really any internet presence. And the music is pretty strange and inaccessible. Is there a conscious choice to be isolated in that sort of way? Is it a sort of defence mechanism against a cruel, stupid world? Or something else?
N: It’s a noise label not a lifestyle brand, so there is limited appeal, thus it’s probably not worth flooding the internet’s various social media outlets with a presence. Novichok already has an effective network of distribution and the records do considerably well, so no other selling points are really required.
BH: Do you think connections to some sort of community are important? Is there a cathartic value in just the act of making abrasive marginal sounds? Can “noise” music just exist in like a dank vacuum? I feel like there’s some sort of abstract tension between isolation and the repelling of musical norms and wanting to be validated and maybe celebrated by sections of society. What do you think?
N: Yes, all of the Novichok products are intended for those interested in noise/power electronics, and ‘connection’ or establishment within a fan base is important to be able to get the records out there.
‘Community’ only in the sense of people willing to buy the records, but there is a common respect there between the label and its consumers. I’m sure there is a purely experiential aspect of noise that escapes words, in reference to what you have mentioned. But all of the products are intended to reach the hands of those interested.
The various parts of your question can be dissolved into the explanation that there’s an effective balance between the connection and isolation that you mentioned.
BH: Final comments?
N: If only this great land of ours that holds a whopping 30% of the world’s uranium reserves could establish itself as a nuclear power then maybe we could secure the safety of our noise collections.