4 Rock Stars You Didn’t Know Were from Another Dimension: NONZOO, an Exclusive Exposé
by Noah Jones
The band Nonzoo has slowly integrated themselves into the Chicago music community since March 2016. They may seem like your classic weirdo charming punks, but when Sick Muse investigatory journalist Noah Jones sat down to talk them, he made a shocking discovery.
The members of Nonzoo are not people—they are zeople. What’s more, they are not from Earth—they are from the planet Nonzoo. In fact, they are not even from this dimension. I know this sounds incredible but it is all true! They are alien beings, zeople from another mirror universe. And really, this does a good bit in explaining the outlandish and totally quadridimensional mind boggling nature of their music, which has been befuddling Chicago listeners for the past half year. What I relate to you below my dear readers was compiled from an interview with Nonzoo’s members, and its veracity has been thoroughly researched and confirmed by our staff here at The Sick Muse.
First off, let’s just lay down the facts about the band:
Twitch: Dr. Earwig H. Airplug (Earth alias: Sam), vocals
Plink: Feline Flight Officer Itchy Felicette (Earth alias: Richard), guitar
Click: Mateo De Soto Pop, Duke of Sandwiches (Earth alias: Matt), drums
Klang: Roland Mosseury (Earth alias: Joe), bass guitar
GENRE: Government-subsidized Interplanetary Shania Twain Christmas Cover Band
HOMETOWN: Nonzooton, D.C. — THE ZEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF NONZOO
RECORD LABEL: The Zeople’s Republic of Nonzoo’s Major Record Label
AWARDS: The Zeople’s Republic of Nonzoo’s Enriched Uranium Medal of Propaganda Excellence
INTERESTS: Tail-grafting. Macaroni Necklaces.
GENDER: Neutral (It)
So what do we know about this planet Nonzoo where our alien friends hail from? Well Nonzooton is the remote capital of planet Nonzoo and it’s actually directly underneath Washington D.C, growing in the opposite direction from its foundations. It’s kind of a mirror reflection if you will, another dimension fit snugly over our reality, like a flannel. Nonzooton is like a Washington DC hellscape, with monuments, malls, and frozen yogurt shops that correspond exactly to the monuments, malls, and frozen yogurt shops in DC. The monuments are all made of various materials derived from uranium, macaroni, and meatballs, the key elements that make up Nonzoo.
The planet Nonzoo is populated by a lot of non-naturally born mutants. So, not like the naturally born mutants in X-men (and besides, everyone knows there are no real X-men… that was a fictional movie, unlike Nonzoo, which is all too real). The inhabitants of Nonzoo, popularly called zeople, resemble the reptilian creatures of our planet, but notably have many extra appendages that are added on over the course of their life. These appendages range in size, material, and purpose. They are all derivative of creatures crafted by super cool scientists and politicians for reasons not exactly understood by us, but we do know that these lizard creatures are slowly taking over the human Washington DC, one reptilian at a time. Some posit that Donald Trump is a rogue creature from Nonzoo attempting to take over Washington DC and then use it as a base to attack Nonzooton.
Before coming to Chicago, Nonzoo was the official band for the Zeople’s Republic of Nonzoo. They played exclusively Shania Twain covers, and were subsidized by the government for the purpose of building morale for the war effort against the Tralfamadorians. For our uninformed readers, Tralfamidorians are an alien race that hail from the planet Tralfamadore, most popularly known by their description in the novels of Kurt Vonnegut, the most accomplished intergalactic anthropologist of our time. In his seminal work Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut describes Tralfamidorians as such:
They were two feet high, and green, and shaped like plumber’s friends. Their suction cups were on the ground, and their shafts, which were extremely flexible, usually pointed to the sky. At the top of each shaft was a little hand with a green eye in its palm. The creatures were friendly, and they could see in four dimensions. They pitied Earthlings for being able to see only three. They had many wonderful things to teach Earthlings about time.
The band’s glory days where in the ’90s when they achieved high commercial success in Nonzooton. In ’96 they won a very prestigious award: The Zeople’s Republic of Nonzoo’s Enriched Uranium Medal of Propaganda Excellence. The medal was awarded for the slimy and sludgy brilliance of their first album and the hard work they put into enforcing the mandatory purchasing of the record, to help fund military campaigns against Tralfamadore. A dictum was issued making it compulsory for all citizens to buy the album. Punishment for failing to purchase the album was the adding of an appendage to your person, which is the punishment of choice for nearly all crimes committed on Nonzoo. The album was a stunning success, hailed by critics as the definitive 5th dimensional translation of Shania Twain’s music. The difficulty involved in translating something as abstract and aesthetic as music from one dimension to the next is a huge mathematical undertaking; it involves a dizzying myriad of double eigentransformations, solving an infinite amount of transcendental partial derivatives, and violating Lorentz invariance. Forget Battles, this is true math rock. These days in Chicago, all of the songs played by Nonzoo are mutated variations of the Shania Twain song “Man I Feel Like A Woman” retranslated back into our dimensions from their original translation from our dimension to the Nonzoo dimension. Complicated stuff…
After the success of the 90s the band took a downward spiral, bogged down in various terrible reality TV shows that the band acted in to make enough money to fuel their addictions to macaroni related drugs. A scandal made national news when it was discovered that the guitarist, Richard, was studying guitar with Tralfamadorian masters and played a mostly Tralfamadorian style. The discovery that the lead guitarist for the official republic band was aesthetically colluding with the enemy led to huge backlash against the band.
Eventually gentrification in Nonzooton pushed them out, so they moved to Chicago to start over. Gentrification in Nonzooton is extremely rampant these days because of inflation and increasing economic disparity. The inflation is a result of the fact that the Republic of Nonzoo is very much in debt to the Tralfamadorians, which is partly why they decided to go to war with them.
While most of the zeople of Nonzoo have turned their backs on the band, they still have one extremely important supporter, Princess Zoznoo, Salamander In Chief and ruler of The Zeople’s Republic of Nonzoo. Princess Zoznoo is a magical Salamander surround in magical vapor and gas, omniscient when it comes to slime, and is physically present at the band’s show in the form of the sweat on the bassist Joe’s brow. A beneficent ruler of all things moist, she currently writes all the music for the band while still having time to look after planet Nonzoo’s affairs of state.
Well that will do for a short synopsis of the band’s history and a cursory description of our neighboring world of Nonzoo. But the reader would probably like to know more about the individual band members and listen to their own words. Below we present their typed responses to our questions, using their Earth names for clarity.
NJ: What musical influences do you bring into Nonzoo?
Matt: 90s rock, Boston underground, world beats, electronic music.
Joe: I was personally raised on [when it comes to music] what could be classified as math-rock and also a lot of really aggressive dissonant hardcore [Deadguy, Kiss It Goodbye, Coalesce]. A lot of my initial tastes were definitely warped and mutated by my exposure to the catalog of labels like Skingraft and ThreeOneG … but the final blow/nail to the coffin of any chance at a non-skewed musical perception came once the works of Captain Beefheart and His magic band started clicking and making sense to me … I feel, like many, that their work unlocked an almost completely dormant portion of my brain and let it not only come out to play but virtually lead me along. Very personally influential stuff to me also: Ornette Coleman on every level, This Heat, John Carpenter soundtracks, Congotronics musical series, DNA, Talking Heads’ Remain In Light record, Dazzling Killmen. These days I listen to a lot of classic Warp records IDM, 90’s hip-hop, also juke/footwork. When it comes to Nonzoo I think the main influences I bring to the table are my equally strong love for afrobeat, no-wave, really aggro dissonant hardcore and the more bombastic epic strains of shoegaze … oh and not ashamed to admit this, Korn! I feel that right amount of extreme sonic juxtaposition can often make for really interesting music. Another belief to file under personal musical “philosophy”, if you will, is that identity ALWAYS trumps craft!
Sam: Thinking back to when I first consciously began seeking out music to my taste… It has always been dark, industrial or otherwise sonically jarring things that appeal to me. I don’t like pretty, palatable things because that’s not real to me. Early on I got into punk by default as an adolescent because it was such an accessible medium for identity building and just being naughty for the sake of naughtiness. But straight up punk often came up short to me in terms of written content and structure. Within punk, Queercore was the sweet spot- my mind was blown when I heard bands like God is My Co-Pilot and Ethyl Meatplow. Locally, the band Coughs really did it for me- it was raw, industrial, driving, excruciating, with these crude often childlike lyrics- everything I wanted to be. I also have a huge soft spot for David Yow of Scratch Acid and the Jesus lizard- especially in his wordier songs like “Postcoital Glow” and “Inflicted by Hounds”… He was really more of an influence in my old band though. Since joining Nonzoo bands like Fat Worm of Error, Normal Love, and Captain Beefheart have become influences as well.
Richard: Most importantly Beefheart, but I’m also really into jazz, no wave, Tropicalia & Zeuhl bands. Top 3 artists of all time would be Beefheart, Django Reinhardt & Eskaton.
NJ: What non-musical influences do you bring into Nonzoo?
Matt: Cartoons, painting, sandwiches.
Joe: I have a background in visual arts and design that somehow worms its way by default into any even remotely creative endeavor I spend time on. I could say the same for the absurdist streak in my sense of humor. I like when things are stretched just enough past the place where they still make general sense and then lapse into delirium “logic”. A less obvious but no less important influence for me is the fact that I was raised on playing sports [soccer and track mainly] before I even got into music on any level, I think the athleticism, physicality and routine expectation to push oneself past comfort limit still informs the way I approach the instrument and its sonics. The discipline involved is also an influence on the overall process. I am no longer the avid book reader I used to be a few years back but I feel that the works of writers belonging to the Oulipo group have left a permanent stamp on how I process, consume, and approach anything that involves creativity. From the Oulipo canon I can’t recommend enough Raymond Queneau’s Exercises In Style, Georges Perec’s Life A User’s Manual and A Void, and Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities and If On a Winter’s Night A Traveler.
Sam: Growing up I was alone a lot and didn’t speak much- reading, writing, and visual art were the surrogate world. My lyrics tend to be more visual or fantasy based as opposed to “I” statements – I love language that works on multiple levels, like a lenticular visual. The writers I have consistently returned to for inspiration recently are Kathy Acker, Henry Miller, J G Ballard, Samuel Beckett… All those perverts.
Physicality and energy are crucial to me. I’m a bike messenger in ‘real life’, the thrill of pushing the body through sensory hyper stimulation, all these split-second reactions, toward its physical limit, carries over from that and into my work as a front person and vocalist. In Nonzoo we’re all very physical on stage – we all naturally share an athletic mentality inherent in the way we play.
Richard: Writing. My formal education is in literature & poetry and my professional pursuits are in writing. I’m into the likes of McCarthy, John Berryman, Borges & of course Vonnegut.
NJ: How is a Nonzoo song birthed?
Matt: Scraping brains, drawing uncontrollable lines, bashing our skulls, gluing the remains together.
Joe: That varies honestly, although it seems that a good chunk of the time I bring in ideas for a partial structure blueprint, sometimes just individual parts that mutate drastically once everyone else adds in their input. But we have songs that have also begun from stray guitar parts or a bass and drums impromptu “jam”. Parts often are unrecognizable by the time they get edited or shaped into their final form … I also feel that a song is never finished and keeps on changing slightly with each performance as new wrinkles and possible angles are discovered … and that is honestly what keeps it fun for me, the ability to still shape and reshape a sound within certain given bounds, even to the point where the bounds are somewhat circumvented but still respected! A general rule for Nonzoo though is that the guitar and bass tend to operate in different zones as opposed to directly referencing one another and that at times sounds are generated and treated so that it’s hard to tell whether they are coming from the guitar or the bass. Also everything needs to have a strong rhythmic foundation and propulsion even, there’s never too much of that as far as I’m concerned!
Sam: Slowly, meticulously, excruciatingly…
Richard: Our songs always start with an idea from Joe or me that gets run into the ground over & over again until we have something playable between the 3 instruments.
NJ: You all play a lot with the timbre of your respective instruments. What are you favorite sounds that have come out of this experimenting? In the future, are there any new sounds you are looking to incorporate into your music?
Matt: Been pretty happy with some of the robo-afro beats that have come from it – deep drums mixed with angular cymbals in mechanical patterns. Looking forward to more unusual percussive accents.
Joe: The answer to this could be very long quite honestly as a big part of what we work with has to do with less orthodox ways of playing our instruments. I can say that we use harmonics [both fake and natural] quite a bit because of how close they can get our instruments to sound like tuned percussion used in music like gamelan. Overtones to [attempt to] build a wall of sound. Extreme lows to extreme highs within phrases for a jarring, displacing effect. I make frequent use of sliding techniques for chromatic blurring as well as a kind of whipping effect. In general I can say that the ultimate goal is to sort of shape a sonic identity that can feel somewhat like our own and can be readily identified as such. To that end the implementation and accumulation of personal idiosyncrasies as part of our vocabulary is really important as well as a never ending process. We are definitely currently toying with new sounds and new approaches to structuring songs even but I will not go into detail on this … I’d rather it’d be a surprise once the new material is ready to be performed. I think it’ll be interesting at the very least.
Sam: Since I’ve started to see there’s a ton of things that can be done with the voice as a noise instrument as opposed to a language delivery device… With this first round of songs I think I’ve only started to scrape the surface of what else I can do. I’d like to dispense with my constrictive wordiness and become more open and abstract vocally.
Richard: I’m currently trying to diversify my timbres/textures, seeking out new gear and appendages … because there’s so many ‘tricks’ i’ve already exhausted with our first batch of songs. I’m most proud of what I call my ‘mad watch.’ The mad watch isn’t particularly versatile and currently only lends itself to one song, but if I ever see someone else doing it I can say with confidence that I did it first. Without going into too much detail I’d just say that the mad watch is a sort of extended technique I’ve come up with myself that produces an elephant-like sound without the use of any effects.
NJ: So you’ve been working on recording! When and where can we expect to see the recordings when they’re done?
Joe: Recording is completely finished but we’re taking our time with the mixing part of it to do the material sonic justice and I think it’ll be worth the wait. That is the extent of the answer I can give for now.
NJ: When is your next Chicago show?
Joe: Our next show is on November 10th at Good Lil’ Base with the esteemed mutants in Lovely Little Girls, Denton TX’s very slippery Sexual Jeremy and one of my current favorite bands operating at the moment, Hardbody from St Louis.
NJ: Merriam Webster defines zoo as:
1. a: a garden or park where wild animals are kept for exhibition
b: a collection of living animals usually for public display
2. a place, situation, or group marked by crowding, confusion, or unrestrained behavior
So what is a nonzoo?
Sam and Joe: A nonzoo is all the sensations of a zoo chopped and mixed up, but strained and rid of the concept of imprisonment. All creatures in the zoo are let free but in very specific ways. So there is less control and more control at the same time. Less direct control of creatures and things, but more control in the way that creatures are let free, it’s a deceptive freedom…