Sometimes, the most defiling muck lurks just beneath the surface of the seemingly normal.
Human Fluid Rot is the handle of blond Fort Lauderdale lad and noise aficionado Robert Wilson Brantley, a fixture of the South Florida freak scene who strokes the boundaries of sonic decency and flips off any and all aural authority other than total disorder.
But unlike all the preternaturally damaged scum that carries on with its harshness and bleak reflections on culture and society, Brantley is usually spotted with an ear-to-ear smile conveying convivial enthusiasm.
However, do not let this this exterior fool you: Human Fluid Rot drops some of the most gratingly chaotic atonality this side of modern plumbing, and experiencing it might cause abnormal organ function and cerebral scrambling. Armed with a small noise table and an assemblage of pedals, mixers, and various other pieces of gear, Brantley unleashes a layered wall of sound that pummels with nuance.
His good-humored aura and beaming gaze -- visible only from the side of Mr. Fluid Rot, since he often plays with his back to the audience -- gives his live performances a sense of demented preciousness. There's a mix of nostalgia for when things were OK, if not totally groovy, combined with the paranoid dread that you and the rest of the world might just be tearing ass to a place of wholesale insanity.
In advance of his upcoming tour with Ozone Leash, which kicks off at Churchill's Pub on Thursday, we exchanged emails with Brantley to talk about growing up, how he got into (anti-)music, and about his recent performance from one of the infamous thrones at everybody's most beloved shithole.
New Times: Where were you born? Tell about your personal life.
I was born in Pompano Beach and come from a loving family. Unlike most musicians who seem to get interviewed, I did not come from neglectful and abusive parents who split up in my teenaged years and ruined my life, where I then rebelled and turned to a life of harsh, filthy noise. I'm a normal guy. I have a job and a house. It just so happens I love to express myself through all types of music.
How'd you get into noise? What were some formative musical experiences that bent you toward the atonal and tinnitus-inducing?
You could say I was into all this stuff early on in life. I always liked structured music but leaned toward more aggressive tones as I grew. I liked sounds. Just random tones and bleeps.
I had an old Fisher Price voice recorder that had a microphone attachment which I'd press against the speaker to make high-pitched squeaks and feedback. It was the coolest thing to me. I got my first real guitar at the age of 13 with no knowledge of how to play. I'd sit in my room and make awful noises with that thing. I still have it. At this point, it's incredibly different but works just the same. You could say I got myself into what is called "noise."
I missed the recent edition of Kenny Millions' Be Creative or Die series where you sat on the toilet and played a set. Tell me, as poetically as possible, what that experience was like and whether or not you were actually pooping, and can you prove it?
Kenny and I get along really well and have been friends for a few years now. He and I see this noise thing pretty equally. Kenny approached me in this particular instance because this BCOD would be one themed by "gross shit." Kenny had plans to perform a set that involved vomit and did not disappoint. Other acts did other immoral things.
I agreed some time prior that my set would involve defecating into a toilet while I was performing, and yes, I went through with it. My only proof for the act was after I cleaned myself, I proceeded to show the audience the paper. I'm not embarrassed or ashamed. Why would I be? People clapped! Realistically, it was just something to do. I'm not trying to impress anyone or be cutting-edge. I'm just being me. Last time I checked, we all poop. Granted, most don't do it in front of an audience immersed in a wall of painful sounds, but that was part of the point for this show.
What do you think of all the hype and despair surrounding the sale of Churchill's?
Churchill's is (or was) a home for me. There's no question there. I think a large number of folks in South Florida feel that way and probably say the same thing. That shouldn't surprise anyone. I'll be honest: I stayed in the shadows when all the Churchill's changes came about. I did so because realistically it's none of my business -- there was probably nothing I could do, and only money talks.
Of course I'm affected by the changes that have taken place, but I've always been told that life goes on, and I tend to believe that. In over 15 years of playing live music, I've seen dozens of clubs close, reopen, and come out of nowhere. It happens. Although nothing compares to Churchill's, I can't wait to see what's next.
Of all the rotten fluids that seep out of us humans, what's your favorite?
I don't like the ones that seep out. I'm particular to the fluids that are put in. Specifically formaldehyde. I find its preservation qualities and odor interesting and dark. Nothing like it.
Ozone Leash and Human Fluid Rot Destroy Florida Tour kicks off 9 p.m., Thursday, May 15, presented by Roofless Records with Sharlyn Evertsz, the Siamese Pearl, LAST, Chris Donaldson, Body Garden, and Death Talisman VII, at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami.
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