Nice Noise

a production

Background

Nice Noise was a live → ↑ → project, developed specifically as a 'rock concept'. Throughout all the punk, post-punk and power pop proclamations of the late 70s, Rock was a contested site where 'the real' would be fought over, reclaimed, and hoisted like a victorious flag. Nice Noise sought to drain Rock music - both its historical legacies and its many newly-clothed emperors - and present the blunt yet powerful sound of Rock in and of itself, stripped of heated myth and shorn of expressive meaning.

Leigh Parkhill, Ralph Traviato, Philip Brophy & Anthony Montemurro - Crystal Ballroom © 1979

The Nice Noise set was performed in a variety of venues, but most of the concerts took place in pubs. At the time in Australia, pubs were seen as the life blood of rock music. In such a setting, the 'meta-rock' of Nice Noise could be described as a band getting everything wrong: the instrumental music was devoid of raging lyrics, the repetitive nature of the songs often induced boredom, and the group never spoke to the audience. Fortunately, a number of venues kept booking the set, making it one of → ↑ →'s most performed and most popular projects.

For Nice Noise, a colour-coded identity was assigned to the four members: blonde, red, black, brown. Each member wore a jumper of their colour (or special screen-printed shirts), and for the early performances the band played in front of 4 large-scale cardboard reproductions of 4 boxes of "Recital" hair dye (as depicted on the records and posters), each in one of the 4 colours. The idea was a poe-faced take on the band with 4 individual identities, here rendered like a Warholian super-artificial version of the Ramones.

Leigh Parkhill & Ralph Traviato - Crystal Ballroom © 1980

Credits

Compositions & drums - Philip Brophy
Bass synthesizer - Anthony Montemurro (1978-1979); Maria Kozic (1979-1981)
Guitar - Leigh Parkhill
Saxophone - Ralph Traviato
Recording engineers - John Campbell & Chris Wyatt

Nice Noise EP - 1st pressing © 1979

1978

Melbourne - Clifton Hill Community Music Centre

1979

Melbourne - Clifton Hill Community Music Centre; Crystal Ballroom; Marijuana House; Exford Hotel; Hearts; warehouse parties
Nice Noise 7" EP - 1st pressing released
Nice Noise 7" EP - 2nd pressing released

1980

Melbourne - Crystal Ballroom; Macy's Hotel; Hearts; 475 Club; Exford Hotel; Victorian College of the Arts; Paradise Lounge; Preston Institute of Technology; warehouse parties

1981

Sydney - His Governor's Pleasure; Cell Block; warehouse parties

1983

Nice Noise 7" EP - included on the Muzak Rock & Minimalism compilation LP - Present Records, Melbourne

Nice Noise EP - 2nd pressing © 1979

Overview

From the original 1981 programme notes

Since we first performed Nice Noise in August 1978, its slogan has always been "Exposing and glorifying the structural tactics of commercial music." Nice Noise is all about being a rock band. All the songs in this set each look at different aspects of what could loosely be called the semiology of rock music. Areas covered include the function of the 'solo',the prominence of a melody line; the effect of a key change; cyclical structures; the varying guises and disguises of repetition; the 'perfect' pop song myth; stylistic quoting; ironic gesturing; etc.

Nice Noise attempts to analyse the structural history of rock music (or parts thereof) and through the writing and performance of the songs present to an audience a specific view of how a rock band implicates itself in its relationship to the history of rock music. Thus, when in the reality of a pub gig, we generally appear to be incompetent, unoriginal, impersonal and anonymous. In short - the essential rock band.

Philip Brophy & Maria Kozic - Crystal Ballroom © 1980

Technical

Set list

Original songs

1. 3 Note Song (1976)
2. One Note Song (1976)
3. Nice Noise Theme(1978)
4. Rock Song (1977)
5. Doing Very Little (1977)
6. Song in 5/4 Time (1978)
7. Various Sections (1978)
8. Reggae Song (1979)
9. Wallpaper Music (1979)

Cover versions

10. Sister Ray (The Velvet Underground - 1967)
11. Rock'n'Roll Part 3 (Gary Glitter - 1971)
12. Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin - 1970)
13. Why? (Yoko Ono & The Plastic Ono Band - 1971)
14. Here Come The Warm Jets (Brian Eno - 1973)
15. Third Uncle (Brian Eno - 1974)
16. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (John Williams - 1977)
17. Funky Town (Lipps Inc. - 1979)

Some years after → ↑ → had ceased performing live, the article series The Sound of Rock was published in Stuffing No.2. It outlines the records, bands and production which influenced and shaped the Nice Noise project.

Leigh Parkhill, Ralph Traviato & Philip Brophy - Crystal Ballroom © 1980

Recording

The Nice Noise EP contains 4 original songs from the live set. "Nice Noise Theme" sounds like a phrase from a Glam-stomper caught in an endless loop. "Doing Very Little" is a one-chord dirge (think Neu doing AC/DC slowly) that suddenly breaks into a solo, then returns to its dirge. "Rock Song" has 2 notes - one sticks in its rut for half of the song; the second note is a semi-tone above and features a delusional energetic shift upward. "One Note Song" is the unofficial → ↑ → anthem. It's only one note, and appears on each of the first 3 EPS by the group, each time rendered in a veneer appropriate to each project: rock for the Nice Noise EP; minimalist for the Minimalism EP; and muzak for the Venitian Rendezvous EP.

The production for the Nice Noise EP is severe, blunt and utilitarian. The drums and bass synth are mixed in the centre, the guitar to extreme left, and the sax to extreme right. Like primitive stereo recordings, the record assigns its spatialization in the most obvious way.

Philip Brophy & Maria Kozic - Crystal Ballroom © 1980

Leigh Parkhill, Philip Brophy, Ralph Traviato & Maria Kozic - warehouse party © 1979

Ralph Traviato & Anthony Montemurro; Leigh Parkhill & Philip Brophy - Clifton Hill Community Music Centre, Melbourne © 1978