skzzz! [dispatch 001]: JUSTICE YELDHAM

A writhing, contorting, nauseating, sensational screamingfuckingbloodymess, the 33-year-old Australian glassjaw who performs as Justice Yeldham And The Dynamic Ribbon Device has a show so visceral, so alive, that it can move a room full of the most jaded noisenrrds to gaping-mouthed wonderment. The pock-marked bloke born Lucas Abela, mischievously takes the stage of Denver avant-loft/noisenik playhouse Monkey Mania wearing a belt surrounded by distortion pedals and a single contact mic limply dangling from a wire. He squeezes a tube of KY Jelly all over his weathered mug and into his mouth. He clicks on the pedals and presses he face to a triangle of glass. Hideous black garglescuzz pours out of the speaker, each yelp, hum and fart matching his face’s disgusting rubbery contortions. The sounds are inhuman, but their patterns are most definitely familiar, a hyper-distorted screech-tantrum howling in bone-rattling harmonies, all set to the bittersweet aroma of warm lube. He leaps into the crowd, face twisted into apoplectic distortions, and begins seizuring.

And here is where everyone starts flipping the fuck out.

Abela gnaws on the glass like a lion gutting an antelope. Each sickly crack jettisons through the distortion pedals, blorts out the amp and is followed by the screams of shock, fear, joy and various combinations of the three.

The glass comes smashing down on his face. He waits, panting, for the cheers and screams to die down. His cheek is oozing blood from a sharp red line. His earlobe is sliced open and spitting a steady stream down his neck onto his KY-soaked shirt.

“Thanks, everyone! I have 7”s for sale!”

How did you begin working with glass as a vehicle for sound?
Originally I was a turntablist in the loosest sense of the word. I made monster turntables using industrial motors and played them with swords and shit like that. When I was offered my first tour outside of Australia in ’97, I couldn’t bring my instruments with me and had to try and rebuild these things with limited time in Osaka. Obviously the new ad-hoc versions sucked. The motors weren’t as powerful and every time I would put down my stylus sticks, the motors would just stop. So in order to make a sound at these shows I resorted to shoving what only can be described as amplified skewers into my mouth and vibrated my lips. Since then I’ve been moving away from the decks and have been concentrating on manipulating amplified implements with my mouth.

In January of 2003 I had a show at Lanfranchi’s, a DIY space I am involved in here in Sydney, where I was planning to play a garden hoe. During sound check I noticed a broken sheet of glass staring at me from the corner. It immediately occurred to me that this material would be perfect for my playing as it would enable my audience to view my vocal technique which was being hidden behind the metal of the hoe. So I stuck my mic onto the sheet and was instantly blown away with its resonant capability. I played it for the first time that night and I've been having a love affair with it ever since.

Where do you get your glass? And how do you decide whether a particular piece of glass is right for you?
I scavenger it mostly from the street, at home I collect it and I have a glass library at the dualPLOVER offices just waiting to be destroyed. On tour if there is enough time, I like to find glass from the immediate area when I arrive and occasionally I've broken into abandoned buildings to smash sheets out.

My personal favorite piece that I’ve ever found was in Beirut, Lebanon. Around the corner from the venue I found a pile of this beautifully thick window glass in a disused parking garage above the Beirut-Damascus Taxi Stand, which had been a notorious execution site during the civil war. Amongst the pile was a stellar piece with a Beirut-Damascus taxi stand sticker on it, a highly symbolic and quite provocative image for my Lebanese audience who already thought I looked like a suicide bomber with my pedal belt.

These days I can just smell glass. ln Kobe, where I didn’t have time to go look before the show and asked the promoter to have some ready for me. When I arrived he hadn’t been able to locate any after looking all day. I immediately peeked in the small gap you find between Japanese buildings and found two windows just sitting there.

The glass you find always differs I’ve played everything from textured bathroom stuff to security sheets with reinforced metal embedded into it. This one lot of shelving glass I found in a squat in the Netherlands was weird in that it would not break over my head, no mater how hard I brought it down. Eventually I discovered that if I placed it on my head and slowly tried to bend it over my head with some force it would eventually explode and shower the audience three or so meters in all directions with tiny shards. I used to enjoy playing differing types but more recently have become fond of standard 3-to-4mm thick window panes as it’s easier to get a note from than thicker glass and won’t break when you touch it like the thinner stuff.

I carry a glass cutter these days and like to shape the sheets into a scalene triangle usually a meter long and half-a-meter wide. This shape makes it easier to hold, play and slide up and down my face. I also find I can make some great sounds by playing the pointy bit.

Your site says the show in Lisbon was the bloodiest show of all. When did you realize how deep you had cut yourself?
Well, I cut myself right at the very start of that show. The sheet just broke as I raised it to my face to play and lacerated my forehead. Fortunately [it was] right across my frown-mark so the scar is well-hidden.

I didn't realize it was bad until the blood literally starting flowing across what was left of the glass as I played on. All I can remember seeing is this unfocused stream of red running across the glass, beautifully backlit by the venue’s lighting. I must admit, this unnerved me a bit and affected my playing somewhat, so musically I don’t think it was my best presentation ever. However, I finished it off nicely. It was carnival that night in Lisboa and the stage at ZDB has a shopfront window just to the left that looks directly out onto the streets, which where teeming with people. I noticed a crowd had gathered around the window trying to figure out what was I was doing inside, so I pulled the mic from the remains of the sheet and stuck it directly onto the shopfront window. Then I played the window like a motherfucker for a final minute or so. When I stopped and stepped back, the entire window was RED, apparently someone called the cops.

Although some of my performances can be bloody, I’d like to point out that this is simply symptomatic and not my goal. I don’t want to be a G.G. Allin type character. What I do is not a sideshow and I sincerely believe that the glass is a true instrument and that its playing is the most important part of what I do. I concede I’m also a showman and try to use the danger element to excite my audiences, biting and smashing the sheets, but I do not go out of my way to cut myself up. For instance the last tour I did was 40 shows, and the only truly bloody ones where Nashville, Easthampton and Tokyo. If people only came for the bloodsport, then there should have been a lot of disappointed people at the other 37 shows.

It’s also quite cathartic experience for me, if I can say such a word without being taken for a wanker. When I play I get into an ecstatic state, lost in the music, almost so much that the pain simply doesn’t register. I honestly don’t perceive the pain while playing. I’m more likely to wince when cleaning up afterwards and get a small shard stuck in my figure even though earlier I was shoving its parent piece down my gob!

What do your parents have to say about you cutting yourself open every night for a month?
I tell my parents as little as possible, they know I play glass but don’t know I intentionally crack it over my skull. My worst facial scar happened in Brisbane, where my parents live, and I had to go home that night with this two-centimeter-long gash on my cheek. They wanted me to go get stitches, but I knew better. I said it was an accident, which is true. I play with my eyes closed most of the time, and was so disorientated I walked into a wall while playing, lacerating my left cheek. And [I told them] that I’m careful, which is also true… to an extent!

Besides his glass candy and shattered theatre, Yeldham runs the whimsically weird record label dualPLOVER. He may or may not have 7”s coming out on a couple of fancypants American noise labels later this year.

MP3: "230304 Zurich"
Video: Live In Rochester 250305 (slow-loading but totally worth it)


Post a Comment

<< Home