Sound as a Weapon: Integrity's Dwid Hellion on Psywarfare's Legacy
Listen to some locked away sets from the power electronic powerhouse, as well.
Crossing over from straight edge revenge to worshipping Satan and obsessing over Charles Manson via a prodigious intake of LSD and mushrooms, the career path of Integrity and it’s salty frontman / founder Dwid Hellion has always been extremely interesting.
One chapter in his 20 plus year career as an artist that hasn’t been explored that much until now is a power electronics side project called Psywarfare. Previously unheard recordings of this project are now being released in a cute vinyl package, so I used this as an excuse to call up my old pal and talk about what the fuck is going on with him, Pyswarfare and the latest news on Integrity.
NOISEY: How did Psywarfare come about?
Dwid Hellion: With Integrity, I had been experimenting with sound. Like the introduction to Those Who Fear Tomorrow starts off with an infrasonic rumble with Henry Lee Lucas samples on top. Sort of like a poor man’s Whitehouse. Then in 1993, when I watched on CNN the ATF assault on Koresh in Waco, Texas and they had the standoff situation. Early on they implemented sound as a means to get Koresh to surrender. And that really interested me. The idea that sound could be used as a weapon. That was the point where I decided to really pursue Psywarfare as a project.
What kind of gear did you have? The WASP synth?
No. Nothing as nice as that. I had mostly self-modified effects. Boss effect pedal company made a series of mini-racks that were easy to manipulate into a nightmarish fray of sound. I also had a tone generator which would make some incredible ultrasonic and infrasonic tones. I modified toys, made cassette tape loops, I would pour elmers glue onto vinyl records then after it hardened peel off the glue and have an inversion copy of the record-play that on a turntable through FX. Most of my equipment was inexpensive and usually handmade or altered/modified junk.
Did you perform it live? What was the reception?
Yes, I performed live a few times. The 1st concert was with Merzbow and Masonna in 1996. They were doing their 1st American tour, and only appearing at a few cities. I booked them for Cleveland and Psywarfare opened up for them.
How did the famously open-minded Cleveland hardcore scene of the 90s react to it?
Well, considering that Integrity was seen as an outcast for the hardcore movement, I think it was not seen as being too far out for me to make this type of noise. Of course, I would receive criticism. "Its not music! turn that down!" I had heard the same criticisms from my grandparents regarding punk and metal music, so it seemed like I was on the right path.
It’s entertaining when a self proclaimed punk rock type finds a style of music to be too extreme for them but surprisingly, there were many people who were receptive to noise music in the 90s And that is entirely due to performers like Throbbing Gristle, Monte Cazzazza, Whitehouse, Boyd Rice, etc paving the way. It was music that mirrored what our parents had said for years about punk.
It actually was "that fucking noise!" that they so desperately wanted us to turn off
And the more they want you to turn it off…
You once told me a story about being at some kind of festival for the dark arts in Chicago things like that that involved the police? What happened then?
Psywarfare performed at the expo of the extreme in Chicago in the mid 1990s. The police were upset with me and my performance. They tried to arrest me and used my head as a battering ram to open the door. In a rare act of financial generosity Tony Brummel (Victory Records) paid off the cops and they didn’t arrest me
What was upsetting for them? Were they like "he’s not using a WASP!"
Yes, they didn’t feel my equipment up to snuff.
So why release this now?
I had a couple of Psywarfare releases recently. Magic Bullet records did a split 12" with Rot In Hell and A389 records did a Record Store day exclusive split 12" with Full Of Hell and then Laurence Taylor from COF Records contacted me last year and asked if I would be interested in releasing a 7" and I had some songs that never made it to vinyl.
At the same time (Cleveland legend and Dwid luminary) Bill "Snakedick" Covelli had just passed away. Bill had recorded with Psywarfare on a couple songs and I thought this would be an interesting way to pay tribute to him.
The mind boggles. So do you wanna talk re: the recent Integrity developments here or no?
We have an A389 Fall fanfest show in Baltimore with a line up of the Jochum Brothers and a guy called Shifty Steve.
Why is he shifty?
He was born that way.
What about new songs?
We have a split 7" with Krieg on Holy Terror this fall and Billy Bayou from Glorior Belli did some guest leads. Problem is that pressing plants are so slow and backed up with Record Store Day nonsense that its difficult to pin down a release date right now, its annoying because the plants are clogged up with repressing 180 gram vinyl of Jim Croce albums and Ghostbuster soundtrack albums that can be bought for .10¢ at any thrift store. Vinyl is the main format we use to release our music and when the major labels abandoned vinyl the small labels never left. There are only so many plants left
Which one do you use?
Sorry, my lips are sealed. I don’t want to alienate my plant and have them push my releases behind the Goonies soundtrack repress and The 180 gram Eagles box set.
We should also note here that you have recently got heavily into knitwear.
My friend James Brandon owns Shredders Apparel and he had the crazy idea to make Holy Terror theme knitwear. He also prefers to unleash these during the summer months. It is also important to note that James is based in Texas, so he is familiar to the effects of summer weather and knit Integrity skull ski masks! haha
Texas hangover in 110 heat, new Psywarfare on headphones walking down the street in full Integ knitwear. Isis would reject this as too cruel a torture.
Yes, well thank you for your support of my knitwear licensing empire
Catch Psywarfare in Baltimore at the Sidebar September 19th with Ancient VVisdom and Vermapyre.
Pick up your copy of Psywar's 'Throw Away The Ocean' 7" from the following outlets:
Buy from COF Records
Buy from The Tide of the End
Buy from Swarm of Nails
Follow Andy Capper on Twitter - @ANDYCAPPER