Grunt was formed in Finland during spring 1993 to create hard audio havoc. Its early incarnations operated with few other names, before settling into Grunt and making the first officially published works. After 20 years of activity, it is still going strong. Various styles of noise electronics are always hammered with such pressure it usually transforms into known Grunt-noise, even if new methods and approaches are added. Various interests, moods and approaches and different kinds of topics has been used during the years. Strong visuals and lyrics are the most well known to people.
Since early days, Grunt has been merely part of international power electronics-noise scene. There has never been desire to attract attention widely. There has never been attempts to be credible within academic noise circles, performance art or modern industrial culture. Nor promote it in media outside the core of noise-underground. However, neither there is clear desire to follow genre restrictions. When invitations have happened, Grunt has been featured in documentaries, newspaper articles, playing together with punk, metal and gothic bands as well as among performance art events.
Grunt is tightly connected to the vision of Freak Animal Records label and has also handful of other forms, what can be understood as projects of their own or simply branches slightly separated from the main project.
Early years of Grunt was trying different kinds of directions. Earliest recordings was created by merely tuning down guitar strings until they were hanging loose over the guitar microphones and making rumbling noises. Lack of any kind of effects or even amplifiers made noise the most simple and primitive wall of rumbles. Early on, it was created by borrowed equipment. Lacking possibilities to experiment and test due short periods of time equipment was available. Third release, “Industrial Madness?” (Autumn 1993), various metal objects were included in making tracks. Often rhythmic industrial noise with low tuned string abuse, radio-noise, vocals, metal junk noises. Still some musical elements were tried, influenced by industrial bands like Godflesh or Einstürzende Neubauten. Half of the material remains unbearably clumsy, yet traits of what is about to come could be heard.
Early on, I had very little knowledge of noise as “scene” or “phenomena”. Early days of Grunt were influenced by the bigger names, such as mentioned Godflesh, Einstürzende Neubauten, live video footage of Swans, and Finnish punk-scene originating noise mongers who had just published their debut works in 1991/1992: Bizarre Uproar and Unseen Noise Death.
Various recordings approaching the sound from a “band” perspective was made at the same time while experimenting also as solo. There exist recordings which were clumsy industrial percussion with guitars and bass playing with clear instrument sound. There was also more noisecore influenced materials, which both were bound to be left aside. In this period of not even fully knowing what exactly should be done, there was no idea who could be interested to even hear these releases. If anyone. These early tapes existed pretty much less than 30 copies made. Strong recollections of shattering this utter outsider feeling still remains in my brain. When writing to publisher of Icy Illusions compilation tape series (Czech Republic) that I would like to publish Grunt 7”, but I doubt there exists people who want noise records, he briefly explained reality is very different. I received letter explaining that in Japan there is actually labels who have put out CDs and even up to 50 titles. This information simply blew my mind and from this moment of receiving addresses of Alchemy Records, GROSS, Endorphine Factory and RRRecords (USA), I knew when next tape is done, I will write everybody and find out all what I can. Until now, I had considered every noise band be utmost anomaly and isolated case.
With the growing serious intentions, later in 1994, new era of sound was introduced. When getting first own multi-track recorder, things started to progress. Simplest possible 4-track tape recorder, with no EQs, no aux, only two lines in. Volume and panning knobs for each channel being only “post production” possibilities. With addition of one cheap plastic microphone and 12W Marshall rehearsal amp, with nothing but enthusiasm and time, things started to take better direction. More experience in making connections with the few devices available resulted creating interesting results, most of all with internal feedback.
Putting situation in context: this was a underage teenage boy living in small town near Russian border, with no information how other people did their works and at this point merely access to few international artists such as Man Is The Bastard and Gerogerigegege. I was utterly clueless about effects as well as didn’t know of existence of devices such as “analogue synthesizer”. I had never seen one and never thought how such sounds are created! Only by accident, I learned that if plugging my cheap package-stereo system in loop with 4-track (4-track output to stereo-in, and stereo headphones to 4-track input) and turning channel panning to left and adjusting graphic equalizer, I could create the sounds I liked.
Sound took direction closer to old power electronics, even if that was hardly conscious intention. Many of the recordings were buzz of electronics and feedback, radio-noise and some with vocals.
“One Animal Above The Others” tape was result of this new direction, and it was mailed to labels I had heard of. As result RRRecords and G.R.O.S.S. replied and while latter was at the time way too expensive to purchase items, RRRecords and especially its recently lauched Pure CD series were instant mindblowing influence. Extensive tape trading offered possibility to quickly educate myself with vast history of genre and in matter of months, situation had moved from being clueless outsider into not only being hungry student of past, but also starting to get in touch with other noise makers – small and bigger.
Still all early recordings came out as cassette tape releases, being distributed in small editions between 15 and 150 copies, most being closer to 50. Many of them went through trading to various small noise artists as well as people from other scenes, who many disappeared from the scene, resulting that hardly anyone currently involved in international noise scene has ever heard the early recordings. In 2012 Industrial Recollections launched project to digitalize all ’90s tape material into CD format which allows whole decade worth of obscurities be heard – often for the first time!
Early 1995 until summer was some of the most productive times of Grunt. Recordings during these times took place, if not daily, then at least weekly basis. 1995 was the time when Grunt slowly started to make more and more connections among the international noise community, with putting out recordings on other people’s labels and getting distributed by well known distributors of the time. It remained relatively low profile still for the upcoming years. Even if being involved with international scene, there was never intention to focus any particular side a la “harsh noise” or “power electronics” scenes, but remain somewhere between, where all the noisy sounds melt together into bizarre mix.
First live show was played in 1995. There was prepared metal object to be amplified and drum machine to create electronic effects, yet utter failures in technical know-how, and last minute changes on stage, led to doing it with traditional instruments and session members: guitar feedback, vocals, drums. Not very successful result caused long break until next attempt to perform live.
Getting introduced to first effect pedals in Summer ‘95, changed approach to the sound. While all 1995 was created with borrowed effects (of Temple Of Tiermes), in winter 1996 I would finally gather enough money to buy large guitar multieffect.
Possibities of multieffect were drastic, and use of heavy delay effect on screaming vocals and abundance of echoing metal junk and droning feedback became traditional Grunt elements what continued for years. To the point of ultimate overdose, one could say. The main influences of the time were taken from Masonna, Gerogerigegege and Ramleh.
In very first releases, my intention was to mix “political” or “social” themes among the music, but for period of time, perhaps by strong influence of Japanese noise, I intentionally rejected “message”. Focus was purely on sound and vocals were aimed to be sonic effect, just like in Masonna, Hijokaidan or Gerogerigegege. I remember writing with contacts abroad, discussing about never-ending topics such importance of content vs. pure sonic content as well as which is more inspiring, the sheer energy of Japanese noise or dark and strong subject matter of power electronics/industrial noise. It seems weird now, that even in some (lost?) ‘zine interview I recall explaining how I try to reject cliches such as porn or violence, because they are done already. While such content actually is the best known side of Grunt’s later works! While releases from ‘93-‘95 dealt with state, religion, death, pollution, waste, junk, military, etc. ‘95-‘97 was slowly bleeding into absurdity some vague weirdness.
From 1997 you can see another clearly new milestone of Grunt. From experimenting simply by terms of what effect results what kind of sound and how to layer things to make it interesting, it felt necessary to move into better constructed recordings. There came need to focus more into planned and composed recordings. All these intentions and approaches bleed over each other in chronology, but 1997 marks the time when Grunt returned back to using lyrics. And not only occasionally, but predominantly.
While in past recordings were never processed from pre-recorded sound, in late ’90s method of creating loops out of pre-recorded source sounds became trademark of Grunt sound. In early days I had obsessive attitude against “pre-recorded” sounds, as if they were not as real as the ones you could create on the spot. I did not manipulate tapes, but create each track from live electronics or physically made sounds.
This new 1997 sound was hardly anything new for Grunt, but simply refined approach which made distinctive difference in typical ‘96 versus typical ‘97 or ‘98 recording. Crushing, heavily repeating loops with near random metal junk noise and feedback on the top, with furious effected vocals and spoken word samples. Those were they key ingredients what perhaps made tapes such as “Europe After Storm”, “Someone Is Watching”, etc. rise above many of low profile Grunt tapes and eventually be re-issued on CDs for wider circulation much earlier than most other ’90s works.
There was never intention to make too similar sounding releases. Grunt is usually labelled as “power electronics noise”, even if that is perhaps just half truth. There is brutal edge of harsh noise and use of different sound sources, what is missing from many of those who rely solely on synthesizers and/or computers. There’s no limit on the sound sources or subject matter what Grunt uses. It always reflects the state of mind of current period of time. Most often intent of diversity of sound would slightly confuse the progression. Musical intent of many releases was to create diversity. Something what you could find most of all from compilations of the ’90s. “Noise Forest”, “Come Again II”, “Dedication”, “Tension State Collapsing”, “Neuengamme”, “Journey Into Pain” and such were often higher influence than individual bands. There was no intent to make releases that were “pure” something, but attempts to build releases where diversity is wide enough to sound almost like compilation. This method has its advantages, but also in reality it meant that there hardly was a REAL album of Grunt released until very late. Bunch of splits, collaborations, sometimes build from tracks of various sessions. First Grunt CD “Perfect World” was pretty much just collection of unrelease yet unrelated tracks what happened to lay around. “Terror And Degeneration” was published in various forms during the years. “Europe After Storm” was solid 30 minutes tape, but when re-issued on CD, live tracks and bonuses were included making it rather compilation than real album. Basically one could say first real recording intended as album of Grunt was “Seer of Decay” as late as 2006!
Perhaps this was also advantage. To me it always appeared that Grunt hardly belonged among “the real noise bands”, let’s say K2, Richard Ramirez, Macronympha and such. But it didn’t stop from co-operations. I also felt with such a random and chaotic approach, Grunt was hardly to be grouped with conceptually and musically solid bands like Genocide Organ, Con-Dom or Brighter Death Now. But also ended up sharing stage with those and operating among same distribution networks. This lack of clear direction allowed to keep moving. Even after bigger profile power electronics CD, Grunt could make follow up as ltd 50 copies harsh noise tape. And it would still make sense – at least to same extent as anything happened in past.
Grunt has hardly ever played with mystery. Project has been so closely related to Freak Animal as label or my works as “journalist” within the genre, it must be obvious Grunt hardly is fruits of actual outsider or isolated “independent” artists. It is without no shame influenced by others, inspired by others and mirroring itself with entire history of genre(s). Grunt never attempted to copy very narrow style, therefore vast amount of influences eventually melt into what is Grunt.
In 1998, seeing Con-Dom perform live in Stockholm, Sweden, was first possibility to see how “noise band” performs live. With failure some years earlier, Con-Dom’s approach of relying heavily on backing tapes and focusing simply on vocals, appeared as only possibility. Especially when sound of 1998 was something what I felt was impossible to re-create on stage. 3 live shows played between 1998-2000 was always based on tape playback, where live vocals and some minor additional electronic noise added live feeling. It took until first offer for gig abroad in 2002 to finally decide to abandon all background tapes and focus on real sound creation in live situation.
By the end of ’90s entire Grunt approach had changed for publishing. It was no longer so important to have releases. It felt more interesting to focus on less, yet more content focused releases. While looking at gaps in discography, it appears as if I stopped making noise in same scale. This is merely illusion. Fact remains turn of millennium spawned vast amount of Grunt related side projects as well as involvements in other bands/projects. And extensive live activity in form of Grunt.
While most of ’90s works were created in relatively quiet methods, moving into new millenium meant also changes in volume for some releases. Some of this era Grunt recordings (“Last Grip To Sanity”, split LP with Taint and split tape with Strom.ec) have been utilizing loud recording methods. First time also analogue synthesizers were used among other things. Doing studio-live recordings with PA system, and later mastering or editing the final touch. This gives new touch to the sound, compared to material which is created with low volumes by using field recordings, electronics/effects or other such sources.
Some of the processed field recording/sample/vocal based tracks could be heard on V/A “Don’t Hunt What You Can’t Kill” 3xCD, “Hanging high on every streetlamp” card CDr, etc. As opposed to studio-live violent recordings, some of these are very high-tech and crystalline sounding.
Since most of Grunt material is being released quite late after it’s completed (for example most of material released 2000-2003 dates back to ‘97-‘98), it’s hard to pinpoint form what Grunt has in specific moment. For creator and future listener they manifest in entirely different light. For example, big part of most relevant Grunt recordings of 2004 were scattered into split tape, tour compilations and left unreleased until 8 years later finally whole thematically & sonically suitable material was collected as “Long Lasting Happiness” CD. Some of the best recordings of the time remained unheard for nearly decade!
After doing first all-live sound live show in 2002, it was noticed that live situation brings new kind of challenge for creating material. First gigs were still about learning how to manage to create desired sound live, but after 5 shows in 2004 it seemed that right tools and methods had been found.
Early 2005 was released 5 vinyl LPs of Grunt. Half LP versions of stuff what earlier came on CDr. Despite large number of releases, there wasn’t really properly done “album” for Grunt. All solo LP/CD releases have been collections of previously released tape/CDr material, or live recordings.
Grunt did first longer tour, 5 gigs in Japan in April. Also long time first Grunt solo show in Finland. All of these were noisier and more improvised gigs. Same methods were used in UK gigs in late 2004. This allows gigs to be spontaneous, when none of loops or sounds have been prepared in advance. Possibility of failure adds some excitement, and few times due malfunctioning minimal equipment, shows have transformed into full force random harsh noise. For new tour in UK, equipment was stripped down to the absolute minimum, removing all the unnecessary gear. No synthesizers, no samplers, no MD or CD players and so on. Shows were played without backing videos, keeping them short and to the point. Later 2005 followed with couple more live shows and growing amount of new releases, making Grunt look more active than ever before.
Since releasing “Seer of Decay” 2xCD, Grunt avoided any new “major works”, only live recordings on tape format and contributions for small scale releases, compilations etc. Focus of attention was on live shows around the world, and finally in 2009 there was being published 3xCD box set with live documentation of those years, pretty much all the successfully performed (and recorded) gigs from live actions 23 to 41. Few unrecorded gigs do not appear on the box set. This set sums together well the time after album, and upon its release decision was made to fade live activity down in favour of more attention to studio recordings.
“Petturien Rooli” album was completed in September 2009. On and off recording process during three years resulted in most diverse and most experimental mix of Grunt releases so far. Leaving away the previously “obligatory” harsh noise blasts, in favour of more textured and detailed and experimental approach to PE/industrial-noise.
Source sounds and equipment utilised in recording included various metal objects, wood, water, stones, glass, sand, mud, concrete, tools from shovels to lawnmover to cement mixer, metallic pipes (wind instrument), radio transmissions, digital keyboards, analogue synthesizer, analogue walkman with field recordings and tape manipulations, 8-track MD, 4-track analogue tape, digital hard-drive recorder for field recordings, various effects, bass-amp, PA system, guitar-amp…. Extensive research on suitable locations or equipment to produce needed sounds was always done with the wholeness in mind. Sound varied from intentionally damaged and fierce brutality to soundscapes that are carefully EQed and adjusted for maximum range of sonic qualities. Intent was to keep the spirit of old experimental industrial-noise there. Something what was missing from a lot of modern recordings what are ultra compressed and maximally distorted to flat sterility. “Petturien Rooli” album never aimed to compete with volume and join the 0dB maximum compression club. Its dynamic variation goes from quiet to loud, frequencies from highest to deep sub-bass pulses. It could be interesting for fanatics of PE as well as those looking for more experimental edge on sound.
Since “Petturien Rooli”, this direction has only been refined further. For band to exists, it has not been important to make publications, but it exists most of all on theoretical level, but also in form of experiments. Vast amounts of recordings have been done, with no intent to publish them. There has been given attention to extensive equipment as well as stripping down everything to bare minimum. Basically rejecting the dominance of effects, returning back to more rugged and grainy elements known from earliest years.
Since “Petturien Rooli” CD (2009), there has not been much else than re-issues, live material and few compilation tracks by Grunt. It certainly have not meant anything else than preparation for the new full length assault. 10 tracks abuse diverse approaches. From tape manipulation, crushing loops, classical instruments, deep tones, concrete sounds and dry sonic elements stripped to be bone as well as multi-layered into complex compositions. Grunt pours in loads of different sound elements, different sound qualities and experimentation, yet from other end of meatgrinder emerges the solid mix of ugly power electronics in form of “World Draped In A Camouflage”.
Since publishing “World Draped In A Camouflage”, Grunt has been performing in Finland and abroad (Belgium, UK, Lithuania, Sweden,..) as 2 member unit, playing mostly variations of album tracks.