Naked Dinner:
A Freedom From Label Showcase

The Developing Arts And Music Foundation
Minneapolis, MN
December 2001

In a dubiously faux-suburban neighborhood in Minneapolis, exists a shifting musical amalgamation known as Freedom From. By some loose definition, Freedom From might be considered a record label, although the revolving cast of label operators/musicians, which might change on any given day, have described themselves as a co-op style musical “collective”. The FF honchos also perform in a handful of bands on their own roster–including the hair-raising blitzkrieg of structured noise flaunted by Nitrous Roxide or New Port, the free-form garage-jazz skronk of No Doctors, and the glorious drone-din of late.

To date, their catalog boasts some 170 releases, 140 of which are cassettes and roughly 50 of which have never sold a single copy. In contrast to indie labels formed by bands to promote their own music, only about 6 of the label’s total releases actually feature music created by the FF members themselves.

A constant challenge faced by Freedom From is to distance themselves from some popular misconceptions about the noise genres they champion. For one thing, there doesn’t seem to be readily available guidelines.

“The music itself has always been strictly experimental weird stuff,” offers FF founder and spokesperson Matthew St. Germaine. “It can really be any kind of music, but it’s gotta have a damaged kind of broken quality. The whole thing is about just shattering preconceptions of what people think.” Undoubdtedly, the bemused spectators who witnessed the label’s recent “Phi-Phenomena On Wheels” label showcase tour will attest that this goal was accomplished.

Naturally, when the door is left open, everyone wants to crash the party. “A lot of guys with questionable social skills”, was perhaps the most generous description of a typical wannabe noise artist; “they’ll fart into a microphone, and then take it really seriously”.

The difficulty seems to lie in the general public’s perceptions of noise as a form of expression. St. Germaine has described the type of music offered by his label as an antidote for pop culture, which he regards as “totally unpalatable.” A popular – albeit mistaken – assumption seems to be that noise-based or non-conventional music doesn’t adhere to any set of standards. Freedom From’s response to this notion is that “people are too willing to let their instruments do the work for them.” As one of No Doctors explained, “There’s certainly a big place for improv in any type of music, but it shouldn’t be the standard – or the excuse”.

Enthusiasm for the music is strongest in places such as British Columbia and Romania – sadly, venues in the Midwest have had a difficult time trying to hold their own, when promoting showcases such as those sponsored by Freedom From. Then again, the irony of operating their cottage industry, with its’ unique aesthetic, while paralleling the music industry at large, is not lost on Freedom From.

“To think of it as being incorporated, to document market trends and stuff – it’s really hard to try and figure out what this weird music market is. We just basically want to get as much out as possible – more people would enjoy this music if they were given access to it, and that’s why we want to try and legitimize it”.

The forthcoming showcase at 7th Street Entry, entitled Naked Dinner, will feature no less than 15 different acts, including Laundryroom Squelchers, Madonna, Sean & the Sluts, New Port, Neon Hunk, Radar Threat & Thornicabuster, Seawhores, rappers MC Tidalwave + Double U, U Can Unlearn Guitar, the acoustic death metal of Black Stool, local free improv artists Jesse Petersen & Viaticum, and DJs Pastor Peace with Cold Karl + Reggie X.

This show is hosted in conjunction with the subzero showcase, the following day at Soap Factory.

© J.Free / D.A.M.F.; 2001; 2022