The freaks are taking over New York City. The underground scenes of the city’s outer boroughs have always been a hub for vagrants and weirdos. But now, more than ever, there’s this collectivist energy—a sense that the club kids, punks, and noiseniks are all hanging together and working together toward a common goal. You can feel it in all sorts of lineups across the city, but the scale of it really crystallized to me on New Year’s Eve, at a giant warehouse party in Brooklyn that featured a handful of stages filled with dozens of DJs and live acts blending boundaries between scenes and sounds—hardcore met club met baile funk met straight up harsh noise.
Everyone was united around the idea of raging, and toward putting their energies to a good cause. Proceeds from the party, which stretched well past sunrise, went toward Al Otro Lado—a legal aid group that works with deportees, migrants, and refugees. No undertaking of that scale happens without hiccups, but it felt inspiring to see all these corners of the underground community coming together under one roof.
One of the organizers of that party was the label, blog, and staple of the scene, Sermon 3. Founded by a musician who operates under the name The 83rd, Sermon 3 has been a crucial resource for anyone curious about weird shit in New York over the last couple years. I originally followed their Instagram page when a friend related that curiously, someone he didn’t know was blogging about shows that he was throwing in his basement. Over the past couple of years that IG page, along with the S3R blog, has become a crucial source of news and jams from the underground scene.
The 83rd has put a lot of energy into building this link between various sides of the scene, in building community and supporting friends. Today, though he’s sharing some more work of his own in the form of an EP called patricia. Drawing both on his life spent in studios and the mutant energy coursing through New York, he crafted three short tracks of insectoid electronics. In total, they just barely break the four-minute mark, but they’re packed with ideas, full of chittering synthetic sounds, pitch-warped vocals, and subtle, creeping grooves. There’s a track that, over the course of just a minute and half, mutates from this freaky ballad featuring Eartheater’s Alex Drewchin to a footwork flip with vocals by Chicago legend DJ Slugo. It’s full of this jittery, genre-bending energy that feels of a piece with the scene that The 83rd has dedicated his last few years to covering. As soon as it’s over, you’d be well advised to dig through the blog’s archive for the music of similarly minded freaks.
That whole EP is streaming above or available to purchase over at the Sermon 3 Bandcamp, and The 83rd has also shared a video for “Down Now” directed by Daniel Felipe Mangosing, which features some colorful abstractions befitting the song’s lysergic energy. Below, The 83rd opens up about how he found himself a part of this scene and how it’s shaped his own work as an artist.
Noisey: Who are you and how did you get into freak shit?
The 83rd: Lawd you got time to read a novel? Cause I’ma write one, called 83 lives. Jesus gimme strength.
Aight so boom. I'm The 83rd, I moved around a lot. [I was] born in Texas, grew up in upstate NY and Chicago area. Chicago is ultimately what kicked off my music career. I was the youngest member of Maurice Joshua's production team. Maurice had just won the Grammy for Beyoncé's “Crazy in Love” when I joined on at 20 to start doing remixes for Missy Elliot, Mariah Carey, Ginuwine, shit like that. Me and my production partner, Brad Siefert were called The Quest and made more hip-hop based remixes working with Maurice. Eventually I felt like I had hit a ceiling in Chicago so I moved to back to New York. Bushwick raised me the next decade and a half.
And so did the highs and wailing lows of the music industry. I was constantly in and out of deals that wouldn't go thru, having to beat demons and dark energy that attempted to steal money, credit and my mind and health over the next furious season of my life. As I faced poverty, racism, [the industry’s] false promises and lack of character, my creative voice and mindset changed. What I create was and currently is a depiction of what I'm immediately facing/feeling. Noises became more abstract, more convoluted, experimental, fighting, shedding and ultimately… just more unapologetic. My art became a direct reflection of my life. And so that's how I create, and choose to surround myself with people who do the same—the other freaks bold enough to simply be themselves.
You have a handful of different releases as The 83rd out there, all with differing sounds and styles. Is there a sound or a feeling that you feel like is at the core of what you want to do with this music?
Music to me is a mirror and output of how your life is always in flux. As I grow and change and feel different types of ways, the way I depict, heal, and choose to document what’s going on inside and around me changes. I'm a multi-instrumentalist, so I'm always speaking thru their different languages, shredding, growing, growing, shedding. I think at the core for me, the music has to have the root of innovation, pushing the possibilities of sound across multiple genres forward.
Tell me about “patricia.” Who are they and what were the things you were thinking about as you were making this release?
Patricia was made out of a feeling of being under appreciated, and even with S3R, still overlooked. I was creating so much space for the mutants I felt pushed out of the room. Not intentionally, there's only so much square feet. So between running the editorial site, throwing the shows, engineering, mixing, and managing the artists, I was setting everyone else's expression off but still had no one attempting to set me off. I was like damn can one of y'all look to foster my creative spirit too? I’m nice. This is what I do. I ironically felt lost in the sauce. Mother's Day weekend I woke up and had to expel everything I was feeling, and 'patricia,' ultimately named after my mother, was born.
Can you tell me a bit about the decision to keep the tracks short? What inspires that? Also I’m curious specifically about the last track. Getting Eartheater and Slugo on the same track is an inspired choice.
Nothing was or ever is intentional time-wise for me with music. If my creative spirit says 'bring it back' then best believe I’ma hitchu with that chorus again. In general, I'm more interested in moving linear, exploring, as long as the sound feels fresh I'm in. If it ever feels repetitive, that’s when I stop.
Oh and with the hard cut [on the last track], the track just felt over. It was an instinctual and creative thing, a case where it loses its essence if drawn out too long. I had just seen Alex [Drewchin of Eartheater] play [at the Ridgewood venue] Trans-Pecos with Machine Girl not too long before making that record, and I imagined playing Trans-Pecos and that record going, and just switching to a footwork section and how that would set the crowd off. I was inspired by the thought of it, so it inherently became my reality.
You’re very supportive of New York’s community of music weirdos. What led you down the route to that scene and what broadly is exciting to you about the community right now?
New York is historically psycho right now. I'm literally getting goosebumps writing this interview about it. Mutants wanting to control their narrative and deciding to curate what they've always wanted to see is the game changer. In the last three years alone, Sermon 3, Quo Vadis Productions, Melting Point, Haus of Altr, Discakes, HECK, The Glove, H0l0 and more have all been founded and are currently online and physical spaces where we can gang up, celebrate each other and our art and plot.
What led me here is a combination of circumstance and necessity. I used to always be in my studio. Just my studio. Working, engineering, writing, producing, the whole gamut, but my mental and physical health started to suffer, and I really didn't know people into the same viscerally-creative art as myself, only exposed to the artists/engineers that worked at my studio.
I would go to Action Burger across the street from the studio whenever I needed some fresh air. My homegirl Lea used to work cashier and I told me, "you need to get out more." I took her advice and started venturing out. Eventually I met Bob Bellerue at one of the [New York noise festival] Ende Tymes in the early days of Sermon, he was hella chill man and let me cover Ende Tymes as one of the first live events at the magazine.
It was there that I fell in love with the art of Timeghost (Adam Morosky). We quickly became kindred spirits and started visiting each others studios. Eventually, just like clockwork, another label did me dirty and ghosted on me with promise of $12K. Adam invited me to start working with him at Output to pick up the extra cash. Once I started working in clubs in New York, THATS when I found out where all the other mutants were hiding. NYC clubs and DIY spaces have helped employ the hyper-creative underground community for years, and is where me and my friends squad up and continue to get cash.
Lastly can you talk to me about Sermon 3 both as an online platform and a label. What prompted you to start that and what’s the focus going forward? What’s next?
Sermon 3 came out of the realization that I never fully banged with the cultures of the labels I was dealing with. Up to a point yes, but then inherently some negative pop-culture limited mindset would creep in the office and I'd find myself mentally playing dodgeball with their words and negative affirmations. I knew I wanted a place where the hyper-creative was safe and supported. A place where the label brand didn't try to elevate itself over the artist. So I started the label, Sermon 3 Recordings, to output me and my homies’ genius on records, and to also reissue the genius of those before us that never got their due. It’s why we focus on so many archive recordings from the past as well.
But I also peeped from my past experiences with majors, that you can sign with a label but if they don't have media relationships to premiere and support the records… ain’t nobody gon’ hear that shit. The last thing I wanted to do was start the label and go thru the same headache of trying to get more gatekeepers—this time publications—to write about and expose us. So I started my own publication, the news media outlet side of Sermon 3 Recordings, S3R, so I could not only cover the label's releases, but other releases, events, people, art, and culture built in the same trenches, that weren't getting the proper coverage. I couldn't get S3R on Instagram and the full name, Sermon 3 Recordings was too long, so I just called it Sermon 3 and now they both work interchangeably with each other.
I would love for Sermon to get to the place where it occupies a bigger commercial space, (right now I run it outta my recording studio), and can employ other mutants to cover some of the stuff I'm doing by myself. Contributing writers, PR people, studio engineers, show curators, you know…people to take over staff positions, and for the company to have enough money to pay them and expand our reach and opportunities would be goals omg. In the meantime, we've been squadding up and throwing shows with other POC and queer prioritizing platforms like Melting Point, Discakes and the like. This year has a lot of potential for some of the craziest collective and artist collaborations, it’s actually unreal. We're also doing more single deals with artists and releasing short movies/videos. Got somethin’ up my sleeve with Alex (Eartheater), along with Frank/ie Consent and PVSSYHEAVEN. Dis year gon be cute. Trust.
The 83rd's patricia EP is out now.
Colin Joyce is among the freaks and on Twitter.