Hair Police captures audience with atonal niche

Since 2001, the Hair Police have made some of the most vicious noise put to record in this city or any other. The core members — Robert Beatty, Trevor Tremaine and Mike Connelly — have toured the United States and Europe, shared bills with Sonic Youth and released albums on national record labels. The individual members have gone on to moonlight in national and local acts like Wolf Eyes, Burning Star Core and Eyes and Arms of Smoke. However, you wouldn’t notice the Hair Police’s national infamy as a resident of Lexington. The group inhabits a tiny musical niche: totally atonal and ear-splitting noise. I was exposed to their recordings through working at WRFL, UK’s student radio station, where the members of the Hair Police originally met — two of them still work there. Tremaine, the drummer, and Beatty, who plays electronic devices, agreed to answer a few of my questions about the history of the band.

Q:  How did the Hair Police start?

Robert: Trevor and I have been playing music, mostly weirdo pop stuff, together since we were in middle school in Nicholasville, Ky.

Trevor: We started to get involved at WRFL in late 1999. It was our first year out of high school, and neither one of us was going to college or really had anything else going on, so we were just working s—-y jobs and playing music in Jessamine County. When we came to the station, we met Mike (Connelly), who was the training director then. He turned us on to all sorts of crazy sounds and introduced us to the sorta freak scene that was happening in Lexington at that time.

Robert: We started a f—ed-up electronics duo called S–t Blizzard that played a couple shows with some other bands that Mike, Matt (Minter), and Ross (Compton) were in. We started playing with them and turned into Hair Police in January of 2001.

Q: What do you want the Hair Police to sound like? Do you have lots of atonal and noise musical influences, or is it something you wanted to experiment with independently?

Trevor: The aim of Hair Police was always to obliterate a rational and formally structured approach to music, something that was 100 percent emotion in a malleable form. When we say we have “songs,” that means a sort of loose blueprint for a particular atmosphere we want to create. This can involve patterns, rhythms, notes, etc. — or not.

Robert: We are all into weird music, but usually people who are into weird music are the most open-minded musically, which was definitely the case with Hair Police. There are way more influences that go into what we do than just noise music. Psychedelic rock/pop, free jazz, power electronics, musique concrete, experimental techno, weirdo synth records, glam rock and the Beach Boys. I can’t really deny anything as an influence, because it all seeps in somewhere.

Q:  What instrumentation do you use? There are obviously drums, but live I notice Robert playing a collection of electronic devices and Mike playing guitar sometimes and bass other times. Is there an official instrument lineup? Have you experimented with other instruments/musicians?

Robert: Currently, live in Hair Police, I play a Qualitone Acoustic Appraiser, which is a device that is used to test hearing, and a small Casio keyboard that I have customized to make some sounds that it doesn’t normally make. On recordings, I use whatever equipment I have. There are a lot of things that work better in a studio setting, or that are just too big or unreliable to use live.

Trevor: When we record, it’s basically whatever. We’ve done plenty of drumless sessions, and Mike has even done some without guitar. Oddly, it doesn’t affect the overall sound/vibe that much. Live, however, we pretty much do the rock band thing.

Q: What has touring been like? Are there parts of the United States and other countries that are especially receptive or non-receptive to noise music?

Robert: Touring has been great. It’s definitely easier now that people know who we are, or at least know the name. The tour we did with Sonic Youth was definitely a challenge, but I think we came out better in the end. It was rough some nights and we definitely got some weird and cold receptions, but it was awesome. For the most part, though, when we do tours on our own the reception has been good.

Trevor: Allentown, Pa., bears particularly fond memory. I seriously thought we were going to die. At no point in the show were there less than two girls with their heads in the kick drum!

Robert: We played to probably 300 people in both Paris and London, twice, and that was pretty unbelievable. It’s a big difference between playing there and playing a basement in Bloomington, Ind., to 30 people, but they are both awesome in their own way. As long as people are psyched and have a good time, we’re happy, no matter how many people are there.

Q:  What do you see as the future of the Hair Police? Will you continue to be based out of Lexington?

Trevor: I love Lexington for the same reason a lot of people complain about it —there’s not much going on. The really good music and art that emerges from here might as well be from another planet; it’s so far removed from what’s going on in the major American cultural centers. It’s like a potato farm in Chernobyl.

Robert: As long as we are here we will be making records and touring. There is still so much that we haven’t done, so I don’t see us stopping anytime soon. I don’t have any plans to leave Lexington at the moment, but you never know. I like it here.

The Hair Police will play on Saturday at the Void Skateshop with Handicapper Horns and Tight Leather. For more information, go to the Insane Underground Music Web site (