I Battled Cockroaches and Cowboys to Start the First Noise Band in a Small Texas City

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22-year-old guitarist Hayden Pedigo embodies the type of wily self-determination that growing up in a small town requires, especially if you’re an experimental musician living in Amarillo, Texas, a smaller city in the panhandle of the Lonestar State. Outside of major metropolitan areas, there are fewer cultural offerings—but there’s also a bit more freedom. Unburdened by the distractions and financial restrictions of life in a big city, musicians like Pedigo have the chance to slow down, branch out, and get a little weird if they want to.

I met Hayden through the internet, and over the years I’ve come to appreciate the weird sort of idealism that funnels into every aspect of his musical career. His optimistic wheeling and dealing has made him one of the most interesting (and well-connected) experimental musicians in the country—even though he spends most of his days working at the central branch of the Amarillo National Bank. Pedigo has already collaborated with experimental godheads like Robert Rich and Faust’s Werner Zappi Diermaier on his solo records, and formed a drone duo with Mac DeMarco’s live drummer Joseph McMurray called Dumas Demons.

His latest project is a strange one even by his standards. With the help of his friend Stanton Coldiron, he’s launched what he believes to be the first-ever harsh noise band ever in the small Texas city, calling themselves Maggot Death as a joke before settling on the more permanent name Plastic Mayan Staircase. Pedigo and Coldiron decided that they’d become something like noise evangelists in the town—seeking to provide a visceral, emotional outlet for any of the town’s many young weirdos, and hoping to spark a new experimental scene among their friends. Read on for discussions of baffled crowds, drunk cowboys, and cockroaches—oh god, the cockroaches.

Hayden Pedigo: There’s never really been experimental noise music in Amarillo. The city is a bit different, a bit more conservative. There’s art here, but it’s not the most experimental kind of place. They’re used to seeing standard bands.

I’ve had the idea to perform noise here for a while, but I’ve been nervous to actually do it because of what people might think. The spark came in part from one specific video of Wolf Eyes from 2001. The description on YouTube claims that they’re playing a high school house party. I was intrigued by how the audience, who was moshing and going nuts, reacts to them making noise—they were willing to be a part of something weird. But nine times out of ten, the people we play to have never listened to that kind of stuff.

There was one experimental group in the 70s called the Onions. They only played three times, and all their performances were shut down by the police for noise violations and being a public nuisance. The idea behind Plastic Mayan Staircase was to continue and to advance what those guys were doing back when they were just fucking around with tape echos, cheap microphones, and acid.

Amarillo actually had a big hardcore scene for a while from like 2008 to 2011. I never got to experience it firsthand, sadly, but I’ve seen pictures and videos, and was inspired by by how visceral it was. But people moved away and the music wasn’t in style in Amarillo anymore. When those types of scenes dry up, it has a devastating effect in smaller towns because a certain freedom is just gone. I wanted to take experimental music and do something here that was just as cathartic—to put that kind of energy in a performance.

I had always seen my bandmate Stanton Coldiron around at shows and he was actually really involved in the hardcore scene. One day he posted on his Facebook about wishing that people in Amarillo were into darker, louder, noisier music. I sent him a message saying we should start doing an experimental noise project in Amarillo. He thought I was kidding! A week later, I made up a fake name—Maggot Death—and got us booked on a hardcore show in a backyard. The first time we ever played together was that first performance—it was 100% improvised.

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