In person, Chris Heath and Joe Wilson are two of the most amicable and outgoing kids on the block. Judging by their friendly demeanors and boyish outward appearances, one would never suspect them of being the culprits behind the most harsh and sonically offensive sounds and smells in the city.
Since 2002, Wilson+Heath has unleashed a nightmarish and shambolic mixture of improvisation and sound/performance art that has been known to clear a few rooms. Everything from tape loops to prepared guitar to amps and pedals clutter the stage during Wilson+Heath performances, and give shape to its homespun recordings. Shows have ranged from extended sessions of both members sitting face-to-face holding conversations using only four words, to squirming and shirtless excursions into squelching feedback, burning clumps of hair and droning mechanical clatter.
Fans and critics alike have commented on an overt, homoerotic quality to the duo's stage presence, but as Heath explains, the sentiment is a bit misguided. "There is a lot of sexual energy that comes out of our performances, but it's never directed toward each other," says Heath. "People say it's homoerotic because we're two guys who are often together, but really it's pretty aimless sexual energy directed more toward the audience than anyone else." Wilson adds with a half-joking, half-serious laugh, "We're going for the ecstatic sexual fervor of classic rock by playing totally fucked-up instruments."
This sort of mutant sensibility casts a perplexing light on the duo's approach, stressing that despite the disturbing nature of the music, an equally abrasive sense of humor lies somewhere underneath it all.
Wilson+Heath plays Eyedrum Sun., Sept. 26, 9 p.m. $7.