The beautiful noise of Author & Punisher
San Diego resident Tristan Shone, the self-billed industrial doom musician, makes unique music that’s all his own
“Who besides you knows how to fix all of this?” I ask Tristan Shone as we inspect his assortment of custom-built drone and dub machines, some clocking in at over 300 pounds and with an assortment of levers, chains, cranks and more.
We’re in his Grant Hill studio, chatting during the precious days between the end of one tour and the start of another.
Shone, a New Hampshire native who’s lived in San Diego for about 20 years, is a self-billed industrial doom musician — better known to the world as Author & Punisher. Since starting in 2004, his one-man band has used the aforementioned machinery to make music that’s inspired a cult following comprised of gear heads and metal lovers alike.
His latest of eight albums, “Beastland,” is an anti-consumerist, abstractly political collection of white noise lullabies. Released in 2018, his first with current label Relapse Records, it spurred a now two-year-long tour that’s taken him across the globe a few times.
In that time, he’s also brought a vocal political campaign directed at anti-waste, the denunciation of racism and fascism in heavy metal, pro-immigrant and homeless rights and a variety of other causes he feels he needs to use his platform to speak about.
And now, Shone’s Author & Punisher will be opening for leading progressive metal band Tool during a 10-show run that starts at San Diego’s Viejas Arena on Friday.
“I have two guys coming with me for the upcoming shows,” Shone, 42, says about his newly upgraded road crew. “If I get the flu, that’s it. Actually, this is one show where I’ll finish, walk right off the stage and have them break it down. That’s never happened in my life.”
Standing alone neck-deep in his own creations seems to be a common theme for Shone, who still maintains a day job as a mechanical engineering researcher at UC San Diego despite having been on tour for about four-and-a-half months this year alone. Actually, it was at UCSD that his initial drone machines, as he calls them, were born.
Built entirely by Shone, these machines produce heavy electronic riffs that harness the energy and sound of a freight train screeching to a halt, which is no small feat for just one man.
They also produce enough variance in sounds that Shone is able to weave intricate, if heavy, melodies in between the dirges, offering an overwhelming industrial sound that he hopes listeners can sink into.
“It’s tone, for sure,” Shone says about why audiences connect with Author & Punisher’s particular sound, especially during his charged live performances, which feature Shone actually “playing” the machines live — pulling levers, pulling cranks and screaming into distortion microphones.
Listeners are meant to be consumed, mentally, visually, physically and aurally, which is perhaps why he is able to draw fans from a variety of overlapping heavy-sound genres like noise, metal, industrial and more.
“There’s a connection between heavy machinery and making a certain sound. I have a lot of homemade speakers that I’ve tweaked to make them have this one low kind of tone. People can feel it. Especially on recent tours when I bring my own subwoofers and put ‘em up front so people can feel the sound,” the San Diego Music Award winner continues.
“But I don’t like to go just for abrasive for the sense of abrasive,” he explains. “It has to be overwhelming, but almost like a beautiful thing, like a little melodic — an emotional overtone or maybe the song has a synth or something. Like that movie ‘Melancholia,’ at the end when the planet coming into the other planet? It’s going to explode and it’s kind of beautiful! But it’s also frightening.”
After he finishes touring with Tool, Shone will finish the “Beastland” tour cycle in Europe, where he’ll tour with fellow one-man, genre-straddling act Igorrr.
Then, he expects to launch his new company this summer, one that will produce and sell varieties of his machines, what he calls “high-quality control interfaces for musicians.”
And then he’ll release another album, one he says will be “much more political” than his last. Somewhere in there, he also says he’ll take a break of some kind.
“Is ‘overwhelming’ the word you’d use to categorize everything?” I ask earlier in our conversation.
“Yeah,” he says while looking down at the ground and thinking for a second. We’re talking about the nature of the music he makes, but really, it seems to be an allegory for how Shone’s musical career is truly taking off.
“Yes. Overwhelming, but in a good way. Even though it’s heavy to me and it may sound dissonant and like a mess, there is still something beautiful in there.”
Bryant is a freelance writer.
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