'It's not a place that I fit': Milwaukee experimental noise musician Peter Woods on art, music, and expectations

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee's Peter J. Woods is an experimental musician.

"It's this approach to making music where everything and anything that makes a sound can be an instrument." said Woods.

The reaction to Woods' music is wide ranging.

"That can touch on anything from absolute revulsion, hatred of this to being extremely curious, to thinking it's funny, to thinking about who I am as a person. Woods said. "What I would say to them is that if you're listening to this music and it's your first time, those reactions are valid."

Woods describes his music as the parts of Pink Floyd where the melody drops and it sounds like weird sounds floating on top of each other. His other point of reference for those not in the know, the episode of Friends when Ross finds the keyboard and restarts his band.

It's definitely different, but he insists it is still music.

"People will go see a Jackson Pollack in a museum and they're like great, that's a thing." Woods said. "People will go see movies by David Lynch...but then they'll hear music like this and they're just like, that's not music."

"Music has this space that's supposed to fit into people's lives." he continued. "It's not a place that I fit."

Woods has recently released two new albums. One is called A Waste of Red Meat (listen here), the other, a new box set on his record label FTAM Productions called: 'Live from the No Judgement Zone: Mapping the Sonic Ecologies of Southeastern Wisconsin's Planet Fitness Locations.'

It's four cassettes, six and a half hours of gym noise.

"If we're really going to break music down to its core, we can kind of use that John Cage definition of music is just organized sound." said Woods. "And if the core is just organized sound then I've organized some sound for you."

Peter's performances, music, and comedy are far outside the norm and, as he points out, 'experimental' and 'noise' are in the title.

However, Woods does not experiment with drugs.

"One thing that I will say is that I don't do drugs." Woods said. "So, you have to think of another reason for me to be making this music."

He gets that a lot. He watched the way a CBS 58 story about his driver's license photo went viral online.

"The initial reaction from all these people who don't know me is this person is on meth." Woods said. "The reaction to that from people who do know me is, uh he doesn't do drugs and also he went to Harvard."

He also has a doctorate. Doctor Peter J. Woods has a doctorate in philosophy from UW-Madison and a masters in education from Harvard. Woods, 35, graduated from Marquette High School and then went to Marquette University for undergrad. He now works as a researcher for MIT.

He finds the reaction to who people think he's supposed to be, and who he is interesting.

"It's this understanding of what I'm supposed to be because of the social clout because we expect these sorts of things." Woods said. "I'm not living up to that social capital that I have. So there's got to be something wrong with me. There's got to be something incorrect with me."

Woods says it goes both ways.

"If you hear about this sort of social capital, the privilege that I have in this specific realm and then the music undercuts that." he said. "You see me as a performer for the first time, you expect me to be a certain kind of person. I think it's just this strange thing where I found a couple of very strange hobbies where I'm very interested in. a couple of unexpected spaces that I like to operate in creative ways to express myself."


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