Cock E.S.P. is a Minneapolis-based experimental music and performance art ensemble founded by Emil Hagstrom in 1993. The group draws on the most transgressive and absurdist elements of both popular and experimental Twentieth and Twenty-First Century music and performance art, realizing a diverse and energetic palette of abstract electronic music influenced by such styles as Japanese Noise, free jazz, punk rock, death metal and hardcore industrial. Rare among the group’s experimental peers, Cock E.S.P.'s boundary-pushing canon includes a high degree of self-effacing humor, satire and unfiltered emotion; not only making the group more accessible to a general audience, but also directly challenging the antisocial "shock value" norms and elitist conformism common in underground music.

The group's concerts are brief and chaotic vignettes which push their absurdist concepts to an extreme level. Concentrating on the performance aspect itself rather than on the sound, the group follows in the footsteps of such arts movements as Fluxus by causing the audience to question the basic expectation of live recital itself. A modern experimental composer might explore a certain set of atonal sounds over the course of an hour-long work. A hardcore punk band might play a dozen standard three-chord songs before ending their set by knocking over their equipment in a frenzy of feedback. Cock E.S.P., however, attempts to condense such action into one short, cathartic episode which is simultaniously confusing, amusing and confrontational.

20th Anniversary:
For the group's 20th Anniversary tours and celebrations, the primary theme and focus will be on creating the ultimate "anti-band." With the rise of sharing music online, the unfiltered online contact between musician and fan, the tools and encouragement to self-produce -- not to mention the easy online access to nearly the entire history of recorded music -- artists feel an ever-greater degree of self-importance while the music itself descends into blandness. More people have the ability to express themselves through music, but only a shrinking few have the originality and humility to create great music. Cock E.S.P.'s 20th Anniversary presents performances which strip away all the pretense of trolling for approval, the lack of filters which nourish outstanding art through creative tension and the goal of achievement via acknowledgement. The group will be presenting raw, open improvised performances which are equally destined to be humiliating trainwrecks as they are to be powerful and unique artistic statements -- clumsy and broken to counter the prevalent slickness and arrogance of contemporary "bands."

 

Results to Date:

Cock E.S.P.'s recorded output has been incredibly prolific, beginning with distorted lo-fi experimentation and evolving over the years into a powerful yet intricate assemblage of cheap and/or broken electronics, sheet metal, distorted vocals and the occassional traditional instrument. The group's ever-tightening focus and attention to detail can be seen over the course of the group's 17 albums, 11 singles and numerous videos, compilation appearances and cassette tapes. Cock E.S.P. has collaborated on recordings with such noted underground noise artists as Aube, Costes, Lasse Marhaug, Merzbow, K.K. Null, Smell & Quim, To Live & Shave In LA, V/Vm and Violent Onsen Geisha. The group has also appeared on compilations alongside such diverse artists as Andrew W.K., Derek Bailey, Coil, Current 93, Jad Fair, Bruce Gilbert, Hijo Kaidan, His Name is Alive, The Locust, Masonna, Thurston Moore, John Oswald, Sockeye, Throbbing Gristle and Today is the Day.

Since 1994 the group has given more than 260 live performances throughout the US and Europe, playing various rock and jazz clubs, punk houses, theatres, festival stages, art galleries, record stores and warehouse spaces including: 1000fryd (Ålborg), ABC No Rio (New York), AZ-Conni (Dresden), Bedlam Theatre (Minneapolis), Blå (Oslo), Churchill's (Miami), Dodorama (Rotterdam), Empty Bottle (Chicago), First Avenue (Minneapolis), Knitting Factory (New York), L'usine (Geneva), Maine College of Art (Portland), Missouri University (Columbia), MIT (Cambridge), Room 710 (Austin), Samfundet (Trondheim), School of the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), Soap Factory (Minneapolis), University of Chicago (Chicago), and the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis). In addition, they have appeared on live bills with such artists as Acid Mothers Temple, Anal Cunt, Black Dice, Bloodyminded, Borbetomagus, Boredoms, Rhys Chatham, Dresden Dolls, Roky Erickson, The Flying Luttenbachers, Gang Wizard, Goodiepal, Hair Police, Harry Pussy, The Haters, Impaler, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Edward Ka-Spel (Legendary Pink Dots), Steve Mackay (The Stooges), Melt-Banana, Melvins, Kenny Millions, Nihilist Spasm Band, Nine Inch Nails, Ovo, Panicsville, Sonic Youth, Stereolab, Steven Stapleton (Nurse with Wound), Sudden Infant, TABOO, Thighpaulsandra, Tool, Wasteoid, White Mice, Wolf Eyes and Z'ev (Psychic TV).



Jason Wade, Emil Hagstrom, Nicole Rode
2010
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Photo by Alas Vera
Jason Wade, John Vance, Jaime Carrera, Emil Hagstrom
2011
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Photo by Alas Vera
Scott Burns, Paige Flash, Emil Hagstrom
2007
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Photo by Richard Ostrom
John Vance, Emil Hagstrom, Jason Wade, Jaime Carrera
2011
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Photo by Alas Vera
Emil Hagstrom
2007
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Photo by Richard Ostrom
Matt Bacon, Jason Wade, Scott Burns, Emil Hagstrom
2009
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Photo by Darren Cole
Matt Bacon, Emil Hagstrom
2000
640 x 276 pixels
Photo by Richard Ostrom
Emil Hagstrom, Elyse Perez, Matt Bacon
2005
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Photo by Richard Ostrom


"No one had seen anything like Cock E.S.P. Their shows rarely exceeded five minutes. Often, they lasted only three. By the end, the stage was a catastrophe of overturned amps, smashed props, stripped costume pieces, and sprawled, nude bodies, the audience a daze of numbed ears."
City Pages (Minneapolis/St. Paul)

"Somewhere between repellent, hilarious and just plain ridiculously stupid."
San Francisco Bay Guardian

"Is this guerrilla performance art? Am I on a hidden-camera TV show? Am I just stupid for not 'getting it'? Are you fucking kidding me? These are all normal reactions and seemingly a part of the grand concept that the E.S.P.-ers have been pimping for a decade."
Cincinnati CityBeat

"Minneapolis' Cock E.S.P. sound a bit like Radiohead - if Radiohead played an amplified cement mixer and forced Thom Yorke to shriek indecipherable obscenities in a donkey outfit while attacking his bandmates."
Nashville Scene

"Minneapolis' Cock E.S.P.might be called underground or performance art, but is more likely a joke."
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

"A borderline-beautiful display of human wreckage."
Rochester City Newspaper

"Det kunstneriske understrekes også med kyllingdrakter, blod, toppløse maskerte damer og annet performancetull. Så får du heller låne hørselsvernet til naermeste baby imens."
Dagbladet Fretag (Oslo)

"Musik die wie ein Faustschlag voll in den Magen geht."
Dresdner Kulturmagazin (DE)

"På dét punkt er Cock E.S.P. sandelig grænseoverskridende: En hysterisk eksplosion af dårlig smag og dårligere manerer, der ikke kan undgå at få én til at reagere!"
Geiger (DK)

"Horridly obnoxious sounding."
Flipside

"There are folks spending a lot of money to convince us that the logical endpoint of indie rock is a market glut of plodding, vaguely tormented riff rockers. But in small dumpy rooms everywhere, the idiom is getting a real Viking funeral from noise artists chewing up the music and joyfully spitting back the debris. Cock E.S.P. crams smutty, snotty manifestos into nasty, brutish, short sets. I recommend safety goggles, ear plugs and punctuality."
Chicago Reader

"These longtime Minneapolis noise merchants dress up in ridiculous costumes, make sounds that will automatically loosen your stool and throw household appliances at each other."
Go-Go Magazine (Denver)

"If Extreme Championship Wrestling were a noise band, it would be Cock E.S.P."
Time Out New York

"Harsh electronics, grating noises, and spookily inhabited wastelands of sonic detritus."
Dusted

"The group's wretchedly kinky performance-art antics make Cock E.S.P. shows antagonistic to eyes and ears alike."
The Onion A.V. Club

"Sonic hurricanes."
Artforum

"Cock E.S.P. sounds like these guys want to be like Masonna but can't make it."
Inferno

"Just as confrontational and extreme and aggressive as anyone else who grew up preening to Godbullies records."
Bananafish

"I really expected to hate this album with all my heart, but after a closer inspection and listening to it, I can’t help but respect and adore what Cock E.S.P. has done here."
Existence Establishment

"A mixed bag of lunacy!"
Short, Fast & Loud!

"Paving the way for Wolf Eyes to make noise safe and fashionable for the MySpace generation."
Pittsburgh City Paper

 

"Cock E.S.P. makes creative use of sounds that would be rejected by other musicians as equipment failure, as if to point out that seeming disasters can become art as well as humor."
Westword (Denver)

"As Cock E.S.P. has eloquently proved throughout their career, it's hard to take anything too seriously when it includes someone in a donkey mask humping an amplifier."
Columbus Alive

"Splattering digital distortion and synapse-cauterizing electrospasms across your frontal lobe like some psychotic Jackson Pollock, Cock E.S.P. isn't the kind of band your mom wants you to like."
Willamette Week (Portland OR)

"Fairly enjoyable audio pain."
LA Weekly

"If melody, hooks and poignant lyrics are your cup of tea, then Cock E.S.P. are the cigarette butts you find too late in your beer can."
Nashville Scene

"Absurd, abrupt, chaotic and some may say even pointless."
Idwal Fisher

"I did not feel safe as these costumed crusaders began hurling large chunks of metal at the audience. The effect they had upon people was comparable to a natural-disaster."
Icon Weekly (Iowa City)

"Cock E.S.P. kick up a racket that never sticks around long enough to irritate and after the first few tracks shows the kind of irreverent illogic that only a man in a donkey suit could really deliver."
Brainwashed

"There really is some talent required to make such an overwhelming clamor. It's hard to offend virtually everyone, but Cock E.S.P. manages to do so, from their name to the title of the albums to the guitar squelch codas to the live show audience members yelling, they manage to rub me the wrong way in just that right way. Right now, I'm listening to them on my portable CD player with the headphones lying on the desk, and you know what? It's still remarkably unpleasant! Destroy all music indeed."
Royal Journal

"Dain-bramaged."
Boston Phoenix

"Likely to appeal to heavy drinking idiots."
Dark Ambient News

"U.S. circus noise semi-legends."
Decibel Magazine

"Self-destructs in as little as 30 seconds."
Village Voice

"Unbearable and tedious."
Muckraker

"Funny enough the first couple times, but tends to get boring rather quickly."
Sinkhole

"An interesting listen."
Industrial Nation

"May not fit into most people's idea of 'music' and you sure as hell can't fuck to it."
Oui

"Confrontational and potentially dangerous, not only to an unsuspecting audience, but to themselves."
The Scene (London, Ontario)

"A two-man noise comedy performed at ground zero during a bombing run."
Alternative Press

"Squirming ugliness."
The Wire

"There is never a boring moment."
Vital Weekly

"Semen-encrusted fun for the whole family."
Torso