Cock E.S.P. is a Minneapolis-based experimental music and performance art project founded by Emil Hagstrom in 1993. The project 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 Hagstrom'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 project'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, Hagstrom and his extensive cadre of collaborators follow in the footsteps of such arts movements as Fluxus by causing the audience to question the basic expectation of live recital itself. Having no fixed membership, Cock E.S.P. "performers" often include random members of the audience who join the performance uninvited, further subverting the traditional idea of a musical concert. Whereas a modern experimental composer might explore a certain set of atonal sounds over the course of an hour-long work, and 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. instead attempts to condense such action into one short, cathartic episode which is simultaniously confusing, amusing and confrontational.
Over the years Hagstrom has been joined by dozens of other Cock collaborators including P.C. Hammeroids, Matt Bacon, Jason Wade, Elyse Perez, Paige Flash, Nicole Rode, NoNo Vetsch, Jaime Carrera, John Vance, Greg Anderson, Scott Burns, Kazko Peasmith, Andy Alper, C. Lavender, RJ Remington, Pat Dundon, Sam Lohman, Tim Carroll, Zoe Haas, Crazy Justin, Weasel Walter, Rat Bastard, Newton, Andy Ortmann, Sara Strand, Lindsey Williams and Raws.
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 project's ever-tightening focus and attention to detail can be seen over the course of the group's numerous albums, singles, 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 Hagstrom and his cohorts have given 300 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).