Hearing Damage: The Rat Opera Brings Dialogue and Song to the Life of Rat Bastard
Franklin clarifies about the project, "It's 90 percent making fun of him and 10 percent honoring him. The overarching premise here is that Rat understands something about art and music that we at least didn't initially know, that he has some sort of insight into this. And he does. He was very responsible for educating many of us in the scene. He's a producer for many of us, but he's also seen himself as a teacher."
Elba points out that Rat's sort of mantra, "You all suck," is about "broadening your mind and going beyond what is popular, the flavor of the week. He's very inclusive. He likes a lot of different kinds of music. But at the end of the day, everything sucks but what he does." He kids, adding, "But not really. He's not really like that. All the people in the show, he likes them, and he's worked with them and produced them. And they're all hippies."
And what Rat is known for is the noise scene, one he has defined largely and developed almost fully in South Florida. "I'm not into it myself," Elba admits. "I'm not a noise guy, and I really can't do it. It takes a certain kind of talent." You'll see that gift in action at the annual International Noise Conference that Rat orchestrates each February at Churchill's Pub in Little Haiti. He points out that some performers just manage to capture the attention of the audience. "It's not so easy to do. You can't be doing just anything."
The sale of the bar, Rat's second home, coincides with the two Hearing Damage performances. Elba says, "It's about Rat, but it's also kind of a love letter to the scene and to Churchill's too."
Mindy Hertzon The inspiration.
"When Rat started this whole thing, I think he had already decided he enjoyed being disruptive," Franklin muses. "That's always been part of his ethic. Thursday nights at Churchill's became, very early on... he'd already made his name with Scraping Teeth and with Laundry Room Squelchers -- it was much more than just the four girls. It was whoever showed up on Thursday nights; it was part of this noise experiment.
"I'm waiting for the day when Rat decides that it was too mainstream for him. And it's become too commercialized by his own work. He did play lead guitar once, on Miami Beach; there were two witnesses. He played the Allman Brothers, the entire 'Blue Sky' lead on top of a song that I was doing. No one would believe it; it was straightforward rock 'n' roll. He can do it; he just doesn't want to. I think he'll come around."
Hearing Damage: The Rat Opera. 8 p.m. Saturday, April 26, and 5 p.m. Sunday, April 27, at Cinema Paradiso, 503 SE Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $8 in advance and $10 day of the show. Call 954-525-3456, or visit fliff.com.