shriekback:

BEYOND CARE, THANK GOD!Do you know what danger means?

Are Shriekback’s polyrhythms just polytechnic or is their dance stance entrancing?

BARNEY HOSKYNS crosses the big pond to pop the question, JOE STEVENS snaps back.

SHRIEKBACK are back for another bite of the Big A.

What’s down below this afternoon is Central Park, and a livid, explosively close sky is about to break over it.

Carl Marsh, Dave Allen, and Barry Andrews have just got in from Boston, where they captivated a capacity crowd at the Paradise Club, and tonight are set to kick off the annual New Music Seminar week with a date at Danceteria.

The three founder members of the quintessential alternative supergroup skip the feigned-disdain approach favoured by many Western rock bands and are immediately pleasant. Barry is a bald and benign Jaz Coleman, hunched goblin-like against the bedpost. Dave is chirpily, boyishly comical; his warmer Northern accent contrasting with his Southern colleagues. Carl is pretty much face-down and wordless through our chat.

The combined picture is one of satisfaction: with the album ‘Jam Science’, with their company Arista, with being here right now.

What are Shriekback about? In the past it was that terribly dull meta-funk, the whole My Live In The Bush of Theory trip. The Shriekback of ‘Tench’ and most of ‘Care’ were a trio who appeared unable to sing or write songs – in itself not unusual for polytechnic funk – and fell back on something abstract, fleshless, barrenly self-conscious. It was a fudge of their own backgrounds in XTC, Out On Blue Six, and the Gang of Four, plus a slippery handle on the Talking Heads’ ‘Remain in Light’ and all the subliminal ethno-ghetto blasting that implies. The voices sounded like rock critics in the bath (if rock critics take baths), and the project smacked of an attempt to turn the academy into a gymnasium.

In Mat Snow’s words, it all got a bit too “modular and even-tempered”.

Now, onstage, on ‘Jam Science’, the music pulls and stretches and leaps at your ear. Beats rebound and effects scatter left to right. “Pert” and “gank” basses rub against your spine. The whole sound is alive, whether fed through Paul “Groucho” Smykle’s intoxicated mix of the album or boosted by the burning guitar chops grafted on by touring man Lou (ex-Spizzenergi and the uncle in the 3 Mustaphas 3). It’s a crossplay of texture and rhythm, a team effort which at least looks focused and funky.

All of this is not an explanation, of course. Just a way of saying that Shriekback have given up trying to explain. So maybe they didn’t have a library’s worth to say in the first place. I don’t think David Byrne did either. Shriekback ask “Are you ready for shock of devotion?” and proceed to deliver it. They are alive to their own power.

"With us, it’s always been ‘come on in’, where all those industrial funk bands seemed to be pushing you away. The live set now isn’t too harsh, it’s actually grooving. Last night was shit hot, we were operating full tilt. Everyone was moving. It’s good to get that visual idea of what Shriekback are about."

Dave is in full flow: “We’ve never denied that we don’t want to be successful.”

"Er, double negative, Dave," points out Barry.

"Quite."

Of course Shriekback want to be successful, and it’s a fine irony that the Arista deal has given them the credibility they never enjoyed in Indieland. Everything seems immediately more impressive: the Groucho mix, the album cover, the TV ad, the collective confidence.

"The irony is more that we started ‘Jam Science’ well before there was any mention of Arista," says Dave. "In fact, it was almost complete and ready to go."

"The change realy came when Arista started taking us seriously," adds Barry. "Suddenly it was no longer, oh, fucking Shriekback with their weird ideas. We were definitely getting fed up with being obscure. I just wanted to spell it out. I was listening to ‘Sexthinkone’ the other day, and the whole thing just sounds like trying to have a shit when you’re constipated.

"There were a lot of things on ‘Care’ that I felt people weren’t picking up on. ‘Care’ for me was a freeing-up, it was emptying the bowels. We got a few letters saying, yeah, I got it, but a lot of people didn’t really see what we were up to. I think what Arista have done for us has encouraged us to get out of the house a bit more."

‘Care’ opened so well with ‘Lined Up’ and ‘Cleartrails’, but then didn’t seem to know where it was headed. It got awfully bare and subdued. I, for one, couldn’t lock into the abstractions of ‘Hapax Legomena’ and ‘Brink of Collapse’.

"This album’s not so disparate a ‘Care’" Dave agrees. "We’ve gone for a fuller sound and the album is more of a whole. It’s galvanised us. My feeling is that not enough people have checked us out, y’know, they just had some kind of idea about us."

Barry: “I think it’s interesting, the degree to which an image grows like some plant, and the way you can throw a few things in there which’ll make it change.”

You’ve said that at the beginning you felt insecure because you had no master plan. What conceptual scheme were you working from?

"It was a tiny area, a tiny aperture out of what everyone else was doing at that time. For me, I was following through things which first surfaced in Restaurant for Dogs. What interested me was making music about the cycles of things, really – just the idea of breath, for instance. It just seemed to me that there weren’t any middle-eights in nature."

Until now, Shriekback have always played down melody. One critic accurately described them as “all angles and obtrusions”, lacking a firm centre.

"Before, we just away with a lot of pure energy," concedes Dave. "And it didn’t work that well. The fact is, though, that we absolutely cannot write songs, we just can NOT. What does come naturally to us is setting up a good solid rhythm, a sort of loop beat. Then the challenge is to get those highs and peaks in, where Carl or Barry can give it some kind of melodic push. ‘Jam Science’ has definitely got more melody in it."

So funk’s no longer just a “mask”?

"God, you’ve got an armoury of quotes, incha!" laughs Barry. "What I meant when I said that was that it’s like one of those science fiction movies where aliens take over the bodies of humans, and it might look like your Uncle Fred but it’s really one of them. Some of these songs might sound like funk, but they’re really possessed by Shriekback!"

Shriekback talk of “messing with permitted levels of sound”, making noises that aren’t clichès.

"Except that you can use those clichès," interjects Dave, "because they work, they knot together. In the past, I was too wary of being obvious. But it’s true, one of the things that keeps us going is the adventure, the risk-taking."

The trio have retained one motor concept, though. It’s the seventh of the 7 Pillars of Shriekback, the binding agreements they made wit each other in July 1983.

"It really boiled down to this," says Barry. "We wanted the band to express love, authenticity, and energy."

 Now we all prefer and don’t you agree

a mechanical kind of ecstacy

I like Shriekback for not being embarrassed to use these words. I ask if their experience in American EST training has affected their attitude to music.

"For me, it’s been quite simple," says Dave. "I spent four years in the Gang of Four, and I would never admit to being a really good bass player who could actually get things done, go out there and make a difference. I could never accept that. There was always a tension, but I was always denying it. That’s just one area that EST helped me with. It helped me come out a lot, and I think I give more in this band than I ever did in the Gang.

"We’ve never really discussed this, because people always seem to get the wrong idea. I mean, I’d never come across anything weird, I was a straight guy who got pissed a lot, but all the political stuff in the Gang of Four had just fucked me up. There was never any outlet for pure discussion, I jut agreed with everything that was said. We were putting across a manifesto, if you like, which I was a part of but didn’t get anything back from. EST gave me my confidence back. I’m now aware of what I can do, and it’s up to me every day to do it."

Barry: “I think for me the big thing after EST training was that it gave me an experience which, once you’ve seen it, you don’t ever forget it. You never go back to all the rattle that goes on in your head. One you’ve seen the relationship between you and your mind, you can never take it too seriously again.

"A good analogy for it is swimming, in that everyone has the capacity in them to swim. Some people can’t swim, even though that capacity exists, and once you’ve learned how to swim, you can’t not do it. The training says that there are laws that govern the universe, which you have to comply with. They exist when you fall out of that window, they exist in relationships between people, and they exist in the way a piece of music is put together. EST rubs your nose in those laws. You see them for what they are, there’s no mystery anymore."

Dave: “EST makes you ask yourself, is everything alright now, right now? Are you happy now, not tomorrow or next week? In a sense, it’s almost meditative.”

I’m not going to say, of those unfashionable things communication and love, because it really doesn’t interest me whether something is in fashion or not. I know it’s not cool for me to say I love you, but if I don’t love you, then – as Joseph Conrad and his rocking Gang of Four put it – “we live, as we dream, alone.” Let’s not dream, let’s not be alienated, let’s see what’s happening right now. To oppose Miserabilism doesn’t mean you have to get on Soothing Williams’ jingoistic picket line. Shriekback say, enter here, none shall be turned away.

Are you still “normal English white boys, easily embarrassed”, or did EST change that?

"Yeah, I am," confesses Barry. "Sea-anemone out of water, I am."

"I go through phases of being embarrassed and not being embarrassed," says Dave. "We are quite a sensitive band, it’s true."

Does that link up with the rather hackneyed idea that white funk was about compensating for being pale and frail and neurotic?

"There’s a lot of truth in that, though. I sometimes get the idea in me head that black bass players are gonna be better than me, and it sort of ties up with liberal guilt."

"One thing about black culture you can generalise about," adds Barry, "is that people are encouraged to express themselves, whereas in England it’s like at school – get off the piano! You’ll ruin the felt! I think what we’re talking about really is finding this voice which seems authentic, and for me that’s the issue in the whole career of Shriekback. It’s like, what is it? What’s the language?"

The sky looks as though it’s about to crack. The humidity outside is so thick it’s scary. As Barry summarises, I’m preparing to take my leave.

"The sole importance of art is that you can create something that wasn’t there before, and once you’ve communicated to somebody through that, then their world is not going to be exactly the same.

"We get a bit intense about it sometimes, but it’s like Fela Kuti said, if you fuck around with music, you will die young."

New Musical Express (1 September 1984)

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'Jam Science' by Shriekback

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It’s Christmas 1986. I’m twenty years old and I’m on holiday from my university course in Liverpool. In order to clear my overdraft, I’ve once again taken holiday employment with Oddbins, who bought out Gough Brothers, the off-licence chain that I worked for in my last year at school. 

I wouldn’t say I’m a great employee; I spend a lot of my day listening to music and reading, but then again there aren’t that many customers and I keep the shelves stocked. In my favour is the fact that I’m punctual and I don’t ever nick anything. It is these qualities, I’m told by one of my managers, that put me in demand each holiday and have seen me moved onto the ‘secure staff’. As a result, this time I’m deployed in Carshalton, whence the regular staff have recently been dismissed.

I no longer have a car, which made life simple when I was working in locations like Kingston, Hampton, Shepperton and Barnes. Nor is it within cycling distance as the Lower Morden branch was. No, this time I have go by bus and not just one; I have to take the 213 up to North Cheam and then take the 152 to Carshalton*. My constant companion for the last 15 months has been my Walkman and at this time, the Christmas holidays 1986, the only cassette that I play on it is Shriekback’s ‘Jam Science’.

I don’t know how long I’d had the album but I hadn’t played it much at first. The single, ‘Hand on my Heart' had promised the kind of electro-pop that I loved at that time and I had been initially disappointed by the album. However, my first year at university and, particularly, my new friend Ash, had opened up my ears a bit.

At the start of the year, I’d joined Ash’s band, The Zane Gray Incident, which was the first proper band I’d been in. However, the members of the band were all great musicians and at least two of them were better singers than me, so a lack of self-confidence had led to me leaving that summer, fearing I’d soon be ejected from their admirable ranks.

This had led to a miserable period lasting a few months but, that autumn, I’d met another musician, Simon Foster, and formed a new band named after the comic book character, Halo Jones. With a very melodic yet groove-loving bassist lined up to play with us, too, ‘Jam Science’ was suddenly my manifesto. Not that I wanted to copy Shriekback, but there was something about the album, something unpolished and visceral, yet still electronic, that I hoped we might emulate.

OK, so ‘Hand on my Heart’ was kind of slick sounding but the rest of the album was a rich, complex, unpredictable world of clattering Linn drums and funky bass iced with synthesisers used in a way that was different from anything else I’d heard. Plus, I loved Carl Marsh’s lyrics, which sounded like a field report from a world tangential to my own.

And no two songs were the same, so there was the angular ‘Partyline, followed by the gliding, sultry ‘Midnight Maps’, and the syncopated glory of ‘Suck’ that led into the fragile falsetto of ‘Hubris’. On the stale nicotine-stained upper decks of those cold bus journeys between Carshalton and Worcester Park, I lost myself in this other geography that Shriekback had mapped out.

Now, twenty-eight years later, the album has been remastered and reissued along with a recording of the 1984 gig at Hatfield Poly. (There are even a couple of tracks that have never been formally released.) My copy arrived today and it’s sat on my desk as I write. Tomorrow night when I’m on my own, I’m going to pour myself a glass of wine and let myself be transported back to that Christmas, still redolent of musical despair and aspiration, on the verge, although I didn’t know it at the time, of making some brilliant music. Tinged with nostalgia, these are happy memories.

*I think that’s right: it’s been nearly thirty years. 

4 notes

‘Ascension Day’ by Talk TalkI don’t have an actual *favourite* Talk Talk track but this is the one that I can’t stop playing today.

‘Ascension Day’ by Talk Talk
I don’t have an actual *favourite* Talk Talk track but this is the one that I can’t stop playing today.

0 notes

morningmusicshuffle:

Day 181 [KATE BUSH SPECIAL] : King of The Mountain by Kate Bush from Aerial
You’ll have been hard pressed to miss the hype around KB’s return to touring after a 35 year absence. I will be forever indebted to Rob for getting me first night tickets. It was an amazing performance, and unlike anything I’ve seen before. It started simple then got very theatrical (and occasionally a bit am-dram). As well as Rob, I went with Ash and Fenner. Fenner wrote a great review of the gig so I won’t bother doing that here.
I’d call myself a casual fan - familiar with her early “hits” (“Wuthering Heights”, “Babooshka”, “Wow” etc), very very familiar with her middle period (“Hounds of Love”, “Running Up That Hill” etc.) and quite familiar with everything after. KB’s always been part of my music listening in some shape of form since I was a kid, but I haven’t really paid that much attention to her for most of her career. And to be brutally honest I can take or leave her theatrics, but her music can be sublime.
Anyway, the highlight for me was “King of The Mountain” which was masterfully played by her supporting band and rose to a powerful finale, bridging the “simple” part of the show with the “theatrical” stuff to come. So it gets a forced entry in my #morningmusicshuffle playlist, and thereby scoring low on serendipity.
Serendipity : 1
Love : 10

morningmusicshuffle:

Day 181 [KATE BUSH SPECIAL] : King of The Mountain by Kate Bush from Aerial

You’ll have been hard pressed to miss the hype around KB’s return to touring after a 35 year absence. I will be forever indebted to Rob for getting me first night tickets. It was an amazing performance, and unlike anything I’ve seen before. It started simple then got very theatrical (and occasionally a bit am-dram). As well as Rob, I went with Ash and Fenner. Fenner wrote a great review of the gig so I won’t bother doing that here.

I’d call myself a casual fan - familiar with her early “hits” (“Wuthering Heights”, “Babooshka”, “Wow” etc), very very familiar with her middle period (“Hounds of Love”, “Running Up That Hill” etc.) and quite familiar with everything after. KB’s always been part of my music listening in some shape of form since I was a kid, but I haven’t really paid that much attention to her for most of her career. And to be brutally honest I can take or leave her theatrics, but her music can be sublime.

Anyway, the highlight for me was “King of The Mountain” which was masterfully played by her supporting band and rose to a powerful finale, bridging the “simple” part of the show with the “theatrical” stuff to come. So it gets a forced entry in my #morningmusicshuffle playlist, and thereby scoring low on serendipity.

Serendipity : 1

Love : 10

2 notes

‘King of the Mountain’ by Kate BushThis song was one of my favourite parts of the ‘Before the Dawn’ show on Tuesday. Never fails to move me and I don’t know why!

‘King of the Mountain’ by Kate Bush
This song was one of my favourite parts of the ‘Before the Dawn’ show on Tuesday. Never fails to move me and I don’t know why!

1 note

Kate Bush, Eventim Apollo, 26th August 2014

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If you liked pop music in the late 70s it was a given that you’d watch Top of the Pops each week and, if that was the case, you’d have found it impossible to avoid Kate Bush and her music. She had a string of hit singles from her first three albums, ensuring that she was a regular on the show between 1978 and 1980.

I wasn’t really a fan although I did like ‘Sat In Your Lap’, the lead single from her fourth album, which is when she drifted commercially off-piste. But then, in 1985, she released ‘The Hounds of Love’, with four corking singles: ‘Running Up That Hill’, ‘The Hounds Of Love’, ‘The Big Sky’, and ‘Cloudbusting’. And much as I enjoyed those songs, what ensured that I’d still be playing the album nearly thirty years later was the second side, a song cycle called ‘The Ninth Wave’, which I still listen to once every few weeks.

Since then her releases have been sporadic as she appears to have simply followed her muse, getting on with life and music, releasing albums only when she was good and ready. And, since 1979, she has never toured, making only rare live appearances to sing a song and, as far as I am aware, never a complete set. If you’d asked me a few months ago, I’d have been quite confident that she would never play live again.

And then, incredibly, she announced that she was going to play some dates! All in London but not at the O2 or Wembley arena but rather at the Apollo, which was where in 1982, when it was still the Hammersmith Odeon, I saw my first gig (and that was three years after Bush retired from touring!). Amazingly, a friend of mine, Rob - a lifelong and passionate Kate Bush fan - managed to get us tickets for the opening night.

At this point, of course, I started to wonder what she might do. My darkest fear was that she’d simply be on stage with a piano, performing all her hits in a stripped back style. Then, on Friday, my dad gave me a characteristically mean-spirited Daily Mail article which at least reassured me that she had a band playing with her. It also contained some surprising comments from David Hepworth, expressing doubts about her ability to satisfy an audience used to bands that tour regularly.

On a Facebook group, the four of us who we’re going along - me, Ash, Rob and John - chatted about the forthcoming gig and I joked that I hoped she’d play the whole of ‘The Ninth Wave’ but, truth be told, none of us knew what to expect. By the time we met up at the pub, yesterday afternoon, just a couple of hours before the gig, Ash was saying, quite rightly, that really it didn’t matter what she did, even if she came out, took one look at the audience and ran for cover; we were going to the first Kate Bush gig for 35 years!

Arriving at the venue, I was surprised and delighted by how cosy it was. Even from near the back, we had a great view of the stage, which was kitted out with music equipment all along the back, leaving plenty of room at the front. When the band walked on and started playing, the auditorium erupted in an frenzy of excitement. And then, Bush strode out, leading her troupe of backing vocalists and an audience I thought was at the peak of its excitement went completely crazy. Bush’s own delight was evident as she grinned broadly at the audience. “Where have you been?!”

When she started singing - sounding fantastic! - everyone politely sat down. The first song was ‘Lily’, a surprising but great choice from ‘The Red Shoes’ and I loved her band immediately. I recognised David Rhodes (Peter Gabriel’s long-standing guitarist) and John Giblin on bass. They played brilliantly, taking the complex arrangements and making them sound almost easy.

'Lily' was followed by 'The Hounds Of Love' and 'Joanni', both fab, and then 'Top Of The City'. Five tracks in and they'd all come from 'The Hounds Of Love' and 'The Red Shoes'. The she went into the first real highlight for me, 'King Of The Mountain' taken from 'Aerial'. It's a song I love anyway, but an extended finish to the song gave the band a chance to take it somewhere powerful and new.

And then a curtain came down. When it came up again, we were into ‘The Ninth Wave’! The programme, the bit I’d skim read, had implied it would be played in full but I couldn’t quite believe it. And it was just extraordinary. A mixture of film, theatre, dance and, of course, music, the piece was brought to life in a way that in all the time I’ve been listening to it, I had never imagined. Despite her absence from live work for thirty-five years, it was the best show I have ever seen, the sort of thing that, I think, Peter Gabriel has always aspired to. There was a even a mechanical device - pumping out dry ice and brilliant lights - that descended from the ceiling over the audience that Pink Floyd would have been envious of. It finished with a gorgeous drawn out version of ‘The Morning Fog’, for which the band, singers, and dancers all came out onto the front part of the stage and it was quite breathtakingly beautiful.

At the interval, it’s no exaggeration to say that I was completely stunned by what I’d just seen. I messaged the Minx, bewildered but also inspired. I think I spent the whole of the twenty minute break simply trying to digest the show so far.

The next part of the show consisted of the second part of ‘Aerial’: ‘A Sky of Honey’. Although the second track, ‘Prologue’, is pretty much my favourite song by Bush, I find the piece as a whole a bit MOR. This combined with the high of the first half meant that I didn’t enjoy this part of the show as much, although it was still amazing.

The concert finished with two songs. The first was ‘Among Angels’, the last track on ‘50 Words For Snow’, and it was a manifestation of my earlier fears; Bush, alone at the piano, singing something interminable! But then she chose to finish with ‘Cloudbusting’, which was, appropriately, storming.

So, David Hepworth couldn’t have been more wrong; after three and a half decades away, Kate Bush came back with a bloody amazing show. Who would have believed she’d only play tracks from four of her last five albums and completely ignore the first four? And never in my dreams did I honestly think she’d play the whole of ‘The Ninth Wave’. I feel very blessed to have been there for the first show and I’m very grateful to Rob for organising that. And I’m also delighted that I was able to go with Ash and John. I only wish I could take the Minx along.

3 notes

58: Ghost Dog

100non-books:

You know what kind of book people really like? One with ghosts and stuff in. The really big sellers; The Exorcist, Dracula, The Bible – they’ve all got somebody coming back from the dead and causing hi-jinks of one kind or another.

Look at that Stephen King. He’s been banging out spookiness of varying quality since the early Seventies. Sometimes he dips into his bottomless well of ideas and fishes out an absolute cracker. Sometimes he just pulls up a slimy mess. But either way he publishes his spooky jottings and by and large the books sell by the skipful.

And books that sell by the skipful is – I think we can agree – what we both want. Stephen King is my kind of chap. And so are ghosts.

Read More

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lucifelle:

"Strange tradition from the forgotten rural years." Bees attend keeper’s funeral, 1956.

lucifelle:

"Strange tradition from the forgotten rural years." Bees attend keeper’s funeral, 1956.

(Source: kenlayne, via newportdoll)

15,483 notes

"Waiting for Bill"
Nearly two months ago, my friend Jon and I went down to see Bill Drummond’s exhibition in Birmingham and sought out his graffito under Spaghetti Junction. I wrote about it in a Tumblr post here.
Somewhere - possibly on Bill’s website, maybe at the exhibition itself - I saw a note encouraging people to send in photos of any of Bill’s graffiti they saw, so I sent in my photo and also a link to my blog. I didn’t hear anything back and that was fine; I didn’t expect to. I was happy just to take part.
And then, last Friday, I received a reply to my email: “And I think I will be back there this coming Wednesday at some point”. 
I was quite taken aback by this response, presumably (and excitingly) from Bill. So I wrote back: “At the exhibition or the canal? Is there something happening?”
“I will be doing my next layer under Spaghetti Junction. But it is not a public performance. I am just passing through Birmingham on the M6 as I drive from [somewhere in Scotland] to London. Thus no fixed time.”
“If you don’t mind a small audience, I’ll bring a book and a picnic, and hang around to see if I can catch you in action.”
There was no reply to my last email.
I had a ponder.
I sent Jon a text to see if he wanted to come to Birmingham for the day. He did! But he couldn’t :-(
On Saturday, I mentioned it to Dan and Abi, who, it transpired, were both interested and keen to come along. It turned out that, characteristically, the Minx was enthusiastic about it, too. Hurrah! All we needed now was a plan. 
I figured it was going to take Bill just over five hours to get to Birmingham. If he was an early riser, that meant he’d be there around eleven. If he decided to leave after a late breakfast, it would be more like four o’clock. So we aimed to get there around midday on the basis that an early-rising Bill would still be there and busy.
So, just before twelve o’clock, we arrived in Birmingham, got out of the car, gathered up our picnic things and headed down to the canal, beneath spaghetti junction. It was immediately apparent that someone had already covered over Bill’s posters with a new phrase, “Let your lone ranger ride”. Hm… Had Bill beaten us here? I’d assumed his next layer would be posters but could this be it? It didn’t seem very Bill? But then, my inability to predict or second guess Bill is a significant component of why I admire him so much. 
After some (mildly) hazardous manoeuvring, I managed to cross the canal and make my way along to the exhibit. The paint was completely dry: it hadn’t been done today. Here is a picture of me that the Minx took at the scene and here is one I took of the dead flowers in jars on the ground in front of it.
Thus, (sort of) reassured that we hadn’t missed Bill, we went on to set up our picnic. And then we waited for Bill. While we waited, we read our books, did some drawing, had a couple of walks up and down the canal and, between the four of us, made a small artwork for Bill. 
I have to say I enjoyed every moment. It was so relaxing, sat there in our odd little picnic spot, grazing on our lunch as bemused cyclists, pedestrians and even a boat went past. Eventually, though, we required some facilities that this unorthodox spot did not provide and, just after four o’clock, we struck camp and headed back to the car.
Am I disappointed that we didn’t see Bill? Well, yes and no. We went there to see him, of course, not least because of the oblique and possibly misinterpreted invitation to see him at work. But I’m not mad on meeting my heroes; a handshake will do me, which would have been tricky across the canal. Meeting Bill could - as my daughter, Izzy, would say - have been “bare awks”. 
But I’m grateful for the situation that Bill created. We had a lovely day, the stuff of memories.

"Waiting for Bill"

Nearly two months ago, my friend Jon and I went down to see Bill Drummond’s exhibition in Birmingham and sought out his graffito under Spaghetti Junction. I wrote about it in a Tumblr post here.

Somewhere - possibly on Bill’s website, maybe at the exhibition itself - I saw a note encouraging people to send in photos of any of Bill’s graffiti they saw, so I sent in my photo and also a link to my blog. I didn’t hear anything back and that was fine; I didn’t expect to. I was happy just to take part.

And then, last Friday, I received a reply to my email: “And I think I will be back there this coming Wednesday at some point”. 

I was quite taken aback by this response, presumably (and excitingly) from Bill. So I wrote back: “At the exhibition or the canal? Is there something happening?

I will be doing my next layer under Spaghetti Junction. But it is not a public performance. I am just passing through Birmingham on the M6 as I drive from [somewhere in Scotland] to London. Thus no fixed time.

If you don’t mind a small audience, I’ll bring a book and a picnic, and hang around to see if I can catch you in action.

There was no reply to my last email.

I had a ponder.

I sent Jon a text to see if he wanted to come to Birmingham for the day. He did! But he couldn’t :-(

On Saturday, I mentioned it to Dan and Abi, who, it transpired, were both interested and keen to come along. It turned out that, characteristically, the Minx was enthusiastic about it, too. Hurrah! All we needed now was a plan. 

I figured it was going to take Bill just over five hours to get to Birmingham. If he was an early riser, that meant he’d be there around eleven. If he decided to leave after a late breakfast, it would be more like four o’clock. So we aimed to get there around midday on the basis that an early-rising Bill would still be there and busy.

So, just before twelve o’clock, we arrived in Birmingham, got out of the car, gathered up our picnic things and headed down to the canal, beneath spaghetti junction. It was immediately apparent that someone had already covered over Bill’s posters with a new phrase, “Let your lone ranger ride”. Hm… Had Bill beaten us here? I’d assumed his next layer would be posters but could this be it? It didn’t seem very Bill? But then, my inability to predict or second guess Bill is a significant component of why I admire him so much. 

After some (mildly) hazardous manoeuvring, I managed to cross the canal and make my way along to the exhibit. The paint was completely dry: it hadn’t been done today. Here is a picture of me that the Minx took at the scene and here is one I took of the dead flowers in jars on the ground in front of it.

Thus, (sort of) reassured that we hadn’t missed Bill, we went on to set up our picnic. And then we waited for Bill. While we waited, we read our books, did some drawing, had a couple of walks up and down the canal and, between the four of us, made a small artwork for Bill.

I have to say I enjoyed every moment. It was so relaxing, sat there in our odd little picnic spot, grazing on our lunch as bemused cyclists, pedestrians and even a boat went past. Eventually, though, we required some facilities that this unorthodox spot did not provide and, just after four o’clock, we struck camp and headed back to the car.

Am I disappointed that we didn’t see Bill? Well, yes and no. We went there to see him, of course, not least because of the oblique and possibly misinterpreted invitation to see him at work. But I’m not mad on meeting my heroes; a handshake will do me, which would have been tricky across the canal. Meeting Bill could - as my daughter, Izzy, would say - have been “bare awks”.

But I’m grateful for the situation that Bill created. We had a lovely day, the stuff of memories.

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morningmusicshuffle:

Day 153 [VANITY SPECIAL!] : Travel, Climate, Industry by The Zane Gray Incident
Forty years ago today, in Canada, a young, shy bookish drummer called Neil Peart joined prog-rock pioneers Rush and started four decades of musical excellence, revered by musicians the world over.
Coincidentally, 10 years later to the day in Clydach Vale, South Wales, four young musicians spent their first ever day in a proper recording studio 
The track was hastily added with a few home recorded ones on to a cassette titled “Music for Operatives” and enthusiastically sent off to muso mags and record labels. The result? 
"Four excerpts from TZGI’s "Music for Operatives" (terrible title) tape show, from a band with a surfeit of strong melodies and a healthy imagination. They handle the combination of sung and spoken vocals particularly well: the opening "Travel, Climate, Industry" is like a synth based Gang of Four, if you can imagine what that might sound like." E&MM, Jan 85
"TZGI enclose excerpts from "Music for Operatives”, “Music for Industry…Music for Dance”. Now where have I heard that before (at least 17 times)? It must have been in my penthouse or down on the pavement below.
Cruel but fair, TZGI plough an oversubscribed field, but manage to stay in artistic control…with a passionate and punchy construction. The integrated use of flanger, chorus and phaser still leave a simple sound - you can hear the ideas, despite the soggy mix, and that’s the crucial difference
So often on delving into these cassettes, the immortal twin words of holy intent are brought up as the critical tools of analysis - speak now or forever hold your comparison - OK, OK I hear you. Depeche Mode. Out of their exemplary shadow, so many home-based synth combos fail to crawl. TZGI made it.”
And thus kicked off three decades of lost hopes and un-realized dreams.
Sadly, I’m not Canadian - so that’s me in the rising sun tee in a studio renowned for hit after hit (not). I was stylish as well as musical. 
I’m very proud of the track (we were all 17 after all) and it still gives me a small tinge of pleasure when I hear it. You can enjoy it in all its glory here.

morningmusicshuffle:

Day 153 [VANITY SPECIAL!] : Travel, Climate, Industry by The Zane Gray Incident

Forty years ago today, in Canada, a young, shy bookish drummer called Neil Peart joined prog-rock pioneers Rush and started four decades of musical excellence, revered by musicians the world over.

Coincidentally, 10 years later to the day in Clydach Vale, South Wales, four young musicians spent their first ever day in a proper recording studio 

The track was hastily added with a few home recorded ones on to a cassette titled “Music for Operatives” and enthusiastically sent off to muso mags and record labels. The result? 

"Four excerpts from TZGI’s "Music for Operatives" (terrible title) tape show, from a band with a surfeit of strong melodies and a healthy imagination. They handle the combination of sung and spoken vocals particularly well: the opening "Travel, Climate, Industry" is like a synth based Gang of Four, if you can imagine what that might sound like." E&MM, Jan 85

"TZGI enclose excerpts from "Music for Operatives”, “Music for Industry…Music for Dance”. Now where have I heard that before (at least 17 times)? It must have been in my penthouse or down on the pavement below.

Cruel but fair, TZGI plough an oversubscribed field, but manage to stay in artistic control…with a passionate and punchy construction. The integrated use of flanger, chorus and phaser still leave a simple sound - you can hear the ideas, despite the soggy mix, and that’s the crucial difference

So often on delving into these cassettes, the immortal twin words of holy intent are brought up as the critical tools of analysis - speak now or forever hold your comparison - OK, OK I hear you. Depeche Mode. Out of their exemplary shadow, so many home-based synth combos fail to crawl. TZGI made it.”

And thus kicked off three decades of lost hopes and un-realized dreams.

Sadly, I’m not Canadian - so that’s me in the rising sun tee in a studio renowned for hit after hit (not). I was stylish as well as musical. 

I’m very proud of the track (we were all 17 after all) and it still gives me a small tinge of pleasure when I hear it. You can enjoy it in all its glory here.

2 notes

The Wedding Present, Trades Club, 27th July 2014

gigtails:

image

fennerpearson

If you had been in my parents’ house sometime around the early eighties, you would have two distinct types of music coming from the bedrooms occupied by me and my brother. From mine you would heard a very limited diet of electronic music: Kraftwerk, Gary Numan, OMD, Ultravox,…

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morningmusicshuffle:

Day 142 : Hiroshima Mon Amour by Ultravox! from Ha! Ha! Ha!
I used to read Warren Cann’s drum programming column in some music magazine, and religiously program his patterns into my little old (crappy) SR-88 drum machine. You see I was a big fan of Ultravox (without the !) and remember borrowing someone’s Ultravox! (with the !) albums and thinking how austere, cold and unexciting they were. And that old Midge really helped step them up a bit. Now, there doesn’t seem that much difference between late Ultravox! and early Ultravox.
You see, distance is a wonderful thing in music. That which is too close (as ! was to no !) seems outdated and yesterday’s thing. But give it 10+ years and everything sorts itself out in the classics standings.
In fact ! has more gravitas than no !, probably as they were never forced into chart success.
HMA is a beautiful Kraftwerk/early Roxy Music inspired track featuring Warren’s unmistakeable drum programming. This set the template for many new wave/synthpop songs to come, a la Enola Gay 3 years later. Warren’s TR-77 sounds a lot better here than my SR-88, of course.
Serendipity : 10
Love : 8

morningmusicshuffle:

Day 142 : Hiroshima Mon Amour by Ultravox! from Ha! Ha! Ha!

I used to read Warren Cann’s drum programming column in some music magazine, and religiously program his patterns into my little old (crappy) SR-88 drum machine. You see I was a big fan of Ultravox (without the !) and remember borrowing someone’s Ultravox! (with the !) albums and thinking how austere, cold and unexciting they were. And that old Midge really helped step them up a bit. Now, there doesn’t seem that much difference between late Ultravox! and early Ultravox.

You see, distance is a wonderful thing in music. That which is too close (as ! was to no !) seems outdated and yesterday’s thing. But give it 10+ years and everything sorts itself out in the classics standings.

In fact ! has more gravitas than no !, probably as they were never forced into chart success.

HMA is a beautiful Kraftwerk/early Roxy Music inspired track featuring Warren’s unmistakeable drum programming. This set the template for many new wave/synthpop songs to come, a la Enola Gay 3 years later. Warren’s TR-77 sounds a lot better here than my SR-88, of course.

Serendipity : 10

Love : 8

2 notes

morningmusicshuffle:

Day 128 : Bats in the Attic by King Creosote & Jon Hopkins from Diamond Mine
I’m all for singers giving up the American pretense and singing in their naturalized voice. Heavy on his Scottish accent, King Creosote’s (or Kenny to his friends) vocals are delicate and beautiful above a simple piano, drums & atmospheric arrangement. Hopkins keeps the electronic acrobatics to a minimum with just a subtle bass tone to hint at his ambient credentials. Serendipity : 10 Love : 7

morningmusicshuffle:

Day 128 : Bats in the Attic by King Creosote & Jon Hopkins from Diamond Mine

I’m all for singers giving up the American pretense and singing in their naturalized voice. Heavy on his Scottish accent, King Creosote’s (or Kenny to his friends) vocals are delicate and beautiful above a simple piano, drums & atmospheric arrangement. Hopkins keeps the electronic acrobatics to a minimum with just a subtle bass tone to hint at his ambient credentials. Serendipity : 10 Love : 7

2 notes

morningmusicshuffle:

Day 121: I Tried by Mull Historical Society from Loss
A song that manages to be majestic despite its fragile components. Light production, thin vocals, reedy synths, and fuzz guitar. But MHS pulls it off with aplomb to create one of my favourite songs I’d forgotten about.
The song’s well constructed with lots of peripheral instrumentation. I particularly like the “wedding peel” bells that come in at 2’35”. And all very clever considering MHS is a one man band called Colin.
Serendipity : 10
Love : 9

morningmusicshuffle:

Day 121: I Tried by Mull Historical Society from Loss

A song that manages to be majestic despite its fragile components. Light production, thin vocals, reedy synths, and fuzz guitar. But MHS pulls it off with aplomb to create one of my favourite songs I’d forgotten about.

The song’s well constructed with lots of peripheral instrumentation. I particularly like the “wedding peel” bells that come in at 2’35”. And all very clever considering MHS is a one man band called Colin.

Serendipity : 10

Love : 9

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(Source: themichaelmoran)

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