Mary Byker – Everything’s Groovy! – An interview with Jason Michel
Leicester was a bit of a rough & tumble place back then, was it not?
Where did the idea for such a, let’s say, memorable name come from & how much shit did you get at the beginning for it?
MB : Ha ha.
Well … Leicester was a pretty rough place back then and probably still is. We originally called ourselves “petal frenzy” which is a pretty crap name. Then we saw a Ray Lowry cartoon in the NME where he did a cartoon with a biker with gay bikers on acid written on the back of his leather instead of hell’s angels… he really upset a lot of them and received lots of threats (via letters pages). We thought that was really funny – that they would be offended by a cartoon so we just went for it and called ourselves Gaye bykers adding the eMarvin Gaye. as a tribute to
The name seemed to strike a chord, you don’t really forget it. Remember we weren’t really taking things that seriously. It got us noticed
We did our 6th gig at the old Marquee on Wardour St our 7th at the 100 club. The name really helped it was so outrageously stupid!
We did not really get much shit for it actually. We thought we might when we supported Motorhead at the Hammersmith Odeon as it was bit of an Angel event, we took our dealer’s two Rottweilers with us just in case. I stood on the stage sound checking with a huge dog on a lead. The Angels came up to us after the gig and said we held our ground well or words to that effect …
JM : Who were you all listening to those many moons ago?
GBOA had a weird groove on, lots of different stuff happening in there, was that down to diverse influences, fannying around, trying to do something that hadn’t been heard before, or just plain bloody weirdmindedness?
MB : Well, between us we were listening to all sorts of stuff. Me and Robber who founded the band had been DJ’ing along with Ian Anderson and Kev Reverb from Crazyhead.
The Bykers were into Hawkwind, The Pistols, The Clash, Edgar Braughton, Captain Beefheart,Frank Zappa,the Beastie Boys, Run DMC early Hip Hop, Jimi Hendrix, loads of classic rock, Sabbath, Zeppelin, The Doors, lots of American underground stuff like the Butthole Surfers, Sonic Youth, Scratch Acid and lots of Dead Kennedys. Along with James Brown, Parliament … loads of stuff really plus we were all sort of living through the post punk thing,Joy Division, Bauhaus, Caberet Voltaire, Killing Joke, Crass. I followed Southern Death Cult around for a bit.
We were into the free festival thing and all went to the last Stonehenge. We were pretty into the drugs, Hash, Speed, LSD as the way to open up your mind. Turn on tune in and all that Malarkey, politically anarchic and very naive.
There was no real plan we were just young fellas trying to have laugh really!
JM : Did anyone in the bands that you were initially associated with (GBOA, CrazyHead, PWEI, et al) actually use the term “grebo” to identify yourselves?
I know PWEI used it one of their song titles but I thought it was just a piss take.
Seems to me that the best of you fellas were a twisted form of Rock N Roll, yet Rock N Roll. Pure & simple.
MB :No, no one really used that term or particularly liked it. The Poppies had the song Grebo, I Love You, which indeed was a piss take,The person who used the term first was James Brown, who was then a writer at Sounds,he moved to the NME and went on to start Loaded magazine… he grouped the bands together which was either lazy journalism or inspired on his behalf.
JM : Where did the collaboration with Pigface (the Industrial Supergroup) come from?
I mean, jesus christ, never mind the intensity of the music, if you just look at the roll call of members; Jello Biafra, Chris Connelly, Michael Gira, Lydia Lunch, Steve Albini, Genesis P – Orridge, etc etc; there are some fucking heavyweights in there!
MB : Wow! Pigface for me was a real lesson,It was as if the Bykers was my apprenticeship and this was the real deal, I was suddenly working with “real musicians”. No disrespect to the Bykers.
Martin Atkins had played with PIL, Killing Joke, Ministry and Nine Inch Nails, I got involved through the late great Paul Raven, Killing Joke’s bass player who was a mate of mine. Killing Joke were playing with someone or other in Finsbury Park, with Martin on drums and he introduced us..about a month later Raven called me up and said Martin liked my vibe.
I met up with Raven he put £300 in my hand and told me to get a ticket to Chicago, The Bykers had imploded and I had nothing really going on so I jumped on a plane and that was it. I was staying in Martins apartment / rehersal loft on the south side of Chicago rehearsing and writing songs for what was to become the Pigface album Fook. Chicago was Buzzing, Industrial music was at its height and there I was in the middle of it!
The band was made up of Martin on Drums, the late William Tucker who played guitar in Ministry and the Revolting Cocks, Chris Connelly (Ministry & Revolting Cocks), two awesome bass players Raven and Andrew Weiss who was then the bassist of the Rollins Band, En EschKMFDM and Nivek Ogre from Skinny Puppy, who was the guy Trent Reznor ripped off and occasionally Danny Carey the drummer from Tool. It was all pretty insane really the band was incredibly tight and heavy and we had a lot of fun … who was in
We ended up doing something like 81 dates in 88 days on two continents and even found time to record the Fook album on our 2 days off in London!
JM : I stumbled upon Maximum Roach’s myspace page (Surf Rock, Beats & bloody good tunes) & found that you were never signed.
What the fuck’s up with that? And will the Roach keep at it?
MB : Man, another thing I never understood. We were a really great little band, original sounding – live d’n’b drums with surf guitars!. We very nearly signed to Trent Reznor’s label Nothing in the US. We had a deal on the table, when Interscope, Nothing’s parent company got swallowed up by another label and all deals were cancelled. Funnily enough, it was Boy George who turned them onto us after seeing us play. In the UK we had a bit of interest but because of our age and past history it seemed like no one wanted to touch us with a shitty stick … we were all in our 30’s when labels were looking for the next bunch of teenagers to exploit! Shame really as it was a great live band we played all over Europe and even played a gig in the US all without any deal! There is an album sitting around somewhere I think maybe we should get it on i-tunes or something….It was basically the Apollo440 touring band with Noko who pays now with Magazine, Paul Kodish who until recently was the drummer of Pendulum, Harry K and myself doing vocals with Mickey Cusick who had played with BullyragLady Sovereign’s live band. and in
JM : Apollo 440, Pigface, GBOA, Hyperhead, Martinijuana, Maximum Roach, Hoodlum Priest …
The list of bands & acts that you’ve been in or been associated with is bloody diverse, to say the least.
Is that variety something that you’ve always strove for, in logical steps or did you just stumble upon it in true Idler fashion?
How did the jump to DJing affect the way you deal with music?
MB :I think as the old saying goes, variety is the spice of life, but on reflection I have to admit I did stumble into some of the things almost by accident, Apollo 440 for example which tuned out to be the most lucrative thing I ‘ve been involved with. I moved into the back room of Howard Gray’s flat in Camden as I had been kicked out of my then girlfriend’s place. One night we were out drinking in Camden when he drunkenly suggested we pop into the Apollo studio to try something on a track they were working on. I spent half an hour shouting over a track with a sample of Ain’t Talking ‘bout Love by Van Halen and thought nothing of it..The next day he told me to come to the studio and he played me what turned out to be the final version of ” ain’t talking ‘bout dub” . I suggested I could finish of the lyrics write another verse etc, but he said no that’s it, no need, it’s a dance track, it’s finished!.
It was my first experience with working with dance producers who only need a hook to make a tune. Within a month the track was all over the radio, huge in Europe. I spent the next 3 years touring the globe with Apollo.
So in that case it was just lucky really I was in the right place at the right time.
As far as Dj’ing goes, I was DJ’ing before I was in the Bykers ,way before it was fashionable. So no change there really. I’m just very lucky to be paid to play records.
JM : Which other forms of so-called artistic expression float your boat?
Who do you enjoy reading? Any recommendations?
MB :Well I’m interested in all sorts of stuff, I like a Brazilian Artist called Vik Muniz and friend of mine called Marcos Chaves, I like the Juxtapoz type stuff, artists like Mark Ryden, Robert Williams & Frank Kozik and there’s some fantastic Graffiti artists here in Rio .
Bookswise, I’m digging Gabriel Garcia Marquez I just finished Love In The Time Of Cholera, I highly recommend Alan Carr’s – Easy Way To Stop Smoking! and I just finished Nelson Algren’s Walk On The Wild Side, I like Alasdair Gray and Spike Milligan and Martin Amis.
I’m into Films, although as I live in Rio, it can be difficult to see a lot of the films from the UK, so I occasionally download stuff that tickles my fancy I really like Shane Meadows’ films, I loved the Damned United. I think Jason Reitman is a good young director;
Musically, apart from the Brazilian stuff I’ve been listening to a lot of African music things like Tinarewen, Amandou & Miriam, Ali Farka Traore, l also really like some of the dub-step coming out of the UK, stuff like Caspa, Rosko & Skream also the Hypnotic Brass ensemble.
Musically the list goes on and on!
JM : I believe you live in Brazil now. How’s the weather? 😉
Having lived in shockingly foreign climes myself, I know it can change the way that you perceive the world. For better & ill.
How’s the situation over there?
What differences strike you day in & day out between Brazil & Dear Old Miserable Blighty?
How has the change of enviroment affected your relationship to music?
I used to have some Tom Zé CDs, very strange little tunes. What Brazilian music grabs you by the balls?
MB : The weather’s great! Apart from when it rains for 3 days non stop and the city floods!
Most shit is tolerable if you have a beach on your doorstep and the sun is shining.
It does change the way you see things, there are a lot of problems in this city with poverty, gun crime, police corruption but because the weather is so good and the topography of the city is so stunning you learn to take the rough with the smooth.You just have to get on with things and avoid places and situations where you are likely to get into trouble, like not going into the favela to score drugs! Common sense really or just being streetwise. It’s the same as any big city in the world, there were parts of London where I felt less safe than here.
But, they still have to do a lot of work to do here before the world cup arrives in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.
Let’s see. It’s slowly getting better than it was when I first came here on holiday over 10 years ago. They are urbanising the favela’s and acknowledge the existence of the people who live there,That’s a big step to improve things, the vast majority being law abiding folks who do all the cleaning,cooking and nannying for the middle classes. They are removing the drug dealers to less affluent parts of the city but I fear Its cometic it’s more a case of out of sight out of mind …
As far as my enviroment affecting my music I’m learning to appreciate different rhythms, more jazzy stuff or maybe I’m mellowing out in my old age!
Musically, I’m listening to a lot of old Brazilian music classic stuff like Os Mutantes, Jorge ben Jor, Baden Powell, Raul Sextas and, yes, Tom Zé he’s as out there as anybody. Also I like newer things like Marcelinho da Lua, I like a Brazilian rapper called Black Alien. I can’t quite get with the favela funk stuff sonically. It doesn’t really do it for me
Mind you, the people of Rio love their music, their taste can sometimes seem very conservative. A lot of people come here and can’t understand why house music is not as big as it is in Europe. When carnival happens here you begin to understand why. For 2 weeks non-stop the blocos playing samba invade the streets of Rio up to 100 people banging out samba on various percussive instruments driven by the 4 to the floor beat of a surdu (like a bass drum). They have been dancing to this beat for over 100 years, they don’t need to get E’d up to dance for hours on end, they just need beer and the beat. And everybody whatever their age seems to know the words to all the songs. It’s something as an outsider that’s really quite impressive, just how deep the music is with the people … it’s beyond fashion … it’s in the blood..
JM : What projects are you working on at the moment?
MB :I’m doing bit’s and bobs, doing tracks with my buddy Harry K who lives in Brighton under the name of Magnetic Empire, I just did some stuff with Graham Crabb from Pop Will Eat Itself. I’m also just getting into some film soundtrack stuff, I’m working with a Brazilian musician called Marcello Magdellano. We’ve just finished our third movie and are about to start our fourth with a young director here called Cavi Borges. He has a production company working with up and coming actors and is beginning to be taken seriously. His star is rising. So it’s another string to my bow …
I’m also trying to open a bar here with my wife but, man, bureaucracy here is incredible. Fingers crossed we will be open in April.
I’m just trying to keep things moving, keep having fun basically…
JM : Future plans? No chance of GBOA reunion tour? I believe it’s highly fashionable at the moment.
MB : No. No chance of a Bykers reunion, for me it’s about moving forward not looking back. The ironic thing about reforming is that it was Robber Byker who split up the band and now it’s him who want’s to get us back together! That said, I love the guy to bits and we had a lot of fun together and without them I would not be where I am today …
JM : Thanks a lot, Mary. Much appreciated. Keep in the shade now.
Jayne later formed Pink Military Stand alone- who I saw do a cracking gig at Middlesbrough Rock Garden- and later Pink Industry.
I asked Jayne a few questions.
PDB) Can you pitch me the life and times of Jayne Casey in 25 words or less?
Jayne C) I ‘m the cat that’s enjoyed many lives….
PDB) Which posters did you have on your wall when you where 16?
Jayne C)I was in a children’s home ‘no posters allowed’ but it would have been Bowie. Bolan and Hendrix
PDB) Erics. What was that all about?
Jayne C) It was a magical portal where a generation of Liverpool musicians discovered the lexicon of life .
PDB) Which of your own musical adventures has been the most satisfying?
Jayne C) Mmmm ‘ Maybe I’m just like my mother she’s’ never satisfied’ …
PDB) The Beatles : Inspiration or burden?
Jayne C) Both … Roger Eagle who owned Eric’s told us in 1977 never ever to listen to them…..
So although i have obviously heard loads of their music in the background …To this day Me , Ian McCulloch and Pete Wylie have never purposely pressed play.
PDB) How did Big In japan get together?
Jayne C) In 1976 Ken Campbell (RIP) the theatre director produced a play from a trilogy of cult books by Robert Anton Wilson called ‘The Illuminati’
It took place in a semi derelict warehouse on Matthew Street where I had a vintage clothes shop. Bill Drummond was the set designer, Ian brodie was the guitarist in the band
and I had a bit part in the play. Ken used to beg me to be the singer but i wouldn’t do it cos I really couldn’t sing. After Ken left town Bill continued to hound me and eventually I gave in and we formed Big In Japan.
PDB) Did you get narked when that Alphaville song was a hit?
Jayne C) No .. I groaned pulled the quilt over my head and turned over …
PDB) ) The brilliant NME PMSA cover- by Kev Cummins- when Paul Morley interviewed iyou s part of my 80’s iconography. I even remember seeing Did You See her? in Woolworths in Hpool! What was that period like for you?
Jayne C) It was a weird period before the digital revolution kind off ‘ on the cusp’ you could see the future and it looked very different but it was still way in the distance…
it was frustrating musically as it was really hard to find musicians who’ got it’ so although I really like the content of Pink Military I wish Ihad ditched the drummer for a drum machine and got rid of all the middle eights… but I accept it is very much of its time ….. The NME interview was really interesting with its Post Modernist headline It came out in Jan 1980 so it was the first NME of the 80’s and in many ways it heralded the change that the 80s would bring..
PDB) What does Jayne Casey do on a Tuesday afternoon?
Jayne C) I work in and around culture so my working life is varied and unless i am in the middle of a big project I don’t do Monday’s ….So Tuesday is the start of my working week by Tuesday afternoon i am normally throwing daggers at my 19 year old PA who after a long weekend of partying is trying desperately to hide her obvious lack of serotonin : )
Mezzanine Floors, The Pink Military website is here:http://www.cromar.org/pink.htm
Listen to Suicide A Go Go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCDUq0fDBSc&feature=related
Eric’s website is here: http://www.ericsclub.co.uk/Home.html
Driving west through the Rocky Mountains, Chris showed me a collaboration between Boris and Merzbow, Sun Baked Snow Cave. We had just begun our descent down the western side of the range when the album started. Achingly minimalist acoustic guitar notes drifted from the speakers in my truck. As the repetitive guitar progression continued, I found myself drifting from a direct focus upon the sounds, to a more meditative mental state. The hauntingly broken-down folk aspects of the guitar work seemed to perfectly intertwine with the pines and quaking-aspens punctuating the slopes around us. With the continuation of the album, the sounds began to weave an intricate mental picture.
A slowly building atmosphere of electronic feedback encapsulated the minimal acoustic notes. The noise made the organic guitar work seem tortured. A transcendental union with nature was alluded to by the crawling folk aspects of the music. But surrounded by ethereal noise, the connection with nature grew darker and more extreme, until societal disconnection became a clear theme. I began to picture a wandering recluse playing the guitar notes. A mountain hermit who preferred solitude rather than the meaningless chaos of human society. There was a profound loneliness in his playing; but simultaneously, isolation provided him with a perspective with which he could make sense of his existence.
After a while, scratching and howling noise, thickened by deep, sub-bass reverberations, wholly engulfed the folk guitar. The noise became increasingly intense, at times mimicking a disturbed scream. As the walls of sound filled my head, the narrative of the recluse continued. Falling into deeper, more idiosyncratic and psychotic frames of thought, the hermit built a snow cave atop a massive escarpment. In the cave, he dedicated his time to creating dissonant symphonies of electronic noise using a series of pedals and other equipment. His composures became more subtle and complex, until I realized that the sounds were an attempt at communication. While surrounding himself with walls of harsh noise, the recluse’s snow cave began to melt. A cold-front then set in, and the cave’s walls were reinforced by thick sheets of ice, making the habitation virtually indestructible. The snow enclosure had become an entrapment to him. A place where his isolation became so profound as to eradicate any possibility of direct communication with another person. The cave, once his sanctuary, became his prison.
The thickness of the noise became a tangible, physical presence—as real as the looming peaks on both sides of the two-lane highway. Hissing and dirge-like sounds continued, finally coagulating into a monumental, gravitational force. After the noise achieved its visceral climax, the haunting acoustic notes began to slither their way back into the soundscape. The guitar notes then dissipated with the electronic noise, finally fading into a void-like silence. I looked at the digital face of my stereo and realized that the one-song-album had lasted more than an hour. It only felt like a few minutes.On our way back to Colorado from Arizona, we took a different route. Replacing the massive peaks of the Rocky Mountains were seemingly endless stretches of nothingness. As night consumed the desert, Chris put on another album I hadn’t heard—Sunn O)))’s Black One. Each song constructed a different mental image; but the most intense and memorable pictures were painted by the first two songs.
“Sin Nanna” began with gong-like percussion, shrouded by a veil of droning sub-bass. An ancient Chinese mansion, surrounded by a gray-green fog, became the focus of my mind’s eye. The mansion was isolated, giving its owner a complete, and terrifying freedom to enact his most vicious fantasies without the possibility of getting caught. Short, sporadic tendrils of flitting synthetic noise gave the picture an increasingly sinister theme. The mansion exuded a presence only attainable through pure negativity. I could feel that people had died there.
A delicate, but relentless, black metal guitar riff started the next song, “It Took the Night to Believe.” The bass anchored the atmospheric guitar work with a monotonous doom progression. My mental image shifted from the outside of the mansion to a torture chamber in its basement. On racks and benches, gaunt, decrepit, half-alive victims were moaning and praying. As the guitar and bass became submerged beneath cruel, bestial vocals, I pictured the mansion’s owner walking into the dungeon, laughing at the tortured wretches. He whispered sexual threats into their ears after spitting on their faces. While peeling the flesh from one man’s back, the sadist’s droning voice simultaneously expressed pleasure and disgust. He took turns with each of his victims. One man’s limbs were slowly being ripped from their joints on a massive rack; another was forced to eat excrement with the threat of receiving burns from a branding iron if he refused. Sludgy puddles of bile, blood, and other bodily fluids spread across the concrete floor. The sadistic screams of the owner reached a scathing climax at the height of his pleasure. Lingering after the plodding, earthen rumble of the bass, and the cruel vocals, was the relentlessly driving guitar riff.Both of these visual experiences were induced purely through music, without the aid of mind-altering substances.Bio: J.J. Anselmi goes to school at UCD and works in an industrial book labyrinth. He also plays drums in his noisy hardcore band, Sherman to the Fucking Sea.
“I’m not much for bios, because, who cares? It’s the work that matters. I had a piece in disenthralled. I’ll take any chance to push Walter Conley’s work. Walter’s a righteous fucker. Otherwise I’m working out somewhere in America punching bears.”
It might’ve been summer or it might’ve been winter—I tend to think, though, that it was autumn—that the idea that’d been so bandied around in one form or another, the ‘Let start a band’ idea, took actual shape.
Thing is, a lot of shit I’d scribbled around, drivel I’d squatted into spiral notepads, I’d written on napkins, the side spaces of leaflets, brochure fronts, the fucking spunk I’d set down in my school textbook margins, I finally condensed into little songs, gave some bullshit titles to. Lousy lyrics, most of them, some decent two or three lines mixed in—indecipherable twaddle my older brother had gotten his hands on, went ahead and made some crumbly recordings out of.
There were lines like
Why don’t you sit next to me
like when we watched
Midsummer Night’s Dream
culled from life—I’d sat next to some girl at my school’s performance of the play, a miraculously fucked up thing to watch, the bits where some characters should’ve been singing all just done as spoken word. I liked the lyric quite a lot.
But there were other bits just got stuck in my head, I wished to fuck would get out, such as:
in down the road
by the streetcar furnished sunset
No sense to them and I hated to fuck the tune I’d set them to. Dead end lyrics I kept tooling with and tooling with, couldn’t get shut of.
Odds are it was definitely autumn when my brother got the four-track machine and a few real microphones. I rather liked the haze of recording lyrics and guitar all at once, though I knew that the artificial drum beats from a Casio would have to be spliced in later—or set down first—so I soon got into the multi-track thing.
I loved the black snap boxes for the microphones, never bothered to learn the difference between Uni-directional and Omni-directional, but liked the silver Omni-directional microphone the most—it was colder, heavier, drained more of my voice. It was a fucking joke what a dipshit I was, how I’d either forget to turn the switch On or else would click it Off someplace mid-squawking, always feeling the expurgated take, had it not been so unfortunately truncated, would’ve been the perfect motherfucker, the one where I sounded like a singer really singing.
Primary reason I’d spend the entire lunch period in the downstairs toilet had really fuck to do with shyness, being put-upon, singled-out by fuckers, any of that; it had to do with the fact that I wasn’t interested in mixing with people on the strength they seemed like a bunch of boring cockfuckers.
Fact was, there were not so many people at lunch, there was never particular danger of all the toilet stalls filling, a line forming so that it’d be noticeable to someone four back in queue that mine was the only stall never did seem to empty out.
Fact was, time had no drag on me; seemed a minute to wait out fifty in the stall by the grate covered window—five minutes was already ten, so when ten came it felt ten was later than ten, longer than ten, fifteen was easily twenty, twenty the half-hour, the half-hour more than half of the whole time, the count down from fifteen minutes until the bell might as well have been a count down from five minutes, because I’d count down from five three times, which more or less was the equivalent of doing it just once. By this math, lunch was done at twenty minutes in, so what in fuck else was there to do? It legitimately took five minutes to have a shit, could easily stretch to ten to fifteen, the same fifteen that might for all the fuck it mattered be twenty.
I always meant to bring in some notepad, some sketchpad, but this’d be the dead on give away, queer the whole deal. I had to leave the duffle bag I used for my books out somewhere at the risk of its being pawed through or else I’d draw suspicion.
Eventually some dickheads in third year did accost me while I was washing my hands with ‘Hey why do you stay in the bathroom? Do you have some intestinal problems or something? Something wrong with your dick? Waiting for someone or something?’ I didn’t know what to say, just stood there, shrugging simpleton, awkward as some fuck.
Eventually—later later later—lunch would be chatter about Kubrick films and listening to this fucker lie about having seen a battery commercial that had vibrators in it—same pervert fucker who’d end up getting a teacher fired, same fucker was also a member of this same teacher’s Kenpo Karate Dojo (called the teacher ‘Sensei’) this the teacher who one time brought in some boring as cock video of his students doing some routine of kicks and punches and staff twirls for a small audience of nowhere fuckwits at the local fairground (this all to the strains of Eric Burden and The Animals doing ‘Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’) same fucker who’d go on about how he had to be careful when watching his parent’s porn, had to rewind it to the exact instant it’d been stopped at or else he’d be found out (I suppose his parents just watched that much porn, had that exact a memory, kept tabs on the matter).
It soon getting out somehow that I was the person could supply pornography—soft to mid-core, sometimes hard—a rumor I decided not to deny, as I managed to supply the demand rather well, having found some of my older brother’s videos that would dub alright without much picture-quality loss if I connected two piece of shit VCRs together.
I ended up sleep deprived, wandering loops around some warehouse I was working night security in— night security yet again, thing that’d become my perpetual fallback, thing I wrapped myself up in, a bullshit excuse for being nothing. I no longer even bothered trying to stay awake for entire shifts—the warehouse stored samples used in cancer research, locker-freezers budded the floor, oblong cubes, misshapen, inside them actual body parts, feet and hands and portions of legs, all manner of things in the deep freeze (a fact I had verified when my drunken-yokel supervisor had shown up with some other dipshit rednecks to get the fucking marijuana he kept hid in one of the units, a complete twat).
I wandered long up and down the metal steps, into the bathroom I found too creepy to jerk off in even if I locked the door, knew I was locked in and had brought some pornography in particular to jerk off to.
I wandered and at the top of my voice practiced singing the new song, named after one of the old paperbacks, all those fuckers with pages greening, rusting, bluing on the shelves in the basement of my dad’s house—the novel was ‘No One Knew They Were There’ though the song was called ‘Nobody Knew They Were There’.
Loved the work I’d done, the words, always loved coming up with words to my brother’s music. It’d been a long while and I knew it was a waste of time, that I wasn’t actually wanted in the band for shit any more and it was a totally different band, by now, on top of it—four, five times over by now, different people, different names, so much recording equipment and fucking shit, still never enough.
Thing was, I wanted to be able to hit higher notes, tired of my loser goddamned voice always cowering low—which was ninety-nine percent the reason I wasn’t welcome in the fuckwit band any longer, because of my perpetual tendency to write songs meant to be sung high up, like by some 1950’s doo-wap fucker and yet sung them like farting backward a belch up from the gut of my throat.
I was fond of the lyrics to this one, especially the bit went
And I’ve heard what Mother Nature can do
and I’ve read a book or two on love making
in my day
An excellent lyric, especially with the music, the crest and mawing of it. And the lyric
Nobody knew that they were there
and they’ve taken everything we’ve done away
was alright coming out of the slower little segue gap.
It’d come to my eventually realizing, admitting to myself that I’d no desire to get on a stage to sing. It was obvious enough, I thought, to every and all sundry cocksuckers that it didn’t matter, people didn’t give a shit—people-at-large, I meant, people like ‘People’ people, like people-who-were-not-in-bands-of-their-own, were not colleagues, were not just other fuckers wanted to wind up at Denny’s and all of it, talking about ‘their band’ and ‘your band’, how you should ‘all do a show together’ and ‘These are our posters’ and ‘We’re doing an EP before an LP’ or such shit. To me it was nothing to do with anything I’d once wanted.
First track we ever sat down to record—my older brother and I in the basement, I’d never even really sung a bleat of shit before in my life—was dreamy, total pretend; that time in the basement, those three hours, without doubt, rank among the happiest I can remember.
First track was for the album, the song ‘The Little Man Who Wasn’t There’—the phrase from a nursery rhyme, but I’d learned it from Margo Lane saying it to Lamont Cranston in an old episode of The Shadow.
To the song, the title means nothing. This is the general state of the majority—if not fucking all—of the titles and the lyrics we did—the phrase itself is just blurted out in a yarl before a guttural toilet flush scream I did after the center section.
What I actively recall are the opening lines:
reads ARE zero fifty-one
your blind shoulders are like cocky film noir
all bandaged to my knees
and then I’m fuzzy on a few of the words, but it gets to:
Unwrap my bottle
let the bow fall to the dirt
unblink my lips
drink in the rum frosted glass
rub my palms together and concentrate
but I don’t know what the fuck the fellow is meant to concentrate on—something, like he’s looking down at a city, closed down for the night.
It gets to the line
Make a toast to the
though I forget what it is he makes a toast to, but then he says that while he makes this toast he:
at the child
smiling back at me
and there are some thup thup drum beats and a fucking cool scratching sound from the mute of the guitar strings before the second verse begins.
Meaningless. For the most part, utter drivel. Yet it’s interesting to note that the license plate number was a real license plate number I’d seen only once—with the tune of the song in my head I’d tried it out and it just worked. It was my rule that if some phrase or another—however goblin and referenced ex nihilo—fit the tune, I just kept it, with a sense of relief as it usually led to an upswing in energy that’d tend to get through to the end of the verse one fucking way or another—like all of the shit I’m blanking on (the fellow on the hill, what he’s looking at, because he’s looking at something).
That other shit, all of the ‘cocky film noir’ and how it’s ‘bandaged to my knees’ I know was a mix of some doodled phrases in the margins of my French textbook, my Geometry textbook, something.
I was rather fond of the phrase work ‘Smile at the child / smiling back at me’ though it’s some hogwash I guess was supposed to evoke s ridiculously bullshit sentimentality on the part of the (apparently) drunkard hero of the song. A real point of interest is that I warbled the pronunciation of the singing to milk the approximate rhyme of Smile and Child, was fucking chuffed by my doing so, envisioning magazine interviewers who’d bring that point up, imagining some lonely fucker, some loser listening to the cassette, noting it, wondering ‘I wonder if that was on purpose’ in a bemused, respectably awed frame of mind—I imagined approximate rhymes were chic-sophisticate shit, that people motherfucking got off on them.
I did the singing for the recording sitting in one of the old dining room chairs my brother’d requisitioned long ago to the basement, he sat in another, then switched to sitting on a stool. For some reason, there were index cards that he had on the ground, tapped his foot on.
We did the guitar and vocal track at once, instead of dubbing the one over the other—even if only one fucked up and the other went off without a hitch, we’d start again, they both went together.
On the recording, my voice was this make-believe, scratchy low, because I couldn’t hit the rise before the scream if I started too high. For this song in particular, the bizarro fucking voice fit, if it also showed the more or less bullshit of the thing, the phoniness to the narrative voice—it made it more than fucking apparent the song was being sung by a fifteen-year-old kid attempting (poorly) to come off as a world weary, burnt out fuck of a bastard who’d just seen so much, given up, come to reside in a stew of self effacing nausea and melancholy.
The cassette recording, especially with the blat of the synthetic drums, sounded perfect to me. I was bowled over by the simple fact that the song we’d recorded actually sounded like a real song—like a song that actually existed, like songs I listened to by complete strangers.
This was how music was meant to be—it was all quite the fuck obvious to me—raw and scratching, every glitch and pop perfect exactly where the glitch and pop fell. It had grit to it and pretend at the same time, was so unclean, the same as the dirt in the clothes we were wearing while recording it—it was a bunch of handclaps in my chest, like the first time you ever give a lover a fucking last embrace.
I studied hard my brother’s face to see if he actually liked it—in the sense that it was Done and could be played among the people he knew (I knew totally fuck nobody). Also, I wanted to dub a copy, just to have, because I loved the song and there is scarcely a thing as beautiful as a cassette in a cassette-box, maybe with some slip-shod homemade cover and a lyric sheet, the lyrics done up tack tack tack tack tack tack tack tack tack tack tack by a typewriter to make them violent and etched absolutely real—the same fucking words that were sung, because as we did takes I’d change this or that word, pointlessly remove a plural, change adjectives on a whim (or change a name or some whatever, whatever shit like that).
We didn’t take the cassette in the car, because it wouldn’t play correctly until copied onto another tape. We went to see The Edge having seen a preview, thinking it’d probably be shit—I’d no idea who David Mamet was at the time. The film was fucking brilliant—I fell in love with Alec Baldwin for the scene where they couldn’t catch up to the rescue helicopter.
We stopped at a gas station for snacks and soda. I was terrified of ever having to sing the song again, even though I felt I could sing it much better now—now that I’d done it, it was easy, a prat fall, but I wanted to do another song.
It was just as good when we listened to it a few more times. My older brother said he’d make me a copy. Already I could see myself spending hours at night next to my bed, naked and playing the cassette, whisper-singing like I was going fuck mad in front of an audience in some parking lot or shitty room in some person’s house. That night I went for a walk, babbled like a cocksucker, but couldn’t work up the nerve to sing even a bit aloud though I wanted to screech every line until they were etched in the bricks of the walls and the plumes of cold breath became so sharp they’d never vanish—I wanted music to do to walls what it did to me.
For the most part, I no longer cared how I dressed. I’d wear my security pants everywhere because I kind of liked the stripes on them.
Though they were welcome to, my brother and whoever else was in his band never used any of my old lyrics, now that the sound and all of it’d been gutted.
The only time I’d looked, I’d not been able to find a single copy of my old, hand-printed lyric sheets in the motherfucking mess the basement had become. When I went through some of the hundreds of cassettes down there, none of those fuckers were of me, were just instrumental, the occasional tap tap tap and whispered count off of two three or two three four or one two three or one two three four one two three four. Usually a recording would just abruptly end, there’d be a little clattering, a shush like a hand pressed over a microphone, then the hacking chop chop cough of the Record button or whatever being undepressed by Stop being thunked down.
Now and again, I’d ask my older brother if—not even to perform, just for some fucking kicks, for a stupid time of it—could he record some simple three chord rock-and-roll stuff for me to sing some words to, make a cassette for my own enjoyment and the question’d be met with dim enthusiasm mixed with obvious vagueness, yawns and shit, amounting to a general sense of ‘It isn’t going to happen’.
If not night security, it was night audit at a hotel, a motel, or else back to retail, which more or less meant back to grifting from the register. No matter what, I was floating rent checks the start of every month—not even for lack of money, just for my being a lazy spill of dog piss. It was easier to perpetually beg money off my elderly father who had to work two jobs himself. I knew that he had no way of being able to afford kicking me a whole rent payment or car insurance payment just because I laid a bullshit story on him (a job didn’t pay me right but I’d hit him back with the next check because it would have the back pay on it). He’d give me the money without fail—if I needed two hundred I’d just ask for three-sixty, but hem-haw that two hundred or two twenty-five would do it, while hang-dog, scuffing toe to the ground, muttering ‘Sorry sorry I’ll pay you back’.
Breakfast conversations sometimes still revolved around music, my girlfriend and I even discussed with my brother her singing again, though she was sure he’d never liked her singing. I still thought the band name should go back to Bury Your Dead, Arizona but it’d moved well beyond that (Anderson Council through a half dozen other things, finally winding up Bellflur). Pointless, dreamless music chatter—or else I’d talk about wanting to write a book sort of like George Plimpton’s Shadowbox only about amateur porn entrepreneurs, primarily about the cunt who did Cum On Dagny, because this was the latest site I’d subscribed to.
Everything was dead, curling at the ends like old leaves freezing, puddles drying and the crumpled wrappers and bits of paper in them drying, too. I didn’t think about shit like suicide so much, but I also didn’t so much think about anything
We’d all get kicks out of making funny recordings with a palm-sized tape recorder I’d bought. As my brother’s friend Berlin was my hero at the time, I’d mostly just imitate him, as no one the fuck knew who he was. When I managed to get some actual friends, I even fessed up to the imitation, played some of Berlin’s tapes, showed some of the videos of he and I going around fucking with people—this all before his crash, mentally breaking down after he moved away (and though still ghastly funny in doses, afterward, never the same man, got be a bit of a burden, in some ways).
For some reason, one of the people on the basketball team really liked me and this gave me a dubious credibility in the more hip circles, so that I was able to get myself involved in this or that shit, get laughs out of everyone by being a cocksucker in English class, things of that nature. I nicknamed the basketball player ‘Vanilla Dunk’ after the Jonathan Lethem short story and he (for some Christ fucking reason or another) got his mom to track down the song ‘MacArthur’s Park’ for him after I’d mentioned it—he’d all day long tell me how he loved the song, but he’d call it ‘Funny’ so I’d ask if he was maybe thinking of the Weird Al Yankovic parody about ‘Jurassic Park’, but he’d always insist he meant ‘MacArthur’s Park’.
I’d get in moods where I wanted to talk to no one, where everyone reeked of dog turd— moods where I could cackle, my skin seize like it was going to sprout wings lined with broken bones. I’d get bitter, distant, wait for any goddamned opportunity—the tiniest opportunity—to have a jab at somebody, to trap someone in a pointless little fuckwit debate, make them squirm, feel a right cunt, like they didn’t know which motherfucking way was up.
I gave everyone a nickname—usually nicknames I’d heard my older brother give his friends: ‘The Fuzzy Muslim’ (only for comedic effect I’d pronounce Muslim Moss Lom), ‘Fighter Ryu Hyabusima’ from Pro Wrestling on Nintendo, ‘West Propaganda’ and things like that. I called some fucker ‘Rusty’, though I’d sometimes start calling ‘Rusty’ something else, because he’d correct me by saying ‘No no I thought I was Rusty’ and I’d say ‘You aren’t Rusty anymore, Froggy’. I liked to call people ‘Chaucer’, to say ‘That’s what you think, Chaucer’ and ‘I think that’s just your own opinion of the matter, Chaucer’ or ‘Why don’t you go fuck the bathtub faucet there, Chaucer’. I’d sometimes think for hours about how easily I could make an ass of anyone.
I liked to try to coax people into hitting me in the face, promising to pay them, promising them anything. The only fucker ever had the balls on him to do it was that plump little faggot I called ‘Naughty Nigel’—he popped me right then and there, sitting on the bleachers while I was teaching people card games and how to shoot craps, cheating whenever I could. The punch was solid, pushed my lip hard into the jag of one of my teeth, blood flowed nicely and Nigel had a divot in his knuckle.
There were days when I’d not even bother going from one class to another, just sat and read some book off the library shelf, read the local newspaper-on-a-stick, sat at the piano bench and stared, then eventually I would sit out on the steps like some loitering motherfuck.
Principle thing of it was, I had strange ideas about exactly what the thing would be in ‘starting a band’, at the time having no notion of the difference between being a band that just made recordings for cassettes—which to me was fuck-all-end-of-the-world beautiful—and being a band that went and stood in front of some fuckers, mostly hipsters or other people in their other bands. For me it was get all to fuck with what they were thinking, with what visions or chit-chats diddled in their heads, comparisons and critiques and all of the nonsense drag of that.
I was still in that fucked state of affairs where I’d concluded on my own things like Led Zepplin were some vaudevillesque fucking garbage—no bastard agreed with me about that—and at the same time was in the throes of still really loving the Robert Palmer songs my mom’d always put on the mix tapes she made for running—Robert Palmer with his vicious fuck beats and his vocabulary; Huey Lewis and the News, all of it. I was still waffling on what I thought of Pink Floyd, finding them such a yawning drag that I didn’t know what the fuck to do, though the film of The Wall was nice—though the film of the stage-show was some over-the-top pretentious shit. I really loved Jethro Tull—
‘Locomotive Breath’ and ‘Skating Away’, sort of ‘Aqualung’, though that one smacked of some hoity-toity asshole qualities. I was rapidly becoming disillusioned about The Doors, especially once I’d gotten my hands on some of Jim Morrison’s poetry.
My wont was to do recordings on the four-track, make cassettes and dub some copies, just drive around listening to the stuff. At the time, Dylan was something I adored but couldn’t articulate. It was heaven to be with my girlfriend, because she’d so violently, unselfconsciously said ‘I think Dylan has a beautiful voice’, so earnestly I felt like a turd for falling into the hem-haw trap of going ‘I like him even though his voice isn’t exactly the best’, which wasn’t even my opinion, I’d just clipped that from my Science and World Religions teacher—who’d not even been talking to me, but to some much more hip kids, they had all going on about Hendrix and Marley, who were about some week old spunk in my eyes. I adored until fatigue The Kinks—who are and always will be far far superior to The Beatles and fuck any dipshit who can’t just listen and accept the obvious truth of that. But I loved The Beatles, loved The Replacements and was in an odd place because The Talking Heads were great, but a lot of losers I couldn’t stand—a lot of phony-as-balls-faux-rebellious-cocksuckers—had patches and cassettes of The Talking Heads and would sing them all out of context. And I loved every track on the Lion King soundtrack and didn’t know what was considered the proper opinion to have of Tom Petty, because he was either a louse and a fuckwit or I liked him a lot, but was too paranoid to even talk about him.
I knew for an aesthetic fact that scratchy was better than clear. All I knew was music was a slipshod column of words that should be plunked and stroked, made clean or discord, wrecked; that words were the same as humming—and no cunt the fuck agreed with me about that, no one was with me. A long stretch in a song, guitar solo the fuck or otherwise, was a waste. Words. Everything should be words and a dripping closed fist around the clag of mud they were.
Pablo D’Stair is the author of the novel Kaspar Traulahine, approximate (free copies available on request at www.ktapproximate.blogspot.com) and the collection of two novella The Unburied Man and The People Who Use Room Five.
And that’s the way it should be.
They are the epitome of “an acquired taste”.
In a way that only certain artists can be.
Think Boyd Rice or The Residents.I once heard their music described as “falling into a Black Hole”.
Another review talked of “a black abyss”.
The adjectives “spiritual” and “religious” appear with alarming regularity as people try to grapple with their dense and physical mindfucking beauty and noise.And all this from a Metal band.Named after the Sunn amplifier and taking their musical roots from the seminal Drone band, Earth, SUNN O))) was formed by Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson, themselves veterans of the underground Metal scene.
Since then they have created some of the most intense, hypnotic, bizarre and, at times, transcendental vibrations ever put to tape.Did I mention LOUD?
Yes, they are LOUD.
In big fuck-off capital letters.
If you have ever had the opportunity to ever see them live you will know what I mean.
The pure atom-shaking physicality of their music in a live situation is something that can only be understood by visceral experience.
There are rumours that sometimes their music can hit the “brown noise”.
You figure it out.
Then there are the black cowls and smoke.
You can do nothing but stand there and feel.
Their collaborations have been equally impressive, with Japanese experimental gurus Boris; Attila Csihar, the Black Metal growler and even the Arch-Druide himself, Julian Cope speaking Odinist poetry over their layers of sonic waves.
Their last album Monoliths & Dimensions is quite possibly their best work yet.
It features a Tibetan horn, conch shell, string and brass sections and a Viennese church choir.
The last tune, Alice, a dedication to Alice Coltrane is nothing short of immense tenderness.
I am listening to it as I write this.
I remember hearing them at a friend’s house for the first time.
It wasn’t the right time.
But a week or so later, I was on the Paris Metro.
I was very hung over on a Monday morning with the carriage stinking of French piss.
They were on my i-pod.
They made perfect sense.
by Jason Michel
John Zorn, Fred Frith, Bill Laswell, Mick Harris, Mike Patton (Painkiller) – 23/06/08 La Cité de la Musique/ Paris
If you were there you’d know why.
If not, tough shit.
I can’t remember the first time I heard John Zorn, it was either on Mr Bungle’s debut, a twisted, sleazy and psychotic affair, or on the Naked City album, an even more eclectic mix of jazz, movie soundtracks and grindcore w/ Tasmanian devil screams and muttering.
Needless to say, they were both extreme outings and being a lover of all things that shoot off centre. I was hooked …
I was hooked but i never ever thought that i would ever have the opportunity to see the great man live.Well, now I have. so there.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Three men came on stage to a louder than usual applause.
Five men left after the encore to a thunderous, nay, RABID reaction. It was the kind of response you just don’t hear in every concert. It was pure joy, joy at just being there. It wasn’t a concert. It was an event. In between the entrance and the encore was music and noise played from all tangents. From here, from there, up there, down here, blasting, grooving, sparse, dense, tight, all over the shop, slow metallic Sabbath-y bass to space-y noises plucked right out of the aether, and all with high low smooth rattling improv squealing sax of Mr Zorn himself, stood one knee bent and glaring and grinning(told you there’d be a lot of adjectives didn’t I?).
You never knew what to expect, when to expect it and it’s not fucking surprising when you look at the individuals that were gathered together by Zorn to perform in this lounge band from the depths of Hades.The individual sat at the back who blast beat and walloped and caressed his kit like a disobedient child was Mick Harris, drummer of the legendary Napalm Death. The old geezer standing there, was Bill Laswell (yes, the guy who’s worked with everyone from the Ramones and Bootsy Collins to William Burroughs). Bill, ladies and gentlemen, was just … there is no other word to describe him I’m afraid, so please excuse me … he was just … cccooooool.
I know, I know, but he was.
just standing there in his suit and hat, twanging away on those big old strings. a real cool old guy.
Fred Frith (who has played with the fucking Residents!)was sitting down, standing up and pulling the most bizarre and wonderful rhythyms and noises from his guitar and it makes you wonder why anybody would possibly want to write “songs” in the first place.
Finally we come to Mr Patton.
Mr Patton of Faith No More, Fantomas and Tomahawk fame.
He did what it says on the tin.
He grunted, screamed, moaned, bellowed, whizzed, popped, banged, muttered, growled, shouted, whispered, scatted, gurned, crouched and I think only one incomprehensible sentence escaped his lips all night. but he played an instrument alright. He was it. His voice was it. He played himself (take that as you will). Starting with his table of sound ( à la fantomas) and ending just with his mic. He was brilliant, pure demented brilliance.
They were all brilliant.
The night ended with an encore, there was nothing else they could have done, the frenzy of the cheering after they all left was beginning to turn nasty. people were baying until they returned.
And they did.
For one more blast, then they were gone. The frenzy continued and they were brought back on for one final bow.
Then the lights went on.A comedy moment
A gap between pieces of music/noise.
Suddenly, someone at the back of the crowd shouts “Ai lurve ‘ou, John!”, another from the side pipes up with “Ai lurve ‘ou, Mike!”.
“Bill!” “Mick!” “Fred!”
A sheepish look of bemused embarrassment sweep over their faces.
They played their next tune.
by Jason Michel