Monday, 23 January 2012

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Revealing the naked wisdom of the stars

Master drummer (and polymath electronic music maker/artist) Roy Berry has posted a very entertaining blog post on his early musical influences and output, which contains a couple of rare treasures from the early '90s. I alluded to both of these in this post two years ago, and it's great to find them now available for wider enjoyment: An All-Gourd Band and Bob's Lead Hyena.

Trey Harrison and an All-Gourd Band - "O My Calabash" - As I described in my earlier post, this was an impromptu freak-out featuring Mark Gooch on gourd flute and gourd saxophone (both of which he had made), the late and much-lamented Craig Shindler on a calabash electric bass (also by Gooch), Lee Swets on Fender bass, Roy Berry on drums, Trey Harrison on vocals, and me on a gourd fiddle made for me by Jack Adcock. The text is from a Polynesian poem in praise of the calabash as an essential navigation device on the open seas. ("Oh my calabash, revealing the naked wisdom of the stars/Oh my calabash, bringing me a brother's life-saving love!") This was released on Loverly, and on the flipside was a very credible straightforward rendition of "Polkadots & Moonbeams" with Trey on vocals, John McClure on some very tasty guitar, Doug Easley on bass, and Kurt Ruleman on drums.

Bob's Lead Hyena - "Jelly" - For my money, this was the most interesting band in Memphis in the early '90s, though sadly it was also among the shortest-lived. When Johnny Williams (bass) moved away, I filled in for a couple of rehearsals and one gig, as I recall, mainly (I think) because I knew all the material from a live recording I had of a set they had played on WEVL. "Jelly" was always my favorite, but I was also partial to a song called "Birthday Pony" ("Feeling like a pony at a birthday party/People payin' money just to ride me around."). Jim Duckworth had also left the band by this time, leaving a more stripped down sound, but also without the wild flights of epic guitar which characterized the first incarnation of the band. I always thought he and guitarist Mark Gooch were perfect foils for one another. I have no idea when this recording was made, but there is clearly no Duckworth here. Gooch's guitar phrasing is trippy and beautiful, as was always typical of his playing. As far as I can tell, the personnel here would be Gooch (guitar), Roy Berry (drums), Johnny Williams (bass) and Stoten Outlan (vocals), one of Memphis' most underrated front men.

My appearance on "Voice of Americans"

Back on 9th January, I appeared as a guest on Resonance FM's "Voice of Americans" show hosted by Lewis Schaffer and Lisa Moyle (she's the person I alluded to here). In addition to some amusing verbal sparring with the hosts, I was able to debut a Linda Heck track from the upcoming Transformed album, which people seemed to enjoy. The podcast is here, or if you're too lazy to click, I have ripped it to SoundCloud.

The glamour of live radio

Friday, 20 January 2012

Zorn free

I keep stumbling across great things in the Internet Archive, and when I do, I feel compelled to share with the scant readership of this blog. Here we join John Zorn on KPFA Berkeley in 1987, previewing and talking about his album "Spillane," and speaking very interestingly about his compositional and improvisational processes. It was only a couple of years later that I discovered him via his collaboration with Tim Berne on Spy vs. Spy, and then the amazing Naked City album, which rearranged my musical brain in a profound way. Moving through every conceivable genre in kaleidoscopic fashion, with frequent stops in the worlds of thrash, hardcore, ambient, skronk, and Carl Stalling, whom Zorn name-checks around the 17:00 mark here, it's an intense musical ride, even 23 years later. The results were by turns beautiful and terrifying, with the latter being greatly aided by the presence of Yamantaka (then Yamatsuka) Eye, whom I also encountered for the first time here.

"A Visit with John Zorn, KPFA, 1987"



Scenes from London life


Pertaining to One Man's Dream

I stumbled across this accidentally today, and its sheer genius leaves me almost speechless. I first heard "J&H Productions" in the late '80s on a bootleg tape of some of the Kapusta stuff which my friend and bandmate John McClure had received from the great Jim Spake, with whom he had just completed a tour of Europe with Alex Chilton. I wonder whatever became of the famous voice?

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Sun Ra interview, WBAI New York 196?

Standing on the (pork) shoulders of giants

Here is yet another reason why Memphis is the undisputed center of the universe. Payne's Bar-B-Q: there's nothing like it on the planet, and you can't beat it with a stick!


God's rhythm section

Call me a curmudgeon, but as a rule I don't like songs with titles consisting solely of a person's entire name. One obvious exception is "David Watts," and I'm also prepared to cut "Eleanor Rigby" some slack on alternate Thursdays. But in general, I think there is a tendency for the name to serve as a sort of crutch for lazy rhymes, or as a convenient get-out-of-jail card for "moon in June" couplets. This song by Alasko-Memphibians Deering and Down suffers somewhat from the same tendency, but Lahna Deering's got a very engaging and alluring voice, Neil Down's slide work sounds great, and best of all, featured prominently in the film are my long-time friends and musical co-conspirators John McClure and Kurt Ruleman on bass and drums, respectively. I have maximum respect for these men, and it is always an honor to play with such a great rhythm section. I only wish the opportunity arose more often. Anyway, I should probably lighten up a bit. This is good, clean fun.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Charlie Watts

One of the really interesting things about living in London is the seemingly endless potential it offers for running into or sighting famous people, some of whom are even interesting. When I first moved here, it seemed like I saw Bob Geldof every month or so, no matter where I went. I remember being surprised at seeing Tracy Emin a few years back walking down the street in The City (London's financial district), smiling about something. She'd probably just been to see her accountant. While I was hanging around waiting for the start of the Spatial AKA gig at the Barbican in November, I looked up to see Gary Oldman standing two feet in front of me, scanning the room for the people he was meant to be meeting. And then there was my up close and personal encounter with Sting.

However, the best by far occurred last summer. It was a nice day and I was walking to a meeting with one of my colleagues, to whom I'll henceforth refer to as "X." We were walking down Bond Street, just approaching the really swank run of jewellery shops. Looking ahead up the pavement 100 feet or so, I caught sight of a small figure in a powder blue blazer, his face mostly obscured by the pedestrians oscillating between us. I could just make out a spiky bit of white hair and one cheekbone. The cheekbone was pretty much the only thing I needed to identify the great Charlie Watts, who had apparently just emerged from spending some not inconsiderable amount of money with a purveyor of fine jewellery, who was now standing next to him chatting while Charlie waited for a car to collect him.

Seeing Charlie in itself was enough, but the anecdote that follows made it better. As we approached him, I whispered to X, "That's Charlie Watts." He seemed not to take note until we had passed Charlie and were 100 feet or so further along. Suddenly he stopped me and asked, "Who did you say that was?" "Charlie Watts." "Really?"

X then proceeded back up the pavement, but by this time Charlie was in his car and rolling away. "That was Charlie Watts?" "Yes." "Who's Charlie Watts?" Exasperated, I replied, "He's the drummer in the f*cking Rolling Stones." "I met Keith Richards once," replied X. "Really?" said I, incredulously. X then told me that in a previous job, he had been in a coffee shop in Noho with some colleagues, when in walked a very drunk Keith Richards, who gravitated towards them, and a short conversation ensued. At some point, someone took a photo, which X said he still had back at the office.

I interjected at one point that it would have been funny if X had claimed to Keith Richards at the time that he thought he was Ronnie Wood. After our meeting, X went off to a lunch appointment, and I went back to the office. Back at my desk, I told my colleagues about seeing Charlie Watts. They asked if X had shared his Rolling Stones close encounter anecdote with me. "Yes," I replied, "he told me about meeting Keith Richards." Almost in chorus, they shouted, "Keith Richards? Is that what he said? Keith Richards? It was Ronnie Wood!" They then produced the photographic evidence, and sure enough, it was Ronnie Wood.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Space is the place

One of the highlights of my 2011 was seeing Spatial AKA at The Barbican back in November. I'd seen them before, but this performance was more intense and darker in tone, with even more interesting visual content this time around. The version of "Frownland" alone was worth the price of admission. I could happily see them every day. This footage was shot in the foyer of the venue, where the band continued to take the audience ever further into space.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

What's another year?

Happy New Year, everybody. I hope it brings everything you wish for, and more. Times are very tough though, and I fear it may be another difficult year for many. My personal approach is to focus on the attainable, and to that end my only real resolution is to try to create as much recorded sound as possible in the year ahead. I've got lots of ideas for montages, "sound sculpture" and more conventional music, and I hope to do more remote collaboration with the ever-wonderful Ms. Linda Heck, among others. Hell, the world may well end in 2012, but at least we can enjoy ourselves on the way out.

In the meantime, here are some recent works, all recorded on Garageband for iPad.

First up, "Safari de France" - it occurred to me recently that Kraftwerk's epic "Tour de France" is really a surf song in disguise, so I have made it so.

Safari de France by Jimi Inc.

This sent me down a German music rabbithole, culminating in a tribute to the beloved Trio. Apologies to them, as well as to the John Lennon estate.

Vorsprung durch Imagination by Jimi Inc.

This piece incorporates the excellent "Bloom" app, guitar loops, radio emissions from Saturn, and a treated snippet of "Third Stone from the Sun."

Adrift by Jimi Inc.

Lastly, a montage that makes me giggle, incorporating Memphis radio legend George Klein and a bunch of other familiar voices.

The Sound of Fun Surrounds You by Jimi Inc.

My first experiment with the iPad, this is a theme song to a non-existent detective drama.

Jimi Inc. - Inspector Sands by Jimi Inc.

Not quite sure what this is.

Jimi Inc. - 8-face by Jimi Inc.

An instrumental, to which I later added vocals.

Jimi Inc. - Move On by Jimi Inc.

Jimi Inc. - Move On (vocals) by Jimi Inc.