Monday, 26 October 2015

Dada X (1992) C90

I drew my first Dada X cartoon strip in 1988, inspired in equal parts by Alfred Jarry, Zippy the Pinhead, punk rock, and how I imagined the first Nurse With Wound album probably would have sounded had I bought it. Dada X - whose name should properly be rendered with the X as a mathematical exponent - was a nonsense character in a horned wooden mask which allowed me the liberty to produce strips without giving two shits about whether or not they made sense. Four years later, Carl Glover and myself, having been playing and recording as the Dovers for a while, took to a sudden and dramatic change of direction for reasons I can't quite remember, but possibly just for fun. We'd recorded a shitload of thrashy rock songs, that being our default setting, and now undertook an instrumental work of quite different complexion.

Dada X seemed an appropriate name. It would be a C90 with a single track taking up each side, a slowly evolving sound collage. We would refrain from using conventional or programmed instruments aside from, I suppose, the human voice, and all sounds would be derived from either non-musical sources, or compact discs, records, or tapes supplied by our friends, all of which would be heavily treated with effects. The end result features tape loops, samples, a food mixer, bath sponges as percussion instruments, and one hell of a lot of ourselves farting into the microphone over and over until someone had to open a window.

The idea was to regard this as composed by Carl and myself with everyone who had given us a tape of noise we could use listed as a member of the orchestra. Some tapes were supplied on request by those concerned, others we just had laying around and we used them anyway. Unfortunately neither of us bothered to write down just who was in the orchestra, so the following list is from memory, and what can still be recognised:

Source material provided by Glenn Wallis (Konstruktivists), Andrew Cox (Pump, MFH), Timothy Griffiths, John Powell, Shaun Robert (factor X), Paul Condon, Martin Woodall, Martin de Sey (Cravats), and there were probably others but it was a long time ago.

A particularly noisy passage occurring roughly twenty-five minutes into part one was given the title Chocolate Disco and appeared in isolation on the Power to Destroy compilation tape released by Trev Ward's Lebensborn back in 1993. There was a page of artwork supplied, although I don't think he ever used it, and so it is reproduced here for the sake of giving you something to look at, simply because this cassette never got so far as having a cover.

Quite chuffed with this one.

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Monday, 19 October 2015

Soul - Demo Tape (1986) C15

Soul comprised Karl on vocals, Martin and Terry playing guitar, Min on bass and my friend Charlie Adlard on drums. I don't remember the surnames of the first four and didn't think to ask, although in any case people can sometimes be a bit funny about the past - shameful or otherwise - turning up on a website after twenty years, as though the simple acknowledgement of once having existed in some form will immediately transform your bank account into a playground for unscrupulous Nigerian gentlemen. I remember Charlie's surname because we were friends at Maidstone College of Art, and even were this not the case, he's difficult to avoid due to having become the third most famous person in the universe (behind Donald Trump and Bob Carolgees) as artist of The Walking Dead.

Anyway, Charlie and Karl were originally in a Shrewsbury based band called the Magic Roundabout, and - oh fuck it. I may as well just quote what Charlie said:

Soul was kinda formed from the Magic Roundabout - only in the fact though that I was friends with Karl and we were in that band together in Shrewsbury on the art foundation. Then he moved to Worthing and met the other guys. I joined after those four got together. After Soul ended, it was just Karl and Terry who moved to London. The other two stayed behind, and I joined them after completing my degree. And IF was formed with new bassist Ben…

I had forgotten about IF, Charlie's later band, until he mentioned them, although probably because I never saw them live. I have a vague memory of staying at their shared flat one night somewhere in north London, having travelled down from Coventry for the UKCAC comic convention, which is probably neither here nor there.

I saw Soul a few times, and Total Big - for whom I played guitar - supported them on at least one occasion, some pub in Worthing and possibly also something or other at the art college. They were a big, wide-screen rock band, as bands involving Charlie have tended to be, and they were terrific, and somewhat wasted on an art college audience which didn't really mind what you played so long as at least one of the band had a flat top and was wearing one of those German military issue vests like people from muscular Sheffield-based funk bands. One of the first things Charlie and I turned out to have in common was a shared appreciation of Simple Minds, even the stadium-filling stuff you're probably still not allowed to like in certain circles, and Soul therefore sounded pretty damn great to me. The only thing missing from this unfortunately short demo was Raphael, which I vaguely recall as having been one of their best songs.

Whilst we're here, I should probably mention that Charlie is still very much at it, and these days occupies the drum chair - as we musicians call it - for the Cosmic Rays. Their album is available in all sorts of formats here, and is a cracker.

1 - My Fireworks
2 - The Answer to Everything

3 - All Over Your Face

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Monday, 12 October 2015

Do Easy - The Second Metal Tape (1982) C60

Once Fetish Records failed to sign me on the strength of The Metal Tape I came to a realisation - not that I would probably have to get a real job once I left school after all, but that there probably wasn't much point saving up all my amazing ideas for the twenty-four track studio, and my foreseeable musical future almost certainly lay with cassette tapes; so I continued as I had started, not quite having decided on the name Do Easy at this stage, and still with those formal, blandly descriptive titles, most likely founded upon the hunch that any more expressive title I chose would almost certainly sound ridiculous within a couple of months because left to my own devices I'd probably call the tape Genetik Sutcliffe Konstruktions like the fucking knob that I was, or at least had the potential to become.

Speaking of which, The Second Metal Tape features my earliest overt attempt to be Throbbing Gristle in the form of The Function, which was more or less Persuasion adapted to the horrors of being sixteen in a small, fairly rural town at the arse-end of a decade in which rape had generally been regarded as naughty fun, kind of like pinching a pair of knickers from a washing line or something. Being a sensitive lad I attempted to address the inherent sexism of my contemporaries in this track, but it ended up sounding extraordinarily shit, as you will hear, despite my having a second go at it.

Daredevil is a bit of an odd one. Four girls from the year below mine at school had gotten together and written an ode to - I'm guessing - female empowerment, or maybe kid empowerment, and they roped me in to provide some music for it presumably based on having seen me stood in the music room holding a guitar at some point. I suspect they may have been coming at this thing from a sort of Bonnie Tyler or Elaine Paige angle, which was a little at odds with my own interests, but they were girls and they were talking to me (something which didn't really happen that much), and Rebecca even lent me the Heaven 17 album so obviously I wasn't going to say no - that would have been fucking crazy. I'm not sure what they made of the results - my instrumentation added to a tape recording of them singing - but have a feeling it may have exposed my conspicuous lack of musical genius. Oh well.

Excepting the mumbled poetry on Pearl of Death - clumsy horror inspired by the mortuary scene in the recently broadcast BBC version of Thérèse Raquin - I seemed to have worked out my limitations for the rest of this cassette, in so much as that from Sounds of the Eye onwards, it still sounds decent, at least to me. Perhaps there isn't much here that would have given Pierre Schaeffer cause to shit himself, then pack it all in and go back to working on the bins, but then I was sixteen; cut me some fucking slack.

1 - Induction
2 - The Function I

3 - Three Soundtracks
4 - The Function II
5 - Daredevil
6 - Sounds of the Eye
7 - Radioland
8 - Drones
9 - L/R
10 - Pearl of Death I
11 - Pearl of Death II
12 - The Tow
13 - The Best of Shirley Bassey I 
14 - The Best of Shirley Bassey II
15 - Ending

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Monday, 5 October 2015

Spinning Pygmies - Spinning Pygmies I (1987) C60

This is what the album cover would have looked like in the unlikely event of our having signed to Blue Note. Left to right is Carl, Garreth and myself (I don't have any pics of the other two).

My diaries of the time record a gig by Total Big at Maidstone College of Art on Tuesday 9th December 1986, then a Dovers performance at a party at 5, Terrace Road, Maidstone on Friday 19th June 1987, and nothing musical occurring between these two events because I was better at beer consumption than I was at keeping a diary, or playing guitar for that matter. Total Big were myself with Carl Glover on vocals and Chris New on drums, but Chris moved to Dover and we eventually slimmed to a two-piece using a drum machine named in honour of the coastal town in which our rhythm section had purchased a house. However, prior to re-emerging as the Dovers like some sort of slightly pungent butterfly with kids' drawings of dobbers on the wings, Carl and I spent some time mucking about with various friends of varying degrees of musicality in an effort to form a band which wasn't just the two of us with a drum machine. These were all people we knew from the college's Time Based Media course. Mark Smith had played saxophone at the last Total Big performance, or at least had played the saxophone in proximity to the last Total Big performance; Garreth Roberts had been involved with quite a lot of the music I'd recorded in the college sound studio as Do Easy; and Paul Fallon had time to kill before the pubs opened, I guess.

We were called the Flaps - named after a feminine anatomical feature - until Garreth came up with Spinning Pygmies, which was funnier. I'm fairly sure the material on this first tape derives from a single Saturday afternoon, early 1987, kicking off with just Carl and myself, then Garreth turning up in time for Dinosaur Man, then Mark and Paul until we're all jamming away without any real idea of what we were doing, or how any of this could ever be turned into songs. I recall these improvised sessions as a fucking racket, which is essentially what they were, but the more I replay the tape, the more it all begins to sound like a rockier version of one of those German groups from the seventies. Some of the later pieces could almost be described as grooves, particularly those with Mark's sax honking away like a lonely seal.

Ordinarily I would have chopped out all the fannying around, people asking is it recording?, me saying rude words into my Casio SK1 sampler then playing them back at different pitches whilst giggling, and so on, but it was difficult to divide this tape up into cohesive tracks, and in the end I've left it more or less as it is. Make of it what you will.

1 - Concrete Shoes
2 - Hard to Dance

3 - Burned from Behind
4 - Breasts Painted Black
5 - Dinosaur Man
6 - Going No Place
7 - Here's Fatty
8 - Free Jazz
9 - Ramoneo & Juliet
10 - General Pissing Around
11 - What Do You See?
12 - B&B
13 - Louie
14 - What's Going On In My Pants?
15 - Can't Get Enough I
16 - Can't Get Enough II
17 - Bad Disco
18 - Who Owns the Flaps?
19 - From Space

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