It was 30 years ago today

PE Nation of Millions coverAnother anniversary post, this occasion being three decades ago that Public Enemy released their second LP, ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’. This post isn’t entirely about that though but about their debut London gig as part of the 87 Def Jam Tour, supporting LL Cool J at the Hammersmith Odeon, the November before. Also on the bill were Eric B & Rakim (notice the spelling below – and the upcoming Bad News live show posters) and the whole thing was being recorded by the BBC for their ‘Fresh Start To The Week’ rap show.

Hammermith Odean Def Jam Tour 87
Keen-eared listeners will of course know this from the opening lines of the album, MC’d by Fresh Start… host, Dave Pearce, “Hammersmith Odeon are you ready for the Def Jam Tour? Let me hear you make some noise!”. Parts of the gig were interspersed throughout ‘Nations…’ courtesy of The BBC who had already broadcast it by the time the album dropped the next year. Somewhere in among the hollering and whistling were my friends and I as well as many others I would later go on to meet along the way. But first some context:

This was PE’s first trip to the UK, their debut, ‘Yo, Bum Rush The Show’ had been out a while but they’d also released the iconic ‘Rebel Without A Pause’ on the B-side of their last single, ‘You Gonna Get Yours/Mi Uzi Weighs A Ton’. They were supporting LL Cool J on this trip alongside Eric B & Rakim (who were having their own hits like Paid In Full). PE rose up the ranks with incredible speed though. Their first single, ‘Time Bomb/Public Enemy No.1’ was a real oddity, the album dropped in February ’87 and was even weirder but was released on Def Jam so was given perhaps more time than an unknown. When they dropped ‘You Gonna Get Yours’ with the crazed Terminator X Getaway Mix and ‘Rebel…’ on the B side, it was a done deal.

‘Rebel’ was an instant classic – a summer anthem – and more of the same followed. In the autumn, ‘Bring the Noise’, (from the Less Than Zero soundtrack) proved they could do it again and once ‘Nation’ dropped to unanimous acclaim, they were premiere league. By the time they came back to the UK they were either headlining or co-headlining with Run DMC who were still riding off the back of their world-smashing ‘Raising Hell’ album and easily the biggest rap group in the world apart from the Beastie Boys, who still looked like a novelty at that point. But Run DMC’s star was fading and PE – arguably – replaced them.

Winding back to November ’87, they were still the new kids but they’d put quite a show together to make a good first impression. Before we even entered the venue, the unexpected happened, Chuck and Flav appeared outside – behind a barrier and escorted by S1Ws – and chatted with fans. At first they were hesitant but there was such a clamour that they embraced it for a bit, well, Flav did as you can see below.

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Kev + Flav London 1987

That’s me above on the left in the black Kangol hat, what you can’t see is the black body warmer I had on over my leather jacket with a hand-painted Public Enemy stencil logo on the back. This was back before the band even had merch for sale. Chuck was impressed. Below is the concert ticket with a message from Flav scribbled on my train ticket. In hindsight, I think they were perhaps a little overwhelmed at how the UK embraced them on that first tour (remember, ‘Yo, Bum Rush the Show’ was their current record, hence the faded intro on the opening segment on ‘Nation…’). But once the second album dropped, with its BBC recordings and copious thanks to DJs and artists from the UK alongside PE’s US peers, it seems that we made as big an impression as they did.

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Public Enemy were on first – the stage was packed, there were air raid sirens and the enormous PE logo. Terminator X flanked by two gun-toting, S1Ws on pedestals either side, Professor Griff stalking in the shadows with Chuck and Flav in bright white, bounding all over the place. It was a full on, high octane experience from start to very quick end (about half an hour I think), a scrappy, stop-start show that didn’t let up, and if it did then the whistle and foghorn posse just filled in the gaps as can be heard on the recording.

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Above is the ‘Terminator X!’ moment from ‘Rebel Without A Pause’ which the crowd went absolutely nuts for.
You can see actual footage of the gig on the DVD, ‘The First London Invasion 1987’.

In the middle we had Eric B & Rakim who seemed dwarfed by the huge stage with Eric B largely static, high up on his DJ pedestal and no backdrop graphic, leaving only Rakim to prowl the stage for visual entertainment. I’ve actually cropped more off these photos but wanted to show the enormity of the space they occupied. The sound was poor and Rakim called for more volume a few times.

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After this slightly underwhelming middle act it was LL’s turn and at this point he was the bonafide star of the show. At the top of his golden era hip hop peak with his second album, ‘Bigger & Deffer’, out and the forumla-breaking but uneven ‘Walking With a Panther’ yet to come. His intro blew nearly everything before it to pieces. Set in a mocked up Farmer’s Boulevard street scene (his home, referenced on countless numbers of his rhymes), bookended by two DJ booths, a huge, flashing mothership of a boom box descended from the ceiling to the theme tune of ‘2001’ as his DJs, Cut Creator and Bobcat, scratched over the Original Concept’s ‘Can You Feel It’ until the ‘legend in leather’ walked onstage.

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Oozing youthful arrogance, you could see why there were a LOT of women in the audience there for him, here was your first young hip hop heartthrob, only just out of his teens. He was in amazing shape too (see bottom photo) and knew exactly how to work the crowd with a choreographed set involving both DJs (Bobcat even played hype man I seem to remember). His one misstep was to do ‘I Need Love’, the soppy, skip-it-please-ballad from the second album, and he was booed mercilessly for it by a large proportion of the crowd from where I was standing, eager to get back to the high-testosterone beats and cuts. At that point, love ballads had no place in hip hop such as this but the joke’s on all of us as LL and Def Jam had seen some sort of future where RnB would slowly blend with rap so as to become one. James Todd Smith can claim to be a pioneer of that scene, for good or bad, (he didn’t do too badly out of it).

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It was 20 years ago today

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June 23rd, 1998, Brixton Academy, London, UK. A date I’ll never forget, the day I was part of the support package on the London date of the Beastie BoysHello Nasty tour. Pretty mind-blowing, humbling and scary-as-f**k.
The warm up were the Invisibl Skratch Piklz (Mixmaster Mike, Q-Bert and Shortkut) and Money Mark featuring Kid Koala. Mike acted as compere between acts as I recall and we hung out backstage with him, Kid Koala and Money Mark before the show whilst MCA quietly ate at a nearby table. The Beasties were the main attraction of course and played a 30+ song set which I couldn’t completely enjoy because I was so nervous about playing afterwards.

This was no ordinary gig (because The Beastie Boys, who else?) so there was a full-on party DJ roster afterwards too, kicking off with Rob Swift and Total Eclipse from the X-Ecutioners, then Ollie Teeba from The Herbaliser and myself on 4 decks, followed by the original Scratch Perverts (Tony Vegas, DJ Primecuts, Mr Thing and DJ First Rate) all topped off by Alec Empire to clear the place out (which he did in fine style). What a line up! Playing at ‘home’ there were numerous friends and such in the absolutely rammed venue and walking out after the X-Ecutioners was pretty daunting, even though Ollie and I had been practicing our set for weeks. It all flew past and before we knew it we were being hustled off for the Perverts to rip it up.

BeastieBoys Backstage supportAbove: backstage shot, clockwise from top left: Q-Bert, Mr Thing, DJ First Rate, DJ Primecuts, Harry Love, DJ Ollie Teeba, myself, Tony Vegas, Mista Sinista, and Kid Koala centre left.

The few photos I have from that night are pretty terrible but the show poster, complete with guest pass, has hung in my home for the past two decades.

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Below: Rob Swift on the decks.

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New music

IndLabMrkt haul

I thought I’d better post some new music recommends on here seeing as the Four From Food Fridays thing took a back seat since I moved house late last year. I went to the Independant Label Market in Spitalfiends the Saturday before last and picked up a good haul of music at affordable prices, direct from the artists or labels. No queues, no waking up at silly o’clock, some limited editions but I managed to get everything I was after and I arrived a good three hours after it had opened.

Clockwise from top left: Pink Lunch (Trevor Jackson alias) – S/T LP (Pre), Dark They Were And Golden Eyed (Trevor Jackson alias) – Design Your Dreams LP, (Pre) Jon Brooks – 52 (Clay Pipe Music), Larry McGee Revolution – The Burg 7″ (Dynamite Cuts), Concretism – For Concrete & Country LP (Castles In Space), Heavenly Records sampler CD, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Gumboot Soup LP (Heavenly), Soundhog – Newtown Parkway / Astrablast 7″ (Castles In Space), The Twelve Hour Foundation – Bunch of Fives lathe cut 7″ (Castles In Space), Trevor Jackson – System CD (Pre), Of The Night (Trevor Jackson alias) cassette (Pre).

This is where the spirit of Record Store Day lives for me, it was busy, it was exciting, I spent a chunk of money that went straight to the artists/labels and even grabbed copies for friends who couldn’t make it. Every release I got was new bar one reissue that I was given and I bought vinyl, CDs and a cassette. 7″s were around £5 or £10 for a lathe cut with multiple inserts, LPs between £15 and £20 and there was food and booze nearby to enjoy afterwards. Later we dropped into a local record shop only to see multiple copies of unsold RSD Shaggy 7″s and the Florence & The Machine single retailing for £18.

The clue is in the title, ‘Independent Label Market’, twice annually in London at Spitalfields – and yes, I realise I’m lucky enough to live in a city where such a thing happens – but they’re expanding. Next month sees one in Berlin, another in Soho and October has one scheduled for Paris.

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Castles In Space are really killing it with releases right now, the Concretism album is excellent, the Twelve Hour Foundation‘s 7″ above is a great taster for the album to follow and Soundhog‘s debut for the label bodes well for the future. With the Akiha Den Den album last year and more on the horizon, this Brighton-based label is doing good things in electronic music – lovely design by Nick Taylor on the THF single and Richard Littler (Scarfolk) for the Concretism too.

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Outside the market there’s plenty to be scooped up on the web – The new Delights release is out any day, with only half the stock left – a new Group Modular 45 with an update of their Acid Wheels track and a brand new A side. Each comes with this lovely screen print too and it’s limited to 150 copies. Grab one here

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If deep, dark modular electronics are your thing then you could do far worse than grab one or both of these releases which both feature Camberwell local Guido Zen. Vactrol Park is his band with Kyle Martin and this 3 tracker pre-empts a forthcoming album on Malka Tuti label – really nice stuff, similar in vein to their previous two EPs on ESP Institute. The PNZ ‘Shut Your Eyes On The Way Out’ LP is a collab between Zen, Colin Potter, who has worked with Nurse With Wound among others and Alessio Natalizia aka Not Waving.

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Trunk comes up with another winner in the form of the spy-jazz KPM cues for the 2nd and 3rd series of the animated Spiderman cartoon of the 70’s. Fantastic spider-splat vinyl too although these may now be sold out.

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Demdike Stare also just put out a tape of them remixing The Feed-back by Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza (Morricone‘s infamous psychedlic jazz outfit) – I was hoping for something a bit more crazed and fuzzed out but it’s an interesting listen. Sadly I think this is sold out already

Demdike Feedback

Splice festival 2018

SPLICE 2018 /// FESTIVAL TRAILER /// from Splice Festival on Vimeo.

An incredible line-up of AV performances to explore, workshops to participate in, films and talks to expand your knowledge, Splice Festival 2018 is back for a third time.

Tickets are selling fast, there’s just a handful of discounted joint tickets remaining for Splice Festival Friday and Splice Festival Saturday. http://www.splicefestival.com/tickets/

The Sunday features a very special family friendly performance from Graeme Miller : Moomins and the Comet Live Re-score and a brilliant hands on workshop for the yung’uns from School of Noise : Childrens AV workshop: http://www.splicefestival.com/sunday-13th-may-kids-family/

There’s an additional venue on Sunday at Stour Space which looks just as good with Howlround reprising their live soundtrack to ‘A Creak In Time’ from last year’s premiere at Further plus Mixmaster Morris DJing, and some amazing – looking film from iloobia and Graham Dunning‘s mechanical techno project.

They have limited space available for the very popular workshops so get ’em now to avoid being disappointed.
http://www.splicefestival.com/splice/2018/workshops/

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Penguin Live at the Palladium

DJ Food at the Palladium - photo Liz CatchpoleI was recently asked by Penguin/Random House to go through their audio books and put together a 3 min piece for World Book Day. They then asked me to perform it onstage at the London Palladium! It’s at the end of the podcast here but I can’t seem to embed it so here’s a link.

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Crowds outside the Palladium beforehand, this was an employee’s only event, just after we’d had that huge snowstorm.

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Squid Soup‘s lighting rig with Ruth Jones on the video screen shortly before I took the stage.

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Emily Maitless gives me possibly the best intro ever…

DJ Food onstage Palladium

What you sadly can’t see is the animated video I also made to go along with it and the lighting by Squid Soup (who did the recent Four Tet gigs). The photo at the top was taken by an old friend of mine from the Camberwell College days, Liz Catchpole, who works for Penguin and had no idea I was playing until she saw me on stage. Massive thanks to everyone at Penguin / Random House who helped out on this, especially WiIliam Smith at Vintage and Richard Lennon from the audiobook dept.

Penguin podcast

Further at SYNthesis

Further @ Synthesis_StanleyHalls_Photo.PC
Stuff that’s been clogging up the desktop Pt.2

This rather lovely selection of shots was taken by PC at Stanley Halls in Norwood when Further appeared at the SYNthesis festival last September. I’ve still to collate my images and do a proper post on this and the Portico Gallery one that came shortly after but I love this collage of different points in part of the slide show. Follow PC on Instagram here.

Solid Egg 2018

SolEggTinsAs is customary at this time of year, the 2018 edition of Inkymole‘s Solid Egg arrived last week, in two hefty packages which you can see unwrapped in an almost ‘unboxing’ type set of photos. They’ve outdone themselves again this year with bespoke illustrations on the tins to carry the chocolate, wrapped in screen printed tea towels and containing a foldout ‘how to crack the egg’ poster.

SolEgg

Over 1lb in weight, 2500+ calories and available in white, dairy milk, vegan dark, vegan dark praline and vegan ‘milk’ praline this year, there’s still time to get them before Easter from shop.inkymole.com   Accept no substitutes.

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More Search Engine 360º fulldome shows in Bristol

More dates have been added through Feb-May for my 360º fulldome show, ‘The Search Engine’ at the WeTheCurious Planetarium in Bristol. Feb 27th / 23rd Mar / 20th Apr / 18th May – get tickets here: https://www.wethecurious.org/group/dj-food-search-engine-16

“Just had my mind blown watching @djfood‘s ‘The Search Engine’ at @WeTheCurious planetarium. SOOOO TRIPPY AND AWESOME! GO SEE IT!!” – Rebecca Evans, Bristol

Andy Votel exhibition – STOP MAKING SÉANCE

JWArchitectPromodetails One day last Autumn a mystery package arrived containing various Finders Keepers records and one very special, handmade 12″ of Jane Weaver‘s ‘The Architect’ single. One of an edition of 10, it’s a thing to behold; a test pressing hand-labelled with a paste up cover containing one of my favourite designs of last year (see this post).

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Being one of the people urging the designer to make prints of one of his posters for Jane’s Manchester gig I was gutted when my copy got lost in the post over the Xmas period. Luckily a replacement is soon to be on its way. The ‘architect’ of these creations is one of my favourite contemporary designers, Andy Votel, who will be exhibiting some previously unseen self-initiated full size paintings / collages in Manchester from the 25th at Electrik in Manchester.

VOTEL SEANCE INVITE invite

From the press release: “Writer, DJ, designer, broadcaster, label boss and anti-musician Andy “Votel” Shallcross displays a series of original personal works created, at home, in October / November 2017.  
Based around contemporary “fakelore”, reducing influences of European science-fiction art, scholastic illustration, post-pop-art, Plakatstil and mid-century graphic design Andy uses simple methods of painting, collage, deletion and recontextualisation for these one-off, large format placards.
Adopting a recurring patchwork method found in all of Andy’s multi-discipline “magpaic” activities, the running narrative and aesthetic format used in STOP MAKING SÉANCE can be described as pictorial-anagrams, which Votel playfully refers to as Andygrams. Having designed over 200 record sleeves in over 20 years of his graphic design day-job these singular quick-fire situation-abstractions are not intended for large-scale reproduction or as communicative graphic-design thus retaining a freedom previously unexplored in Andy’s visual work and will be on display for short residency in Manchester, Gothenburg and Barcelona in early 2018.”

Check out this interview with Oi Polloi for more info and images

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Further is getting closer

Not long now until the final Further of the year on Nov 18th at the Portico Gallery, West Norwood, London – here’s a trailer and some little excerpts from shorts we’ve made for Simon James‘ Buchla performance.

Come down from 7.30-midnight for food, drink, a record stall and lots of leftfield music and visuals – Tickets here

You should definitely check out Sculpture‘s amazing site too as it’s full of stuff like this

and this

Further at the Portico Gallery – Nov 18th

Further Portico 2.5 Poster A3 portraitThe next Further at The Portico Gallery is on Sat Nov 18th. Pete Williams and I are very excited to be joined by Sculpture for one of their incredible live AV sets and Simon James (Simonsound / Black Channels /Akiha Den Den) will be performing a live set from his Buchla easel system. Early bird tickets on sale now

We’ll also have the Book & Record Bar stall with releases from both acts and a hand-picked selection to compliment plus delicious food and plenty of seating. See below for what to expect on the night.
Sculpture

Simon James

The last Further at the Portico Gallery

The Colourscape on Clapham Common

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Back in 1999 I went to Colourscape on Clapham Common and took a ton of photos, some of which ended up on the cover of the ‘Kaleidoscope’ album. 18 years later, with my two children in tow, I revisited it and was as wowed as I was nearly two decades before. If you get the chance, it’s a beautiful environment to wander around in for an hour, there’s contemporary classical music in the centre chamber and these photos don’t do it justice because it’s impossible to photograph and sends camera phones into convulsions. For more info where Colourscape is going to be next ,check them out on Facebook.

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Under the Radar – Underground Zines & Self-Publications 1965–1975

unterdemradar_de_object_0I was sent a copy of this fantastic book a few months ago and now i’ve seen it appearing in a few of the better books shops over here (Magma has them I believe).

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Designed in collaboration with students of the HfK Bremen it’s a 368 page B&W and colour publication from Leipzig, edited by Jan-Frederik Bandel, Annette Gilbert, Tania Prill and Prill Vieceli Cremers

unterdemradar_de_4_0unterdemradar_de_5_0Packed full of underground press magazines, fanzines and comics from West Germany, showing them in the context from which they emerged. A collection like this is priceless, you would never track down some of these publications even if you knew they existed.

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Editor Tania Prill will talk about the project at Printed Matter’s NY Art Book Fair this Saturday, September 23rd at 12:00 am, at MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101

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Further goes to Spiritland

With great pride and a lot of effort Pete Williams and I played one of our Further sets last Sunday evening at Spiritland, complete with multiple projections. Thanks to everyone who came by despite the bad weather. We had a great time and are in talks to bring it back there. You can hear our 4 hour set below and sample some of the projections we discreetly added to the sumptuous surroundings.

The next Further excursion is in 9 days at the SYNthesis festival in South Norwood, we’ll be playing either side of The Heliocentrics at Stanley Halls preceded by an afternoon of street art painting, food stalls and a talk by designer, Swifty at 6pm.
Tickets here

(Video nicked from Spiritland’s Instagram, photos © Martin LeSanto-Smith)

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RIP Virgil Howe

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I was stunned to learn of the sudden death of Virgil Howe today, a lovely, funny, mega-talented man who I had the pleasure to know for a few years. As a drummer he could straddle the funk, rock and psychedelic genres with ease and was also a mean keyboardist and producer in his own right. Anyone who followed him on Facebook was regaled weekly with anecdotes of his DJing adventures and battles with punters who didn’t want their envelopes pushed in the direction that ‘The Verge’ wanted to go.

His Sunday Hidden Level radio show on Soho Radio was always a smogasbord of funk, soul, rock, psych and everything in between and I’m very proud to have been a guest way back when. I only knew him for a while and can’t say I knew him well but we had loads in common the few times we did meet and I send my condolences out to his family for this awful loss. I feel so gutted for the members of Little Barrie too, on the cusp of a tour, a new album out and finally making it after all these years – I hope they find a way to get over this and carry on but Virgil’s drum stool won’t be an easy one to fill.

From his solo work (the Drums Series on Breakin’ Bread featuring other drummers like Malcolm Catto and Shawn Lee) to his material with The Killer Meters, The Amorphous Androgynous, The Dirty Feel to Little Barrie he was a versatile powerhouse of a drummer. He played drums on one of the greatest remixes ever, ‘The Amorphous Androgynous Exploding Psychedelic Bubble Mix’ of Oasis’ ‘Falling Down’ and recorded a ton of drums for me to use on my next record, which I still have – waiting to be chopped up and sampled – something that will take on a different meaning when I finally use them.
He was also a total dude, not in a corny way either, he just oozed warmth and cool. RIP Virgil Howe

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Further at the Synthesis Festival and Spiritland

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Myself and Pete Williams have two Further gigs this month – firstly at Spiritland to celebrate their first birthday this week. On Sunday 10th we’ll be taking over in the evening – it’s a very limited ticketed affair but will be a perfect setting for what we want to do.

On Thursday Sept 28th we head to Stanley Halls in Norwood Junction to be a part of the Synthesis festival, a three-day happening of music, street art and food. We’ll be sharing the bill with the Heliocentrics so it should be a suitably lysergic evening.
The festival is run by Rob Swain, head guy at the Gamma Proforma label and just look at the line up. DJ Krush, Beak>, Delta, Mode2, Swifty, sheOne, O.Two, Will Barras, Mr Jago, Augustine Kofie, Howie B, Andrea Parker, Heliocentrics, Juice Aleem, DJ Food, Ofeliadorme and more TBA!

Tickets available here

Further at Spiritland

Welcome To The Dark Ages Pt.4 – Friday: Toxteth Day of the Dead and MuMufication

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Friday – the day of The Great Pull North, the Day of MuMufication, the Graduation Ball and many other things. At 2pm I was to be at The Florrie, a community centre / flourishing arts lab in the heart of Toxteth to complete my task as ‘Skull Painter’. Trying to second guess what I’d be doing all week I’d run through several scenarios: they had built a huge skull effigy that needed to be decorated? Badger Kull needed a backdrop painting? The JAMs had 400 Toxteth Day of the Dead masks that we would wear that needed customising? I was almost correct with the last one, not masks though, faces – I and 22 others had to face paint skulls onto the 400 and we set to work transforming many friend’s and stranger’s faces alike.

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The Ice Kream Van was parked up outside, now with looped rope attached to the front and graffiti’d Dalek on wheels* behind – so that’s what we were going to pull North then, but what fate lay at the other end? (*Update: see comments below for Dalek origin)

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At 5pm we were ushered upstairs to a church-like auditorium with seating arranged either side, three vertical video screens framed by an arch above the stage at the far end. A ‘hymn book’ was on each seat which contained the words to ‘Justified & Ancient’ inside but on a quick scan some of the words had been changed. “They called me up in Sheffield town, they said ‘Jarvis, stand by The JAMs'” – surely not? Was Jarvis Cocker going to join the JAMs? The room fell silent and all phones were ordered to be turned off (hence no photos for this part), this didn’t deter some people as you may well have seen by now on the web but it did mean that one of the highlights of the week was captured at least in part.

We were treated to the 23 minute version of the film ‘2023’, a triptych of dark, menacing imagery and iconography that was beautiful, disturbing, baffling, unnerving and loaded with symbolism, the soundtrack mostly ambient industrial sounds and radio noise finishing with Nilsson‘s ‘Everybody’s Talking ‘Bout Me’ over the end credits.
I’ve yet to read the book so most of the imagery has little context at the moment but I noticed revolving grapefruit and Yoko Ono as the Starbucks logo (already seen on some of the merch and the free paper cups when you bought drinks at the Dead Perch). These are both surely a reference to Yoko’s book ‘Grapefruit’ and could allude to the ‘Grapefruit Are Not The Only Bombs’ book we all contributed to the day before, itself an allusion to Jeanette Winterson‘sOranges Are Not The Only Fruit’ maybe? The Shard blazed, black pyramids turned above seas and rolling corn fields, stormy skies filled with black clouds, a fox padded the London streets and four bullets from North, South, East and West collided in slow motion in the final scene.

What followed was a long presentation / sales pitch by ‘green undertakers’ Claire and Rupert Callender – a very dark, depressing, occasionally humorous but deadly serious meditation of death that served to bring the mood down to rock bottom. The assertion was not to be afraid but that we were already dead, that The JAMs were now in business with them as undertakers to the underworld and we were all invited to take part in ‘MuMufication’. In a nutshell this meant that they had engineered their own house bricks (stamped with the words ‘Mu Mu’) which each participant could have part of their ashes poured into when they died. These bricks would be collected annually on November 23rd which was now designated ‘Toxteth Day of the Dead’ and a ‘People’s Pyramid’ would be built, year on year, until it was 23 feet high. The pyramid will be situated in Toxteth (site yet to be determined) and it will take 34,592 bricks to build it. Participants who sign up pay £99 and get a brick plus Certificate of MuMufication – this is all real, anyone can do it, check out www.mumufication.com for more info. IMG_5118

The ‘MuMufication’ sticker I’d snapped a few days earlier on the side of the Ice Kream Van suddenly made sense, and the 99 Mu Mu Bricks, the signs had been there all along. This was the one point where the internet jokes that we’d all be committing some Jim Jones-style suicide pact by the end of things started to gain some credence and I started to wonder if there was anything in the face paint we’d just all applied. I pity anyone in the crowd who had recently lost a loved one or was preparing for a funeral. It was wrist-slashingly sombre.

But Lo! Suddenly a procession sweeps into the room, standard-bearers holding a Toxteth Day of the Dead banner, monks in Mu Mu gowns, coffin-bearers carrying two no-frills bare wood coffins, gravediggers, I also remember traffic cones worn on heads, a choir, there were more but it’s all a but of a blur. Also a blue robed, hooded figure in their midst, face concealed, who mounted the stage behind the congregation and started to speak; ‘They’re Justified, and they’re Ancient, and they drive an ice cream van’ in a soft northern brogue that could only belong to Jarvis Cocker. As the choir mournfully intoned the lyrics the cloak was pulled back to reveal the man himself, brilliantly hamming it up for all his worth in a slow, understated gospel version of their 1991 hit. The videos on the web don’t do it justice without the proceeding events described above, the song lifting the mood higher and higher as the incredulous crowd joined in with the end chant of ‘All Bound For Mu Mu Land’ before exiting the hall in a procession that followed Jarvis, the choir and all performers from the stage and out into the street.

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Outside the crowd spilled onto the road and a small gaggle of locals had gathered to watch, Gimpo quickly got the first team to man the ropes of the ice cream van and we were underway on the three mile pull North to The Invisible Wind Factory. Heading the procession were a bagpipe and drummer duo, standard bearers, the pullers, the van with Drummond & Cauty inside, the choir, assorted Mu in robes and sacks and then the rest of us spilling out on both sides and behind. Ragwort was thrown from shopping carts at the front and then collected by more carts at the back and run up to the front again.

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The police turned up within half an hour to escort us along the busy riverside road and contain traffic, at one point trying to stop the procession but failing – did they have a permit to march? FUUK knows.
Halfway along the route a car parked up and helpers proceeded to throw yellow kagools out to the marchers, emblazoned with the pyramid blaster and JAMs logos and the legend ‘Delivering Sustainable Death’. The sea of yellow with black and white skull masks moved forward at a brisk pace…

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Finally we reached a waste ground, opposite the Invisible Wind Factory, the sunset earlier was a blazing orange sky which would have framed the occasion all the better had we arrived an hour before. A wooden pyramid / pyre was erected in the centre of a circle and the wooden coffins in the back of the Ice Kream Van (I did mention those didn’t I?) were ceremoniously loaded into it. Bill and Jimmy, Mu Mu horns now on their heads, wasted no time, lit long torches and quickly set fire to the structure, it catching almost immediately, going up in a yellow blaze against the night sky as the robed 400 watched and cheered. I’m not going to lie, I was hoping they’d pile the Dalek, the T-Speaker and the van onto the pyre too, cleanse their past in one fell swoop and put the lid on it once and for all but it wasn’t to be.

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Some said the plan was to drive the van into the Mersey but I don’t think that happened. After this events got confused, Daisy Campbell, megaphone in hand, struggled to make herself heard to the widely assembled crowd, some of who wanted to eat and drink after the fun and games and some who made for the toilets nearby. The undertakers were in the Ice Kream Van signing up people for ‘MuMufication’, bricks on display, but now wasn’t the time for this on a dark patch of wasteland with the light gone and the temperature dropping. A huge queue formed but with only a small window to explain the process from they were fighting a losing battle.

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I retired to the club opposite to set up the decks for my set later on and grab some food backstage. Pete Wylie was there in the dressing room, having schooled Badger Kull half the week and we could see the gathering outside winding down from our high vantage point on the top floor. Punters started arriving at 10pm, a mixture of the 400 and paying public who could also buy tickets, you could tell who was who from the face paint. Greg Wilson was on stage whipping the crowd up with pumped up versions of electronic classics like Gary Numan‘s ‘Cars’, The Human League‘s ‘Being Boiled’ and ‘The Message’ and Kermit from Black Grape was dancing around in bunny ears.

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The T-speaker was behind the merch table, selling Badger Kull T-shirts to the faithful and the bemused and it was all about their impending one and only performance at 23 seconds past midnight, a fitting end to the proceedings. The mood was electric as they took to the stage, four guys, all on bass guitar, in face masks and robes with yellow and black warning tape decorations, playing their one note riff over and over to strobes, chanting ‘Toxteth Day of the Dead’ repeatedly, leaving the stage three minutes later to a squall of bass feedback. It was never going to win any prizes for subtlety but it was all the crowd needed.

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Lastly it was my turn, pretty daunting to step up to the decks after that performance to a club packed to the rafters with JAMs fans on a total high after what they’d just witnessed I can tell you (I took the photo above as I stepped up). When Jimmy asked me to play at the Ball my first question was, ‘Should I play any JAMs / KLF?’ and the answer was an unequivocal ‘no’, which was fine. Bill wanted ‘no revisiting of one’s acid house days’ and gave me a superb brief to play dangerously, wide and lateral. They also provided me with a glimpse at a page from ‘2023′ where it lists the line up for a fictitious Xmas day episode of Top of The Pops.

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(photo by George Stewart-Lockheart)
I took that list fairly literally and decided to source as many original samples that The JAMs, Timelords and KLF had used as possible, I wouldn’t be playing their records, just the records they’d played with. I opened with the MC5’s ‘Kick Out the Jams’ (of course) and proceeded through Abba, The Monkees, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, various TOTPs themes, Tommy Vance spoken word, The Sweet, the Dr Who theme, The Human League‘s version of ‘Rock n Roll’, themes from Jesus Christ Superstar, Sly & The Family Stone, James Brown and more before dropping a ton of club classics and a full final hour of downtempo tunes including ‘Wichita Lineman’ and ‘War Is Over If You Want It’, ending with ‘In The Ghetto’ at just shy of 3am.

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(photo by George Stewart-Lockheart)
As gigs go, it was a milestone in my career that I’ll never forget. As an event it was a success on so many levels I doubt the participants will ever fully get their heads around it. As a comeback it was unparalleled, everything and more that a fan of this duo could have wanted but never dreamed up. As an exercise in the closing of one chapter and the opening of another, with the fans helping to write that chapter from the building blocks the JAMs had put in place, it was genius. That they closed the event with the opportunity to eventually place part of those fans and others inside the blocks and build a People’s Pyramid to commemorate the event on the very ground it took place in was another nice touch. Best graduation party ever…

 

Saturday, the aftermath:

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Some graduated early that night and received their certificates at the club, for most though it was one final trip to the Dead Perch Lounge on Saturday morning to be met by an unexpected series of posters that had been plastered up outside overnight. Someone had expressed their displeasure at the events in a very JAMs-esque way, enough to make most question if these weren’t an elaborate double-bluff by Drummond & Cauty themselves.

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Inside, The JAMs were handing out signed Certificates Of Graduation with stern handshakes and little banter and we stayed for a drink and an explanation on how exactly The People’s Pyramid was going to be constructed by the architect who had drawn up the plans, now displayed in the gallery. Finally we were ushered into a previously hidden back room where a tower of TV sets showed video loops whilst the choir’s A cappella from Friday’s ‘Justified & Ancient’ quietly played in the background.

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Whether Bill and Jimmy ever do another event, make another record or create any more art together ever again (and there were rumours that this could happen elsewhere in the future) doesn’t matter. They and the team around them pulled off an incredible experience that could have crashed and burned (pun intended) so many times and in the process must have inspired many of the participants to go forth and continue this kind of work and thinking in their daily lives from this point on. There were rules, there always is with Drummond, but these were also guidelines to break out of conventional thinking and you have to know the rules before you can break them – always accept the contradictions with The JAMs. Worth the £100 ticket price? Many times over. The experience was priceless and SO much more thought-provoking, entertaining and genuinely life-changing than most of what’s happening in current music, literature and art at the moment.

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Travelling back home, to ‘real life’, was surreal, what had happen constantly churning around in my head, the NEED to get this all down and make some kind of sense of it for my own selfish reasons of paramount importance. The desire to talk to people about it burns bright, to those that were there and friends who witnessed it secondhand via the web. The urge to look further into The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, the Green Funeral Company and, of course, read ‘2023’ – things that were completely alien to myself and many others a week ago – is strong and will no doubt point to other people and places as The JAMs begin a new chapter…

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