The The’s comeback tour in Leeds and London

Leeds soundcheck
It’s been quiet on here for a bit because I’ve been so busy I’ve not had a minute to put things together. After last week I really had to sit down and write something to summarize what’s been going on though. It’s very hard not to gush over being asked to support The The for three nights in London for their comeback concerts but the experience was a unique one that I’ll never forget. I’ve known Matt Johnson now for about 15 years, we’ve done a few things together and when he asked me to spin a set of cinematic ambience from his back catalogue before each show it couldn’t have been any more of a dream job.

Mattx3LeedssoundcheckMatt is a very astute character, virtually everyone I met during the past two weeks was either a friend, relative or had worked with him in the past at some point. Surrounding himself with such people brings something unique to the events that I’ve not experienced since the early Ninja Tune days. Everyone was top class in their field, approachable, friendly and relaxed. There was no ego, pecking order or division between the crew, everyone ate together and mingled after the shows and I felt accepted very quickly and easily. Matt especially was extremely attentive to everyone’s needs despite having to deal with the awful news of his dad’s death the weekend before. That he pushed forward and went ahead with the shows is a testament to his character and resilience, lesser men would have crumbled.

TheThe Leeds soundcheck
Leeds was the first show, a ‘warm up’ or ‘public rehearsal’ on a Sunday at the end of May, and I was nervous dropping into the middle of a crew after they’d been on the road for a couple of days already. Despite this I knew a couple of people already, Vicki Bennet aka People Like Us and her partner Peter, had put together the video backdrop for the show and were traveling up to preview it. James Eller, the bassist, I’d met the year before and he’s one of the nicest people you could ever meet; calm, warm and funny, a rock solid person and just what you need in a band such as this. Kate Wilkins, the production and lighting designer whose work gave the gigs more of a theatre mood than rock concert, was immediately friendly and welcoming as was Levi, the road manager and the tech crew.

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Stepping out onto the small stage in Leeds was pretty daunting, the place was full with hardcore fans and I’m sitting in the middle of the stage playing a collage of samples, edits, loops and atmospheres from nearly 40 years of The The productions. Some were obvious, some very obscure and I quickly realised that a lot of subtlety was lost in the live setting with people talking. The support slot is an odd one, no one is there for you, they’re waiting for the main event and you’re really just filling time, treading water until the clock ticks round to the time the band take the stage. For anyone paying attention I hope I at least filled the gap with something interesting for half an hour, a duration that went by in a flash, having only played half of what I’d prepared.

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The band are quite the revelation, Matt’s voice is as strong, clear and commanding as I’ve ever heard it, James’ basslines never wavering. Earl Harvin on drums, a reserved but warm person to chat to, told me that he cannot speed James up or down in tempo if he tries, once he’s locked in that’s it.

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Harvin is a killer drummer, whether lightly wielding brushes on ‘The Beat(en) Generation’, pounding out ‘I’ve Been Waiting For Tomorrow…’ or simultaneously playing the beat AND the percussion to ‘Infected’ with separate hands, I never heard him drop a beat in four nights. DC Collard on keys is a friendly, hilarious character whose star turn on the solo during ‘Uncertain Smile‘ is a set highlight and crowns him man of the match every night. I had to wait until after the first gig to meet ‘Little’ Barrie Cadoghan properly, a red hot guitarist with the unenviable job of filling Johnny Marr‘s shoes who rapidly felt his way into the set and banished any such comparisons by the end of the first run.

RAH soundcheck

The set list is far from an obvious collection of crowd-pleasing hits, with a couple of relative obscurities from Matt’s solo ‘Burning Blue Soul’ debut alongside cuts from the excellent but overlooked ‘Naked Self’ album from 2000. There were a lot of ‘Dusk’ era songs (six!) which were well-judged as the crowds seemed very familiar with them, but only three apiece from ‘Mind Bomb’, ‘Infected’ and ‘Soul Mining’. Notable exclusions were ‘Perfect’, ‘GIANT’ and ‘The Mercy Beat’ but it was a treat to hear ‘Flesh & Bones’ – a ‘Soul Mining’ era compilation track – thrown in near the beginning. Highlights for me were the more uptempo numbers; ‘Armageddon Days…’, ‘This Is The Day’, ‘Infected’ and ‘Uncertain Smile’ and by god DC’s reinterpretation of that piano solo was great EVERY night.

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I’ve Been Waiting For Tomorrow…’ is a challenging number to play as the bass parts waver between four and six bar runs against the original 6/8 drum track which seems to have its own random arrangement. At the end, just as you think they’re done with it, there’s a huge snare roll from Earl and the band drop into a funky jam where Barrie gets his chance to shine. For a taste of the sound of the new band you can check out their recent session on BBC 6 Music for the next month including an interview with Matt where an unexpected link between his and interviewer Steve Lamacq‘s childhood is revealed.

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RAH panorama

I’d forgotten what a beautiful and intimidating building The Royal Albert Hall is, having not been there since the early 90s, huge but with fine acoustics, it was the perfect setting for the comeback proper. For this gig, Tim Pope filmed the show and I got to watch from the center, back behind the mixing desk. It took ‘This Is The Day’ to get the crowd completely on their feet but it was a fine show.

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Photo: Nancy Brown

The Brixton Academy was a lot rowdier and I was asked to play on longer as hundreds of people were still outside, presumably thrown by the band’s 8.30pm stage time and the summer weather that day. Things got a little tense as the audience already inside got impatient, there’s nothing like being on stage, having to tread water when thousands want to see and hear the main event. The band had real trouble with the sound on stage with this gig, although you’d never know from their performance, but apparently it was bouncing around all over the place for them.

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Matt bought his youngest son, George onstage at the start of the Academy gig, it was the first time he’d seen his dad on stage and did a great job of breaking the ice immediately.
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The Troxy was new to me, I’d heard all about its Art Deco interior and it didn’t disappoint. Neither did the crowd – a hugely appreciative lot who sang along to everything and even applauded after another extended set from myself as more latecomers were squeezed in.

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Johanna St. Michaels‘ documentary, ‘The Inertia Variations‘, is now available to watch online and it’s well worth checking out if you have a passing interest in Matt’s history and want to find out where he disappeared to for all those years. I could have watched another hour of it easily as there are so many competing threads left hanging so tantalisingly. Next stop will be Neil Fraser‘s official biography, ‘Long Shadows, High Hopes’, just released this weekend, to fill in the gaps. This is all starting to sound like a huge advertorial so I’ll stop here, honestly, you wait 16 years and then all the buses come at once! A fantastic comeback and I’m so glad people are finally hearing Matt’s songs live and on daytime radio again in the present day. I’ll be supporting again at the Newcastle and Glasgow dates in September…

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DJ Food supporting The The on forthcoming UK dates

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It gives me great pleasure to announce that I’ve been asked by Matt Johnson to open for The The on selected UK dates for their comeback tour this year. Matt didn’t want a conventional band support in the slot but asked if I would prepare something cinematic and ambient, incorporating his music from the last four decades. Fortunately this is exactly the place my head’s been at over the last few years and the chance to do this with Matt’s back catalogue is the stuff of dreams. Expect an improvised ‘cineolascape’ to greet you on arrival for the gigs, different for each night.

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I’ll be joining the band – who have video accompaniment from Vicki Bennett aka People Like Us and design by Kate Wilkins – on
May 27th – Leeds, LMUSU
June 5th – London, Royal Albert Hall
June 6th – London, Brixton Academy
June 7th – London, Troxy
Sept 3rd – Newcastle, Newcastle University
Sept 4th – Glasgow, Barrowlands
Sept 5th – Glasgow, Royal Concert Hall

Also just announced: the new band line up (see above photo by John Claridge), the long-awated biography by Neil Fraser release date and more screenings of The Inertia Variations documentary at the ICA.
Go to https://www.thethe.com/ for more info…

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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.

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Further at SYNthesis

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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.

Art Of Noise, live at the British Library


Last Friday I was thrilled to be asked to play before Dudley / Jeczalik / Langan aka The Art of Noise at the British Library in London. I put together a set consisting entirely of music they had written, remixed, reworked or had a hand in – careful not to play any obvious tracks that they would be playing as they rebooted their In Visible Silence album plus some of their biggest hits. I recorded my mix and you can hear it above, complete with exclusive edits made specially for the show and a rare appearance from AON fan Kenneth WIlliams at one point.
Witness the group below at the soundcheck performing ‘Moments In Love’.

AON soundcheck
Highlights were thundering versions of ‘Beatbox’, ‘Close (To The Edit)’, ‘Legs’ and ‘Peter Gunn’, a beautiful ‘Moments In Love’ (with blink and you’ll miss it ‘In The Army Now’ interjections) and lots of story-telling in between. Many friends and familiar faces from ZTT fandom were present and I had the pleasure of chatting to Anne Dudley‘s husband before the show about her early library recordings for Amphonic (some of which are soon to be reissued by Buried Treasure). JJ Jeczalik strolled up and introduced himself before my set and, during an airing of Frankie Goes To Hollywood‘s ‘Pleasurefix’ (a fan favourite remix of the epic album cut by Gary Langan), I turned around to see Langan himself watching and listening only a meter away with keen interest. “Hi, I’m Gary”, he said, leaning over to shake my hand. :)

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The whole evening was a fan fest with signed prints, records and T shirts on sale, people watching from the stairwell’s and balconies and an incredible Bowers and Wilkins sound system that made everything shine. I chatted to ex-ZTT artist Andrew Poppy after the main set who regaled me with tales of rescuing his artwork from a skip outside the label one day! Big thanks for the ‘Where’s DJ Food?’ crowd photos above by Peter Williams and shots of me by the stairwell below by Mark Nicholson. Another one for the CV and highlights of 2018.

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Calibro 35 ‘Decade’ LP

The Italian quintet are back with a new album, video and tour, reaching the UK this week with a special Morricone songbook set at the Church of Sound on Thursday. The new album, ‘Decade’, looks and sounds fabulous and their new video is nuts, the weirdest one yet. If you’ve never seen a Calibro 35 video, go and check them out on YouTube, always high quality, super stylish and original. The album is available is a number of bundles over on their Bandcamp: gatefold vinyl, cassette and CD and with optional black or clear vinyl 7″ too.

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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

DJ Food AV series #2: O Is For Orange

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Here we go, after last year’s ‘Selected Aphex Works’ shows, the next installment in my live AV Series premiere’s on April 6th at Archspace, London with a new version of my ‘O Is For Orange’ mix – chock full of Boards of Canada and their influences with psychedelic video accompaniment. Tickets available here

Diggers Dozen Most Loved 2017

I’m very proud to say that my set for the Soundsci launch party that Diggers Dozen put on last year won their most loved poll for 2017! “12 records each. Only 2 turntables play. No compilation. No bootleg. Always original vinyl.” is the DD ethos and that particular night saw myself guesting with Mr Thing, Ollie Teeba, Jonny Cuba, Jonny Trunk and Maxwell Pastor – who runs the nights. Listen to the selection above, I’d pulled out a particularly odd Library set, I think there’s at least one bit of dead air (because I was chatting) and at points, if you strain hard enough, you can hear that chatter through the head of the needle in the quiet parts..

2017: WTF was going on?

DJ Food Bill brief

The above photo was my brief from Bill Drummond for the set I was to play at the JAM‘s Welcome To The Dark Ages event in Liverpool. I stuck it above my mixer as I was preparing the set, it’s something to keep in mind as we go forward into 2018. I spent most of the year in limbo, waiting in a chain for a property to come through. When it finally did in mid September, I pretty much ate, drank and slept it in between jobs as it needed a lot of work doing, hence no posts for the past two odd months. I’m in now and can see the wood for the trees but it did mean I largely dipped out of social media for the latter quarter of the year (probably not a bad thing).

Seeing as 2016 was such a shitter, in 2017 I wrote down all the good things that happened as the year progressed:

Events 2017

Got implicated in the KLF/JAMMs/K2 comeback media scrum because of an innocent quote in my 2016 round up
Started Further with Pete Williams – a multimedia music & projection night playing non-dancefloor sounds with analogue-based visuals plus food and a record stall – and founded a studio/ HQ in S. London
Pete Isaac (45 Live) found me a perfect copy of a long time wants list staple, Bam Bam’s ‘Where’s Your Child’ on 7″ for free
Got asked to play as Further at The Orb‘s ambient evening at the Royal Festival Hall in April and lit up the 5th floor balcony with 20 projectors
Mixed a Death Waltz Originals CD which was given away free at Halloween with Mondo/DW orders
Appeared on the Big Mouth podcast and played at the opening of Orbital Comics‘ exhibition, both celebrating 40 years of 2000AD
Found a set of Thomas ‘Eclipse’ plates, cups and saucers for a bargain price from an eBay seller
Pete managed to find a broken 6k projector for free and fixed it for £50
My kids got into the secondary school we wanted them to go to and aced it in their first term
The first Further event at the Portico Gallery was sold out and a great success with Ghost Box and Howlround as guests
Played the first Big Fish Little Fish in Athens which promptly sold out
Played three different street food festivals in the summer, love those sort of gigs, more please
Found a huge Barbara Brown dinner service in the charity for £15 – find of the year
Played at The Delaware Road performance in July inside a nuclear bunker with a host of electronic artists – a very special night

Further 2017

Asked to play the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu happening in Liverpool, which turned out to be one of the events of the year – who’d have thought it? A career highlight that saw me playing many of the tracks they’d sampled in their career alongside acid house classics and ending at 3am with a version of ‘In The Ghetto’.
Further went to Spiritland and we supported The Heliocentrics as part of the SYNthesis festival, both very special occasions even though we worked our balls off to set them up
The return of The The in musical, film and live capacity
Scoring a long time wants list LP – Yves Hayat‘s ‘Conversations Between The East & The West’ – direct from the archive of the composer himself and meeting him in London to receive the record.
Blade Runner 2049 was actually amazing and a worthy follow up to the original
The second major Further gig at the Portico Gallery featured Simon James playing a Buchla set to bespoke visuals we made and Sculpture slaying the place with their AV act.
Asked to support the Art of Noise at the British Library next March
Further featured twice in Electronic Sound magazine and I had an opening spread printed of my end of night image of the funeral pyre from the JAMs event in Liverpool
Taking my boys to the Colourscape on Clapham Common
Finally moved in and moved on
Asked to play a very special run of shows in 2018 that I’ll reveal soon…

Music 2017

Music:
OK, so 2017 was the year of the Lizard for me, I listened to more hours of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s music than any other band, but considering they released 5 albums this year alone it ‘s not surprising. Each album was different and they steadily got better with each release as the year progressed (disclaimer: I can’t speak for album no. 5 ‘Gumboot Soup’ as it came out today but ‘Polygondwanaland is probably my album of the year)
Brian Eno – Reflection (Warp)
Cavern of Anti-Matter – Blood Drums (reissue) (Duophonic)
Clocolan – Nothing Left To Abandon (Enpeg)
Run The Jewels – RTJ3 (Mass Appeal)
Revbjelde – Revbjelde (Buried Treasure)
Thundercat – Them Changes (Brainfeeder)
Jamiroquai – Automaton (the single)
The Dandelion Set – A Thousand Strands (Buried Treasure) (technically 2016 but copies got held up by distribution and it was more widely available in 2017)
The Heliocentrics – A World Of Masks (Soundway)
The Heliocentrics – The Sunshine Makers (Soundway)
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana (and still playing the hell out of Nonagon Infinity and It’s In My Mind Fuzz)
Klaus Weiss – Time Signals (reissue) (Trunk)
Vanishing Twin – Dream By Numbers EP (Soundway)
The Allergies – Entitled To That (Jalapeno)
Jane Weaver – Modern Kosmology (Fire Records)
Ulrich Schnauss & Jonas Munk – Passage (Azure Vista Records)
Ilia Gorovitz – Turmoil/Simmering With No End (Rassh Records)
John Brooks – Un Autre Directions (Clay Pipe Music)
King Gizzard & The Wizard Lizard – Murder of the Universe (Flightless)
Markey Funk – Witch Doctor / The Brew (Delights)
Nevermen – Mr Minute (Boards of Canada remix) (Lex)
The The – Radio Cineola Trilogy (Lazarus)
Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch – Blade Runner 2049 OST
King Gizzard & The Wizard Lizard – Sketches of Brunswick East (Flightless)
King Gizzard & The Wizard Lizard – Polygondwanaland (Flightless)

Exhibitions 2017

Exhibitions:
Future Shock – 40 Years of 2000AD – Cartoon Museum (London) / Paolozzi at the Whitechapel Gallery (London), Will Barras at Sector 25 (London) / Barbara Brown and Lucienne Day at the Whitworth Gallery (Manchester) / Franco Grignani at Estorick Collection of Italian Art (London), We Are Watching: Oz Magazine – Chelsea Art Space (London) / Delta – Mima Museums (Brussels) / Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains at the V&A (London), British Underground Press of the 60s at the A22 Gallery (London) / Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? – Wellcome Collection (London) / Snub 23 at the Boz Boz Gallery (Brighton)

Books / Comics:
Out Of Time – Miranda Sawyer / Ian Helliwell – Tape Leaders (Sound On Sound) Book + CD / British Underground Press of the 60s (Rocket 88) / The Process Is The Inspiration – House Industries / B.P.R.D.: Hell On Earth (Dark Horse) / Barbarella (Dynamite) / Swifty – FunkyTypo Graphix (Gamma Proforma) / Boris Tellegen – 86/97 – a black book (A Paper Book) / Batman: White Knight (DC)

RIP: Jaki Liebezeit, David Axelrod, Alan Aldridge, Dick Bruna, Clyde Stubblefield, Larry Coryell, Toshio Nakanishi, Chuck Berry, Skip Williamson, Jay Lynch, Mika Vainio, Adam West, Brian Cant, Pierre Henry, Anne-Marie Bergeron, Glen Campbell, Bruce Forsyth, Holger Czukay, Virgil Howe, Sean Hughes, Christine Keeler, Keith Chegwin, Dennis Dragon, Jim Baikie

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

Further & The Heliocentrics at the SYNthesis festival

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Pete Williams and myself set up our Further environment in support of The Heliocentrics at the Synthesis festival at Stanley Halls in South Norwood at the end of September. The group were utterly spellbinding with their vocalist tying everything together with an incredible vocal range somewhere between Roisin Murphy and Shirley Bassey. They played for two hours with visuals by Innerstrings and for a Thursday evening in deepest South London (nearly Croydon if we’re honest) it was pretty mind blowing.


Following dates featured DJ Krush, Andrea Parker, Juice Aleem, Beak and more in a hugely ambitious three day event – all the brainchild of Rob Swain, owner of the Gamma Proforma label and the local Sector 25 bar/gallery. If you check out the streets of South Norwood now you’ll see all sorts of new murals and paintings adorning walls and hoardings by international artists like Mode 2, Delta, Kofie 1, SheOne, O-Two, Will Barras and more.

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Pierre Henry, Montreux Jazz festival, Switzerland 1998

Pierre Henry Montreux Jazz festival 1998

I finally found my Pierre Henry photos. Back in 1998 I was playing with various assorted Ninjas at the Montreux Jazz festival in Switzerland. Pierre Henry was also on the bill so we went along but were late and had to sit near the back as they were the only seats left.
Pierre came out and was introduced but there was nothing on stage, just black curtains. He promptly strode to the back of the room and played the gig from the mixing desk just behind us.
The gig was both terrifying and sublime- at one point i was so relaxed I think I nodded off. Right at the end, as he was receiving a huge round of applause, I turned round and snapped these two shots of him.
RIP Pierre Henry

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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Pierre Henry, Montreux, 1998

Pierre Henry Montreux Jazz festival 1998I finally found my Pierre Henry photos. Back in 1998 I was playing with various assorted Ninjas at the Montreux jazz festival in Switzerland. Henry was also on the bill so we went along but were late and had to sit near the back as they were the only seats left.
Pierre came out and was introduced but there was nothing on stage, just black curtains. He promptly strode to the back of the room and played the gig from the mixing desk just behind us.
The gig was both terrifying and sublime – at one point i was so relaxed I think I nodded off. Right at the end, as he was receiving a huge round of applause, i turned round and snapped these two shots of him.
RIP Pierre Henry

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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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