The GOASTT vinyl LP and new video

Still totally loving this album and the vinyl arrived this week along with their previous outing, ‘La Carotte Bleu’, which, while not as focused as the new album, has plenty going for it if you want to explore the band further. ‘Midnight Sun’ however pretty much falls into the ‘all killer, no filler’ bracket for me, a well-rounded record that has layers of detail which rewards multiple listens.

The LP comes in a heavy card gatefold with a tip-on jacket and inner sleeve housing one of five colour variants (I got purple as you can see). They’ve just released a new video for the opening track, ‘Too Deep’, which is a one take affair that rewards with the final scene. It’s also apparently an homage / rip off (depending on your point of view) of the French short C’était un rendez-vous’ by Claude LeLouch but they cleverly riffed on the end scene.

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Richard Williams’ ‘The Golden Rule’

Last Sunday I was lucky enough to see the 1992 work print of Richard Williams‘ life’s work, ‘The Thief & The Cobbler’ at the BFI on the Southbank. To make the occasion even more special, the man himself was on hand to present it and answer questions, something he’d been reluctant to do for over 20 years since the film was taken, unfinished, from him by the studio and bastardised into not one but two flop versions of his great vision. It’s a long but fascinating story which ends in tragedy and is best told via the Wiki article here or Kevin Schreck‘s documentary ‘Persistence of Vision’.

In conversation with film critic David Robinson after the showing Williams was in fine form, laughing and joking about events during and after the film’s premature end. Several animators and people who worked on the film were present in the audience and he was at pains to mention as many of them as possible. Sadly because of the time that had passed since the film’s abrupt halt, several of the more elderly animators had died and Williams himself is now 81. There was a sense of closure about the showing, with the audience all willing a visibly moved Williams to shakily get through his list of thankyous before the film commenced.

The film itself was incredible to see on the big screen and at a fairly decent quality even though certain scenes were unfinished and shown via basic pencil animations or even story boards. The sound was also unfinished but most of the voice work was in place even if the music featured placeholders or rough drafts. You got a sense of the story and there were several new sequences that I’ve never see before in the various different versions floating around the web.
The incredible war machine sequence near the end was just breathtaking to behold, surely one of the greatest long-form animated sequences ever created. The pace of a lot of the animation was far slower than would be acceptable in today’s ADD world but this added to its charm and the humour was light but cutting. Had it of emerged at the time, after the spectacle of William’s other great work, ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’, it would have looked like little else seen before. Since more than 20 years has now passed you can see that ‘inspiration’ had been very liberally taken from it for the animated version of ‘Aladdin’ that Disney released some years later.

After the showing and a rather large applause, Williams took to the stage with Robinson and went through a number of anecdotes connected to the film before engaging in a Q&A with the audience. He was at pains to point out that this version of the film was only the last version they had before all the footage was repossessed, and not a very good quality copy at that. He revealed that his wife had sent the film to an overnight copy house to get a dub of the footage they had in the order that was assembled at the time. In this interview with London Calling he expands further on how the showing came about:

“The Academy wanted to screen my cut of the not quite finished ‘The Thief and the Cobbler’. With their help we reconstructed the work-print as it was on the day we had to abandon the film in 1992. Which is why we’ve called this version ‘The Thief and the Cobbler: A Moment in Time’. The whole film is there in good working order with all the amazing voices including Kenneth Williams and Joan Sims from the ‘Carry On’ films, and the legendary Vincent Price.”

During the session he recounted some of his battles with the studio and how it had affected him afterwards. When asked about why he hadn’t spoken about it he replied that, “when that happens to you, the last thing you want to do is talk about it”. Talking about surrounding himself with the best people in the business so that he could be sure they could be relied on to get on with the job he told a story he’d heard concerning a jazz musician with a drunk guitarist. On finding the inebriated player shortly before a show and realising that he wouldn’t be up to the job he hissed at him, “Don’t fuck with my hustle”, and this appeared to be his attitude to anyone who worked for him who couldn’t pull their weight.

Best of all was a seemingly throwaway comment he made when talking about the control studios exert over their charges once the finance is in place. Summing up probably a lifetime of experience at the hands of the moneymen and relevant to virtually any area of the industry where creativity is involved: “You know what the Golden Rule is, don’t you?” he asked the audience, “The one with the gold, makes the rules”

Many thanks to Mark Nicholson (aka Osymyso) for not only getting me a ticket but for taking these photos during the event. For more behind the scenes info on the original production of ‘The Thief…’ take a look at this blog, written by some of the original animators and creatives involved in making it.

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Frankie’s ‘Two Tribes’ 30 years old today

Frankie Goes To Hollywood‘s ‘Two Tribes’ – one of the greatest pop singles of the 80’s and certainly one of the greatest 12″ mixes of all time – was released 30 years ago today. June 4th saw a 7″ and 12″ finally burst the bubble of expectation that ‘Relax’ had inflated after its 5 week run at the no.1 spot despite a BBC ban.

Six days later on June 10th ‘Two Tribes’ was also sitting at no.1 and would remain bedded in for another nine weeks with ‘Relax’ returning to the no.2 spot for a couple of those too. The 7″ and 12″ would be joined by three further 12″s, all sporting remixes of the title track or its B side, a cover of Edwin Starr‘s ‘War’, as well as 7″ and 12″ picture discs and a cassette compiling excerpts from all.

Add to that the phenomenon of the ‘Frankie Say’ T-shirts that swept the nation that summer and you had a roller coaster of pop product that no one could have predicted. Over on my ArtofZTT blog I’ve been adding sleeves, posters, adverts and picture discs daily to celebrate along with various quotes and info about the releases.

The ‘Inside The Pleasuredome’ box set I helped design is looking good at 83% funded over on Pledge Music and I’m waiting on the go ahead to post more photos from it. Over on his Failed Muso blog Rob Puricelli has written a great piece about the anniversary of ‘Two Tribes‘ and how it impacted on him as a teen in the 80’s, so much of it rings true to my experience too but he puts it so much better.

Cover art process for the RSD ‘Giant’ 12″

I was pretty excited when Matt Johnson got in touch to ask about the possibility of licensing my version of ‘GIANT’ for a The The vs DJ Food double A side 12″ on Record Store Day. Not only because my version would be paired with his original on vinyl (the only track from the album not to make it to vinyl in last years repress of the original EPs as his vocal didn’t make the deadline when those were pressed) but because he wanted me to design one side of the sleeve too.

The brief was simple, the front was his brother, Andy ‘Dog’ Johnson‘s shouting face image from the cover of the American issue of the ‘Soul Mining’ LP and I was to do my interpretation for the reverse. OK, so a shouting face, fairly obviously Matt’s, to compliment Andy’s vision, how best to go about this? I didn’t want to ape his style as that would be pointless but there had to be some visual connection so I decide to use the same colour palette.

I’d remembered an image of Matt shouting/singing from the Infected video that was featured in the The The songbook as a still, taken straight from the TV by the looks of it and so scanned that as the basis of my version. The head was facing the opposite direction from Andy’s so this was a good start and I took the idea of the arrows he would add to some of his images and redrew the face, now made from a warren of intertwined arrows. This was supposed to represent the confusion in the character but also served to create a dynamic image with movement without copying the blizzard of detail that gives Andy’s art such a visual buzz.

After inking the pencil tracing I scanned it and cleaned up edges to get a clear B&W version before adding a limited colour palette that would mimic the lighting of the original photo. The background I’d decided would be black rather than white to counterbalance the other side and I added some distorted TV feedback I’d taken years before to reference the texture of the original photo. It was looking a little clean for my taste so a layer of grain was added across the face just to give it some ‘glue’ to pull the flat face together with the background and a tiny amount of spin blurring to the black outlines to blend it further.

I then experimented with adding a section of the Robosunburst from the background of the ‘Search Engine’ LP cover to reference that release but, while it added an extra level of dynamism to the image. I felt it was too busy although I did submit a couple of versions to Matt for a second opinion and my feeling was Matt’s too and he went with the simpler image.

I also felt that my colour choice was a bit on the dark side so a re-balancing of the browns for redder tones evened things out and bought it a little closer to Andy’s colourful original.


All that remained then was to add the titles and I wanted my clean DJ Food logo to reflect Fiona Skinner‘s original choppy The The logo design. For this I imported the Food one into Illustrator and used the tracing tool too create a rougher outline as it can never trace exactly, especially at small sizes.

This was then further roughed up on the edges in Photoshop and the words ‘featuring Matt Johnson’ and ‘GIANT’ were taken from the back of the ‘Soul Mining’ LP cover. Actually I think I had to cobble the ‘featuring’ together from several different words…

After this I wanted a copy of the arrow Andy had pointing toward the nose of the face to tie our designs together and form an anchor point to align the titles with.

Luckily Matt and the people at Sony loved what I had done and it was all sent off to have barcodes and other text added by Matt’s manager Cally at Antar (a fascinating character with many tales to tell if you ever run into him). The hardest thing then was the wait as this was finished back in January and I wasn’t allowed to announce anything about it until the end of March when all I wanted to do was scream about it from the rooftops. The finished copies arrived a couple of weeks before RSD and that was a day to remember I can tell you.

It’s impossible to convey how much Matt’s music has meant to me since I first heard it in college in the 80’s when a classmate taped ‘Soul Mining’ and ‘Infected’ back to back on a C90 cassette for me, instantly turning me into a fan who hunted down everything else he had recorded. To meet him for the first time, over ten years ago now, was a big enough deal but to then record and be a part of an official The The release is something I never thought would happen in a million years. As another friend of mine named Matt would say, “living the dream”

Recent comic purchases

BatMan_BLKWHT_Cv3_I seem to have been buying an inordinate amount of comics recently, far more than usual, so I thought I’d share my best buys on here. I recently saw a statistic that said that comic sales had risen 1000% in the last decade – largely I assume because of comic-based films now being big business in Hollywood. I’ve bought, or have been bought, comics since as long as I can remember but recently I’ve been buying some that I never thought I would – issues from the big two. Marvel and DC titles are rarely on my shopping list, superheroes don’t interest me that much unless they’re being subverted in some way and I’ll usually only buy these kind of books for a particular guest artist.

Batman B&W1

This is the case with recently purchases of Batman, Superman AND Spiderman comics, a highly unlikely trio for me to want to read at the best of times. The Batman book (Batman Black & White #3) is something I’ve been waiting for for months now, mainly due to Rian Hughes‘ excellent typographic take on the character. He deconstructs language, both literally and visually and breaks down the story to incorporate the black & white theme via the print process. Adding in digs at Post-modernism and New Brit Art, it’s a unique, hilarious and very British take on Batman, seen through the eyes of a designer and illustrator – of which Hughes is both.

The next major super hero book to catch my eye was Spiderman: Marvel Knights – mainly because of the incredible interior art and some of the most inventive page layouts in years. Artist, Marco Rudy, channels the multi-dimensional angles of Alex Nino and the psychedelia of Brendan McCarthy on the page as Spidey has to battle 99 different foes to prevent a bomb going off. There seems to be a different style on each page and the writing is rapid-fire and light, I’ve included some sample spreads here to show what I mean.

The last of the big three is Superman Action Comics with a story called ‘Krypton Returns’, this is purely because the artist, Kenneth Rocafort, is on the book and I’ll buy pretty much anything he draws. The story is crap but it’s beautiful to look at, as is ‘Brainiac #1’, drawn by Pascal Alixe, a Superman spin-off issue where his many villains take over a book for the month of November, each with an eye-catching lenticular cover.

These are by no means the best of the bunch this month, I’m just highlighting them as they’re not the norm. The really good stuff is, as ever, happening on the smaller labels and independents like Image, Dark Horse and IDW. Huge mention for Brandon Graham‘s incredible Prophet, now up to issue 40, which continues to confound and amaze with every page. There are so many ideas packed into the dialogue that you can imagine multiple worlds, races and histories within every page. His scope is huge and I think this will, one day, come to be held up alongside works like Jodorowsky and Moebius‘The Incal’ for its vision.

More Graham goodness via Image comes with the reprint edition of his early Multiple Warheads strips and a compilation of sketchbook material called ‘Walrus’ via Picture Box. Scott Snyder’s ‘The Wake’ is an excellent underwater creature siege on a secret oil rig adventure with incredible art from Sean Murphy, they’re up to issue 4 but have just put out a ‘director’s cut’ of issue 1 with extra material, something that seems to be a new trend.

Over at Dark Horse the new Hellboy hardback, ‘The Midnight Circus’ by Mignola and Duncan Fegrado is beautiful, B.P.R.D. continues to intrigue and the Abe Sapien solo title is very good. Jeff Darrow is back with a new series of Shaolin Cowboy – always a joy to look at although the print size at the start of issue no.1 was enough to try the most persistent reader. The Star Wars is an interesting concept for a series too, taking the original screenplay for Star Wars from George Lucas and adapting it into comic form, complete with Ralph McQuarrie-esque early designs for the characters, makes for an alternate retro SW universe.

In the 2000ad universe the weekly Prog, which has been going through an incredible second golden period for the last decade, has suddenly hit the skids with it’s latest run of stories. But taking up the slack is the monthly Judge Dredd Megazine which is on fire at the moment with every story an absolute winner. I’ve recently started writing a monthly 2000ad vs Megazine post on the Everything Comes Back To 2000ad website which pits the Prog against the Meg on the week they are both released. Still in Dredd-world but over at IDW, their monthly take on the Judge has been more miss than hit but the cross-over Mars Attacks Judge Dredd title (yes, you read that correctly) has been good, largely because Brit writer Al Ewing is lashing on the black humour.

Lastly I must mention two more independent titles with connections to 2000ad: firstly Si Spurrier‘s 6 Gun Gorilla – a future war western with a tooled-up gorilla as star, sounds like it shouldn’t work but does. Secondly Gordon Rennie and PJ Holden‘s Dept. of Monsterology via Renegade is worth a look, kind of a Brit take on B.P.R.D. with enough strong characters to take it further after the first four issues finish. Phew! and that’s only the best of what I bought this month, there’s more but that’s enough for tonight, I have a Tooth vs Meg report to start as well as the complete run of Milligan and McCarthy‘s ‘The Electric Hoax’ strips from late 70’s Sounds to read.


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ZTT turns 30

The great Zang Tuum Tumb Records turns 30 years old this month and to celebrate they have a compilation out called ‘The Organization of Pop’. I’ll be reactivating my dormant Art of ZTT site to post a host of updates later this month too featuring exclusive images from some of the people who were there at the beginning.

The label issued a short press release last week with the phrase, ‘Today is officially the end of the beginning.”

Looking down the track listing there aren’t too many surprises in the form of unreleased gems but the inclusion of both Grace Jones and Seal as the first two tracks hopefully means that some sort of legal agreement has at last been worked out and we can expect to see proper reissues of their work in the future. Also note that this is the New York Edition – further London and Tokyo Editions are planned for next year…

ZTT Records Presents The Organization of Pop (New York Edition)
Music From The First Thirty Years of ZTT Records

Disc 1: The Organisation of Pop (the Action Series, from ZTT)

• Grace Jones – Slave To The Rhythm
• Seal – Kiss From A Rose
• Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax (New York Mix)
• 808 State – Pacific (Justin Strauss 0101 Mix)
• Art of Noise – Beat Box
• Propaganda – Dr. Mabuse (Abuse)
• Tom Jones – If Only I Knew (Cold Stop Version)
• MC Tunes vs 808 State – Dance Yourself To Death (Dust Brothers Radio Edit)
• Propaganda – Sorry For Laughing (Unapologetic 12” Mix)
• 808 State – Cubik (Pan American Excursion)
• Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes
• Shane MacGowan and Sinead O’Connor – Haunted
• The Frames – Star Star
• Art of Noise – Moments In Love (Beaten)

Disc 2: The Disorganisation of Pop (the Incidental Series, from Zang Tuum Tumb)

• The Buggles – We Can Fly From Here (Part One)
• The Frames – Say It To Me Now
• Shane MacGowan and Maire Brennan – You’ve The One
• Lee Griffiths – Sweet Baby James
• Das Psycho Rangers – Homage to the Blessed
• Art of Noise featuring Rakim – Metaforce
• Nasty Rox Inc. – Escape From New York (12” Mix)
• ACT – Snobbery & Decay (That’s Entertainment Mix)
• The Buggles – I Am A Camera (12” Mix)
• Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Welcome To The Pleasuredome (Fruitness Mix)
• Lisa Stansfield – The Moment
• The Buggles – We Can Fly From Here (Part Two)
• Andrew Poppy – Kink Konk Adagio

Posted in Design, Event, Music. | No Comments » |

Cyriak does Bloc Party’s new video

The ever-brilliant Cyriak takes his Photoshop scalpel to Bloc Party for his latest piece, combining footage from two existing videos apparently. As with all his work, he just keeps going, long after most people would have stopped and repeated an earlier clip again, he takes it another step further. Incredible.

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Kraftweek 2 – Influences in dance music and beyond

Last month I was asked to write my thoughts about how Kraftwerk had influenced modern day DJ and Dance Music Culture by Jude Rogers for a piece for The Observer. I got a bit carried away and here’s an extended version of the full piece I submitted:
Everyone knows Derrick May‘s proclamation that Techno was the fusion of Kraftwerk and George Clinton meeting in an elevator’ but the band had a stake in the Hip Hop community many years before. As soon as Afrika Bambaataa and Arthur Baker took the beat from ‘Numbers’ and the melody from ‘Trans Europe Express’ to form the classic ‘Planet Rock’, Kraftwerk became part of the foundation of Hip Hop. Even before that, Grandmaster Flash would play ‘Trans Europe Express’ in it’s entirety in his infamous DJ sets, using its side-long length as one of his ‘bathroom break’ records.

No matter that the new wave and post punk groups had already claimed a stake with their synth and indie pop, the group became one of the building blocks of the Electro sounds coming out of New York, even more gleefully championed by the west coast who liked their tempos faster. That ‘Tour De France’ soundtracked the best scene in the film ‘Breakin’ shows how much their uptempo beats appealed to the crews back when breakdancing was as strong an element of the culture as the DJ and MC.

After this the band would be sampled endlessly, if not as obviously as ‘Planet Rock’. The group sued Bambaataa’s label, Tommy Boy, for thousands of dollars and Techno soon arrived, claiming its stake in the band. The 80’s generation that were inspired by Hip Hop and Techno to start DJing and beat making grew up to be the producers and ‘superstar DJs’ of today.
[youtube width=”640″ height=”380″] [/youtube]
Check the intro to ‘Leave Home’ by The Chemical Brothers for their clever appropriation of ‘Ohm Sweet Ohm’ from the ‘Radio-Activity’ LP or Jay-Z‘s backing track on ‘Sunshine’ for his take on ‘Man Machine‘. LCD Soundsystem‘s Disco Infiltrator’ owes a big debt to ‘Home Computer’ and even Coldplay got in on the act by asking for permission to interpolate the melody of ‘Computer Love’ into ‘Talk’. In more contemporary dance scenes – hear dubstep producer 6Blocc’s cheeky reinterpretation of ‘Numbers/Computer World 2’ disguised under the title, ‘Digits’.

Across the pond Juke/Footstep producers like DJ Clent and Traxman have also been shoe-horning Kraftwerk samples into some of their songs, guess which track they sampled on ‘The Robot’?” Kraftwerk have been part of the lineage of dance music culture since the late 70’s, approaching it without them is like taking the ‘Apache’ break out of Hip Hop and the 808 drum machine out of Techno.

But it goes even further than that, the band lurk in some of the most unlikely corners outside of the music industry too, ingrained in people’s lives as much as any band like The Beatles or The Stones. Soda Jerk – a duo from Australia who make video cut ups and installations – have an on going project called ‘Astro Black’ which features the quartet amongst many heroes of black music. In their own words. “Astro Black is a multi-channel video cycle informed by cultural theories of Afrofuturism. Taking the cosmic jazz musician Sun Ra as a point of departure, this ongoing speculative history seeks to draw out the nexus of science fiction and social politics in Black Atlantic culture.” One excerpt called ‘We Are The Robots’ features Kraftwerk playing sequences from their own music in a jam session with the mothership from ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ which responds with fragments of tracks that have sampled the group (!)

Astro Black Ep 0: We Are The Robots (Excerpt), 2010 from Soda_Jerk on Vimeo.

I’m frequently asked how I find all the various cover version in my Kover Kollection mixes (vol. 8 debuts tomorrow) but the truth is, once you start looking, they are everywhere, just not always in plain site. A quick web search for a title + ‘cover version’ is much like turning over a stone in a rock pool, teeming with life you can’t immediately see. Another example, I received a magazine by my friend Sarah Coleman just before Xmas, she had a feature on the back page about her favourite design classic – the 45 adaptor. Which record was the dink pushed into?

Kraftwerk – Der Katalog: Two nights in Dusseldorf

* First off, a disclaimer: despite loving Kraftwerk for the past 30 years I’ve never seen them live.

There are several reasons for this. First off there was ‘The Mix’, which seemed a rather pointless exercise in ‘digitising’ all that had gone before and took a certain something from the originals for me. Then there was Tribal Gathering, I wasn’t there but I’m reliably informed that it was awesome for both the crowd and the group by people who were. I did however catch the radio broadcast of it and was dismayed to hear a 4/4 kick under everything which put me off in much the same way ‘The Mix’ had. They played Brixton Academy in 2004 with my interest at an all time low after the disappointing ‘Tour De France Soundtracks’ LP and I skipped it, thinking it would be a law of diminishing returns, not wanting to be disappointed by former heroes. Again, reports filtered back from friends that it was amazing and I began to kick myself as similar reviews appeared alongside various festival appearances. Next time, I vowed, I would not hesitate.

It’s Wednesday so this must be Dusseldorf. I left London on the Eurostar as most were getting to work, travelled through France to Brussels before changing trains and ending up in Disseldorf, Germany – the home of Kraftwerk. At the hotel I met old friend and Leaf label manager Tony Morley who’d made his own way from Leeds. We’d come this far to see the legend (even if there’s only one of the buggers left) that is Kraftwerk perform our two favourite LPs, ‘The Man Machine‘ and ‘Computer World’ during their eight night residency at the Kunstsammlung NWR/ K20.

After the excitement surrounding a similar happening at MOMA in NYC last year, something few got to see, we both jumped at the chance when it was announced the same would be happening in their hometown. What could be more apt than seeing them in the city where it all started, making an adventure out of it and spending far more money than necessary in the process? Call it a mid-life crisis if you want but something about this made me throw common sense to the wind and do it anyway, it would be cheaper than a Porsche or a mistress I told my wife. The joke was on us though when, a few weeks after spending all morning online securing tickets to the German gigs, the bastards went and announced the same thing was going to happen at the Tate Modern!

No matter, the tickets were bought, we were there, in the freezing snow that would sweep across the channel and cover the UK a few days later, let’s have it Dusseldorf! Except it’s not really that kind of town, and us being nice middle class, middle-aged Brits, weren’t about to go on the rampage – more like a meal, a bit of record shopping and a failed poster theft attempt. Reich ‘n’ Roll! Jumping forward in time we found Aras Schallplatten, a shop we’d seen a film of on the web, except it was in the process of redecorating and all the stock was in the garage. We spent a freezing half hour rooting through the boxes we could get to before the cold (and his exorbitant prices) put us off. Further on we found Slowboy Records which has to have the best kept stock ever, it was like a vinyl museum in there, originals of many classic Krautrock, Punk and Avant Garde records in the kind of condition you can only dream of.

But I digress – arriving at the gig we were given our 3D glasses, in paper slipcases adorned with the date and graphics of the album we were about to attend, I bet eBay is awash with them even now as collectors try to get a full set. Once inside it was all very formal, this being an art gallery, and the merch table was stuffed with variations of Der Katalog in the form of vinyl, CDs, T-shirts and mouse mats! As you can expect the audience was largely 40-something males in various states of bespectacled receding-ness. The joke running around when the Great Tate Ticket Meltdown took place was that it was ‘a group of old men tapping away on their keyboards to buy tickets to watch a group of old men tapping away…’, yeah you get it.

The hall was long and high, the stage at one end and we immediately noticed speakers positioned around all walls, facing into the centre. 3D sounds as well as 3D vision, nice. There couldn’t have been more than 800 people by our estimation either, we’d expected far more – something I think we’ll see a repeat of at the Tate Modern in London. An electronic rumbling had everyone facing the curtain with the four bitmapped figures from the Katalog cover projected on it. After a few minutes a synthetic robot voice slowly intoned, Meine Damen und Herren, Heute Abend, Die Mensch Maschine… Kraftwerk” and there they were, the quartet who now represent the band. Looking as if they were about to deliver speeches behind their own podiums they launched straight into ‘Man Machine’ with El Lissitzky-styled 3D projections that really popped. It should be noted that, for most, Kraftwerk will always be Ralf, Karl, Wolfgang and Florian but members Henning Schmitz and Fritz Hilpert have actually now both been in the group longer than the departed drummers. Each was characteristically non-smiling except for new guy, Falk Grieffenhagen, on the right controlling visuals or sound (or both?), who was smirking like a loon most of the time.

Seeing ‘the band’ these days is an odd one, you’re listening to versions of the songs ‘tidied up’ in a similar way that the sleeve graphics have been slowly shorn of all human personality. Equally the sounds have been replaced and replayed to bring them up to modern production standards but the trained ear can still detect samples of their own originals in the mix, presumably where they couldn’t replicate the sound satisfyingly enough. The very idea that Kraftwerk have to be ‘up to date’ runs counter to all their initial moves and motives, they were well ahead of the pack, one of the most forward thinking groups of the 70’s and early 80’s. But time marches on and the group stalled in the mid 80’s and have virtually stood still ever since. As men trying to emulate machines they gave soul to the sound, but now, sadly, those machines can make the songs as precisely as they always wanted and they’ve sucked that soul right back out again. The resurgence in popularity of the ‘Radio-Activity’ LP in recent years, an album always in the shadow of its predecessor, ‘Autobahn’, and the classic trilogy that followed it, shows that people are keen to embrace the ‘analogue warmth’ that the band once had. Having said that, that’s a personal thing and the sound at the gig was one of the cleanest, clearest I’d ever heard by any band live.

Aside from some of ‘Tour De France Soundtracks’ they’ve been mining the same songs and sounds since 1986 in either remixed, live or remastered releases. And that’s fine, we don’t expect them to catch up, the music is timeless now anyway. To hear it loud, live and played by even one of the original members – Ralf Hutter being the key member in the group’s history no less – is enough. On the second night I had a position near the front, roughly four meters away from him on stage. To see him sing, “Fahren, fahren, fahren, on the Autobahn”, was something that deeply moved me, taking me back to the six year old who heard those words on my dad’s home recorded tape back in the 70’s. That alone was worth the whole trip and that’s what we’re here for – nostalgia. A nostalgia for a band from the past who sing about the future but are now, essentially, playing the retro circuit – albeit one that they have tight control over.

They finish ‘The Man Machine’ album in record time, a truncated ‘Neon Lights’ with some lackluster floating neon lights graphics leaving me disappointed, ‘Spacelab’ a joy to hear but with visuals that were hilariously retro but included one of the best 3D moments of the gig. Immediately the sound of an engine turning over signaled the start of ‘Autobahn’ and the rest of the two hour gig is a near-chronological journey through their back catalogue. I won’t spoil the rest of it apart from to say that some of the visuals worked brilliantly and some were so laughably archaic it shows how far they have stalled visually as well. Of course they’ve had to make imagery for all their songs over the eight nights so some are going suffer more than others but you’d think by now that they’d have a visual live show that befits their legendary status.

*Tony disagrees here: “you know I disagree with you on this. The retro-futurist look they go for – and have always gone for – is a fine line to walk, and I think for the most part they pull it off. They don’t need super-modern graphics for music that’s 30 or 40 years old, and I think updating things like the Neon Lights video for this context is a nice gift for fans. Like everything they do, it seems to me to be very carefully thought through – too carefully perhaps. That’s why we love them, the same reason we love The KLF, for that attention to apparently trivial detail. Kraftwerk always yearned for something that was already in the past (postwar optimism, the beauty of rail travel, manned space flight), even when they were looking into the future, and that’s what gives the music that melancholy edge that others consistently fail to capture. Whether or not you like the stripped down vector graphics of the ‘new’ Mix artwork/video, it works in that context, and I think it’s quite deliberate. Incidentally, I’ve listened to all the albums since I got back, and it’s those melancholy songs that have really hit the spot since the gig – Neon Lights, Hall Of Mirrors, Ohm Sweet Ohm (most of Radioactivity in fact). I think Trans Europe Express is my new favourite album!”

They end with a rocking, pulsating version of ‘Musique Non Stop’ in which each member takes a turn to demonstrate some of their playing skills before taking a bow and leaving the stage. Ralf is the last to leave and, predictably, gets the biggest cheer, the vocal refrain of the song rolling around the walls before the lights go up. This was one of the highlights, each member effectively ‘taking a solo’ and, even though you couldn’t see what they were doing, it was evident they weren’t just miming to a backing track. More of this improv would have elevated the gig even further.

The next night – ‘Computer World’, or ‘Welt’ as we’re getting the German language versions of most tracks at these gigs – is notable in that there seem to be a lot more women, sporting a variety of tattoos, than the day before. The show follows a similar pattern to the previous night, ‘Numbers’ kicked things off and a combined version of ‘Home Computer/It’s More Fun To Compute’ shortened the album down to less than half an hour. During the non-album set they played the WHOLE of ‘The Man Machine’ album with an improved (to my ear) version of ‘Neon Lights’ which managed to take off this time, even though it was still trimmed down from the original length. Seemingly more on form the second night, things were smoother, little touches that they added worked better and ‘Musique Non Stop’ rocked even harder this time. They switched a few tracks around, added ‘Vitamin’ with it’s excellent 3D pill visuals and ended up playing ten minutes longer. One thing was conspicuous by it’s absence on both nights though, well, four things actually, where were the robots? I’d been expecting them at some stage in the concert but no, they didn’t make an appearance ‘in the flesh’, only on the screen, possibly because the stage wasn’t deep enough to accommodate them?

Out of the two nights, the second was definitely the most satisfying and Tony and I decided to wander the streets afterwards to try and find the band’s famous Kling Klang studio on the Mintropstrasse near the train station. Although the band no longer work there the departed Florian Schneider supposedly retained the studio for his own use and a quick look on Google Maps earlier in the afternoon had revealed the building, although all but the ground floor had been blurred out! After zig-zagging through the streets and stopping for a chinese meal nearby we finally found it – a nondescript five story building with a metal shutter taking up most of the ground floor. From the look of the buzzer there were several other businesses occupying the floors, one name plate had been removed, presumably taken as a souvenir by a fan. Someone had also wheat-pasted an image of the four robots circa ‘The Mix’ onto the wall which had been partially torn off.

I’ve never done anything like that before, it was late and dark, a solitary light was on and it looked like nobody was home, not that we would have been let in even if there was. But it was something to stand outside the building where all that great music was created. As we turned to go Tony spotted a familiar sign further down the street, a simple ‘Club’ with an arrow in blue and red neon light. We recognised it immediately as one of the graphics in the ‘Neon Lights’ part of the show, they’d obviously taken inspiration for the song from their slightly seedy surroundings and used it in the visuals. As we walked towards the building we saw that it was a strip club and the lyrics, “we go into a club, and then we start to dance”, from ‘Showroom Dummies’ took on a whole new meaning.

Posted in Gigs, Kraftwerk. | 11 Comments » |

Mister Jason – Son of Frankensteez EP

Out next week but having a release party this Halloween night in Boston is Mister Jason‘s Frankensteez project’s latest release – ‘Son of Frankensteez’. Anyone who caught the original limited Frankensteez 10″ will know the instant classic ‘Mister Jason Has A Posse’, a rap tune where 26 different rappers take a letter of the alphabet for four bars and let rip using as many words starting with their given letter as possible.

‘Son of…’s’ opening track ups the ante even further with DJ Format‘s remix where he swaps a classic break underneath each rapper at the same time. Also featured on the EP are remixes and production by The Herbaliser, Rain and J-Zone. The clear vinyl is limited to 500 copies and available to pre-order via, digital is via iTunes and there’s a whole album on Amazon.

They’ve knocked up this great video for the original ‘Mister Jason…’ track too.

Posted in Records. | 2 Comments » |

Fulldome UK, National Space Centre, Leicester

DJ Food ‘The Search Engine’ live at SAT, Montreal from Solid Steel on Vimeo.

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be bringing my revamped full dome show back to the UK this November and showing it (remixed yet further) at the third Fulldome UK festival at the National Space Centre, Leicester on November 16th.

Tickets can be bought here (my show is on the 17th) and a list of contributors is here – full schedule to be determined.

In other dome news, the Search Engine show at the SAT in Montreal has just had its run extended by another 2 weeks until the 26th of October.

Posted in DJ Food, Event. | No Comments » |

DJ Shadow ‘Flashback’ and ‘Trip Out’ mixes for XFM

Way back in March I was asked by Eddy Temple-Morris if I would be interested in putting together a short mix offering my take on the work of DJ Shadow. This was to form part of a marathon special on his XFM show celebrating Josh’s career and tying into a compilation of some sort which has since evolved into the ‘Reconstruction’ release and deluxe box set.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big Shadow fan so this was a thrilling opportunity and also a daunting task. The mix had to be between 17 and 20 minutes long according to Eddy, how on earth to fit so many great tracks into that length of time? No idea but best get down to it and see what develops. Going through my extensive collection threw up over 80 potential tracks, skits, remixes, co-productions and original samples which totaled over 6 hours of music if I remember correctly. How to do this so that it wouldn’t be just another Shadow mix? How to present the ubiquitous but essential ‘Organ Donor’ in an exciting way? Have a listen…

Well, I couldn’t get it down to to 17 minutes, or 20, but squeezed it all into 23 which Eddy graciously let me get away with. I decided to go for the essence of a lot of tracks rather than letting everything play out, trying to edit sympathetically to each track’s progressions so it wouldn’t seem too brutal. I used a lesser-known compilation track (from ‘Turntables On The Hudson’) called ‘Flashback’ as a theme to title the mix as it’s such a blur of sonic information sometimes that it seems like it might be just that. Having not listened back since I made it nearly 6 months ago I find it’s quite an exhilarating ride if a bit relentless, which I quite like but it you might have to be in the mood for it. The solution to ‘Organ Donor’, probably his most well known creation, was to put it at the end, the big bang after a big build, mixing in the original Giorgio Moroder ‘Tears’ sample that forms the main melody as well as a newer production to show that he’s still got it.

But after all that, I still had material left over, specifically large chunks of ambient sound beds that formed a big part of his earlier releases, which is something I love about his music and that stood out as both original and uncompromising at the time. I wanted to put these together as some sort of collage without the usual beats and vocals, maybe it could be used as a bed to talk over on the radio? It was all here, might as well see what could be done with it, I doubted anyone else would go down this route too. The result is the short but sweet ‘Trip Out’ mix…

I was thinking of the KLF‘s classic ‘Chill Out’ album here, hence the pastiche of the cover and the title – also an allusion to hallucination of course but also a knowing wink to the Trip Hop genre tag that has dogged Shadow since the start of his career. I actually think this concept could have been taken further with a bit more production to extend and rearrange sections but time constraints didn’t permit. Anyway, now I had over 30 minutes of mix for Eddy when he only wanted half that. Props to him that he played both and you can hear the whole thing, along with mixes by IRN MNKY, Bare Noize, Stereo:Type and Culprit One online at XFM for the next week. If you’re abroad and you need to enter a postcode to make it think you’re listening from the UK then try W1A 1AA.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Sex Mix vol.1

Very much looking forward to this, available August 6th from ZTT

CD1: Frankie Goes To Hollywood in The Pleasuredome, a Zang Tuum Tumb singlette in five parts: Happy Hi! (All in the Body), The Soundtrack from Bernard Rose’s Video of the Welcome to the Pleasuredome single, Get It On, Welcome to the Pleasure Dome (How to Remake the World), Happy Hi! (All in the Mind); Relax (International); The Power of Love (I’ll Protect You From The Holocaust) can be read in various ways but, for the sake of CD indexing, has six distinct sections: The Power of Love (extended, singlette – as opposed to 12” – version), The World is My Oyster (Trapped), Holier Than Thou (FGTH’s Christmas message), The World is My Oyster (Scrapped), Holier Than Thou (further festive messaging), The Power of Love (instrumental, singlette version); The World is My Oyster (at its full length); Don’t Lose What’s Left, Rage Hard + ++ *.

CD2: Extracts from Relax, From Soft to Hard, Dry to Moist: Relax (Sex Mix), Later On (from One September Monday), Ferry Cross The Mersey (…and here I’ll stay); Music from and inspired by Two Tribes (Keep The Peace): Two Tribes (singlette extracts), One February Friday (singlette extracts), War (somewhere between Hidden and Hiding); Further elements from The Liverpool Look: Warriors of the Wasteland (Compacted), Do You Think I’m Sexy?, Watching the Wildlife (Voiceless).

Posted in Design, Music. | 8 Comments » |

Flint & Food at Factory Road

So much to say about the last few days and the opening of the DJ Food & Henry Flint exhibition at the Factory Road Gallery in Hinckley, Leicester with my friends Sarah (aka Inkymole) and Leigh. I’ve known them for around 15 years now and always enjoy their company so it was a no-brainer when they asked if they could host the work I’d got together for the Pure Evil Gallery earlier this year. What’s unique about this is that the gallery is in their own home, on the corner of a quiet suburban street, not in the middle of a hip part of a big city. A few years ago they did some major architectural restructuring and turned the downstairs of their home into a workspace cum gallery, dependent on what was on at the time. This is the third or fourth exhibition to be held there and, with the help of their intern, Brook, and amazing chef Jed Smith, they managed to make it a very unique event.

The difference between this and the Pure Evil show is that they were keen to feature a sort of retrospective element of my design work with Ninja Tune over the years alongside work that Henry and I had generated for ‘The Search Engine’ album, his book ‘Broadcast’ and past comic work. This took the form of a whole wall running the length of the downstairs plus a tabletop collage under glass of all manner of flyers, sleeves, proofs and other ephemera. Two sides of the central supporting wall were taken up with Henry’s past comic work with prints and original art from the album near the entrance. Near the rear of the gallery we set up a turntable and zoetrope disc to project animations that were also meant for London but didn’t happen as well as a 55 minute mix with visuals based on my planetarium show of the same time.

To add to this Sarah and Leigh always do special merchandise to go with each show, a regular item being a tea towel – or rather a visor / helmet polishing cloth (ooer) – printed locally and hemmed by Sarah’s mum. Also for sale was a limited edition ‘Skullstronaut’ giclee print and locally sourced chocolate bars, cleverly playing on the outer space theme and packaged like freeze-dried astronaut food.

Speaking of food, the killer addition of the night was Jed Smith in the kitchen, whipping up amazing bite-sized, space-themed eats for everyone. The cubed chips, baked pea shells and sauce were the hit of the night, a bowl of ‘space dust’ (homemade sherbert) looked like a moon surface and the dried rice and beetroot dip was literally out of this world (sorry). Everyone who came looked uncertainly at it all, took the plunge and were instantly in for seconds.

It’s rare to attend an opening and to ask the guests if they’ve been to the toilet yet (unless it’s for some sort of nose up) but the bathroom had it’s own charm in the form of Will Cooper-Mitchell’s press shots of me in an astronaut suit, alongside a hand-painted shuttle (by Sarah’s sister, close family ties going on here) and a short musical loop of space-themed sounds.

This, alongside a big barrel of local ale for refreshments, rounded the whole event off beautifully and added to the homely vibe of the exhibition. A steady stream of visitors arrived, both local and from further afield from 6pm until midnight and I talked to everyone from fans to friends, university professors to the local record store owner. Having been there since Thursday afternoon setting up and rearranging things I was beat by then and we had an early start the next morning but that’s another story.

Thank you so much to everyone who came but especially Sarah, Leigh, Jed, Brook and everyone who helped to make it such a success, some of the photos here are by their friend, Nigel, who was also the architect who helped them build the gallery. We realised, once it was all hung and arranged, that we’d fitted in twice the content than in London, in a smaller space too so there’s twice the reason to go and have a look. The show is at 71 Factory Road, Hinckley, Leicestershire, it’s free and on until June 15th, all merchandise is on sale on the Factory Road Shop now.

Sale on in the 2000ad shop

Furthermore to the flurry of February posts to mark 2000ad‘s 35th birthday I’d like to highlight the current sale they have on in their online store. Some of the graphic novels on sale are minor classics and the prices are bordering on scandalous some are so low. Below is a personal guide to a few favourites should you feel like dipping your toe into the deep pool of the comic’s past.

The Complete Nemesis vols. 1 & 2. One of the very best characters ever (and one of the best villains too) with Kevin O’Neill‘s amazing art on the first few books and Pat Mills keeping you on your toes with the plot. Only £8 each.

Two books in the Alan Moore canon usually overlooked by the media when writing about him: D.R. & Quinch is madcap space comedy at its best with beautiful artwork by Alan Davis. Skizz riffs off the E.T. phenomenon but brings it into Birmingham and does away with the cuteness. £6 and £4 respectively.

Robo Hunter – Verdus, the first of many series’ starring Sam Slade, a Philip Marlowe-esque private investigator on a planet full of crazed robots with Ian Gibson‘s incredible artwork rendering every rivet. Only £4. The V.C.s is future war with a cast of great characters told through the eyes of a rookie addition to the squad. Only £6.

Jamie Hewlett and Pete Milligan’s bizarro tale, Hewligan’s Haircut in graphic novel form and robot-loving, torturer for hire Lobster Random are both great if you like your comedy left of field. £8.99 for Hewligan and only £4 for Lobster.

It wouldn’t be a post about 2000ad without mentioning Henry Flint would it? Shakara is one of THE best stories in recent years, the first 3 books are collected in The Avenger with another 2 yet to be compiled – amazing art and a plot that keeps you guessing from Robbie Morrison. Only £7.

Zombo is Al Ewing and Henry’s dark outer space zombie comedy with each series upping the weird factor. Sadly not in the sale at £10.99

Also not in the sale but well worth your time and money: Easily one of the best spin offs from Judge Dredd‘s world in recent memory, the Insurrection series’ deals with a breakaway team of Judges who declare independence for the worlds they’ve colonised with the aid of robots and apes, and have to deal with the full force of Mega City 1’s SJS squad as a result. More future war with a battle of the wits by Dan Abnett and Colin MacNeil. £13.99

Back in print again: The Complete Nemesis vol.3 – This is the final few books in the 10 book series with the amazing John Hicklenton on 2, Clint Langley and that man Flint on 1 each and the final episode by Kevin O’Neill himself. Not cheap at £19.99 but worth it.

And finally if you want to know more about the history of the comic, including all the highs AND lows, there’s no better book than Thrill Power Overload by ex-editor Dave Bishop, and at £12 it’s a steal. You might also be needing something to sip your tea out of while you get down to reading all of this – how about a mug with a classic wraparound Dredd cover by Mike McMahon?

Posted in Comics. | 6 Comments » |

Pete Fowler does Nemesis The Warlock in 3D

Further to the 2000ad-related posts this week to mark the comic’s 35th birthday here’s a nicely timed gem that turned up recently on Pete Fowler‘s blog. In 2005 I took part in an exhibition in London curated by Playlounge called ‘Zarjaz’, the brief being for artists who were fans of the comic to reinterpret any character in their own way. I chose to do a fantasy cover that never was featuring Torquemada, a Terminator and the many tunnels of Termight, a homage to Kevin O’Neill and very influenced by this cover, which I later managed to acquire from him. In hindsight it’s a bit overworked but I included it as an oddity in the current exhibition at the Pure Evil Gallery as the timing seemed good.

Anyway, another artist in the ‘Zarjaz’ exhibition was Pete Fowler, who did a gorgeous T-shirt design featuring Nemesis as one of his wood sprites, which I love and still wear to this day. Amazingly he’s just unveiled a toy version of the same design (maybe as a tie-in to the anniversary?) that he’s done with Togetherplus. I’ll be wanting one of them then.

Posted in Comics, Design, Toys. | 4 Comments » |

My eyes!

Something I just knocked up, probably further ruining my eyesight in the process. Probably the only time I’m going to be able to use the Victor Moscoso font and get away with it. Possible CD design for limited edition of my ‘Solid Psyche’ mix of tracks from Ninja, Big Dada, Counter and Brainfeeder for Japan.

Pepe Deluxé album track preview no.2

The second track from the Pepe Deluxé album, ‘Queen of the Wave’, is up for your delectation. ‘The Storm’ redefines the word ‘EPIC’ with tribes of restless natives chanting ‘Listen, listen, God of Thunder!’ over a track so packed full of ideas it should be illegal.

Check for yourselves over at the official Pepe site and stay tuned for a further two exclusives.

Posted in Uncategorized. | No Comments » |