Sunday, April 05, 2009

End Of Tour

the end of a wonderful tour with the absolutely lovely Franz Ferdinand folks. It was a pleasure and joy to be on the road with them for 3 weeks

Friday, April 03, 2009

Grand Turismo ain't bobbins

I always though of Bilbao as a dull industrial city in the Basque land. But oh how wrong I am. A beautful old town with great architecture, pokey quaint streets filled with cafe's and restaurants where the locals idle away the hours discussing the salient points of the day or catch up on gossip. A run down by the waterfront of the Ria de Bilbao shows a city full of history and proud of its Basque heritage. Basque flags dance merrily on the wind next to Athletic Bilbao flags. Running past the magnificent structure that is the Guggenheim museum, you are left believing that there is still hope for mankind in in bringing to life such a beautiful building and not escaping in the quick get-out clause of a brick barricade. A home to house expressions of beauty within. The old docks are filled with rusty old ships which are in dry-dock, awaiting some paintwork and further repairs for another season's sailing on the might Atlantic. Fishermen wrestle with nets caught up like unwashed hair in a tangle. The crumbling old buildings that lead to the docks and to the mouth of the estuary are a reminder of golden days in the past, and I could not help thinking that these buildings would be perfect to squat and start up homes, venues, restaurants, anything really. Artists have painted the walls in a manner which suggests true artists have been at work here and not random graffitti artists who only want to splash their names everywhere in a fit of egomania. The boats that sail in from the Atlantic are treated to an art exhibition of sorts as they return from a days fishing. By the docks, cranky old cranes lift and dump iron ore and huge scraps of metal at will, with no methodology behind it. The smell of burning metal pricks the senses. Old jetties lie half collapsed in the water and beautiful long legged birds stand still catching in the sun's rays with half an eye for an fish that may be swimming to close near the jetty.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Bill Drummond and The 17


Last Saturday in Zurich, we played at a mix'n'match festival where the concept of a Swiss music trade fair was disguised by clever programming and a large paycheque! Our show wasn't due to start until 2.45 am (no kidding!) and going to bed for a few hours r+r would have been the wise thing to do, but I had the opportunity to partake in a sonic experiment which I didn't want to miss.

Bill Drummond, the man behind the Justified Ancients of Mu-Mu, KLF, and agent provocateur in the music industry gave a lecture in the afternoon about how all recorded music is a thing of the past. His new project was about making instant music based on assembling groups of 17 people and recording them singing / humming one note for 5 minutes consecutively. He would record many groups of 17 people, and layer all the different recordings with no added FX, compression, nothing. He will play the piece just once that evening and then he will destroy that recording forever.

Thus at the Schiffbauhalle in Zurich I took part in this happening. I, along with the 3 Kissogram boys, Paul and Alex from Franz Ferdinand, and their tourmanager Rebecca, were part of a group of 17 who were led up to a small, dimly lit room, which had 17 seats arranged in 2 rows. In front of us sat the legend that is Bill Drummond. With a quiet "Good evening, I'm Bill Drummond', he went to explain to us the concept behind the experiment and what we were to do. We are asked to sing a single note that he plays on a keyboard, and hold it for 5 minutes. An engineer sits behind his computer, and a single microphone trails its way to said microphone. We are all asked to stand. At the given sign from the engineer, all 17 of us begin to sing the note. You hear people hit different pitches, people hold their breaths at different lengths, the collective sound seems to wow and flutter, and at a certain point you lose yourself completely in the sound. I forgot I was singing and felt the collective force of the universal voice in that room. The drone is the force and just as you think this could / should last forever, the engineer brings his arm down, and we all stop in unison. We are all asked to have a group photo taken, after which we leave.

Drummond and engineer invite several other groups to partake in this session.

In the evening, in the main hall, the engineer plugs his computer into the house PA / mixing desk, and after a short talk from Drummond, the piece is played. It starts quietly but very soon builds into a wall of drone-a-rama. The room shakes and there is a strange rhythm within the drone. You close your eyes and you are carried away into a sea of unknown sonic pleasures created only by human voices and nothing else. The 5 minutes comes too soon. A sudden stop, and its all over. The piece of art is destroyed, never to be heard again.

Drummond has pushed the concept of instant art a step further, and we were there to take part in it that day.

Cowboys and Indians

The Free State of Bayern's finest trailed our van as soon we hit Bayern on our drive down from Berlin to Munchen, and pulled us over into a parking place on the autobahn. We found ourselves in a police theme park with many cars / vans / trucks that had been pulled over, and plenty of green police gnomes scuttling around looking busy and mean.

Our steering wheel had a cloth swab wiped over it, and within 30 seconds were informed that there were traces of cocaine on it and that we should all get out of the van! The policeman who made this claim did not show us the evidence to backup this claim, and instead stood there watching our reaction to this. We remained incredulous to this piece of information. We had just taken charge of this van the day before, and nobody in our party had partaken in chasing the white train. It was purely scare tactics on the part of the police, and we did not fall for the bait. We were escorted through the rain to a tent where we all had to empty our pockets and get frisked. One of our group was verbally harrassed for 5 minutes by one policeman, and then said policeman decided to look in his pants to see if he was hiding any illicit goods! All our equipment was taken out into the rain and sniffer dogs passed through the van.

Nothing found, and just alot of resentment created. Welcome to the deep south.