People Like Us & Friends play Ether, Southbank Centre – reviews

Here are some reviews on People Like Us and Friends performing at Ether Festival, Purcell Room, London.  Participants for the evening were chosen by Vicki Bennett, based around each performance containing a lot of humour.  The advertising made it seem like it was more to do with sampling but this was secondary to the humorous aspect when it came to choosing who would play.

Despite the spike of recent interest in bootlegs, plunderphonia and other sonic ballyhoo, the small Purcell Room was only about half full on Ether’s night of digital disobedience, whose theme seemed decidedly undersold, since the cast included some real scoops for the UK stage. Phthalo/Tigerbeat6 magician Wobbly opened up with a heads down, no-nonsense digital blast zone, strafing and bombing the speakers with deftly processed and mulched samples, with no apparent rules of engagement. Evolution Control Committee’s Mark Gunderson gave a lecture presentation on the ECC’s activities like a Sesame Street presenter on coke’ his homemade thimble-trigger system providing visual stimulus as he refashioned food and drink ads, Public Enemy raps and TV voice-overs into (a)musing infobursts Felix Kubin’s demented, surrealist electro-ditties, accompanied by his charismatic self (Julian Clary meets Marc Bolan as extras in Liquid Sky) on kitsch Hammond organ, provide a deformed other take on the Miss Kittin style electrotainment that’s currently teetering on the mainstream brink. Matt Wand hunched in an easy chair, appropriately, to give a live rendition of some glitchy electronic ruckus on a pair of Gameboys running sequencing programs. But the evening belonged to Vicki Bennett aka People Like Us, whose ‘Recyclopaedia Britannica’ of sound/video mixes just gets better and better. She has locked into a personal editing style where the screen becomes a wide canvas for positioning sampled chunks of ‘where did she find that”‘ video, from weird American TV, government information films, vintage newsreel, patronising documentary and whitebread soap entertainment. Intelligently bringing out, through repetition, the hidden reverse of deceptively innocent bits of film, her tongue in cheek musical pastiches are at their most bitingly incisive as the soundtrack to the films. Don’t miss this great multimedia project as it hits its stride.
Rob Young, The Wire June 2002

problem with music

Date: Sun, 05 May 2002 08:29:29 +0100
From: Bob Boster
Subject: [rumori] PLU, ECC, Wobbly (and pals) in London
Not enough time to do this show justice, but since I enjoyed the Tonic review so well I feel compelled to at least give it a brief overview.
Last night the Ether (non-dance electronic music) festival of the South Bank left/Royal Festival Hall hosted our stalwarts in the high late modernist style of the Purcell Room. About 200 people were there, possibly a few more. Certainly a crowd like this I’ve never seen at an event in ‘our’ musical community’s dedicated honor. The evening was headed ‘Plunderphonics’.
Wobbly opened. Jon’s set was a rolling, shifting affair with his trademark dense-pack assault as the primary material, sometimes integrating some rhythmic sections, and a couple times dropping away to more atmospheric sections. Travelling light (no keyboard) meant Jon didn’t get into one of his classic ‘song’ things, which was a shame for people who have never seen him before, but the set was so action packed, I’m sure no one else ever missed it.
Some Wild Why fragments here and there, but nothing like the full-on barrage. Some attempts at trainspotting worked for some audience members, but as Jon has gone more and more ‘Plexure-ish’ it doesn’t really give people the time to actually pin it down before he moves on. It’s more like the flavor comes into your mouth and then the next bite goes down before you can name that spice.
Guy next to us was a complete stranger and he was totally on top of everything at each moment, rolling back and forth with the joy of the chaotic stream and occasionally hooting or yelling when a real strong moment hit. It was a pleasure to take that in. Much of the crowd seemed really along for the ride on this somewhat difficult material, but there were the typical 3 or 4 who got overwhelmed after a few minutes and fled.
Next up ECC, my first live experience. Mark is actually talking and doing some schtick as part of the set, which was a good thing (as Jon was mute). His white coveralls, bright ‘mad scientist’ hair, and thimble controllers made a great visual image. I’m sure his deep voice and authoritative American accent worked for the crowd also. After a video opener, he did a somewhat thematic set of thimbletron stuff that worked for the crowd and really entertained.
One thing that worked for me personally was the fact that he sent his laptop graphics up to the video projection so people could see the waveforms (and sometimes make out the file names) of the bits being triggered by the thimble action. This worked to forward the technology into people’s minds without undercutting it by being too recognizable (assume that was custom stuff you wrote Mark…).
Anyway, the dramatic goofiness of the set, the completeness of the whole vision, and the entertaining aspect of the pieces really all worked well. I expected some sniggering at ‘American goofiness’ but didn’t overhear any.
Matt Wand played next. His placement in the set was perfect because he had a physical ‘wired’ quality that bound him to Mark, but what came out of it was totally abstract. Matt played looping sequences of pretty much pure tones from 2 Gameboys. The outcome was a slamming, largely rhythmic but non-dancey wash of this repetitive but always shifting crunchy noise. Nice and relatively minimal processing (although I couldn’t tell what part of the looping process was the gameboys and which was processing until afterwards).
Matt really pushed the show out into to new space by not having any ‘samples’ but the gameboy theme worked with the overview, and the set really rocked. Sort of like riding in a shopping cart down from the continental divide…it never stopped rolling, but the quality of the bumpiness changed every couple seconds.
We were then lucky enough to enter the wild and wonderful world of Felix Kubin. Felix puts an incredibly lovable thing together and it works on sheer innocence and the commitment of his dramatic vision. Arriving in full glam spaceman regalia, Felix came out and promptly announced that he’s not really a plunderphonic artist and proceeded to play a joyful set of SONGS, touching a style list from Trio to digital hardcore to Kraftwerk. To site himself somewhat in the style of the evening, he did a remix of a PLU cut, which worked.
Some songs had vocals. Much of the set had speech in the interstices, which was nice. There was a joyful feel about the whole thing, and somehow the kitsch gave it another link to the rest of the program, which was enough for it to be bound together successfully. His video had a great quality to it, also linking him to PLU’s set.
Someone needs to book Felix on a tour into SF and figure out how to properly promote it so all the possible vectors that would appreciate it show up…amazing live set.
Onto PLU, the headliner. Vicki did a unified set tied up with video. The meshing of the video elements in a style that totally fit into the aesthetic of Vicki’s musical work is a great thing to take in. I’m not sure that someone who comes to it without a background in the recorded work would have this experience with it, but that was really true for me. I saw her do some stuff with video in Chicago a couple years back, but it didn’t hold together like this (of course I also had a terrible site line in Chicago and this projection was glorious). Her aesthetic holds true for the music and the video in the same way, and makes a really powerful combination.
Another thing that worked for me about this set was that somehow really disparate themes and elements ended up holding together in some kind of shattered, surreal narrative. Many of us utilize this effect in audio, by returning to material repeatedly during a performance which seems to somehow bind things together. In this case, Vicki has done the same thing in video, and the quality ends up holding a very scattered set of pieces together into something with a completely coherent aspect. Really interesting, and entertaining. And the sense of following the ‘story’ added something new to the evening, keeping people plugged in even after 4 really strong sets before this one. The migration over to a video-centric presentation also gave the audience some new quality to hang onto.
Vicki was received triumphantly (all acts were, but I think the sense of Vicki as the ‘vision’ behind the line-up was apparent, and that added to her approval as well). Hats off to her, because this was a really significant context and a really great show to fit in it. Hopefully more of these things can be leveraged off this one (not least of which because I’d like a chance to grab an audience like that myself) and help to move London to the forefront of cultural capitals for this kind of music. Vicki’s really got the ball rolling and hopefully I can help push.
, Anyway, that’s all the data that comes to mind (after 5 hours sleep). Off to Paris and Munich (just missing NY and I’d have the M People in my head all weekend).
Any questions?
Your faithful correspondent,

Date: Tue, 07 May 2002 20:22:37 -0400
From: The Evolution Control Committee
Subject: [Rumori] UK Ether Festival
Just thought I’d jot down some reactions to the Ether festival at London’s South Bank complex (Royal Festival Hall & Purcell Room) and other related things…
First off, the most important portion of it for me (and I suspect most on this list) was the May 4 show at the Purcell Room, featuring Wobbly, The Evolution Control Committee, Matt Wand (of Hot Air and Stock, Hausen and Walkman), Felix Kubin, and People Like Us. 7.30 show, no intermission, 25 minutes for each artist. About 200-ish people thought it was worth paying 14 pounds admission for.
I have to admit my viewpoint was both great and terrible for this show, since I was in it and spent much of the time backstage… however, it does afford behind-the-scenes looks at things such as Felix Kubin sweeping the stage sans trousers.
WOBBLY. I’ve had the pleasure of playing a few shows with him of late, so I’ve seen what he does and have a basis for comparison of this show, and I’d say this was one of the best I’ve witnessed. Great transitions between segments (if you even noticed the transitions at all) of very chopped up stuff. Very thorough edits that only occasionally allow you to detect what the original source material might have been — no doubt left in the mind that it’s been thoroughly changed, altered, recycled, and improved. I only wish the audience could better have seen how Wobbly operates… probably most would assume he’s another laptop composer, except that his face isn’t glowing on-stage from the screen. Indeed, he uses no laptop at all but multiple Dr. Sample-style devices to put his stuff together live, each sample triggered lovingly by hand and tweaked in real time. It’s quite impressive when you can see his dexterity and how he does it, but unfortunately the audience misses out on that treat.
THE ECC. Well, obviously I had the worst view in the house on this one, since I was on-stage for it. I’ll just say that it felt like one of the smoother shows I’ve given and I got great feedback about it.
MATT WAND. Unfortunately I didn’t get to really see or hear his set, except a few brief moments. What little I could hear well sounded pretty interesting and I really wish I could’ve heard more and been out in the audience myself. Audience members I talked to later said that it was a bit plain to watch since the whole set was performed on Gameboys and effects pedals while Matt was seated left stage in a comfy chair. I was really interested in the Gameboy thing; I don’t know much about it, but earlier in the week I did another show where the opening act also performed with a Gameboy (and other instruments)…
FELIX KUBIN. Blew me clean away. Great performer with a great sense of humor that came through perfectly clear even though English is his second language (German is his first, since he’s from Hamburg). Now that I think about it, the night was really perfectly ordered, in that both Felix and ECC were very up-front and performance oriented, and Wobbly, Matt, and PLU were not, so the line-up alternated evenly between more and less “live” performances. Felix played organ/keyboard and synth with some backing tracks, doing songs that really weren’t sample-oriented or “plunderphonic” at all, but still quite enjoyable and memorable. The highlight of the set was a movie which he played the soundtrack for, bringing to mind the new wave sets of Liquid Sky or Dr. Caligari, as well as the cheap-set/high-creativity balance of Forbidden Zone. He packed his 25 minutes to the limit.
PEOPLE LIKE US. Like Wobbly, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Vicki’s work a number of times over the past year, and each time it just astounds me more. I don’t tend to watch movies or videos more than once because I usually feel like I’ve absorbed all the important parts in one sitting, but the PLU videos always have me asking myself whether a certain bit was new this time or if I just didn’t catch it the first time I saw it. It’s phenomenal stuff, basically surrealist/plagiarist video seamlessly connected and laced together with a soundtrack improvised over the video’s “natural” audio track. Something of a dadaist, apolitical Emergency Broadcast Network or something. It’s a tired buzzword, but as far as a “multimedia” performance goes this is it — full video, great sound, holds your attention completely from start to finish. The great pity of it all is… there’s no way to see any of it outside of a live show! Save for one DVD compilation with one bit on it, I don’t think any of the video is available. But you might just want to view it as a live-only thing — you can’t see/experience live shows in your home, so just accept the video component as a live-only thing. Like Felix, a really dense 25 minutes, though I think I noticed that she cheated and went over. Good. 🙂
Overall, an impressive night on all accounts. Honestly, when the definitive guide to plagiarhythmic history is finally written, this should really be one for the books. I felt like everyone was in fine form and this was a rare and talented lineup. Kudos to all those that made this happen, especially Glenn Max, Jane Beese, Kirsten, Joana, and doubly especially Vicki for bringing us all together for this!


Interview in Sound Projector Magazine

Your work reminds me of two of my favourite (visual) collage artists, John Heartfield and Max Ernst. So, are there any real parallels?

Collage has always been my way of looking at the world and it was through photographic collage that I discovered working with video, film and then sound. It is the most important thing to me to be interpreted on as many levels as one can comprehend, and what better way than layering.

Heartfield, I think, deployed quite shocking imagery (shocking at the time, at any rate) with a socio-political aim in mind, to rouse an apathetic populace from their torpor and wake up to the shocking truths around them. But then, he lived in pretty interesting times – and mass communications weren’t quite as ubiquitous as they are now, so it was harder to get to the truth.

Yes, I’m aware of this work and find it very interesting. Of course I cannot fully comprehend what it must have been like to comment in his time, but understand that if you take imagery intended for one thing and then put it next to something else that you are sometimes mixing ingredients for a cocktail bomb. This is my way of working too. The extreme reactions from a mass, or even a big room of people may be far beyond what the artist ever expected. This is because the artist is immersed deeply within the foundations of his/her work and communicating with the subject matter, whereas the outsider is introduced primarily by it’s crudest or most obvious elements within their sphere of understanding. And their understanding of any symbolism may come from sensationalist or twisted sources. So if you show most people a swastika they will not only say nazi, but they will say YOU are a nazi. If you show it to an occultist or buddhist you’ll get something completely different. But then if you show an occultist or buddhist to a reactionary you’ll once again get something different! First you label, then you pin it somewhere. So you may as well do what you like.

Max Ernst was responsible for creating some astounding images in his collage books such as A Week of Kindness and The Hundred Headless Women. Here he took 19th century engravings which were potentially quite inert and innocent, yet through strong juxtapositions he made oneiric and sexually charged pictures. And there was a double-whammy effect to that, because he used imagery familiar to his own immediate generation, thus intending to unsettle the cosy belief-systems of Mum and Dad. For instance, consider your own use of easy-listening LPs. Aren’t these like ‘Mum and Dad’ music? And the found voices, especially from Radio 4 – intended to be reassuring and cosy, you make them into something quite different.

Yes, very nice. What’s the best way to provoke? With what we all have in common. Upbringing, popular culture, sex, religion. All are bigger than the individual and all are things we struggle with. Max Ernst knew the power of digging deeper into the hole of taboos, the unspoken. He knew that you have to seduce with the familiar in order to open people up. Otherwise you alienate people before you’ve got their foot in the door! That’s my belief too. Although I don’t altogether know what to do with people once they’re IN the door I know that you have to find a common source of interest. Yes, my use of “Mum and Dad” and the other familiar cosy things is definitely to do with seducing the listener enough to pay attention. It is also a bit of a zen way of working. To attain the awe of the audience is half the battle. You can do by confusion or provocation amongst other things.

Another essay question, a bit more provocative. I’m not against you, but let’s probe this area a bit… How effective can this form of subversion be; what is the intended audience; can it really work on them? For instance, ever since I was an art student onwards I’ve come across dozens of examples of my peers taking great delight in sneering at popular imagery of the past. I’m a big comics fan, and have met loads of civilians who sneer at the creaky old adverts from the 1950s. Actually some of them are downright weird! Isn’t this just a kind of lazy smugness on our part? The underlying implication is that ‘we’ somehow know better than ‘they’ did in the past, we are more emancipated than the previous generation. I feel sure this could translate into ‘People Like Us Hate People Like You’. It must be something you have thought about….

I understand what you’re saying. I see a certain arrogance in taking the mickey out of things and it’s often a case of choosing easy targets for an easy audience. Or rather, it’s art for the establishment. You even get established experimental! We are making work for our own kind, aren’t we? Whether that be our own tiny circle of friends or our own massive generation. No one makes work for those that they think wouldn’t understand or couldn’t mirror unless they are trying to provoke a reaction. I believe that humour is one of the few areas of life where you should be allowed to do exactly what you want, nothing is sacred. That is maybe why it is so attractive to me. However, just because this is the case it doesn’t mean that I don’t respect the content that I am manipulating. When I play with BBC voices and radio callers I am to an extent paying homage to the broadcast medium. I don’t hate these people, I can’t work with that which I don’t feel warm with. I owe them a great deal for inspiring my work! Back to what the intended audience may be – so long as you feel that within yourself you’re moving and experiencing new things and people seem to be translating that then the target audience would be any inquisitive person on the planet. For readers who don’t know my work – my previous album (from 1997) was called People Like Us “Hate People Like You”. With a name like People Like Us, and being someone who makes titles and music out of puns, it was inevitable! My material is very crude at times and yes, primitive. I wasn’t really making a statement that I hate “people”, I don’t any more than I love them! If I was then I was sending myself up to a certain extent. I then named the Remix CD “Hate People Like Us” because it contains remixes of “Hate People Like You” and contains people like “us”! Also, on a more personal and subconscious level it could be said that such if you engage in a duality situation of being part of any group of people, in any box, you eventually turn on your own kind and yourself. Having said that, I am an elitist. Or rather, I don’t see that democracy makes good art.
Another instance, again an art student thing, oh the number of people who used Ronald Reagan movie posters from his Hollywood past in order to make some ‘ironic’ point about his being a war-mongering President! At least, that’s how we young anti-Nuclear weapons protesters liked to see it…simply pick a picture of Reagan dressed as a cowboy from some Western potboiler, stick a nuclear explosion behind it and voila! Instant social commentary…I think what I disliked here was the laziness, and commonplace use of a banal idea. (You’re better than that though)

Yes, we all start with the most obvious thought but hopefully with a little persistence can start digging deeper for more obscure angles to take on any situation. Of course there is irony in my work, but a lot of the time I am a victim of my own irony, that is why I continue to work with such a thread because it moves, and where there is movement there are ideas. Many a time I’ve liked something because it is bad, because it lacks taste… because it makes me laugh, whatever. But any artist will say that once they have sat with that material for a week and ploughed over and through it, eaten it and regurgitated it, they no longer find the initial attraction appeals at all, let alone find it remotely hilarious. But that makes it all the more funny! No wonder not many artists work with humour! So you may well take Clinton holding a book and stick a woman on the cover with her tits out, and that’s a start. But then the test is whether to leave it at that or immerse yourself in every possible angle of what you could do to it after that. Someone might find a crude statement banal, but it is only because it is such statements that get picked up on and used so many times. I find questions far more interesting than answers. I don’t think I have any particular statement to make in my work. If I want to talk, I’ll do interviews. The music should speak for itself, and besides, I’m a lousy tour guide. Most people would sooner go around the Ronald Reagan Roundabout har-harring forever than actually choosing a junction and buggering off. And art college is the most uninspiring place on earth to make art. I used to have to go home before I could do anything. A final instance, how much tweaking do you really have to do to your found sources to achieve the desired effect? I don’t follow the same method for each piece. It might be easier to work that way, with a formular, but I do try to see every new piece as a blank page. Time-wise, the spoken word manipulations take the longest because the timing and editing has to be so precise for the slapstick to work. But for other pieces it is simply a case of finding 2 elements that work – more like being a DJ than a composer.

I recently snagged a copy of the first Negativland LP. For the cover they’ve clipped and pasted old adverts from a 1950s family magazine, with absolutely no intervention or collage whatsoever. In the context of the record, the pictures are satires of themselves already – without their having to call attention to it. Each cover was done by hand, each different.

That is a good album. Very naive – that’s a compliment by the way. Exploring rather than knowing. My first album was done meticulously too – 100 LPs – a split release with Abraxas. We got the artwork done on nice paper at the photocopy shop, when we got the labels done I had to cut all the holes out myself. But this was all because we had no idea how to do it any other way. Maybe that was part of the case with Mark Hosler and co too.

Something a bit easier. Do you value humour above shock or surrealism?

I’d say that humour and shock are reactions to surrealism. I value the surrealist viewpoint above just about anything that I could possibly think of. Despite all the aural tripwires and booby-traps, there seems to be a real fun, user-friendly element to the work – and lots of lush surfaces. Though you get compared to John Oswald and Negativland a lot, those guys seem quite severe in comparison. And they’re didactic – ‘I’m telling us something, and it’s for your own good, understand?’ I use techniques, found sound and humour, as do John Oswald and Negativland for sure. Shove me in that box. My work is more consistently idiotic and pointless. Of course I have strong opinions about copyright and materialistic/spiritual issues, but they aren’t really the message. Hopefully when you look into my work you see what you are as much as what I am. I don’t want to tell stories that are unambiguous because then the story would end there. Ambiguity is my goal, yes! Another thing – I am very British, and dare I say, female. Although I don’t think being female makes much difference apart from the occasional bout of positive discrimination. A lot of people think that PLU is a bunch of blokes, which is great!

Are the, erm, narrative ideas more important than the sound-world qualities?

The narrative is treated like music if possible. Rhythms and harmonies within the words are extended and played upon, although with more detail. You have to be more anal about the text! I LOVE the disorienting effects you create, and they’re not just through sudden edits and juxtaposition. The sound makes me feel like I’m dreaming, the internal logic is delightfully inexplicable. That’s what I want. I want people to surf statically on my sounds, tripping over but never moving forward! I love to work with radio because it is a passive medium in a way. You just switch on and listen. You switch off and listen! It is very funny to play people my radio cut ups and watch their eyes glaze over as if they are listening to a normal unadulterated broadcast. And then their eyes light up when they suddenly hear all the words turn into the most confusing sentences and slurring and looping. It’s such a strong medium, so hypnotic. I would like to do the same with TV at some point but TV is less subtle, and the ears are more sensitive than the eyes because you can’t look away.

The only record that comes close in the same way is Revolutionary Pekinese Opera by Ground-Zero. In that case I feel fairly sure in assuming that Otomo simply likes stringing strange sounds together, above any narrative content. You, on the other hand, seem a bit more involved with the content. Is that true?

Well, having just said that I treat words as music, I am not so abstract in my working methods. One must get involved further or it would be all surface and you could just use anything. Having said that, Don Joyce said to me that one source is as good as the next, and I do understand what he means. Yes, I love the mundane, the boring, morose. Or rather I love the way that it invokes movement in the rebellious. I am inspired to change that which stifles me. But at the same time I appreciate the comfort that a late night radio broadcast brings and tune in myself, but partly because it is funny hearing people talking about things that really aren’t very interesting at all. I can buy into comfort and security but at the same time cannot feel I can trust such a thing because it makes you shut down. Then you’re open wide.

How does your work differ when performed in a live context? How do people react? Has anyone ever been shocked, provoked?

I used to DJ – although I felt that it was “live” because of the extent of the collage making that was taking place – and also I felt that just because you use a DJ’s tools you may not fit into the DJ definition, whatever that may be. But I grew tired of using record decks and CD players because I wanted to be presenting sounds that had been manipulated further by myself. Now I use CD-Rs and MiniDiscs of my own work and take apart my compositions and remix myself in a live situation. Video is a big part of my work too – I use found film footage transferred to video and edit it much in the way that I do with sound collage. The video provides that audio and visual accompaniment and sometimes dialogue for my performances. I’d say I’ve been shocked/provoked and so have the audiences. More so when I’ve DJ-ed because there is more of an expectation that if you DJ that you are basically a slave to the audience and are answerable to their every whim. Disgusting! Certainly when I’ve DJ-ed people have queued up to complain and pick verbal fights with me, people have been thrown out for getting so aggressive. In turn I get provoked and just do more – feeling justified for annoying them! This is when I’ve played in the “wrong” bars, etc. It could be said that these are exactly the right places to play difficult music. These days I make sure people know I am not going to “DJ”. I tell the organisers that I’m going to do a live set, and generally won’t do it unless it’s in a cinema or seated type of space, or that I know it is an art venue rather than techno (ie tech-no-notice) environment. I’ve had enough of that. But I’m still searching for the best way to work in a live situation. I love to play live with other people and have enjoyed many collaborations with my friends in America such as The Jet Black Hair People and Wobbly. Improvising with them has produced the most amazing moments and real intuitive working. There has been nothing like it. But at the same time there is a part of me that likes to work alone, but that’s more of a studio thing.

Hate People Like Us seems a very sympatico collaboration. Are all the remixers friends, people you’ve worked with? How long did it take to put together? Speaking of friends and collaborators, has your worked evolved in isolation, or are there any personal influences?

I chose the artists for the CD because I think remix projects are often rather boring and the same people get chosen all of the time. Most of the people that I chose are friends or people who have shown enthusiasm. I’m proud and flattered that this has come together, even though the project took two and a half years. It drove us mad. I started to wonder at times if project was ever going to end, and in fact the 2x CD was pressed but is not going to be repressed or sold by Staalplaat. However, the Soleilmoon 1xCD is doing well and we’ve got lots of good publicity for it, am going to be Band of the Week in “Alternative Press” shortly, ha! My work is always a reflection of the people that I’ve seen and the places I’ve been to. But I generally am alone when I make the music. So it’s both.

“Shitcake”- didn’t realise until I saw the title that there was a turd on the birthday cake! Doesn’t this image sum up something about your work, the thrilling combination of beauty with ugliness, often in the same bite of the cake. Some of your droney loopings are as evocative and powerful as any record by say Amon Duul or Popol Vuh, yet you’re frequently undercutting it with trash, vulgarity and weird foreign elements.

That’s funny, you blocked it out! A number of people didn’t notice the natural additive at first, actually. So do you want to know if it’s a real turd? Believe it or not I had a vision for that CD cover! In Spring 1998 I had an operation after breaking my leg. When I came round I was holding a plastic bag with my metal screws and a long pole in it and thought of a satin cushion with a shit on it surrounded by dry ice. Modified the idea slightly, bought the cake, decorated it and then acquired the aforementioned stool at great cost. You’re spot on about the combination idea. Only with bright light can you see shadows. It is what lies on the periphery that appeals to me, I’ve never been interested in the main stream, even if it’s good. To embrace the polarity and extremes of life may bring hope of understanding this so that it is not so extreme any more. But also, I’d say that the shit on a cake is a defiant two fingers up, just for the hell of it.

Many thanks to Ed Pinsent for doing this interview, we strongly urge you to buy the magazine.

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