Terminal Jive

Postcards from the outskirts of pop

Tag: Abigail Ward

Iceland: Foreboding Joy

I went to Iceland in January. It was a truly mind-expanding experience. Awesome is a word I steer clear of, but its original definition fits the feeling: inspiring awe, wonder or dread; extremely impressive or daunting, intimidating.

Gazing out at those endless lunar landscapes, filled me with joy, but isn’t all joy tinged with a kind of vulnerability or dread at its passing? This is a mix that attempts to capture those conflicting emotions. It’s a bit chilly!

Three poems by Jónas Hallgrímsson
Ulver – Desert Dawn
Philip Glass – Protest (Jóhann Jóhannsson Remix)
Nils Frahm – Said and Done
Sigur Rós – Meo Blodnasir
Ólafur Arnalds – Árbakkinn ft. Einar Georg
Plaid – Wen
Petar Dundov – Then Life
Emilie Simon – Aurora Australis
Jóhann Jóhannsson – Melodia (Guidelines For A Propulsion Device Based On Heim’s Quantum Theory)
Blanck Mass – Sundowner
Brian Eno – I’m Set Free
A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Atomos IX
Max Richter – War Anthem
Björk – All is Full of Love (Strings Version)
Aphex Twin – Blue Calx
Max Richter – Morphology

Here’s a little 4-minute video of the things we saw.:
Iceland 2017 by Gareth Taylor

Songs in the key of Beatle

I created this mix while high on Night Nurse. It contains some of my favourite Fabs solo tracks and some heartfelt Beatles-inspired moments by other artists. I’ve dug out a couple of curios (a Gene Simmons solo effort, an Eno/Manzanera live track), plus lots of Harrison-esque slide.  As always, there’s an emphasis on the melancholy. Thanks to SJP for ‘Bedspring Kiss’ and numerous others.

01. The Beatles – Because
02. Cian Ciaran – You & Me
03. John Lennon – Steel & Glass
04. 801 – T.N.K.
05. George Harrison – Art of Dying (Take 36)
06. Emitt Rhodes – Ever Find Yourself Running
07. ELO – Telephone Line
08. Paul McCartney – Jenny Wren
09. Jellyfish – Bedspring Kiss
10. The Paragons & Roslyn Sweat – Blackbird
11. Wings – Let Me Roll It
12. Nilsson – Jump Into The Fire
13. Gene Simmons – See You Tonite
14. Todd Rundgren – It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference
15. XTC – The Disappointed
16. Aimee Mann – How Am I Different?
17. Paul Weller – Song For Alice
18. Marmalade – Reflections of My Life
19. Field Music – Measure
20. David Bowie – Try Some, Buy Some
21. The Beatles – Because (Love version)

 

Manchester Academy Memories

Manchester District Music Archive is proud to launch a new digital exhibition created in partnership with the University of Manchester Students’ Union.

The exhibition, Manchester Academy Memories, documents the history of concerts and club life at the Students’ Union from 1963 to the present day and has been curated by Abigail Ward (MDMA) and Rod Connolly.

It features 435 digitised artefacts relating to artists such as Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, The Slits, Daft Punk, Björk, Nirvana, The Kinks, Adele, Prince and Led Zeppelin. Many of these items, which include tickets, photos, press articles and videos, have been uploaded to the archive by the general public.

An introductory essay by Abigail Ward, written to accompany the digital exhibition, is reproduced below:

Manchester Academy Memories: Concerts & Club Life at the University of Manchester 1963-2016

“When entering for the first time a town like Manchester, a stranger, overwhelmed by the new and interesting spectacle presented to him, scarcely dares look this giant full in the face at once…” From “Ireland, Scotland and England” by J.G.Kohl, 1844.

*

‘You ask him.’

‘No, you ask him!’

‘No, you!

This was how it would start.

For my sister and I, aged thirteen and fifteen respectively, the first hurdle to be cleared after seeing an enticing Manchester Academy gig advertised in Melody Maker was persuading our dad to give us a lift. We lived in Preston and were a bit young for the perils of the last train home. We’d been very focused on music since being toddlers, really, but in 1992 things moved up a gear after we experienced our first big gigs: Michael Jackson at Wembley and James at Alton Towers. By 1993 we were in full throttle, obsessed with live music and constantly hatching schemes to witness our heroes play, more often than not at the Academy or one of its smaller sister venues in Manchester University Students’ Union. All I wanted to do was move to Manchester – the music city. By ‘94 I’d managed to move out of my parents’ house and by ‘95 my sister and I had our own band. Three years later, I achieved my ultimate dream: a council flat in sunny Longsight, a mere skip and a jump from the Academy. I started working in a record shop. Listening, playing, watching, selling. I had landed.

During the nineties, I saw some unforgettable gigs at Academy venues, including Manic Street Preachers, Jeff Buckley, PJ Harvey, Tricky and Pulp. (It killed me that I couldn’t get into Bowie in ‘97.) These were potent moments in my young life – euphoric, boozy, full of mystery. I would scrutinise the mix, the drums, guitar pedals, mics, keen to learn how it all worked. Gigs were physically demanding at times (especially at the Academy), and not without the occasional pang of sadness. I can still see Richey Edwards at the Academy in ‘94, rail-thin and scabby, hanging over his microphone stand like James Dean in Giant, not even pretending to play guitar any more.

I saved all of my tickets, many of which feature in this digital exhibition, which has been an absolute joy to curate. Funded by the University of Manchester Students’ Union, the project was conceived as a way of celebrating the 25th anniversary of Academy 1, whilst exploring the cultural legacy of all of the University venues, from 1963 to the present day. And it’s not just about the big names that have passed through the venues, it’s about the social and political histories that are inextricably entwined with the music. These are particularly evident in the cuttings we’ve included from student newspapers The Manchester Independent and the Mancunion. We hope you enjoy these glimpses into student life across the decades.

Whilst I did spend a number of days seeking out material for this project in physical archives, many of the items included have been uploaded by the general public: crowd-sourced heritage in action! Thank you to everyone who has made a contribution.

Ticket: Jeff Buckley, Manchester University, 1995. Courtesy: Abigail Ward

Ticket: Jeff Buckley, Manchester University, 1995. Courtesy: Abigail Ward

Manchester Academy (now Academy 1) opened in 1990 on Oxford Road, following years of debate about an extension to the main Students’ Union building (erected 1957) a little further down the road. Gigs and club nights had been promoted by the Union since 1963 across a number of places:

The Main Debating Hall (now Academy 2)
The Hop and Grape (formerly Solem Bar, now Academy 3)
The Cellar (now Club Academy)
UMIST (the Tech Union/Undergound/Barnes Wallis Building)
Whitworth Hall (no longer used for gigs)
The Squat (now demolished)

But it was time for a purpose-built venue with a bigger capacity.

Costing £1.2 million, the Academy originally housed a bank, a bar and a catering facility. It opened with a capacity of 1500, rising to 2000 soon after. It was run on a commercial basis; profits from band nights and club nights were funnelled back into the Students’ Union. Fittingly, the first musicians to grace the stage were Manchester punk icons Buzzcocks on October 7th 1990.

Article on the opening of Manchester Academy, 1990, taken from the Mancunion. Courtesy of University of Manchester Students’ Union

Some months before the opening, the Union appointed a full-time Entertainments and Marketing Manager, Sean Morgan, who swiftly entered into a partnership with Manchester-based promoters SJM Concerts (founded by Simon Moran), allowing SJM first option on gig dates for local and visiting artists. Live music was flourishing nationwide; it was boom time for both parties.

In an interview for this project in September 2016, Morgan said, ‘I was ambitious. I was empire-building. I wanted to run the biggest venue complex in the country and put the most gigs on. At one point we put twenty-six bands on in one week.’

‘We worked really hard to see off the competition. Bands and their crews knew that if they came to the Academy, we’d look after them, y’know, take ‘em out on the lash afterwards. They could go to the International 2 [in Longsight] and be stuck out in the middle of nowhere, or they could come to us and get looked after.’

During Sean’s 21-year tenure he was responsible for booking some huge names across all four Academy venues, including Nirvana, Radiohead, Dizzee Rascal, Daft Punk, Patti Smith, Blur, Eminem, The Chemical Brothers and Amy Winehouse. He claims the best gig he ever saw at the Academy was David Bowie in 1997.

‘Bowie was doing a tour of 2000-capacity venues and approached the Academy to play. It was always going to be a “yes”. His sheer showmanship and presence were amazing.’

But Sean’s proudest moments were bringing over his beloved American country stars Townes Van Zandt in 1994 and Scotty Moore (Elvis’s guitarist ) ten years later.

Morgan also oversaw scores of successful club nights, citing rave night Solstice ’91, with resident DJ Dave Booth, as the best atmosphere he ever experienced at the Academy.

In 2011 Sean left the Union and now works for Academy Music Group (no relation). In September 2013, following further refurbishment, the capacity of Academy 1 was increased to 2,600. The venue celebrated its 25th anniversary with a string of significant gigs throughout 2015-16, including Buzzcocks, Garbage and Happy Mondays.

David Bowie ticket book, 1997. Courtesy of Sean Morgan.

David Bowie ticket book, 1997. Courtesy of Sean Morgan.

But how did it all begin?

The Union’s early forays into concert promotion are documented, albeit sketchily, in student newspaper The Manchester Independent. Jazz bandleader Humphrey Lyttleton kicks things off in 1963. A mere two years later Socials Secretary Chris Wright (future co-founder of Chrysalis Records) is booking the likes of the Spencer Davis Group, The Who and The Yardbirds. A Kinks gig at the Rag Ball in March ‘65, however, ends in ‘confusion and brawls’ as the band is bottled off stage. Gig reviews from this period often hint at an element of chaos! Jimi Hendrix stops by in 1967. We’ve included a rarely seen interview with Jimi at the Union by Jill Nichols culled from the Independent.

An interesting story featured in this exhibition is that of the Corporation Act 1965 – a law that allowed venues to be closed on the spot by police if they suspected staff or punters were up to no good. In ‘65 there were around two hundred beat music clubs in Manchester (hard to imagine). They were mainly booze-free members only clubs where young people would drink coffee and dance all night to beat groups. But by the end of ‘66, following the introduction of the act, there were just three clubs remaining. The act was highly unusual in that it was passed by parliament, but applied only to one UK city: Manchester. The city’s music scene was decimated.

In an exclusive interview for this project (which you can listen to within the exhibition), cultural historian Dr. CP Lee says: ‘Against the background of the Corporation Act, it’s hard to overstate the importance of Manchester University for music fans at this time. It was a lifeline. It was our lifeblood. I virtually lived there, even though I wasn’t a student.’

Moving into the early seventies and one of the most intriguing episodes in the Union’s history begins: The Squat.

The Squat was originally the old College of Music. It was situated on Devas Street, between where Big Hands and the Contact Theatre are now. In October of 1973, after the University threatened to demolish the building in favour of a car park, it was occupied by a group of students who were protesting against three things: the student accommodation crisis, the lack of facilities provided by the University for community activities and the proposed demolition of the music college itself. The Squat was turned into a multi-purpose ‘art lab’, with spaces for theatre projects, gigs, band rehearsal and visual art.

For a time, the occupation was financed by a weekly music night held on a Friday in collaboration with Music Force, the socialist music agency put together by, amongst others, renowned blues guitarist Victor Brox and jazz drummer Bruce Mitchell (Greasy Bear, Albertos, Durutti Column).  Music Force was set up in part as a response to the effects of the Corporation Act, which had resulted in a paucity of work for Manchester’s once very busy musicians. The collective provided everything you might require to put a concert on: musicians, PA and equipment hire, flyposting, the full works. The Squat and Music Force both played vital roles in the Manchester punk and post-punk scenes. During its 8-year life the venue played host to New Order, The Fall, The Stranglers, Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias and several Rock Against Racism nights.

1981 was a great year for music, which filtered through to gigs at the Union. Bookings included U2, The Au Pairs, Aswad, The Cramps, Linton Kwesi Johnson and The Beat. Things seem to slow down a little gig-wise in the mid-80s, but the Cellar Disco (now Club Academy) packed the punters in. One exhibition contributor reminisces about doing a disastrous drunken somersault in there to the strains of Caberet Voltaire’s ‘Nag Nag Nag’!

1989 saw visits from indie royalty The Happy Mondays, My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth. Then in October 1990 the Academy opens and ticket sales go through the roof. The Charlatans, Northside and New Model Army do two sell-out nights apiece. The LA’s, Paul Weller and Devo also stop by.

Which brings us back to where we started. It’s 1993 and I’m getting the breath shoved out of my lungs at my first ever Academy show: Smashing Pumpkins and Verve. Dad is making a pint last four hours over the road at Jabez Clegg. My plan to move to the city is a tiny seed in my fourteen-year-old mind.

This digital exhibition is full of great stories from true music fans: in 1968 a young audience member is gifted a harmonica by Captain Beefheart in the Main Debating Hall. In 1992 the drummer from Pavement confuses everyone by handing out carrots to the audience. In 1995 a sixteen-year-old Julian Cope fan gets a full snog with tongues from her hero in the Academy. Around the same time a clubber at Megadog spends the entire night in a toilet cubicle and has the time of her life.

This project is dedicated to those fans – to everyone who has taken the time to share a memory; to Manchester District Music Archive’s team of volunteers; and also to my dad, who took me to the Academy in the first place all those years ago.

Advert for Captain Beefheart taken from The Manchester Independent, 1968. Courtesy of the University of Manchester Students' Union

Advert for Captain Beefheart taken from The Manchester Independent, 1968. Courtesy of the University of Manchester Students’ Union

Notes:

• If you would like to contribute an artefact or story, just upload it to Manchester District Music Archive and we will add it to the exhibition.
• Only bands/artists from Greater Manchester are searchable in our database.
• If we are unsure of the exact venue the artefact relates to, or if it relates to several Union venues, we have used the tag Manchester University.
• Dates added to press articles refer to the publication date rather than the gig date.
• Gig ladders are usually dated with the earliest date on the advert.
• Due to time and budget constraints many press articles have been photographed quickly, sometime in poor light, rather than scanned.
• We’ve done our best to credit photographers and journalists clearly. Please give us a shout if we’ve missed something: info@mdmarchive.co.uk

In Conversation: Jon Savage & Abigail Ward talk ‘Second Wave Psychedelia’

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The Birds Nest Cafe – Shrewsbury Market Hall
Sunday 19th June, 2016

6pm-10.30pm
Tickets: £8 in advance
Buy here or from The Bird’s Nest Cafe

Jon Savage (writer, social commentator, broadcaster & author of England’s Dreaming/Teenage/1966) in conversation with Abigail Ward (Manchester Music District Archive).



Preceded with a rare showing of the iconic ‘Weekender’ short by Flowered Up at 6.30pm.

The topic will be late 80s early 90s ‘Madchester’ and the Baggy musical scene that defined it . Also under discussion will be the critically acclaimed album Jon produced for CTR last year –  Perfect Motion: A Secret History of Second Wave Psychedelia 1988-93 – and its distinctive take on the era.

The Stone Roses, their influence, legacy and reformation will also be on the musical agenda. A must for fans of the music and culture of that era!

Followed by music with DJs Jon Savage/Abigail Ward & CTR Guests.

Listen to ‘Perfect Motion’ here.

LATE TRAINS RETURN FROM SHREWSBURY to MANCHESTER: 21.30 – Arrive Manchester 23.40.

Tickets strictly limited – £8 Advance. Please bring a print-out of your order confirmation for entry.

A Queer Revue! – Band on the Wall, June 2016

Photo: Kath McDermott/Manchester District Music Archive

Photo: Kath McDermott/Manchester District Music Archive

On Friday June 3rd, at the wonderful A QUEER REVUE! at Band on the Wall, I’m going to be doing a FREE talk on LGBT music and club culture in Manchester, marking the launch of Manchester Histories Festival 2016.

My talk will explore how queer music culture in Manchester helped to redefine attitudes to sexuality across the city and beyond, featuring rarely seen images and footage courtesy of Manchester District Music Archive.

I will be speaking in The Picture House next door to Band on the Wall at 8.30pm, and after that I will be raving in the main venue to DJ Greg Thorpe and some of my favourite Manchester bands: LIINES / Husk / ILL / Ménage à Trois

Tempted?

Booking for my talk is via Eventbrite:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/queer-noise-the-hidden-histo…

Booking for A Queer Revue! is here:
http://bandonthewall.org/events/5051/

 

Where’s Bowie?

Flyer (reverse) for Where's Bowie?, 2011. Artwork: R. Marsh

Flyer (reverse) for Where’s Bowie?, 2011. Artwork: R. Marsh

[From the vaults: a mix from 2011]

Back in 2011 I organised a night called Where’s Bowie?. It had two aims: first, to make a noise so loud and glamorous it dragged the much-missed Duke out of retirement (we succeeded!), and second to raise money for MIND – a charity that creates awareness around mental health issues.

We held the event at Night & Day Café, Manchester, on 29th November. We showed a great film – Fritz Von Runte‘s ‘Bowie 2001‘ – a piece that splices Bowie’s remixed back catalogue into the original Kubrick movie. Three bands played: Hooker (now LIINES), Black Antlers and Monte Carlo.

I DJed along with Clair & Rebecca (Bad Timing) and Jane Hector-Jones.

I put together these ‘Bowie-esque’ mixes shortly afterwards as a souvenir for all the pink monkey birds that strutted their stuff on that special night.

The lovely artwork was by Randall Marsh.

01. Sebastian Tellier – Fantino
02. T. Rex – Cosmic Dancer
03. Blur – Strange News from Another Star
04. Brian Eno – Dead Finks Don’t Talk
05. Jobriath – World Without End
06. Luther Vandross – Funky Music (Is a Part of Me)
07. LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver
08. The Emperor Machine – Repetition
09. Tobor Experiment Disco Experience – Station To Station
10. David Bowie – When The Boys Come Marching Home
11. Brian Eno and John Cale – Spinning Away
12. Carla Bruni – Absolute Beginners
13. Brian Eno – I’ll Come Running
14. Warpaint – Ashes to Ashes
15. David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust (Studio Instrumental)
16. Velvet Underground – Rock & Roll

I miss the hungry years – memories of Cornerhouse

cornerhousetriptych

01. Europa Cinemas Trailer
02. George Martin – And I Love her
03. Hi-Voltage Orchestra – Midnight Blue
04. Dave Grusin – Three Days of the Condor
05. The Jackson 5 – Can I See You In The Morning?
06. Brian Bennett – Solstice
07. Charles Earland – I Will Never Tell
08. Mo Foster – Stateside II
09. Bob James – Nightcrawler
10. Fat Gaines Band present Zorina – For Your Love (Diablo Edit)
11. Lonnie Liston Smith – A Chance For Peace
12. Leo’s Sunship – Back For More
13. Lambchop – Give Me Your Love
14. Pete Dunaway – Supermarket
15. Soul Sensation Orchestra – Faded Lady (Instrumental)
16. Robert Upchurch – The Devil Made Me Do it
17. Bob Welch – Don’t Let Me Fall
18. Marvin Gaye – I Want You (Vocal & Rhythm Version)
19. Freddie Hubbard feat Jeanie Tracy – You’re Gonna Lose Me
20. Johnnie Taylor – What About My Love?
21. Barry White – Sheet Music (US Promo Instrumental)


I never really wanted to be a DJ. I have always collected records and owned a turntable, but for much of my younger life I focused on writing my own songs rather than playing other people’s. That changed in 2007 when my friend Kate – then bar manager at Cornerhouse – asked me to do a mix of rare film scores for her to play at work. A short time later, she invited me to DJ on a Friday night, and so began a six-year tenure as a handmaiden of the decks.

On my first night, trembling with anxiety, I pitted my wits against a crackly Numark mixer and Cornerhouse’s famously sensitive limiter, a device that would cut the sound dead throughout the whole venue if it didn’t care for your tunes. I triggered it three times. Kate explained I had to balance on a stool and bash it with a tray to achieve a reset.

I called my night Big Strings Attached and indulged my love of all things stringed, from symphonic soul to cinematic pop, and of course, plenty of soundtracks.

Initially I played at the top of the stairs in the café bar. I would lose myself watching the weather out of the window while first dates and last orders rippled pleasantly around me. I stood up to DJ behind a makeshift wooden booth on wheels. It would be rolled in through double doors at the start of the night, reminding me for some reason of a coffin sliding into the furnace.

When the managers eventually agreed to replace the £50 Numark with a Pioneer DJM 750 mixer, the decks would no longer fit in the coffin, so I ended up sitting at an ordinary table. Pros: I could take the weight of my feet, always sore from a full Friday working the counter at Piccadilly Records. Cons: I became too accessible to punters who needed to chat.

From that point on, people were able to draw up a chair and talk to me. And of course, there was no escape. Many sordid sob stories and unsolicited confessions were shared, leading inevitably to dead air and flunked mixes on my part.

There was Elsie, still angular of cheekbone at 80, whose bright eyes would fill with tears when recounting her days treading the boards at the Royal Exchange; there was Terry, who claimed I was the only person he could talk to about his desire to have gender reassignment surgery; there was Dr Octopus, a GP with broken facial capillaries, whose tentacles, come 10pm, would brush across the buttocks of his always much younger female companions. There was Robin, who sometimes noticed blood in his stools.*

I hate talking to people when I am playing records. It’s a social no man’s land. You can’t get meaningfully involved in either the conversation or the music. Even when close friends came in to help me through a shift, I found it awkward. My heart would sink a little.

I tried for a time simply to exist within my headphones, strings blaring. But people would still come and talk to me. It was more disturbing to confront their wordless gaping mouths than to listen to their problems.

A sweet looking boy called John was a regular feature for a while. He would slope in early doors, always nicely turned out. Intermittently he was able to talk in fully formed sentences about college or music. Much of the time he spoke in strange fragments, little blurted scraps, tics. He wasn’t drunk. I never saw him with a drink. I suspect at some point he’d been flung through the doors of perception whilst on acid or ket and never quite made it back. Sometimes he did the crossword next to me, shouting out random words. One night I picked up the newspaper after he left and discovered he’d filled in each blank word with my name.

Very occasionally, perhaps once a year, someone would want to talk about the music I was playing. This was a genuine delight. I have no issue with people who want to talk about music. Provided their taste is immaculate, like mine.

In later years I was moved downstairs to play in the window by the door. The ground floor had a different atmosphere, a transient crowd, no food. I campaigned weekly to get candles on the tables and lights dimmed.

By now I’d toughened up a bit. I had strategies to deal with ‘sitters’. Downstairs, it was less heartbreak, more hassle. I still have nightmares about one night when the Rocky Horror Show was on at the Palace. The bar was heaving with stroppy hets in fishnets thrusting their pansticked faces into mine because I wouldn’t play ‘The Timewarp’.

Another time, over Christmas, a paralytic Santa on Oxford Road pressed his bare arse up to the window millimeters away from my face. I can still see his sad sack dangling.

Setting up the decks was less convenient. I had to carry my Technics, mixer, CDJ, and monitor down several flights of stone stairs that ran from the top to the bottom of the building. This area of Cornerhouse had a very particular smell: bleach, hops, sweat and something all of its own. All buildings have their smells, like people.

During the final year, appalled to discover that Cornerhouse was soon to be demolished, I began to experience an odd feeling on those stairs, almost as if I were being watched fondly by a future version of myself as I hoofed gear, outstretched foot holding open the fire door, cables spilling out of pockets. A spasm of intense nostalgia for the building not yet lost.

The bar staff at Cornerhouse were, almost without exception, kind, creative, funny. Working the pumps were writers, music producers, filmmakers, trainee psychologists, ceramicists, cartoonists, fashion designers. They were never stingy with the anaesthetic and if I was a good girl I could pick a leftover brownie at the end of the night. I did, for a short period suffer a rather painful crush on one particular bartender, who basked in my discomfort like a tabby on a windowsill.

Rory – a security guard, became one of my main allies. He would help me with my gear when my back was fucked. He had a sixth sense for when I was being mithered and would hover around diplomatically. He pulled me out of myself when I was red wine-glum (often), and nearly always had a Blue Riband going spare for a counter jockey who’d skipped tea. Rory’s most requested tune was Shirley Bassey’s version of ‘The Hungry Years’, which was absolutely fine by me.

There were celebrity sightings, both real and imagined: Eric Cantona, Damon Albarn and Willem Dafoe all came in during Manchester International Festival. One of these luminaries was, according to staff, foul tempered and condescending. Can you guess which one?

Sometimes, on the lonelier nights, my grip on reality dangerously loosened by Malbec, I would imagine being visited by the stars whose records I was spinning. Donald Fagen popped in regularly to ‘work a little skirt’. Nina Simone stopped by, fuming, because front of house had asked me to turn down ‘Baltimore’. The young Michael Jackson would crawl under my table, eyes brimming, during ‘Who’s Loving You?’.

In 2013 my time at Cornerhouse ended in the style of a long term lesbian love affair. Both parties claimed in public it was a mutual decision. And we’re still friends.

People who are concerned about the fate of the Cornerhouse building and ‘Little Ireland’ may be interested in attending the first Manchester Shield meeting at 6.30pm on Thursday 14th April at the Friend’s Meeting House.

*The names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Songs from a Railway Station at Dusk

SunsetTracksCrop
Photo: Arne Hückelheim


I love being on train station platforms when the sun is going down. I made this mix for those moments. It contains samples from the film Night Mail and trains I have recorded at various stations.

WARNING: Do not listen to this broadcast in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

01. Cage & Aviary – Giorgio Carpenter
02. The Gist – Love at First Sight
03. Abba – The Day Before You Came
04. Larry Heard – 25 Years From Alpha
05. The Juan Maclean – The Station
06. Warren Zevon – Nighttime at the Switching Yard
07. Colored Music – Heartbeat
08. Kraftwerk – Metall Auf Metall
09. Erlend Oye – Ghost Trains
10. John Tejada – Mechanized World
11. Blondes – Swisher
12. Levon Vincent – Impressions of a Rainstorm
13. Margaret – Yosa
14. Gavin Russom & Delia Gonzalez – Rise (DFA Mix)
15. John Carpenter – Wraith
16. Tangerine Dream – Love on a Real Train
17. Carl Craig – Wonderful Life

 

Adventure and Discipline

Dutch Uncles

[From the vaults: an interview with Dutch Uncles for The Chimp, 2011]

A whitewashed room containing little more than an unclothed mannequin in a distractingly come hither pose seems like a fitting place for to be meeting Marple’s arch pop aesthetes Dutch Uncles – a band whose reputation for visual flair and musical mischief precedes them.

Irresistible to A & R men from outset, Dutch Uncles were picked up in 2008 by German label Tapete for a one-album deal just three months after their first gig in Manchester. Since then, they’ve toured with The Futureheads , remixed Bombay Bicycle Club and scored a management deal with local label Love and Disaster, who put out ‘The Ink’ – a strikingly packaged seven inch reminiscent of classic XTC.

In summer of last year, the band recorded a World Cup song – a multi-layered a cappella in which the individual names of the England squad are repeated in time signatures dictated by their shirt numbers. To further boggle the mind, each player’s name is panned to a stereo position within the track that corresponds to his actual position on the playing field. The song, entitled Fabio Capello (whose name does not feature), made it onto NME radio within ten minutes of being mastered, and sounds like Laurie Anderson presenting Match of the Day.

It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that a band as musically obdurate and inventive as this would eventually be courted by Memphis Industries, one of the hottest indie labels in the land, and home to fellow math-poppers Field Music, with whom the band feel a close musical kinship.

Singer Duncan and bassist Robin explain how they came to mint this deal: “It started out as a friendly email sent after we put out The Ink, Duncan says. “It just read, ‘Like the new track. Keep up the good work’. Then we sent them an album sampler, which they liked.”

Robin: “Then they came up to the studio in Salford where we were recording and bought us pizza, and we played them unfinished MIDI tracks.”

Duncan: “Anyway, they were into it and we instantly knew we wanted to go that way. We’re big fans of Field Music and they’ve always been an influence on our writing style, so I think the fact that they had them and the Go! Team meant that we knew this was a label that holds onto bands and develops them, unlike most major labels.”

Listening to the new album, Cadenza, which evokes the sonic playfulness and ambition of band like Sparks and King Crimson, it’s obvious that the band are keen to fly in the face of the traditional meat-and-potato Manchester lad-rock sound. In fact, bending avant-garde disciplines into fun pop shapes could be described as their raison d’etre. On the track X-O the band have replayed movements from minimalist composer Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint. A daring cover, if ever there was one.

Duncan explains, “We saw that as a challenge. It was something we spoke about very drunk one night. We just thought: this track is amazing…” Robin interjects: “Let’s turn it into a pop song!” Duncan again: “I hated every day of trying to write the lyrics. I just thought, ‘I’m murdering a classic instrumental here, it shouldn’t really have lyrics at all, who do I think I am?’ But it’s worked out really well. It adds a character to the album that we would never have been able to pull off completely on our own.”

Duncan also spent time developing a lyrical aesthetic to complement the complex instrumentation and shifting time signatures of Cadenza: “I’ve always admired the way David Byrne writes, how he’s almost in a trance when he’s singing. You almost feel like his eyes are rolling back in his head. He’s removing himself from the situation and just analysing what he’s doing. I’ve tried to develop a style of removing myself from my own emotions.”

Having just come back from a tour with joyful noise mongers Young British Artists, and boasting firm friendships with the likes of Everything Everything and Delphic, do Dutch Uncles think that a new Manchester scene, unfettered by the past, is emerging?

Robin: “There’ll always be those people who want to go and see Beady Eye at the Apollo – a load of knobheads, really. The Fac 251 club is still just digging up the past – we’d never play there. Peter Hook’s a wanker for bringing all that stuff down. But we don’t feel suffocated by it. There is a present, and it’s great.”

Duncan adds: “Everything Everything made one of the best albums of last year – they’ve given us a few breaks along the way. Egyptian Hip-Hop are also great. They’re probably our best ‘band’ friends. That whole Marple connection is pretty strong!”

This spirit of collaboration and co-operation has undoubtedly played a part in Dutch Uncles’ rapid evolution. Robin describes the Love and Disaster label as “like extended family”. The band are also keen to big up local graphic design collective Dr. Me, who have given the Cadenza album its unique physical identity.

“Artwork is very important to us”, says Duncan. “We’ve used a lot of bold, simple colour with our previous releases so we wanted to do something different for this one. We’ve gone for more of a collage this time. Dr. Me are the best friends I’ve had since I moved to town. It’s kind of extending the Love and Disaster family again. We’re so lucky. It’s incredible the way the best people for the job were also the closest people.”

So how keen are the band to crossover into the pop mainstream? Would they, for example, play Top of the Pops, should its rumoured return come into fruition?

“Well, I’d rather play The Old Grey Whistle Test!” Duncan admits. “I think any band that’s going to survive over time needs to have a breakthrough song, even if it’s just the one. Every band needs a ‘Making Plans For Nigel’. At this point he grows serious. “But in terms of overall ambition, I just want to make this my life.”

As the rest of the band arrive for the photo shoot and begin grabbing Ms Mannequin in inappropriate places, talk turns to their most treasured albums. Duncan eventually chooses Television’s Adventure whilst Robin goes for Discipline by King Crimson. Adventure and Discipline. Seems appropriate. The Dutch Uncles manifesto.

Originally written under the pseudonym Harper Hay.

Louder Than Words Festival – Manchester song lyrics panel, 2014

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Photo: Alison Surtees

‘Hear my voice in your head and think of me kindly’ is a panel event exploring the art of song lyricism, Manchester-style. Guest lyricists are Jaheda Choudhury-Potter of Ajah UK, Jonathan Higgs from Everything Everything and Guy Garvey of Elbow.  It will reveal contrasting processes, backgrounds and styles whilst exploring Greater Manchester lyricism across the decades.

Chaired and curated by Abigail Ward.

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