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Whatever happened to…..Chris H?

Posted: June 3rd, 2007, by Marceline Smith

Those of you who have been reading diskant for a while might remember Chris H. He was the one who wrote about films and politics and bike riding and experimental Japanese noise bands before it was fashionable. He was also a member of a collective in Glasgow who organised round the G8 summit and corresponding events in 2005 providing accommodation, resources etc. for protesters in a warehouse in the East End. The Evening Times, a Glasgow paper, printed an article about Chris and the group full of factual errors and misquotes. Chris subsequently took them to court for libel and is still stuck in all the legal processes two years on, putting him in financial and employment limbo.

He’s presenting his side of the story over at Making Lying History and I’d encourage you to read it if you have any interest in the power of the media, the courts and (what it all comes down to in the end) money in how events are portrayed to the world. I certainly never thought our tongue-in-cheek, stupid made-up staff biographies would end up getting used against someone in court.

Anyway, have a read and help out if you can. My one brush with the courts (a nasty solicitor’s letter for something a band said on diskant) turned me into a quivering wreck so I’m proud of Chris having the guts to stand up for himself in court. I don’t think I could do it.

KURT VONNEGUT

Posted: April 12th, 2007, by Chris Summerlin

American author Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday aged 84.
I don’t read that many books because I have the same problem with them as I do with a lot of films: by their nature and the length of time it takes to ‘consume’ one, there is inevitably a certain amount of flab, or filler to wade through. I don’t like being reminded that I need to be more busy and books and films usually have this unfortunate effect on me. I suppose it’s hard to make everything count in something that takes so long to experience.
This is why Kurt Vonnegut is my favourite author. I always feel I’m wasting my time when I stop reading his books (or looking at his drawings). He had a way with the most minimal amount of words of conveying something staggeringly huge. Indescribable even. So it works better to approach the subject from a different angle, to suggest the reader thinks of it exactly how they want to, safe in the knowledge that if the reader engages with it then their own interpretation cannot be anything less than perfect.
Someone once said that there is no humour without cruelty, or that there is no such thing as victim-less humour. It’s true. Vonnegut is the only author who can make me laugh out loud reading a book about the bombing of Dresden in WWII. Alongside James Baldwin, he is also the only author that has made me re-read pages of a book as I go along because I thought they were so good.
His style of writing, with it’s cross referencing of characters, self awareness and the brilliant touch of adding his own drawings into the text, sounds uninviting perhaps if you’ve never read him before. Like some knowing, post-modern nightmare. Nothing could be further from the truth, Vonnegut was a supreme humanist. The inevitable tradegy of human life and the absurdity of it all versus the ways of dealing with it and dealing with your fellow humans.
He would have made a good president.
Like John Fahey I can now begin the period of regretting that I never met him and didn’t buy one of his paintings when they were cheap.
So it goes.

Charles Gocher R.I.P.

Posted: February 21st, 2007, by Dave Stockwell

Some extremely sad news chanced upon just as I’d finished listening to Sir Richard Bishop’s superlative debut LP “Improvika” for the first time in too long:

Charles Gocher R.I.P.

Everyone needs to have at least one Sun City Girls album in their collection; it’s a real shame there’ll be no more added to the millions you can already choose from. A chapter closes on a wholly singular band.

Introducing the diskant team #4 – David Stockwell

Posted: November 20th, 2006, by Marceline Smith

Dave used to be diskant’s resident obscurist, guaranteed to fill his columns full of unpronounceable unlistenable music that he still managed to make sound amazing. Since then, we’ve recruited a few other mentalists to keep him company, so much so, that Dave actually turned out to be the diskanteer who’d heard the most out of our Top Ten Albums of 2005 and thus had the fun job of writing up the article*. He’s also given us the enormously helpful guide to getting gigs and the highly entertaining Souvaris European tour diary as well as profiling swathes of labels for Talentspotter.

By day Dave works as a Project Officer for Children’s Centres Services at Nottingham City Council working with children and families in Nottingham’s most disadvantaged areas. By night he makes “guitars chime, churn and occasionally howl” in Souvaris, “what’s generally regarded as horrific noise and drone” in Bologna Pony, “sporadically mucks around with homemade lo-fi ambient things”, helps out with DIY non-profit gig-organising collective Damn You! and sometimes even finds the time to write a few extra esoteric reviews for Foxy Digitalis. Blimey.

Where do you live and what do you like about it?
Sneinton, Nottingham. It’s just outside the centre of a medium-sized but comparatively lively (read as: violent) city and I can get out to green space or nice places outside the city limits with a short walk. I also live just around the corner from HQs for three record labels: Gringo, Low-Point and Fire. Convenient.

What have you been listening to/reading/watching/playing recently?

Oof, where to start?

Listening to: The news of Relapse reissuing Harvey Milk’s Courtesy and Goodwill To All Men had me dusting off my copy and remembering quite how wilfully absurd/strangely brilliant it is. Ditto the This Heat boxset, which has to be my purchase of the year. Steven R. Smith’s new LP on Important is really lovely and comes in a beautiful woodcut sleeve. MV & EE w/ The Bummer Road’s latest album on Time-Lag might possibly be the best/most maddening new music I’ve heard this year. Birchville Cat Motel’s 3xCD live document Curved Surface Destroyer is appropriately mindblowing. The new (Chris) Clark album Body Riddle sounds sumptuous. Erase Errata were tremendous when they played live recently, but their new album doesn’t sound half as raucous.

Reading: Last things I’ve read have been Dodie Smith’s I Capture The Castle (lent by a friend) and Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H (on which everything you associate with that title was originally based). Next up is a Bukowski biography, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and at some point finally tackling Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States of America.

Watching:
I don’t watch television, and I’ve barely had time or inclination to watch any new films recently. I did get The Parallax View and My Own Private Idaho on DVD for dirt cheap not that long ago though. Both classy films. Seeing stuff in the flesh, I went to the Sunday of the Barbican’s celebration of Steve Reich’s 70th birthday and it was mostly brilliant: Konono #1 played in a free gig in the hall; Reich’s new piece (entitled Daniel) managed to be both emotionally charged and beautiful; seeing Music For 18 Musicians performed in the flesh is an experience I’ll never forget. Especially when Steve started hitting loads of bum notes on his vibraphone halfway through.

Tell us about your favourite local bands
Nottingham’s a funny old place for music: there’s always a steady stream of interesting bands but few seem to stay together for more than a few months at a time (except the terrible ones that refuse to die). Lords have to be mentioned as a premier live attraction, but bring your earplugs because they’ve gotten unbearably loud since they got their new amps. Gareth Hardwick may have the misfortune to be in a band with me, but I still love his solo ambient stuff anyway, and it’s getting better with every release. Designer Babies seem to have been in a period of transition for a frustratingly long time since they lost their frontman, but I’m hoping for exciting things when they play soon. The inimitably unique Hellset Orchestra are always worth seeing and I really admire their wilful absurdity and Queenesque stage antics. Apparently Love Ends Disaster! live just around the corner but never seem to play here. Orchards are a new proposition from members of many established Nottingham bands that I really enjoyed when they played their second-ever gig recently. Lovely melodies alongside American Analog Set-style keyboard throbs – it can’t be beat. There are loads more, such as Lovvers and the new-look Exploits of Elaine, that I really need to get around to seeing soon.

What are you planning on writing about next for diskant?
At the start of the month I managed to buy about 50 LPs for a quid from a fleamarket. I got some amazing stuff, such as Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and Talking Heads’ Remain in Light, but also the first Dire Straits LP, The Fine Young Cannibals and a really fucked up Wagner sampler LP got in there too. I’m thinking about trying and write a two sentence review of every one.

What are your favourite articles/interviews on diskant?
I love Ollie’s infectious enthusiasm for anything absurd and/or highly offensive. Joe Luna has an incredible knack of writing about things that I was either thinking about buying or thinking about reviewing – keep it up Joe! And whatever Chris turns his hand to is inevitably going to be worth reading.

What are you looking forward to this year?
I really want to see Darren Aaronofsky’s The Fountain, which has been in development for about five years now and will hopefully hit the cinemas before the end of the year. I just hope it’s not the train wreck it could well turn out to be.

I’m also very much looking forward to Damn You! putting on Birchville Cat Motel early next year, and there are whispers about the possibility of Charles Hayward (This Heat, general drumming genius) coming up shortly after that have got me in a real spin.

Lastly, I’ll be excited on Friday because that day I have to post a completed mix of the long-awaited second Souvaris album (entitled “A Hat” for no particularly good reason) to Mr John Golden to unleash his mastering skills on. You’ll be able to listen to the results courtesy of Gringo Records early next year. Thank fuck!

What have you learned during your time at diskant?
That the advent of Web 2.0 means that you can no longer slag off a shit record with impunity. Someone’s opinion is always going to be more important than yours, especially if it’s the artist’s.

* Although I see I have actually credited the article to myself. Oops.

www.savagesound.com

Posted: November 11th, 2006, by Chris Summerlin

Take a moment out to read through this site:

www.savagesound.com

I don’t live in Chicago, or in fact the USA at all for that matter. I went to Chicago once, it seemed refreshingly community-based for a big city. I post on a Chicago-based forum from time to time and it was on this forum that I heard about Malachi Ritscher. Malachi Ritscher lived in Chicago and from accounts seemed to have devoted his life to supporting the musical community of the city. He is known best as a live performance archivist and many of his ‘field recordings’ from gigs have made it to official releases on the artists’ albums.

*

The instant quality of the internet is both a blessing and a curse. How many times have you fired off an e-mail to someone in a fit of rage only to regret it a split-second later? With the internet it is possible to offend an enormous amount of people with the click of a mouse. However, with the internet it is also possible to stream photos of a plane hitting the Pentagon to a punk rock music forum and thus make the readers of the Forum (for those few minutes) the most knowledgable people on the planet about current events, right in the moment.

I think everyone has read about people making rash decisions to end their own lives by posting a “Do I or don’t I?” message on Myspace and no one responding. I think the figure is something like one third of all Americans with access to the internet have their own blog. We are used to seeing people’s opinions and feelings immediately thrown out to the world to the point where we can detach the words and pictures from a real person at the end of the internet connection.

Have a read of these:
http://www.savagesound.com/gallery99.htm
http://www.savagesound.com/gallery100.htm
http://cbs2chicago.com/local/local_story_307085813.html

There is something perverse and unsettling about reading things that should be this personal in an environment that is totally opposite to that. It normally makes me recoil at someone’s self-centredness. This has similarities for sure – the person concerned carried out their actions to draw attention to the things they were writing about (to put it in simplistic terms) but in this case what they were writing about and what concerned them needed that attention.

Anyway, have a read of it all, it’s what the internet is there for.

Introducing the diskant team #3 – Alex McChesney

Posted: September 15th, 2006, by Marceline Smith

Although we do have writers based around the globe, there’s a small majority of us living in Glasgow. I cannot deny that part of the reason for this is me trying to offload CDs from our overflowing review box on to anyone I happen to meet. Alex McChesney, however, claims quite the opposite, having originally run his own music review website back in the day. “After meeting Marceline and seeing the excellent diskant, my need to come over all self-important about music was re-awakened, and I volunteered for reviewing duties. Duties which I have been somewhat negligent about lately. Er… sorry.”. Alex has mainly stuck to reviews so far but that ranges from getting thoughtful about Songs of Green Pheasant to getting hyper-excitable about Lightning Bolt live. He’s also diskant’s resident movie buff helping collate diskant’s Films of 2005.

When not reviewing CDs, Alex spends his days writing “the world’s most boring computer software” and his evenings as a member of electronic-rock combo Sister Blades, and making occasional unpleasant noise in podcast form. He is also married to the lovely Rebecca who will be joining us on diskant’s review pages shortly.

Unfortunately Alex is less lazy than I anticipated so these answers are now ever so slightly out of date. Hopefully this means we’ll get some words from him about his trip to Iceland soon to go with his marvellous photos. A-Z of Iceland, Alex, come on!

Where do you live and what do you like about it?
I live in Shawlands, on the South Side of Glasgow, which is a scant 15 minute train journey from the city center, has a great number of decent shops, bars and restaurants, including what is (in my opinion) the best Italian restaurant in Glasgow – Bacco Italia. (Now what are the chances of them reading this and offering me a free meal in return for plugging them? Rather slim, I suspect.). The South Side. It’s “the new west end” dontchew know. Still, it could do with a record shop or two – there was one in the arcade that was ok, if a bit heavy on the alt.country, but I went to look in the other day and it was cold and dead.

What have you been listening to/reading/watching/playing recently?

Everyone’s sick of hearing me bang on about the Nintendo DS, but it really is my favourite games console ever. I’ve had it for about two months now, and I’ve already been tempted into buying almost as many games for it as I have my PS2, which I’ve had for around four years. It’s a little white box of fun.

I’ve just bought an album called “Hypnotic Underworld” by Ghost, who are a sort of folk-prog band from Japan who I have heard many many positive things about, and have meant to get around to listening to since their collaboration with Damon and Naomi some years ago. Some records you buy and can form an opinion on by the end of the first song, but this is one I can’t quite decide if I like or not. I’ve thrown it on my iPod for listening on the train, so maybe I’ll get the bottom of it one way or another.

I find myself listening to more music in work than anywhere else nowdays, which is a far from ideal situation. I own some great music that just isn’t appropriate to programming to, so isn’t getting played.

Watching? Not a lot. There’s nothing on TV that interests me at the moment, and I haven’t been to the pictures in quite a while. I do, however, have a pile of DVDs bought cheap from the Blockbuster up the road that need watching. Oh, and we bought “Screaming Masterpiece”, the excellent documentary about Icelandic music. But more of that in a minute….

Tell us about your favourite local bands.
Gay Against You rule the roost as far as I’m concerned. I enjoyed Park Attack the last time I saw them. And we just played with Beaches of the Proud and Captain Haddock, who approach instrumental ambience from opposite directions but are both ace in their own ways, in addition to being jolly nice folks as well.

What are you planning on writing about next for diskant?
I was thinking about doing an article about the original Wicker Man, in time for the release of the shite-looking remake.

What are your favourite articles/interviews on diskant?
Chris Summerlin’s diskant Gets The Blues is a tour-de-force, but the yearly Instal round-up is always a good read too.

What are you looking forward to this year?
I’m going to Iceland in September! About which I am stupidly excited! It’s just for a long weekend, but already I have become a total Iceland bore. Go on – ask me anything!

What have you learned during your time at diskant?
That the diskant Overlord is not to be trifled with.

Sad news

Posted: September 4th, 2006, by Chris Summerlin

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/5311298.stm

Steve Irwin has been killed by a stingray in Queensland. Anyone who has spent an afternoon in their pants eating cheese on toast will have watched one of his programmes open-mouthed in amazement or laughing their heads off as he leapt onto a crocodile 3 times his size while his daughter Bindi watched on.
I turned into a massive Steve Irwin fan when I was in Australia. I was outraged when the press turned on him for the ‘baby stunt’ (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/3364733.stm) and I almost changed my plane ticket home, risking a prison term by breaking my Visa, in order to see him at local Australia Day celebrations.
His death appears to be the first of it’s kind in Australia. You can bet he was probably french kissing the Stingray. Or at the very least licking it’s face.

Introducing the diskant team #2 – Chris Summerlin

Posted: August 26th, 2006, by Marceline Smith

Chris Summerlin is, without a doubt, our most infamous contributor. I’ve met many people who have told me Chris is the main reason they read diskant and a few who have said Chris’ writing is the only thing they don’t like about diskant. Personally I think Chris is one of the best, and most entertaining, music writers around and only his unwillingness to put up with the constraints of editors has stopped him from making a career out of it. All the better for us though as we get things like his interview with Zoot Horn Rollo of the Magic Band and the lengthy article on the Blues.

Chris also holds the dubious honour of being the only contributor to have been interviewed 3 times for diskant – twice with Reynolds (this interview was the first time we met in person) and once with Lords (four times if you include the time Chris interviewed himself about Sonic Youth). Currently unemployed, Chris is putting his efforts into cataloguing his entire life on Flickr. He also designs posters and puts on gigs as part of Damn You! as well as making music as Last of the Real Hardmen and as part of Lords and Felix.

Where do you live and what do you like about it?
Nottingham. I like it because its violent

What have you been listening to/reading/watching/playing recently?
Listening to: Groundhogs, Loren Connors, Stooges, Sonic Youth live bootlegs, Sonny Sharrock, Bilge Pump, Sailors.
Reading: ‘Billy F Gibbons: Rock N Roll Gearhead’ By Billy Gibbons.
Watching: Hollyoaks.
Playing: Guitar

Tell us about your favourite local bands.
What’s to know? I like a few. Spin Spin The Dogs were the best, they broke up, their new thing Kingdom Time is coming together. The mighty Steve Charlesworth has reunited with Kalv from Heresy for new action that will be pant-shitting. My housemate Gareth Hardwick is coming into his own as a solo drone man. There’s some interesting free improv noise stuff happening. Everyone’s bashing that out. The Good Anna are a force to be reckoned with in that area. Designer Babies are always a total head fuck also.

What are you planning on writing about next for diskant?
I am planning on filling the blogs with personal ads and putting reviews in the wrong section. I have a murder conspiracy piece written but I found out lots of people I am friends with think the idea is mental and so publishing it may make them think I am too.

What are your favourite articles/interviews on diskant?
I like my review of Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. I always like Jason Graham’s end-of-year summaries and Ross McGivern’s politico-activity.

What are you looking forward to this year?
Playing more gigs.

What have you learned during your time at diskant?
No one really cares about music. It’s just shorthand notes and signifiers to get fanny/cock.

Introducing the diskant team #1 – Simon Minter

Posted: August 3rd, 2006, by Marceline Smith

The blog’s been a bit empty lately so we will be introducing a few regular features for you to look forward to each week. To start things off I will be finding out more about the people who help make diskant what it is, from the old skool early diskanteers I now count amongst my best friends to the new kids I haven’t even met yet. Hopefully it will be interesting to find out more about who we are and what we do and you’ll have a read of some of the things we’ve all written for diskant in the past.

There was only one contender for the first interview – Simon Minter who has been here for far too long, is probably the oldest of us (a whole 3 months older than me) and has had a finger in most of the diskant pies, both figuratively and in reality.

Having been here since the olden days, Simon says he cannot honestly remember when or why he got involved with diskant. "I imagine it stems from old fanzine days of yore when I knew Marceline!", he offers. I recall it being quite a gradual process with him submitting classics like his interview with Alec Empire who refused to answer more than 3 of the questions sent to him and the True or False interview with The Freed Unit. Since then he’s helped out with practically everything at diskant at some point including the dinky cartoon graphics, looking after our columnists and doing numerous in depth interviews with obscure labels (have a look down the features list).

Outside of diskant, Simon’s a graphic designer by day and, well, a graphic designer by night too, now that he has his own little freelance design outfit nineteen point. He also plays guitar in Sunnyvale Noise Sub-element (who have a new 7″ out now!), co-runs the exquisite Fourier Transform record label and co-organises the successful Audioscope charity festival annually in Oxford.

Where do you live and what do you like about it?

Oxford. It’s beautiful and relaxed and there are a lot of likeminded people here.

Tell us about your favourite local bands
Divine Coils – Oxford’s beginner Vibracathedral!
The Keyboard Choir – awesome hypnotic sound sculptures.
Suitable Case For Treatment – weirdo swamp fright-goth-rock

What have you been listening to/reading/watching/playing recently?

Nothing with any great attention except the new Sonic Youth album (trying to work out if I like it or not) and Curb Your Enthusiasm (funniest TV show I have seen in a LONG time)

What are you planning on writing about next for diskant?

Whatever I get sent to review.

What are your favourite articles/interviews on diskant?

Probably the ATP/Audioscope diaries, for reminiscing!

What are you looking forward to this year?

Audioscope. ATP in December.

What have you learned during your time at diskant?

Time management is an important skill. The internet is genuinely a good place to meet friends.

Brewer Phillips

Posted: March 16th, 2006, by Chris Summerlin

I thought rather than write a series of huge columns about recommended music, I’d just write a few pieces about unsung individuals – or more accurately, individuals who’s history leads to loads of unexpected listening pleasure if investigated. It’s nice when you get into something completely out of the blue and find there are another 20 albums like it and you have a new ‘well’ to dip into. So here goes with the first:

Brewer Phillips

Brewer played in the Houserockers, the now legendary band of Hound Dog Taylor. ‘Played’ is an understatement, Brewer propelled the Houserockers who provided the blueprint for the bassless band that is pretty much the garage rock norm these days. With Taylor knocking out cheeky lead slide on some of the most fucked up instruments you could imagine (check the photos that exist for this man’s guitar collection, seems like he wasn’t interested unless it has 16 pickups and a trem made out of a spanner), it was Brewers job to play everything else on his guitar. He apparently learned his craft from Memphis Minnie.

“I left Greenwood and moved to Memphis, and there I ran across the most beautiful woman, an angel, Memphis Minnie,” Phillips said in an interview. “She and Son (House) were in Memphis and I got to play with them. Then I met a guy named James Walker who made a little 78 (rpm record) with me and Roosevelt Sykes. That woulda been back in ’55 or ’56.”

I assume he played with his fingers to account for the simultaneous bass and melody runs you hear that’d put Hendrix to shame, all the pictures I’ve seen have him wearing fingerpicks anyway. His tone was squidgy as glue and he had a knack for playing the irresistible-but-not-cheesy that is unmatched. I get to DJ very infrequently and I can say without hesitation that it’s always a Houserockers track that gets someone to come up and ask “what is this?”, or better still, people properly dancing – sucked in by Brewers low-end groove.

The story of how the Houserockers formed is typical of the tales associated with these characters. Taylor was a larger than life eccentric. Bruce Iglaur saw him play with a Brewer-less pickup band:

“He would start songs for 15-20 seconds, stop and try to start another thing. Then he’d tell these incomprehensible jokes, crack up in the middle of the joke and bury his face in his hands. He’d light a Pell Mell, tell another weird joke, put the Pell Mell on the mike stand, start into another song that would fall apart instantly. But he was so funny looking- a tall, gawky guy, very thin, huge toothy grin. Everybody naturally loved him.”

Brewer went by Taylors house one day in 1959 to kick off at Taylor, who he suspected had stolen his guitar from a gig. He confirmed his suspicions but rather than bust Taylor in two he ended up playing guitar for him for 20 years. Go figure. He said of the time:

“We fought it for 10, 12, 15 hours a night for next to nothing. We’d play all night for $50. We were black-man rich.”

Igalur founded Chicago blues label Alligator purely to release the Houserockers’ material. The Houserockers were also pretty bad-ass characters as well, which always helps in the mythology-stakes. Taylor’s approach to leading a band was somewhat visionary for the time as Igalur recounts:

“Whatever they (the Houserockers) had a show, they didn’t rehearse. That was sort of a rule. They followed that rule very closely. They also followed the rule that you REALLY shouldn’t perform unless you had a reasonable amount of alcohol. He set an example for that. In that regard, he was sort of an exemplary bandleader.”

Tales of Taylor pulling a lady at a show, taking the car and leaving Brewer and drummer Ted Harvey hitching a ride home are hilarious. Or Taylor slapping a sound-asleep Harvey and imploring him to “wake up and argue!”

Get this (again from Iglaur):

“They also liked to tease each other about having sex with each other’s wives and girlfriends. I remember when Brewer said about one of Hound Dog’s girlfriends ‘yeah, I knew her when she was a whore on 43rd Street.’ In fact, it was a remark like that, directed at Hound Dog about his wife that led him to shoot Brewer in 1975, luckily not fatally”

Brewer won an award for a record he cut long after after Taylors death (of cancer in 1975). He had this to say about his album being declared Blues Album Of The Year:

“I don’t know why. It sounds like shit”.

He died of natural causes in August 1999, aged 69 or maybe 72, or 73. He wasn’t sure.

Go see

http://www.keno.org/hound_dog_taylor/hdhomepage.htm

http://www.furious.com/perfect/hounddogtaylor.html

http://www.bluespeak.com/feature/96/12/961259.html