A Few

April 28, 2009

Thanks to our “new bandmember for every gig” policy, we ended up sometimes playing with vast numbers of people.  The first of these was A Lot, then came Awfully Sexy, in which fifteen people crowded onto the Old Angel stage (so crowded that at one point I actually fell off).  Three months later came the largest ever lineup – nineteen of us for Apron.

But there were many exceptions over the years.  Here’s a list of every duo or trio A Band:

Arachnid. (Vince, Neil, Jim)

Anglegrinder. (Jim, Neil, me)

Axeman. (Neil, Vince – this was the first time we didn’t have any new people in the band)

Ache. (Sharen, me, and a guy called Alexis who I knew from my Kettering days)

Abject. (Vince, Jim, Niggle)

In April ’92 we did a studio session in which we had the idea of doing a solo piece, then a duo, then a trio, and so forth (with different people and different instruments throughout).  The solo piece was Sticky, who played (I think) a rubbish bin.  I forget who played the duo, but the instruments were kazoo and tuba.  The trio was me and Andy Williams and I forget who else.

Angel Agonies. (Jim, Sharen, and a Greek woman called Vana – they played in Greece, near the Albanian border)

For our lost June ’93 studio session, we did a long piece which was a series of trios (possibly seven trios in all) linked by brief sextets as one trio replaced another.  One of these was the first all-female A Band lineup (Sharen, Paula, and Sam)

When we did our five-day residency at the British Waterways building, there was a day when only Dave & I turned up.

Six months later, Frank Zappa died – Will and I were planning a duo with flat-battery casios, but we decided to add the ghost of Frank Zappa on guitar (the guitar went through some effects and was propped against an amp throughout, while we ignored it)

Right at the end of 1995, there were two obscure (and awful) tapes recorded in the name of A.  One was Neil & I with a guy called Duncan, recorded in Leeds.  The other was me and Joincey and Phil Todd, recorded in Stoke On Trent.

And that was that for the 90s A Band, going out with a whimper instead of a bang……..

In 2002 I tried to revive the band, for my 40th birthday gig in London (it was my comeback gig, after six years of obscurity).  Unfortunately, almost everyone couldn’t do it.  Neil was about to become a father, Richard and Sticky were on other continents, and so forth.  Jim turned up to the gig but (possibly in tribute to Vince) departed before we played.  So Dylan and I recruited pianist Veryan Weston, and the three of us played as Anticipation.

The same thing happened with last year’s Salford gig – almost everyone couldn’t make the gig.  Joincey and Stuart Arnot played as a duo called Apparition (because they have a band together called Ghost Of An Octopus).  Partway through this gig, a friend of theirs called Gary stepped out of the crowd and joined in (See? It does actually happen now and again) and the duo became a trio. There’s no recording of this gig, but apparently it was very good, and went down well with the audience.

Two months later for Anklebiter, Karl and I were joined by the legendary Michael Gillham, in a fine old church in the centre of Newcastle.

There’ll be many more duos and trios in the future.  They’re usually great.

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So this is how I ended up playing detuned guitar with a bunch of hippies & strangers in a band that originated when I was about 4. It all has something to do with wooden spoons. But first we need some background (or at least I wanna put some background into this small chunk of autobiography – note: I seem to have done a total tangent for most of this entry, apologies if you wanted it to be relevant but really you’re in the wrong place)

I’ve always been into music, from as young as I can remember, my parents weened me on it. They took me home from the hospital as a new born baby, sat me down and played me Led Zeppelin 4 – although they always claim that this was to get me used to loud noises – I saw the Stones, Bob Dylan, Neil Young all when I was 9. I remember covering my English books in Frank Zappa and Dead Kennedys lyrics at the age of 12 (specifically What’s The Ugliest Part Of Your Body and Too Drunk To Fuck). And so fairly early on I started playing and writing my own music, and so for several years before it ever happened, I wanted to be in bands.

Now there are a few major reasons why I didn’t end up in a band for several years, and these are quite important reasons:

1) The music I made, even at the age of 13, was always a bit weird; I never saw the point in copying some music that had already been written.

2) I was never one into the idea of rehearsals, so even when I got a band, it never all worked together because I didn’t like going over it again and again.

3) I was, and certainly still am, a bit of a freak.

My first band was Odd Socks, we had 1 song, a female singer, and practiced in the school music room. Nothing ever happened.

My second band was Dark Globe’s Silent Lightning. And we were good, at least we were once we had the right line up. My dad described us as sounding like an under-rehearsed Velvet Underground circa White Light/White Heat. At one of our first proper shows the drummer’s uncle, Neil (a legend) had managed to convince this guy called Dallas (another legend) to come down to our show. So we played our show, which if I remember correctly involved a 15 minute 2-person drum solo, 2-guitars left on the floor feedbacking, myself screaming into a mic, the bassist carrying on regardless and the keyboardist having left the stage out of boredom.

Anyway, Dallas comes upto me later, says it was a great gig, and after bumping into him at a beach showing of Quadrophenia we subsequently end up playing some gigs supporting Dallas’ band: Terminal Outputs (they’re now effectively defunct as Dallas lives in Canada and the other guy lives in Brighton, but still check them out if you can) http://www.myspace.com/terminaloutputs

This introduced me to “Noise”

I go to university in London, my band has ceased to be a while before due to the guitarist having a toddler strop. And the only music I’m making now is bedroom based, sometimes acoustic, sometimes noise, sometimes sequenced and vaguely hip hop esque. I’m still in contact with Dallas and when he’s playing a solo gig at an all day noise-fest (No Trend) I agree to come down and watch. (Now this is where the story should have actually begun, but I’m a self involved little SOAB)

I’m told it starts at 2, so I try and get there for 2, I was a bit late because I had to find the place, hidden round a corner near St Pauls Cathedral. I eventually find the place, get myself a pint and head down to the basement where it should be happening. But there’s a power cut, so nothing is happening. After a various amount of confussion I end up staying downstairs, mainly cause I don’t know anyone (except for Dallas who wasn’t here at this point due to his own troubles with transport) so I sit in a corner of the candle-lit basement sipping my pint.

As I’m sitting there I become aware of the banging and clunking coming from cupboard round the corner. Then out of the cupboard steps a man, clad in silver suit and super long hair… it was stewart. He announced that he’d finished soundchecking, with an ironing board and some wooden spoons. Mildy amused I continue this rather odd opening of a conversation… I remember not how but somehow we agree to start a noise-band, mostly out of distane for the amount of noise bands that just sound like a fucked car engine turning over. We exchange numbers and that was that. I had to go somewhere latter before the day had fully finished.

Anyway, I text Stewart saying that this should happen and don’t hear anything back for about 2 months. I’d just assumed that nothing was going to happen, that it was another empty threat of a band, they happen a lot. Then one day he just calls an arranges to come over the week later, to my uni flat, he’d bring his synth and we could jam. On the day he brings John, uninvited (and still not really welcome) and we make a hideous amount of noise. Culminating in  my neighbour banging on my door and screaming at me about the noise, while the lemmings theme tune plays from my computer really loudly. (all caught on gloriously lo-fi tape quality). This was good and we continued a sporadic music making trio, our high-water mark is probably Blue Bread: http://www.shedali.com/PS%20RECORDS/Blue%20Bread/blue%20bread%20-%20physeter%20macrocephalus.mp3

Skip forward a year, I’m living with John, we still see Stewart occasionally, and he’s talking about how The A Band, which he had told me about, I had looked up online (and at the same time realised that I already knew who Richard Youngs was, having had some of his mp3s on my computer due to the Jagjaguwar label- I was a big fan of Oneida and subsequently downloaded everything that Jagjaguwar put up as free mp3s, which included some Richard Youngs) – but yeah, I’d heard Stewart talk of this weird-thing that happened in his past. And he said that they’ve got this reunion gig and that they might be doing a session for a release prior to the reunion gig (note this session is somewhere but I have never heard it) – so I agree to come to this session.  Which was rather weakly attended, I hadn’t slept the night before, an old friend of mine came up from brighton to record it for us, stewart was there, a guy called andrew, and some girl filmed bits of it (what ever happened to that film, and who was she?) it was a cool session, in it’s way.

The Warrington gig happened, which I had wanted to either come and watch/ get involved with depending on numbers, but was unable to do either due to be taken on holiday to Amsterdam by my parents.

Then Stewart tells me of the American Evil gig, which was happening in London. This seemed like a good idea to play. This gig was fantastic. There are photos on the website, thanks to chloe. My favourite point being the fact that I was playing live with mostly total strangers (everyone but Stewart & John), some of whom I have never met since (Simon, Phil & Phil) and to quite a reasonably sized audience (my guess is between 50 and 100 people) –  all in all very very fun.

So that was how I ended up with this bunch of retrobates. There was still my baptism to come (Nottingham gig that we nearly played in Leicester, and then recording and staying at a strangers house [hi Andrea] ), but I’ll leave that for another tale.

AAAAAAAAau revior

Karl

xxx

The Peace News house at 8 Elm Avenue, Nottingham plays a significant role in A Band prehistory.

It was some time in the summer of 1988.  I was sitting around at Elm Avenue, as I often did.  Sticky came in.
“I met these three really interesting people last night.”

And that’s how it all started.

It wasn’t, of course.  Not for Sticky.  Not for me.  Not for Campbell, Stream, Stewart, Lenty, or any of us.  There were many stories that led to Sticky saying that one sentence to me over twenty years ago.

Links.  Links, links, links.  Everything is older than you think.  Everything and everyone is connected in some way.  We all have a story.

We plough our differing furrows, short or long, and sometimes find ourselves in parallel with others in a way that leaves a lasting mark on the cultural topography of our joint story.

This is a looping, loopy fragment of my story, of how it started.

In 1974, Peace News decided to move its headquarters from Caledonian Road, London, to Nottingham.  A radical property owner, or rich hippie, depending on who tells the story, had sold the three storey house on Elm Avenue to Peace News for the nominal fee of £1.  The
pound was merely a legal requirement, I was told.  The publication returned to London in 1994, but in 1974 the Peace News team, in an early gesture to minimising environmental impact (and, I guess, because they weren’t in a hurry) made the move by narrow boat, up the Grand Union Canal to Nottingham.  I only discovered this in April 2009 and it forges another link, as I made the same canal journey in 2003. (In fact, my journey was from Watford Gap to Nottingham, but I’m not one to let stark, soulless facts mar a good story.  Also, the canal network is a parallel universe, with its own major junctions and centres, “Watford Gap” becoming “Norton Junction” and the ‘capital’ of the network generally taken to be the small village of Braunston, a few miles from Watford Gap.  So the two journeys may correlate psychogeographically.)

In 1986 I returned to Nottingham, my birthplace but never my home, as a mature student at Trent Polytechnic. (As an unhappy Social Studies student I dropped out after the first year.  I’d tried switching to the Photography degree course but wasn’t taken on, in part because on the day I forgot to take any prints to the interview.  At least I got to meet and chat with Euan Duff, the radical and infleuntial but largely forgotten photographer)  I’d been to the Poly once before, in 1974, for a Bebop Deluxe gig – dreadful acoustics. Twelve years after the Peace News office had been chugging along the canal – and I had made my journey to Nottingham in a Capri which landed briefly in a ditch at Ollerton on the way – I was collecting glasses in the Poly bar and watching Deacon Blue, MDMA or The Dave Howard Singers perform.  Almost ten years later I would be playing bass there myself with The A Band, after I’d gone along to take photos and was asked to stand in for Campbell, who couldn’t make it.  (Another ten years on I was in the same space as The A Band performance, to view the late Helen Chadwick’s ‘Piss Flowers’)

I decided to have a life outside student circles and found a poster advertising the meetings of an anarchist group, in what was then Nottingham’s radical bookshop, Mushroom Books on Heathcote Street (Mushroom would later stock copies of “Songs For The Decline” and “1988”, both booklets compiled and printed by me and Lenty).  The small group were so surprised anyone new should turn up that no-one spoke to me on my first visit, but I went back next time, wanting to keep up with the networks I’d been involved in in London, where I occasionally helped out at the Squatters’ Rights Centre on St Pauls Road and with the radical magazine ‘Undercurrents’.

I immediately warmed to Dave, we shared a sense of humour and a more creative, situationist approach to anarchism in a group which was at that time dominated by theorists.  Not that they were unpleasant people.  Dave had recently moved to the Peace News house from Heanor, a Derbyshire town still known for its rightwing skinhead population and at that time home to Skrewdriver, whose first single I’d bought in 1977, and Elm Avenue became a second home to me.  Dave left for Dorset a year later to work for ten years with Word And Action, a travelling theatre troupe who had developed “instant
theatre”, a style of performance based on total improvisation and input from the audience.  (I often wished that would happen at A Band gigs – people wandering up on stage, playing an instrument, banging something or vocalising for a while then clearing off when they’d had enough.  I only saw it happen twice; first Andrea Boden at the Trent Polytechnic performance and later me at the Old Angel when I’d found the performance a bit boring.).

By mid – ’88 the Elm Avenue residents were Roger, Sticky, Lenty and Steve, with Peace News occupying the ground floor and basement.

Everyone was in place.

It was some time in the summer of 1988.  I was sitting around at Elm Avenue, as I often did.  Sticky came in.
“I met these three really interesting people last night.”

The three people were Campbell, Stewart and Stream.

In October 1988, at Sticky’s invitation, Stewart Bizarro and the Restless Maggots played in the kitchen/living room at Elm Avenue, and their inspiring performance led to several events in that same space. (Through the winter of 02-03 I was moored at Norton Junction. At Watford Locks, 3 miles up the Grand Union, a stand of mature ash trees had been felled and the landowner put up a sign on the towpath, “Free firewood for boaters.” Ash can be burnt as soon as it is felled, so I loaded up. The next morning I took my axe to the logs, discovering why the trees had been cleared. The wood was riddled with tunnels, still occupied with the fat, grey grubs of some pest.)

The first Decline performance – Lenty, myself, a drum machine and a walkman playing clips of Norman Tebbit (intro) and Harry Secombe (outro).

Emily’s birthday party, where Campbell and Stewart stripped off, sat on the gas fire to chant and brought it off the wall, which introduced Jim to the pre-A Band circle in his capacity as builder/handyman.

Many Decline/Grey Area practices and recording sessions, including Grey Area’s ‘Offence’ cassette and a now lost afternoon’s recording which began with me reading from an article in ZG magazine – “SM is high technology sex…” – over analogue synth noise generated by Campbell and Lenty.  This was, I think, the first trip to Nottingham for the Kettering 4 track portastudio.

Tim and Sticky’s film featuring the bean gobbling onanist.

The SWANC performance.

This beautiful, primal recording session was held in “the flatiron building” behind Elm Avenue.

The search for an extension lead long enough to reach from Sticky’s second floor bedroom window to the ground, so we could record the sound of a tv being thrown out of the window while it was still plugged in.

The screening of the aforementioned film, with improvised music as soundtrack and Stewart standing beside the screen, improvising vocal accompaniment as he watched the film.

The A Band itself never played at Elm Avenue, practicing at Jim’s, recording in studios and performing in public venues.  Peace News moved back to London in 1994 and the house was sold and converted into several flats, ending its long history of group living. As the builders moved in to Elm Avenue, the various A Band participants moved away from Nottingham, to prepare unwittingly for the next phase of the A Band .

That’s my story of how I came to be at Elm Avenue and then involved with The A Band.

What’s yours?

A version

March 30, 2009

The recent online article about us says that the first gig, Arachnid, “ended the show with an impromptu version of The Fugs’ “Carpe Diem”.”  It was the first of numerous cover versions performed by the band over the years.

At the Anglegrinder gig, in July 1990, my own debut with the band started with me singing “Holmes & Watson On Stilts” by The Monotony Commission; and that November the Airbomb gig featured versions of  both “Mars” and “Jupiter” from Holst’s Planets Suite.

In April 1991, Awfully Sexy ended with Jim playing the intro to “Tubular Bells” on his glockenspiel; and during the multisensory overload of the Apron gig 3 months later, Andrea Boden’s rendition of “River Deep Mountain High” went virtually unnoticed amidst the mayhem.

Meanwhile, in a studio session fun moment, we played the introduction to “Time” by Pink Floyd – on straws.  Come the end of 1991, and the Old Angel resounded to an alarming two-hour elaboration of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, performed by Amadeus.

1992 was relatively quiet year for the band, but we did a couple more covers – another Fugs song, “New Amphetamine Shriek”, at the Adam & Eve gig, and some early Dadaist poems recited during the Ache performance in Birmingham Central Library one saturday afternoon.

In June 1993, Sun Ra went back to Saturn, and shortly afterwards the Old Angel witnessed its last A Band gig – Arnus.  80 delightful minutes of Sun Ra melodies and songs.  This entire band came from outer space.

Our only gig of 1994 was at a Neil Young tribute concert.  We played six of his songs, if I remember correctly, including “There’s A World” and “Sample & Hold”.

That was it, until we remorphed.  Last year during Aberystwyth I sang “Wild Strawberries” by PNAU, and  (if this counts as a cover version) I played “Stairway To Heaven” backwards in a church during Anklebiter.   The after that, we recorded disc 1 of our new double album.  An outtake from that session is the Fairport Convention song “A Sailor’s Life”, sung by Andrea with a box on her head.

I’m sure we’ll do many more such things in the future.

A Band – remorphed

March 29, 2009

I socialised with, photographed and occasionally performed and recorded with The A Band from ’88 – ’93, see this post, but began to drift away and eventually lost touch with everyone. After a few years doing this and that, including a spell as a big top erector (my ‘ran away to join the circus’ period) and a year living and traveling on a narrow boat (my ‘living on a narrow boat’ period), I ended up back in Nottinghamshire, resigned to being a bumbling, middle aged outsider and loner, listening to a bit of avant garde electronic, cobbling together web sites for charities…stuff. It suited me. But it was a bit dull. Then it got interesting.

The Qbico LPs

The Qbico LPs

I posted this reminiscence in a now defunct blog in September ’04. I liked it, still do when I reread it. But 5 or 6 weeks later I had an email from Campbell, hadn’t seen or heard of him for 10 years. He’d tracked me down through research I’d been doing for the above blog post as outlined in a later blog post. Then followed my copies of the QBICO lp in the post and another blog entry, which led to occasional email exchanges with Sticky, Lenty, and Campbell and a pointer to Stewart’s A Band MySpace site.

Re-energised, I sorted through the suitcase of 35mm prints and negatives I’d lugged around for 15 years, digitised many of my A Band pics [long boring job isn’t it Sharen] and posted a disc to Campbell and set up the A Band Flickr group .

[In Feb ’06 I reposted the Johnny Hobbs piece in my LiveJournal blog – scroll down to the bottom for the comment.]

I’ve only made it to one A Band performance this century – Warrington – but it feels good to be part of the resurgence.

It may not be big news on a par with the Dollar reunion, but I’m overjoyed to see that The A Band are performing again with the same disregard for planning, fame or cash that they had nearly twenty years ago. And the book, the film and the groundswell of interest validate everything they stood for (and wouldn’t stand for).
And I’m still a bumbling middle aged outsider and loner, with the added facet of the virtual siblinghood of The A Band.

Monday Evening 25-11-91

March 28, 2009

Dearest Andrea

I know

its not

the

proper

term

to use

when

addressing

an

Empress,

but I

forgot

myself

for a

moment.

(“Who

am I?”)

Please

forgive

this

minor

lapse

into

your

majesties

privacy.

(p.s.

fancy

a snog

darlin’?)

As I write, Andy is writing the address on a letter to you which I expect he’ll post in the morning. You’ll know it when you get it. Well it’s been three weeks since I wrote, sorry – I mean “rote” – to Lenty & here follows a brief re-slime of wot ‘as ‘appened since that day of which I just rote – sorry – I mean “jus’ rote.”

November fifth. Bonfire night- I had some magic mushrooms with isabel & Andrea & Deborah & we went to the forest in the evening & looked at the sky & said “Oooh” & “Aaah” in the company of many many people. Then we came back here & got drunk on banana Liqueur & chocolate Liqueuer. Then the others left, & Sharen tied me up from neck to ankles in lots and lots of sellotape. A fine ending to a fine evening.

November sixth. Becki &Rachael bleached my hair so it went sort of yucky blond. And they washed it for the first time since about March or February, nay, I tell a lie, I hadn’t washed it since I cut it all off September 18th last year!! Blimey!!

November seventh. Becki & Rachael bleached my hair again so it is now very blond indeed & they washed it again, & I look like Rick Parfitt from status Quo. (But a bit younger.)

November eighth ninth. I “took” 2 sets of booth photos. (Before the roots started showing through.)

November ninth eighth +enth. second a-band meeting. We decided to book the Old Angel for a 2-hour gig (non-stop a-band for two hours!!)

November 15th (skipped a bit) Went to Leeds and missed Jad fair (apart from the last five minutes.) Saw Neil Campbell though. No sign of Sticky, he stayed in Edinburgh. After the gig me and conkface went to the dressing room & hung out a while, met Jad, gave him a SWANK tape, Neil got his autograph & played total popfan. Later we walked to Soo’s house, & there was noone in. We got 2 chicken biryani takeaways & sat on the step until about ten past 2 in the morning, huddling from the cold under a duvet. Soo came home & let us in. Next day (November 16th) we went to a record fair (Neil bought “two virgins” by John & Yoko .) (Lennon & Ono.) And a Spastics Society shop (I bought a lovely purple dress, & anorak exactly like one I had in the mid-late seventies, same colours too, and it fits.) At the Jad Fair gig there was this guy sitting near us looking rather miserable & so I undid the top pocket of my rucksack & took out a whole roast chicken & waved it right in front of his face. (you know, the way people do.) He just gave me a slight glance & went back to looking rather miserible.

November 18th. I bought two very nice jumpers from Dr. Barnardos.

Novemeber 19th Rachael & I had Christmas early. We spent twenty-one quids on christmas pudding, christmas cake, mince pies, a whole Black Forest Gateau, nuts, 2 tins of biscuits, turkey and rolls, brandy snaps, lots of cream & and assortment of fresh cream cakes. We layed it all out on a table, with a box of Quality Streets & 2 bottles of Liqueurs, & we tried to eat it all (& failed.) Also we put up a christmas tree & watched an Australian film about underwear.

November 23rd I moved my bookshelf & books into the lounge & began tidying my room (it’s still messy now though.)

November 25th (today) I borrowed from Catherine 13 records which were part of a lot of records I gave her in may ’89 when I was getting rid of all my records. The borrowed records are all excellent, especially 2 pinky&perky albums, Jonathan King’s Greatest Hits, & 2 albums of Moog synthesiser. (You’d like it.)

Also recently I have seen these films at the cinema: “Prospero’s Books” (lots to see, hard to follow. V. Good 9/10) “Drop Dead Fred” Fantastic!! Yeah! makes me want to run out in the street & ring everyone’s doorbell’s & not run away, just dribble profusely when someone answers, makes me want to come to Nantwich & paint the town red (polka dots, perhaps.) When would be a good time to come? Be prepared to be ever so tolerant. And now its almost midnight & time for me to be not awake for some eight hours or so.

                                                                   Goodnight Andrea!

                                                                      much love

                                                                        Stewart

                                                                       xxx

P.S wicked Empresses are supposed to plot & scheme aren’t they? Wanna hatch a plot?

P.P.S 3 gigs in Nottingham:

 

Wednesday December 4th (A-Band) The two hour performance, featuring “twinkle twinkle little star”.

Wednesday December 11th (A-Band, Stewart Walden)

Wednesday December 18th (A-Band, Magic Faraway Tree Band, Sheep with Attitude)

Please come to whichever you can. xxx Stewart

 

A Band – recalled

March 28, 2009

Ever since grammar school, imagerhandlerashx2when 4 or 5 of us, under the name of ‘Barry God and Dead Ferrari’, would mime to Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Chile’ with slide rules for guitars, I wanted to be in a band. It took me 20 years to get round to it, which should have told me something. Turned out that performing and me weren’t suited. I hated it. So belated apologies to Neil Lent for approaching the mike during the intro to ‘Strychnine’, then suddenly turning to him and saying “I can’t do it!”. Luckily Neil knew the words too, took over, and at least some in the small group of friends sat on the floor at Elm Avenue thought it was part of the act. I braved the occasional performance still, but felt happier taking pics and writing the occasional piece for “Overall”.

I count my A Band years as 1988 – 1993. Although The A Band proper didn’t gel/congeal until ’90, it was clear from the night of the legendary ‘Stewart Bizarro and the Restless Maggots’ gig at Elm Avenue, Nottingham, in October ’88 that something was afoot – like the first wisps of mist in ‘The Fog’, something was on its way. Stewart & Campbell’s performance (hardly a wisp of mist) inspired Neil Lent and I to work on something musical, which led to the farcical event of the first paragrap then the crap pub rock band Decline. We did a few pub gigs, band members including several who would become the A Band core, but I found it a bit plodding. I quite liked some of the band’s material, since I wrote all the lyrics, but found practising a nightmare. We’d all turn up, usually at Jim’s, and stand around waiting for someone to tell
us what to do. The reality being they were waiting for ME to tell them what to do as it was MY band, but I’m no leader. Must have been a bit frustrating for them all.

I was much happier with Grey Area, a flexible duo of me and one other which developed as Decline inevitably faltered and faded. Grey Area was more of a dialogue and easier to manage both creatively and logistically, playing and recording through ’90-’91. The only public appearances (?) were as support for the first A Band iteration [see archive notes] with myself Rogerand Roger as a synth duo, then the ‘Goat’ evening with Neil Lent on guitar and me on keyboards and vocals. The Roger/me duo recorded the cassette ‘Offence’, which is the only recording I still have. Neil and I recorded the cassette ‘Songs for the Decline’Lent and with my six year old daughter I recorded the ‘Goat’ cassette, . I remember attempting to record a version of my musical theatre piece ‘Captain Gadd and the Good Ship Havoc’ with Stewart on vocals and me on synth, but the attempts to recreate the creaking timbers of a galleon using a rocking chair made us laugh so much we had to give up.

My memories of A Band performances and surrounding events are many but fragmented….

…an Old Angel gig where the manager came in to throw us all out (was it Ar Sun?). I’d been photographing the goings on and went downstairs to chat to the irate man while Dylan and the others packed the gear away. Turned out he was off sick with ‘flu but the barmaid had phoned him in because the customers were complaining about the noise. I explained it was the first time the band’s plug had been pulled and could I take a photo of him for posterity?
“No you fucking can’t.”

…the first Collingham (Anti-Angling) festival – standing with Tim as he filmed a slow pan along the Trent, with the Laibach recording of ‘Across The Universe’ floating across from the PA….Stewart, Emily and me performing as Quench – our only number, ‘Hookjaw’, being me battering the drums, Emily howling into the mike and Stewart practising guitar abuse for a while. After a couple of minutes a toddler ran to his mum, saying “This is too scary for children,” and crying. A good result.

…sitting in The Peacock in Nottingham discussing the forthcoming ‘Goat’ evening, a piece of paper is passed around and each of us writes a verse to the evening’s theme song, ‘Goat’, the idea being several of us would perform our own version. Lyricists were Stewart, Lenty, myself, Campbell and Tim at least. Any more? peacockAnd does Stewart still have the original lyric sheet?

…walking down Mansfield Road to work one afternoon, bumped into someone whose name I forget, I hardly knew him anyway. Asked if I was coming along to that afternoon’s event when The A Band would be performing inside someone’s sculpture. “Shit, I’m on my way to work…but take my camera and get some photos.” I handed this virtual stranger my camera, he took photos (where are they? I don’t have them) and handed my camera to someone in the band who eventually got it back to me.

…a gig providing improvised backing for two dance students at Trent Poly in the Shakespeare Street gallery – I’d gone along with Neil Lent to take photos, but was asked if I’d play bass as someone (Campbell doing a shift @ Sainsburys?) couldn’t make it. I handed the camera to Lent – “Here you’ll have to handle this” – did my bit (half heartedly I thought, “Very Krautrock” I was told afterwards), went back to Lenty. Me: “Did you get some good shots?” Neil: “Oh, I thought you just wanted me to hold it…” No shots of that performance in the archive.

Lent and I were very much inept partners in crime throughout this period, for example the two of us turning up to a Decline gig at The Gregory, me proudly carrying my brand new Sony recording Walkman. Jim: “Has it got fresh batteries?”, Me: “Oh – batteries.” Jim stomps off to his camper to find a shop. He comes back, I fit the batteries, switch on to test it and drop the mike in my pint (still worked). After the performance, two women took a shine to the two of us – the power of rock stardom – their male partners weren’t amused. Rapid exit. Or the all night recording session we had at Elm Avenue, thinking everyone was away and we were free to make a racket, discovering the next day that Steve had been trying to sleep in the room above (Last time I saw Steve he was waiting for his first gender realignment surgery – anyone heard anything since?). I think that was the night we found a sheet of
discarded handwritten lyrics by Campbell which we chanted and improvised over.

“Pope soap on a rope! Pope soap on a rope!
I’d rather have dope
Or the Pope on a rope.
I’d rather put God in a cement mixer.”

A couple of weeks before a Nihil solo performance, Lenty and I purloined a photo of Campbell, in a top hat, blew it up to A4 black & white posters with the stark message “HE’S COMING” in block capitals and late one night fly posted 30 or 40 all the way along Mansfield Road. They stayed there for months.

The A Band’s first burst of activity ended in ’94 as most of the activists moved away from Nottingham to various parts of the country (and the world). I’d already drifted away in ’93 as the depression which had been lingering in the back of my mind for years finally took over and I withdrew. I still owe a few people apologies for my behaviour at various times, but not just now.

In the evening we went to a studio-art-party thing at Jez’s studio. Very arty people standing about, mostly ignoring the art things. I spent 10 minutes or so looking at the ceiling (it was very interesting) & singing. I asked some girl what she thought of the ceiling & she suggested I look at the paintings, so I looked at the ones she’d been looking at. They were sort of surreal bones pictures, by ‘Stephen Butler’ (The only actual artworks in there that I really liked). She’s from Oregon, USA, and we swapped addresses (because I want to go to West Coast Amerika sometime) but at first, when I wrote my address down, I folded it up & put it in my own pocket. The paper was from the studio’s visitors book, in which I’d signed “Albert Weeblestonker”. I asked a few other people what they thought of the ceiling and got various answers. Then I started using discarded cardboard as artworks, & put 5 on display around the studio. Then wandered around with a big cardboard box, then into a separate room which only contained one big thing, by Jez. I did a tapping-the-box performance in there for about 10 minutes, which about 3 people witnessed, after that I went & asked Jez for permission to do it & he said yes, & I said “Good, because I’ve just done it.” Then, with his permission, I added the box to his piece of art. Then found nameplates for 4 pictures, all by ‘Stephen Butler’ discarded on the refreshments table, so I gave my cardboard things names, officialdom, & expensive pricetag. Meanwhile Neil & Richard were writing other names in the visitors book. Neil threw a clay ball out of the window & the artist went mad & angry, apparently. The bad music had stopped, so I put the tape on again, but performed a live rewindism performance, which lots of people apparently liked, & lots of people apparently didn’t. Then switched to shortwave radio for a live gig by “Sonik Death Hypnosis”. A pity it wasn’t recorded, but never mind. Later someone put the tape on sensibly, but Neil put SDH back on. Me & Mike went round turning out all the lights, & for a brief few moments the art studio was full of ‘trendy’ ‘art’ ‘people’ standing in total darkness & listening to “Urinectomy”. Then someone put one light back on. The others didn’t go back on for quite a while. Mike played around with the radio noises a bit, & some bloke put the tape on again. Meanwhile I opened some windows, but this same bloke wanted them closed “because we’d get pigeons in here in the morning”. I only wanted the place to get very cold. Richard filled 4 pages of the visitors book with big scribbles, I turned the sink tap on full, & we left, turning the lights outon the way down from the third floor. Just before I left, I ran up & down the length of the studio a few times, & the girl from Oregon told me the best thing she’d seen was somebody accidentally bump into a ‘sculpture’ consisting mainly of a slab of concrete & metal, & ‘steadying’ it very delicately, even though it was quite solid & undelicate.

hello universe, and other such cosmologies;

noah jizz aka john aziz here. want to let you know some of my plans-cum-ideas & something stiltwarp put me in charge of:-

1) i go to a university with large, and relatively high-fidelity studios (pro tools hd etc). it is in ealing, and i fully intend, at some fast-approaching point (possibly next couple of months if i can get a good spate of yeses) to attempt to record an a-band session. i have told a few of A and there seems to be a general keenness.

2) stewart and i were discussing doing some large, publicized outdoor thing where we advertise in time out, the wire & suchlike and invite the whole world and their dog to turn up. could end up like the facebook water fight, or could be a pretty good laugh. i don’t know. in theory, i am in charge of this, but it may not be a good idea. would like some feedback/ beedfack on the matter.

love and kisses,

noah

Respect the yeti

March 23, 2009

Perhaps I seek the ULTIMATE IMMERSION in the filmic-framed gateway to another world. But the last few portals of the Olde Magicke are closing fast, so it’s up to us to grab what we can of what’s left of the now forgotten world we once loved and loved to search amongst. Where is all the old stuff? Where has it gone? What happened? You find a load of videos and they’re all just the same films from the last few years. In 1979 there were already 4500 different titles on video release in the UK. Untold thousands more went into circulation since then. These old videos should be turning up more, not less, now, as everyone clears out the last of their tape collection and moves over to DVD. In my volunteer work for Oxfam, last week we were given a guesstimated 1000 videotapes. None of them were over a decade old. I went through them ALL, and there wasn’t ONE film I would want to watch or buy, and there NEVER is! (Curiously enough, the video that’s donated the most is Men In Black…) I have a HUGE suspicion that the “good shit” (obscure exploitation, weird euro arthouse, pre-certificate horror etc) IS being given to chastity chops, but the morons who work in them are thinking: “Oooh! The box is too big! Oooh! It’s a bit scruffy!”, and they just bin it so they can put out another five copies of There’s Something About Jobbo or Four Jobboes and a Funeral, or fucking Friends compilations. And I don’t for one moment believe the widespread “Ultra-Dealer” myth, that these mysterious hawk-like beings always manage to snatch up the valuable rarities before anyone else. On the other hand though, maybe it’s true after all. That explains why I didn’t get anything at the car boot sale the other week, ‘cos the Ultra-Dealers had been there before the birth of Cro-Magnon man, ‘cos if you wait ‘till the Space Age it’ll all be gone! One of them bought a Mr. Blobby single. It was an ORIGINAL too. The woman on the stall wanted 0.11111111111p, but he fought her down to a suck on his knob and three carrots. He then sold it on E-bay for £500,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. In the end the Ultra-Dealers bought EVERYTHING, including all the stalls, all the tables, all the cars, all the stall-holders, all the punters, the field, insects, the whole fucking lot, and they only paid 5p! Their leader managed to sell one of the tables (you know those wallpaper pasting tables you could get from Woolworths a few years ago) for £879,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 on E-bay because it was an ORIGINAL!!! The Ultra-Dealers all carry swords, and if they catch you even looking at stuff, they tie you to a stake and let ravens peck out your eyes. They travel to distant planets and wait in the bushes for intelligent life to evolve. When it gets to the city-building stage, the UDs come up to the people and say: “I’ll give you £2.50 for your civilisation”. Then they sell it on E-bay for £250. The Ultra-Dealers get elephant ears grafted on to the side of their head so they can keep other punters at bay whilst browsing. They can emit noxious/narcotic gases, change their shape, fire poisoned darts from their anus, and have power over thunderstorms. They are OMNISCIENT and OMNIPRESENT and can be at 27 car boots or charity shops all at once, looking at every stall SIMULTANEOUSLY. If they catch anyone else buying anything they suck their brains out with a tentacle-like weapon. They can travel faster than the speed of light and have homing AND detection devices which have been reverse-engineered from alien technology. They can walk through walls. They buy a giant death ray for one peseta, and then do a Fu Manchu. As part of their world domino chain reaction plan the Ultra-Dealers have DESTROYED all the authentic ‘junk’ shops in Britain: blown them up with laser beams that they emit from their third eye, while everyone else was playing computer games. In the country now, police helicopters hover loudly for hours over the rooftops to “keep the peace”. And I have it on very good telepathic authority that Jeremy Kyle is involved in a secret government Eugenics programme. Every morning he’s on TV screaming at scubby scumbillies: “Haven’t You Ever Heard Of Contraception!!!!?” He doesn’t want them to BREED! (make more Jobbo spawn). And think of Trisha and Jeremy Kyle’s “DNA Harvesting”… At the rate at which they’re gathering it (on supposed “Whose the real parent?” tests), they could have every lower-class breeder’s DNA code within 20-30 years. Where are all these rabble-gene samples going? Are Trish and Jez selling them to MI5 under the counter, so their scientific division can create an auxiliary “Scuzz” DNA database (not just from those arrested) from which to select suitably cheap, clueless and expendable examples to do weird experiments on? And for what – a cloned army of docile, obedient scumbillies to swell the ranks of the slave worker-tax payer slates cult? Or are they genetically crossbreeding a “Super-Scumbilly” cannon-fodder zombie army to help the Royal Reptoid Family take over the world again? Sometimes paranoia is beautiful…

by Stream Angel, Y Magazine, 2008