Do not adjust your sets

Gigs, Magazines, Music

Well, many apologies – it’s been a very hectic week, and so I’ve gone quiet for a bit. And I’m going to be quiet for a little longer; I’m off to America with H this weekend, moving between Seattle, New York and Saratoga. We’ll be visiting friends, chilling in the woods, and hitting the World Fantasy Convention, so it should be a great couple of weeks.

And once I’m back, a new chapter in life begins! So I suspect that there’ll be some changes on the blog. I think I’m going to pull back to posting two or three times a week, both because of general busy-ness and a sense that there’s a limit to how many daily posts I can do and still keep fresh and energised.

But for now, farewell for a couple of weeks – and I’m going to end with a couple of plugs. First of all, it’s the RETURN OF THE STELLAS tomorrow night! I might have mentioned this before. We shall be onstage as our new incarnation of three keyboard / electronics folk, a free jazz / Moroccan sax / drummer, one or possibly two guitarists, of course me on bass, and whoever else shows up. The drone odyssey begins again!

Secondly, after (literally) years of anticipation, groovy fiction magazine Black Static’s out, and (thanks to the joys of the British postal service) a copy has just arrived. More on it once I’m back from the States and have digested it properly, but first impressions are – great design, very enjoyable features, and some very intriguing fiction indeed. But don’t take my word for it – go get yourself a copy here.

So for now – farewell!

Return of the Stellas

Gigs, Music

A slow day on the blog, but it does at least give me space to blurb THE RETURN OF THE STELLAS! Yup, London’s leading ambientkrautdoomraga purveyors (with me on bass) will be playing up North London way a week today.

More details here, plus images and sounds of our past triumphs. Come drone with us a week today!

Conventions of Stella

Fantasy, Gigs

Well, a short entry today as I’m off to the BFS Fantasycon in Nottingham – should be a fun weekend. If you’re there, say hi! – I should be easy to spot, as I’ll probably be looking something like this for most of the weekend, tho’ minus the blue and white shirt and Zali, which is a shame:

al-and-zali.jpg

The picture was taken just after a Stellas gig a couple of years back (thanks Richard Fontenoy!), which reminds me that our great comeback gig is happening on the 19th of October at the Klinker – details (and more on the band) here.

And with that, I’m off – Bon Weekend All!

Prog folk metal mayhem

Gigs, Music

Well, a new day’s here and with it the new Chrome Hoof album, Pre-Emptive False Rapture. I’ve just started it playing it, and it’s delivering on everything that the reviews have promised. That is, it sounds like a metal band with a disco obsession playing Pentangle covers in a circle of Hell themed around 70s concept albums, which ironically is in many ways my definition of Heaven.

The Hoof are a ferocious live act; I saw them at Christmas, sharing a stage with the mighty Circulus. They represented darkness; Circulus were light. At the end of the evening, both bands merged to become *activates echo sound effect* HOOFULUS and gave us double headed folk metal Ragnarok, as the Hoof’s giant demon puppet capered around the hall, music merged with sword dancing on stage, and the audience went nuts.

No particular point in writing about this, beyond the fact that Circulus and Chrome Hoof are wonderful bands that everyone should hear. Tho’ come to think of it I’ve always been very inspired by Circulus.

A key part of their musical mission has always been to spread simple, uncomplicated joy. It’s very easy to get very hung up on the complexities and subtleties of creativity; and indeed, Circulus have spooky and interesting depths going on beneath the joyous prog-medieval mayhem.

But sometimes you’ve just got to stand back and say, ‘Isn’t it so wonderful that we’re all here just now, and we can all get together and do THIS!!!!’ – and that’s what they’ve reminded me to say to myself all the time, every time I’ve seen them play.

Rebooting

Festivals, Gigs

Well, it’s Bank Holiday Monday over here and life is slowly restarting. Last week was mostly very productive book work, combined with lots of rain; last weekend’s Green Man Festival was muddy but highly enjoyable, climaxing with a fantastic Strange Attractor-organised night of talks on animism, the cultural history of mushrooms, plus hypnotically wonderful music from the Raagnagrok All-Stars (joined on-stage by bagpipers, dulcimer players, etc). Pictures here.

And now my blog brain is rebooting. Family business in Devon tomorrow, then I’ll be back ranting about the usual, as usual. So until Wednesday, farewell!

I was a poltergeist once, you know…

Ghosts, Gigs, Heaviosity, Landscape

Well, it’s mid-August, and my brain is winding down. Holidays are beginning; I’ve got Monday off next week to recover from a Stellas recording session (we’re going from midday Sunday to 4am Monday), Friday to head to the Green Man Festival with H, Raagnagrok and co (where we shall in particular be enjoying Strange Attractor Saturday), and the week after to work on the book.

So no heavy posting today. Instead, as a preparation for Sunday’s recording session, a visual record of one of the more unusual Stella sessions, helping the mighty Disinformation create strange atmospherics in a pitch black abandoned bank vault just round the corner from Old Street.

I spent most of the evening throwing an iron bar around; it clanged and sparked in a very satisfying way when it hit the floor. Various other folk were doing various other things, while audience members wandered round and felt generally spooked. I ended up feeling like a particularly satisfied poltergeist; the closest to becoming a haunting that I’ve ever been.

Processing the world

Gigs, Music, Psychology

Well, last weekend was very rock’n’roll – Djinn’s fractured Arab rave beats blending with Indokrautprog mayhem from Grok on Saturday, and word / sound crossover on Sunday as M. John Harrison and Erik Davis read with Grok. Here’s the Sunday line up, waiting to groove:

grokawait.jpg

Grok came out of Stoke Newington’s leading boy band, the Stella Maris Drone Orchestra, with whom I play bass. We’re a bit dormant just now, tho’ we’ve got some studio time booked in a couple of weeks and a possible gig in September, so I suspect some interesting times coming up.

We make entirely improvised drone music, more or less chilled depending on our mood. Someone staggered out of one of our gigs once – the 4am ant mating footage abandoned Freemason’s Hall one – and told a friend that we sounded like ‘a jet engine taking off for forty five minutes’, which is as good a description as any of the kind of sound we can make.

I hadn’t really realised how much I’d learned from playing with the Stellas until I read this post on Mark McGuinness’ ‘Wishful Thinking’ blog. He talks about the movie ‘Amadeus’ and creativity, comparing the approaches of Mozart and Salieri in the film:

‘I think we can identify two different approaches to creativity in Salieri and Mozart.… For Salieri, [the temptations of real world success, praise, etc] intrude on the creative process, distracting him from his real work so that he deteriorates into obsession and mediocrity. For Mozart, they are kept at bay – at least during ‘work time’ – by a kind of magic circle, within which the artist is entranced by the art itself, immersed in creative flow.’

He’s very interesting, both on the film itself and on the research that looks at these two different approaches to creativity. In essence, he says that the most productive way to approach creative work is to see the work as an end in itself; a process worth engaging with entirely for the pleasure of that engagement.

That’s what I’ve got from the Stellas. What I loved about being a Stella was the process of playing together – ‘there’s nothing better than making strange noises with your friends’, as vocalist Tim once put it.

Some of my favourite Stella moments were entirely private – all of us, in the studio, making music. At times, it felt like a complex, layered conversation, carried out with instruments rather than voices. Gigs were great fun, but they were very much a by-product of that process of mutual engagement.

That’s fed back into the writing, and into life in general. It’s helped me realise that 99% of what we do is process; end points, moments of achievement, are at best transient little offshoots of those processes.

So now I try to enjoy the process as much as I can, and look at each one’s end point not as a great and glorious conclusion, but as a little marker of the moment where one way of engaging productively with the world ends, and another one begins.

Avant garde internet radio

Festivals, Gigs, Music

Just a quick reminder that Jean Herve Peron’s Avantgarde Festival 2007 begins today. If you’re near Hamburg, head on over – and if you’re not, you can listen to it live over the next couple of days by following this link (once you’re there, click the little play button at top right of the page – seems to be running 7-12pm, Friday / Saturday / Sunday).

As Tim Stella once said, ‘nothing beats making strange noises with your friends’.

STRONG TRUTH!!!

<EDIT – Quite a few people have been coming here having searched for ‘Avant garde internet radio’ or similar. Jean Herve’s no longer broadcasting from Shiphorst, so I’d recommend checking out the ever-intriguing Resonance FM – Enjoy! Al>