...BECAUSE SOME OF US THINK THAT THIS STUFF IS IMPORTANT
What happens when you mix what is - arguably - the world's most interesting record company, with an anarchist manic-depressive rock music historian polymath, and a method of dissemination which means that a daily rock-music magazine can be almost instantaneous?

Most of this blog is related in some way to the music, books and films produced by Gonzo Multimedia, but the editor has a grasshopper mind and so also writes about all sorts of cultural issues which interest him, and which he hopes will interest you as well.

Monday, 30 April 2012

WELL IT IS BELTANE (and it is fitting that we mark such things)

EXCLUSIVE: Anthony Phillips interview (Part One)

One of the most eagerly awaited releases from Gonzo this spring is a double CD from Anthony Phillips and Andrew Skeet. The album - which is called Seventh Heaven - contains some of the lushest and most beautiful music that I have heard for a long time.

Anthony Phillips is - of course - best known for being one of the founder members of Genesis, and Andrew Skeet is known for his orchestrations for many bands including Suede who are one of my favourite bands of all time. So, what do they sound like together? The answer is remarkable.

Anthony seems to be a genuinely nice chap. He seemes genuinely interested in my day job, and we talked about Charles Fort, Leonardo da Vinci, and other esoteric subjects (as one does) before we got stuck in to talking about the new album:

Jon: The weird thing is talking about an album, which I have only heard bits of. But the thing that I thought was very interesting, was that I was reading the write up about you and your collaborator on your website; I wondered, how does it work? Does one of you think of a tune, and the other think `I’ll go and orchestrate it`?

Anthony: Without wishing to be terribly boring, the genus of this really was that I was commissioned to write what they used to call a library music album. They now call it 'production music' because it has gone much more upmarket. But it is basically stock music for TV and film, where they haven’t got time, or haven’t got budgets, or whatever, to commission composers. Of course, the other thing nowadays, is the editors love it because they don’t have to worry about composers straight up; they just take the music down from the shelf and of course with the sophisticated modern editing they can chop all these pieces of music around without some composer standing over their shoulder and saying ‘sorry mate, you can’t do that’.

They can create a kind of collage, they can create their own score you see from available pieces of music so computer technology has changed a great deal and I was asked to do one of these production albums and I was given pretty a much a free hand. I was told to sort of do anything that is very filmic and descriptive. I studied music after leaving Genesis and I can arrange, but I don’t have the really wide range of arranging abilities across all sorts of different genres that Andrew Skeet has.

I didn’t know Andrew Skeet; effectively he came in purely as arranger but I felt that his contribution to those original pieces was greater than just arranging. This is an old chestnut this one, you get some composers who are very mean and even if a bloke transforms a track completely they won’t cut him in on the publishing. And there are some numerous stories, and we won’t mention any names, but it does come a time where you have got to look back and say, hang on, my piece was basic and this guy has absolutely transformed it, therefore this is not just arranging, in the public’s mind they are hearing something which is completely transformed. So I sort of cut Andrew in on that a certain amount and we enjoyed working on it so much that we then did really a couple of other projects off our own bat, one where he put strings on some guitar music of mine, and we got on so well that we decided to take the best of all these different sessions where we’d moved from just strictly speaking arranger and composer, to co-composers, and we have included them all on this double album.

Jon: So what sort of time period were they written over?

Anthony: It was really written over 2008 and 2011 – there is the odd bit that comes from earlier. Like every composer you’ve got little ideas from the past like ....sketchbooks of stuff don’t you, so I suppose the earliest musical idea, (actually I think there is one from back in the mid-90s) but most of them would be in the last two or three years. And for me it was just one of the most exciting things because, you know, you write a piece on piano, you sketch a few things out, but there is something about when the baton goes up and if you’ve got a good arranger, just how sumptuous it sounds.

The great thing about Andrew is he doesn’t over-schmaltz it. Some arrangers over-schmaltz it and he doesn’t – it’s emotional but he stays just on the right side of it. And then we have actually co-composed a couple of things which is, to go back to your original question, where I suppose it’s like back to the Genesis days where somebody would write what we called a bit and it would be, ‘ I’ve got this bit and you’ve got that bit to add on’, and this sort of Sellotaping goes on.

For instance the opening track ‘Credo in Cantus’ was very much my tune to start with, but then the glorious middle section, which is a lot better than my middle section, is Andrew’s. So actually that worked really well. I just threw the initial idea at him, and he just developed the middle, and then came back to my section and the end. So I’ve been very, very lucky to meet somebody with whom I am so sympatico, and who is so clever.

Jon: I tell you the thing that struck me, and I don’t know if this is me being objective, or just where my head was while I was listening, but several of them sounded like religious music

Anthony: That’s interesting.

Jon: They sounded like 19th Century hymns

Anthony: That’s interesting because Genesis were famously, in the early days, influenced by the English Chorus tradition. We loved some of the hymns at Charterhouse, and the first Genesis album had hymns as links, so I think I’ve always probably retained, without being an overtly religious person, that love of church music. At times it has worried me, because people have said 'oh gosh this sounds like something you should hear in church, and I’ve thought I have strayed too far down that line, but it is not something I would deny that there is that something in the musical generic makeup, but you are actually the first person to say it, so I’m hoping that it’s not too much that way.

Jon: I think it’s a good thing, personally. It is one of the things that really irritates me about the Church of England is the way they’ve got rid of some of those glorious old hymn tunes and replaced them with facile pop music.

Anthony: Herbert Howells, to name but one, was somebody that we absolutely loved, and some of his hymns are absolutely glorious. Yes, I shall take the compliment in the right way, so thank you.

Jon: My favourite track, by the way, of the ones I have heard so far is ‘Shipwreck of St Paul’. That is bloody amazing.

Anthony: That is really kind of you. There is an interesting story there, actually because if you read the blurb the library company very kindly – the production company, well the great Universal publishers, put up the money to record the stuff in Prague and we went out there.

There was a mixture of some terrific players – how can I put this – excellent individual players, but man for man probably not quite as good as some of the crack London session players who are used to simply getting the most difficult stuff chucked at them every day, and we found that with that one that the Philip’s, I suppose I can’t pretend that I am incredibly influenced by Philip Glass but I respect him, but there are a lot of other composers that I like more. But there's a Philip Glass-type figure and those kind of arpeggios are on strings maybe partly because I didn’t write them terribly well, but I think the London players are more used to that than the Prague players and we did have trouble.

I mean it’s a very difficult piece, so we re-did that one at Abbey Road. We re-did about five at Abbey Road before Christmas, which I funded, the ones that had been particularly difficult in Prague and it really did come up trumps, and I mean Andrew re-scored it and I’m so glad you liked that because – if you had heard the original version – it isn’t great to be honest, and I’m so glad we re-did it. And incidentally, I don’t know if you know this, but I must come clean on this, but I got the title, I was just looking through my diary of Saints’ days and national holidays in different countries and it seems to be that some of them have All Saints Day, and there are various others, but actually in Malta there is a Saint’s day – the Shipwreck of St Paul – around the time of late February and I was so taken by the title that I used it.

Jon: I didn’t know that.

That was the track that stuck out, and remember that was hearing it over the computer, because I got that from your website. I think its absolutely smashing.

Tomorrow we continue our esoteric discussions. We covered a lot of ground, but what I personally found exciting was that I can think of so much that I want to ask the man. Luckily, he seems to like my analogy of the Gonzo Daily online magazine being more like a literary version of a country pub than a formal lecture hall.

People come in, talk about something interesting and then go off for a pint or two. He laughed at my other analogy that sometimes I am the genial 'Mine Host', and that sometimes I'm the creepy looking bloke in the corner of the bar with the notebook and the enormous pile of pork scratchings!

I think that my conceptual pub will have regualr visits from Anthony, and probably after a few months he - like Michael Des Barres, and as few others - will have their own tankard hanging behind the bar...

BOOK REVIEW: The Good Doctor gets a graphic biography

Gonzo: A Graphic Biography of Hunter S. Thompson
by Will Bingley (Author) Anthony Hope-Smith (Illustrator)
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: SELFMADEHERO (26 Nov 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1906838119
ISBN-13: 978-1906838119


Usually when I do a book review for these pages, I preface it with a chunk of blurb explaining that although the vast majority of what I write about here is a product of those jolly nice people at Gonzo Multimedia (I suppose, at this stage of the game, I am one of those jolly nice people at Gonzo Multimedia, but as Rob and is compadres are very much the acceptable face of capitalism, then I don’t feel that I am compromising my anarchist ideals to too great a degree, by being wholeheartedly a company man).

But this case is different. Okay, this book was not published by Gonzo Multimedia in any shape of form, but in an alternate universe (a strand of solipsistic reality in which we got to Will Bingley and Anthony Hope-Smith first, I am certain that it would have been).

Why?

Because it is a graphic novel about the life of Hunter S Thompson, who was probably the person who coined the term ‘Gonzo Journalism’, but was most certainly the man who defined it. This book does not disappoint. No sirree. It is one of the few books that I have read which concentrates upon Thompson’s philosophy and raison d’être rather than his drug use, personality problems, and undoubted alcoholism. I am sure that he was a complete pain in the arse to be with a lot of the time, but as a writer, when he was on top of his game, he was unsurpassable.

I am not quite sure how to describe it; although it tells the bare bones of Hunter’s life up until the mid-1970s, and deals with the remaining three decades in a few pages, it acts as a trigger which inspires me to go back and read things by and about the man that I haven’t touched in decades. I intend to mount an experiment; I will give this book to one of my young relatives to read, making sure that the young relative in question has never had any more in depth introduction to the works of the good doctor, than the massively entertaining but ever-so-slightly superficial Johnny Depp movie (1998) I want to see whether this book inspires them to investigate the canon of Thompson’s work, or whether they will just see this book as a mildly entertaining narrative about a journalist who did some exciting things during the course of his career.

But that is the problem with Hunter S Thompson. Although he would probably have hated it, he has become a literary institution. And like every other artistic institution from Rembrandt to The Beatles, it is impossible to examine his life, career, and output with any degree of objectivity. Also like any of the aforementioned artistic institutions it is impossible to take them outside of space-time, and – for example – to be totally objective about Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail ‘72 without knowing a reasonable amount about the American culture of the time, the Vietnam war, the Watergate scandal, and quite possibly a whole plethora of other things. I, and I suspect the vast majority of people who read these pages, are of such an age that – whether or not they realise it – we have enough shared socio-cultural inheritance to know the significance of the historical events which Thompson described in his narrative. So I would be interested to find out the effect of his writings upon people for whom these historical events are either ‘ancient history, or culturally meaningless.

This is a fantastic book. I was expecting it to be good, but it turned out to be a great deal better than I expected, and I urge you all to buy it, even if your only motivation is to find out why Rob Ayling called his company ‘Gonzo’.

MARTIN STEPHENSON - TOUR DATES

MAY

Wed. 16th: READING: Crooked Billet, Stoke Row, Henley -On-Thames
Martin’s string band Jimmy Cole Banjo/Histring Guitar, & James Morrison Fiddle/Mandolin The cats who played on 2011’s release: ‘Beyond Leap‘
Sat. 19th: ULLAPOOL, THE ARGYL HOTEL
18 Argyle Street Ullapool, Ross-Shire IV26 2UB, TEL: FRANNER & NIGEL ON: 01854 612422
Sat. 26th : Banff Castle,
Castle Street Banff, AB45 1DL Tel: 01261 815325

JUNE

Fri. 1st: ULLAPOOL, THE ARGYL HOTEL
18 Argyle Street Ullapool, Ross-Shire IV26 2UB, TEL: FRANNER & NIGEL ON: 01854 612422
Sat. 2nd: The Ship Inn, near Alnwick, solo performance
Sun. 3rd: ALVINOS BAR, NEWCASTLE:
88 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 6SG
TEL: 0191 2615656 or 07949094019 Web: http://www.alvinosbar.co.uk/

Mon. 4th: MS & DAINTEES PLAY JUBILEE FEST, BLACK HORSE BEAMISH
Tue. 5th: MS & DAINTEES PLAY CARLISLE BRICKYARD
Wed. 6th: FULFORD ARMS, YORK
www.fulfordarms.co.uk 121 Fulford Road Fulford, York YO10 4EX
TEL STEVE: 01904 620410
Thu. 7th: THE BLUE CAT
www.bluecatcafe.co.uk
17 Shaw Rd, Heaton Moor, Stockport, SK4 4AG
Tel Danny:0161 432 2117 Email: danny@bluecatcafe.co.uk

Fri. 8th: Brook Street Club
(formerly the Knutsford Liberal Club)
Promoter: Kevin Jardine: Kevin Jardine
Martin’s string band Jimmy Cole Banjo/Histring Guitar, & James Morrison Fiddle/Mandolin
The cats who played on 2011’s release: ‘Beyond Leap’
Sat. 9th: Nottingham, The Guitar Bar :
at Hotel Deux, Clumber Avenue, Sherwood Rise, Nottingham.
Tel: 07770 226 926
http://www.guitarbar.co.uk/
Fri - Sun 16-18th: SONGWRITER WEEKEND
Fri. 29th: Eyre Chapel
Newbold Village, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S41 8RJ Mon. 9th
For information and ticket purchase
Contact: David Leleivre : dc-lelievre@tiscali.co.uk

We go tickets url: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/161919
Sat. 30th: HUDDERSFIELD, KEYS RESTAURANT
Promoters: Andy & Tina Roberts: tinaandandrewr@hotmail

JULY

Mon. 9th: The Robin 2.
20-28 Mount Pleasant, Bilston Wolverhampton, WV14 7LJ
TEL: 01902 401211
Buy tickets online: http://www.therobin.co.uk/
Wed. 11th: The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Queen's Road, Leeds LS6 1NY
www.brudenellsocialclub.co.uk/
Thu 12th: Darwen Library Theatre
Knott Street Darwen, Blackburn with Darwen BB3 3BU
Web: www.darwenlibrarytheatre.com Tel: 01254 706006
Fri. 13th: Kirkgate Arts Centre & Theatre
The Kirkgate Centre, Cockermouth
Cumbria - The Lake District, England CA13 9PJ
Tel/fax: 01900 826448 email:
enquiries@thekirkgate.com
Sat. 14th: Sheffield, The Shakespeare
146-148 Gibraltar Street, Sheffield, S Yorks S3 8UB
Tel: 0114 279 9655
Doors: 7.30pm. Price: £10.00
The direct link for this event is
http://www.wegottickets.com/event/159716
Sat. 21st: ULLAPOOL, THE ARGYL HOTEL
18 Argyle Street Ullapool, Ross-Shire IV26 2UB
TEL: FRANNER & NIGEL ON: 01854 612422

AUGUST

Sat. 4th: ULLAPOOL, THE ARGYL HOTEL
18 Argyle Street Ullapool, Ross-Shire IV26 2UB
TEL: FRANNER & NIGEL ON: 01854 612422
Thu. 23rd: MS & DAINTEES, Stirling, The Tolbooth
Jail Wynd, Stirling, FK8 1DE, UK
Sun. 26th: Galtres Music Festival
http://www.galtresfestival.org.uk/

SEPTEMBER

Sat. 8th: ULLAPOOL, THE ARGYL HOTEL
18 Argyle Street Ullapool, Ross-Shire IV26 2UB
TEL: FRANNER & NIGEL ON: 01854 612422
Sat. 15th: MS & DAINTEES - HUDDERSFIELD, KEYS RESTAURANT
Promoters: Andy & Tina Roberts: tinaandandrewr@hotmail
Fri. 21st: Private House Concert: Battersea
Sat. 22nd: BENEFIT CONCERT ~ PAUL BENNING MEMORIAL
Sat. 29th: Stockton, Georgian Theatre
Calvin House, Green Dragon Yard,
Stockton-on-Tees TS18 1AE
Tel: 01642 606 525

OCTOBER

Sat. 8th: ULLAPOOL, THE ARGYL HOTEL
18 Argyle Street Ullapool, Ross-Shire IV26 2UB
TEL: FRAN & NIG ON: 01854 612422

Check out the Martin Stephenson artist page on the Gonzo site, and also the Martin Stephenson and the Daintees artist page, and the Martin Stephenson and Helen McCookerybook page...

Don't say we never do ow't for you...

AUBURN: I will be talking to Liz this afternoon, so here is a taster

MIMI PAGE: The (back) cover of 'Rolling Stone'


BASSNECTAR WRITES: WOW! Back cover of Rolling Stone, i never thought I would see the day a Bassnectar album in the Top fuckin 40. HAHAHAAHAH. I had to pay the price by being called an "electro hippy" though... (Pinched from Mimi's Facebook Page, but I hope she will forgive me)

PS: (Jon Writes) Forgive my ignorance of such things, but what is an electro-hippy? And why would one not like being called one? I am still reeling from my step-daughter's diatribe against something called 'Emos' a few years ago - the contemporary tribal cultures are confusing (at least to me)

JON ANDERSON COMPY AND BIOGRAPHY

Tomorrow I am speaking to Jon Anderson from Yes about his new tour, his albums with Rick Wakeman, and various other things. However, I found a rather nifty biography of him online, complete with a competition to win concert tickets:

In March 1968, Jon Anderson met bassist Chris Squire and joined him in a group called Mabel Greer's Toyshop, which included guitarist Peter Banks.

Anderson, Squire, and Banks went on to form Yes, with drummer Bill Bruford and keyboardist Tony Kaye. Their eponymous debut album was released in 1969.

Amongst the line-up changes (Rick Wakeman would replace Kaye in 1971 and Alan White would replace Bruford in 1972) Jon stayed with the group until 1980, and this period is now known as the classic period of YES.

Jon was a major creative force and band leader throughout the period (describing himself as the 'team captain' and 'catalyst'; nicknamed by his band mates Napoleon for his diminutive stature and leadership of the band) and is recognized as the main instigator of the series of epics produced by Yes at the time.

Read on...

ANTHONY PHILLIPS: A brief taster for what is to come..

If everything goes according to plan, I shall be talking to Anthony Phillips later this afternoon. To celebrate this, and to give you all a taster of what is to come, here is one of my favourite of his tracks:



Check out the Gonzo page for his new album

LINK: Musician Rick Wakeman opens Age UK fayre in Diss

Saturday, April 28, 2012



No amount of wet weather could dampen the spirits of visitors to an annual spring fayre in aid of the elderly this morning (Saturday), opened by former rock-star Rick Wakeman.


With traditional events such as guess the weight of the cake, bric-a-brac stalls and a raffle, organisers hoped to raise as much money as possible for Age UK.


And they were not disappointed with visitors flocking to the event in Diss, as Mr Wakeman cut the ribbon.


The musician, 63, perhaps best known as keyboard player with the band Yes, who now lives with his wife in Scole, near Diss, said it was important to support local fundraisers.

Read on...

Sunday, 29 April 2012

JUDGE SMITH: The Climber


I have had this cd, still in its shrinkwrap, sitting on the coffee table in my sitting room for several weeks. Together with a book on Armenian butterflies, an account of early naturalists in southern China, a number of science fiction books, and tweo DVDs of talks by the Dalai Lama, it is part of the ever growing pile of things that I want to watch/listen to/read that threatens to engulf my living area.

I have had people staying or visiting solidly for weeks, and as I grow older I need to concentrate more on things that I review, especially things like this that I was aware were going to be major works of art that I wanted to give the attention that it deserves.

And I was right. This is a far more intense experience than Judge's third song story Orfeas. Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed Orfeas very much indeed, but The Climber is a totally different ball game.

For a start the instrumentation is far simpler - just a male voice choir and a string bass. Did I say simpler? The multi-levelled textures that the choir produces just from massed human vocal shords are extraordinary. Listening to some of these dense vocal orchestrations, you find yourself noty only not missing any further instrumentation, but actually being grateful that Judge did not succumb to the temptation to add any; it would have been overkill!

For the first time, listening to his music, I am reminded that he was once a member of Van der Graaf Generator. If you can imagine a choral version of Pawn Hearts telling the story of a climber who ends up questioning the nature of reality whilst facing death from cerebral anoxia at the top of a mountain, then you might come close to bits of what this record is about. Other bits are pure D'Oyly Carte, and yet more bits sound like some of Petw Townshend's more cerebral experiments.

Over the years I have heard several pieces of music which use descriptions of physical challenges like - say - mountaineering as a metephor for sexual activity, but here Judge Smith explores the sensual gratification of the aforementioned physical challenge and uses it to do exactly what it says on the tin, tell the story of a loner (who one suspects is somewhat of a misanthrope), and what happens when he disobeys his guide's advice and climbs a mountain solo in inapporopriate weather.

This is one of the most extraordinary things I have heard in years. I am very tempted to go and listen to it again right now. In fact, I think I will...

MIMI PAGE REVIEW

Artist: Mimi Page
Album: Breathe Me In
Members: Mimi Page
Genre: DJ/Dance, Other
Tracks: 12
Release Date: February 14, 2012
Discs: 1
Rating: 2.95 (out of 4.00)
GRADE: B
Includes
Comes along with a booklet that gives the lyrics to the songs
Electronica music is one of the genres that I usually have to be in the mood to like. Reason being is it’s a dance music, the kind where it gives you the urge to move your body, not in the spastic way that techno has but one in a rhythmic way. Mimi Page has captured that rhythmic feeling nicely with her album Breath Me In. From the start of the CD I was drawn into wanting to listen to the songs. At first I couldn’t quite put my finger on what made me interested in the songs. Was it the tempo of the instruments being played, maybe it was the meaning of the songs, or possibly the sound of Mimi Page’s voice?
When the CD was finished and I had heard all 12 tracks I realized that it was the combination of the lyrics, the tempo, the beats, and the vocals that made me like the songs. Most of all though it was the tempo of the songs that I liked, being not too quick yet having a nice rate to the pacing of the beats to give them a rhythmic sound. If the songs had a quicker beat to them they would have become this horrible dance song played at clubs. What Breath Me In is are songs that have a tempo that makes you want to sit back and just relax and be in the moment.
Though I must give credit to Mimi Page for her vocals. She has this hypnotic sound to her voice that just drew me in. It’s not an extraordinary voice, there are times that I can hear the equalizer being used to change the way she sounds. What drew me into liking her vocals is how she has a good feel for the structure of her songs. She knew when to make the chords short and when to hold the note. She has given the songs some complexity even though they don’t sound like a few people are playing them, which is some talent right there. At times I didn’t care for the retentiveness of some of the lyrics but when she does do this it’s not overused or blunt. Breath Me In will make a good CD for when I just want to come home to relax and let the day wash away.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

MICHAEL DES BARRES: Another blast from the past

After I posted a Detective song the other day, Michael Des Barres wrote to me: "Jonathan, The key Detective song,which was recently voted one of the key tracks in hard rock history by Mojo magazine,is One more heartache...!"

I didn't get where I am today by arguing with Marquises, and he is right - it is a spectacular song....

REVIEW: Patti Smith

Patti Smith by Nick Johnstone
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Omnibus Press (16 May 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1780383584
ISBN-13: 978-1780383583

Ever since I first discovered the books of George Tremlett back in the mid-1970s, I have been an avid reader of rock music biographies and my library, in what doubles as our spare bedroom, contains almost as many of them as does books appertaining to my day job as a naturalist (no that doesn’t mean what you think it does, and - most of the time - I keep my clothes on in public) cryptozoologist and general commentator upon the natural world.

It is one of the undoubted perks of writing this daily blog that publishers are sending me such things to review on a regular basis. Some are better than others, and occasionally one is totally outstanding. Whatever, I try to be completely objective and to tell the truth in my reviews here on the Gonzo daily blog.

This latest book tells the peculiar story of a lady who has been at the forefront of some of the most credible rock music recorded in the last 40 years. It is great on dates, times, people, and places, less so on trying to analyse the creative process of Patti Smith herself. But I don’t think anyone would have been able to do a better job. Because unlike – say – David Bowie, a biography of whom I was massively enthusiastic about a few weeks back, Patti Smith has only produced ten albums of original material since 1975 (in that time scale, Bowie has produced nearly twice that) and even during her more Bohemian early years, she has been remarkably reticent about both her private life and her creative modus operandi. This is probably how it should be, and Johnstone has done a bloody good job with the material available.

The thing which intrigues me, is not how such an apparently uncommercial artist has become associated with various Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, REM, and Bruce Springsteen, but how such an apparently uncommercial artist has remained on major labels throughout her career over a period when most commentators within the rock journalist fraternity (me included) have been bemoaning the ever-increasingly commercial crassness of much of the music industry. The only other person that I can think of who has achieved this to such an extent is Tom Waits. The fact that they have done so gives one a great deal of hope.

So what has this got to do with Gonzo Multimedia? Well, nothing really. Except that although I have been friends with Rob Ayling for a quarter of a century, I have only been involved to the extent that I am now for a couple of months. Unless I have got it completely wrong, and I really don’t think that I have, Gonzo Multimedia is the company which in many ways is like the career of Patti Smith. It puts out records because they are good and deserve to be put out, and commercial considerations seem to be less important than artistic ones. As the motto of my own organisation is pro bona causa facimus (we do it for a good reason) and we publish books and carry out various projects with much the same motivation, this gives you some inkling as to not only why I enjoy writing this blog so much, but why I enjoy Nick Johnstone’s remarkable book.

GENRE PEAK: Belgian review

http://www.keysandchords.com/6/post/2012/04/genre-peak-redux.html
Photo
This album is a compilation of the plates' Ends of the Earth 'and' Prenatural. The spindle is Martin Birke of Genre Peak and he chose these two plates are favorite songs, which he here and there gave them a new blend and added also a new number in 'Words Surround Us ", recorded in 2012 that the CD opens.Birke, writes all the songs himself and works on a permanent basis along with his friend Stephen Sullivan guitars and syntesizers accounts for. Furthermore, this duo is supported by a host of musicians such as: Christopher Scott Cooper on guitars and samples (he is also the producer), Gustaf Fjelstrom and Mick Karn on fretless bass, Percy Howard and Tara C. Taylor on vocals, Daniel Panasenko, percussion and upright electric bass.
Well what do you call this music. Electronic rock is not a bad description, I saw on a website somewhere post-modern music but you can stand just about anything with it on. It is a fact that when I first listened to the album at all was, I involuntarily to Japan and David Sylvian to think. When I studied the case over here after I see the plate yet know the name of Mick Karn be sure, bassist for years been in Japan. Coincidence does not exist.
Anyway, regardless of how you define this music this is one album that stands like a house. From the first notes of 'Words Surround "are the samples and the central electronics. But with the haunting voice of Percy Howard and the ethereal violin score violinist Benito Cortez, this provides a real haunting opener of this album. "Wear It Well" floats on the bass of Fjelstrom and Karn and put the nice, sweet vocals by Tara C. Taylor centrally. On "Blue Filter" is Percy Howard vocally supported by beautiful Tara, built around a fairly traditional song which, however, many dissonant sounds intervene. Very ingenious and delicate. 'Ends of the Earth' is the perfect composition on this album where the voice of Percy Howard that is reminiscent of David Sylvian, however strong composition. "Hell on the Surface ', we define love as an electro-pop song that goes a bit towards the Australian Flash & The Pan, in other words, electro-pop with a strong melodic slant. "Amena" pulls slowly with a patter of Tara who alternated with vocals. The sound can be best described as almost ethnically. The ethnic line is drawn in the subtle, mysterious instrumental 'Rama'. "Abscence 'crackles at the start of the electronics to result in an instrumental again, widely arranged pastoral composition with particular piano carries the high word. "Point of No Return" swings like the plague and also to situate them in the section electro-pop with a strong echo from the 80-years. The title, or rather the flag of "Microsphere 13 'covers the full load: instrumental, electronic music á la Tangerine Dream, but very subtle and nuanced. The album ends with a smooth and vloeidende pop song with great vocals from Tara C Taylor, really the better popwerk.Redux This album features 11 electronic rock songs Including new and remixed material. All tracks are written by Martin Birke. You can discuss how to define this kind of music. Personally I hear a child echoes of Japan in this music. But it really does not matter Because this is a wonderfull album with excellent songs, sparkling instruments and very intriguing voices. Worth to check it out.



Peter Harris (4)


CURVED AIR: Rejoice! Guess who have reformed..

It just shows you how out of touch I have been. Whereas once upon a time I used to visit the Metropolis quite regularly, I moved back to my childhood home in North Devon in 2005, and only leave when I have to. The only gig I have seen in London in years was Dr Strangely Strange about three years ago, and I have evidently got really out of touch with some of my favourite music, because it seems that Curved Air actually reformed four years ago, and there have even been new recording.

They are apparently playing Tavistock next weekend. Methinks that I feel an interview request coming on...



Check out the Gonzo artist page for the album

THE NEW RICK WAKEMAN BIOGRAPHY

Yes, boys and girls. It is finally available, and here (modelling the first ever copy) is my lovely wife Corinna who edited the thing (I did the designing, but can't spell for toffee).

It is a slightly updated version of the book that Dan Wooding first published thirty years ago, and whilst putting it together, I discovered all sorts of interesting things.

For example, did you know that Rick Wakeman once wrote the foreword to a book about one of the most notorious super-grasses ever to have inhabited the British criminal community.

Dan writes:


While in London in October, 1978, for the four Yes Wembley shows which attracted some 80,000 fans to the Empire Pool, Rick met up with another extraordinary criminal - Maurice O’Mahoney, nicknamed King Squealer. A villain from the age of ten, he turned Queen’s evidence, informing on more than 200 crooks who had been involved in crimes totalling more than two million pounds. Now a £20,000 underworld ‘contract’ is out for his life.

Rick had agreed to write the foreword to O’Mahoney’s book ‘King Squealer’ (W. H. Allen). So the ex-gangster wanted to thank Rick personally for his endorsement of the book. He did some detective work of his own and found Rick had checked into a London hotel under a false name (as usual). This time, O’Mahoney discovered it was as ‘Hugh Rinal.’ (Sometimes he uses ‘Ivor Biggun.’)

Rick was so pleased to meet him that he became an honoured guest for the shows and Rick let him travel around as a VIP in his Rolls-Royce. ‘It’s a pity I didn’t meet you before I recorded ‘Criminal Record’,’ he told the Mo, ‘I could have done a track about you.’

Well, it so happens that I had a copy of King Squealer kicking about my voluminous and ever expanding library. So I checked it, and yes, Rick W did, indeed write the foreword. So, for the sake of completeness, here it is:

Foreword
BY RICK WAKEMAN
There have always been certain ‘careers’ that have fascinated the punter, newspapers, and the media in general. These include musicians, actors, sportsmen, police and the people who give the police their employment: the criminal.


For the man in the street, all these careers have one thing in common: they are seemingly out of his reach and his only association can be through the media of newspapers or television.

The police, however, require the services of the grass, squealer, call him what you will, to quicken their investigations, arrests etc.; and this is the area that seldom gets written about.

An old friend of mine, a jolly slightly rotund Birmingham chap by the name of Dan Wooding, has collared the King of the Squealers and for the first time in print you can read the sad, serious and sometimes hysterical life of the middle man - Maurice O’Mahoney - the King Squealer.

And whilst on the subject of Rick Wakeman's Criminal Record (one of his most under-rated in my opinion) here is a track played live by Rick on a recent DVD:




HERE is the Gonzo artist page for Rick Wakeman upon which there are lots of lovely Wakemanesque goodies that you can purchase...

GALAHAD: Golly they are good.

I posted a brief biography of Galahad yesterday. I am actually embarrassed to admit that until now I had never heard of them. That was my mistake, because they are producing some of the most intelligent, inventive and literate rock music that I have heard in a very long time..


REVIEW: At School with a Serial Killer

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Abrams (1 Mar 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1419702173
ISBN-13: 978-1419702174
Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15 x 2.5 cm

As regular readers of this blog will know, although the vast majority of what we cover is at least vaguely relevant to the releases on the Gonzo Multimedia group of companies, there are some things – mostly book reviews – that are included because I think they are interesting. Here, as always, I would like to say that any opinions expressed are my own and have nothing to do with any of those nice people at Gonzo Multimedia.

When I first heard about this – a graphic novel based upon the relationships between the author – Derf Backderf – and the notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer I had to contact the publishers for a copy. Why? Well believe it or not, it is not for any reason of prurience. It is just because I am fascinated with the idea that extreme things whether joyful or ugly, good or evil, happen to normal people, and within ordinary society.

For example, a woman I knew vaguely about ten years ago told me that she had been working in an office at the end of the 1970s, where her closest friend was a quiet, and utterly charming man called Dennis Nilsen. They had eaten their lunch together, gone out for walks together, and he had even done her hair. She was utterly dumbfounded when he turned out to be a notorious serial killer, and I believe cannibal.

An ex-girlfriend of mine had once been friends with Myra Hindley, and someone who I know reads this blog lost one of her best friends to the Manson family. So, in the midst of life we are indeed in death, or whatever it is that it says in the Book of Common Prayer.

The book didn’t disappoint me. In many ways it reminded me of my own school days. Not that I, or as far as I know any of my schoolfriends, turned into monsters, but from what I can gather from talking to kids who are at school today, schooldays in the 1970s were far weirder, far bleaker and far more disturbing than they are today. The relationship between Dahmer and the author was a complex one, and possibly the most important thing that the book describes is, as Chuck Klosterman says in the notes on the back cover “what it means to be friends with someone you don’t really like” and an object lesson to all of us about how we, as individuals and en masse, have a tendency to ignore things which are staring at us in the face, purely because we don‘t want to confront them.

Possibly the most disturbing incident in the whole book occurs on the last page, when the author’s wife telephoned him one day saying “this guy in Wisconsin killed a bunch of people! His apartment was full of bodies! He had sex with the corpses ..... and ate some of them!!” and went on to tell the author that this guy had been in the same class as him at school, whereupon the author trying to guess which of his erstwhile classmates had turned into such a complete, and utter monster of depravity guessed wrong.

We really do not know more than the most superficial facade of most of the people who we come across during our lives.

What is the most surprising thing about this book is the way that the author has managed to be completely objective about the incidents that he portrays, but always manages to retain his moral objectivity. “There are a surprising number out there who view Jeffrey Dahmer as some kind of anti-hero, a bullied kid who lashed back at the society that rejected him. This is nonsense. Dahmer was a twisted wretch whose depravity was almost beyond comprehension. Pity him, but don’t emphasise with him”.

This is a remarkable book, and unusually for something which I got hold of on impulse, and out of curiosity, I think that I shall be re-reading it, and almost certainly getting something new out of it each time that I do so. Although not a pleasant read by any stretch of the imagination, it is a compulsive one, and one that I have no hesitation in recommending.

Friday, 27 April 2012

ALL ABOUT GALAHAD

British Rock band Galahad was formed in Dorset England during the mid eighties. As it is a progressive rock band you might be forgiven for thinking they were named after the knight made famous in Arthurian legend. The truth is far more simple than that and a million miles away from legend, Arthurian or otherwise. The fact is that guitarist Roy Keyworth named the band after seeing of all things an invoice for fruit and vegetables with the name “Galahad Produce” at the top of the page.

Having finalised a name, the band played their first concert in late August 1985. Over the years they have released a number of well received albums and gigged extensively. Galahad’s most recent album entitled ‘Empires Never Last’, released in 2007, was named Album Of The Year by the members of the “Classic Rock Society”, and features guest performances from Karl Groom (Threshold), and Clive Nolan (Arena and Pendragon).


Currently Available







Empires Never Last
CD - £9.99






Battle Scars
CD - £9.99

CURVED AIR: It happened today

I have always been very fond of the music of Curved Air. However, watching their DVD in the massively groovy Gonzo series, 'The Lost Broadcasts', last night, I was struck by sometjhing. Back in the day, when I was about 14 I cherished a mad passion for Sonja Kristina, the chanteuse with the band. She would have been about 23 at the time, which would have made her definitely into the realm of 'the older woman'.

I remember confessing my mad passion to my mother, who sniffed in a disapproving manner. I showed her a picture of Sonja and she sniffed even more. You could see Ms Kristina's elbows, and apparently that was a sign of being a loose woman of the worst sort. Sonja Kristina joined the Duke of Windsor, Oscar Wilde, and the woman at #17 as being people who were never to be mentioned at the dinner table again.

Watching the DVD with my lovely wife last night, I was struck by how pleasant and respectable Sonja looked. In a day where many popstrels are anorexic young women prancing around in their underwear, Sonja Kristina looks like the unspoiled girl-next-door.



I know that my parents were ridiculously old fashioned for their time, and I am probably a bit libertarian for mine, but it is a mark of how times have changed...

Check out the Gonzo artist page for the album

EXCLUSIVE: Judge Smith interview (Part Two)

I particularly enjoyed my chat with Judge Smith the other night. As I wrote in the first part of this interview yesterday, it was less like an interview and more an informal chat, which is - I believe - the way these things shoud be conducted.

Most of what we discussed was about his song-stories, particularly
Orfeas...

Jon: What I thought was particularly nice about the way that you did it, was that it was totally and utterly unpretentious

Judge: Thank you

Jon: Whereas even trying to explain it makes it pretentious, trying to put it in words, it is actually just – you are tapping into an ancient tradition of telling a story with some jokes in it, while putting it to music

Judge: I do find it difficult doing it without putting the jokes in so it does tend to prevent too much self-importance or pretentiousness creeping in, because I feel compelled to put a gag in every so often.

Jon: I like Goerge Orpheus’ line about the audience being like meerkats. My wife and I laughed out loud at that and we had to pause the bloody cd because we were giggling too much

Judge: I got that off a friend of mine. A young lady I know who is cabin crew on Easyjet and they call the passengers the meerkats because you stand up at the end and you just see these little heads popping up and down, peering up over the seats. So I pinched it.

Jon: How many of them have you done so far, the song stories?

Judge: There are three. Orfeas is the third. Curly’s Airships is the first and in the middle comes The Climber. I don’t know if you’ve got that one have you Jon?

Jon: Yes, it is still in the shrink wrap on my dining room table. I have had a house full of people for the last few weeks, and I want to do it justice, rather than listen to it with half an ear whilst doing something completely different..

Judge: That is probably my favourite actually. Of all of them. But it has a very different line up in that it was written for an unaccompanied Norwegian male voice choir, and me, and a double bass and that’s it.

Jon: Now, that is a line you don’t hear very often. Now I don’t know which one to listen to first. I had my evening planned out and now you’ve put me in a quandary

Judge: Well I’ll be interested to know what you think of The Climber. It raises eyebrows because it’s got no guitars or drums in it, but it’s rock and roll to me. It’s just sung by a male voice choir.

Jon: Well they both sound wonderful. Hopefully I’ll get to listen to them both over the weekend. I don’t know which one I will listen to first.

Judge: The Climber is much shorter. It is a much shorter piece, but it follows the song story idea through. I’ve got the hang of this thing now

Jon: Are you planning more?

Judge: Well, I don’t know. I have been working very hard for a couple of years now, well since Orfeas I haven’t really stopped and I’m working on an album at the moment and I think when that is finished in a few months time I am going to take a break, and sort of take stock. Yes, there are two stories that are sitting there waiting that I would like to do but I don’t quite know in what form or format or how yet and I am going to take a break from inflicting my music on the world.

Jon: I wouldn’t do that

Judge: I am not retiring but I am going to take a breather I think. But there are a couple of things I could do, yes certainly, perhaps shorter, perhaps get both of them both on to a cd I don’t know

Jon: When was Orfeas recorded then?

Judge: Orfeas has got a funny sort of history. I started it before I started The Climber and everything went on hold for a year while I recorded and edited The Climber

Jon: Oh I didn’t realise.

Judge: Yes. Recorded the band numbers – George Orpheus’ band – in 2008, so the thing was written - or a lot of it was written - but then I got the opportunity to do The Climber which I had written before, but it had languished because I couldn’t find a choir. I was fortunate then to be approached by Ricardo Odriozola. He is Basque and lives in Norway, and is a violin professor at the Grieg Institute in Bergen. A wonderful chap with an encyclopaedic knowledge of rock music and a most fascinating and remarkable man, and I couldn’t have done this without him.

I don’t have the musical skills to do choir orchestrations and so on. I am very simple in terms of music: I don’t read music, I can’t play anything either; I can drum and I can sing, but I hear the music in my head in great detail, but then I have to struggle to get it out there. I am very ham-fisted with musical instruments, but technology is great. The computer has liberated me really. I can produce the melodies, chord sequences, the bass lines I can hear in my head so computer technology has been fantastic for me even though I don’t make computer sounding music, and I like it played by proper musicians once I‘ve written it, but I couldn’t have written it without the technology

There was a brief interlude while I asked Judge how to spell Ricardo Odriozola's name, and we digressed slightly..

Judge: On a wall of his place in Bergen there is a whole collection of all the wrongly addressed envelopes that he has received. A very great man. And he organised the choir for me and the whole thing was recorded in Norway so I was very, very fortunate indeed so because I had that opportunity Orpheus went on hold for a full year, having got half of it recorded every stopped when I did The Climber and then I had to go back to Orfeas... complicated.

Jon: Life does tend to get complicated. So the thing you are working on at the moment. Is that an ordinary – is there such a thing as an ordinary – album?

Judge: That’s a songs album. And I am working on that with a wonderful American arranger and producer called David Minnick.

Jon: I know that name

Judge: He was involved in Orfeas, he did some of the arrangements on Orfeas as well so you might have seen him in that book. He was part of the American ska revival in the ‘90s, there a lot of American ska bands, quite a lot of ska bands and he was part of that movement, and he has a wonderful album called I Didn’t Know I Was Singing. It’s telephone answering machine messages set to music with the speech music technique that I use in Orpheus, that’s why I got on to him because he was far and away the best person.

Jon: That’s why I know the name. I read an interview with you about that. I got really intrigued by speech music

Judge: It is a fascinating technique, it’s one that requires more musicianship than I’ve got really, but it has been fascinating working with it, and I think I shall probably use it again, but David is very facile with it; very skilled at doing it, but he is an amazing producer and this is a song album, there is no speech music in it or anything particularly avant garde. It is an album of songs that I have had, some of which have been sitting around for a very long time, waiting for me to get around to recording them. And so he is producing and it is his band, his orchestra, his musicians who are doing the recording and I’m doing the singing.

Jon: Any idea when it is coming out

Judge: Well I don’t think it will be too long. I would imagine it would be finished by the autumn. Though when it will actually come out I am not too sure. Probably by the new year I would think.

Jon: I look forward to that

Judge: I haven’t got a title – I think it is bad luck to give things a title that don’t exist. It will be unlike anything I have ever done before because it’s got...... it just is ...... It’s an American album, it’s got that full rock sound that I couldn’t do. It’s very exciting. And it is somebody else doing the heavy lifting. And that’s good

Jon: That’s always a good thing, in whatever genre

Judge: Well I don’t subscribe now to the do it yourself completely self-contained ethos. You get so much from using other people, and it is just a question of letting go to just the right extent. Relinquishing just sufficient control to get the most of other people.

Jon: I don’t think rock and roll is just a solitary experience. It always has been a joint activity

That - for once - wasn't me being naughty. I used to do the news pages for a tropical fish magazine into which I slipped as many drug jokes as I could, but on this occasion I am not guilty

Judge: I agree, it’s a balancing act. If you get too democratic about you end up with a jam session

Jon: Which are fun to play but bloody awful to listen to

Judge: It’s like free music which I did a little of in the ‘70s it’s tremendous fun to do but not much fun for people to listen to. I do like working with proper musicians. I do like that. So I don’t really want to do everything holed up in a room on my own.

At that point I realised that we had been chatting for over half an hour, and that my sweet wife (who had to do the transcribing) would never forgive me if I carried on much longer, so I drew the conversation to a halt. I think we were both disappointed, and look forward to carrying on our chat again soon...

ERIC BURDON: When I was Young

Whilst on the subject of Eric Burdon, and if your answer to that is "I didn't know that we were on the subject of Eric Burdon", then you obviousky didn't read my ramblings yesterday on the subject, I came across this earlier.

It is a massively peculiar bit of film by Peter Whitehead, and not only is it massively peculiar, it is of one of my favourite songs of his, containing one of the best lyrics ever committed to vinyl:

"I met my first love at thirteen,
she was brown and I was pretty green".

If you can read that and not be impressed, then I despair of you. Check this out:

PS. Much to my great joy I have found that there are two other Eric Burdon DVDs out on Gonzo. I will be covering them in great detail very soon. In the meantime check out his Gonzo Artist Page.

Also check out All my Loving on DVD. You know it makes sense.

PPS. "Does this mean you will be posting random bits of footage and paens in praise of Eric Burdon, lots in the future?" I hear you ask. Quite probably! Wayhay!

MICHAEL DES BARRES: For those of you not as au fait as you should be with Michael's back catalogue...

...check this out.

LINK: 100 Albums Every Science Fiction and Fantasy Fan Should Listen To

Whilst pootling about on the Internet in search of interesting content for the blog I found this listing. Not surprisingly there are records by several Gonzo recording artistes in this listing, and I heartily approve of a whole slew of the others. So enjoy!

THEY SAY: Music can tell a story, or split your head open like a guava. So it's no surprise the love affair between music and science fiction/fantasy has been a fruitful and tempestuous one, full of drama and strange creations. We're counting down the 100 CDs that every self-respecting genre lover should have on his/her spinner rack

WE SAY: Well duh!

http://io9.com/5905485/100-albums-every-science-fiction-and-fantasy-fan-should-listen-to-31+50/

Thursday, 26 April 2012

THE TWO FACES OF MARTIN STEPHENSON

I found this video on YouTube: It is obviously a fan job done on a mobile 'phone, but it perfectly captures the warmth of Martin's stage performance.



I showed it to le Grande Fromage and he sent me this rather groovy little clip of Martin and the Daintees back in the day..



Check out the Martin Stephenson artist page on the Gonzo site, and also the Martin Stephenson and the Daintees artist page, and the Martin Stephenson and Helen McCookerybook page...

Don't say we never do ow't for you...

EXCLUSIVE: Judge Smith Interview Part One

I have been interviewing people for a long time, and there are some who are better interviewees than others, but the rarest (and most valuable, to my way of thinking) interviewee is the one, with whom you immediately have a rapport, and find yourself talking with so naturally that you forget that you are doing an interview with them.

One such interviewee is Judge Smith. He was actually the first person that I wrote about on the Gonzo Blog all those weeks ago, and was the first person that I contacted by email. It so happened that for reasons so dull, I won’t bore you with them, I didn’t get around to actually talking to him until earlier this evening, but he was well worth the wait.

It turned out that we had quite a few interests in common. He is a reader of Fortean Times, a magazine that I have written for over the years, and even has a copy of On the Track of Unknown Animals by Bernard Heuvelmans (he pronounced it correctly, “Hoy-vel-mans” rather than “Hugh-vel-mans”) which, as my day job is the Director of the world’s largest cryptozoological organisation, is quite a coincidence.

“I did a musical called The Ascent of Wilberforce 3. a mountaineering musical which had a singing yeti in it”, he told me.

(For those of you who need to know such things, it was done at the Travis Theatre in Edinburgh and the Lyric, Hammersmith in 1978ish.)
So the interview just started, without either of us actually realising it…

Jon: How did the idea of the song stories come about?

Judge: Well I was always concerned about telling stories with music. I’ve always liked the idea of that. My regular song lyrics tend to be story lyrics when I’ve written an individual song there does tend to be a story in them, and I was also at that time or starting doing rock music at the time that the idea was current for rock music to do more than just do a three minute song. The long song started to become a possibility and this was something that Peter Hammill was interested in. So we were both starting off at that point so the idea of doing a long piece or longer pieces and the idea of telling stories sort of came together.

In the mid-70s, I started to write a song cycle. Supposedly it was going to be an album called The Kibbo Kift about a breakaway movement from the boy scouts. This was a factual thing, a factual subject, and well worth a look on the internet...

So I did just that, and found - to my amazement - that (once again) there were paralells to the things that I have been doing over the years. According to the Wikipedia article on the movement it had been inspired in part by the woodcraft laid down in the books of Ernest Thompson Seton, someone whom I had researched many years ago during my work on singing mice. This is true. Honest! You couldn't make stuff like this up!

I found this was a fascinating bit of history, and this was going to be a song cycle, like a concept album only we played it to Chris Parr, a theatre director, and he was very keen to put it on the stage. So we turned it into a musical. Still in exactly the same format, we merely staged it. This was done at the Travis theatre, the Edinburgh Festival and also at the Lyric, Hammersmith the following year, (1976). And this started myself and my songwriter at the time, Maxwell Hutchinson, on a series of stage musicals of different kinds.

One of these was pretty traditional, and didn’t actually get produced (traditional being where there is talking and then there is a song). Others which were more like operas, and eventually I became disenchanted with doing things in the theatre because it is just so difficult to get right – it is so difficult to get singing actors, well it was at the time, and it’s very difficult to make a good job of these shows with the kind of budgets that were available in subsidised theatre, to do a good musical show costs a great deal of money and I became disillusioned as to how well it was possible to do these things. How long they take to do and get on is unbelievable.

So I stopped doing those after a show called Mata Hari that I wrote with Lene Lovich, and that was the last stage musical I wanted to be involved with. But I still like the idea of telling a full length story with music so I evolved this sort of hybrid musical form which I call song story, or rather, John Ellis my guitar playing friend, named it song story. 'Cos I said what the hell am I going to call these things and he said call them song stories.

Jon: That’s an inspired idea, the name

Judge: It does what it says on the tin

Jon: The nearest that I’ve ever come to what you do with the song stories is the radio plays that Pete Townsend has done a couple of times. I don’t know if you heard the radio play he did of Lifehouse back, I think, for the Millennium Eve for the BBC

Judge: I remember reading about them. No, I have never heard it. He’s a clever chap, I’m sure they would be excellent. I ought to check those out. Well Tommy was a prototype in the genre...

For those of you interested, the radio play can be found as the last CD in the 6 CD Lifehouse Chronicles box set, which costs an insane amount of money. I also recommend the 1993 CD Psychoderelict which is another musical radio play..

Judge: If you are going to a song, then a song, then a song etc., it is incredible difficult to tell a story. It would take 8 or 9 hours before you can get a story done in that format. The format is very limiting you have got to be able to split things up. Do a musical where you can have short passages, short bits, things that don’t form themselves into a song, and you have got to be able to put those things together. Then you can start to convey a narrative. I have tried to do it just with songs - it is incredibly difficult. That’s how The Kibbo Kift, the first one, worked it was a series of songs but it was very hard to do and make sense and carry the whole narrative through.

This is the problems that leads to things like War of the Worlds where you have to have a narrator speaking in order to fill in the gaps. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it is not doing the whole job with words and music.

Jon: In Orfeas you actually went through a very, very old, in fact an ancient tradition, and had a 'chorus' didn’t you?

A Greek chorus (Greek: χορός, khoros) is a homogeneous, non-individualised group of performers in the plays of Classical Greece who comment with a collective voice on the dramatic action. The concept was taken by Shakespeare in Henry V with a single 'Chorus' who provided a commentary to what was going on.

Judge: Yes. I fancied the idea of trying to maintain some sort of contact with the idea of this story of an ancient myth, and my friend David Shaw Parker, who is an actor and what he calls a Mediterranean guitar player, in other words flamenco influenced acoustic guitarist, and a good singer, and a very funny man. I thought great, he wanted to be involved, so I created this idea of the bard for him to do, which is how a lot of my things tend to happen. I know who is available and who wants to be involved in a project, and then I work out how to use the stuff they do in order to tell my story.

Jon: Well, if the truth were known, probably Aristophanes or whoever it was who used that style first probably did exactly the same thing. There was some mate of his just down the road who played the lute he thought would be perfect for the part

Judge: Absolutely. Well it is, not wishing to be portentous, but the stories were originally sung in the great tradition the Greek epics were designed to be sung, Beowulf would have been sung to a harp or whatever, and so there is nothing new about binding a story with music and of course it has led to opera and so on, but it is a slightly different thing....

And there we must leave you for today. I would like to thank my lovely wife Corinna for transcribing the interview which is going to run over either two or three parts, and also - of course - to Judge, for being such an interesting and lively interviewee.

Whilst on the subject, why not check out Judge's Gonzo Artist page, with details of his CDs for sale through the company:

http://www.gonzomultimedia.co.uk/site.php?s=2&action=list_table&t=products&filter_id=152&dbf_search_for=Judge+Smith+%28artist%29&image.x=9&image.y=11
 

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