Interdisciplinary Project Proposal
I recently started to note song titles of the music I listen to on the wall of my studio space while painting and became aware of the ethereal 3 to 4 minute sections of lapsed time they represented. I began to recall the endless hours of radio filled time painting bed rooms, basements, hallways, living rooms, and lofts. Painting time.
I had been thinking about collaborating with Pierre Tol, a close friend, musician/ sound producer and performance artist for a while and I realised it may be the ideal opportunity to explore my relationship to music in a different way. I contacted him early in the New Year and we are both excited at the prospect. I will travel to his studio in Croatia during the Easter break where we will attempt to produce a durational sound piece. I plan to use recordings I have collected on cassette tape, LP and DAT–all largely obsolete formats. Ideally, I would like the piece to be structured like a standard working day –about 8 hours long including two 15 minute tea breaks and a half an hour lunch break. I’m not sure this is realistic given the time constraints and we have not as yet discussed the exact form the piece will take in any detail. If the work is unresolved after a week in the studio we will continue the collaboration on line. Pierre has made a number of records this way and this potentially represents a totally new way working for me- using the internet to make collaborative work from a distance.
I have always loved the way the Beatles track Revolution 9 (on their 1968 double album The White Album) sits incongruously amongst their finely crafted songs on the rest of the record. The track is a ‘cut up’ collage of chaotic sounds, tape loops, feedback and repetitive dialogue. John Lennon later revealed that” Revolution 9 was an unconscious picture of what I actually think will happen when it happens; just like a drawing of a revolution.”
I have a long standing interest in popular music, not only because of its viscerality but its ability to evoke time and place. In my opinion it stimulates memory and feeling in ways that almost defy description. The music I will be using will be very personal-the songs and sounds of people I have followed, known or worked with over the years. Some of them went on to bigger and better things but to all of us music is what Billy Childish describes as the work of true amateurs.
Interdisciplinary Project : Collaboration with Pierre Tol
When I arrived in Pula, Croatia I arranged to digitally transfer a selection of 30 cassettes I had brought with me from London. All in all it came to about 40 hours of recordings, demos and assorted fragments of sound which had remained un-played and gathering dust in a cardboard box for the best part of 20 years. The cassettes represented about a third of my audio archive-locked in an obsolete analogue past. Marco Racan, an old friend and sound engineer used Audacity software to transfer the material on to a memory stick and on first hearing the stuff through a mixing desk on crisp monitors I was struck at how well it had transitioned into the digital 21st century.
Pierre Tol and I met up in the days while the material was being transferred (it took a while) to discuss how we were going to proceed with this stack of material-to try and extract something evocative. I know Pierre's work well, as a performer and producer with his anarchic, experimental group Melted Men, as a song writer in his project Pappa’s Land and more recently as a sound installation artist.
My own past involvement in music seemed to be altogether more straight forward-the creation of 3/4 minute punk rock songs whose meaning lay in committed lyricism (rather too earnest at times, in retrospect) and guitar fuelled energy. And so, before we started any work as such we chatted informally over a couple of evenings - I was intrigued as to how he went about creating his albums, always culminating in vinyl, together with his fellow artists. How were these seemingly chaotic Dadaist experiments initiated in the first place and was there a main" song writer" for example? I didn’t record our conversations but took mental notes of the areas we covered and before I left I put some of those questions to him in writing. Pierre replied the following day-Melted Men rarely if ever give interviews and when on the rare occasions they had, they had descended into a surreal stream of consciousness and so I was optimistic.
Interview with Pierre Tol
RR.Would you describe yourselves as a band, a group, a collective, or what?
PT. Melted Men has been promoted and booked as a band, most of the time these shows were taking place in venues for bands, although we also played in the most various locations such as fairytale caves, art galleries, silos, theatres, gardens, museums, (ex-nazi) cinemas, we cancelled a show when we found out we had to play for the narcotic police in Tirol...But we are not a band, maybe a collective...as for Pappas Land, I would call it a duo-which it is.
RR. Can collectives be truly democratic?
PT. Dunno, decisions must be made quite ruthlessly-does it work or not, it this the right way? Not being afraid, you have to be open to any idea. I prefer anarchy with respect.
RR. How do you guys in Melted Men and Papa’s land actually start making a record? Do you have a “main songwriter” for example?
PT. Pappa’s Land songs are created on the spot in the studio while recording, although we do sometimes have lyrics or ideas written on pieces of paper beforehand. We create together and share the credits. We're giving each other direction and feedback during the process-in other words we produce each other. In Melted Men we exchange ideas, often online and bring prepared material to the studio and throw it into the mix, we only do “ single takes” which makes the recordings spontaneous- mistakes are welcomed- we like them. We do not rehearse.
RR. Could you briefly describe how performance and sound work at your gigs?
PT. We do not rehearse. It's loud, absurd, tribal, punk rock without guitars, avantgarde, Dada, Fluxus; a chaotic midget-golf circus, all you can eat, drums, car horns, samples, cement mixers, vocals, smoke alarms, popcorn spitters, shoe giveaways, live amputations and dance contests. We wear masks and costumes which we create ourselves, we also have props and instruments. The characters are ridiculous; we get our inspiration from the deep-south USA , from flea markets and the hunting and fishing department in Walmart. We also like food.
RR. I have heard that there were a number of instances at your gigs where a certain member of your group smashed up camera phones-what happened?
PT. It's very impolite to take photos or video when asked not to. We are not proud of breaking the recording devices of others, but you have to know -the shows were quite wild at some moments, we were all over the venues, not caged on stage, so while performing on the floor among the audience and getting a camera pointed at you- the reaction is as fast as the dynamic flow of the show. It’s probably happened to every one of us. We didn't only break phones- we’ve broken ribs and knees but never the audience’s - only our own.
RR. What is the group’s relationship with social media/the internet?
PT. Melted Men sell albums over the internet. But we don't allow the posting of music or video of live shows or recorded material on the net. We try to avoid the internet. We want the audience to be surprised-we think that seeing a Melted Men show should be an experience without expectations. The shows are live and not made for video or the internet. Pappa’s Land sell albums over the net, and we’ve recently posted some video collage clips on Youtube.
RR. What are the challenges of being in a trans-national group? How do you make it work?
PT. Patience. it's perhaps like dating someone from abroad-when you see each other you're very happy and have this amazing quality time, you can show the best of yourself.
RR. You’ve always loved vinyl...
PT. We never stopped making vinyl. Vinyl, quality wise, it’s like a master and it plays great - it has value. It also has a nice format for artwork.
RR. You've collaborated with visual artists before-sculptor Folkert de Jong and painters Marko Jakse and Bojan Sumonja. What are the main differences, if any, compared with musicians/performers?
PT. Working in collaborations is tremendous fun and it’s inspiring. It doesn't matter what disciplines are in the mix - what matters are the personalities - it's like going on an adventure - you want partners you can communicate with and share the max out of it, for the sake of a good experience.
I outlined my concept of a sound piece consisting of perhaps ten to twenty artists I've known, played with and supported-others who I had recorded on my Tascam 4 track back in the mid to late 80's.I had always wanted to create a compilation album of friends’ music -to engrave their sound on vinyl in an act of analogue homage but that ship seemed to have long since sailed and my thinking had instead drifted to the idea of somehow using radio-the painter and decorator’s paint spattered companion. I had snapped a few of these work transistors with a view to perhaps making paintings of them and I loved the notion of utilising the increasingly redundant FM wavelength as a medium on which to transmit the increasingly distant songs and sounds that had curdled and coalesced in my past. Pierre was aware that I had contemplated we make an 8 hour durational piece in line with the average working day but he felt it would be totally unrealistic. We agreed to return loosely to the idea of a conventional album consisting of roughly 14 songs, lasting an hour or so .This would at least give us some kind of structure.
On listening to the material a few days later I identified about 20 tracks that I thought should form the spine of the piece-songs that held particularly strong memories and associations for me : End of the line by Andy Spier, Eliot’s Song by the Rays, Uncertain Harbour by Past Caring, Living Hell by Phantom Limbs, I am a Tree by Harry the Hat, Coming up for air /Errol's ragga, Someone stole the Sun by Amp, Universal Mind by Candy, still on 4 track, Zoot Suit Master by Debbie And Brazil, still on 4 track, Gravy Train Julia’s mix, Guitar solo on Motorway by the Holy Joes, Petso Dobrilla's Theremin, Gimme a Gun by Strelnikoff, Andy Hair’s prison poem, Goldfish by the Radio Satellites, Cotton Mouth by Melted Men.
Pierre was excited by the Lo-Fi, DIY nature of many of the recordings particularly a couple of cassettes my brother and I had made from apartheid era radio in the late 70's, early 80's. He felt that the piece should really emphasise those qualities. We both came to realise that the work should not follow a kind of linear logic-instead what we should seek to create would be a cut up, degraded, raw and spontaneous thing. From that point on it was largely up to Pierre to interpret and respond to the archive in his own inimitable way. We settled on a 90 minute cut off point but the work remains open ended –we were both inspired by the collaboration and see this project as ongoing. The sound piece is still very much a work in progress and I hope to soon transmit it via one of my old FM radios.
MA Interim Exhibition at the Nunnery
From the outset of the preparations for the interim show I was determined to involve myself in it's organisation and eventual delivery. As one of about 10 volunteers on the exhibition committee we set about dividing up the work that needed to be done in order to make the show happen: publicity, social media, curation, hanging etc. Titling the exhibition was a little problematic largely due to the divergent views on the nature of the show - eventually resolved with a bit of give and take on all sides. It was agreed that there would be no theme as such and a size restriction should apply as wall space at the Nunnery was limited. A meeting was held in the canteen in order to familiarize ourselves with the paintings and to establish a basic hang.
The hanging and curation took place over two days –again, naturally, there were disagreements and strongly held views but with a little cajoling from Geraint, decisions were reached and the spirit was generally one of co-operation and compromise. On reflection I feel that enforcing the size restriction would have given the works a bit more ‘air’ and that electing two or three people to decide on the final curation may be worth a try, if only to speed up the process. I thought the show looked cohesive and all in all I found it a valuable experience having never helped organize a group show on this scale before.
When Dilek Yalcin proposed a group show at the Yunus Emre Institute in December, despite interest and excitement in showing, many in the group felt that it was just too soon into the MA to show publicly. At a group meeting in the cafeteria Geraint urged that we give ourselves more time to develop the idea and Dilek proposed a new date for early January. Some in the group felt uneasy about showing (political concerns regarding the Turkish government and a restriction on explicit subject matter) but I felt on balance it would be a constructive experience.
A group of exhibiting students met on January the 15th at the institute where, led by Geraint, issues around curation and the ‘nature of the space’ took place. It was noted that the gallery was not in line with many contemporary art spaces and contrasted with ideologically neutral spaces like the White Cube. This inevitably posed challenges in presentation and curation. Dilek explained the underlying idea of diversity and cultural exchange that underpinned the show. She went on to describe the thinking on how the paintings were ultimately hung. On the whole I found the experience pretty rewarding but felt that on a technical level the work was let down by the generic office lighting.