I’m off to Pontins this weekend, to a festival of music that’s been curated by Stewart Lee. I am very excited. Because, although “Stewart Lee” is probably my favourite comedian, the thing that first drew me to him was his taste in music.
Continue reading Stewart Lee
Of, relating to, or occurring in the period of drowsiness immediately preceding sleep. hypnagogic hallucinations.
I remember a couple of occasions in my life when I went to bed early, listening to the radio, and soon found myself floating in some sort of a reverie, conscious yet not quite awake, entranced by music more beautiful than I had ever thought possible.
With that in mind, I have put together a playlist of hypnagogic tunes on Spotify. Put it on by your bedside before you go to sleep. Perhaps put it on loop. I can’t promise you that magical, lucid feeling, but I do hope that your dreams will prove interesting.
“My name’s Dan, and I’m a progaholic”
Ever since the launch of Playlist Club, I’ve been dead excited about getting my weekly hit of curated sounds, and even more excited at the prospect of contributing a playlist myself. So much so, in fact, that ever since the club launched I’ve been filing away ideas for submission (currently 12 playlists-in-waiting, and growing).
Most of these will never see the light of day, and it could be months yet before I’m assigned a slot, so in the meantime I thought I’d toss something out for shits & giggles. You Shouldn’t Do That [Spotify] follows the rules of the club; almost. Admittedly, there are 30 minute tracks, but they were not sneaked in so much as paraded slowly in on a juggernaut covered with bells. Thing is, this playlist is so irredeemably self-indulgent that I wouldn’t have the balls to unleash it under anyone else’s banner, much less expect someone to bother listening to it the whole way through.
I love proggy, choppy, changey, lenthy, self-indulgent twaddle. I spent way too much time listening to this sort of stuff in my teens, then became a bit too self-conscious and swept-it all under the carpet; but in the comfort of middle-age, I’m ready to out myself as a fan of excess. I think the turning point came when Karlheinz Stockhausen died, and I played 25 minutes of his “Sirius” on my Sheffield Live radio show. I cringed a bit while doing it; I fully expected to be shot down in flames. But something surprising happened: I started getting emails & messages of thanks, in fact I got more positive feedback about that one track than anything else I ever played on the show. And it made me realise: sometimes I self-censor far too much for the benefit of an imagined everyman. There’s nothing wrong with following one’s own peculiar urges once in a while, in fact, it’s healthy. And so I produced a laughably decadent, egotistically baroque Spotify playlist, and am putting it out there for the world to
hear ignore. Enjoy it. I, at least, will.
Postscript: there is a big hole at the centre of this playlist where some Cardiacs ought to be. Sadly, none of their tracks are on Spotify (there’s some amazing videos on Youtube though). Originally, I made a nod towards this by including William D Drake’s Stone Carnation [Spotify] as the first track, but last night I heard Proper Rock by The Chap and — although it’s a bit, you know, poppy — it’s a gorgeous tune, with a slight Cardiacs feel to it, and the lyrics make a wry commentary on the rest of the playlist.
Listen to You Shouldn’t Do That on Spotify
Proper Rock – The Chap
My Favourite Things – John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones
Elders – Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society
You Shouldn’t Do That – Hawkwind
Yours Is No Disgrace – Yes
Down In The Sewer – The Stranglers
Spillane – John Zorn
You Never Blow Your Trip Forever – Gong
A few weeks ago, Cherry Red Promotions very kindly asked me to play my Desert Island Discs at their monthly Desert Island Disco at The Shakespeare in Sheffield. Here are the tracks I picked, in the order in which I played ‘em. Lizzie also produced a little booklet, handed out on the night, and the following descriptions appeared in it:
1: The Lake of Puppies – Largelife
I got married to this song! “To have and to hold, the stuff in my hands, and if my hands are small, all that I hold must be even smaller…. Be it a large or a small world, nothing is larger than life.”
2: Cardiacs – Manhoo
Cardiacs are the one constant in my life: I could have filled this entire list with their songs. Manhoo is perfect pop, something the Beatles would have written if they’d still been on-form in the mid-90s. I like to think of it as the final word on all the Blur/Oasis nonsense going on at the time.
3: Material – Disappearing
As a student bass player, I had four heroes: first Lemmy, then JJ Burnel, Chris Squire, and finally Bill Laswell. Laswell introduced me to a world of music I had no idea existed (after 20 consecutive listens to Last Exit’s Noise of Trouble, I suddenly “got” free noise). He made me realise I didn’t need heroes any more. This is one of his funkiest tracks, which also introduced me to the sax of Henry Threadgill and guitar of Sonny Sharrock, both of whom also deserve to be on my desert island.
4: The Fuzztones – 1-2-5
Makes me feel like a teenager again.
5: Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society – When We Return
A beautiful, mysterious beginning and ending, joined by the most insane-yet-somehow-logical magical manic middle mess. The world’s greatest drummer keeps time while Vernon Reid rocks his fucking socks off. If I could just keep one of the eight, it would be this.
6: Claude Debussy – Claire de Lune
It feels like these five minutes describe an entire lifetime: from the first tentative movements of a baby, through increasing confidence and experience, to a noble, wise and peaceful death. When you bury me, please do it to this piano piece.
7: Caspar Brötzmann Massaker – Tribe
…and when I come back as a zombie, I’d like to hear this pumping out at a few hundred decibels. Immense! Terrifying! German!
8: Ooberman – Blossoms Falling (accoustic version)
Sunday morning lie-ins. True love. Warm, fuzzy perfection. Love you Gill!
Book:Viriconium Nights by M John Harrison
Reading this, during a lost-weekend in Amsterdam, changed my life. Made me realise stories don’t need endings, fantasies aren’t real, and some people waste a lifetime trying to get to the other side of the looking-glass. I think I grew up that weekend. This book contains nothing but language and imagery; but I could lose myself forever in it.
Buy Viriconium by M John Harrison on Amazon
Luxury: an oojamaflip
One thing I’m forever searching for, so I probably ought to have one handy on my desert island.
Of course, eight records is never enough. I brought a few extra, in the hope that there’d be some spare time at the end, and indeed there was – I managed to slip in a whole side of the Cramps’ Off The Bone. But what really limited me was not being able to play many very long tracks. Here’s a couple which have just as much right to be included as the other eight:
9: Henry Threadgill’s Very Very Circus – Hope A Hope A
One of the most sublime orchestrations ever created – who else but Henry Threadgill would replace the bass with two tubas, and back up battling electric guitars with a trombone and a french horn. I saw this live at the Queen Elizabeth Hall with my friend Ed: probably the best gig I’ve ever been to.
10: Igor Stravinsky – The Rite of Spring
When I was around 19, I decided to “get into” classical music. So I picked a CD at random from my Dad’s collection. Boy, was I surprised. It knocked me off my feet, punkier than the punkiest punk I’d ever heard. It was The Rite of Spring, performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra (still the most violent version of this music I’ve ever heard – and I’ve heard many). However, for my desert island I think I’d pick Fazil Say’s four-handed piano version: surprisingly, just as rich and dischordant as the orchestral version, at times more so.
Finally, one of the other desert islanders picked a Blur track for his list, and explained that he’d listened almost exclusively to classical music until Blur awakened him to the possibilities of popular music. I hadn’t though about this beforehand, but Blur did something very similar for me: from around 1990 to 1995, I listened only to jazz, improvised music and other forms of avant-garde noiseism. I considered myself above crass pop songs. Then by chance I saw a Blur video, Sunday Sunday, on a late night TV show, and I was surprised by the intelligence and beauty of it. From then on, I never looked down on pop music, and my tasted expanded to include a bit of everything. So I really owe a place in this list to Blur, and of all their tracks I think the one I’d pick is the oh-so-beautiful Tender.
Postscript: I’m loving the SEO Smart Links WordPress plugin, if only because its automatically-generated links remind me of stuff I wrote ages ago and have forgotten. Case in point: Check out the “Henry Threadgill” and “When We Return” links above.
The more observant of you may have noticed that 25th December falls on a Tuesday this year. And that my radio show, Empty Space, is also broadcast on a Tuesday.
Next Tuesday I will in the studio as usual, broadcasting across Sheffield and the world. But as Christmas is all about spending time with your family, I’ll be dragging my wife and kids along with me.
Continue reading Christmas on the Radio
Over a Stuck Between Stations there’s a great compilation of all those terrible music videos which you just can’t get out of your head. And, yes, Nimoy is there: “drawing a parallel between Hobbit and Vulcan strap-on ears was a gesture of fantasy brilliance”.
Anyone who knows me knows my beards. Until my wedding day (on 1/2/3 – or 2/1/3 if you’re American) I went clean-shaven for most of my life. But on that happy day, I got best-man Ed to carve something new in my face, inspired by my new Paul Smith suit complete with thigh-length drape jacket.
Ever since then, I’ve kept some variation on the same theme. Since Gill and I never did get around to exchanging rings (and since Ed had promised to make us wedding rings), I guess you could say that my facial hair is my wedding ring (NB: the same doesn’t apply to Gill). It has evolved since then though: through subtle changes in facial anatomy and less subtle rescue jobs on shaving cock-ups, it has crept around my face, grown thicker and thinner, stripes have changed position, angle and number. A few months ago at Razor Stiletto I had my face painted, tiger-style, with a couple of beard-stripes doubling up as tiger-patterning. When I got home, I thought I’d take the similarity further (forgetting that I had done something very similar exactly two years earlier).
Going tiger-striped seems to have inspired me to new shaving confidence, and to trust my facial hair to find its own shape. Shaving has now become an almost meditative activity, a sort of automatic-drawing but with a sharp implement, where I allow the contours of my face and the movement of my razor to conjure up new patterns of their own, with little conscious intervention from me. As a result, things have got sort of… well, fancy.
Here’s the latest result:
For the first few days after it shaved itself, I couldn’t help thinking that the design was somehow familiar. I was sure I’d seen it somewhere before. Then it struck me: it looked just like the logo for 70s French operatic prog-rock band Magma. OK, so it actually looks quite different now that I’ve seen the original again, but it was close enough to jog my memory.
Any suggestions as to which prog heroes’ logo I should carve into my chin next? Hmmm, carve into my chin… [thinks]… my face could become like some sort of prog-rock Mount Rushmore.
Yesterday I went to the 1234 festival, organised by our mates at 1234 records. With my “Access All Areas” press pass, I had some fun backstage and got a few decent photos (appearing soon on Dan Shot Me – a couple are already up on Flickr). Didn’t catch a lot of music, although I was very happy to grab the end of Man Like Me‘s set – I saw them last December on the Vice tour, where they were the highlight of the evening.
I hooked up with Jan while I was there, and the two of us pootled around photographing everything, him with his little compact camera and me with another Heath Robinson-esque flash rig, which Suz has described as looking “like a portable version of the Fylingdales Early Warning Station in Yorkshire”. Here’s a photo Jan took of me and my rig: