Babyslave at the Nightmare Rave Part 3

December 19, 2007 at 9:40 pm (electronic music, extreme music, Uncategorized)

Joe Ladyboy’s pic’n’mix guide to Portishead’s ATP 07:

1) The (very VERY) Good:

atpmontage1

(Portishead, Malcolm Middleton, Chrome Hoof, Sunn O))), Damo Suzuki, Seasick Steve, Thurston Moore, GZA and The “Porta-Wu”).

2) The Good (but not quite as good as the above):

atpmontage2

(Richard D Aphex Acieed III, Professor Branca, Kling Klang, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Autolux, The Blessing, The Horrors, Oneida)

3) The Mad, The Bad, The “ish” and The Downright Bloody Annoying:

atpmontage3

(Jukes, Malakai, Boris, St Julian Cope of Tamworth, Rosie Red Rash, John Parish, Earth, Sparklehorse)

4) Some random notes on the weekend:

i) Charlie Machine is either a very good gamesman, or a very lucky bastard when it comes to ten pin bowling. Either that or the rest of Babyslave are just woefully shit at “sport” in general.

ii) Julian Cope was my biggest disappointment of the weekend (and 2nd biggest disappointment of the year after Bonnie “Prince” Billy at the Royal Festival Hall in January). Liked the new album, loved the Japrocksampler book, but this performance was turgid, dull, uninspiring and completely lacking in both charisma and tunes – NOT words that you’d usually associate with a Julian Cope review.

iii) Shoulder massages rock. Particularly after 4 hours of ProgDoomMetal.

iv) So do waterslides designed for 8 years olds

v) The John Hurt chest-bursting scene in Alien IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY, OK!!!!

Sincerest Regards

Joe Ladyboy (December 2007)

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Babyslave at the Nightmare Rave Part 2

December 18, 2007 at 3:12 pm (Concepts, extreme music, Hypnotique) ()

Hello chums,

Hypnotique here playing blog triple-header catch-up from Charlie Machine’s part one ATP review.

Babyslave & friends took their first annual away day conference to the splendid All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Butlins, Minehead, Somerset. A kind of busman’s holiday on acid (or more specifically a cocktail of fine port, vodka, amino acids and whiskey smuggled into a Ribena bottle to evade festival security).

It was my first ATP and my first trip to Butlins, and I found the whole experience rather exciting, being used to the more typical Reading/Glastonbury kind of festival involving mud slides and deflating igloo tents (changing into a gothic fairy outfit in such surroundings to play the Poetry Stage at Glastonbury was one memorable gigging experience in 1998).

My two main observations on the ATP ethos thing is that although it is an out-and-out ‘alternative’ event, with a doom/American indie/neo folk slant (see Boris, Om, Sun)))) for terms of reference), hosting it in a holiday camp of contemporary chav dimensions (more Benny Hill than Belsen) presents a transition of the main streaming into the scene in a strange juxtaposition: Mr Wu Tang “Gizzer” Clan proclaiming “Hey Minehead, whazzup?’ being an ironic case in point (how doubly wondrous had he said “Hey Butlins, whazzup?’).
Secondly, everyone is very civilized for a festival. Admittedly they’re an older, tamer crowd than the Download, V or Glastonbury punters, but it lacked that Sunday night excitement of Reading in days of old when the Hell’s Angels would turn up to have a fist fight with the indie kids and turn over a chemical toilet or two. Although our chalet had poor fittings, removing the cistern was sure to involve industrial machinery we did not have to hand. Everyone politely waited their turn on the super-scary Space Bowl flume at the swimming pool and there was no death by drowning, no bottlings, and no crazy chalet parties till dawn. Like music scenes generally, the festival has evolved to become increasingly niche, ensconced in genre and lacking in tension. More of that later.

Day log:

– Friday 7th Dec
Myself and Charlie Machine finally arrived on site after various bus/ Butlins screw-ups having consumed a rather nice bottle of vintage port, sans stilton. Myself and Charlie were surprised to find we were staying in the kid’s room with beds somewhere between the size of a cot and single bed with plastic covers. Handy: wipe free. Joe Ladyboy showing off (as usual) that his chalet was better than ours and had a kitchen and oven and everything. Rock n roll.

– Sat 8th Dec

After a conversation on Friday with Charlie Machine about what a nasty but inspiring genius Stockhausen was, particularly his transition into electronic music because he could not control the performance parameters of acoustic musicians precisely enough, we awoke to hear the fiend had popped off to the great helicopter string quarter in the sky.
Stockhausen is dead: long live Stockhausen.
Synergy, synchronicity or the curse of Hypnotique? We all got mashed then watching Alien in the cinema. Can’t believe the other b-slaves left me in there, when I woke up I was scared rigid and thought I’d been taken into orbit with a giant squid.

– Sunday 10th Dec –

Braced the fierce coastal winds once more for final day of fun – that sad feeling of the holiday over almost before its begun. Made full use of the pool facilities.

– Mon 11th Dec –
Back to work, tired but revived. Just to prove you can’t stop the rock, I wound down by going to see the lovely Thomas Truax (like a modern day cabaret Harry Partch) play with Duke Special (a really charming band featuring a dreadlocked, make-up stained bandmaster from Northern Ireland) on a pirate ship in Bristol. And had by camera pinched by a wicked rogue with all the ATP pics. Feck.

Musical delights:

Portishead – this year’s ATP curators. Their first show in 10 years (where have you been?) after too long holed up in Easton, Bristol, smoking some big fat ones – and debuting material from their forthcoming new album. Shock horror: new material is heavy but upbeat, straying radically from the trip hop sound that became so iconoclastic. Beth Gibbon’s voice is as cracked and mesmerising as her fragile frame. Top Trumps.

The Horrors – big hairdos for big hair anthems. Proper heroin-chic rockstars straight out of a manga comic. Too much fun for this early in the festival!

Chrome Hoof
– more disco less metal than I remember from this year’s Supersonic, and they didn’t have the giant chrome hoof expanding into the ceiling, but they got us onto our pentangled dancing feet. Can you believe they are from Tottenham? I say more bassoons in rock.

Julian Cope – as a life long JC fan, I found this show appalling. Too much rock out, and not enough wall-to-wall classic tunes. I saw him play Nottingham this year and he was witty, tuneful and did some lovely stuff with the melotron. Not so at ATP – complained about the colour of his chalet, said said nothing until the end of the set and musically, compared to the other acts on the bill, played an obvious, bland and unoriginal set. Finally, he started his crowd rousing spiel at the end – too little too late. Copey’s fundamental problem seems to be that he IS the influence for many of the band’s playing: an English eccentric, a trusted curator and an originator – the Cornucopia shows at South Bank in 2000 reviving many classic krautrock and cult bands was inspiring. But Copey cannot BE the new generation of stars he bangs the drum for like Devandra Bernhardt, Om etc. He’s an aging rock star – more Bruce Springsteen than Andy Warhol. And letting down your lifelong fans because you’re in a stroppy mood or don’t like brown M&Ms/bathroom fittings is an unforgivable offence for ANY artist. Boo hiss.

Thurston Moore – it’s not fair that this Sonic genius is nearly 50 and looks 15. He is still cool as f*** and he still rocks. Mr Cope, take note.

Damo Suzuki – jamming with a selection of ATP musos including Geoff from Portishead. Not a long enough set for a proper immersion, but a good one. Damo is so little and lovely and cuddly – I think he is a Japanese Jesus.

Sunn))))
– enjoyed this immensely at Supersonic this year – imagine a deep, multi-layered, ever-growing drone with a man in an incredible outfit (part-Viking, part-giant courgette) lathered in heavy smoke, incanting in Latin in a super woofer bass-heavy voice. Not just a goth thing, but something quite primeval, medieval and transcendental. Not a dry (ice) eye in the house.

Hawk and a Hacksaw – didn’t get into this as much as previous shows, but good fun involving Hungarian fiddles and zithers. Interesting fact: mister HAIH used to be the drummer in Broadcast. Still begs question: how can Hungarian folk music be contemporary alternative music?

Rosie Red Rash – As I’ve been working recently with the music ‘industry’/ community in Bristol, I was keen to check out the many Bristolian pals of Portishead on the bill and ‘discover’ a new local talent. But on all occasions, I was so disappointed – the worst offenders being these ‘ladies’, four schoolgirls attempting punk – with no ability (though the bassist was fantastic) or songs, it appeared – but their fishnet tights were lovely. Sorry Portishead, it’s fine to ‘curate’ to scratch your friends’ backs, but make sure they deserve the platform of this nationally significant festival, as most of these acts seemed like they’d never left their bedrooms before, and should probably have stayed there.

Silver Apples
– Probably my festival highlight – a rare outings from Simeon and his oscillating wildly “Simeon” machine – kind of early invention of drum machines and trance from the 1960s, ferociously ahead of its time. His story is one of tragedy – failed recognition at the time for their two seminal albums, then a tragic accident at a gig during their 90s revival left Simeon predicted to never walk or play again – but miraculously he has, although his partner in crime in the meantime died. But Silver Apples are back, and the sounds are as hypnotic and lovely as before. Doing the groupie bit, I sidled over to his lounge table to give praise and got my photo taken with Mr S.

John Parrish
– piece of advice: write some fucking songs.

John Cooper Clarke – great gags, crap poetry from the Jack Kerouac of punk poetry.

Fuck Buttons – laptop duo who seriously rock. Fun.

Conclusions:
The underground musical future is diverse, healthy and growing its audience. But it seems to me that although some acts here did invent their genres, many are aping others, and there seems to be a dearth of true originality of style/performance. Too much clichéd post-ironic rock posturing or shoe-gazing ‘no performance’. As digital domains collide with real-world experiences, it seems to be that the proliferation of genres/scenes with no over-riding ‘movement’ is creating more homogenisation than originality, the bittersweet irony of globalisation. Maybe pop did eat itself?

Babyslave really should play ATP in 08. Once we’ve refined our 360 degree music/media offering, we will truly be ready to rock on a bigger stage.

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Babyslave at the Nightmare Rave

December 14, 2007 at 6:56 pm (Blogroll, Uncategorized)

There is something touchingly perfect about the conflation of the English holiday camp in midwinter and the kind of confrontational, experimental music associated with All Tomorrow’s Parties. The experience at Butlins in Minehead this year was given added poignancy by the death two days before of the arch obscurantist German Composer from the Dog Star, Sirius, Karlheinz Stockhausen. His name and demise was barely mentioned, but his invisible spirit could be discerned by those in the know, haunting the chalets and alleys of the proletarian pleasure ground, confused by the noises erupting from multiple stages, so different to the instructions he gave, even to some of his more productive disciples – two members of Can, for a start, whose spirit was so much more in evidence in the morphing play of Oneida or the very real presence of Damo Suzuki and even as a trace, but only as a trace, in the sonic ministrations of the rocking antiquarian Saint Julian of Cope.

The Babyslave camp had mixed feelings about some of the acts for sure, but there was a general sense of Portishead having curated with great skill and taste. Sunno)))) were simply stunning in their theatricality and interminably sustained sub-bass mantras. Chrome Hoof were astonishing – a hybrid of metal, acid house and the performativity of Earth, Wind and Fire, Machine has rarely been so excited by a live act. The Horrors were joyfully silly, Malcolm Middleton joyfully misanthropic, Aphex Twin drove out the second and third nights with inspired piece of DJ landscaping that kept the throng dancing dancing dancing, and Seasick Steve and Thurston were the delights you would expect. And then Portishead themselves, showed they had lost nothing and gained depth and strength over the past ten years.

Difficult to fault – aside perhaps from the transport. And the wind was wild. And the beer was weak. And the newspaper selection was limited. But as an unannounced tribute to and absolute perversion of everything Stockhausen once stood for, it was perfectly exquisite.

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Lacking Discipline in Cologne and Manchester

December 2, 2007 at 9:14 pm (Babyslave shows, Hypnotique, Rebellious Jukebox) (, )

Babyslave rocked in a French pop style on Nov 11 at the Ruby Lounge in Manchester for the Genius: Serge Gainsbourg night where the city’s finest young upstarts paid tribute to the great French philanderer. We played the obscure tune “Song of Slurs” (more “Fairytale of New York” than “Tears On My Pillow”) with a touch of choreography. Berets off also to Caro Snatch and Shirokuma who made a lovely musical pair with their version of “Harley David Son Of A Bitch” (en Francais, magnifique!) amongst others. Anyway, more musings coming soon from Charlie Machine on the day he became overtaken by the ghost of Serge Gainsbourg.

In the meantime, a few vignettes…

Dave Fox (aka Joe Ladyboy), the architect behind former stable of Babyslave Valentine Records, has launched a new Label 2.0 which is an un-label. The idea behind Rebellious Jukebox is to create a new netlabel where interesting experimenting (my prefered term to experimental) artists from Manchester and far beyond can colletively promote, debate, blog and rant under a cosier shared banner. Kicking off a series of monthly live night in Manchester’s Northern Quarter in Dec 07, the new year will see a series of free digital download EPs by its new roster which will include Caro Snatch, Shirokuma, Babyslave. and many more. It’s more of a bottom-up community than a top-down commissioning label, and quite probably the way forward for the localised music biz. For more news, watch this space.

On Sept 28th I hit a landmark birthday (21. Again) so decided to celebrate it by doing a crazy show in Club Tsunami in Cologne with my good friend and Valentine Records friend John Callaghan. Well, really it was John’s gig I crashed. After a bit of sightseeing by the Rhone and a visit to Saturn, the world’s largest CD store, we headed to Club Tsunami. The promoters from Club Tsunami and the Golden Pudel from Hamburg were lovely and put on a night of funky tunes suitable for a scarlet bunker, including a spiffing techno version of Gershon Kingsley’s “Popcorn“.

John entertained the Kolners with his usual nine costume changes auto-karaoke show featuring dresses, glow sticks, hats with dead dolls and other fun stuff. To give John a bit of a break, I did a number we wrote together called “You Lacked Discipline” while he got changed into another dress creation inside a box on stage. It’s a little heavy hardcore ditty with three magic words. John dared me to do it, it was a tough game but I think the leatherette police woman’s outfit helped pull it off.

Check out the video here.

Cheerio

Ms Hypnotique

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What’s In A Name?

September 10, 2007 at 6:16 pm (Babyslave Music, Concepts)

babyslaveep2-copy.jpg

Or, more specifically – what makes a good band name? A play on words? (Daisy Chainsaw, Captain Beefheart): Something which sounds smart, but ultimately means very little? (The Teardrop Explodes, Jane’s Addiction): Something lifted from literary and/or literal history (The Cure, The Fall or Franz Ferdinand?): Or just plain, understated and non-commital (like James, Can or even Blur?)

Etymology or Bust?

Or is it more about how we come to view these names within the context of the musicians who use them? The BEATLES is (if you actually consider the word itself) one of THE most crass/lazy puns in the history of popular culture, yet the very word “Beatles” (or even the phonetic “Beetles”?) has now become SO associated with that four-piece, popular beat combo from Liverpool that any other meaning or semantics within it (Les Beat, Beetles-with-an-A, a young skiffle band hoping to emulate Buddy Holly and The Crickets) are no longer relevant (just look it up on Google if you can be bothered to wade through 47,300,000+ references on the world wide web alone!).

Likewise: Joy Division Although the term itself comes from Yehiel De-Nur Ka-Tzentik’s 1955 novel “The House Of Dolls”, and refers specifically to the practice within certain Nazi concentration camps where Jewish women were housed for sexual slavery – I would suggest that (to the average man/woman-on-the-street in 2007) that it specifically (and exclusively) refers to the post-punk combo from Salford fronted by Ian Curtis.

Ditto Pink Floyd. Do the words make us think of the two unsung Carolina Bluesmen who inspired the name (i.e. Pink Anderson and Floyd Council), or does it make us think of Dark Side Of The Moon, Crazy Syd and David Gilmour’s (seemingly) endless guitar solos? No contest.

This doesn’t, however just apply to the rich and famous. A fair proportion of the “local” musicians/bands I’ve personally worked with have (initially) awkward names like DoubleJoHnGrey, iForwardRussia!, or iliketrains. Yet (after a time) any intention or reasoning behind/about these names becomes rather irrelevant – they simply refer to the group of musicians in question. Nothing more, nothing less.

And so, to “Babyslave”…

Well………Google (yet again) throws up some interesting answers: First up is a blog called “Master and Babyslave” – which describes the sub/dom lifestyle of two consenting middle age gay men. Nothing particularly shocking here (other than some stunningly dull web-design and naff use of cliched typefaces!)

Likewise www.myspace.com/babyslave – More of the same – fairly textbook Marquis De Sade (lite) – only this time from a heterosexual couple based in Dallas, Texas. “This weekend we went shopping, caught a film and went home and spanked each other whilst watching CSI Miami on Sky”. Well, good for you! Bravo!

More intriguingly, there’s a (rather touching) blog called “Motherhood: The S&M Perspective” written by another American woman about her relationship with her 3 year old son, affectionately referred to as the “little master” due to his constant demands for attention and love.. It’s well written, quite funny in places and has a lot more in common with Sue Townsend than it does Aleister Crowley. It’s also about as risqué as ITV1 on a Sunday evening.

Somewhat less appealingly (if you scroll in about 4 pages into google-search, with all “safety settings” removed) you’ll find just ONE, extremely distasteful piece of narrative, in the form of written paedophilic roleplay. Although I have no desire to recount it’s content here, I do concede that this would be a highly selective and arrogant blog-entry if I tried to deny that the term “Babyslave” also might have unpleasant connotations in relation to the abuse of minors.

HOWEVER…. I would also stress that I have, on my travels found just this ONE, solitary reference to paedophillia – as oppose to 80% of the links provided by Google which refer to a certain post-industrial music project from Manchester and Nottingham, fronted by Miss Hypnotique, yours truly and that-bloke-called-Charlie who used to be in the Monochrome Set. Yes, that’ll be Us then.

The rest of the references – as described above – are either adult roleplay (infantilism, relatively mild fetishism) and a lot of fairly meaningless sub-gothic posturing – not exactly a top-ten entry for “NAMBLA buzzwords of 2007”!

Indeed – if the name “Babyslave” really is a sensationalist example of taste-defying obscenity then what does this say about noted pop classics like “Babylove” (The Supremes) “Baby I Need Your Lovin” (The Temptations) and even cuddly Ronan Keating’s sickly sweet rendition of “Baby, Can I Hold You Tonight”?

Facetiousness aside (and I’m more than happy to debate the point here) – I think it says absolutely nothing. Beauty (or in this case an implication of vile thought or action) lies in the eye of the beholder…

So – what does Babyslave mean to US?

Well, personally, I see it as a reflection of the way socio-cultural expectations are imposed on the individual from birth. Speaking from a semi-priveleged first person perspective, that’ll be white, western, middle class preconceptions of 2.4 children, a mortgage and a steady career. However, this might as well apply to any other raft of global society. We are all (to a greater or lesser extent and for better/worse) defined and compromised by the circumstances of our birth and upbringing.

To me, it’s also about the tedious misuse of the term “Baby” in popular culture – both in terms of lowest-common-denominator lyrical content (yes, that means you again Mr Keating), but also the whole idea of in chauvinistic patriarchy in both the entertainment industry (and, indeed the world at large!)

Cue Little Baby Nothing by the Manic Street Preachers if you want a relevant lyrical critique of the subject.

Another good parallel (in terms of race as opposed to gender) is the debut LP by the late East-Coast rap pioneer Notorious B.I.G.: Ready To Die

Even at the time of its’ release, I was immediately struck by the powerful critical symbolism of it’s sleeve design – a tiny black baby (with all it’s inherent innocence) surrounded by a vast expanse of “white”. It was this kind of simple, yet emphatic visual/titular statement that I’d ideally like to aspire to with our future releases/projects. (n.b. – The fact that “Biggie” himself was shot dead within 18 months of the album’s release, to me underlines the point in the most damning way imaginable).

As for how this “relates” to the actual content of OUR work, I’m not so sure there’s a case for “controversy” here either. Of the four or five vocal tracks we’ve so far put in the public domain – we’ve got stuff about Arabian Nights, Telekinesis, David Icke pretending to be the messiah and a large helping of Naked Lunch inspired random cut-ups and pop trivia.

The rest is almost entirely instrumental and (to my mind) evokes artists like

Volcano The Bear, Fritz Lang, Volcano The Bear, Peter Saville, Throbbing Gristle, Can, Delia Derbyshire,Nurse With Wound, Brian Eno, Ennio Morricone, GirlsAloud and Marlene Dietrich

NOTHING to do with literal slavery (be it minors or adults), and certainly nothing to do with Frits Bernard or Gary Glitter.

Interpret as you will…

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Hands Off – world’s largest gathering of theremins

August 1, 2007 at 12:59 am (electronic music, theremin)

Hands Off UK theremin symposium, Bushey, July 30th 2007. Beatrix Ward-Fernandez Trio

Health warning: this post is proudly geeky and concerns one of my more unusual musical strings to the bow: theremin playing.

July 29th, I had the bizarre privilege of being part of a unique event – the world’s largest gathering of thereminists (we believe). Hands Off! took place from July 27-29th in the quaint rural retreat of Purcell School of Music in Bushey, Hertfordshire as a symposium for theremin players and lovers.

I arrived for the concert and farewell dinner and had obviously missed most of the action which included over 40 delegates from around the world (New York, Los Angeles, Austria, Switzerland and Germany all represented) learning how to improvise, play classical theremin, and exchange gossip, tips and tricks on making and playing. (An old car sticker: ‘thereminists do it with no hands’ springs to mine…)

Yes, I lose my cool, this was a Geekfest indeed. I even wore my ‘theremin addict’ T-shirt by Stoney (after a few drinks). An almost unimaginable collection of theremin families, teen proteges, men of a certain age (many wearing bow ties) and more facial hair and Etherwave Pros than Moog Music‘s stockroom.

There was an intriguing long afternoon concert with just about every kind of music represented:

First up, John Bernhardt from The Lothars (famed for playing theremin on a US beer commercial), a long haul visitor from Boston, was highly entertaining with his ‘songs you shouldn’t play on a theremin’ set – ‘Video Killed The Radio Star‘ (check it out on YouTube) complete with excellent facial ‘dancing’ (you can’t move when you play theremin) was a treat. One of the song’s writers (a keen thereminist) was in the house (alongside David Vanian from The Damned)wilco

Wilco then rocked out the first experimental set using his sonic hand glove, straight outa Doctor Who and the kind of innovation that the theremin’s inventor Lev Termin (Leon Theremin) would have relished. This photo of Wilco and daughter proves they indoctrinate ’em young into the ether cult in the flat lands of Holland…

The Beatrix Ward-Fernandez Trio played free improvisation. That’s the first time I’ve heard theremin played with tuba.

Spacedog clara 2.0 theremin doll

Spacedog UK
gave us a demonstration of when music meets science and technology, using theremin with Max MSP to trigger video and ‘Clara 2.0’ – a motorised doll that mirrored Sarah’s playing to automate theremin playing. She also played a mean version of ‘Mad World‘ on bells and saw.

The Radio Science Orchestra reminded us to remember the importance of Bob Moog, with the theremin triggering the Moog Voyager for an intriguing version of Dr Who and a world first of the theremin triggering a human voice’s pitch (vocoder style) for Somewhere Over The Rainbow.

radio science orchestra

Chris Conway, thereminChris Conway took us to the tea break (how civilised!) with his own version of celtic-influenced ambient music using loops and layers, texturing up the theremin.

Part two was classical theremin, with duos, trios and a quarter from two up-coming teen theremin proteges – Carolina Eyck (Gemany) and Charles Draper (UK), alongside the great maestro divas Lydia Kavina (Russia) and experimental player Barbara Buchholz (Germany). There was a mix of rare original compositions for theremin from 1930s, classical arrangements and contemporary works for theremin.
theremin trio

The material was really amazing as not only is playing as a theremin ensemble really technically demanding at best, it was incredibly musical – a feat rarely achieved anywhere in the world. Hats off (or hands off) especially to Barbara Bucholz for some truly trippy sonic arrangements of contemporary compositions, and Charles and Carolina for a very cute arrangement of all the theremin ‘cliches’ stars-on-45 street-style – everything from The Swan, Spellbound, Over The Rainbow…. ah, isn’t post-modernism great?

The event culminated in the debut performance of
The UK League of Thereminists – all participants got plugged in – from home made kits through to professional instruments (sadly no vintage RCA theremin in the house) – to have an experimental jam, ranging from a suprisingly accurate imitation of the TT races to a cute round of Frere Jacques (in good tune!).

For various reasons, I couldn’t commit to going beforehand so I didn’t end up playing in the main concert (under my stage name Miss Hypnotique – someone there called me ‘the good and the great of the theremin world’!), which was a shame, but I was delighted to be able to join in the world-record League of Thereminists (Guiness turned it down as an entry – amateurs!) and after-show jam.

There was a photo shoot of all attendees for The Word magazine – can’t wait to see the truly cult-like photo…

BIG THANKS to Gordon Chorlton and his wife Maya for organising this outstanding event, and JD and the many others who made it possible from a seedling vision to a reality.

I think the event revealed quite a few things:

– The diversity of performances and styles was astonishingly, all unite by this strange, intoxicating and frankly weird instrument, prove that the theremin isn’t a one-trick pony.

-The standard of playing has become incredibly dexterous and skilled – it’s not just about hitting the notes anymore or some kooky theatrics, it’s about discovering a diverse musical ecology.

– We still have a long way to go before all this exciting activity becomes truly ‘mainstream’, even in the underground music genres. It has to become truly cool.

For me personally, it’s also raised questions as to how my own playing fits in with all of this. On the one hand, I’m fired up to get back on the wagon and play seriously again. ‘Real life‘ has taken over recently and I’ve got a lot of catch up to do to get back to the diverse repertoire and shows I was doing in 2004/5. On the other, perhaps my role is as pioneer – did the first theremin radio show – now Spellbound, a weekly show, has taken over. Pushed classic theremin onto terrestrial tv, now it’s someone else’s mission to move it on to the next stage.

Theremin has not yet featured predominantly in Babyslave, but I theeink it should do more so in the future, both for dramatic performance and also because the unsettling eeriness suits our style. I feel a little melody coming on…

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Prussian Blue: Sensationalist or Censorship?

July 21, 2007 at 10:39 pm (extreme music, politics and society)

Saw that highly odd documentary on 4OD this week entitled Nazi Pop Twins about the music of White Supremesist teen folk duo Prussian Blue. Like most Channel 4 fodder, it’s typical ‘shock doc’ material designed to provoke a reaction. Actually, there’s a healthy debate on C4’s Culture forum about the programme.

Josh 933 comments:
“You can’t solve the ‘problem’ of extremism by simply outlawing it, you have to explain why there’s a better, more fulfilling, ideological alternative to the White Nationalists or whoever. Free speech for all, not some, that’s equality.”

There’s no denying that Prussian Blue’s material is one-dimensional, neo-nazi nonsense, stimulated by their barmy mother who is clearly three swastikas short of an SS Bunker. Teaching three-year-old daughter Dresden (yeah, really!) her ABC (“A is for Aryan, B is for Blood…”) case in point. The oh-so-cute smiley-Hitler T-shirts the girls wear and jig-round-the-swastika is a clever marketing ploy on mom’s part, but although they’ll never achieve commercial success, they’ve clearly already achieved what attention-seeking mom wants through appearances on ABC News etc. She is, after all, just a pushy mom with a copy of Mein Kampf nestled next to Mrs Beeton.

What really offended me about all this, wasn’t the fact that actually the girls couldn’t sing or play, their music was poor and songs mediocre. It wasn’t grandpops cattle brand in the shape of a swastika. It was the utter sensationalist and bias reporting of filmmaker James Quinn. Quite clearly, he had no interest in using his journalist skills to make an objective or intelligent report on the twins and the wider issue of rising anti-seminitism, ‘white pride’ etc, but intended to shoot and edit to portray the family in the worst possible light. The ‘band’ have fans, otherwise they wouldn’t be touring Europe, but the portrayal was they were vilified by everyone under the sun.

Like many of these shock-docs, the subject is the ‘butt’ and the film made under false pretences. The rare exception being the genuinally rounded documentary of Bernard Manning: Beyond the Grave on Channel 4 recently. Gave the self-confessed racist codger enough rope to hang himself while filming his own obituary. Bizarre, yet touching and very funny. Bless him.

I digress. The real danger I’m highlighting here is that censorship, or deliberately sensationalist coverage of so-called ‘extreme’ politics, art or music (remember Manning was a mainstream and highly successful TV comedian in the 1970s, and the National Socialists had a few ‘fans’ in the 1930s so it’s all contextual) is in itself an attack on liberal society. When I googled to try and hear some of Prussian Blue’s music to make up my own mind, I found their website had been temporarily taken down, the only presence on Myspace was an anti-Prussian Blue group and a pro-Prussian Blue group but no profile or music. These ‘closures’ are unlikely to be related. However, there was some material on YouTube including a bizarre ‘white pride’ rant message piece (with no indication of whether it was produced by the band or a fan) and a happy meadow video, which you can judge for yourself. (I’m actually suprised their videos did stay on YouTube given their heavy-handed censorship, I had heaps of trouble trying to post a humorous naked eclair video by John Callaghan). The comments onYouTube are usually dumb-ass and ignorant on a good day, but this one by the “Victory Day” video took it to another level:

“id love to rape them in theyre (sic) mouths and then stab the baby in the head just to show how not cool nazism is. word” – theodoubleg

So when I finally got to check it out, my conclusions:

– A few catchy numbers, bit Alan Morris for my tastes – had they got the souped-up funky production of Joe Ladyboy they might be passable, but I can’t see any of these getting played at the National Front Disco.

There’s nothing wrong with swimming against the sea, running against the grain, and creating controversy with what you do – it’s damn hard and puts you in a vulnerable and weak position in society, so you would only do it if you really believed in your view. As Winston Churchill put it:”You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something.” As I would say, “You’ve never seen enough until you get thrown out“. Or as Prussian Blue say “Stand up for what you believe in” (even if it’s hideously flawed and offends 99% of the globe).

Art and music exist to reflect and challenge conventional views of society. It’s happened in France already with the Paris riots and increasingly in UK and USA, we have increasingly divided communities, fuelled by events and policy (e.g. terrorism, immigration) and between what is perceived to be an inbalance in the treatment of how freedom of speech differs between races and so-called ‘positive discrimination’ policies in society. Some rappers in France openly convey anti-white lyrics. The debate on the merits and flaws of multiculturalism and integration has never run more fierce.

Like Sex Pistols, Throbbing Gristle, Laibach and Ken Livingstone, it can take some extremism to challenge and change society for the better. By cutting short the debate, the many-headed hydra under the surface will bubble and later explode. I would hate it if Babyslave‘s music was ever censored. We’re controversial, but we like to think in a philosophical way, but it’s better to be banned than to be compromised in what you do.

Yet it’s the so-called liberals who tend to be the most reluctant to have their viewpoints challenged. In the UK, it’s more socially acceptable to be a Communist, Anarchist or Animal Liberationist than a Fascist or British Nationalist – though all are forms of extremism that have been linked to the rise of violence and terrorism. There’s no peace and love in the ALF. Are Screwdriver a better or worse band that Chumbawumba? The later, of course, having ‘sold out’ to EMI to have a chart hit which served as a drinking song more than political rally. Personally, I believe the world is greater enriched by exploring both ‘extreme’ points of views. Paradoxically, porous ideas and cultures are, after all, what changes the world.

I myself have stood in the face of Eastbourne’s liberals for standing up for an alternative view point, to start a debate following the aftermath of the London 7/7 bombings. Those coming to the gig to be ‘shocked’ (as it claimed in advance publicity) by extreme art, Foxtrot Echo, Tony Wakeford et al, turned out to be easily offended (I faced fairly limp-wristed threats afterwards), as this ‘exhibit A‘ recording testifies…

In hindsight, I may not have said and did what I did at the gig, but it was an immediate and direct response to the political and society ‘demons’ dancing publicly at the time of recording. And I think Prussian Blue, when they get over their angst, testostorone adolescence will probably make some more tempered music, less skewed to holocaust denial and maybe something a bit happier, like chasing butterflies in that pretty meadow. Then no one will care about them anymore, their time will be done.

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Musings on “I Confess”

July 9, 2007 at 11:53 pm (Babyslave recordings)

Babyslave are going to do something clever soon involving download EPs – it’s the new 7″. Or cassette-only release fad. It may involve the colours pink and blue and it may involve a tribute to the luminary Industrial Records, but it’s all a bit hush-hush for now. It’s gonna be great – trust me!

Last week, myself and Mr Ladyboy gathered on his home turf ‘oop north’ to plan phase 2 of the Babyslave mission, and, as industrious as always we spanked out a few hits between Match Of The Day and Dr Who.

One that turned out rather nice was a 21st century rendition of that long-lost industrial classic, “I Confess” by Dorothy. It’s a sort of post-modern, self-referential, Serge Gainsbourg-esque effort at a jolly pop song by Dorothy Max Prior and Alex Fergusson who went on to join Psychic TV. It’s got that paedo-pop style ‘is she/isn’t she’ underage thing going on. Anyway, great article appeared on ‘tinternet via Kid Shirt’s blog to over-analyse this pop vignette in fine detail.

Blow me, if Miss Dorothy herself didn’t reply herself for what makes an intriguing post script to the “I Confess” story. It turns out that it was submitted (but sadly not shortlisted) for entry in Eurovision! I like the idea of her scrabbling together lyrics based on the contents of her floor. Very like Babyslave’s mode of operating, even for re-working this number.

It also seems that around 2005/06 was a year of syncronicity for “I Confess” coming back into the public’s consciousness, including a recall at an art show curated by Foxtrot Echo (former member of Coum Transmissions). Surely not the same controversial art show in Eastbourne where Hypnotique’s Pact With The Devil live album was recorded?

Anyway, when it’s all ready to sink your sweet teeth into, our version, packed full of contemporary references to a just-past culture (the namecheck of Kenny Gee had Joe in convulsions), will be up there as UK’s answer to ‘My Lovely Horse‘. Null point.

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Giving birth to Babyslave’s first gig

July 9, 2007 at 11:20 pm (Babyslave shows)

Subterfuge Flyer

15.06.07. 8
These numbers have such symmetry. Etched forever on our soles as the date when Babyslave came out of their back bedrooms and gave birth to a pool of kaos into the world.

Well it started like this…

I met up with the boys in Stockport for our first (and only) rehearsal. They say: ‘it’s grim up north’ and Manchester has ‘so much to answer for‘. Well Stockport, by comparison, has definitely been sent to Coventry.

After walking miles of dilapidated take-aways and industrial retail units, we finally arrive at our glamorous rehearsal studios in an imposing industrial mill. Furniture retailers and a dangerous looking gym (think: Krays personal suite). We get in the freight lift with our gear. It’s a bit erratic, jerky, never quite getting to the floor we want until….
Yep, we’re trapped in a lift waiting for the fire brigade. We have our instruments and beers so not all bad. Had ET moment peering out of the window to see men approaching in yellow helmets and what looked like atomic suits. Rescued by burly chaps with all the necessary equipment – how dramatic! I thought they’d cut us out with big chainsaws and stuff – but not so dramatic. They found the ‘security guard’ and fiddled with the leavers til out we scuttled. Bit of an anti-climax, but we lived to tell the tale. Rock and roll!

babyslave. lift in Stockportbabyslave. lift in Stockport

Above: Here we are, stuck in a lift awaiting our rescue in Stockport

The next night at the gig – repeat same. Salford Mill, an industrial mill-cum-artists hang out, this time in Salford, a similarly scenic and charming spot of the world where they are going to built the UK’s first Media City on the watery quays. On the less aquatic back streets, you’re more likely to feel the cool metallic sensation of a knife on your throat heading to the off license. A city of contrasts.

It would be fair to say Subterfuge was fairly low-key and casual. I wouldn’t say the organisation was lacking, just beyond opaque. Apparently the sound guy was having his dinner or something – we never saw him all night so we just did it ourselves. Still, it made for a nice communal vibe between the acts – and what a fun line-up.

The Matinee Orchestra enchanted the select crowd with some lovely, unexpected summery upbeat jazz-tinged numbers. Aspects of The Cardigans, but full of energy and optimism – in contrast to the sawdust-filled grimy surroundings.

Next up were two burlesque dancers. I just don’t get burlesque. Yes, it is an art, but to do art you have to be an artist, not an imitator. And to do burlesque you’ve got to be able to ‘do sexy’ even if you don’t look conventionally sexy. The men (and women) seem to look on in horror when she was undressing from a puffball party frock with a teddy bear to ‘Truly Scrumptious’. Truly excruciating. But in some ways, appropriately ‘industrial’ in its method and reaction, to ‘do sex’ and make it utterly unsexy – almost mechanistic.

Then Babyslave rocked da house. The line up being:

Hypnotique (voice, sax, theremin)
Charles Mansion (laptop, sax, violin, voice)
Joe Ladyboy (laptop, guitar and sorting the whole musical shebang out. Cheers for that).

We went for a mix of ‘hits’ and noise. Highlights being ‘To Each Their Own‘ (role-call of those beyond good and evil) and Joe’s latest ‘anthem’ ‘We Hate You Little Girls Aloud‘ – a tribute to Throbbing Gristle, 2007 style. Lots of ad-hoc madcap stuff in between featuring dualing alto saxophones, invention of a new high octane language for ‘Little Girls’ and opportunities to rock out and make a lot of pleasantly noisey feedback.

And the feedback from our small posse of pals who’d braved it to Salford was positive. Yay! We survived our first gig! Next time, hopefully we’ll dare to do a bit more of the music live, add some live visuals and be a bit more challenging – to ourselves and audience. It’s all very well doing confrontational music, but you have to know the audience is with you (helps if you’ve got an audience too), and know what you’re doing, so these low key ventures are a good thing – for now. Afterwards we were buzzing – must have been the vibe, or maybe the effects of the ‘chinese medicine’ Charles thrust in my paw before the show.

After us, there was an interesting turntablist act from Hull called Slippedisco. Kind of playing records from charity shops with bits of tape stuck to them to create lock grooves. Intriguing (unlistenable) stuff. Reminded me of Project Dark who I once gigged with, they made records out of materials (hair, sand, metal) and played them on gramophone records. Peel loved em. Apparently it was Slippedisco’s first gig outside of their hometown. Joe was keen to point how offensive I was to them to say “What you’ve never left Hull?”. I actually meant to say “you’ve never played outside Hull” but it obviously came out wrong. Apologies if any offense taken. Now it’s not often I apologise so lap it up, northern boys. I’m sure it’s very nice in Hull. Gotta be better than Salford.

The whole event, and surroundings, although skewing on Nathan Barley, was a suitably fitting place for Babyslave’s first gig. As always, I was operating on wing-and-a-prayer mode-da-operatus. Didn’t have anywhere to stay but the lovely Caro Snatch saw I wasn’t running the streets of Salford, Morrissey-style.

Today Salford, tomorrow – Salt Lake.
Or Budleigh Salterton?
Actually, we’re looking for some more shows, so even that would be OK. If you’re a promoter in Budleigh looking for a dada-inspired electro-noise act, please do get in touch…
Miss H

x

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Slave Neu World

July 2, 2007 at 12:18 am (Uncategorized)

Good morning, and welcome to the Lair of Eros.  Can we tempt you with tea?  Martini?  Martyrdom?

This is the appropriately collective blog of Babyslave – a music and performance art micro-collective in an industrial tradition who take inspiration from the work of Marcel Duchamp, William Burroughs and Luigi Russolo.   We are based in Manchester and Nottingham in England.

Blah, Blah, Blah…
For all the blurbs, discography and biogs see the Babyslave website

The purpose of this blog is to transmit, with the purpose of creating a record and archive,  our activities, philosophies and inspirations as we moved further into the internalised rituals of music-making…

So as to ensure we don’t move too far into our nether regions without making contact with what they call the ‘real world’.

Babyslave currently are – core members:

Hypnotique (voice, sax, theremin)
Joe Ladyboy (guitar, samples, synths)

…we recently have the pleasure to be joined by:

Charles Mansion (voice, sax)

Here’s some pretentious blurb on what our first mission is about, which we call The Lair of Eros:

“A circular journey into a world both seedy and corrupt, yet a reflection of that which lurks behind the gaudy shop front of the modern, apocolyptic-era consumerist society. The musical technique is one of oblique strategies yet also reverse psychology – where seemingly literal images create a sense of known narrative yet a converse, darker journey is undertaken, where beautiful landscapes sooth an aural picture of decay, and happy melodies dance folly a circus of bloody, human horrors.”

Join Us.

Ms Hypnotique

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