tinhuvielartanis: (ELO)
I’ve been doing some hardcore servicing on my computer.  The keyboard and touch pad were starting to act up shortly before the trip to Los Angeles.  A few days after I got back to San Diego, the computer flew al to hell.  So I’ve been working on it; thus, my delay in relaying the rest of the Los Angeles story.  I think everything is sorted, now, so onward and upward!

I'll only be posting a fraction of the images I took whilst in LA, but you can click this pic to access all of them, if you wish.  Also, the original size pics are only a click away from the pics I posted here, so get that mouse to moving!

Our only two forays into Touristville was our trip to the La Brea Tar Pits museum (the Mother Unit and I went to the pits last year, but did not go into the museum.).  I don't think I've ever been in the presence of so many bones and fossils.  It was awesome.

Then Andy needed to go to the Harley store to get his sister-in-law a shot glass that said Los Angeles on it, so we found ourselves battling the cast of thousands on the streets, who oblivious to nothing but the stars embedded in the sidewalk, and legendary locales like Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.  I stayed in the car while Andy ran his Harley errand.  I would only have slowed him down, and the clock was beginning to tick by then.

After escaping the tourist traps, it was off to House of Pies.  This is a great hang-out place, and my biggest regret is not actually getting a piece of actual flipping pie from there!  There’s always a next time, and a slice of blueberry cheesecake with my name on it, trust me.

Now, I was under the impression we were meeting only Paul, because Richard was in Las Vegas.  When I got a text on the way to the restaurant informing us that we were on for 3 PM, I thought it was Paul.  Andy and I got there a little early to get us a booth and, shortly thereafter, Paul showed up.  I was taken aback a little, because I had forgotten he’d shaved, so I was expecting the furry edition of the beleaguered Jack Cucchiaio.  We gleefully chatted for a few minutes and Paul and Andy got acquainted, when Richard Gale showed up, which surprised the fuck out of me.  I figured we wouldn’t have a chance to meet him, because he was out of town, and all.  He even brought me a Ginosaji spoon, which is the last thing I expected, because I contributed without requesting any perks.  The perk for me is to see this film come to fruition.  If I had my way, the people with the real talent, in my opinion, which is the only one that matters, would have endless funds for their projects, frighteningly organised promotional work, everything they need at their fingertips, and 100% creative control of their own work.  It was the only way to change the music business, which we’ve seen on almost every level, and I believe that’s how it’s going to end up in what we still call “Hollywood.”  Anyone with any shred of talent, and imagination, and a Tribe that will back them up no matter what will eventually own the world. Jeff Lynne found that out initially at Hyde Park.  He’s still being shocked by it all.  It couldn’t happen to a better person, except people like Barry Andrews and Richard Gale.

The Spoon of the Ginosaji has found a place of honour next to my baby dancing Groot.  Behold the oddest couple in fandom!

Our early dinner lasted longer than expected.  We talked movies, film-making, music, and general tomfoolery until it almost ran Paul and Richard late.  I thanked them for being two of about ten people on this planet to make me genuinely happy and laugh since 2011.  That means more than most everyone can possibly realise.

Richard introduced Andy to the wonders of Uber, which saved our butts as far as getting to the Hollywood Bowl in time, we took an awesome picture, courtesy of the kind cashier at House of Pies, and reluctantly parted ways, promising to do it again soon.

Both Paul and Richard are funny, talented, delightful souls, filled with stories about what it’s like to live and work in Los Angeles.  It was deeply insightful, none of which I’m sharing here, because I haven’t asked permission to share, and there are some things that just shouldn’t be public without the consent of the persons to whom it happened.

I will say that the Ginosaji movie is progressing nicely and is beginning to live up to its description as epic on a level that’s hard to imagine.  Impressed doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel about the project.  I can’t wait for it to all be a reality.

Before heading back to the apartment, Andy wanted to go get the tee with the space cat invaders, so we hied down to the shop to find it.  Whilst there, I found a shirt that was so anti-this trip, I knew I had to have it.  I’m not one to buy frivolous stuff for myself, but I knew this would always conjure the memory of the grooviest birthday I’ve had so far whilst incarcerated in this current veil of tears, and it was only $10, so I took my chances, in more ways than one.  They only had the one shirt, and it was a woman’s medium.  Since I’m still having problems figuring out what can and can’t fit me, I decided to go for it anyway.  Luckily, it fit perfectly, so I wore it with my galaxy pants, because you can’t go to an ELO concert without having the cosmos nearby for their spaceship to have a place along which to triumphantly coast.

Jumping into our Uber with a tad of time to spare (we would have been woefully late, had it not been for Richard’s suggestion.  Thank you for that!), Andy and I were on our way to what I believed would be a defining Life Moment, and Andy was keen on a concert at the Hollywood Bowl.  He specifically said that he wasn’t tingly like I probably was.*  Since I tend to try to keep my emotions in check, my tingle factor was definitely present, but I did my level best to keep it together as we hunted for our seats, which was relatively.  The folks who work at the Hollywood Bowl are quite courteous and helpful.  They’ll also read you the riot act and not give you entrance if you have a camera that even vaguely looks professional.  Mine does not, but I didn’t want to take the chance of losing my camera, so I took my iPhone, which has a very good camera, so I wasn’t too very lower-lippy about leaving the camera at Brian’s apartment.

Andy’s phone had very little charge and he was responsible for the Uber ride back from Hollywood Bowl, so it was up to me to get as many decent pictures as I possibly could.  I even managed to get part of All Over the World, which was personally important, since it was Xanadu that officially introduced me to the Electric Light Orchestra.

The concert began with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, conducted by unspeakably cool Thomas Wilkins, playing pieces from English composers, like the lush Nimrod by Edward Elgar, which thrilled Andy no end, considering it’s one of his favourite pieces and and he can play it on organ.  I wish I had that kind of talent.

Being raised on various Classical composers (like Antonín Dvorak and Johann Strauss) along with the Beatles, the Carpenters, and early Electronica like Popcorn by Hot Butter, I was eating the opening act by the orchestra up like a thirsty dude in the desert who just found a water fountain.

When Jeff Lynne and his band finally took the stage, it was nothing short of a religious experience, especially since the opening song was Tightrope, which is one of the closest songs you’ll ever get Jeff Lynne to being cynical.  Even then, it turns out in the end.  Yes, I admit, I got teary.


All of the songs the band played were their classics, and they were played with precisions.  The only exception was the single release from the new album, Alone in the Universe, When I Was a Boy.  Despite his hearing the new album prior to the concert, Andy was very deeply impressed with Jeff Lynne’s autobiographical opus.

After the concert, I said on Facebook, “No words.”  Honestly, I’m still having problems putting into words the experience I had at the ELO concert.  It turned me into Ellie Arroway, no doubt about it.

I had a suspicion he might do All over the World, but knew there was no hope for Xanadu or the title track from Eldorado.  Jeff just doesn't consider Xanadu to be his best work, and Eldorado is just too obscure for your "basic fan", whatever that means.

There was one song that brought me by surprise, and that was Wild West Hero, which they did with the a cappella in tact.  I thought I was taping that portion of the concert but, unfortunately, I screwed that up big time.  Wild West Hero is my second favourite ELO song, specifically because of the a cappella portion of the piece.  You can hear the breath, albeit very slightly and you need headphones, in between each phrase in the song.  It makes it real.  It makes it human.  It makes it breathtakingly beautiful.  Anyone interested in seeing the concert, along with this exceptional performance, you need only click the embedded video here, with the masterpiece in question beginning at 50:30:

As Richard and I had discussed earlier, the subtly of sound makes all the difference in anything, be it music or film.  If you can’t appreciate that, you’re losing a completely vital portion of your creative process.  Unless it’s a silent film or sommat, then you have to be living in the 20s or be Mel Brooks!

I must freely admit that it was during this song that I lost my shit.  I never expected to hear Wild West Hero live.  Ever.  EVER.  EVER EVER EVER. And that harks back to my initial statement that you never know what’s going to happen in this crazy existence.  Ten years, I never expected to be in England meeting one of my heroes.  Ten years later, I never expected to be in the presence of my first ever hero singing a song that only hardcore fans know by heart and audiophiles need a cigarette after hearing it.

Just as I’d heard from concert goers from previous concerts, there were moments Jeff would forget the lyrics.  None of that mattered, though.  The audience, most of us who had already forgotten what we had for breakfast that day (except for me and the Popeye’s Breakfast I’m craving like crazy right now), filled in the blanks for him.  Besides, it showed that Jeff Lynne is human and aging along with his fans, both older hardcore fans, and his new generation.  It shouldn’t be held against him for interchanging the occasional lyric the man wrote 40 years ago.  We should all just be lucky he’s willing to get up there and sing it live for us, when none of us expected to ever see him on stage again, especially not in this capacity.

His typical banter in between songs was “Thank you so much,” with his thumbs in the air.  This wasn’t surprising, coming from a man who said four words after being cornered in a studio back in 1979, that made me fall in love with him.  He was ambushed by an interviewer who asked why the band were named “Electric Light Orchrstra.”  Jeff’s reply, short, sweet, to the point, was, “Uhm...well… why not?” Right then and there, I wanted to be an eccentric recluse.  Got my wish. Haha!  What surprised me was that, even after all the concerts he’s done since Hyde Park, and the worshipful reception he’s gotten every single place he’s played, he’s still shocked and humbled that so many of us are there for him, singing with him, celebrating his life like he never expected it would be.

Paul saw the band at their lowest point in 1986.  I wish he could have been there to see how drastically times have changed that ebb in their career, and see how the band was always supposed to be seen live.  Even though always called Electric Light Orchestra, the orchestral part would still be lost to the electric instrumentation, despite the sound department doing the best they could with what they had to work with at the time.  Technology has finally caught up with Jeff Lynne’s vision, and we who never got to see the orchestra during their supposed heyday, got to see and experience something that is unique and miraculous to our times.  We got to see ELO the way Jeff Lynne always envisioned it.  There were live bands, then there were bands whose light shone brightest in the studio.  What Jeff Lynne finally got to do was bring his fans into his studio and let us see, at least in part, what he sees in his mind when making the music we so adore.

Prior to the concert, Andy asked me what I thought their opener and encore would be.  Getting it completely wrong, I suggested Last Train to London and Mr. Blue Sky.  As mentioned above, Tightrope opened and the perfect marriage of Rock and Classic closed us out with Roll over Beethoven along with perfectly-timed fireworks.

It took us a while to get out of the area, and it was such a relief to get back to the apartment and just lie there, basking in the glory I just had the honour of experiencing.  Even though I was exhausted, I didn’t sleep the entire night.  My inner vision was too filled with astronomical imagery, and my inner song was pure harmony.  I figured I wouldn’t sleep the night of the concert, so I had it in my head to do all the laundry and perform any other duties to ensure Brian’s apartment was exactly as he had left it, or at least as close to that as possible.  The problem was, I didn’t know where the washer and dryer were and couldn’t find them.  Texting Brian, I revealed my intentions, but he would have none of it.  So I limited my restoration to cleaning everything I could, and triple-checking everything I could think of…  I haven't heard any complaints, so I'm hoping we left Brian's uber-groovy pad just as fabulicious as it was when we arrived.

*I would like to note that, by the end of the concert, Andy admitted to being more than a little tingly.  HA!

tinhuvielartanis: (Jeff Lynne)
I just don't even know what to do with myself right now.  I needed to mark this moment, but I'm barely dealing with the incomprehensibility of it to feel like I would be making much sense.  So I'm just gonna let the pic speak for itself, and go scream in a pillow for an hour or two. Now, if only SHRIEKBACK would come to Cali and play a concert...

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 4.29.58 PM.png

tinhuvielartanis: (PSA)

MasterBAG Newsbag

"The fact that it isn’t breaking its back to be anything is quite liberating," says Barry Andrews, pondering over the music he’s currently making with Shriekback. "It’s what it is – individuality is quite refreshing. Like those old guys who walk down Oxford Street carrying banners saying ‘stop eating peanuts’. It makes you feel good about people."

Specifically, he means a new single called "Sexthinkone" and a mini-LP labeled "Tench". Both are on Dick O’Dell’s Y Records, and both their sound and the manner of their making suggest something a little bit out of the ordinary.

There’s the basic nucleus of Shriekback, for a start. It’s a trio – Barry Andrews, Gang of Four’s former bassist Dave Allen and guitarist Carl Marsh, who used to be with Out on Blue Six. On top of these three, any number of friends and accomplices might drop by the studio to help out. "Sexthinkone" itself features departed member Brian Nevill on percussion, plus Linda Nevill and Andrea Oliver on vocals, a strange character allegedly called Carlo Lucius Asciutti on piano and xylophone and Dick O’Dell himself on "paperweight and claptrap of death".

Dave Allen, who talks most, backtracks. "What I wanted to do was get together a loose collective of people where you would maintain a sort of unit, but it wouldn’t ever be a band. It would come out with a lot of material that would involve a lot of people that you wouldn’t necessarily keep on.

"We’ve got to the point where the three of us now work together very well and very easily, and this is the unit. Now we just invite people down who we think would be suitable to perform on our tracks, so it’s like a very loose collective with Shriekback as the sort of mentors and producers."

Andrews – who used to be with XTC – and Allen both shudder when they think back on their days with big groups on major labels. Both loathed the duhumanising process of touring, and both now find it incredible to think back on the thoughtlessness with which groups are sucked into the ponderous mechanisms of "rock’n’roll" and its attendant money-wasting potential.

Andrews: "I hesitate to use the word ‘decadent’, but that’s what it is. Working with Y means a lot more work on our part, like we actually have to do a lot of stuff like artwork and looking after day to day logistics ourselves, but it also means you know who’s responsible for what and things don’t keep getting passed round offices."

Carl Marsh chips in: "If a group like this had been involved in a major label it’s possible it wouldn’t have survived the process, because there’s so many pigeonholes you’re supposed to fit into."

For example, the "Tench" LP contains some 26 minutes’ worth of music and retails at £2.99. "People can afford £2.99," says Dave Allen. "Skidoo proved it. There’s just no reason to put out 10 or 12 tracks, four of which you don’t really like, and sell it for £4.50 because the record company want to get its money back."

Shriekback have kept operating costs to a minimum by seeking out various small, cheap London studios, and recorded "Tench" at KPM, a 16 track demo studio owned by their music publishers EMI Publishing. It had never occurred to anybody before to make records there, but as the Shrieks point out, there simply isn’t any good reason to spend £50 and upwards an hour in a big-name studio when you can achieve excellent results at a third of that cost.

And the music? As Andrews points out, it’s my job to label it, not his, but I’m at a loss for some glib handle to attach to it. How can you describe the ominous stalking of "Mothloop", or the curious obliqueness of "All the Greekboys (Do The Handwalk)"? The photograph on the label of "Tench", by the way , inspired the latter song. "I think he’s probably Turkish, but it didn’t scan," confides Andrews.

But mark my words, there may be a new force in the land.

Adam Sweeting

Masterbag July 8-21 1982

Tench has been reissued and remastered, with additional tracks and a bonus CD of their never-before-released 1983 Detroit concert. You can purchase this via their store on Burning Shed by clicking the Tench pic. Order before 1 September, and you will also receive the Shriek/Thee Caretakers collaborative effort free!

tinhuvielartanis: (Shriekback Logo)

The band have posted an hour-long interview, answering fans' questions. Take a gander, and don't forget to pick up a copy of Without Real String or Fish.

tinhuvielartanis: (RepLogo)


Big Electric Energy

by Lesley Sly

They are tired of being cult heroes – Shriekback, the weird studio band, the unpredictable performers. Their new line-up, tour and album were the firt lap in a drive for wider acceptance. Head shrieker, Barry Andrews, maps out the course.

The Shriekback of old was, by their own admission, chaotic and experimental. They were machine-men, dabbling with drum computers and Fairlights, every song a loose sketch from backing track to overdub. And live, it was jam science.

But the Shriekback that stormed Australia with a high octane live set and the cruisy cocktail-style album, Big Night Music, in March was a different kettle of…fish. (Alas, little light was shed on their strange preoccupation with deep sea creatures in our post-gig interview).

They are now a band intent on cracking the mainstream, getting their powerful live sound onto vinyl and dispensing with as much machinery as possible in the process.

They’ve been streamlining the human element, too. When they hit the cultish London circuit in 1981 with the mini-album, Tench, they were six-piece. By the following year, they were three – Barry Andrews (vocals/keyboards; ex-XTC, Robert Fripp’s League of Gentlemen), David Allen (bass; ex-Gang of Four) and Carl Marsh (guitar).

Then came the albums Care and Jam Science and in 1984 they took on drummer, Martyn Barker, had their first chart single Hand On My Heart and followed up with the album, Oil And Gold, inn 1985.

In early 1986 they signed a new deal with Island and lost Carl Marsh. Another change was the approach to recording. The writing trio of Andrews, Allen and Barker decided to concentrate on the expansive, atmospheric elements of their music and go for an ‘all-played’ groove, augmented by their four-piece Big Live Band – Michael Cozzi (guitars), Steve Halliwell (keyboards) and backing singers, Wendy and Sarah Partridge.

For the Australian tour they added a percussionist and Barry left keyboard duties to Steve, bar the occasional solo.

The last time I saw the band live was at one of their first gigs in a seedy London pub. On stage this year, in the claustrophonic refectory hall at Sydney Uni, there was hardly a trace of the enfant terrible. Dynamic, controlled, structured rock’n’roll theatre, a new authority, no chaos.

In the dressing room later, Barry Andrews explained this new order…

Your live set is much more structured now. There are middle-eights, you all start and stop in the same places. You’re very tight and professional…

I don’t know about very tight and professional, but certainly more than we used to be. We do all end at the same time.

Remember the Greyhound in Fulham (London), one of your first gigs?

(Shudders) Christ Almighty. We have changed since then.

Do you think you’ve sacrificed spontaneity for structure?

Not really. It used to be a fucking mess. There was a good, wild, out-of-control energy, you know all those AAARRRRGH, post-punk screams. But after a while…it’s unchannelled and ultimately not satisfying when you do seven gigs in a row and only one of them is any good.

I think we are channeling that energy more and there are still areas of improvisation…freedom within that structure.

What parts are improvised?

All the solos. I never play the same solo twice on Feelers, I’m always mucking around with the vocals, doing little improvised rants and stuff.

I think it’s a popular misconception that you have to do completely improvised music in order to have freedom. Mike (guitarist) always plays the same solo but there’s a difference when he’s really putting his heart and soul into it. It has an authority and power to it.

You get quite close to recorded sounds live…

I think we do considering how many overdubs and weird things we’re doing in the studio.

Were you using Fairlight much on Big Night Music?

No. We’d decided it was going to be a low budget album and we weren’t going to use the Fairlight as much as we had on Oil And Gold. We also wanted to use more acoustic instruments, so that it sounded like a band in a room playing some music, all in time.

Towards the end of recording there was a particular sound on Underwaterboys that we couldn’t get on either the JP8 or the DSS1 and me and Gavin (MacKillop, co-producer) were tearing our hair out [er, figuratively speaking]. So we decided to chip inn out of our own money and get the Fairlight to do this sound. As it turned out we did do it within budget – we didn’t have to sell our cars or anything – and so we went round the tracks putting little touches of Fairlight on here and there.

You’ve always used machines to make music. Was the decision taken on this album not to do so due to budget or were you bored with that approach?

No, it wasn’t because of the budget. It was the first record where Martyn (drummer) had really found his feet and he had loads and ideas bubbling over. It seemed a bit irrelevant to haul in a Fairlight or drums computer and put it through its paces.

We were bored with all that stuff after a four-year romance with technology too. Also, some of the rhythms are so subtle like, Running on the Rocks – there no drum computer in the world can do that.

How do you write your songs?

Always from the rhythm. In the old day it was a drum machine and we’d build the songs in the studio a la Bowie and all that. But, that wasn’t a particularly cost-effective way of doing things and we also decided that we wanted the…thing to happen in music that you only get when you’ve played a song for a long time on stage.

On Oil and Gold there was only one track that was like that (Health And Knowledge) which, while it wasn’t a great groove or even a particularly great song, had this smoothness, a rotundity to it. We thought it would be nice to have a whole album with the edges worn off, with a nice ‘used’ quality to it.

Do you write together?

Generally, Martyn will put down a rhythm and we’ll all – me, Dave and Martyn – improvise around that. If there’s an energy to the groove we’ll just tape the drums on cassette for two minutes.

Then, I take that home and put it on my cassette machine which has a loop function and just sit there singing to it, record that on another machine and listen to it. I find that quite often good things come out when you’re just burbling off the top of your head whereas if you sat down and tried to write it, that critical part of the brain might be brought to bear on it and crush the idea before it grows. I then go through and make notes, wander round, have a cup of tea, read a few books, find a few weird words (laughs).  Then I do the whole process again until the thing starts to bed down into a structure, verse, chorus, etc.  Then, I take it back to Dave and Martyn and we work on chords and details.

Atmosphere is crucial in your music. Is sound important in the writing process?

I tend to find that the rhythm will suggest a certain kind of atmosphere. It will all be encapsulated in that rhythm. Once you’ve got the initial crystalisation of the song, it’s all police work from there on. Like, Shining Path…it was obvious from that rhythm and the title that it was going to be this huge, swirly, exotic druggie-opium vision. From there on we knew it was going to need bells, big chords, wind gong, etc.

No home studios?

Martyn’s making moves in that direction. Sometimes I think it would be a good idea but then…I used to do that with XTC. I used to sit in my bedroom with an Akai two-track machine, a Wurlitzer piano and microphone and write the whole thing. Then I’d go along with a song and try to impose it on the band and tell the bass player and drummer what to play.It had a kind of awkwardness to it because they were playing something which wasn’t quite natural for them. Sometimes it worked but now it works every time because we don’t add things to songs unless they do work.

So, when you record now you take complete songs in?

Yeah and we’re going to work that way on the next album. There’s a couple of new ones we’re playing already.

How long does it take to get a song together?

Maybe a day per song. But, once I take the verse and chorus along we just put a bit of intense energy into it, maybe an hour, and then I take it home and work on it again. Then we bring in the other players.

You use the Jupiter 8 for rehearsals?


What’s happened to that battered old organ you used for years?

It’s in my ex-wife’s cupboard. I go round every now and then and dust it off (the organ, that is). It’s a sweet little thing, and I can’t bring myself to throw it away but I can’t find any use for it anymore.

Was recording Big Night Music standard procedure?

Yes…I haven’t worked in that way since the Robert Fripp album. Gavin is a very traditional producer and I really left it to him. It’s nice, there’s something very organic about recording that way [as a band]. You don’t have to go through the endless…well, there’s a drum rhythm and I haven’t got a clue what to do next, maybe go blurgh on the first beat of every bar and then try to find some chords, and lay three tracks of percussion that we’ll never use.

It was exciting to work like that and if money was no object I probably still would…

Because there’s always the element of surprise when you’re actually creating the song track-by-track?

Yeah…the only track we did like that was Sticky Jazz and I think you can hear the difference…the textures change suddenly.

What about vocal treatment?

On Big Night Music I was getting into big whispering but the process of recording was mostly traditional. Occasionally I fed my voice through an AC30 amp wound up like fuck and recorded in a live room. On the end of Black Light Trap I fed it though Mike’s pedalboard with the distortion wound right up…and all these other knobs. I don’t really know what they do.

It’s your fifth album and seems like a summary of the rest. Do you agree?

No, I think there are areas left out…mainly the big noisy stuff. It’s like taking one of the themes of Shriekback, which is the big, dark, quiet cocktail band thing with more of the reggae influence. We’ve taken that and really explored it.

On the next album we’ll get into the big racket.

Using players and no machines?

Yes, I think so. It usually becomes apparent after you’ve been on the road a while what sort of album you want to make next. On this tour it’s become clear that everyone is excited about taking the atmosphere we get live and trying to record that and mess with it and see what happens.

Back to the whispering…you’ve said you’ll do more shouting next time. Isn’t the whisper part of Shriekback’s charm, a hallmark almost?

Well, for the sake of making an homogenous record…it always irritated me, about Oil And Gold especially, that you’re listening to a noisy track, you’re in party mode and then suddenly it goes all quiet and mushy and you have to leap for the turntable and get that track off.

When I want to listen to a piece of music I want an atmosphere and I think most people do. So, I would say…yeah, we’ll have a whispering-free, high-noise album. (laughs).

Why are you so popular here and often dismissed as an arty band in the UK?

There’s two things…if you’re not getting played on radio in the UK there isn’t really the gig circuit to establish yourself anymore. Also, the British psyche finds it a bit disgusting seeing this person up there on stage going ‘waaaah, look at me’. They like records and nightclubs and keeping it all under control.

For a long time in England we were making experimental, reflective, not grab-you-by-the-throat sort of records and people got a bit bored waiting for Shriekback to do something that would be devastating. And live, it was a shambles. We couldn’t take an audience like we did tonight. Now, we can take a cool audience and have them in a frenzy by the end because we’ve learnt the art of rock’n’roll theatre.

The soundtrack you’ve done for the movie, Slamdance…

It’s not a soundtrack, it’s just the song at the end. I’m looking at doing a soundtrack though…I’ve done a film music demo to a whole bunch of image from wildlife documentaries and films like Conan the Barbarian and Passage to India. So we’re going to go to LA and throw a few video tapes at a few moguls there.

Shriekback has its own sovereignty – it’s not something that each of us independently would do. I found doing the film music demo it was more one dimensional.

You’ve talked about having a magic power live that you don’t understand. Is that created because of the audience?

I think it’s there in rehearsal too, it’s just a smaller audience! It’s partly that with the band the sum is greater than the parts. I like working on my own but I prefer having other people around to bounce off and crash into.

What about your preoccupation with fish?

(Laughs)…What can I tell you?

Other projects?

Yeah…Martyn is writing his own songs which sound fabulously commercial, Dave is talking about doing an album with Jorgensen of Ministry and I’m making Super 8 movies at the moment.

Film seems to be quite a strong direction for me…I’m just assembling images and playing around with scripts.

Solo albums?

No. Shriekback is not entirely my vision but at least I can involve all my musical interests which is great.

In XTC I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, only that it wasn’t XTC. It was only after that that I started to look at my musical language…finding out why I liked certain kinds of music, and what moves me.

Do you listen to music for pleasure?

Yes…not pop. I used to have a clock radio which drove me mad because it would come on in the morning with this pop music and I’d wake up going ‘oh, the bass is good, drums are okay, what about the chorus’ and you go into all that.

I listen to old church music, nice gentle things.

This need for wider appeal…does Shriekback need more commercial success to reach full potential?

I think it’s a popular misconception that you achieve commercial success and then you do what you want to do…I don’t know anyone who has done that.

We are doing what we want to do, it wouldn’t be different if I had loads of money.

What is there left for Shriekback to do?

The next album – translating the live thing. And, getting our music to a wider audience. I don’t think there is anything hopelessly archane about what we do and I don’t see why it shouldn’t appeal to a lot of people. I think it’s a case of appropriate presentation.

And…I’m tired of being a cult figure.


Martyn Barker (drums): I’m using a hired Yamaha 900 Series kit – 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 toms, 22" bass drum, 14" x 10" deep snare and Zildjian cymbals (16, 17, 18 crashes, Chinaboy and Swish both 16"; hi-hats are K Series (top) and Dynobeat (bottom); Camco chain bass drum pedal.

I’ve been using this kit on the American and Australian tours. In England I’ve been using a Gretch kit but I’m changing to Yamaha because I like the depth of the sound of this kit. You get a good natural sound, it’s very good live and as an all-round kit.

I’ve been using very thin crashes because Shriekback is a dynamic band so you don’t need any ride cymbals. The music needs good splash sounds…plenty of that.

The difficulty for me with cymbals is trying to change the sound all the time…in Underwaterboys I used coins to rub against Chinese cymbals which makes that off-beat sound. And in Nemesis the chorus has to be very dynamic so I use lots of splashes, lots of crash cymbals.

No electronic drums?

I used to use bits of Simmons gear and I use the Linn 9000 for writing. But for Big Night Music I used a real drum kit with percussion because it was easier and that was the direction the music was going in.

(Live percussion is: LP congas and cowbells. Cymbals in Zildjian (16" thin crash), and 20" Chinese wind gong.)

Mike Cozzi (guitar): I’ve been experimenting a lot lately and have just changed all my gear. At the moment I’m using a Gallien-Krueger amp as a preamp sending it though a Carver power amp. The main effects I use are a volume pedal, which I think is well under-used these days, and three different distortions, Big Muff, Boss overdrive, and the other is the distortion on the Krueger. I use various rack delays…everything is rackmounted.

I still use a Strat which I’ve had customised (added a Kahler tremolo and humbucker pickups). On the acoustic numbers I use a Hohner semi-acoustic 12-string.

Bass equipment: Music Man bass guitar through Trace Elliot gear, using 4 x 10 and 1 x 15 speakers.

Martyn: Dave has a custom-built bass which he uses for the slower moodier numbers which makes a deep, warm sound. But the Music Man is his main instrument.

Keyboards: Jupiter 8 and Korg DSS1 which wins heaps of praise from Barry Andrews: "We seem to be getting sounds which are as good as a Fairlight Series II. It’s helpful having the synthesizing part as a well as the sampler because you can really fuck around with those samples and make them sound interesting.

Sonic (July/August 1987)

Shriekback recently released their 13th studio album, Without Real String or Fish. It is available on their website. Click the album cover to be taken to their online store!

no title

tinhuvielartanis: (Shriekback Logo)

James from Canada was kind enough to share his Shriekback concert experience from 1987. Read on, MacDuff!

A Big Night - Music, Youth and Naïveté

It was back in April of 1987 that I got to see Shriekback live for the first (and, it seems, last) time, during their Big Night Music tour.  It was just a few days after my 18th birthday, so I was having quite a nice week. The show was at the now-defunct Concert Hall in Toronto, a cozy little venue with a standing floor space and a large, wrap-around balcony above.

800px-CTV_TempleAfter making our way past the merchandise table, where one of my friends bought himself a Big Night Music T-shirt (still kicking myself for not doing the same), my friends and I found our place up in the balcony, with an almost "front and centre" view of the stage.

As we sat there, I remember the excitement at seeing all of Shriekback's instruments on the stage: an eclectic mixture of modern electronic synths and old, earthy bongos, gongs and bells.  We knew that this was going to be a great show!

I don't recall who the opening act was, although I think it might have been the Comsat Angels.  We didn't care, though…  we were here to see Shriekback!  After what seemed like an eternity, the house lights finally went down, and the crowd went wild.  As the dry ice fog slowly filled the stage, we could see movement in the dark… who was that?  If my memory serves me well, it was Steve Halliwell first out on the stage, wearing a little hat on his bald head (no doubt to avoid being mistaken for Barry!)  Steve got the dark synths going, and as the multi-coloured stage lights pierced and wound their way through the fog, the rest of the band slowly came out, one by one adding a new layer of instrumentation to the intro track.  As the intro built to a crescendo and the first track came crashing in, Barry himself slunk onto the stage to raucous applause.

It's been so long since I saw this show, that my memories of what got played are pretty vague. At the time, though, the Shrieks had already started working on their next album - the much maligned Go Bang - and some of the new material made its way into our Big Night Music setlist.  The opening song of the show was "New Man", followed by a wonderful mixture of Big Night tracks and earlier material, all energized to the highest degree for an exciting live experience.  We heard "Black Light Trap" and "Gunning for the Buddha."  Classics like "Nemesis", "Hammerheads", and "Lined Up." Go Bang's "Intoxication" got introduced to the crowd around the half-way mark, and the show wound down with an encore performance of "New Man."

What a show it was.  So exciting and fun.  One thing which really stood out to me and my friends as we sat there taking it all in, was just how much of a good time everyone was having - both the audience, and the band itself.  I've been to many concerts where it seemed like the band was just "phoning it in", but that wasn't the case with Shriekback.  These guys know how to work an audience!  There was lots of dancing and clapping, and Barry engaged and entertained the crowd with funny stories about how his pants kept sliding down, while encouraging us all to sing along: "let's hear it again… 'My Spine.. IS THE BASSLINE!' ", and "With the GREAT BIG FISHES!!".  It was truly a special night, and everyone left with a big smile on their face.

It was also during this show that I experienced a bit of a life-lesson, although I didn't know it at the time, of course.  As my friends and I were waiting for the show to start, we spent some time looking around at the gathering crowd.  Our attention was drawn to one individual in particular - an older man, probably in his 50's, with grey hair and glasses, standing at the back of the balcony.  Now, remember that we were just in our teens.  Young and naïve, you could say.  Alphaville's "Forever Young" was our anthem song, and music like Shriekback was only for us "cool, hip, alternative" types!  So what was this older-than-30 guy doing here?  He wasn't even wearing anything black, for heaven's sake!  "Hey, check out the old geezer back there," we laughed among ourselves.  As the show progressed, we occasionally looked back to see the "old geezer" clapping and dancing along to the music.  "Ha ha," we thought sarcastically, "go home and put on some Easy Listening, will ya!"

Well, fast-forward almost thirty years, and here I am in my 40's - the proverbial "old geezer", still listening to Shriekback.  While my hair isn't white yet, the grey has definitely started to creep in, and I really must see the optometrist about getting bifocals.  It is only now, later in one's life, that you realize just how silly and naïve some of your attitudes were when you were younger.  Usually, though, these moments of realization come when you find yourself doing something that you swore to your parents you would never do.  Like telling your kids to be extra-careful, or not to swear or watch that rude TV show.  I never expected, though, that it would be via the medium of a Shriekback concert that I would learn one of the truths about life's little pleasures.  Namely that good music is timeless, and crosses all boundaries of language, culture, and, yes, age.  Good music is there to be enjoyed by everyone.  I wonder if the guy I saw at the concert that night, who by now must be in his 60's or 70's, is listening to Without Real String or Fish?  I sure hope so!  I know that I will still be listening to the Shrieks in the coming decades, and that's something I'm definitely looking forward to!

©James from Canada
14 March, 2015

tinhuvielartanis: (Can't Stop Writing)

Lifted without regret from Shriekback's official Tumblr

BOSTON - The idea at first was not to play out; Shriekback, like the first edition of Public Image, Ltd., would simply be a studio group, leaving Gang of Four in the midst of an American tour. For Allen, it was too much of everything: too much drugs, too much drink, too much pressure.

Allen, who cheerfully says he is “on the wagon - permanently,” considered gigs dehumanizing: ”We said gigs are awful and they can’t work.” This was in early ‘81. A year and a half later, they played their first gig.

"It was gonna be hard work. It was a matter of transferring all this [studio] stuff to the stage," notes Allen, talking about the decision to make it live.

"It was a matter of fucking blind fear too," chips in keyboardist Barry Andrews.

So Shriekback - which in addition to Allen and Andrews includes guitarist/singer Carl Marsh and touring percussionists Pedro Ortiz and Martyn Barker - now has it both ways: they released their debut EP, Tench, on Y Records last year, have a new LP, Care, out on Warner Bros., and they’re enthusiastic about road work.


What makes these gigs work?

"A willingness to communicate," says Allen. "Tonight, for instance, was a good example of accepting that the audience wants to join in. A lot of gigs I’ve been to you’re left out. The other night in New York I went to Simple Minds and there was no attempt whatsoever to get me to join in."

"There’s some sort of interaction between us and the people," adds Andrews. "It’s surprising how few bands do that."

Shriekback is not the most obvious lot, not the latest happy-time English white funk band. Songs are written around a drum track. Allen adds the bass lines and the songs grow from there. Vocals - “anti-vocals” Marsh calls them - are often mixed into the middle, not over the top.

"There is a rule of thumb that all lead vocals have to be treated in a certain way because they’re vocals," says Marsh wryly. "Not like a little wanky percussion part that you can do what you want with. Voices have to be treated with some respect."

"Lined Up" is Shriekback’s catchiest tune (from melodic standpoint), but like New Order’s "Temptation," it’s involved as much with mood as it is with hooks. The rest of Care is even more moody. Shriekback favors sharp, heavy bass lines, chantlike vocals, the occasional textural synth or guitar swirl. Restrained, but tense; spacious. Shadowplay you can dance to.

"I’d kind of like it to be like a wildlife park," offers Marsh. "You wander around and there are all these things there that are diverse and beautiful and grotesque sometimes. You can draw the conclusions you like."

- Jim Sullivan for Record / August 1983

Care has been reissued on both CD - for the first time! - and limited edition vinyl LP.

Please visit our website and store to learn more about, and purchase Care, as well as find other great albums, tunes, and information.

Time is short, so don’t delay!


tinhuvielartanis: (Default)
Andy arrived a little before 6 yesterday to pick me up so we could go see Tears for Fears. We chatted briefly while I turned off the computer. Aunt Tudi wanted to take pictures of us and this is what we came up with.

pictures of geeky people )

We left shortly after that and climbed into Andy's gigantic SUV. Off we went, heading north to Charlotte, North Carolina. It takes a little over an hour to get there, as Charlotte is approximately 100 miles away from Duncan. We talked about high school, music, life now, music, music, and more music. Andy had loaded all the Tears for Fears albums into his car stereo so we listened to the band all the way up to Charlotte.

When we got to the venue, we ate at the diner across from the Fillmore. We both had the veggie burger. Andy had a side of macaroni and cheese and my side was spinach. The meal was good. The subjects on the table were god, existence, Nihilism, religion, and music. We soon left the eatery and crossed the street to the Fillmore where IDs were checked, purses and bags were snooped, and tickets were scanned. Soon we were inside and it was already crowded. The opening act was Michael Wainwright. Andy hated him. I thought he was okay, especially since it was mostly just him and his guitar. That's gotta be a lot of pressure right there. He sang five or six more songs, then left the stage. We waited for about 15 more minutes before Tears for Fears came out.

The first person to come out was Curt. I didn't recognise him at first. He's got extremely short, almost to the bald point, white hair. And he was dressed in a way that made me think he looked like shadetree car mechanic standing up there on stage. He sang the Donnie Darko version of "Mad World" as the rest of the band came out. Roland was the last to take the stage. Everyone was jazzed and getting into the music. Andy was beside himself. Ha ha! Behold the pictures I took that came out relatively okay. We were a ways back from the stage, so pictures were tricky.

the band )

They played for about an hour and a half, including their encore, which isn't too shabby. I was able to capture one decent video of them while they performed "Shout" before closing the show for good.

After the show, Andy stuck around to try to meet the band and I went on to the car. The venue is standing only and I had had it for the evening, with my hubcaps ready to fall off. About twenty minutes later, Andy joined me, disappointed that only people with passes got to meet the band after the show. We moped about it for a few, then readied ourselves for the journey back home. Andy suggested I drive since he'd had some beers during the concert. I was a little hesitant, but decided what the hell ~ if we die, we die. I crawled behind the wheel of this monster SUV and off we went.

We got lost trying to find our way to I-85. We drove around Charlotte for a good half hour before we got our bearings and off we went. When we got home, I stopped at Wendy's and got Aunt Tudi a Frosty. We then went to my house where Andy dropped me off and headed for home himself. He was okay to drive by the time we got to my house.

There you have it. The Tears for Fears adventure with pictorial and video evidence. If you get a chance to see them in concert, GO! You won't be disappointed at all. They're wonderful. And Andy was a sweetheart for inviting me to go with him.


tinhuvielartanis: (Default)
The Cliffs of Insanity

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