End of Year Thing Pt 3

Money’s too tight to mention sang Simply Red ( that is the only time you will see Simply Red typed on this page, shit, I mentioned them twice) and keeping up with the amount of great music is nigh on impossible. This is something which I have touched on many times in this blog, I think I do this because, sometimes… I feel a kind of guilt that I have not been able to buy certain albums which of course is stupid. I suppose because to a certain degree I enjoy social media this is asking for trouble. I am constantly reading about side projects, special releases and am finding out about a new stock of records that I missed out on. Having said that, this year I did something twice that I have only done once before, I shelled out for a couple of box sets. Now as a rule I despise these money draining creatures, twenty hours of sub standard material that wasn’t deemed worthy of release at the time, but these were special and despite what you may have heard, I ain’t perfect and I’m a sucker for great music!

So what is this “Pt 3” all about? Well I guess it’s just a little shout out for a couple of releases that didn’t fit the criteria of my top 25 and I think they are well worth a mention because they are so tremendous and are probably among my most played releases of the year.

International Harvesters- Remains (Silence 5 LP box set)

My interest in this band dates back to the much missed Julian Cope album review. This late 60’s Swedish free form psychedelic band were formed in the late 60’s as a continuation and a kind of reboot of Pärson Sound. This box set includes their two official releases plus three albums of recently unearthed live material which neatly puts the lid on their back catalogue. This did break the bank and goes against the grain for me but finding their stuff on vinyl can be very expensive and hard work, there also seems to be a lot of shitty bootlegs out there. So with the help of a few good friends I thought this was well worth the price. The music is of the highest mind expanding order, there are live free form jams that can take up ten minutes to get going and when they do it is completely Euphoric, for those who love long repetitive psych this is essential. I could waffle on endlessly about this band and all acts associated with them but it would be futile, I don’t have the in depth knowledge or the vocabulary to do them justice. So if you haven’t heard of them, leave this page! Use whatever platform you can to seek them out and immerse yourself in their sound.

The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol- Box set 2 (Cardinal Fuzz)

Another bank breaker, but again it had to be done. You see, once I  disappeared down the the TBWNIAS rabbit hole I found myself on one of the most enjoyable and intense trips of my personal musical journey. This second box set released on Cardinal Fuzz fills in the missing gaps in a lot of fans collection namely Superficial Marks (2008), Biker Smell (2010) and Punks, Twats and Urban Cowboys (2011) all these albums were originally released in very small runs on Canada’s Birdman Sound Records (the name taken from drummer john Westhaver’s record shop). Add to this an album of “Basement Blowouts” recorded live straight off the rehearsal room floor, plus three CD’s of “Basement Blowouts”. Out of these I think (well this week anyway) ‘Biker Smell’ is my personal favorite, it contains the brilliant ‘Raga – Quo-Tation’ which pays homage to the mighty Quo as always with TBWNIAS albums there is something to discover on almost every listen. The ‘Basement Blowouts’ literally leap out of your speakers, it’s like the band are in the same room and more than once I have caught myself mid air guitar. If this band ever gets a chance to play over here then I will be at every show basking in their brilliance.

One Dog Clapping – Meeting The Changing Landscape 5 CD  Series

For more years than I care to remember ‘One Dog Clapping’ has released pretty much an album a year. This year was different, this year five albums were released… yep five! (Oh and all on Name your price). Mining the depths of No Wave, Psych and… and well I don’t know really, songs can range from the playful psych of ‘The Upward Way’ with an almost lo-fi ‘Dukes of Stratosphear’ feel to the full on trippy-ness of ‘Everywhere But Here (Internal Route Fury)’ to ‘Where Angels Play’ with an almost Nick Cave vibe. Shunning all social media despite my best attempts, the albums just trickle out with no fanfare and maybe that’s how it should be. So I asked this ‘Takashi Mizutani’ like chap some questions.

Tell us about yourself

I’ve never liked quoting other people. To quote another people (Dee Snider):

I am.

I’m me.

More specifically, I’m a single white bloke in his late forties who has long hair, a beard, man boobs and a pot belly. During the week I work in a university library ordering books and running journal subscriptions, and at the weekend I look after my children from a failed marriage. Around these necessities I read, play guitar and doodle. Because of the second thing I said, I also record songs because I keep writing them when I do that thing (see below).

Your first album was 2010 but I know there was stuff before then

6 albums, to be precise, although I condensed them down to 4 when my first child was born, a project I finished in 2007 (the albums, not the child – he was born in 2006). They are Urban Blues, Life in Trilby Furnace, Pasteurised the Milk of Human Kindness and Unferocious and were all written and recorded between 2000-04.

Dude Awaking was reviewed by Julian Cope but that bit of exposure seemed to have no effect.

Actually it did. I made about 20 quid off that album!

There’s a bloke who just left the library who either runs or used to run a music blog (he didn’t tell me what it was called) and he reckoned he was often getting 1000 hits a day, but even with that traffic, the artists he was pushing got next to no sales as a result of his posts. When I told him about JCs write up, he reckoned that JCs views would have dwarfed his own, and scaling up what he was used to, about 20 quid was probably about right. That’s the landscape we now live in.

On top of that, I maintain no live presence and I shun social media apart from my blog, although I use that more to remind myself of the fantastic music that I frequently run into. And I used to use MySpace back in the day because you could actually put music on your page, but the pages are now defunct since I stopped using it when the tumbleweed became impenetrable.

In many ways, though, having no following is a blessing. It means I don’t have to consider whether what I do next will be accepted. It also means I can do 5 albums in a year if I want.

Everything is played by you, written and recorded literally in house.

Yeah, that all started in 1994 when I borrowed my Dad’s 4 track tape recorder. I was bandless at the time, and since I can be quite prolific with my writing I have to put the songs somewhere. The only significant gaps in my recording history were when I was in bands between 2004-09 and for about a year after I finished Adventures in Entropy House.

All the albums seem to follow themes is that on purpose of is just the mood of the time?

A bit of both. Because I keep recording these songs and they pile up, I get to a point where I think I need to make an album. What usually happens is that I think of a title and then select the songs that work best for that title that are about ready to let loose, and as you’ll remember from my old mixtapes back in the 90s, I do like to make things flow where possible.

So a title may be inspired by my mood of the time, but the theme will then follow from the material to hand. I don’t write songs to fit an album as I prefer a song to come out as it wants to come out rather than trying to shape it into a form to which it may not be suited. In other words, I’m not a pushy parent.

The artwork to all the albums is almost punk in its simplicity is that an anti art thing or just another part of your psyche?

I did, years ago, attempt to use photoshop to design album covers. I could NOT get my head around it from a design point of view. So those first four albums I mentioned up above – what I call in my head The Trilby Furnace albums – I got Milo (Sons of Itto guitarist) to design the album covers for them since he knows that kind of software and how to use it. But when I came to the Entropy House series, I decided to try drawing the covers myself – I’d started doodling about a year before and I was getting a lot of positive comments from people at work about it so I figured, what the hey? And that’s why I draw my own album covers.

Whilst my thoughts about most modern art probably mirror those of most sensible people, this isn’t any conscious anti-art thing. It’s a part of my psyche, and my album covers are not the only manifestations of this you can see publicly.

5 albums in a year! What gives?

So the reason I took a break from recording after Adventures in Entropy House was because the PC I was using had broken just before I completed it. I got a bloke to repair it so I could get that album out, but he warned me that the thing didn’t have much more to give. So I planned on getting a new PC built. Things then happened, several of them; 2016 was quite a year. The upshot was that I got my new PC but couldn’t afford the music software for it as my old stuff wasn’t running on Windows 7.

So May 2017 arrives and I’m building up a load of songs, some of which are old children having come home and shown me how they’d grown up, some of which are songs from Entropy House that never got ‘finished’ and many of which were completely new ideas. Coinciding with this is utter boredom in the evenings. So I decide to fire up the old PC to see whether it can cope with me just recording a few songs, just to scratch an itch or two, like.

Well, it did me proud. January 2018 came and I had one of those ‘it’s time for an album’ moments, and so I began going through the material. I was always going to call that first album ‘Meeting the Changing Landscape’ to reflect my new living conditions but as I got deeper and deeper into looking at the material, I realised I had more than one album. Much more. So Meeting the Changing Landscape instead became a series. By the time I put ‘The Castle is Burning!’ out in late March, I knew it was five albums, even though a significant number of the songs on the later albums were actually written after the first album went out. Process kept on processing.

In fact, the shape of the series kept changing until the last one was out. I had a rough idea from the beginning of the shape of each album but the specifics altered as the year went on because reasons. Because of that, I didn’t want to take any longer than necessary.

So that’s what gave.

Incidentally, the PC conked out just before the second album, Hills to Die On. I then found an old PC in a cupboard (seriously) which had literally just enough in it to get 10 of the 11 songs over the line, and then failed me with perpetual glitching while I was trying to get a mixdown on the last one. So, one last time, I tried the old one again and it did that last song for me. It was its final act, and a worthy way to finish service.

The subsequent albums were thus made possible by the generosity of our mate Chris Hall who had an old PC he could spare me. I hereby give large, hearty and public thanks to Chris for that act of kindness.

And another incidentally… there is actually a potential 6th album, but without theme. I haven’t decided whether to put it out yet.

ODC has never been a band is that something you consider?

But it has! Between 2003-05. You came to some of our gigs!

I would like to be in a band again, but not necessarily a One Dog Clapping band. I don’t want to be the leader of a band. I want to be part of a musical collective, all of whom have ideas and all of whom can write a song; all of whom are comfortable with doing songs differently from before and all of whom never want to play the same set twice. I would probably want to sing my own words, but I wouldn’t want to be the focal point or the only lead singer in the band. Sons of Itto was sort of that band except that the music made by the Itto was the sort of music I don’t listen to much (with the odd exception), so I’d like my dream band to make the sort of music that I do like to listen to myself. As for what that is, it’s all of the stuff I post on my blog, plus a lot more besides.

And I want to play guitar in that band, even though I know I have a good way with a bass groove.

 

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