Hints for submitting demos.
Thursday October 17th 2013
I run a very small label and try to listen to every demo that is sent to me even though it isn't often that I will release a record from such a submission. However, it has happened on occasion and I have two upcoming releases that came about as a result of unsolicited demo submissions. I usually receive about 30 - 40 emails a week asking me to check out people's music so can only begin to imagine how much music larger labels receive.
Here are some suggestions of things that may make demo submissions a little more enticing for me to give more than just a cursory listen to -
The trend seems to be to have the words "Demo Submission" in the subject line and then a Soundcloud link as the message and nothing more. A few polite formalities is a good start. If you are that minimal with regard to how you present yourself, then I am more likely to give your music a minimal listen. A little bit of information about yourself is always a good thing. A ten paragraph condensed biography about your life up until now is not required but a few lines that may pique my interest and lead to me giving your music a more enthusiastic listen is very welcome. If English isn't your first language feel free to ignore the above as I appreciate it may be more difficult for you!
Please don't send a huge number of tracks. Three or four is usually a good start as l can always ask to hear more. Likewise, in general sending one track isn't very helpful as I am unlikely to be interested in releasing a single track and it can be hard to gauge where someone is coming from musically based on hearing one thing. That being said, perhaps that one track might be so amazing that exceptions might be made. In general links to Soundcloud or similar are preferable to attached mp3s or links to downloadable folders of music. If sending mp3s, please don't send ultra low bit rate files as my ears will refuse to listen to them.
I am open minded about most types of music but definitely have some sort of aesthetic going on (honest!), so it is probably a waste of your time and my time if you have randomly got my email address from some list of labels and are for example a generic indie pop band (yuk!), make boring "deep house" (yawn) or your music has "jazzy chords" and isn't jazz (I loathe "jazzy chords"). At least know about the label you are submitting to and perhaps follow it on your Soundcloud page to indicate an interest and knowledge of what that label is all about. The cut and pasted line "I think my music would be great on your label" when you patently hadn't heard of the label an hour ago is also a laughable no-no.
Ultimately if you are passionate about your music, it will inspire passion to check it out. As stated, I will do my utmost to listen to everything that is sent to me and will try to do this fairly promptly. I will also always try to reply if you have emailed me but if I haven't replied after a couple of days, please do give it time and don't repeatedly email to ask if I have listened to your music yet.
I hope some of this is helpful.
JD Twitch, October 2013.
Favourite Reads 2012
Monday December 31st 2012
Ramblings on the over consumption of music.
Friday December 23rd 2011
A few websites and publications asked me for end of year charts and a few people asked if I would write (as I did last year) about some of my year end favourites, and maybe I still will write something but here's why I haven't yet:
As I'm self-employed i have to keep track of all the records I buy for my accounting so can confess that in 2011 I bought around 700 records (LP, 12", 10" and 7") which is faintly ludicrous when I see it added up. That's probably somewhere in the region of three solid weeks of music which in addition to being sent approximately 15000 digital promos (of which I maybe listened to around 10%), countless demos and Soundcloud links and the numerous cds I get handed when I'm playing gigs adds up to more music than one human being can possibly process. This maybe explains why I avoid end of year lists from other people as it will only add another huge amount of records to the pile I want to hear.
I guess i am an addict. I've always been in denial about it but the time has come to admit to myself it is true. My life would be infinitely simpler if I was addicted to one type of music. If I was only addicted to listening to say, techno, maybe I could keep up, but I have an across the board addiction to every musical sound any human being in any corner of the planet might make, which of course is an impossible addiction to ever completely fulfil. Unlike most addictions at least it's not causing me any physical harm but is it really satisfying to vaguely know massive swathes of music but rarely have the time or opportunity to get to really immerse myself in some of the wonderful sounds that find their way into my home?
The end result is that I cherry pick my way through music. I'll listen to it all and then particular tracks will attract my ears' attention and i'll end up listening to them over and over. An example: today I bought the "Music From Saharan Cellphones" compilation and listened to it twice through. One track in particular resonated with me on some deeper level than the others and I have been listening to it on repeat while I write this. From now on I'll probably dig the record out every so often and play this one song or buy the mp3 of it too (no download code with this record). Twenty years ago this would probably have been the one record I bought this week and I'd have known it inside out and back to front which is perhaps a better way to "consume" music? I think my long-suffering girlfriend would definitely agree as on occasion she has been reduced to wearing industrial ear protection to escape my sonic onslaught. But, I simply can't help myself and I know this way of "consuming" music won't change any year soon.
We have an Optimo slogan that says "loving music is sharing music" and for almost ten years we have had a system in place, which is sadly illegal, for sharing information about some of the massive wealth of music that comes to our ears with people who love music but are maybe financially poor or who have lives that leave them little time or opportunity to explore and find it. I shouldn't mention this "system" as it is sadly breaking numerous arcane laws and besides, the first rule of the "system" is to never mention it publicly, but the fact that it has lasted ten years tells me that systems like this are beams of positivity in this era of record industry decline. I have conclusive proof that our one leads to people buying more records or downloads and acts as a useful filter for people with vaguely similar tastes or open minds in an internet awash with so much sound.
The original ethos of our music sharing system stems from ideas of redistributing wealth and was inspired by numerous concepts but perhaps most importantly by some ideas flagrantly filched from anarcho-syndicalism. After music, exploring, reading about and thinking about post-capitalist systems is one of my main passions. There are eminently more intelligent and eloquent people than myself on the subject so I won't be proselytising about it any time soon, but, i personally feel that a lot of the tenets of post capitalist systems can be applied to day-to-day life in forms that can co-exist alongside the declining capitalist society we live in. So rather than listing my favourite records of 2011, which in all honesty, without wading through a vast pile of vinyl I always find hard to remember, I think I'll go back to using some of my rare time off reading and listening to more music (perhaps the one time I am able to multi-task) and making the most of the one week of the year when I don't buy or get sent any music.
Following a couple of emails related to this post, I'd just like to point out that I am NOT giving away massive amounts of other people's music and believe artists SHOULD receive revenue for their artistic creations.
Year end charts (zzzz...)
Thursday December 22nd 2011
I wrote about year end favourites last year but I don't feel the desire to do it this year as the internet is saturated with them. That's not to say there wasn't a lot of stuff i loved in 2011, as i probably listened to more music than any year previously but i also had the busiest year I've ever had it has all blurred a bit. I am fortunate that I get to read a lot as I spend so much time traveling so here's ten books (only 4 actually from this year) that I loved in 2011, in no particular order.
'Kids" by Patti Smith
"The Gulag Archipelago" by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
"Love Goes to Buildings on Fire : Five years in New York that Changed Music Forever" by Will Hermes
"Alas, Babylon" by Pat Frank
"The Battle for Spain" by Antony Beevor
"Retromania" by Simon Reynolds
"Now Wait for Last Year" by Philip K Dick
"The Essential Rosa Luxemburg: Reform or Revolution and the Mass Strike" by Rosa Luxemburg
"Nationalism" by John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith
"Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling" by Kembrew McLeod
1991 (a romance with chemicals)
Sunday October 23rd 2011
There have been a distinct lack of entries here over the last year. That has been down to a combination of being too busy, being too lazy and using different outlets on the internet that limit expression to 140 characters.
I thought I'd try and amend that and start putting the odd entry up here again. I'm going to start with an extract from a very entertaining, and as yet unpublished book a very, very old friend of mine has written. Below is his synopsis of the book and a link to two chapters. Enjoy.
SYNOPSIS by my anonymous friend.
Drugs: they’re not big, they’re not clever, but they can be a lot of fun.
The story takes place over five days in Glasgow during June 1991 and involves two protagonists; sometime marijuana wholesaler Joe Kane (the narrator) and his friend, slacker and fellow drug sponge Little Bob Kerr as they set off on their quest to score some Vilnius 23, an imported weed of heroic strength and awesome reputation.
Joe’s interest is as professional as Little Bob’s is hedonistic.
In the course of their search they trawl the party, dance and drug scenes looking for the clue, the big break that will take them to their Holy Grail of THC. In the course of this, we meet drug addled rich kids, one-armed gangsters, manic dealers, and a whole lot of others. And all the time there are drugs; lots and lots of drugs…just never the one Joe and Little Bob are actually looking for. Every time our heroes see the end of their mission in sight, Vilnius 23 manages to remain tantalisingly just out of their reach.
What will happen? Will Joe and Little Bob find what they’re looking for? Sometimes it’s not where you end up that’s important but the journey…
It’s said that if you remember the 1960’s then you weren’t there. The same can be applied to the early 1990’s, but this may be the thing to bring those lost memories flooding back.
Needless to say, this is not a book for the prudes or prohibitionists.
1991 (a romance with chemicals)
Click HERE for a PDF of chapters 1 and 2.
Friday December 24th 2010
It is the season of year end best ofs. I tried to do one last year but I always struggle to remember what came out when, and besides the interweb is crammed full of similar lists and I have put enough lists on here this year already to bore for Britain. But, I wanted to end 2010 without writing another eulogy to a musical great we lost this year (despite Captain Beefheart being deserving of that honour) so here is a list of sorts - 20 things (mainly good, a few not so good) that defined 2010 for me. It might end up being quite long.
The last ever weekly Optimo was on Sunday April 25th. So much love and the best atmosphere I've ever seen in a nightclub.
2) Sons and Daughters / Tussle
This year I was asked to produce a record for the first time. Well, I had been asked before but couldn't do it as doing Optimo every week took up too much time and I didn't feel ready to do it. One of the reasons for ending Optimo as a weekly club was to have the opportunity to do different things so when I was asked to work with Sons and Daughters I leapt at the opportunity. The entire process was a long but joyful experience that really couldn't go wrong as they had written (imo) their best set of songs, were completely energised and we were working with a phenomenal recording engineer - Sam Smith at Green Door studios in Glasgow. No computers were involved in making the record (it was recorded to tape) which for someone who spends around 70% of their waking life staring at a computer screen was extremely refreshing. The album has been perfectly mixed by one of my back room heroes, Gareth Jones. It's definitely amongst the most creatively rewarding experiences I've had and something I think I'd like to do a little more of. I also helped San Francisco's Tussle produce their record which was done in a completely different way - a brief session in Glasgow and much exchanging of huge files across the internet. This is still ongoing but hopefully I'll have finished piecing it together early in 2011.
I had wanted to visit China for a very long time and early in 2010 following a trip to Australia and a first visit to New Zealand where I saw family I hadn't seen since the late 80s I got to go to Shanghai and Beijing. My first visit to Japan was a culture shock. This was that to the nth degree. Playing in Beijing was particularly interesting as while in Shanghai the audience was mainly expat Australians and British, in Beijing it was 95% native Chinese. They were almost scarily into it and the weirder the music I played, the more responsive they were. I realise Shanghai and Beijing are very different from the much of the rest of China but being there it seemed obvious that it is China's destiny to be thee global super power of the 21st century. I hope they use that power more benignly than previous holders of that accolade.
4) Matias Aguayo
Without a doubt the most entertaining dj set I've seen this year. So much dance music in 2010 was so serious, po-faced and well, a little bit boring. Mr. Aguayo was the perfect antidote.
I totally fell for Twitter in 2010, not so much for tweeting about the minutiae of my life as most of my tweets were spam for various Optimo related activities but as an information / news / gossip / humour source. Forget the hype and the often inane ramblings of various celebrities and it can become an extremely addictive way to source information and a wonderful way to pass the time in queues or other boring situations. A couple of tips for those thinking about stepping into the breach - don't worry if nobody is following you unless you have an overwhelming desire to be heard or have something of great worth to communicate. It's ALL about who you follow. It's best not to follow hundreds and hundred of people as it becomes very hard to keep up. I follow about 200. Generally avoid anyone who tweets relentlessly (if they have 10 000+ tweets, with very few exceptions they have verbal twitarreah and are best avoided). Follow people who are genuinely interesting or amusing - I have had several embarrassing moments on public transport or in inappropriate situations where I have been unable to control myself due to Twitter induced hysterics. However, if you are trying to use Twitter solely for the purpose of promoting things you're involved with, after doing some research sending the same information out on both Facebook and Twitter, I'd say Facebook is a lot more more effective.
So much great music, old and new in 2010. I'd be here all month if I wrote about everything that tickled my fancy in 2010 : here's a few things.
6) Sun City Girls - Funeral Mariachi
Sun City Girls are dead. Long live Sun City Girls. They leave us with their final album - "Funeral Mariachi", possibly their finest moment and probably my favourite music of 2010. For a band with the most ad hoc quality control of any act I can think of and who have released some of the most spell binding music I've ever heard but also some of the most freeform, random, bewildering messes ever committed to vinyl, it was a delight to have them leave us on such a momentous high. A beautiful, inventive, deeply moving and profoundly psychedelic record.
7) Joe - Claptrap
The only record that appeared in every dj set I played in 2010. i even managed to fit it into a rock n' roll, northern soul, funk set that featured no drum machines without it sounding incongruous. "Claptrap" doesn't do very much. It just, well, claps. There's some sub bass, the sound of Joe clearing his throat and coughing, a single stab, a few percussion sounds and possibly the best snare roll of the last decade, but it just sounds so phenomenal (albeit slowed down as at 138bpm it's at a tempo i very rarely reach) and has more funk than just about any record I can think of from 2010, except maybe something by Jimmy Edgar. It mixes with just about anything and sometimes I'll just play a few seconds of it but at other times I'll keep it going in the mix for 20 minutes. I don't really know what genre it is beyond saying it's from a long tradition of great UK bass driven music. There was a vast wealth of this music made in 2010 which excited me far, far more than all the tired recycling of old ideas and sounds and which I managed to fit into my sets without playing whole sets of it, if that makes sense? For me, the most exciting times in music are often when a genre mutates and the mutation of post-dubstep / uk bass / uk garage / whatever, definitely threw up a vast amount of forward looking but eminently danceable music from the UK. It was the year of 808 fever! See also Funkineven, Ramadanman, Julio Bashmore and a legion of others. I hope this continues in 2011 and doesn't settle into a tired old formula or new orthodoxy.
8) Forest Swords - Dagger Paths
Most of the records I listened to on the Olde English Spelling Bee label didn't quite live up to their recommendation (it is very rare someone will tell me that they think I'll love a record and turn out to be right, but maybe I'm just too much of a contrarian). Nobody recommended the Forest Swords album to me but it found it's way to my turntable anyway and I have listened to it relentlessly. If you liked Labradford or are into Sun Araw but fancy something with dubbier basslines and programmed beats then, check.
2010 was maybe thee best year I can remember for reissues. From the wave of African psychedelic reissues - Ricky Ililonga on Now Again, Soundway's "Afro Rock and Psychedelia from Nigeria" comps and The Psychedelic Aliens album on Academy amongst others to San Francisco's Dark Entries and New York's Minimal Wave with exquisite (so called) minimal synth reissues to Mississippi and Sublime Frequencies continuing to keep my ears happy with esoteric music from around the world and throughout history. Mississippi's series of tapes had me rescuing my cassette player from a dusty basement. Light In The Attic finally reissued a record I had long searched for - Pastor T. L. Barrett And The Youth For Christ Choir's "Like A Ship" which helped fuel my gospel obsession in 2010 (I did a "Godcast" of gospel music which is on the podcast page that seemed to confuse most people but delighted a few). Also highly recommended is Daphne Oram's (co-founder and Director of the "Radiophonic Workshop") "Oramics" album - outrageously great music so far ahead of it's time nearly everyone else has still to catch up. My own part in the reissue front was satisfied by the fantastic response to Chris Carter's "The Spaces Between" on Optimo Music. And the list goes on….
I went a bit mad for this this year when I realised firstly that I could find (nearly always) amazing Cumbia records from all over South America incredibly cheaply and secondly that the postage from Colombia in particular was dirt cheap. I also have to applaud the Colombian postal service for the parcel that got from Bogota to Glasgow in three days! I don't play very much Cumbia when I dj but I can't get enough of it when I'm in the house and my purchases have provided the source material for a 12" that will hopefully be the first in a series to come out in 2011. I'm not 100% sure what was going on in Colombia and Peru (amongst other South American countries) in the mid to late 70s but some of the craziest, wildest, hypnotic music I have ever heard was being made.
11) Factory Floor
I first heard about Factory Floor in 2009 but didn't manage to hear them until I saw them support Fuck Buttons early in 2010. Fuck Buttons were great but Factory Floor completely and utterly blew me away. An old friend of mine was standing nearby and we turned to each other at exactly the same moment and were both just laughing at how phenomenally fantastic they were. They take everything I love about electronic / industrial music from the past without for one second being beholden to it and then make this astonishingly modern, now sound that is 100% ecstatic energy and simply unique. They seem to exist completely out of step with everything else that is happening in music at the moment while being possibly the best live band on the planet right now. The next day I set about booking them for an event we were doing in the summer in Glasgow. When they played at that it was a joy seeing almost the entire audience (who had mostly never heard of them) going wild to their music. The year ended with me remixing one of their songs which I will release (alongside the original) on Optimo Music early in 2011.
12) The Dirtbombs do Sharevari
After so many years of apathy it was great (although sad that it was necessary) to see a bit of direct action in the UK again. The students of this country will hopefully be just the first in a long line who will try to stand up to the Tories and their Lib Dem lapdogs. We are ruled by hypocrites and liars who the vast majority of the country didn't vote for. The one good thing to come out of all this is it looks as if the British people have finally woken up and that bread and circuses aren't enough to keep people quiet and in their place any more.
14) Aung San Suu Kyi
The best news of 2010 was undoubtedly Aung San Suu Kyi being released. Here's hoping for (peaceful) revolution in Burma in 2011.
15) Geek out
For music making / remixing, there were a couple of things I fell head over heels for in 2010. I bought Native Instrument's Maschine in 2009 but didn't really get my head round it until this year. Wonderful. In 2011 I'm going to try to incorporate it into my dj set up and use it for making music without having to constantly stare at a computer screen. I'd dabbled with Max/Msp in the past but never had the time or energy to get to grips with it. Max for Ableton Live (or perhaps it should be called Max for dummies?) opened up untold possibilities for non musicians making music in 2010.
I have run various record labels for nearly 20 years now. Most records I have released have lost money which I am fine with as it is simply a hobby for me and something I love doing. i am fortunate that I can indulge such a hobby and put out what I think are records deserving to be heard. I have dealt with many, many distributors over the years. Several went bankrupt owing me substantial sums of money. A couple ripped me off. A few were completely incompetent or disorganised. A couple were fine but it just didn't work out. This year I decided I'd have one last go at running a label and signed a distribution agreement with Cologne's Kompakt. Wow! Who knew that it didn't need to be a complete chore to put a record out? Ok, it's a cliche about Germans and efficiency but it's also true. Never have I encountered such an efficient, on the ball, honest and pleasant to deal with distribution operation. I have a feeling a few things I will release will leave them scratching their heads and wondering how on earth they are going to sell it but so far it has been a joyous experience and I am happy to know I will be releasing records into 2011 and beyond. Hopefully!
17) Fabric mix
Fabric 52. Yeah!
A few things that annoyed in 2010 :
18) Too much authenticity and / or politeness
Yes, house music is great but why try to make a record that sounds exactly as if it was made in 1987 or 1992 or 1997 or whatever, except for the fact that it's not really quite as good and it would be better to just play records that were actually made in aforementioned year? Also, so much dance music in 2010 was so polite that it almost seemed to be apologising for existing. i'd say about 85% of producers were too in awe of the bland button on their sequencer. Now, I'm not a big fan of excruciatingly noisy dance music (though I love a lot of excruciatingly noisy non dance music) but a bit more balls, imagination and a few less yawnsome chord progressions would be quite welcome in 2011. Oh, and please try to remember that going out dancing is meant to be fun and thus dance music is not meant to be an exercise in chin stroking tedium, out-obscuring other djs or being so upfront that only music that was made in the last 12 hours gets played.
How many mailing lists did I unsubscribe to in 2010? 1000? Easily! Incidentally I hadn't subscribed to any of them to begin with. If you don't have something interesting to try to tell me or sell me, please don't bother and definitely don't try to tell me about it more than once a week. I got it the first time! More to the point, will you stop passing on my email address to other people with uninteresting, repetitive mailing lists? Thanks. Also, if you have a roster of Trance or topless Russian woman djs, please stop emaling me 5 times a week to see if I want to book them and please acknowledge my repeated unsubscribe attempts. I'm not sure what the carbon footprint of sending an email is but you lot are definitely at morally criminally high levels.
20) Over Saturated.
I shouldn't really complain about this as I am supremely lucky to be sent free music and while most of it is rubbish (the age old maxim that 99% of everything is shit definitely still holds true), I received a great amount of wonderful music gratis in 2010. But, the amounts of music I am sent are now completely unmanageable and I would have to spend every waking moment listening to it all to keep up. With this in mind, a big moan to people who send unsolicited music (demos excepted) and then get annoyed when I don't immediately send back an opinion on it and proceed to repeatedly email me about it. You're already going straight into my junk mail folder so stop wasting your own time.
Here's to 2011.
JD Twitch 24/12/2010
Saturday November 27th 2010
When I was a teenager it was really, really hard, nay, impossible to find records by Throbbing Gristle. I knew nobody who had heard of them and had no way whatsoever to find out what they sounded like. I had read bits and pieces about them in NME and Sounds and Smash Hits (yes, the teen pop magazine which it is hard to believe also introduced me to Nurse With Wound, The Slits and a whole world of amazing disco records, none of which I would hear until many years later, but all of which were locked away in my memory waiting to be heard). Something about the brief bits and pieces i had read about TG and the photos I had seen resonated with me on a deep level and I became obsessed with hearing what they actually sounded like. For about two years I would scour the second hand record shops of Edinburgh weekly to no avail until - BOOM! - when I was 16, Mute Records (God bless you, Mr. Miller) reissued their albums. They were all I'd hoped they would be and way, way more. Beyond the musical content they introduced me to a whole world of other ideas. i was already a fan of William S. Burroughs but following various TG connections there was so much new knowledge to absorb.
Those years from 16 to 18 are I think for so many people when they are like a sponge and soak up music, art, culture, ideas etc. I was bored out of my brain living in suburbia and was desperately looking for something to fill that void and despite having very limited funds absorbed so much music and information that it was practically oozing out of my pores. It also led to me finding several like minded people who to this day remain some of my greatest friends.
Then I discovered Coil. I find it hard to express how much Coil have meant to me over the years and indeed how much they continue to mean to me. It's often a glib throwaway gesture to say that something changed your life but their music really did change mine. it has been a constant helping companion through hard times and taken me higher than any stimulant possibly could during good times. "Horse Rotorvator" would undoubtedly make it onto my desert island. Unlike most acts one falls in love with who go on to disappoint, if anything, Coil improved with age. When I discovered TG, I always thought of Peter Christopherson as "the guy who made most of the noise" but in fact he has created some of the most beautiful, emotive, psychedelic, bewitchingly strange music known to humankind. It's no surprise that Psychic TV lost some of their wondrous awe after he left.
I had a few dealings with Peter over the years. In 1994 I wrote to Coil to ask if I could use "Nasa Arab" on a compilation I was putting together. I was expecting it to be a long and protracted postal exchange but practically by return post I received a very kind reply saying i was very welcome to use it. Not long after I was releasing a remix compilation by my beloved Chris & Cosey put together by my friend Jill and she asked Peter if Coil would contribute. Again, a polite and painless process ensued and shortly later a DAT tape of their remix arrived. Finally, in 2008, I contacted Peter to ask if we could use Coil's "A Cold Cell" on our "Sleepwalk" compilation. He not only said yes but asked if we would like him to do an exclusive remix of it. Would we ever?! I'm listening to it as I type this and finding it hard not to shed a tear as I think of both his and John Balance's untimely departures from this planet.
I met Peter briefly, twice. Once when we put TG on in Glasgow (something that would have been so far beyond my 16 year old self's wildest imaginings as to be an incomprehensible thought). My conversation probably consisted of a few incoherent mutterings about how wonderful their performance had been (it was) due to complete over awe at being in his and the rest of TG's presence. Even at this age I find it a little hard to converse with people who have had such a profound impact on my life - there are only a very small handful who have, and sadly most of them are now departed.
I met him again when he played as Threshold Houseboys Choir in Glasgow and I played some records before he performed. Once again, any notion that I might have any witty or urbane qualities went right out of the window.
In these unshockable times when every taboo has been confronted, the content of that performance was easily the most shocking thing I have ever experienced. By far.
In my mind, Peter was one of thee greats of this era (and, well, any era to be honest). Way beyond being a polymath he was some sort of alchemist sent to us to shake things up. As much for his music, his dissemination of arcane knowledge, his ability to shock us and confront us with the very idea of what it means to be a human being he was also one of the great visual artists of our time. From his artwork for his own records to those that he did for Hipgnosis (his cover for Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" so shocked at the time that it came wrapped in black plastic) to his photography to his video direction (check his video for "Infected" by The The - the "Apocalypse Now" of pop videos or the one for Coil's "Tainted Love", probably the first video to address the AIDS pandemic and which is on permanent display at The Museum of Modern Art in New York). He really was a unique individual that we are a poorer species for losing. But, what a legacy he left behind. Missed more than words can convey.
Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson - 27/02/55 - 24/11/10 - Sleaze in peace.
Thursday October 21st 2010
Ariane Forster aka Ari Up. (17 January 1962 – 20 October 2010)
Ari Up was a force of nature and yesterday that force succumbed to cancer and sadly left us. Born in Munich, her mother Nora moved to London when she was a child. As a result, Ari had a very distinctive hybrid Anglo-Germanic accent which also contributed to her completely unique vocal stylings.
Nora was renowned for taking in poor musicians to their home and when punk broke Ari was exposed to it from day one. Nora would later marry John Lydon who became her loving step father. Indicative of her precocious nature, at the age of 14 she formed The Slits, quite simply for me one of thee greatest bands of all time. Initially an anarchic, shambolic but wonderful punk band, they soon took onboard their love of tribal rhythms and reggae and released the beyond seminal "Cut" album which is one of the few records I have worn through three copies of. With "Cut" they created something completely unique that broke the mould but alas a male centric music industry found it hard to know how to handle them and following one more difficult (to some) but wonderful album ("Return Of The Giant Slits") it was all over.
Post Slits she recorded with Adrian Sherwood's New Age Steppers (her songs being highlights) and then went to live in the jungle of Belize to have babies before ending up living in Jamaica. She resurfaced in New York in the late 1990s and had various projects on the go before controversially reforming The Slits in 2006.
I had two Ari Up encounters. The first time I ever played in New York (around 1998) I played a rather odd but great gig where I went on after a reggae sound system. There was a wild looking woman hanging about who asked if she could "vocalise" over my records. I said sure and after about three seconds of hearing her voice realised it was Ari Up. My mind was completely blown. After I had played two records she obviously decided my selections weren't up to scratch and wandered off.
I never saw The Slits. When they reformed I decided not to go as the wonderful Viv Albertine had decided not to participate and it didn't feel like the real deal to me. I did however have the good fortune to see Ari Up play a small bar in Glasgow a few years ago. It was very chaotic and very entertaining with Ari spending at least half her time on stage berating the audience. A couple of hours later she turned up at Optimo and stood around looking as if she was asking herself why on earth she had ended up there. I was egged on to play The Slit's version of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" (an Optimo classic) and when I did she transformed into a whirling dervish and more or less took over the dance floor. That's a moment I shall treasure forever.
Ari Up showed that women can make music on their own terms; that femininity given free reign in music can give birth to a different kind of music. Truly a one off. A fearless, confrontational, radical trailblazer who did it her way. "Do a runner!"
Podcasts - Yet More Lists!
Thursday September 2nd 2010
Apologies for the lack of updates on here. 2010 has proved to be an incredibly busy year and despite having more time after stopping djing every Sunday, I have had more projects on the go than ever, many of which won't see fruition until late 2010 / early 2011.
In the mean time, we have continued to update our podcast series - http://www.optimo.co.uk/podcasts/index.xml
There was a conscious policy not to reveal the tracklistings as we felt people were less likely to actually listen if they could see the content in advance. At the same time we said we were happy to provide information if anyone got in touch and have been astonished at how many people took us up on that offer (and indeed continue to ask about some of the earlier podcasts). We have decided to make some of the earlier tracklistings available and over time will eventually post all the information up here.
Optimo Podcast 1 - Synth Summer (Twitch) September 4th 2009 :
Son Of Sam - Nature's Made A Mistake
Nightmoves - Transdance
Desire - Don't Call
KXP - 18 Hours (An Optimo (Espacio) mix)
Boy 8 Bit - Baltic Pine (extract)
Fever Ray - Triangle Walks (extract)
Force Dimension - 200FA
Medio Mutante - Corre Corre
Daniel Savio - Eyeballs On The Street
Hell Interface - The Midas Touch
They Came From The Stars - Rabbit, Seal, Monkey (King Of Town mix)
Pankow - My Baby Can...
Psyche - Prisoner To Desire (dub)
Gary Numan - Music For Chameleons (edit)
Snowy Red - Still Human
Vangelis - Bladerunner End Title
Optimo Podcast 2 - Jerk It (Wilkes) October 15th 2009 :
Yura Yura Teikoku - Dekinai
Killing Joke – Almost Red
DNA - Egomaniac's Kiss
Divorce – Pipe Down
Butch Willis - Drugs
Fire Engines – We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thing (Peel Session)
Crash Course in Science – Mechanical Breakdown
Devo – Blockhead
Tussle – Animal Cop
The Fall – New Big Prinz
Billy Childish & Sexton Ming - Dearest
Cowboys International - Thrash
Pulsallama – The Devil Lives in my Husbands Body
Comet Gain – Love without Lies
Kleenex - Hedi’s Head
The Plastics - Copy
The Homosexuals - Not Moving the Way You’re Supposed To
The Ruts – In a Rut
Paska - Jesus
Optimo Podcast 3 - Take A Stroll Through Your Mind (Twitch) November 12th 2009 :
Damon - The Road Of Life
Witch - Home Town
Spirit - The Other Song
Top Drawer - Song Of A Sinner
Pisces - Sam
The Derek Lawrence Statement - I Am The Preacher
Cheb Zurgui - Ana Dellali
Omar Khorshid - Raqsed El Fada
Ney Matogrosso - O Corsario
Ofege - Ofege
La Revolucion De Emiliano Zapata - Nasty Sex
Dug Dugs - Lost In My World
The Temptations - Take A Stroll Through Your Mind
Optimo Podcast 4 - Car Mix (Wilkes) February 6th 2010 :
Bob Thompson - Le Mans (from "Sound of Speed")
Jean Michel Jarre - Le car / Le chasse neige
Kraftwerk - Autobahn (Edit 1)
The Normal - Warm Leatherette
Adam Ant - Car Trouble
Johnny Cash - One Piece at a Time
Nurse with Wound - Cruisin' for a Bruisin'
Visnadi - Racing Tracks
L'Trimm - Cars That Go Boom
Mach - On& On (edit )
Cybotron - Cosmic Cars
Kraftwerk - Autobahn (Edit 2)
Chris and Cosey - Driving Blind
The Katzenjammers - Cars
Gary Numan - Cars
AJ McGhee - Bentleys and Hummers
Squarepusher - My Hot Red Car
The Cars - Drive
Saturday May 1st 2010
So, that's it. I'm sure everyone is now sick of hearing about Optimo. The hype towards the end reached epic proportions, both online and on the streets of Glasgow. It took on a momentum way, way beyond our wildest imaginings.
Our intention was to go out with a bang and I think we achieved that, and then some. The last four Optimos got progressively more crazed with the last night being by far and away the most intensely up for it atmosphere I have seen in a club in my entire life. If it was possible to bottle that atmosphere and collect all the love and positive energy dispensed in that room, one would have an elixir for world peace.
I'm not going to harp on any more as i think everything has been said and this blog will eventually go back to being about other stuff but i would just like to take this opportunity to say thank you. Thank you to everyone who supported and who got what Optimo was about. Thank you to everyone who gave us the send off to end all send offs, who queued sometimes for hours with good grace and who in some cases traveled from the ends of the world to be there.
I'd also like to thank the literally hundreds of people who sent me emails and messages, many of them deeply personal and profoundly moving. Reading what a wee night out in Glasgow meant to so many people has been the most humbling and heartwarming experience I can ever imagine having. We always hoped to engender a positive energy and I found through your words that we truly succeeded. Thank you!
A very, very, very long list
Thursday April 22nd 2010
Optimo 250 (in no order) compiled by The People.
Here is a very, very long list of tracks that have been Optimo favourites over the years. It was 100% compiled by the people who have regularly come to the club and was mostly taken from posts made on the Optimo Facebook page with a few more taken from a couple of other forum threads about people's all time favourite Optimo tracks. Literally thousands of records have been played at Optimo but these are the ones that seem to have resonated the most. There are probably some notable absences from the list but we had to stop somewhere.
I think this is a much more interesting list than the one that we would have put together from our own memories of the club. Firstly, we would never have remembered all of these and secondly, we might have concentrated on the more esoteric records that we loved to play.
I think what is most striking about the list is that the vast majority of these tracks are SONGS. The majority of what we played at the club was actually techno, house, electro, disco, whatever etc. but that isn't really reflected in the list which shows that perhaps the thing that resonates with people is not the latest cutting edge electronic track but something that they can sing along to. Well, we knew that already to be honest, and Optimo was always really "Poptimo" with a big seam of mutant pop music at its core.
When we started the club in 1997, it had taken a lifetime to accrue the records below. Now, you can probably access 99% of them with two clicks of a mouse. Enjoy and savour them; some of them changed lives.
Loose Joints - Is it All Over My Face?
Loose Joints - Tell You (Today)
Dinosaur - Kiss Me Again
Dinosaur L - Go Bang!
Arthur Russell - This Is How We Walk On The Moon
Arthur Russell - Home Away From Home
Bis - Shack Up
Grace Jones - La Vie En Rose
Divine - Shake It Up
Divine - Native Love
Roni Griffith - Desire
The Normal - Warm Leatherette
The Mekons - Where Were You?
Q Lazzarus - Goodbye Horses
The Slits - I Heard It Through The Grapevine
Creedence Clearwater Revival - I Heard It Through The Grapevine
Khan feat. Julee Cruise - Say Goodbye
Madonna - Into The Groove
Madonna - Hung Up
Laidback - White Horse
Marc Houle - Bay Of Figs
Bumblebee Unlimited - Lady Bug
Immortals - The Ultimate Warlord
Aztec Mystic - Knights Of The Jaguar
Ram Jam - Black Betty
Chris and Cosey - October Love Song
Chris and Cosey - Walking Through Heaven
Chris and Cosey - Sweet Surprise
The Joubert Singers - Stand On The Word (Larry Levan Mix)
Basic Channel - Phylyps Trak 2
Aretha Franklin - Rocksteady
Joakim - I Wish You Were Gone
Zongamin - Bongo Song
Modettes - White Mice
Spanky Wilson - Sunshine Of Your Love
Implog - Holland Tunnel Dive
Tuxedomoon - In A Manner Of Speaking
Midnite Mike - Boys Boys Boys
KC Flight - Voices
AC / DC - Highway To Hell
AC / DC - The Jack
League Unlimited Orchestra - Things That Dreams Are Made Of
Lindstrom - I Feel Space
Black Leotard Front - Casual Friday
Ronettes - Baby I Love You
Westbam - Old School Baby
Karen Young - Hot Shot
Roxy Music - Virginia Plain
Prince - When Doves Cry
Detroit Grand Pubahs - Sandwiches
James White and The Blacks - Contort Yourself
The Contortions - Contort Yourself
Alter Ego - Why Not?
Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom - Rise (DFA Mix)
Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom - Relevee (Carl Craig Mix)
Edwin Starr - War
Ten Benson - Rock Cottage
Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture (Finale)
Spacemen 3 - Revolution
The Only Ones - Another Girl, Another Planet
Faze Action - Good Lovin'
The Specials - A Message To You Rudy
Chris Issak - Wicked Games
Ricardo Villalobos - Dexter
Max Romeo - Chase The Devil
Grauzone - Eisbaer
Par-T-One - I'm So Crazy
Suicide - Dream Baby Dream
Crème De Menthe - Plastique
Angelo Badalamenti - Twin Peaks Theme
Angelo Badalamenti - The Pink Room
Mariah - Shinzo No Tobira
Argento - Milano Gospel
Spirit - The Other Song
Coil - Tainted Love
Sun Ra - Space Is The Place
Delta 5 - Mind Your Own Business
Roland - Golden Brown
Bush Tetras - Snakes Crawl
ESG - Moody
ESG - UFO
ESG - Dance
Cutty Ranks - Limb By limb
Shabba Ranks - Mr. Loverman (David Morales mix)
Jacqueline Taieb - 7 heure Du Matin
Farley Jackmaster Funk - Love Can't Turn Around
Fever Ray - Triangle Walks (Rex The Dog Remix)
Retro/Grade - Moda
Shock Headed Peters - I, Bloodbrother Be
Denis Naidanow Feat. Tyree Cooper - Wonderland
The Rapture - House Of Jealous lovers
Hercules - 7 Ways To Jack
C Cat Trance - Shake The MInd
Sons And Daughters - Dance Me In (JD Twitch and The Truffle Club mix)
Richie Havens - Going Back To My Roots
Deeon - The Freaks
Faze Action - In The Trees (Carl Craig mix)
Sean Paul - Like Glue
Sean Paul - Temperature
Joy Division - Transmission
Mary Hill - Hallogallo
I-F - Space Invaders Are Smoking Grass
David Bowie - Station To Station
Cristina - Is That All There Is?
The Knife - Silent Shout
Jonathan Richman - Egyptian Reggae
Peaches - Fuck The Pain Away
Hansepferd - BismarckE
Quarks - I Walk (Superpitcher Shaffel mix)
Hot Chocolate - Heaven Is In The Back Seat Of My Cadillac (The Revenge mix)
Echopark - Suicide Commando
The Velvet Underground - All Tomorrow's Parties
Jamie Principle - Your Love
Sexual Harassment - I Need A Freak
TLC - No Scrubs
Zombie Nation - Kernkraft 400
Material - Bustin' Out
Funky Green Dogs From Outer Space - Reach For Me
Herbert - Moving Like A Train (Smith N' Hack Remix)
The Human League - You've Lost That Loving Feeling
Johnny Wakelin - In Zaire
Man 2 Man Meets Man Parrish - Male Stripper
Mount Florida - Poptimo / Yo La Poptimo
Whirlpool Productions - From Disco To Disco
Console - 14 Zero Zero
Silver Apples - Lovefingers
Skatt Bros - Walk The Night
Smog - Cold Blooded Old Times
Paul Johnson - Playing With A Rubberband
Vitalic - La Rock 01
Led Zeppelin- Immigrant Song
Throbbing Gristle - Hot On The Heels Of Love
Den Haan - Release the Beast
Midnight Starr - Midas Touch
The Stooges - No Fun
The Stooges - I Wanna Be Your Dog
The B-52's Planet Claire
Beirut - Nantes (Fredo & Thang Disco Remix)
Dakar & Grinser - I Wanna Be Your Dog
Stardust - Music Sounds Better With You
Baccara - Yes Sir I Can Boogie
Ferenc - Yes Sir, I Can Hardcore (Michael Mayer Mix)
Gloria Jones - Tainted Love
Blondie - Atomic
Blondie - Rip Her To Shreds
Blondie - Shayla
Blondie - Heart Of Glass
Blondie - Hanging On The Telephone
The Rolling Stones - Under My thumb
Human Resource - Dominator
Naum - Ari
Silver Apples - Oscillations
This Mortal Coil - Song To The Siren
Troublefunk - Drop The Bomb
Public Enemy - Rebel Without A Pause
The Sweet - Ballroom Blitz
Severed Heads - We Have Come To Bless This House
Severed Heads - Dead Eyes Opened
Bobby O - She Has A Way
The Ramones - Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
John Carpenter - Assault On Precinct 13
Shirley And Co. - Shame, Shame, Shame
Aaliyah - Try Again
Nitzer Ebb - Join In The Chant
Nitzer Ebb - Murderous
Depeche Mode - Enjoy The Silence
Depeche Mode - Behind The Wheel (Shep Pettibone mix)
Os Mutantes - A Minha Menina
The Creepers - Baby's On Fire
Fleetwood Mac - The Chain (Coda)
Gang Of Four - Damaged Goods
Gang of Four - At Home He's a Tourist
Zorba The Greek
Johann Strauss - The Blue Danube
Tiefschwarz - Ghostrack (Black Strobe Remix)
Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams
Raffaella Carra - Black Cat
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - Faith Healer
Hot Butter - Popcorn
Harry Thumann - Underwater
The Flirts - Passion
Liquid Liquid - Optimo
Liquid Liquid - Cavern
Love - Everybody's Got To Live
Justus Kohncke - Old Man
Chemise - She Can't Love You
Liaisons Dangereuses - Los Ninos Del Parque
Amnesia - Ibiza
Tom Tom Club - Wordy Rappinghood
Soft Cell - Sex Dwarf
Boney M - Rasputin
Green Velvet - La La Land
Sylvester - Do You Wanna Funk
Grafitti - What Is Your Problem
Desire - Don't Call
Colourbox - Baby I Love You So
Nina Simone - My Baby Just Cares For Me
Nina Simone - Feelin' Good
Tim Rose - Morning Dew
Cajmere - Let Me Be
Beyonce - Crazy In Love
Amerie - One Thing
Lady Saw - Bam Bam
Wayne Smith - Under Me Sleng Teng
Banbarra - Shack Up
The Ramones - Baby I Love You
The Flirtations - Nothing But A Heartache
Sparks - Beat The Clock
Sparks - No. 1 Song In Heaven
Fourmost Poets - Moonraker
Hot Chip - Over And Over (Naum Gabo mix)
Shirley Ellis - The Clapping Song
Motorhead - Ace Of Spades
Black Sabbath - The Wizard
Jesse Jackson - Wattstax Speech
Sister Sledge - Lost In Music
LB - Jealous Guy
Adult - Nausea
Talking Heads - Psycho Killer
The Juan Maclean - Happy House
The Meters - Just Kissed My Baby
Gui Borratto - Beautiful Life
Dr. Alimantado - Born For A Purpose
Mount Rushmore - You Better
Johnny Cash - Personal Jesus
Audion - Mouth To Mouth
Wookie - The Battle (Dub)
House Master Boyz - House Nation
Jeans Team - Keine Melodien
CLS - Can You Feel It
Liberty City - If You Really Love Someone
Dead Kennedys - California Über Alles
LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends
The Birthday Party - Sonny's Burning
Grinderman - No Pussy Blues
KXP - 18 Hours Of Love (An Optimo (Espacio) Mix)
Shit Robot - I Got A Feeling
Fela Kuti - Zombie
John Carpenter - The End
Egyptian Empire - The Horn Track
Ike And Tina Turner - Come Together
Supermayer - The Two Of Us
Cerrone - Supernature
Giorgio Moroder - The Chase
Donna Summer - I Feel Love (Patrick Cowley mix)
Nathan Fake - The Sky Was Pink (Icelandic version)
The Sonics - Shot Down
Chilly - For Your Love
Man Friday - Love Honey, Love Heartache
The Cramps - New Kind Of Kick
The White Stripes - Truth Doesn't Make A Noise
? And The Mysterians - 96 Tears
Shellac - Prayer To God
DAF - Der Mussolini
Say goodbye, wave hello
Friday March 12th 2010
If you are reading this, you are probably aware that we announced we are stopping running Optimo as a weekly club.
About an hour before I posted up the news, I did an interview with someone who knew we were about to announce this. He asked me what I thought the response would be and I answered that I had no idea. That is true. I really didn't know what to expect. I thought there would be a few posts on our bulletin board wishing us well but that most people would probably be thinking "about bloody time!".
I am currently on tour in Australia and I posted the news up at around 1am local time. When I awoke, I had around 400 emails plus countless texts, tweets, facebook messages etc. etc. Insanity! It has been, to say the least an emotional last 24 hours but I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for all the very kind words that they have written. To hear how much a wee disco in Glasgow has resonated with people across the world has been quite humbling.
The next few weeks will be a mixture of happiness and sadness but ultimately, change is good and I'm excited about what will happen next. Obviously we're not going to stop djing anytime soon and I look forward to seeing more far flung parts of this planet. Hopefully I'll also release some of my own music this year, release more records by other people, write more nonsense on here, read a lot more and run a Sunday night in Glasgow that hopefully challenges the conventions of what a disco can be about. I don't expect that will ever be as popular as Optimo was as that time is already a different era, but we are looking forward to having the opportunity to hopefully do something that shakes it all up a little, again. We seem to be living in ever more conservative times and more than ever, someone has to (at least try to) kick against the pricks.
In the meantime, thanks to everybody who has supported us on an amazing journey that all started as a prank one rainy Sunday in a basement on Jamaica Street, Glasgow back in November 1997.
Friday February 5th 2010
Genuine Glasgow legend Alistair Leigh passed away yesterday. I wanted to write something brief about him and what he meant to me but it ended up writing itself and becoming a bit too long to post here so I have made a page for it which you can read here should the notion take you.
I'd just like to add that the term "Raver" has become slightly bastardised over the years and has almost come to have pejorative connotations. It shouldn't, as Alistair's fondness for the pursuit should testify.
Alistair - Rave in peace.
End of the year top 10 part 7 >>>
Monday January 4th 2010
So, I ran out of time before the end of the year in which to complete my top 10. Oh well. What else would have been in there? It could have been a ton of things; an endless list no doubt. But, that year is over and there's a wealth of other stuff to discover and be inspired by this year. I'm looking forward to it!
The photo at the top of this post is from two seconds after midnight at the start of the second decade of the third millenium, approximately 4.5 billion years after the birth of this planet we all share together. The photo was taken by Biotron. Happy new year. Be kind to each other.
Rowland S Howard 24/10/59 - 30/12/2009
Wednesday December 30th 2009
2009 was an awful year for losing musicians who had a great impact on my life. Had I been updating this blog earlier in the year I would have written about Ron Asheton and Lux Interior (and also JG Ballard) who passed away earlier this year. I put together a Lux Interior tribute night shortly after he left us and was astounded by how many people turned up for it.
Today I found out Rowland S Howard passed away. I'm always attracted to musicians with a unique vision, which was something Rowland had in spades. There is NO other guitarist on the planet who could play like he could and I'd instantly recognise his playing after hearing it for a second. I first heard his playing with The Birthday Party when I was 15. They split up before I ever had a chance to see them live, but their records had a profound effect on me and I ended up following the careers of all the members of the band. Someone I know who was fortunate to see them described Rowland S's guitar playing - "seeing him play live, the earth did indeed move, or at least the floor would tilt in a crazy chaotic fashion because of what was coming out of his guitar.
Post Birthday Party, Nick Cave went on to fame and fortune while Rowland struggled with drug addiction and perhaps never realised his full potential. Despite that he managed to release a handful of great records (the last of which, the wonderful "Pop Crimes" came out this year) and brought his unique playing (and singing style) to some wonderful bands. His playing with Honeymoon In Red, Lydia Lunch, Crime and The City Solution, These Immortal Souls and more recently with HTRK is never sort of astonishing and is music I sometimes get lost in for hours on end. Rowland was the Swamp Rock maestro from Melbourne and his style has influenced bands across the world, including a couple I've released on my label.
Interestingly, Rowland had the following to say about those who were inspired by him -
"''Usually when people say to me that a new band sounds just like me, I feel that they have missed the point entirely,'' he said.
''It's not just about being noisy and aggressive, it's a whole aesthetic, trying to meld genres into something new. So doing something that is based on that 30 years later is fairly redundant.
''They [young bands] should be looking for something that is of their own.''
I appreciate his point but ultimately I'd have to disagree in that I'd rather hear someone inspired by Rowland than 99.9% of the usual suspects. A unique human being (and a unique looking human being), Rowland you will be deeply missed.
End of the year top 10 part 6
Wednesday December 23rd 2009
About 33% of all the gigs I do completely suck and usually leave me wondering why on earth I do this for a living. About 33% of all the gigs I do are good and remind me why I do this for a living. About 33% of all the gigs I do are so good and so life affirming that I'd pay for the privilege of doing them. Then there are those 1% gigs that are above and beyond anything words can describe. They are the ultimate high and are forever locked in my memory. Whenever I feel a bit low, just thinking about them will lift my spirits. This year there was one gig that was perhaps further above and beyond anything i have ever experienced before.
I had always wanted to go to Portland, Oregon and this year, on January 20th I was invited by two of the loveliest people I have ever had the good fortune to meet (Matt and Genivieve aka Linger and Quiet) to play at their fabulous night "Nightclubbing" at Holocene. January 20th was Obama's inauguration day and the night was an inauguration party sponsored by the Democratic Party of Oregon, so when I arrived, people were (to use a term beloved of our American cousins) "losing their shit". Portland is a pretty liberal town so it seemed as if everyone there was celebrating. The streets were thronged with revellers and their was a palpable sense of optimism and joy in the air. When I got to Holocene, the party was in full swing and Democratic Party workers, activists, supporters and well wishers were having a party that made the wildest Glasgow Hogmanay seem relatively restrained.
Around 11pm they stopped the music and showed Obama's inauguration speech again to riotous applause - there were life size cardboard cut outs of Obama being passed overhead - and then I went on. To be honest, I could probably have just farted into a microphone and people would have cheered but needless to say it was one of the most special gigs of my life and a great, great honour, to be asked to play. My peak point of the night was playing this edit I knocked together in the hotel when I arrived. Ok, so in hindsight it's a little cheesy, but it fitted the mood of that day. The one thing that struck me the most about the day was that after nearly a decade of Bush hell, Obama had brought a long overdue outlook of positivity and possibility to an enormous number of disillusioned and disenfranchised Americans (and people beyond America too). We will have to see how his vision pans out over the next few years but, anyone capable of invigorating so much positive energy in so many people would get my vote.
I played in Portland again in September and had a great time then too, even though they seem to have a strange habit of all going home to bed around 2am. A beautiful part of the world, a great town, great people, great music scene! Were I ever to emigrate Stateside, I'm pretty sure Portland is where I would head.
End of the year top 10 part 5
Wednesday December 23rd 2009
The Fever Ray album soundtracked a lot of my year. I don't know if it would make my top ten of the year but the live show definitely would. Jonnie and I were playing at Lowlands festival in Holland in the summer (great festival!) and as is always the way at festivals, we arrived, had a couple of hours free, played and then had to leave. We were very lucky that in those couple of free hours we had a chance to see Fever Ray playing. It's a hard task creating an atmosphere in an enormous dance tent but within about 90 seconds of taking to the stage, a hushed and slightly awestruck audience of 10 000 or so were completely enraptured by Karin Dreijer Andersson and her bandmates. I'm usually one of those people that gets annoyed by people taking endless photos at live shows but their laser show and stage set was so awe inspiring that I couldn't help myself. The only way I can describe the feeling in that tent is that it was as if we were in the midst of some Nordic techno-primitive ritual. It was quite literally spellbinding and almost too much for me when they covered one of my all time favourite songs - Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds "Stranger Than Kindness".
My biggest regret of 2009 also involves Fever Ray. We were offered them to put on in Glasgow in May but it was such an expensive production to put on (mainly due to the lasers) that we very reluctantly had to pass on it. At that point in time, i don't think enough people were aware of the wonder that was their live show but over the summer word spread like wildfire and so we attempted to bring them to Glasgow in December for one of their final ever live shows. Alas, it wasn't to be.
While everyone was falling in love with Fever Ray, I was wondering what the other half of The Knife, Olof Dreijer had been doing in 2009. It was only late in the year that rumours started to circulate that he had made a handful of records under the alias Oni Ayhun. These were quite hard to find, extremely underground releases, sometimes on etched vinyl. After a little detective work I managed to track the 3 12" singles down and they exceeded my expectations - all three are wonderfully inventive, hypnotic and beautiful slabs of music.
Here's an extract of perhaps my favourite of his releases and also the most recognisable as being Olof's work. This is a three minute extract from a ten minute track and is the b-side of the third 12". Check it here. If you want the full release, sadly the vinyl is long gone but you can purchase the mp3s here.
A few things that bugged me senseless in 2009
Wednesday December 16th 2009
Some of these aren't necessarily 2009 specific but all of them managed to bug me this year -
The term "epic fail"
The term "only [insert number here] sleeps until..."
"Join this Facebook group to...save the planet, end poverty, get some crappy record to number 1 etc. etc."
British journalists using the word "sophomore"
Any British person using the phrase "do the math"
The Conservative Party
Being forced to remove shoes at airport security
People who ask for favours and then never thank you
People who compile lists of things that bug them - epic fail!
End of the year top 10 part 4
Wednesday December 16th 2009
I have been listening to house music for coming up for 25 years. That's a lot of 4/4 kick drums. About 99% of modern house records bore me to tears. They are either so enthralled by the past that I think I'd be better off listening to the original records they are trying to mimic, or else they seem to be awash in an ocean of blandness. For sure it is hard to inject new life into such a moribund genre, but it is definitely possible and this year a lot of UK producers injected new life and ideas into house music under the not so fantastically named "UK Funky" banner. There were of course other notable exceptions, but for me, in 2009 the standout artist was New York's Levon Vincent. Mr. Vincent has his own thing going and in 2009 that thing was a string of jacking, druggy, rough and raw, hypnotic, sexy, d.i.y. 12" singles with possibly the most swinging hi hats of the 21st century.
There is a Youtube link below to one of his tracks but to be honest, listening to them on yr crappy laptop speakers doesn't really make sense. These tracks are designed for dark, sweaty rooms with large soundsystems. It's time to jack.
Male love of lists
Tuesday December 15th 2009
The male of the species has a tendency to like listing things. I swear that I am the exception to the rule, but sometimes I am asked to compile a list and I find myself secretly enjoying it, thus confirming my underlying suspicion that I am just like the rest of my male brethren after all. I recently played at Divine's 19th birthday party at The Art School in Glasgow. For those who don't know, Divine is a legendary Northern Soul, Funk, Garage Rock, Psyche, Old 45s kind of night and I always jump at the chance to play at it as I get to play a couple of hours of records I rarely ever get to play for a couple of hours, i get to indulge my love of the 7" single and i get to just play records rather than mixing them together. It is a completely different audience than I normally play to and getting to do gigs like this keeps life interesting and is a bit of a challenge. Andrew (Divine) asked me for a playlist of what I played that night so I decided to put it up here in case anyone wanted to read a long list of records they probably couldn't care less about.
Divine playlist - here.
End of the year top 10 part 3
Monday December 14th 2009
At last, a book about the wonderful Mr. Russell. All i could have hoped it would be and thern some.
Optimo TV Party
Tuesday December 8th 2009
Have been thinking about doing this for a while. Inspired by TV Party, the most anarchic tv show of all time, produced with zero budget by people who had absolutely no idea what they were doing, I thought it might be good to try to do something similar. Not a direct copy of TV Party but rather the idea of a group of people with absolutely no idea what they are doing trying to make sporadic 20 minute unedited, unscripted, single camera, no budget tv shows that give a platform for expression for some of the bands, artists, egomaniacs, lunatics and assorted characters who inhabit this city.
why? well, to quote lux interior, "life is short, filled with stuff, don't know what for, but I can better myself if I could only find some new kind of kick, something I ain't had before, some new kind of buzz" or to put it more simply, it might be fun to do. it doesn't really matter whether there is an audience for it or not - that would certainly not be the reason for doing it and besides, the world is completely over saturated with "content" as it is. it might all be a horrible disaster. everyone involved might end up hating each other, it might never evolve beyond this post on an internet forum.....
but, if anyone is at all interested, has a cheap camcorder, a space that could be used, something to say, a burning desire to perform, any ideas at all or no clue whatsoever, please get in touch.
End of the year top 10 part 2
Thursday November 26th 2009
Everything (there have only been 4 releases so far) on Matias Aguayo's Cómeme label. As minimal techno continues to disappear up its own rear and became the 00s equivalent of 90s progressive, it was a joy to hear a gang of South American's tear up the rule book and make some wonderful, fun, jacking, lo-fi records that sounded like they were the best party in the world.
End of the year top 10
Friday November 20th 2009
Everyone goes crazy for end of the year charts. I've never really been a huge fan of them as I always end up forgetting lots of things I loved over the course of a year and unlike most male music lovers I've never really had any huge urge to list things in order of preference.
However, between now and the end of the year, i'll up put some things I loved in 2009. I'll start with Amadou and Mariam whose "Welcome to Mali" album features two of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard, each of which I must have listened to several hundred times and both of which I slightly reworked so I could play them in my dj sets. One of my biggest regrets of the year was not getting to see them play live. They played three festivals we played at but we were either on at the same time or got there after they played. Next year!
For me, music doesn't get much more "up" than this -
Thursday October 1st 2009
Last week, I did a mix for Beats In Space playing something a little different - a mix of Cumbia. Cumbia originated from Colombia and Panama and then spread throughout Latin America. It is a combination of Spanish, African and Native American instrumentation. Generally finding favour with the lower classes it has many variants. This mix is a mixture of more traditional Cumbia with some psychedelic influences and a few cover versions (Fela Kuti and Rod Stewart!). The second half of the mix features a 21st century digital take on the Cumbia sound from Argentina.
The mix is here. Enjoy!
Big Ned soundtrack
Wednesday September 30th 2009
A short film made by Glasgow School of Art animation student Sandy Bouttell featuring music by Optimo Music's Big Ned.
Tuesday September 8th 2009
As you may have noticed, the Optimo website has had a bit of a makeover. As well as looking a lot better there will be a lot more updated content, such as podcasts, the first of which is up now. There are still a few bits and pieces to be added such as Mr. Wilkes discography but if you find anything doesn't work or is missing, please drop us a line.
In the meantime, there should be a bit more activity on this page than there has been for the last year or so. Stay tuned for more.
So, farewell then Robert Anton Wilson and Harry Horse.
Friday January 12th 2007
Sadly I am only updating this page to commemorate two great human spirits who have just left this world.
I use the term 'mind blowing' far too often. I use it about records, films, books etc. and use it flippantly. How many of these things really blew my mind? Someone who did completely and utterly blow my mind to shreds with repercussions that are still ricocheting around my brain twenty years later was Robert Anton Wilson. I'm convinced that his Illuminatus! Trilogy and Cosmic Trigger series as well as some of his other writings permanently changed the way my brain is hard wired. For the better. Thank you Robert.
Robert Anton Wilson laughed in the face of death. His final message to the world - "Please pardon my levity, I don't see how to take death seriously. It seems absurd."
All hail Discordia! All hail Eris!
Friday January 12th 2007
Harry Horse was a great (honorary) Scot from Coventry. In the late 80s in Edinburgh he fronted a wild troupe called Swamptrash who played bluegrass with a punk intensity. They seemed to play every weekend in Edinburgh back then and I must have seen them a dozen times, every time thinking they were the best live band in the world. Maybe they were as they even managed to get roomfuls of goths dancing which is quite a feat. They also introduced me to Johnny Cash. They used to do an epic, turbo charged version of 'Ring of Fire' which was always my highlight of their set. I remember telling a friend it was my favourite Swamptrash song and him looking at me like I was an idiot (I was!) only to inform me it was by The Man In Black.
I had forgotten all about Swamptrash and their association with my drunken teenage nights out in Edinburgh until I read today that Harry had left us in circumstances you can read about elsewhere - circumstances that could be called tragic or that could show that true and total love is the most powerful thing human beings can ever know.
Harry made his name in recent times as a wonderful cartoonist, often political and fiercely critical of our war mongering leaders. He also wrote several sublime children's books, was a phenomenal artist, was a lover of some of the greatest, most esoteric music out there and still played his beloved banjo. I hope you and your soul mate are at one with the stars Harry.
in your words -
All my heroes are dead : Just like Schopenhauer said A freely chosen Death Is only waking up From this nightmare We're prisoners to a savage god Blind obedient from beatings Ordered by Bush and Blair Those times new roman converts. All my heroes are dead : Blake, Burns, Byron and John Balance Kurt Cobain Hart Crane Hemingway Virginia Wolf Sylvia Plath Vincent Van Gogh Cut his ear off All my heroes are dead : As Hugh Cornwell said No more heroes anymore Just Tom and Katie Waving from the door Of their retreat in Tuscany A fame addicted nonentity And none to rouse us From the nightmare And lead us to the morning
syd barrett - dream in peace
Tuesday July 11th 2006
It's awfully considerate of you to think of me here
And I'm most obliged to you for making it clear
That I'm not here.
And I never knew the moon could be so big
And I never knew the moon could be so blue
And I'm grateful that you threw away my old shoes
And brought me here instead dressed in red
And I'm wondering who could be writing this song.
I don't care if the sun don't shine
And I don't care if nothing is mine
And I don't care if I'm nervous with you
I'll do my loving in the winter.
And the sea isn't green
And I love the queen
And what exactly is a dream?
And what exactly is a joke?
Pure & The Venue
Wednesday June 21st 2006
Last year I wrote about Pure, the club in Edinburgh I played at between 1990 and 2000. That rambling can be found further down this page. On June 10th 2006, The Venue which was Pure's home closed its doors as a nightclub to await conversion into yet more luxury flats for Edinburgh's booming property market. It really feels like Edinburgh's cultural soul is being sucked out of it at the moment, but then nothing is able to stand in the way of rampant capitalism.
On Friday June 9th, we were invited back by The Venue to do one last final, farewell Pure. This was the last ever Pure. No more anniversary parties. No more reunions. Without The Venue existing anymore, this had to be the end. All good things should go out with a bang and this last blast was no exception. While perhaps not quite scaling the heights of the craziness of the early 90s, the atmosphere came pretty close and a legion of old faces came out of the woodwork to say goodbye. I thought I would feel quite sad that The Venue was shutting but there was so much love in the air that the only thing that did make me sad was the thought that there would be a lot of people I would probably never see again.
Around 850 people crammed themselves in for this last hurrah and amongst them were a fair few people who were having their first and last experience of Pure. I was asked by a few of them if Pure had always been this intense (both musically and atmospherically). I answered in the affirmative and a couple of them then asked me if I had any mixes from the early days of Pure. Sadly, the early days of Pure are very badly documented as I think we were all too busy having crazy times to think about recording very much of it for posterity. Both myself and my co-conspirator Andy (Brainstorm) made several Pure mix tapes over the years but I have long ago given them all away. So, I thought I'd do a mix to give a taste of what Pure was like. I'm not sure how well this captures the intensity, but hopefully it captures some of the diversity of music and shows that the 'techno' we played covered a very wide spectrum of sound.
Most of the music on this mix is from the early years of Pure. For me, 1987 - 1994 was a golden age of innovation in electronic dance music. While many great records came out in the next few years after that, by the mid to late 90s, it seemed the originality and diversity in sound had more or less dissipated and a lot of the music being produced was fairly uniform and all about how hard it was. That's when I decided I had to start Optimo. Thankfully electronic dance music subsequently found it's way again and today we enjoy a diversity of sound in dance music that at one time I feared would never return.
At 40 minutes, this mix can't begin to touch on all the music that was played at Pure. Over the years we also played lots of deep New York and Chicago House, Detroit Techno, Sheffield Bass, UK and Belgian Rave (particularly the mighty R&S Records from Ghent, which on reflection it seems a bit of an oversight to not have included anything they released) and countless other offshoots of House and Techno music. This mix concentrates more on the Acid, European / North American Techno and Hardcore sides of the Pure sound - the sounds that we were perhaps the first in Scotland to champion - but does also include a couple of 'deep space Pure moments' and the odd track that on first exposure literally had some people running for the doors in fear!
The mix is just over 40 minutes long and is 38mb. Apologies for some of the records sounding a little rough but Pure was a tough environment for vinyl.
The mix is here. For maximum effect, play VERY loud.
The tracklisting is -
Adonis - No Way Back (Chicago 1986)
Armando - Land Of Confusion (Chicago 1988)
F.U.S.E. - Substance Abuse (Detroit 1991)
Essit Muzique - Essit Muzique (Eindhoven 1994)
Up! - Spiritual High (Detroit 1992)
C'hantal - The Realm (acappella) (New York 1990)
Pergon - The Deliverer (Frankfurt 1993)
Speedy j - Pullover (Rotterdam 1991)
Holy Noise - Get Down Everybody (Parkzicht remix) (Rotterdam 1992)
Alec Empire - SuEcide (Berlin 1992)
Linea Alba - Space Travel (Ghent 1990)
Code 6 - C.O.D.E.S. (New York 1991)
Dimensional Holophonic Sound - House Of God (New York 1990)
Fierce Ruling Diva - Whipped Kream (Amsterdam 1990)
True Faith - Take Me Away (acappella) (Detroit 1989)
2 Bad Mice - Waremouse (London 1991)
Genaside II - Narra Mine pt. 2 (London 1991
On the road
Monday June 27th 2005
I spend most weekends on the road. I have got so used to it that if I ever have the weekend off it feels a little strange. I don't know how long all this traveling will last but while the offers are there, I intend to make the most of it. I always have a copy of 'Planet Joe' by Joe Cole with me. Joe Cole was Henry Rollin's best friend in the mid 80's and 'Planet Joe' is his diary of life on the road as a roadie with Black Flag. Black Flag would do crazy tours playing 90 dates straight, sleeping on floors or in the van, playing the crumbiest, sleaziest venues imaginable, often with an element of the audience trying to beat them up and making almost zero money. If I ever start grumbling about the traveling, a quick glance at 'Planet Joe' soon puts it into a bit of perspective. In 1991, Joe and Henry came back to their place in LA and got held up by two gunmen. Joe was shot dead in front of Henry. How do you ever get over something like that?
I don't really mind the traveling. It means I get time to think, read and write crap like this. The hardest part is the lack of sleep. Normally Jonnie and I both do gigs together but this weekend I was playing solo. I played in Paris on Friday. It was ok although all I can really recall is how hot it was. It was 33 degrees outside but in the club it felt like it was pushing 50 degrees. I couldn't wait to get back out into the slightly less hot streets. The highlight was getting to see my sister who lives in Paris and also Charles from Tigersushi who released our Kill The DJ cd. Anyway, I got back to my hotel around 6am and had to get up at 7.30am.
Several hours later I am in Bergen, Norway for this mini festival. It's about 20 degrees colder than Paris and grey like Glasgow. Bergen is beautiful. I really wish I had some more time to check it out. It is on the coast in a valley surrounded by tree clad mountains and the air is really, really pure. The people are really beautiful. Strikingly so. They all look incredibly healthy and well to do. I guess you have to be well to do to live here as Norway is one of the most expensive places I've ever been to. There is a market in front of my hotel by the harbour and despite being exhausted I am drawn by the allure of freshly caught fish. I buy some just landed prawns and some really cheap local caviar (about the only cheap thing I see the whole time I'm here) and then go and get a couple of hours sleep.
I get picked up to go to the venue a little later by T-Bone. He's a big rockabilly guy and we instantly bond over his brothel creepers which I know can only be bought from this one place in New York. He's hilarious, particularly when a couple of hip hop guys that are playing and who are also getting a lift ask him if he knows where they can get some grass. It turns out he's on his day off and is doing the driving as a favour for his friend, the promoter. Normally he's the local chief of police! Chief T-Bone? The hip hop guys start squirming but T-Bone laughs and tells them he's very liberal and doesn't care.
Getting to see places like Bergen and meeting characters like T-Bone are the main reason I love doing all the traveling and will put up with almost no sleep. And hey, sometimes the gigs are fantastic too. Unfortunately tonight's isn't. Well, not my part of it anyway.
Bergen is about the size of Dundee but has an incredible amount of stuff going on for such a small city. Perhaps musically most famous as the birth place of Royksopp and Norwegian Black Metal, there are an incredible number of local bands here, a lot of them associated with the local Telle label. Annie is from Bergen and I am delighted to find that she is playing tonight too with her partner (my old and great friend) Timo from Helsinki. Timo used to be in the Opel Bastards, one of the first bands to ever play at Optimo and still plays with his other band And The Left Handed who have also played the club. I haven't seen him or Annie for a few years so it's great to hang out with them. They insist I go and see local stars Data Rock. They are great fun, super camp and the locals plainly adore them. They are unashamed pop so I am surprised when I later meet Fredrik from the band and he tells me his main activity is running a noise club in Bergen. He loves Japanese noise artists and brings many of them all the way to this town where the sun doesn't set in summer. I am quite partial to a bit of Japanese noise myself. It can be strangely soothing and I find it clears the cobwebs out of my head. I also like its' honesty. Unlike some other forms of extreme music, Norwegian Black Metal for example, there is no posturing involved. It just goes straight for the jugular without any agenda. Recently someone posted on our bulletin board that they thought I was trying to play willfully uncommercial music at Optimo. I found this hysterical, as really, Optimo is more or less a pop club. OK, so it's maybe not top 40 pop but it IS pretty poppy - Poptimo! If I unleashed my Japanese noise cds on the Optimo crowd, THAT would be the definition of willfully uncommercial. That won't happen any time soon as much as I like my noise, I know playing it at the club is probably not going to convert anyone and would no doubt cause me discomfort as I would pick up on everyone else's discomfort.
Next I watched Annie and Timo do their Anniemal show which is Annie singing live with Timo on decks and beatbox. Great stuff. Gus Gus (rhymes with cous cous) from Iceland were also playing. They are crazy guys and girls. They demanded everyone left the dressing room while they got ready to go on stage but announced that 'Scotland can stay'. So I did. They had a bottle of this Icelandic potato and cumin spirit called Brennivin with them and poured me a big glass. Forget Buckfast, this stuff is off the hook! The effect is a bit like mezcal x 100. For 20 minutes I was away with the fairies. Then Gus Gus went off to perform so I helped myself to another glass. Someone should open a Brennivin bar in Glasgow. It would rock.
By now it was 2.30 am and an hour until I went on but the venue was rapidly emptying. I went through to the hip hop room and heard a bit of DJ Cash Money. He was scratching his heart out to about twenty people. Meanwhile Gus Gus were putting in an incredibly entertaining performance as the room continued to rapidly empty. How very odd - from a couple of thousand people to a handful in an hour. The only thing I could think of was that between the hours of 2am and 5am it got slightly dark and maybe that was the best time for these darkness deprived Norwegians to sleep? When I went on at 3.30, there were about 40 people left and I soon saw most of them off. By 5am the only people left dancing were Telle records head honcho, the lovely Mikal, two of the girls from Gus Gus and a couple of very drunk locals. Timo was lounging by the decks. Sods law that I played what I thought was my best set of recent weeks to almost no one. Oh well.
Then it was back to the hotel for another mammoth two hours sleep session, up at 8.30, three flights and twelve hours back to Glasgow, an hour at home and then off to Optimo. Roll on next weekend!
Monday May 16th 2005
I am always getting asked about 'back in the day'. 'Back in the day' I guess refers to the days when I did Pure in Edinburgh which ran for exactly ten years from 1990 to 2000. Pure was Scotland's first bona fide techno club and for the first six or seven years it was possibly the best club of its type on the planet. I know that sounds arrogant as hell but honestly, it was. Ask anyone who went or any of the guests who played there. It was to use the parlance of the time 'mental'. Partly this was because at the start most people who came had never heard loud electronic dance music before and boy, was it loud. In the early days before we started to fear for people's well being, Pure was also probably the loudest club on the planet. The monitors for the djs were more powerful and louder than most other clubs entire sound systems. Just thinking about how ridiculously loud it was is actually making me laugh as I type this. Along with the volume, Pure also had the most incredible lighting that pretty much became the blueprint for 'rave lighting'. In a split second the club would go from a sensory overload of every colour imaginable firing at you from every direction to complete darkness punctuated by banks of 'terror strobes' that were so intense that it was literally impossible to move from the spot where you were dancing until they went off again. Then there was the smoke. Sometimes Lighting Monkey (our Optimo lighting operator) leaves the smoke machine on a little too long and the Sub Club looks pretty foggy. Well, multiply that exponentially with multiple smoke machines on full blast for minutes on end until the fog is so thick that you can't see anything at all. if you held up your hand to your face you wouldn't be able to see it. We went through litres and litres of the stuff every week. Finally there were the drugs. The start of Pure pretty much coincided with the arrival of ecstacy in Scotland. So, all these factors combined - the fact that this music sounded like nothing most people had ever heard before, the volume, the intensity of the lights, the smoke and the drugs and people's minds were literally being blown.
The only way to describe what the atmosphere in there was like is 'Beyond'. It was scary. Every time a new record was mixed in the screams were so loud that despite the ear shredding volume, the screams would drown out the music. People would be climbing onto and even into the pa system. There were times when the whole dancefloor would become one massive group hug. A certain Detroit legend who djed there one time was so freaked out by how mad the atmosphere was that he decided he couldn't play any more and I had to take over. It was truly revolutionary.
This 'revolution' changed a lot of people's lives (some for the better, some for the worse). The crowd was very mixed with people of every age, race, sexuality and social class and a lot of people formed incredibly strong friendships with people they would never normally have encountered in life. A lot of attitudes were changed, prejudices overcome and life paths altered. it enabled a lot of people to see life in a different light and a lot of people 'dropped out' as they would have said in the 60's. Many times someone would come up and tell me that coming to Pure had inspired them to quit their job that they hated and try and do something different with their life. At the same time, a lot of people dropped out in a negative sense. The level of drug consumption was off the scale and taking 'E' became a way of life for a lot of people. Marriages collapsed, university degrees were forgotten about, jobs were lost and sadly a few minds were lost, some forever. Mine was almost one of them.
I am by nature quite a shy person and I don't really like being the centre of attention. Both myself and Brainstorm (Andy) who was my dj partner at Pure tried really hard to be egoless, to not bask in the adulation of the near religous fervour that was happening before our eyes. At the end of the night when the lights came up, we would literally duck beneath the decks to avoid appearing to be the stars of the show. We weren't the stars. The audience were (something I still hold by to this day). There was also an enormous sense of responsibility. People would endlessly (half jokingly) say how coming to Pure had caused them to get kicked out of university, messed up their life or some other misfortune and how it was my fault. I would laugh this off but really it affected me quite a lot as I felt this sense of responsibility and began to question the validity of what i was doing. The club truly became a way of life for a lot of people to the point where several people had the Pure logo tattooed on their bodys! The club was about a zillion times more popular than we had ever envisaged with people traveling from all over (a bus load would come from Glasgow every week). I had never intended to do this for a living but I was so caught up in the euphoria that it took over my life completely and utterly and I really didn't know how to handle it. I was pretty straight edge in the early days and would have my head fried by the babblings of people on a chemically enhanced plane that i couldn't really relate to. Later on I would drink just to make it easier to handle.
In the end I think it really changed me as a person but despite the fact that I found the whole experience quite surreal and initially difficult to deal with, I discovered that I REALLY, REALLY loved sharing the music I loved with other people. Playing music you love and seeing people reacting to it is an amazing experience. It is better than any drug imaginable and something I can't imagine ever tiring of. In fact I probably enjoy doing it more right now than I ever have. Ultimately, ten years of doing Pure gave me a sense of confidence I'd never had before and was the best training I could possibly have had to go on to continue doing this with my life.
So, that was what 'back in the day' was like. It was incredible, life changing and well, just 'Beyond'. The next thing people always ask is 'was it better?' The answer would have to be no. I genuinely believe Optimo is now one of the best clubs on the planet because we have one of the best crowds on the planet and a great night at Optimo is an incredible thing to behold. But, I'm kind of relieved that that total, total madness of the early 90's has subsided somewhat. I will cherish those days forever but I'm not a nostalgic person and don't buy into the whole 'it was better back in the day' thing. It wasn't better. It was just different and I'm glad that I have the memories and managed not to lose my mind, even if the same thing can't be said for my hearing.
Saturday March 12th 2005
Some gigs are great, some are bad, some are just memorable for their sheer craziness. This was one of the latter. The Tivoli is a an old theatre in the heart of Utrecht. It's pretty big, pungent with the smell of skunk and by the time I go on there are several hundred people there. The crowd had the distinction of being some of the most beautiful people I have ever seen mixed in with some of the ugliest. In fact the crowd was pretty much divided in every possible way. Some were completely wasted while some looked completely straight. Some seemed really into what I was playing while some looked bemused, confused even. I couldn't really get a handle on them so was playing even more all over the place than usual. The only thing that seemed to unite the crowd was an old Amsterdam rave record by Fierce Ruling Diva. After that, people kept handing me drinks. I'd have been pretty toasted but as soon as a drink was passed to me, someone else would steal it. About 45 minutes from the end the music suddenly stopped. I looked round and this total freak has climbed onto the platform with the decks on it and grabbed the record, holding it still on the turntable. He has this totally inane grin on his face and I lose it and push him. Because he's so wasted he goes flying off the platform and lands on his butt. He then gets up and charges at me screaming something in Dutch but gets restrained by some of the audience and is then ejected from the building.
The rest of the gig is pretty uneventful but at the end the security tell me I must tell them when I am going to leave as they must escort me to the car. Apparently wasted Dutch guy swore on the way out that he was going to come back and stab me when I left the building. So it goes that three security guys escort me into the car for the drive back to Amsterdam. I think wasted Dutch guy was probably long passed out by now, but it was nice to know that my welfare was being looked out for.
Monday November 15th 2004
John Balance 16 Feb 1962 - 13 Nov 2004
Tuesday October 26th 2004
Today John Peel passed away. So many people who I never knew who have inspired me have died over the years, but I can only really think of two occasions where I have actually cried about it. I cried the day Donald Dewar's hearse drove slowly through the west end of Glasgow and the streets were thronged with people paying their last respects and I also cried today.
I can't imagine there is anyone who loves music who doesn't feel incredibly sad today. I think we all thought he would just live forever.
In recent years John Peel had become part of the fabric of British life - the 'Home Truths' programme on Radio 4 and lots of voice overs for adverts (which is undoubtedly what actually paid his rent). But of course it is his Radio 1 show that had the greatest impact on so many. It could be infuriating. I remember once getting incredibly worked up over his love for happy hardcore, but that was half the point really. John Peel would always champion the unlovable and after playing what I might consider the worst record I'd ever heard, he would follow it up with something jaw droppingly amazing. I always get asked in interviews who my favourite dj is and I always answer John Peel, simply because he is one of the few djs who seemed to genuinely love so many disparate types of music. He is one of the reasons I despise the word 'eclectic'. John Peel wasn't trying to be eclectic. He was just doing what a dj is supposed to do - introducing people to lots of great and challenging music.
I was very fortunate to once have a wonderful encounter with the man. He was presenting a series of events at The Union Chapel in London and as he was a big fan, he had Solex playing. Because I was signed to Matador - the same label as Solex, they wangled it so that I played records before and after the band. After everyone left and as I was packing up, Mr. Peel wandered over to thank me for playing Captain Beefheart and Screaming Jay Hawkins! Within a minute or two, everyone who was left in the building had congregated around him and he started telling the most hilarious stories I have ever heard about driving Captain Beefheart around the UK in the late '60s, including one where in the middle of the night Mr Beefheart demanded he stop the car so he could go and listen to a tree. I think I was still smiling a month later. I was also incredibly privileged to have a half hour dj mix aired on his show. But, the biggest thrill wasn't having the mix played or him commenting about how much he liked it. The biggest thrill was when he went to play the next record and accidentally started to play my mix again. Being the recipient of a genuine on air John Peel blunder has been one of the greatest thrills of my life. The man was legendary for playing wrong tracks, records at the wrong speed or using the euphemism 'This one fades in gently' when he hadn't cued a record up properly. After 40 odd years on air, he would still regularly make momentous cock ups. Cock ups are good. Human beings are meant to cock up.
John Peel - I salute you. You were one of a kind and there will never be another like you. You never lost your passion for music. Without you, so much music that we take for granted would have remained in obscurity. Without you, punk and post punk might never have happened. Without you, so much music might never have happened. Without you, countless thousands of bands would never have been inspired to make a record or had that record aired. You brought joy to our ears. God bless you Mr Peel.
Wednesday May 26th 2004
I have been posting far too many entries here recently so I am going to stop for a while now. Before I go, I'd just like to take this opportunity to publicly apologise for assaulting Graeme at Optimo on Sunday. I have a really bad habit. If a record jumps several times while I am in the middle of a mix, I have to punish it for letting me down. This usually involves frisbeeing it out of the dj booth. I have lost several irreplaceable records this way over the years (although sometimes they are like a boomerang as someone will hand it back in obviously thinking I have somehow thrown it by mistake). Unfortunately I am terrible at throwing 12" singles and rather than soaring over the crowd, this record hit Graeme right on the nose leaving a big gouge! To say I am mortified is an understatement but I think I have learned my lesson. Mind you, next time my laptop crashes mid set, if you've got any sense, I'd advise heading for the bar. Sharpish.
Tuesday May 18th 2004
We are always getting unusual requests at Optimo. In fact, if we stopped getting them I would start to worry. Most people always seem to start with 'I know you don't take requests but....'. I always point out that we do take requests but wonder why they are asking to begin with if they think we don't. I live in hope of the day that someone comes up and says 'I know you don't take requests but could you play some freak out psychedelia?'. Methinks I will have a long wait. In the very early days of Optimo, someone came and asked me for something by (i think) The Pop Group and I was so gutted I didn't have any with me that I jumped in a taxi home to get some. I swear this is true!
Anyway, this Sunday was no exception with 'I Fell In Love With A Starship Trooper' being one of the more memorable. The requester went to great lengths to tell me all the wonderful things one could do with this record. When I said that breaking it in two was about the best thing I could think to do with it, she looked less than amused. Scarily enough I once owned the darned thing.
We always get asked for Felix The Housecat too, so I have taken it on myself to ensure that I always have some of his old Strictly Rhythm or Aphrohead records with me. Of course, this isn't what is being requested but I'm such a pedant that I can't resist. However, the award for the best request of recent times came on Sunday when I was asked - 'Do you have an iPod adapter?'. I so wish I had had one with me but alas it wasn't to be. Maybe I should have called a taxi?
Monday May 17th 2004
It's hard to express just how much Throbbing Gristle have meant to me in my life. I came to the party late, after the mission was terminated in around '84 or '85 but despite being late, I was instantly smitten. What they had to say, how they presented it, how they made one question and challenge things and most importantly, how they sounded had a profound impact on me.
From the ashes of Throbbing Gristle, rose some bands that I also fell deeply in love with - Coil, Chris and Cosey and to a lesser extent Psychic TV. I've never really had a favourite band - I find this an impossible notion, but if I did, Coil and C&C would certainly be contenders for the title.
When I heard TG were reforming, I had very mixed feelings. I was partly elated at the prospect that I might finally get to see them but also terrified that they would blow the mystique in the process. As it transpired, the weekend they were presenting at Camber Sands had them headlining on the Sunday night and as missing Optimo is anaethema to me, the decision of whether to see them or not was made for me. In the end, the weekend was postponed until next year but last night (Sunday), they played a one off show in London to an invited audience (mainly ticket holders of the postponed weekend). An internet aquaintance of mine - Matt Clarke attended and his description of the performance has me questioning my wisdom about being so dogmatic about missing Optimo. Beyond that, he also let me hear TGNOW, a cd of new material they made available on the night. It is astonishing, truly astonishing. It is the most relevant music I have heard all year and while still inherently TG, is also inherently NOW. It has excited me as much (if not more) than the day I first took '20 Jazz Funk Greats' out of its' sleeve and plopped it on my record player. Here's Matt's exquistiely written review of the concert (give me a music fan writing over a music journalist writing every time!). It has made the decision very easy for me as to where I will be next year when TG give their final performance. -
Ok, gear first. Chris and Sleazy had Powerbooks, Cosey an i-book. Sleazy was also using what looked like a small red Korg, dont know the models name. Chris had a novation remote 25 audio and that made me very happy - like a big stupid kid - because I have just bought one. He did have a rack of beautiful, intricate and unaffordable looking hardware to go along with it though. He also had a drum machine on the side and I didn't recognise either that or the software he was running. Cosey mostly played slide guitar on her lap, she played trumpet on one song and did something on her I-book on another but didn't sing at all, so no Hot on the Heels. Gen played Bass and violin on one song each and sang on the rest. She was wearing a plastic red mini with matching jacket, stockings and a padded basque to show off her tits. With all the scarification, tats, metal teeth and implants she looked like a highway prostitute from the seventh circle of hell. perfect.
After a bit of banter and a false start they opened with what I think were the minimalistic rumblings of X-ray off TGNOW. In fact, I think they played all of TGNOW on the day and unusually in this sort of situation, it was the right thing to do - it's absolutely amazing and was MINDBLOWING live. The standouts from the back catalogue were Persuasion and Hamburger Lady but I don't have all their stuff so I am not sure what was new. to add to the confusion, the live versions of the new stuff were completely different from the CD which I didn't hear till after the gig and the live versions of the old ones were often only recognisable by the lyrics and a nuclear flash of sonic connection.
All seemed to be loving it. especially Sleazy. Sleazy was having a ball. it was all really fucking intense of course. even more so than I'd hoped. immense brain and ball crushing bass, spectral, clanging guitar slashes.. and that trumpet sound Cosey; WOW. What Chris and Sleazy concocted together was true synergetic alchemy of the most precise nature, transmuting their gold from the tentative micro movements of tiny knobs and the spasm-crashing howl of accidental feedback from synths both soft and hard. Gen's voice has become rich with the years and shows incredible range, from girlish squeals to deep eldritch grunts. mostly processed and delivered with cunning wit.
I think I shivered at least once every couple of minutes but the last tune they played pretty much made me..... well I get a bit shy talking about that sort of thing. I'm pretty sure it must have been How Do You Deal. It banged like a bastard reaching a crescendo somewhere above anywhere I've been before with live electronic music, that pure rush of electronic sexual energy up the spine is what I crave most in my dreams. and then that was it. no encore. no fucking way. good afternoon London. an hour and forty minutes of industrial bliss.
Thanks Matt! I am very, very jealous.
Miami Music Conference
Saturday March 6th 2004
I wasn't here for the conference but the party I was playing at coincided with the whole conference shebang. Miami has beautiful beaches and the sea is amazing but really, it's like a hotter, silicone enhanced Blackpool. The word vaccuous springs to mind. The more I think about the griping and moaning that goes on about what we have in Glasgow, the more I realise that we are actually thee best, most down to earth, most grounded and unpretentious city on the planet. Really, stop moaning! You have no idea what it is like out there . Now, if only we had the weather.....
Reds under the beds
Sunday February 29th 2004
So, this week I discovered that I am a racist. Or if not an actual racist then far more guilty of racial stereotyping than i have ever imagined I might be. As someone who considers themselves very left wing and believes every human being to be equal, this came as a bit of a shock.
Myself and Mr. Wilkes were getting on a plane at Heathrow heading for Lisbon. There were two groups of Middle Eastern looking guys in the departure lounge. They seemed to recognise each other but were sitting at opposite ends of the lounge from each other. I don't even know why I noticed this but I guess when I'm bored, I like to people watch. When we boarded the plane, I noticed that the six or seven guys were all sitting in different parts of the plane. When we took our seats, one of the guys was in the window seat next to Jonnie. Now, I'm not a particularly paranoid person but already a vague thought of 'terrorists' was passing through my mind. Then the guy at the window who seemed very agitated started asking us (politely) if we would like the window seat so he could sit on the aisle.
Now I am really starting to think they might be terrorists and start formulating a plan in my mind as to what super heroic actions I can take to foil any plot they might have. I start looking around to see how many suitably hard looking guys there are that might help to take them on, and even for a split second think about telling one of the air hostesses about my suspicions. I have my house keys in my pocket and am debating how effective they might be as some sort of weapon.
Anyhow, we take off and I fall fast asleep. We land, get off the plane and only then do I realise that I have gone insane. I'm sure there was a very good reason why they weren't sitting together and anyway, if they had been European, this would never even have crossed my mind. The guy next to Jonnie was probably just nervous about flying yet somehow I had concocted this bizarre fantasy as to his motives.
I have to admit that I was pretty disgusted by my thought processes but also wonder how much of this was a subliminal result of the incredible media panic post September 11th. I fly all the time and thinking about it, I realised that the risk of a flight being hijacked is always lurking in the back of my mind. For example, rather than putting my phone in my jacket pocket in the overhead storage, I make a point of keeping it on my person. Why? I guess in case I need to make a farewell call to my loved ones.
This is patently nuts and incredibly out of character for me, yet here are these festering thoughts resulting in me changing my behaviour. What sort of society have we created where rational people start having such irrational fears?
Is this the 21st century version of 'reds under the beds' or do I just need therapy?
Update - Sunday 29th at 20.11 - I really thought no one would ever read this page but what do you know, a few hours later, I get an email from Allan Erskine who makes more sense out of this than my obviously addled mind is capable of. Here's his thoughts -
Relax big stuff...every day I imagine hundreds of scenarios, sadly none of which make me polygamous. Evveryone checks out the 'terrorists' at airports, even other 'terrorists'. If you're a racist, then I'm a black man.
It's reds under the beds alright but thankfully it only applies on airplanes and at airports (you'd not have thought the same at a ferry-port).My guess is that subconsciously we're all still secretly wowed by aviation & therefore as a society give way too much weighting to anything to do with planes.Prior to sep 11, people's fav plane passtime would be to calculate what to do when the plane crashes on water, even though, like with the terrorists, this never happens...playing spot the terrorist ought to be celebrated, as really all it illustrates is how goofy we all get when it comes to flying; and after all, being goofy is what makes us human!
I'm not saying it's all roses (name a dangerous race) and the media are definitely screwing us all, but what you experienced definitely sounds more like "a plane thing" to me....
ps stalker alert: don't freak out, this is the first I've read your ramblings in months; just so happened you'd posted today and were being an old woman...talking of which, your grandmother was an occultist! My granddad could do the ambidextrous writing thing and he had the quartermaster's staff so far up, he be cryin'!
Saturday January 10th 2004
Well, last night at Tribeca Grand with myself Erol Alkan and Robbie Headman was a blast and the dancefloor went off (as they say). I did somehow manage to blow the power in the room not once but twice, which for some reason i found immensely funny and thankfully no one seemed to mind too much. It's good to know that New Yorkers can be up for letting their hair down and having a good old time.
Thursday January 8th 2004
Belated new years greetings. I am currently in New York City having a blast. Great people, great town etc. I am here primarily to dj and have to thank the lovely Josh Houtkin and Tim Sweeney (who has a fab radio show you can check out here) for getting me over.
Somewhere on this bloated webshite, it says there is a 98.7% chance that we will rock yr dancefloor. I have a feeling that this is a blatant lie as recently I seem to be clearing dancefloors everywhere I go (except in Glasgow where I obviously have y'all brainwashed). Here's a photo of the dancefloor at APT, 5 minutes after I finished playing on Tuesday night -
So, if you need your club cleared fast, you know where to come!
Tomorrow night I am going to go all out to rock the dancefloor at The Tribeca Grand. I will probably resort to super slut dj tactics. Stay tuned for a photo of the dancefloor after I finish.......
If you are reading this and you are a promoter from some exotic location and are now terrified to book us, can I just say, be brave and take the risk - what's the worst that could happen........?
Sunday November 23rd 2003
Christmas has come early! Today should be an absolutely mega day - not only is it Optimo's 6th birthday but before the club, I will get to see Merzbow, AMM and The Boredoms at Instal just around the corner in The Arches. Days don't get much better than this!
Friday November 14th 2003
We have been trying to license the very wonderful 'Born For A Purpose' by Dr. Alimantado for our forthcoming 'Kill The DJ' compilation. The good Doctor sent a long reply as to why we couldn't use it which made me have to have a wee lie down. Food for thought!
"Greetins Give thanks for your reply and the words from the compiler. However, i am sorry to say, that the decession, not to liscense our products, for compilations, is final and non-changable, until ourselves or the recording industry, can work out a proper way, for such liscense to be protected, against mis-use from unscrupulus major and independent companies, across the industry as a whole. I have hereunder, sent to you, not a few words, but bit parts, of chapters, from my book. I must first say, let i&i give thanks and praises, to JAH RASTAFARI, for his inspiration and his saving grace, for it was this grace, that spare my life, it was through this grace, I was inspired to write and sing this song, BORN FOR A PURPOSE, this song, i share with the world. however, the song is music, and, music makes money, and, money breathes corruption, heatred, jelousey and real evil, among the people of the world. Have you ever stop to think, that, Jamaican artists, musicans and producers, produces music that makes billions of pounds worldwide each year, and, not even one hundreth, of one percent, of that amount, reaches back to the people of Jamaica, the people, are now more worser off, than they were before the musical inspiration and tap, was revealed and open to them. This would be an outrage, if it had happen to the people of Britain, America, France, Geramny, Australia etc etc, but under the guise where the rich get richer, still, and the poor get poorer, still, then outrage, do not come into the equagion, when it has to do with Jamaican music, or anything that belongs to or own by an African wheather they are at home or abroad, it's just exploit, and, more exploit by our european brothers and sisters,Â and a lot of good and sweet words, to back it up. We the artist, musicans and producers, now find ourselves in a position, where, we are not even capable of outrage. I explain these things to you, because, likewise you, i myself, would like my music to be heard, i would like my music to sell millions, so as to help my family and, my sisters and breathrens, who have been suffering with me as a child, and, who is still today suffering as old men and women. Everywhere they go, they see Dr.Alimantado music, and reggae music as a whole, and the music is talking about the life we all once share, that was full of pain, sorrow, suffering and death, from which Jah Rastafari pluck even my life (which was the reason for, this individual song Born For A Purpose) and they realised, that money must be making, for my music and reggae music,Â to be played, in pack clubs bars and music halls night after night for years. They then see Iman and ask, Doc. "gie me su-mn nuh", i give something very small, or say, sorry i dont have it, they look at me as a lier, or, as though i dont want to help, or as though i forgot where i'm comming from. This of course, you and i know is not the case, the people who are in the know, understand that, with the exception of Bob Marley, UB40 and a small handful of artist, reggae artist, dont make money, to share around for all the people who are in need. Bob Marley and those handful of other Artists, make money, lots of it, but due to European and American strategy, of putting guns and ammo, in the hands of hungry children and adults in Jamaica, this money, stay in the rich, financially powerful and developed nations of the world, and never get to the poor, suffering and underdeveloped nations, to help them, in their struggle for survival. This i fine totaly disturbing. Our music is saying one thing, but the practices and attitude, of the people who trade in it, is saying a completely different thing, that is con - trary in itself, this i find hard to swallow, incourage or uphold. Take for example these situations, that i and others have had to dealt with, people who were employed to major and independent companys, like yourselves,Â contacted myself and others,and ask for the rights, to use our recordings on compilations, they got the license, the period of the license expired, master tapes and all parts were ask for and returned, the original compiler, either left the company, or was sacked. New compiler replace the previous one, later new compiler want's to put compilation out, collects records that was manufactured during previous licensed period, dubbed to tape, and rereleased, without license, consent or knowledge of producer, artist or musican. As I said I myself have had and shared in these experiences by both major and independent companies. After one occasion like this, then two, three, four and more, what would you have done? Yes, we thought of that too, but, not enough money, to employ the laywer or barrister, to go to court, because, blood sucking company, have our monies and can employ the biggest and best lawyers in town. Yes, we had the same feeling too, to go to the company, and, beatÂ everyone there Â to a pulp, but, blood suckers have security, and, you guest it, you can never catch the real blood sucker, because, cleave and smart, is their first and second name. BUT, Yes, we thought of that too, burn down the company, we still would'nt catch blood suckers, it's the innocent people that would get hurt, and loose their life or their livelyhood to feed their families, also, we would become wanted, or, end up in prison, for long stretches or life, because poilce, Judge and Jury is blood suckers friend and family, and when they are the ones who are killing it's ok because its lawful for them to do so, but an intirely different case when it's them who is dieing, in the mean time, we would be leaving our children and woman at the mercies of BLOOD SUCKERS. So what can we do? no licence is a start, please see my previous email. As for myself and the european values, I was born poor, I live poor and i will die poor, together with my sisters and brothers, who have seen my plight, and, understand that i understand their pain, struggle and sufferation, and they know that, if signing licenses, would have helped me, to help them, that i would not think twice to do, to help them. But, who would i really be helping, when i sign? not them, not i or yourselves, sadly, it's the same people, who have more money, more than, they could ever spend, in two hundred life time, to have more money, to slave and suffer, the people, of all the nations, of this world. I have no desire to join the so called elite in the rat race of becoming financially rich with european values, i was born rich in JAH RASTAFARI values. Bob Marley and other of my brothers and sisters tried, to acquire earthly posessions, they did get some, but, they died and leave it, and, it became a hangman's noos around their family's and friend's neck and is still strangeling them as we speak. Thank you for your inquiry, and may, Jah Rastafari bless and guide you and your company, so that, other sisters and breathrens in reggae music, who is not as worldly uncaring, as i am, may find it pleasing, to give you the liscense you need, to make your planned compilations, a reality and major success, I pray that, it does and may it lead to, reggae artists, musicans and producers, getting better financial rewards and protection, for their works, like their pop, rock and hip hop counter parts."
Tuesday November 11th 2003
It's exactly 85 years since the end of World War One - did you remember? It seems these days that remembering it, having a minute's silence or wearing a poppy is almost taboo in certain circles. I confess that this year, as in most previous years I didn't buy a poppy for the simple reason that my life doesn't really bring me into contact with anyone who is selling them. But, I never, ever forget. Perhaps this is because my grandfather fought in it or perhaps it is because my father was a historian and thus unlike most people my age I actually know a little about why it was fought.
It is also important that I remember because if it hadn't happened, I almost certainly wouldn't exist. My grandmother was a morse code operator for the British Army and was based in France from 1916 - 18. Apparently she had the distinction of being the fastest morse operator out there - perhaps because she was ambidextrous (in fact, not only was she ambidextrous but she had this very strange ability to write with her right hand while simultaneously being able to write the mirror image with her left hand. Not particularly useful but kind of cool!). Anyway, it was there that she met my grandfather and fell in love.
My grandfather couldn't bring himself to talk about his time there until very near the end of his life. He was born in 1894 and died in 1986 and it was only around '84 or '85 that he would talk to me about his experiences there. I don't know if it was connected but he only stopped suffering from shellshock around this time. Imagine that! Lying in bed every night for nearly 70 years and still hearing the sounds of the guns going off in his head! He never really said what he thought about the war - whether he thought it was a 'just' war. I guess for his generation, it's hard to question such things, but not going to fight was not really an option. He fought in the battle of the Somme and saw sights that no human being should ever see. A lot of it he just couldn't bring himself to remember but he did tell me a couple of stories that were truly horrific.
One night, there had been a particularly heavy bombardment by the German guns and his trench took a direct hit. A huge crater opened up and rapidly filled with water. His best friend had been standing right next to him and instantly disappeared in a puff of smoke. When the smoke cleared, my grandfather who was slightly injured could hear the crater filling up with water. He looked over and could see the arm of his friend so he grabbed it and held on to prevent him from slipping into the water. It was pitch black and my grandfather was unable to move. There was no response from his friend so he presumed he had been rendered unconcious. He held on to his arm for seven hours until daylight came and other soldiers arrived to see if there were any survivors. The soldiers took my grandfather away on a stretcher but before doing that, they pulled his friend out. Only when he saw what came out did he realise that he had spent the whole night holding on to the top half of his friend's body. The bottom half had been obliterated without trace.
He spent a few weeks in hospital before being sent back to the front lines. The tours of duty in the trenches could last for several months without respite. The conditions were beyond belief but I remember him saying that his abiding memory was the damp. His feet were wet the whole time and he would lose all feeling in them. After being back out there for several months, a package arrived for him with some fresh socks in it. So, for the first time in several months, he took his boots off. When he took off the socks he had been wearing, it wasn't only the socks that came off - most of the flesh on his feet came off too.
My grandfather had an unusual purple pimple on the side of his head. One day I finally plucked up the courage to ask him what it was. It turns out it was where a German bullet had penetrated his skull but very,very fortunately it had gone straight through without hitting his brain. Still, that was the end of his war.
I know that his experiences out there informed his life for the rest of his days and probably contributed to the fact that he could be quite a difficult man (although to me, he was as lovely a grandfather as I could ever imagine having had the pleasure to have spent time with).
So, maybe this is one reason why I can never forget. In a few years, there will almost certainly be nobody left still living who fought in World War One. It's so long ago that it hardly even seems real anymore and our mental images are informed by shaky black and white footage. But, I can never forget that for the men out there it was a technicolour hell on earth and even if they are all long gone, I will always remember how fortunate I am that I have never had to experience what they did.