Friday, April 23, 2021

"What are words worth?"

                                                           

Here's my 4Columns review of Lesley Chow's You're History, a new book from Repeater, which as I've noted here before is a wonderfully original and surprising take on pop music, that creates a  counter-canon of non-verbal bliss, a pantheon of ecstatic "oohs" that includes Chaka Khan, Neneh Cherry, Sade, Janet Jackson, Tom Tom Club, Azealia Banks, TLC, Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. You don't have to rate all or indeed any of those artists to enjoy the author's enjoyment of them  - the vivid precision with which she zooms in on their mouth-music magic, the exquisite attention paid to the non-signifying, synesthetic and purely sensual properties of singing. 

An argument for pop performers who treat lyrics as “pretexts to juice up the mouth” and “awaken muscle memory” mimetically in the listener, rather than the transmission of clearly articulated meanings, You're History is a proof-of-concept alternative to what Chow calls "the rationalizing impulse that dominates writing on popular music". The book is mostly a celebration, but it's also entertaining for its occasional swipes at good-on-paper artists (e.g. Janelle Monae) whose themes and stances inspire dissertations, but who are deficient in the textural scrumptiousness and tyrannical presence that commands fascination. Masterpiece-weary myself, I also nodded vigorously when Chow asserts her bias towards "the one-off hit more than the tempered masterpiece.”

After half-a-century of serious writing about pop and rock, it can seem like the whole history is sewn up and there’s nothing left to be said.  But as you close Chow’s book, you feel the complete opposite: there’s so much more to explore and uncover. 

Chow is a film writer as well as pop critic, which made me wonder how she might apply her approach towards movies. I've long been fascinated by the way we simultaneously appreciate the skill that an actor applies to the creation of each character, while also taking pleasure in what is unchanging from picture to picture and role to role. The way a certain actor’s face crinkles when they smile or frown; the wonky stresses and swerves in the gait of speech; the husky wheeze of a laugh, the tangy aroma of a voice; movements of hands or eyes. However much the thespian tries to dissolve their self into a role, they only have the same physical materials to work with: "the grain of the person" to twist Barthes famous formulation, and which is flexible and malleable only up to a point... the outer fabric of self resists the histrionic exertion, the artistry of becoming other. For the viewer, there's a delicious doubling of perception, a tension between the actorly performance and magnetic presence. These are faces and bodies we like to look at - not necessarily because they're beautiful or sexy - voices we like to hear, almost regardless of the context.    

An interview with Chow at Todd Burns's Music Journalism Insider



Tuesday, April 13, 2021

New Forms

                         


                                Check out Matthew Ingram's cool new street art project.

                                 A short film about it entitled Forms can be watched here


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Gods of the Hammer


!An exciting addition to the small body of gabber literature! 

Sbrang Gabba Gang: Gabber Reconstruction of the Universe, by Riccardo Balli

By an Italian but in English, written in a style that resembles the LOUD energy of a S.Wells sluiced through the unforgiving yet gleeful anti-humanism of a Biba Kopf, this monograph maps Italian Futurism onto gabba, and vice versa. So it's an intellectual entertainment - penned by one who knows viscerally whereof he speaks... who's sweated and stomped in the four-to-floor forge 'till the crack of dawn, and beyond...  been battered by drop-hammer bassdrum and blasted by hoover-noise...  soaked up the sensations and survived to make sense of the senselessness. 

                                                       


You can get the book here or here or here 

Check out the praxis (deejaying, producing, running a label) to the theory at Balli's Bologna-based operation  sonicbelligeranza.com 




Some of Balli's previous publications




                                                         

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

K vs K mindclash

My boy Kieran Press-Reynolds with news of a Repeater Radio meeting-of-minds tomorrow: 

"This Friday, I'm talking with Kit Mackintosh about his book Neon Screams: How Drill, Trap and Bashment Made Music New Again - discussing dancehall, squeak rap, conspiracy theologies, ad-lib posthumanism and more. After, we're doing a 2-hour mix-off live — it's going to be a ton of fun."

Start time: 8 pm UK / 4pm East Coast / 1 pm West Coast - Friday March 26 2021.  

You can also catch Kieran's latest Ctrl Alt Repeat show  - "Astral Squeaks: How Hyperspeed Squeals and Alien Whispers Became Rap's Final Frontier" - featuring tunes from 645AR, meat computer, Lazy God, Cartier God, Axxturel, sellasouls, islurwhenitalk, Yameii Online, lungskull, kmoe, Wxlfcrxw etc  -  archived at Mixcloud

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

phuture dancehall and non-verbal strangeness

 A couple of Repeater-things of interest to the parish - 

Kit Mackintosh whets appetites for his forthcoming Neon Screams: How Drill, Trap and Bashment Made Music New Again with a proof-of-concept mix that vaults through four decades of dancehall delirium. Already aired on Repeater Radio, it's archived for your delectation here

Tomorrow, Thursday 18th March, 2 pm Pacific, there's the online launch for Lesley Chow's You're History: The 12 Strangest Women in Pop, a constantly surprising and thought-provoking book  tracing a non-linear lineage through mainstream pop of non-verbal bliss, irruptive sensuality, and mouth-music magic -  a counter-canon of oozy oohs and sweet nothings that takes in Chaka Khan, Janet Jackson, TLC and Tom Tom Club among others. Chow will be in dialogue with parishioner Anwen Crawford. Information about how to attend here.  

In their shared focus on phonetic phuturism and liquified language Neon Screams and You're History are curiously complementary, yet do not overlap at all. 








Sunday, March 07, 2021

разорви это и начни снова / энергетическая вспышка / roztrhněte to a začněte znovu

                                  

This month will see the publication in Russia of Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-84 by Shoom Press.  Translation by Ilya Miller

A virtual discussion of the book -   the author in dialogue with the critic Alexander Gorbachev -   organised by the British Council is happening on March 11 at 19-30 Moscow time. Details about how to attend here.

In other news, later this year  - late summer I believe - Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture is also coming out in a Russian translation, through the auspices of the publishing program of  the museum V-A-C (which stands for ‘Victoria – the Art of being Contemporary’). 

Finally, completing the penetration of the post-Communist East, there will be a Czech language version of Rip It Up coming out in a few months time via the publisher Volvox Globator

Thursday, March 04, 2021

talking pirate radio adverts


A tweet from Death Is Not The End saying that the cassette version of London Pirate Radio Adverts 1984-1993 Vol. 2 is shipping out tomorrow reminded me I said I'd run the full chat with audio archivist Luke Owen here. So here it is: 

How did you get interested in pirate radio in general and in pirate radio adverts in particular?

I began tuning in to pirate radio from my early teens in Bristol in the late 90s - there was a lot of action on the dial back then and I was sucked in. It was a portal into the drum and bass/Full Cycle stuff happening in the city when I was too young for the clubs, and it also nurtured my love of reggae, dub and Bollywood soundtracks at a relatively young age. The ads were often infectious and endearingly DIY, and some were memorable to the point of fever loops, I can still remember one or two word for word. 

I came upon the Pirate Radio Archive website a couple of years back, and there I found a trove of recordings from across the 80s and 90s through which I could transport myself back in time to some of those broadcasts I had been brought up on. I had been running Death Is Not The End since 2014 as a record label and NTS radio show focused mostly on "deep digs" into early gospel/blues/folk, field recordings and various archival finds. Coming across these recordings I was immediately stuck by the desire to do something with them, and put together a mixtape for the Blowing Up The Workshop mixblog and subsequently released it on DINTE as a cassette. It was a bit of a left-turn for the label perhaps, but being both archival and field recordings I thought it fit. I'm interested in "folk music" having a broader contemporary remit, and what it can mean in context. To me, recordings like these pirate radio broadcasts can represent archival folk music of sorts - they are raw, impromptu and communal musical experiences. 

For me, the appeal of them is multi-leveled – there’s nostalgia, there’s period charm, there’s the amateur nature of them, some of the comedy ones are genuinely funny…   But I also think they provide a valuable and historically important archive of subculture and British ‘lifeworlds’, especially minority populations (e.g. you have the Greek salon ad on Vol 1 ).

Yes, a lot are hilarious and some to the point of being genuinely a bit unhinged in places... A big part of the uniqueness of pirate radio is in the ads I think - it reflects the alternative culture through the lens of local business and events in a way that often contrasts with the staleness of "commercial" radio as much as the music itself. The whole thing often just seems to thrive on amping up the madness a bit, because they can. The London Pirate Radio Adverts collection was also intriguing from a local history perspective. I've always been interested in the changing landscape of areas, the previous lives of buildings, music venues, long gone record shops etc. By chance a lot of the adverts I collected for this happen to be for clubs and bars in places in South East London and East London that I've come to know quite well since moving here in the mid-noughties so that's another facet of it for me. Also, Immigrant communities making use of pirate radio as a means to supply an essential community service is an inherent element to pirate radio as a whole I think.

I like also the range. You have the slick-aspiring ads (with a tiny bit of Smashy + Nicey about the patter,  quite common with pirate deejays before ’92 when it got a lot more ruffneck and hooligan in vibe -  or they’ll hire that voiceover guy that also appeared in cinema adverts, the one with the incredibly deep voice,  he pops up a few times on your tapes). And then the much more amateurish efforts.  

Redd Pepper? I'm never quite sure whether it's him or an imitator... He sure must have gotten a lot of work around this time regardless. There's another guy who seems to have been the voiceover guy for a large portion of reggae & dancehall/soundclash events in the past couple decades (this is him @ 5.40 on Side A) and is still going strong. I'm going to do my best to track him down, I think I might have a friend of a friend who hired him for an ad once.

I think there's sometimes a conscious effort to get someone with a posh accent (or affecting one) for some of the dances that are billing themselves as classy & exclusive affairs. Then you've got some hilariously oddball voices, and a really bad Scouse impression that I have no idea what it's trying to achieve! I think pirate radio in general is prone to jokes and reference points that only the small group of listeners (or more likely mates of the station and the DJs) are "in" on, and this can bleed through to the ads as much as the chatter.

They often seem to like putting FX on the voice.

Yes, the use of delay on pirate radio station voiceover and adverts seems to be a point of reference that's bled in from sound system culture. I think it also helps the adverts "pop" and the feedback has the handy effect of papering over cracks where they may often sound too muddy and amateurish otherwise. I've also added tape delay here and there to aid with the transitions from one track to the next - the idea was initially for this to have the flow of a mixtape as much as possible.

Most of the ads on pirates were for raves, clubs, records shops, occasionally a compilation or a 12 inch release … But  it’s interesting that quite a few of them are for non-music-related businesses -  there’s one I came across for a bakers, you’ll get ones for hairdressers or a restaurant.  Or on Vol. 1 the shop fittings ad for Trade Equip  and the one for Fidel’s Menswear.

In a way I find the non-music related ads as some of the most intriguing and charming. It shows that the stations were often genuinely part of a thriving localised economy, and not just for soundheads. It seems a bit mad to think of a small high-street business advertising on the radio these days, and I suppose with the advent of social media marketing we're probably seeing the last of small businesses in print advertising to a large degree - it's just not attractive as you don't get to monitor the traffic it's generating and target your audience down to the minutiae, but it leaves a document of that business that can be preserved from a local history perspective (whereas when a business folds their online presence will likely disappear with it).

Even on the music history level alone, though, they are  valuable – there’s a sort of established history of rave where certain legendary clubs get mentioned  over and over (Rage, Labrynth, Innersense) and the same applies to the raves, labels, record shops. But these ads capture just how many clubs, raves etc there were, in all different parts of London or UK… many that have been forgotten or only ran for a short while. And there are addresses, times, prices mentioned.

Yes, the provision of full addresses, and often bus routes and the general specifics for the clubs and venues always gives me a pang of nerdy excitement. The addition of local landmarks, "under this flyover", "next to Tescos" etc. gives me extra info with which I can go sleuthing on Streetview and look at the ghost of the club mentioned in the advert (and for extra nerdery I can swipe backward in time on street view to see it's former guises too).

The raver’s dateline courtesy Chillin FM advert is very interesting and surprising!

Yes I was surprised to come across so many ravers datelines! I wonder if this is something you had come across before? Hooking up and meeting potential partners never struck me as a priority to pilled-up ravers but I must be mistaken... It was relatively before my time, and I suppose it's easy to be swayed by the dominant narrative of early rave being a drug-fuelled oasis away from meat-market bars & clubs, but there was clearly a market for it! I can't help being reminded of Father Ted's priest chatback line whenever I hear it, also.

I think you mentioned in that Crack interview how most people paused the tape when the ads came on…   so there’s a limited number of ad breaks that have survived intact.

Yeah I guess it makes sense that the music is what the majority of the listeners are there for, and the ads can do one - or indeed be edited out later. The sources I had were pretty much all online, so I suppose you could say that a portion of those who have ripped/digitized their tapes didn't stop their recordings when the ads came on, and rather they have cropped them out in the process. But in general it's the same principle as to when you would record a TV show on VHS - a waste of valuable magnetic tape space. 

What number did you accumulate before you started winnowing them down?

Maybe 100 total? It's been a bit of a blur to be honest. At some point I think I was losing it a bit.

It’s good that you have ads that aren’t just rave / hardcore / jungle, but others kind of music that were big then – like mellow house and progressive house etc.

It's easy to imagine pirate radio as exclusively a place for jungle, hardcore, reggae and dancehall etc. but yes it's refreshing. I particularly am interested in the popularity of rare groove and how that fits into the mix. The Under 18s Disco advert strikes me for it's mix up of styles - 'ragga, house, rap & swing'.

What is your favorite ad out of all the ones on the two cassettes?  Or top 2 or 3.

I think probably the Videobox rental shop is up there, it's the faux dialogue that just makes me smile. The Rolls Royce & A Big House in 89 is just fantastic for the list of celebrities who have "been invited", and that you simply need to go into your local hairdresser for £1 tickets.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

remissmas

remiss have I been in not remarking upon recent releases that are remarkable

first-most would be the now six-weeks-out new album from Insides - Soft Bonds

usually when a favorite band reactivates after a long silence the chances are pretty good that the results will underwhelm

this is a rare example of being fully whelmed - 

it's every bit as good as the classic-for-those-who-know Euphoria





incidentally, the album and single by Insides precursor group Earwig were quietly made available again, in remastered form, a few years ago, and are well worth investigating. 


^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

more culpable remissitude: also a month-and-a-half young now is Cosmorama by Beautify Junkyards - the Lisbon band's second album for Ghost Box (and fourth overall). Lovely dreamy stuff, you can get a taster here. "We need to bring colors to face these grey times!" says the groop, and it's too true. 

                                       





here's an interview with groop leader João Branco Kyron  - by Bob Fischer (originally published in Electronic Sound).  Among other things João explains where the name Cosmorama comes from: "it was Victorian entertainment, where people would go to see magnified images of exotic landscapes or far-away monuments."

coming soon (next month in fact) is a 7-inch single collaboration between Beautify Junkyards and Belbury Poly in the form of a cover version of The Incredible String Band's "Painting Box." (Perhaps they should also have done Pink Floyd's "Paintbox" for the B-side?)



^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

less culpably remiss - lukewarm off the press news, a mere three weeks behind release day - here's another waft of ethereal evanescence from  Lo Five, whose run of releases of the last couple of years have been favorites moods into which to sink and trance out. 

"We need to bring greys to efface these garish times!" says the groop, and it's too true

release rationale: 

waiting to return to a life that no longer exists. A prosaic acceptance of living in slow motion. Waving from a distance as familiarity sails into the mist. A world of possibilities slowly folding back in on itself. Looking out of the window listening to a muffled storm. Trapped on an island that's far from paradise. Gazing over the water and contemplating the tranquility of the other side.

God's Waiting Room represents a creative detour for Lo Five, who has temporarily given leave of his senses and usual production methodology in order to explore a sensation that had become more apparent in recent months - a serene ennui, patient acceptance and mild disillusionment. This is perhaps representative of our collective consciousness, particularly for those trapped in the British Isles.

assembled from tape manipulated 78rpm record loops, field recordings, acoustic and synthetic melodies, God's Waiting Room is an experiment in contrasting sounds and an exercise in restraint.

                                         


credits

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finally, what a relief, no remissness required here at all, I'm several weeks early in fact - a new EP by an artist whose 2018 album on Hyperdub I really liked: Proc Fiskal. It's called Lothian Buses (a tiny taste is available here)  and extends the sound and approach of Insula, which I earlier described as "a frisky, fidgety weave of grime / Eski / 2step rhythms with glinting splinters of melody and calligraphic tone-smears that seem to come out of the Sakamoto / "Bamboo Music" / B-2 Unit realm... with  snippets of everyday speech and outdoors atmosphere, seemingly captured on the eavesdropping sly, woven into the fabric"  



Wednesday, February 24, 2021

 Here's my paean to "Digital Love" and Discovery, part of a terrific NPR Music multi-authored tribute to Daft Punk.


My #2 favorite Daft Punk tune: 



                             Before I ever heard their records, I saw them live - at their US debut. 







Sunday, February 21, 2021

Experimental Jetset - Superstructures


I was really excited to participate in a project created by Dutch artist collective Experimental Jetset, in which they invited a bunch of critics and theorists - including Owen Hatherley, McKenzie Wark, Ian F. Svenonius and many others - to write annotations to a text of their own. These annotations are mostly more like mini-essays than footnotes, so the size of the accumulated supplementary text far surpasses the original document. The resulting compendium Superstructures is a  visually and typographically exquisite volume dense with stimulating writing addressing four zones of 20th Century utopian urbanism:  The Constructivist City, The Situationist City, The Provotarian City, The Post-Punk City

(If you are thinking my footnotes would be restricted to the part on post-punk, actually no, I had some things to say about Situationism and even Provo, via a certain favorite psychedelic song). 

The book can be ordered directly from Roma Publications in Amsterdam, but is also widely available in art bookshops and museums etc through Idea Books distribution. 

Here is the official release rationale: 

"Superstructures (Notes on EJ, Vol. 2) is an inquiry into the role of the city as an infrastructure for language (and simultaneously, into the role of language as an infrastructure for the city), as seen through the lens of four historical movements: Constructivism, the Situationist International, Provo, and the Post-Punk explosion. Based on a research project (and accompanying exhibition) by Experimental Jetset, the publication features footnotes written by 20 guest-authors – including Linda van Deursen, Owen Hatherley, Dirk van den Heuvel, Tom McDonough, Adam Pendleton, Simon Reynolds, McKenzie Wark, Lori Waxman, Mimi Zeiger, and many others. The 420-page paperback comes with a 26-page zine, zooming in on the design typology of the original exhibition."

^^^^^^^^

Although Superstructures is Volume 2 in a trilogy of Notes on Experimental Jetset volumes, it's actually the last of the three to be published (yes, confusing, but apparently there's a logic to that). 

Here is Experimental Jetset's explanation of the entire project series: 

"The first one (‘Statement and Counter-Statement – Notes on EJ, Vol. 1’, from 2015) was basically a monograph, showing our work as a whole. We also asked some people (Linda van Deursen, Mark Owens, Ian Svenonius) to write essays about us, without mentioning us – so that was a nice twist.


"We’re very bad (extremely bad) in doing lectures – but we explain the paperback in full during this talk:


"The second one (‘Full Scale False Scale’ – Notes on EJ, Vol. 3’, from 2019) basically focused on one single project – the long-term installation we recently created at the MoMA in New York. It’s basically a reader, compiled of texts we read while working on that particular project – mostly texts that deal with the transition from European early-modernism to American late-/post-modernism.


"The third paperback (‘Superstructures – Notes on EJ, Vol. 2’, from 2020) is dealing mostly with our influences (Constructivism, the Situationist International, Provo, Post-Punk), exploring the ways in which these movements used the city as an infrastructure for language.


"In other words, the first book (Vol. 1) is about our work as a whole, the second book (which is actually Vol. 3) is about one specific project, while the third book (Vol. 2) is about our influences in general."





Tuesday, February 16, 2021

we'll be back after the ads

Observant readers of these blogs may have noticed my burgeoning interest in the adverts that punctuated the shows on hardcore jungle pirate radio stations. I've been combing through my own tapes (cursing the preponderance of recordings where I pressed pause when the ad break started) and  trawling through sets that are online. The best adverts are distilled slivers of vibe and scene-character, and contain genuine sociohistorical interest. But mostly their nutty nonsense and DIY charm gives me a delicious memory-rush. 

So I was well chuffed to come across a fellow obsessive in Luke Owen, the man behind the archival audio label Death Is Not The End. In the last month or so, Luke has put out London Pirate Radio Adverts, 1984-1993 Vol. 1 and the just-released London Pirate Radio Adverts, 1984-1993 Vol. 2 - both of which are available digitally at a name-your-price rate and for a modest amount as a limited-edition cassette or in CD form. 

Here is my piece for The Guardian  on the compilations, featuring quotes from Luke,  pirate radio historian Stephen Hebditch, and DJ/producer Nick Power who played on Pulse FM and other pirates, and who made one of my favorite ads for his own record store Music Power Records (it can be found on the Vol. 1 compilation).






In a week or so I'll run the full chat with Luke about his project, which I hope will continue. 

And do check out Luke's earlier collection from last year of sound snippets from the Bristol pirate radioscape of the late 90s. 

Three of my favorite pirate ads. 


                                           



The chap who voiced those Telepathy ads (there's a whole series of them running through the entire era) was called Sting and he was the founder of Club Telepathy and also owner-operator of Deja Vu FM. 

Back to Nick Power - as a producer, with DJ Ku - who worked as an assistant in Music Power Records -  he made these little beauties 

                                            



His label Ruff Tuff  & Wicked Stuff also put this minor classic out:


And this little piss-taker



                                        


In addition to his DJing and retail mini-empire (two records shops and store selling disco and sound system equipment), Power - being of Greek-Cypriot background - also pioneered clubbing in Ayia Napa, long before it became a UK Garage destination. 


Saturday, February 13, 2021

the game is up

 And the fourth + final installment of Kieran Press-Reynolds CTRL.ALT.REPEAT series on videogame musik for Repeater Radio - a terrific mix of games tunes and tunes influenced by games musik. 

                                              

Friday, February 05, 2021

Gamebient

And here's the final installment of Kieran Press-Reynolds's 3-part series on  videogame musik and how it's influenced pop and unpop, for his Repeater Radio show CTRL.ALT. REPEAT.

This episode is called "The Rise of Gamebient" and, says Kieran, concerns "how video game music is everywhere - on YouTube, on TikTok, nestled in our brains.... Chaotic game music has become a sort of study drug for hyperactive young teens... there's a new wave of artists (leon chang, galen tipton, Serlof, Lost Cascades, etc.) making soundtracks for games that don't exist.... these fake game OSTs are sometimes popular because they allow Twitch streamers/YouTubers to bypass copyright laws."


                                                  First episode here and second  here



Monday, February 01, 2021

games people play


Here, archived, is the next installment of Kieran Press-Reynolds show CTRL.ALT. REPEAT for Repeater Radio - part 2 in a 4-part series on the history of videogame musik and how it's influenced pop / unpop - this week heading into the 21st C with Dizzee Rascal, James Ferraro, Minecraft, Undertale and more.

The first installment in the series is here, and here also is Kieran chatting with Repeater man Carl Neville about online micro-genres etc etc.

Some rave-era intersections with videogame musik






The use of PlayStation as a music production tool is another story.





Friday, January 29, 2021

Radio on the TV / a magazine made of sound

A while ago I came across this place online called Bobcast  - a little trove of audio interviews with left-field musicians from the early-to-mid Eighties done by a character called, well, Bob. Some of them had been for a show called Creatures What You Never Knew About broadcast on something called Greenwich Sound Radio. Others were the full unedited audio of interviews that appeared in much shorter form in a fanzine called Morrocci Klung!.  

There were a couple of lengthy chats (one in 2 parts) with Green Gartside from 1981 and 1983...  a similar brace (from '81 and '84) with Robert Wyatt... conversations with Malcolm McLaren, Mark Stewart, Vivien GoldmanSteve Beresford,  Stuart and Alison (separately) from Young Marble Giants, Adrian Sherwood, Mal and Chris from Cabaret VoltairePaddy Macaloon, Mark E. Smith, Morrissey, and more.  A lot of the interviewees were linked to Rough Trade and Cherry Red (Monochrome Set, Eyeless in Gaza...). Oh and one with Quentin Crisp that is so broken up into many short bits that I can't be arsed to link them all...

The ones done for Greenwich Sound Radio took the format of the guest talking about their music (or work) in between playing favorite records or musicians that influenced them. 

What drew me there in the first place was the interview with Dave McCullough, the Sounds legend who seems to have disappeared without trace - I was trawling the internet for clues. My surprise and delight on hearing the man's silver patter is captured earlier here and here

When I did the From Gardens Where We Feel Secure appreciation recently, I re-stumbled upon the two-part Bobcast with Virginia Astley and gave it a listen and found some useful background there. So I linked it in the Pitchfork piece and it seems to have directed quite a lot of people there, because Bob Pearce got in contact to register his pleasure. I asked him to give me the lowdown about Greenwich Sound Radio and Morrocci Klung! and the story turned out to be quite interesting - this was a rather unusual radio station and the fanzine was actually a pioneering tape-zine, an entirely audio publication. 

So here's Bob telling his story: 

Greenwich Sound Radio was a local radio station in the most south-eastest part of London, and was actually broadcast via the pioneering cable TV station 'Cablevision' that was available to around 2,500 homes. It was a small station, and heard by people using their TV as a radio, much like some people once listened to the 'Test Card' before there was all day TV programmes. I never knew how many people ever heard my programmes. Nobody ever got in touch, even to complain. It could have just been me.


The studio was a short walk up the hill from Plumstead train station, behind two huge red iron doors at the foot of a Godzilla tower block.

Some DJs had serious radio experience, working at stations like Radio Caroline. Not me. Around the start of the 80's, aged 20, I must have recently dropped out of art college when a friend, named Mark Smith, who helped out at the station, said 'We've got a DJ giving up their slot and someone is threatening to do a Country & Western programme. You've got loads of records, could you put together a programme?' We agreed I'd write scripts and he'd present. 'Creatures What You Never Knew About' was an in-joke from school and at that time seemed to warn that listeners would not be hearing familiar music. We pre-recorded programmes for a late Saturday night slot. In time Mark stepped away and I did it all.

 I'd made contact with indie labels promo departments, especially Rough Trade and Cherry Red, in order to receive their new releases. In the summer of 1981, possibly inspired by the NME's C81  cassette, I had a simple idea for a music magazine on cassette. No reviews, no photos. Just provide the artist, title and label information. Make your own mind up. I spoke to people like Mike Alway and Scott Piering about the idea and they agreed to support it by offering pre-release music and interview opportunities.

                                                  

500 copies of Morrocci Klung!, another in-joke from school (which I told people was the sound of putting a tape in a player and shutting the hatch before you press play), ran for 3 issues from September to November 1981 on a C60 tape. Once the first issue began distributing around the country via Rough Trade, I found that a mainstream version (SFX fronted by Max Bell) was about to be released (and Fast Forward in Australia were also producing a tape).


My first interview was with Robert Wyatt, who I only knew from his Rough Trade singles. My basic tape recorder and I spent a long afternoon and evening at his house in Twickenham. He was so welcoming and generous with his time and mind, even sharing his dinner with me. I found a postcard recently that he sent to say he had enjoyed listening to the magazine.

                                    

Vivien Goldman (who included our interview on her recent compilation CD), Chris Watson and Stephen Mallinder from Cabaret Voltaire, Mark Stewart, Adrian Sherwood, Matt Johnson, Jello Biafra, Charles Hayward, Mark Beer, were all interviewed in the following weeks. Some people, like Eyeless in Gaza, Epic Soundtracks and Gerard Langley recorded their own 'piece' for me to include.



Malcolm McLaren was Malcolming-up Bow Wow Wow's 'cassette pet', so I got in touch and he was happy to share his enthusiastic views on the use of cassette tapes, and the possibilities opened up by a cassette magazine. 


For variety, I also included a poet and a problem page. Quentin Crisp's phone number was there in the phone directory and I called him. 'Oh yes?' he answered. I explained what I was doing and asked if I was to bring along a collection of letters from magazine 'problem' pages would he respond. Soon enough I was sat in his legendary one room bedsit, with its mythical snowdrifts of 40 year old dust. I pressed record and he read and replied sincerely and Crisply to each question (pausing occasionally as someone else had found his phone number and called him, to be met each time with “Oh yes?”). I don't know if he understood what I was doing but he didn't seem to mind.

I remember that I made a quite deliberate decision to never announce myself on the tapes or radio, as it just didn't seem at all relevant to anything. I also tried removing my questions fas far as possible rom the interview extracts that were used.

As a result of Morrocci Klung! I have a vague memory of being invited for a chat in the BBC canteen as some kind of audition process for one of those 'youth' programmes that everybody was rushing to make. My 'lack of ambition' must have put them off.

                                               

Morrocci Klung! also got a mention in Smash Hits around this time. “Unfortunately, the quality of the tape borders on the diabolical at times, while Bob hasn't yet learnt how to compere an alternative chat show. It's often hard to know who's talking about what and why. Still, his heart's in the right place.”

Melody Maker recognised that it “Sets out to by-pass subjectivity by ditching comments and reviews and instead presenting snatches of various recordings so that 'the music is allowed to speak for itself and the listeners are allowed to make their own decisions'.”

Fast Forward said “It lacks any back up information in the form of printed material etc., but makes an excellent go of the medium.”

Robert Wyatt's postcard said “That bit you did with our conversation is quite terrific and its really well edited and everything. I'm really grateful for the opportunity you gave us (not just me – everyone on the tape) to think out loud.”



                              

The December issue of Morrocci Klung! didn't appear, despite recording sufficient interviews. There was Mark E. Smith (on the day he delivered 'Hex Enduction Hour' to Kamara Records) – the second half, recorded in a noisy pub, includes Kay Carroll, and shows how influential she was in making The Fall be 'The Fall'. They were both very encouraging of the project. There was also Scritti Politti ('Faithless' era – including Matthew Kay's involvement), Rip Rig and Panic and Sudden Sway. I'd been approached by Mike Harding and Jon Wozencroft about making this DIY magazine a bit more professional and get it distributed to newsagents. It didn't happen. They went on to produce Touch, and I was invited by Mark Beer to help with his band 'Sneezes in China, Deaths in Paris' for a while (I encouraged them to call McLaren and talk their way into a support slot at Bow Wow Wow's show the following night in somewhere like Derby), before starting a career working for people with a learning disability.

                                           

A couple of years ago John Henderson, of Feel Good All Over records and the Tiny Global label (home to Stuart Moxham, The Nightingales, Blue Orchids, Martin Bramah and Band of Holy Joy), told me “I bought it in Chicago. It came in a manila envelope and had excerpts from all sorts of records - Essential Logic (or maybe Lora solo), Epic Soundtracks - lots of great stuff.  I was probably 15 years old. It's funny, that's probably the first cassette I ever bought, and very influential, at least in terms of me to getting to spend a lot of money on the records sampled therein!”

That came as a major revelation. At the time they were being made, upstairs at home, I had no idea that these cassette magazines had found their way around the world.

I've seen copies of the £1.15 tapes selling for between £20 and £40 now. 

Someone has kindly shared the three complete editions of Morrocci Klung! online for free.

                                             

I had continued making the radio show throughout and began asking musicians if they'd like to come along with records from their collections. I have no memory of anybody saying 'No'.

Monochrome Set came and just improvised amongst themselves. When I sent Mike Alway the tape he told me he was tracking down and releasing Honor Blackman's 'Kinky Boots'. It did very well.

Paddy McAloon talked over the phone about his 'Swoon' album that was due for release. Moving house recently, I found a letter he had sent me some time later, with a copy of his new record 'Steve McQueen', thanking me for the tape of the show and the copy of Sam Shepard's 'True West' I'd sent with it.

Morrissey spoke on the phone during the Troy Tate recording sessions for their debut album. I believe I was the first person to ask Morrissey if he'd considered suicide. Scott Piering at Rough Trade provided a sound desk tape of The Smiths playing live to be support for the interview.

Mark E. Smith came and did a show, reading selections from the notebook he fished out of his carrier bag (including 'The Mark E. Smith Guide to Writing Guide') and played tracks from a tape he'd brought called something like '20 Trucking Greats'. I do remember walking back to the train station together and Mark asking if I fancied a pint. I had to apologise and explain that I must get home to help organise a jumble sale. He clearly didn't hold it against me. I sent him a tape of the programme and he included extracts from his readings on the 'Perverted By Language' album. We swapped several letters for a few years. He sent me a book of poetry by U.A. Fanthorpe, and I sent him Bruno Bettleheim's 'The Uses of Enchantment' (“Passed many boring bus-tour rides.”) I also sent a couple of drawings. One became the cover of 'The Man Whose Head Expanded', the other he said was framed on his kitchen wall (and a friend had mistaken for 'a pic of Iggy Stooge'). I understand this programme is available out there as a bootleg.





Green Gartside was between Rough Trade and deciding where to go next when he came along with a big pile of records that were shaping his future direction. He spoke about the madness of the music business, and told me he was watching producers faces when he told them he wanted to make a record that was a mix of Shalamar and Bambaatta.


Green - the original Wide Brimmed Hat popster? 

When I phoned Robert Wyatt to invite him to come and talk about some records in his collection, he said there was a documentary film maker with him who could drive him across London if they could include it in their film. They came, they filmed, but I've never seen any trace of their documentary.

Alison Statton and Stuart Moxham from the Young Marble Giants visited individually when they'd become Weekend and The Gist. A few years ago I found Stuart was playing in the next town and I went and introduced myself. He immediately remembered the radio station, and we agreed to a 'follow up' interview [check out this 2016 "career review"]. We now meet occasionally for breakfast, courtesy of John Peel.

When I asked Stuart recently, he said “I distinctly remember my visit to Greenwich Sound radio station because it was so unique and bizarre. I loved the fact that it was housed in a windowless brick box, in the space under a tall block of flats which stood on concrete legs. It was the sort of building which one would never have given a second thought to. Bob himself was obviously a fellow ahead of his time, operating in the penumbra of fame where so many of the most interesting things happen. His simple idea was brilliant - to invite people to bring a selection of their favourite pieces of music along, which he would play, asking them to explain why they liked them. Desert Island Discs without the nonsense. I still have that cassette and I love all that music a little more now for having shared it with Greenwich Sound.”

Since Dave McCullough in Sounds was often the first to write about new bands I liked, why not call him and ask if he'd like to come over? My memory was that he seemed very passionate about his views but would happily walk away from the 'madness' any time he wanted. He was very positive and encouraging, like an older brother.


I recorded a call with Keith Armstrong at the time that Kitchenware records was launching, taking the opportunity to introduce the four bands on the label. He rounded off the programme by saying it would be his final interview, so that he could ensure the bands now got all the attention. I can't say if he was interviewed again. 

Virginia Astley brought a big pile of records and we recorded enough for two programmes. Matt Johnson had just released Soul Mining when he came over. Steve Beresford took the 'Creatures What You Never Knew About' to a new level. New Order sent a cassette of tracks they were listening to, with no speech, for me to work with. There were also programmes with Ben Watt, Vic Godard and Mark Beer, but I can not say what became of those recordings. After the sleeve for The Fall, Mike Alway asked me to make an image for a Vic Godard record. It was never used.

A few years ago I began sharing the programmes and interviews as podcasts and I feel confident that way more people around the planet hear them now than ever did through the TVs of a small corner of South East London late on a Saturday night.

Listening back to those recordings, with 40 years of perspective, and hearing my younger self, I felt he had done a decent job for someone that was just a fan trying to make programmes that he would want to hear. I've shared all the Morrocci Klung! interviews unedited because I felt they were more interesting as raw conversations, and my 'older and allegedly wiser' self had no business interfering with my 'younger and apparently naïver' self.

For an enthusiastic novice, on such a tiny station, with a possibly non-existent audience, I realised that I was punching way above my weight. Some time in 1985 Greenwich Sound suddenly closed down. It had been a lucky opportunity at an interesting moment in time and I realise now how useful my lack of experience of 'how things work' had been in just going ahead, approaching people and seeing what happened. In hindsight it seems maybe I was time-capsuling something for future audiences."