Tuesday, 21 June 2011

NON Interview - Back to Mono

Ex-head of the church of satan, friend of Charles Manson, mentor of Marilyn Manson, descendant of Jesus Christ, social darwinist, neo-pagan, founder of noise core, electronic pioneer; Boyd Rice’s CV is as impressive as it is controversial.

Since the mid 70’s he has produced some of the most challenging and original recorded music in history. The sheer emotion, untamed structure and raw, uncompromising sounds are made all the more intriguing by the accompaniment of fascistic imagery and occultist aesthetics.

NON is perhaps his most famous music project. NON’s last record, ‘Children of the black sun’ was released on Mute records in 2002 and tended toward the dark ambient sound of his other projects. The next record ‘Back to mono’ is a return to the abrasive noise of his early years and is to be released this Summer. I caught up with Boyd at the recent Short circuit festival in Camden to find out what we can expect from this most eccentric and enigmatic of performers in the future.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Short Circuit Festival Review

Essex boys, Niitzer Ebb are one of the first bands to play on the Friday, but they easily fill the larger venue with loyal fans, eager for their shouty brand of industrial punk. The sheer scale of the room, combined with the bombardment of communist imagery on the monitors brings to mind the political rallies of last century rather than a popular music concert. Though they and their fans have aged, their music remains vital and fizzing with the energy of youth.

Balanescu Quartet perform in the smaller room offering a more ambient alternative to Nitzer Ebb’s ferocious industrial noise, upstairs. The emotive pitch of a string quartet lends itself perfectly to the hypnotic melodies of Kraftwerk. The audience is transfixed and left unable to listen to Krautrock in the same way again.

Throbbing gristle’s own Chris and Cosey are next in the small venue. The room is packed and remains so for the rest of the evening. At this point anyone who goes to take a piss, risks missing both Chris and Cosey and NON. The couple break out some of their classic electronica; mesmerising bass grooves and synth melodies interspersed with sheer noise and finally ending with a rather boring dub jam.

The wolfsangel flashes on a huge screen accompanied by wailing sirens and blinding spotlights circling the venue as though during an air raid. It seems as though bombs will go off any second. Then one does as Boyd Rice marches onto the stage, the screen vomits a rapid succession of over-exposed shots of swastikas from obscure angles. Boyd is dressed entirely in black with a peaked cap, aviators and arms quivering from decades of hedonism. From this grand and theatrical introduction, one may expect the kind of powerful oration associated with Oswald Mosley, instead we hear a friendly and somewhat timid voice speaking calmly between the ferocious screams of “Total War” and “OUT OUT OUT!”

German fans scream their devoted adoration as Boyd breaks out a converted electric drill, and after calling on a well equipped member of the audience for repairs, uses it to brutally torture an electric bass guitar.

Though the Short circuit festival boasted a legendary lineup, it was let down by the limited capacity of the smaller venue in which many of the greatest acts were performing. Those who were lucky enough to get into the smaller venue were treated to seeing the old gods of electronica and noise in an intimate and crowded space, those who did not, had to make do with Moby.

Published: I-D Online, June, 2011

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Save May Day

The evocative site of young girls skipping around a maypole is one of ancient tradition and innocent celebration, but it is under attack. The Tories are attempting to abolish the bank holiday. The celebration is so old that we cannot be sure of its origin. The maypole itself is common to all Germanic countries; from Sweden to England, and so is thought to originate from Germanic paganism. The pole itself is most likely a phallic fertility symbol. The Celtic peoples of Great Britain and Ireland also celebrated 1st May, which is the day of their ancient pagan ceremony, Beltane. After they converted to Christianity, the Anglo-Saxon people began celebrating Roodmas on 3rd May, a celebration of the holy cross itself. The disparate pagan and Christian May day ceremonies of the British Isles evolved over the centuries to become the secular celebration it is today.

When attending May day celebrations in modern Britain, one is less likely to encounter the quintessentially English customs of Morris dancing and maypoles than the sight of scores of communists, trade unionists and other activists marching through the streets with banners and whistles. May day’s association with revolutionary politics began in Chicago in 1886. Crowds of workers who were on general strike were fired upon by police after a demonstrator threw dynamite at them. Several policemen and demonstrators were killed at what was termed the Haymarket massacre. Left wing politicians used the massacre as a device to whip up support for the international workers movement. Further riots occurred on May day 1894 in Cleveland, Ohio, and by 1904 the International Socialist Conference in Amsterdam called for all leftist groups to demonstrate on the 1st of May.

The labour day demonstrations have traditionally been very important to communist nations such as the republic of China. European nations, particularly their conservative political parties, have tried to suppress such movements. But efforts to suppress dissent have sometimes led to restriction on celebration of traditional festivities. May Morning is an Oxford tradition that is over 500 years old. What began as a tradition of drunken students going out punting, evolved over the centuries into drunken townspeople tearing through the streets and jumping into the river. May morning was heavily policed under the New Labour government to the extent that anyone found in possession of so much as a can of shaving foam could find themselves being arrested.

David Cameron is now attempting to do away with the entire bank holiday completely. Centuries of history and heritage are to be discarded in an effort to attract tourists. Despite the fact the UK has less bank holidays than the rest of Europe, Cameron wants to scrap May day bank holiday and replace it with “UK day”, an ill-conceived and somewhat forced celebration of the national cultures that constitute the United Kingdom. UK day would be in October and is intended to extend the summer period thereby attracting tourists during the Autumn months.

Whether Mr. Cameron’s real motive was to suppress the left wing movements he is so afraid of or merely to create a new bank holiday, I don't know, but surely he could have achieved both without the need to destroy heritage and history that have survived centuries of cultural and political upheavals. A mob of Morris dancers must be dispatched to number 10, first thing on May morning. Hopefully the sounds of sticks clashing, bells jingling and the sight of middle aged men waving hankies around will bring him to his senses.