Sunday, 16 December 2012

Happy Christmas to one and all!

A Merry Christmas to one and all! Hope you've had a good year and I hope the next one is better still.

I've just been looking back over the 2012 blog entries and they reminded me I've had a truly fantastic 12 months. It only seems like a few days since I posted the photos taken on the beach in Whitley Bay on New Year's Day. In 2012 I visited New York for the first time (and was blown away), received wonderful contributions to the book by Gong and System 7 man Steve Hillage, Alex Paterson of The Orb and Agitation Free founder member Lutz Ludwig Kramer. I also got to see Ashra live in Berlin, visited Manuel's amazing Studio Roma and met Lutz Ulbrich before seeing Agitation Free live in London. I saw an incredible shooting star burning up in the sky that made the BBC national news the next day and celebrated a fourth anniversary since I started writing the book. On a sadder note this year we lost Fax Records owner and ambient/electronic music genius Pete Namlook. I had a bit of correspondence with Pete when buying his CDs and he was a lovely man. He may be gone but his music will live on.

So, what of 2013, then? Well, we have Manuel's new DVD release, recorded live at Transmediale with the spectacular Joshua Light Show to look forward to and I'm rather hoping that this will be the year when you get to read my book. It is pretty much finished (with the exception of whatever minor alterations the publisher may wish to make) and it is currently in a waiting list to be checked out. Coming soon is all I can tell you. Thank you all for following my blog and not losing patience if you're still tuned in. I'll be back in 2013, hopefully offering some exciting developments in the not-too-distant future! Have a great holiday and take care until then.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Four years later...

Well, this weekend I travelled down to London to see Agitation Free live at the Jazz Cafe and they put on a tremendous show, playing a mixture of vintage and new material similar to the tracklisting of their recent live CD Shibuya Nights, albeit with some added stretches of ambient music and the surprise encore of Pink Floyd's Interstellar Overdrive. Great stuff!

It has taken four years but I finally managed to buy Lutz Ulbrich a pint as a way of saying thank you for all of his help with my MG book. He's a very nice chap. Shame he had to stand with some hairy bloke for the photo above (which appears courtesy of Mr. Stephen Iliffe). A splendid weekend was had by all!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Agitation Free live in the UK

The legendary Agitation Free have two live UK dates coming soon. On Friday 9th November they will be playing at Moho Live in Manchester, supported by a DJ set from the Was Ist Das sound system and on Saturday 10th November they will also be playing at London's Jazz Cafe.
This is a chance to see the very same line-up that recorded the Malesch and 2nd albums back in the early '70s. If you haven't heard Agitation Free with their blend of melodic jamming rock and electronics then you're in for a treat and I can't recommend them highly enough. Their latest album, Shibuya Nights, which was recorded live in Tokyo in 2007 demonstrates that the band are every bit as exciting as they ever were, offering up a mixture of their vintage sound with some more contemporary moments. It all sits together very well indeed.
Of course it goes without saying that this is also an opportunity to see Manuel Gottsching collaborator and rock legend Lutz Ulbrich live on stage. Not to be missed! Tickets for both of the shows can be bought here. I'll be at the London show and I hope to see you there...

Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Neverending Story

Hello readers. I thought I should check in and say hello in case any of you think my project has ground to a shuddering halt. Not the case at all! This morning I finally finished a skeleton index for the book (I call it this because it contains all of the keywords but not the accompanying page numbers - these will inevitably change when the book goes to a publisher). A citation section is also complete but I want to double check this for accuracy and I've also been adding some anecdotes and making amendments based on information I learnt on my trip to Berlin in June.

I've had some highly encouraging feedback from the people in the process of checking the book (can't disclose any specific information right now) but they have very busy lives and several projects currently under development. No matter. I have been assured that they will be back in touch when they have had sufficient time to read my draft carefully.

So, it's all about patience. Please continue to tune in, folks. I actually think that not having to rush things at this point is probably a positive thing, as it allows me to check, to fine tune and to add additional material that will make the finished product slightly better.

We shall arrive and you will be able to read. It just takes time...

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Museum Piece VII

Three fascinating clips featuring Ashra circa 1981 have appeared on YouTube, all of which were originally broadcast by the Barcelona-based television channel TVE as part of their show Music Express.  The first two are live performances, both recorded in March. Ashra play alone and then join the Spanish band Neuronium for a lengthy jam.  
Another clip, recorded a month later, shows the band being interviewed in Berlin. The audible language for all of this (some of which is overdubbed) is Spanish. Perfect for Spanish speakers but for everyone else the visuals are very interesting in their own right. The band can be seen playing and chatting in Manuel's Studio Roma and shortly after this they would all go their own way for four years. Manuel's E2-E4 was just around the corner...

Thank you to Marco for posting these.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Happy Birthday, MG!

Here's wishing Manuel Gottsching a happy 60th birthday! Have a great day!

Friday, 7 September 2012

MG Live in Poland 2012

As part of the celebrations for his 60th birthday Manuel Gottsching is playing E2-E4 live tonight (8th September)  at the Kopernikus Centre, Warsaw, Poland. Visuals will be provided by the legendary Joshua Light Show, famous for their spectacular work accompanying acts such as The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin at the Fillmore East, New York. For more information about this free concert see here.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Postcards from Arran

Greetings all. I'm doing my bit for the Scottish Tourist Board here by sharing some of my photos from my visit to the Isle of Arran last week. Arran is off the west coast of Scotland and is separated from the Hebrides by the Kintyre peninsula.

Spot the deer in the photo above. They are there if you look closely enough.

These photographs were taken during a walk at Drummadoon. King's Cave, located nearby, is thought to be the place where Robert the Bruce hid after suffering defeat in a battle with the English (this probably happened in 1306). After seeing a spider repeatedly failing but eventually succeeding to spin a web in the entrance of the cave he found renewed inspiration to fight again.
Across the water in the photograph below you can see Kintyre in the distance. In the early '70s after the break-up of The Beatles Paul McCartney came here to escape the media spotlight. It also later inspired his famous single.
Sky (also known as the wee boy) can be seen in the photo below. This gentle natured dog belongs to my mother-in-law and father-in-law.
The mountain to the right in the photo below is Goat Fell, the highest peak on the Isle of Arran at 2,867 feet.

Who's that bloke?
The hills shown in the photograph below are known as the sleeping warrior.
Before I go the news re: the book is that it is still being checked on the run-up to publication (although not by myself). I'm not able to say too much about this yet but stay tuned and all will be revealed in due course! Thanks for your patience and for following the blog. More soon...

Saturday, 25 August 2012

I never thought I would see this!

Let's go back through the mists of time...about 22 years, actually. Way back then a new show appeared on the British TV station Channel 4 and it was called Vic Reeves Big Night Out. A teenager at the time, I watched it once or twice and couldn't fathom out how these guys had managed to get on television. Basically the big night out seemed to entail Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer and Les (pictured above in the background) doing a series of extremely strange things. Les played his Bontempi organ, dressed as a doctor, whilst staring into space, there was a man in a paper helmet, holding a stick  with random items on the end of it, The Ponderers were two characters with fake chins, wearing underpants, Greg Mitchell was a talking puppet Labrador dog and Wavey Davey...well, he simply enjoyed waving at people. Morrisey, The Consumer Monkey, offered advice about substandard products and Judge Nutmeg span his utterly ineffective Wheel of Justice during every episode. I think you get the picture...

At some point when watching the third or fourth epsiode of the programme the penny finally dropped: in a life full of order and rules this was total and utter anarchy...or at least it seemed that way...and it was both glorious and hilarious! As Vic Reeves Big Night Out caught on it became essential viewing for students and many young people in general. This was a Monty Python for our generation and we loved it! The catchphrases from the show could be heard everywhere for years.
So, imagine my surprise when I heard that the music of Ash Ra Tempel would be included in the first episode of Vic and Bob's new Channel 4 show, Lucky Sexy Winners. Indeed Traummaschine featured in a sketch on Thursday night's programme which you can watch  here for the next 28 days (select episode 1).
The sketch involved Bloy, Estonia's X Factor Winners, and, as you can see from these pictures, it was very interesting indeed. Incidentally I apologise to any blog readers from Estonia, as I very much doubt you've seen anything like this before...or will again.
 Enjoy the show!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

MG plays E2-E4 at Dommune free festival

This is just a quick message, wishing MG the best of luck with his forthcoming performance of E2-E4 on 11th August at Makuhari Messe, Chiba, as part of Dommune's benefit concert. This is to help orphans who lost their families in the Japananese earthquake on March 11th 2011. The entry is free and  the concert will be viewable all over the world via a live stream. To make a donation to help the orphans please see here.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

MG in MOJO magazine

As some of you may already know the September 2012 edition of MOJO magazine, which is on the shelves now, includes a feature about the 50 greatest electronic records of all time. Unsurprisingly E2-E4 makes the list and there is a very short piece in which MG talks about the creation of the album and its influence. Thanks to the ever helpful Andy King for the heads-up about this.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Hey teacher, leave that book alone!

Hello readers. Firstly, my apologies for an extended absence from the blog. This has purely and simply been because there hasn't been a great deal to report. For a while now I've been busy reading a printout of the book and I've been marking it like a school teacher. Perhaps I should have a red pen for this! Whilst the bulk of the book is almost there this host of little corrections should add considerably to the quality of the finished product.
As I have this week off work the pace has quickened with this process and when I've finished I also intend to add some little nuggets of information to the book that I learnt during my trip to Berlin early last month. I've almost finished writing a piece about my tour of MG's Studio Roma and then there are some other bits and pieces too.
Whilst all of this is happening the wheels on the path to publication have been set in motion. All will be revealed in due course but this part of the process is sort of out of my hands for now. No matter, as I have lots of my own little improvements to make for the time being...
I will hopefully be back at some point soon when I have more news to report but in the meantime I hope you enjoy some more photographs from Ashra's concert in Berlin six weeks ago.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Museum Abteiberg and a tour of Studio Roma

Well, this weekend has definitely not been wasted, as I've been busy working on a piece describing my tour of Manuel Gottsching's Studio Roma a couple of weeks ago. Although this is a very late addition to the book I think it promises to present one of the most interesting sections.
Progress on the road to publication for the book continues and although there are significant developments on this front I won't say anything just yet. All will be revealed in due course...
Before I go here are a few stills taken from the live feed of MG's fantastic performance of E2-E4 last night at Monchengladbach's iconic Museum Abteiberg.
By the way, while I type this a record with a nice little green label is spinning around on my turntable. It's a practically pristine French Virgin pressing of Blackouts. Lovely stuff! More soon...

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Time travel: Ashra live in Berlin - June 2012

Thursday 8th June 2012 @ the UFA Fabrik, Tempelhof, Berlin. There is a certain circularity to the event planned for tomorrow evening. It was here, 34 years ago that Ashra rehearsed before recording the Correlations album and here they are once more, about to play their first live date in Berlin for 12 years.
I arrive a little jetlagged and more than a little disoriented, having woken up at 3:30am, slept through most of my two flights and arrived eight hours later in Berlin. Although I knew what to expect on arrival at the UFA I am still surprised by how green and leafy it looks when compared with my last visit almost two-and-a-half years ago.
The summer largely denied us back in Britain is very definitely in full swing here in Germany and throughout the day I get a chance to have a drink and a chat with Ashra and friends. Later that evening we have a lovely meal together and I unintentionally supply a few laughs when it becomes clear that I can't understand or pronounce most of the items on the menu. Clueless doesn't even begin to cover it.
Friday 9th June is the day of the concert and in the morning Harald Grosskopf and Steve Baltes take several of us along to Cafe Einstein, their favourite Berlin breakfast venue. The adrenaline is kicking in for the guys now, as showtime approaches and I head off alone to explore the now defunct Tempelhof Airport whilst Grosskopf and Baltes return to the UFA to start to assemble their equipment.
Later, during pre-concert conversation Mick Glossop, producer of Ashra's Correlations album and here as a special guest suggests we get something to eat. It is a great privilege to hear his memories of a career in music including his recollections of work with Ashra many years ago. Correlations engineer Eberhard Panne of Panne-Paulsen Studios is also here tonight and later on I manage to have a brief chat with him. It has to be said that both he and Glossop are really nice guys.
The show itself is predictably marvellous without being predictable. The UFA Fabrik has a brand new all weather venue: a large canopy in the garden, designed to shield spectators and performers from the elements whilst allowing in enough light along its large arched sides to provide the show with the atmosphere of an open air event.
The setlist perfectly compliments the offerings from the @shra live albums recorded in 1997, presenting almost no overlap, whilst bringing the Correlations album back to the location where it all started many years ago. All but one of the tracks from the record are resurrected with electronics worked on collaboratively by Baltes and Gottsching.
For the curious here is the full setlist: Ice Train, Flying Turtles, Morgana da Capo, Kazoo, Pas de Trois, Phantasus, Congo Bongo, Oasis and Club Cannibal with two encores: Blackouts, followed by Midnight on Mars.  
Shortly after the show Mick Glossop comments on the improvisational nature of the performance and the fact that there aren't many non-jazz bands around now that would dare to play off one another and take the music wherever the moment suggests. Watching the concert there is a sense that although the electronic backings (which offer a contemporary take on classic tracks) are preprepared the rest of the interplay is fairly spontaneous. Sure, the band know what to include and Gottsching plays the right riffs or licks in the right place or retains elements of well-known solos but some of the content and even the lengths of many of the tracks remains undecided right up to the point at which they are delivered. This certainly keeps things fresh and gives the performance a spirit of adventure.     
I'm really pleased that Kazoo, one of my all time favourite Ashra/MG tracks is included tonight. It's a beautiful performance and includes a lengthy intro and outro, played by Gottsching on keyboard. This is not a million miles removed from Six Voices from the Walkin' the Desert album. Congo Bongo is a wonderfully moody, swampy track originally performed by Ashra in the late '70s and updated by Baltes for a new take. While Gottsching plays gentle, atmospheric almost surf-like guitar Grosskopf is free to decorate the fizzing electronics with crisp, clicking-clacking electronic drum fills. He also provides plenty of fills for a percussive version of Blackouts towards the end of the set. 
It seems obvious to me that Gottsching, Grosskopf and Baltes have a big respect for one another. This comes across in a musical interplay partially based on  visual cues and also towards the end of the set when before each of the encores and after the very last track, the band gather together in big Ashra embraces. Job done - a fantastic show in the bag!
Saturday 10th June is a date I won't be forgetting in a hurry. The day after the tremendous Ashra concert Manuel Gottsching invites me for a tour of his Studio Roma. There I see his meticulously organised master tapes, including both familiar and unreleased titles. My jaw drops repeatedly as he shows me the actual master for Sunrain, the reel-to-reel tape machine with which he recorded Inventions for Electric Guitar and New Age of Earth, the EKO Computerhythm - an early drum machine used on his late '70s albums, many of his analog synths and sequencers, not to mention the space where the legendary E2-E4 was recorded back in 1981. I will save the full detail of this incredible visit for the book. As we leave the flat Gottsching says: "A little time travel," gently laughing. What a journey!
For their kindness and hospitality during my short stay in Berlin I want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Grosskopf, Steve Baltes, Sophie, Markus Schickel, Heiko Neumann, Lennart Koschella, Mick Glossop, the good folk of the UFA Fabrik and extra big thanks to Mr. Manuel Gottsching and Ilona Ziok.