me and harold performing at the egyptian theater…picture by eric edelheit
Here I am flying over Montana, going home via New York and London, on my way back from the Seattle International Film Festival. Now before I do my usual rant about travelling I’d like to assure you all that it pains me greatly to criticise my other fellow passengers but sometimes I really do feel that the experience for others travelling with me cannot be nearly as bad for them as it is for me, travelling with them. Take for example the person in front of me who has had her seat in full recline since take off. I can’t imagine I’m bothering her much. Then there is the budding child psychologist behind, that’s right the one who just asked me not to recline my seat as it may upset her child. The one whose small child has been crying in pain since we reached a pressurised altitude, the one that, when the flight attendant suggested giving the child something to suck, responded that she couldn’t possibly ask (?) her child to suck something is was habit forming and anyway it’s good for the child to cry as it releases endorphins… mmm, hey, I’m releasing endorphins here myself, lady…. Anyway this is one part of my life, the travelling in close proximity to others while my brain is disengaged from gear where I find myself intolerant but at least I have come to smile and just get on with it and badmouth them behind their backs on the internet instead of leaning over and pouring my complimentary drink and pretzels over them..
OK, I’m not really getting to the point so I’ll try to clarify what I’ve been up to.
I came out here to join Harold Budd in performing a live score to an evening of short surrealist films at the Egyptian Theatre in Seattle as part of SIFF. I love that acronym, they can’t possibly realise that in Scotland it means a sexually transmitted disease. Anyway, as I was saying, we were asked to perform we felt it’d be a nice thing to do so we agreed a couple of months ago and thought not much more about it. I’d been playing some shows around the UK and Harold had been moving home, so we actually talked about it much. The choice of films to work with was made by Reed O’Beirne, a friend and expert in the field, a man who has evidently ingested a halliwell’s at some point in his life. The program was varied and interesting and we had problems only perhaps with two pieces as the content was seeming just a little busy and erratic for us to play to, but hey, you can’t have everything. So I arrived in Seattle and greeted warmly at the SIFF Guest relations, which shouldn’t have seemed a surprise, given that it’s their job, but for me it was a nice feeling to be made feel important for a change. I met up with Harold and almost straight away we were ushered away for a rehearsal at the music department of the Cornish College of the Arts at Capitol Hill, a most intimidating establishment, where real musicians were practicing real music. That was the first time in my life that I’ve entered into a place like that and apart from having a feeling like ‘the only way I could justify being here is if I take a job as the janitor’, I was amazed to see what a sterile environment that musicians learn their craft in. It has to be said, though that harold seemed to know his way around but then he’s a proper musician and doesn’t even flinch at the mention of black notes..
The films that we worked with were the following :
Meshes of the Afternoon [1943 Maya Deren]
Tung [1966 Bruce Baillie]
Hands [1934 Ralph Steiner & Willard Van Dyke]
Oramunde [1933 Emlen Etting]
Thimble Theater [1938 Joseph Cornell]
The Furies [1934 Slavko Vorkapich]
The Fall of the House of Usher [1928 J.S. Watson, Jr. & Melville Webber]
Spook Sport [1940 Mary Ellen Bute, Ted Nemeth & Norman McLaren]
The show? well, it was kinda fun, very simple setup, just guitar and piano. Some of the films I liked immensely, well the Maya Deren and Bruce Baillie especially, some of them I didn’t care for, which is a polite way to say that they sucked. Harold, never one to make it easy for me, used lots of black notes (er, see earlier janitor thought) but I countered this by playing the same chord for what seemed like a couple of hours. At times it was almost transcendental, although I’m sure if I ever heard back a live recording I’d think ‘OK just where are the black key notes on this guitar? I should find out really… maybe my guitar doesn’t have them, it’s old’ or something equally as pathetic. Ah, thank goodness for my highly developed denial system… I enjoyed myself, I think Harold did too. But we enjoyed ourselves even more listening in on the conversations of the filmmakers, producers and general film industry hustlers over breakfast at our hotel. This was, well as entertaining as when I wrote before about going to Starbucks at the Sundance Film Festival. Except that when two people eavesdrop for the purpose of cynical entertainment, it’s almost impossible not to laugh out loud, but thankfully when we did, no-one noticed because they all had their heads stuck so far up their own assholes that it must have been impossible to hear anything.
I learned something, though, probably another of many reasons for my marginality. In this business one has to have people. Let me explain. If I want to give you a CD of some music to listen to I, well, er give it to you. Right? Ha.. Big mistake… I have to have my people give it to your people. Problem is, I have no people but I’m sure if I could find some, well, I have my people write this weblog so that your people can read it… See I get it…
carl spence, myself and harold doing a Q&A after the show..picture by eric edelheit
So… it wouldn’t be nice if I didn’t mention some of the folks who made my stay more interesting. Carl Spence for asking us in the first place, Barbara, Randi, Amy, Davie Blue, Eric, Holden, Kris, Ken, Reed, Ted, Tom, Igor, Josie and Holly….
OK, here I am, Seattle, sitting on a friends porch, with a cup of coffee and some free time on my hands like one of them old boys that shoots up passing automobiles.. So here’s the highs and lows from the UK… In no particular order.
The M6, the concert at stratford upon avon, the city of exeter on an England world cup match evening, wild bean coffee shops, the concert at the notting hill gate cinema, costa coffee shops, gas at a pound a litre, starbucks, caffe nero and a less than intelligent woman who interviewed me on XFM.
The people of the UK who came to see me, who shared a moment with me and who bought my CD’s. The shows at the Little Theatre in Bath and The Brixton Ritzy, easily my favourites as far as my performance goes, my guests, Sonic Boom, Emma Anderson and Kevin Shields, not forgetting to mention Mark Gardner and Ulrich Scnauss. Breakfast on Aberdeen Beach, seeing old friends in Edinburgh, eating a haggis in Grangemouth, seeing Mick in York, seeing Paula in Exeter, the manageress of the city screen in York.. I’m sure I’ll think of more.
From the moment I arrived in Notting Hill for the performance at the Gate Cinema, I had a feeling that it would be the low spot of the tour.. No space to set up properly, everything running late, the cinema deciding to run an extra performance of another film to an audience of five people in order to both squeeze another fifty quid into the days takings and squeeze me out of any time for things like soundchecks and other trivialities..The rule of sod must surely apply when you do a show that lots of your mates will turn up to. The rule of sod did not disappoint, as it provided me with one of the most fucked up show that I’ve ever done. We had major tech issues on all fronts, er, all front’s except mine, that is.. All my equipment behaved itself and I believe I played quite nicely but the film crapped out after 20 minutes leaving me looking like a dick and generating the type of audience pity that I seem to be familiar with but can do without, thank you very much… never mind robin, it didn’t suck, er, it was OK, I suppose. Of course if any of them had bothered to go to the next evening they would have seen how good the show can be, as the show at the ritzy was as good as they get… picture looked good, sound was loud – and, wow, even in stereo.
OK, as you can see I’m having trouble letting that one go. I guess it’s just one of those things that happen in big cities. When I was in Cocteau Twins the best shows were always in places like Bumfuck, Idaho and never in New York, LA, London, Paris or Tokyo… These cities were always reserved for major tech disasters… So I guess I’m just keeping up an old tradition.
OK, I suck, I know I said I’d write this every day but I’ve not got online up until now, I swear… So now I’m sitting in my vehicle, outside someones house in exeter, stealing their bandwidth…
So what can I tell you?
Well, firstly, I can say thanks to those of you who have made it so far.. Goodness knows how I thought I could write something about these shows each day, my days have been very full and I seem to have little time for anything. It’s kinda really fucking weird playing this show in some of these cinemas, don’t know how I can explain that better but I’ll try. I guess at a regular show one has time to prepare all the equipment in the afternoon, soundcheck and then mentally prepare for the event…But at these cinemas, I’m being slotted in between United 93 and The Da Vinci Code. Therefore I wait around until everyone leaves the cinema, dash in, set up then play right away without even enough time to consider things like fly checking or whether or not the film plays properly or not …. This would probably explain the startled rabbit in the headlights look that I imagine I must be wearing.. The good thing is there’s less time to panic. The bad thing is there’s less time to prepare.. Or maybe vice versa, I can’t quite tell anymore.
Now the things which help to make the performance work, you know the sound and projection systems, have been very, er… variable in quality, to say the least, which is something very frustrating but ultimately beyond my control so we’ve all had to endure a couple of shows which have not gone exactly as I would have liked them, notably the sound problem in Liverpool, which in a state of the art theatre like that was inexcusable – something to do with their DVD player apparently, and the DVD messing up in Stratford, repeating parts over and over, thus making me play for what seemed like hours….
Hey, I forgot to tell you what was enjoyable… Sonic Boom joining me for a little randomness after one of the shows…
Oh, and then there’s the Q&A session afterwards… ummm, odd but strangely fun.. It’s nice talking to people about the only thing I’m actually qualified to speak about, namely me me me me me .. And it’s all the same questions that I would be asked normally after the show anyway…. And reminds me of being in group therapy a little so that’s not such a bad thing. Never forget that what you think my film is about speaks more about you than it does me. I say that especially to the young lady in Liverpool who found all my imagery phallic….
What else? Well, England is unrecognisable as the sun is shining. Sadly people here find that an excuse to strip off and I think that after wintering on pork pies, beer and chips they ought to exercise a little more restraint. I’m kinda starting to miss things from home already, the novelty of the UK has worn off a little but it has been absolutely lovely to see some old friends and converse with the locals without being covered in spit. Still don’t want to live here though….
1475 kms from home… mmm, a long way to come to play a show…