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Dispatches from South America – The Profesional Version

Posted on Tuesday, June 12th, 2007


Part 1

I’ve just arrived home from Chile and Peru. I wrote some of the forthcoming words in the heat of the moment and some after some careful consideration. I promised myself I wouldn’t write anything negative in this journal as I feel very lucky to have had a really great adventure and moreso, for fear of upsetting people but, hey, fuck it, I need to write this in order to let it go, otherwise it’ll bounce around inside me and fuck me up. That’s just the way it is. Please take the time to also read my following entry “Dispatches from South America – The Personal Version” which I feel is essential to balance what I’ve written here about my work.

You see, quite simply, although in my recent years I’ve strived to be a patient man I have recently been subjected to events which would have Mother Theresa randomly shooting up a MacDonald’s. In short, I’ve been, once again, proving to myself that I am not able to cope with the indignities of the life I have chosen in music. I must preface this this by saying that I’ve just returned from South America where I’ve performed a few times and I wouldn’t want anyone to imagine that I’ve had a terrible time or been in the company of bad people, in fact quite the opposite is true. It’s just that, given my personality, I’m pathologically unable just to let go without sharing a few of my little calamities with y’all. Nothing super bad you understand, just things which could have been avoided but which were not.
You know, quite a few times recently in this weblog I’ve used the phrase “I have the best job in the world”. Well, I was talking bollocks, as frankly some of my experiences last week suggest otherwise. Sometimes it sucks to be me. I’ll elaborate. I’ve been playing a very simple instrumental set recently, very downtempo, a musical accompaniment to the animated film Lumière. I’ve played in front of, oh, dozens of people before… So, as is my habit I always send out an email to the event organisers with my modest requirements, you know, seated venue, as standing through a movie is fatiguing and, frankly, weird; a big assed screen to project the film on to; no bar in the room, as this often is very noisy and my show is meant to be quiet. I mean, I would say, all in all, my requirements are rather humble. I was once showed a thirty two page list of Morrisey’s backstage needs, not the technical requirements mind you, just the pampering requirements which proves that a/ he’s rather an arrogant old fuckwit and b/ he probably has no need to write a cathartic, but witty and amusing weblog about things as he always gets what he needs which, evidently, proves he’s obviously smarter than me.
Anyway, I never provide a ‘pampering requirements’ document (you know like in Spinal Tap, what shape the sandwiches backstage need to be, that kind of a thing) as I believe if someone invites me to perform that they will look after me, which, naive as it may seem, is what I am comfortable with.
Well I have to say that from the moment I arrived in Chile I was magnificently looked after, no complaints there. Wonderful hospitality. I was received warmly by my hosts who turned out to be fine people indeed.


So I’m in Santiago and unfortunately, for reasons perhaps beyond the control of the promoters, perhaps all of the planets have lined up into a big fuck you sign, perfectly aligned to the view from my dressing room, or perhaps because my Spanish is a little less than perfect, consisting of a few phrases which enable me to get adequate supplies of toilet paper in my hotel room, I was surprised indeed to find myself playing, not in a cozy little intimate theatre as I had been told, but in a big fucking disco at about 2am to a large, albeit very supportive crowd who, when talking after a few pisco sours, seemed to make more noise than a Metallica soundcheck.
James Brown fucked me up.
That’s obvious. That afternoon I’d been in the home of my friends Rodrigo and Ivonne when they said, as innocently as normal people say when their cats wander into the room, “this is our cat, James Brown, born the day James died… you’re not allergic are you”. I had sensed the presence of James before this announcement, being, how shall we put it, a little sensitive to the sadistic little evil motherfucking hairy assed bitches from hell since my mother brought me up with about 12 of the them. My eyes started to itch and my nose started to run. My nose started to itch and my eyes started to run. I started to wheeze. Truth is, I like cats but I have to avoid them. This one was cute. I fucked up. I went to the pharmacy. I bought an antihistamine…..
To me, at that point a little nap backstage was in order, for about, oh I don’t what seemed like four or five hours.
Well you know what they say about the drugs in South America. When it comes to drugs I’m about as much of a pussy as James Brown, the cat that is, not the dead guy.
So really, the cumulative effect of jet lag, some over the counter meds and the sudden depression when one is awakened at 1.57am to find himself, in the year 2007, in the dressing room of a fucking disco at 2.00am to see this…..
when one normally see’s this
is somewhat disturbing.

If I may digress a little I should write that I was enormously touched by the warmth of the audience. There were many people offering wonderful gifts and uncalled for hospitality which I wasn’t really prepared for, emotionally speaking.
Anyway back to my little histoire.
I don’t think I sucked but it wasn’t an easy show.
My first few pieces of music that I played were completely inaudible to me, indeed, I couldn’t even hear my little click thingy which is in my ears. Just as importantly I couldn’t see anything I was playing. Had it not been for the fact that I remembered that my feet were at the bottom of my legs I’d have been unable to press any foot pedals or any of that other stuff I do when I’m up there trying to do my thing.
But once I’ve started the show I can’t just stop playing if there’s a problem and there’s no point in trying to speak to them as I don’t happen to need any toilet paper at that particular moment, so I play on, try to do the best I can under the circumstance and try to be professional, because lots of people paid a lot to get in and they don’t need me to be throwing a sissy fit because I’ve had every single one of my requirements for the Lumière show ignored and would like to be somewhere else.
Now please, please understand I’m not in the slightest part disappointed with anyone except myself, as I really feel that by trying to present the Lumière performance in a disco was a mistake on my part. However, what could I do? Travel to the other side of the planet and then refuse to play?. No, I couldn’t do that, there were so many people there with so much enthusiasm, so I tried my best and endured my time on stage and tried to smile and be polite to everyone who wished me well, while embarrassment and frustration raged inside.
Not fun.

me thinking, omg, why didn’t I choose black?

Part 2

Well at least the next show wasn’t in a disco so that had to be better, right?
I ask you…Where would be the fun in writing this if that were true?
Next night was also in Santiago in the ‘best music venue for my sort of show’.
Ah bon?
Hmm, I should have guessed really, I mean there were telltale signs. It sort of looked like a big bar. In fact there was a big bar, no seats, lots of bottles and glasses everywhere. “Are you sure it’s not a bar?” I hopelessly whimper, knowing what the forthcoming evening will bring. Well I was assured otherwise but, to be frank, I’ve been in a few bars in my time and this certainly seemed familiar territory. Of course, never in my most stupefied haze would I have gone to a bar to watch a movie, but hey, that’s just me not being open minded, right?.. Apparently not. Oh well… I have a fundamental understanding that the people who have bought tickets to my show and have bought my records for the last twenty odd years are the people who have put shoes on the feet of my children and given me the privilege of this, sometimes extraordinary and sometimes very ordinary, life that I have, so I swallow the tiny amount of pride that I have left and play my show as best as I can, wondering all the time why the film looked like it was being projected onto a bedsheet, which it appears was the case, and although I was warmly received by the audience I felt I had let them down by presenting this show in such an inappropriate setting. Oh, and there’s one other thing… I sucked real bad. I had tech fuck ups, film fuck ups, finger fuck ups, looper fuck ups, pedal fuck ups, in short everything that could go wrong obligingly did so. I did check my flies were up before and after the set, which, had they been open as the folks of Aberdeen could bear witness, would have been the final indignity.
OK call me over responsible but it’s my ass up on that stage getting judged on every little imperfection, OK? and despite trying otherwise I kindly provided the audience with many imperfections that night.
Umm, after the show, more wonderful people being very complimentary, lots of photos for fans, sort of twenty years ago popstar stuff as opposed to the indifference that I have become more accustomed to, and indeed as I’ve come to realise, more comfortable with, these days.


Part 3

Went to the seaside, to play in a small theatre in the University at Valparaiso, Chile.
Guess what?
Nice venue, seated, big assed screen, no disco balls, no bad surprises, nice show, nice people. More what the lumiere thing is all about.
Trouble is when it goes well I can’t think of anything to journal about it.
The sandwiches were even the correct shape in the dressing room.

My extended thanks to the photos that I stole from Cristian Soto L, Ronald Smith Arredondo and Jorge Matta Abad who are indeed very talented….

11 Responses to “Dispatches from South America – The Profesional Version”

  1. Dan Mudford

    What is it about National Air Lines? Air Canada is the repository for all the loud-mouthed charmless oafs born in that otherwise charming and sweet-natured place; and as for British Airways – I still shudder at the memory of watching my enormous flight-case containing vintage and fragile sampling keyboard, that they promised would be taken off the plane into the luggage hall by hand, majestically make its way up the conveyor belt and tip ker-rraash onto the luggage carousel.

    Sorry, didn’t mean to add to the rant – I hope writing up your travails on your travels has proved therapeutic – and as you say, if nothing goes wrong there’s nothing to talk about.

  2. sugarhiccuponcheerios


  3. Ivan Ortega

    Dear Robin.
    I’ve just wanted to thank you for the recent visit to South America and performance of Lumière.
    Although I could’nt have the chance to meet and greet you personally.
    I would like to say thanks again to your lovely wife Florence,which was so kind in getting autographed the cd sleeves and told me some advices about avoiding musical fanatism.
    Actually I was a bit worried and it got me a little nervous because it was difficult for me to communicate in that moment. (Oui Madame Guthrie c’étais moi.)
    Hope you’ve had some really good time here,see you again soon in Lima.

    P.s By the way I can’t even guess what it is in the picture but seems like some sort of chilean seafood….

  4. ThomasJeromeNewton

    The odd thing of syncroncity is that you were playing in Chile while in argentina in Mendoza, Robert Fripp had a venue. We have better places in Santiago to offer as concert sites but unfortunately demand preparation and some compromise regarding the cash flow in order to invest (not much in regards to Northern hemisphere standards)

    Seems like the venue in Valparaiso was the most decent one and what a backdrop that nostalgic city and the sea made. Unfortunately you didn’t go to see Pablo neruda’s house but fortunately you could read icente Huidobro’s poetry in France. As to the audience, you should be pleased to know that many musicians assisted your shows that have been influenced by your composing style (not just LucyBell either) In fact along with Kevin shields, you’ve proved to be important references for our national scene

    Things I should of asked you instead of your autograph.
    a) How did you like the way your former band’s music was presented in the movie Tarnation. I thought it was very beautiful
    b) what did you think of the food?
    As to this I recommend that you eat centolla, basically the legs on ice with just a dash of garlic and lemon juice.And tyhe conger eel is an unsung hero. PS theanonymous shellfish with lovecraftian overtones is called a picoroco. It lives along rocks and reefs, basically sold while still alive The fresher the better as always. They’re to be boiled and then retired from the shell, with only the tips are edible.

    The Police in Chile are a branch of the armed forces, hence why they look ever so like the german police gone THX. just a bit of the prussian influence still remaining.

  5. Jorge's Way

    In your 2d show in Santiago (Chile), in the bar.. i was there. I agree with you, the was not a good show. Many imperfections from the tech people, the movie doesn’t look quite well in the bedsheet, you interrupt a song in the middle of it, told something about the light to the person who was in charge, something about the sound, every body was smoking as they couldn’t do it in the rest of their lives, very very annoying place.. and you were not comfortable with it … it shows ..and at the end.. the movie was over and you still playing .. when you stop playing, left your guitar, make a expression like “sorry for this..”, and went away .. everybody ask: this is it? it’s over?, not a word to the audience like “thanks for coming” or ” sorry about the imperfections”, nothing .. i didn’t know that you took some pictures after the show .. i should wait a little but i was a little disappointed. I should have been in Valparaíso presentation… But, thanks for coming to Chile.

  6. Manuel


    I saw 2 of your shows in Chile, in La Batuta 8the bloody bar!) and in Valparaíso… and I really could tell the difference. In Valparaíso you were really comfortable, focusing in the music and with the proper venue to play ( a sort of quiet basement with seats and no bar!). I hope you come back to Chile sometime.. we already know what sort of venue would be ideal for you to play (let me tell you we have plenty of those quiet places). Thanks for sharing your music and your time, especially in the show in Valparaíso, where I could have a little interview with you after the show.

  7. ronald

    thank Robin, only thank you for coming to Chile.

  8. Micah

    Any plans to release Lumière on DVD, or soundtrack?

    BTW, the new stuff with Harold Budd is as wonderful as I’d hoped/expected (how could it not be?)… cheers!

  9. mateo

    …sat and watched, enraptured, several YOUTUBE vid’s of at least one of your performances down in the Great South… i can’t imagine any performance being more definitive of “AMBIENT” art! do consider a DVD!

  10. annie

    Those boots, those boots. If only THEY could talk, what a story they’d tell.:)

  11. Agnes

    you seem to be an intriguing person as much as your musics you have made.

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