as a package, both physically and in terms of what's on the disc, i love criterion's release of david byrne's true stories. the main making of is as exciting as the film itself, encouraged me to rediscover the riches i found in the film all those years ago - when i paid attention?
i don't pay attention now. things whizz by me, or i whizz by them. one of the extras on the disc recreates the hey now kids scene and start/end scene with the girl singing the road song - in both, the modern kids are too fast. the film-makers try to get the latter to slow down. it struck me as relevant - there's something about the speed of true stories that felt out of time even when i first saw it (1999?), but now seems completely otherworldly, to the point where it's hard to re-engage with - where it requires effort. even how i came by my original vhs copy - an hmv special order, with 6 weeks waiting for it to be supplied by the distributor - a now unimaginable element of that.
but the film itself points towards our now - the scene near the start putting texas in the context of the silicon microchip, and the dinner scene's orgasmic quickening, prophesying progress, culminating in a kind of eucharist.
the film still contains the best versions of the songs - tito larriva's radio head punctures the repeated joke about the band naming themselves after such a minor talking heads song - perhaps, but it's giant in the film. john goodman's people like us, pops staples' papa legba. the actor-sung versions on the recent soundtrack cd (included with the blu ray), while true to the film versions, are not the film versions (and are in new, 2018 mixes), but are equally fantastic.
[ domestic kitchen blues ] on [ 20210018 ]
i have lots of photos of me holding a guitar, playing a guitar, in front of a mic, singing, carrying amps, standing in rehearsal rooms or studios ... but very little evidence of me as a normal human being. here's something i found though, stood outside my student halls in leicester, 1997 ...
out of frame to my left is the telephone box from which i attempted to keep up with skinflowers and a relationship. my window to a wider world. the first floor window to my right was the window to a truly a ghastly kitchen, and somewhere higher up and to my left the tiny white (not padded) cell in which i wrote this early skinflowers favourite, domestic kitchen / dk blues.
[ scratchy demos (again) ] on [ 20210017 ]
here's a good example
pulled from a tape literally labelled scratchy demos 1998. i'm fairly sure rich did most of this, using a cassette 4-track and the pzm mic - i'm not sure what i used for my vocals, but i'm fairly sure the drums (through an amp), guitar and bass went through it. the 'proper' recording - released on data in a hurry - is on spotify and youtube.
[ oxford wheatsheaf, 2016 ] on [ 20210017 ]
[ scratchy demos ] on [ 20210016 ]
somewhere below i used the phrase scratchy demos. i'm going to keep coming back to it. i'm not sure they're a thing that really exist now, the line between demo and master blurred by both the collapse of the old big studio/record label system and the democratization of recording through cheap recording equipment and consumer tech as a recording medium - the same laptop you use to mindlessly punch bullshit into excel at work potentially containing your sgt. pepper's. i'm old enough to remember recording a song terribly, using equipment universally agreed unable to produce a 'releasable' recording, in the hope it would be part of a process that would lead to it being recorded again - 'properly' - somewhere full of magical, unattainable gear - an optimistic process relying on the intervention of uninterested, godlike and unreachable figures. a process as unlikely as winning the lottery, and involving similar sums. at the demo stage, trying to make the song you'd heard so vividly in real life emerge from beneath the hiss, stripped of low frequencies, through the flaws and loss was part of the challenge. utterly resented then, now nostalgically idealized.
in 2016 though, after years of producing our recordings ourselves, rich and i knew what we were doing when we recorded these in our new rehearsal space. these were the first four songs we'd written for terminal window, and these were going to be scratchy demos, nothing but proof of concept for the record we planned to make in a variety of studios - a lap of great people and places we knew and loved. the process had people and places - not DIY - planned in.
as a result, these scratchy demos are quite good fun. played live, two passes, one chosen as the 'take', with the guitar part from the other sync'd back in for some left/right doubling. if you hear vocal doubling, it's spill on that extra guitar track. i like the bits of chat that remain and the fact the songs are still raw - for these songs the word is especially appropriate, i can hear myself bleeding what i was feeling on mild comic violence. i like the fact i was still fumbling around with the end of tender, notey guitar bits never having been my speciality. listening to the first three so fully formed and containing all the lovely oddness/rawness that's perhaps inevitably lost in studio versions i'm pleased to find tender's still so fumbly - the studio version's vocal being, i think, the best bit of me singing we managed to capture through all the years of doing this.
[ hellscape pixel-mirror time dungeon ] on [ 20210011 ]
kat half-joked that staged is the only good thing to have come out of all this - existing only because of the pandemic, but truly brilliant. being back at work a week confirmed i'm done staring at my poorly-lit, overly-hairy, smiling without joy face cheerleading some idea i'm going to do regardless across half hour or hour long blocks of pointlessness. staged nailed it in the closing moments of s02e06 - the hellscape pixel-mirror time dungeon.
[ slightly less desolate rehearsal spaces i have known ] on [ 20210010 ]
november 2011. we only went here once, a moment when we were trying to find ourselves again after some years as sidemen. i kept an obsessive diary in 2011, which says - "horrible, horrible drive out to stroud for skinflowers rehearsal. huge amounts of traffic, car insistent on overheating unless moving, windscreen wipers not working properly in the rain". nice room though. i knocked over that beautiful marshall jmp combo in the middle of the pic loading out, killing it completely, prompting a trip to steve kendall, who not only revived it but made it sound a million times better than before. expensive accident though.
[ ghost pepper saison ] on [ 20210009 ]
i'm not sure what i was expecting - it's called ghost pepper saison ffs - but expect ghost peppers. part of a haul of
ngcino gluten containing ingredients - as opposed to low gluten or deglutinized like many gluten-free beers
beers from taylor's. the ingredients mentally conjure something brewed in a prison toilet, but they're great beers. this one particularly.
my friend clifford who is a far better lexicographer than me went straight for the etymology. bhüt jolokia - bhutanese pepper - mistaken for near homonym bhut - ghost. fun.
[ desolate rehearsal spaces i have known ] on [ 20210007 ]
cheltenham, 2015 - 2016, as mentioned below. hells angels/bouncy castle eviction not pictured.
[ pzm ] on [ 20210007 ]
the square mic (below) was in my head because of the beastie boys book, which i got for xmas and devoured. it's marvellous. if you're the type to get excited about physical things (and especially books) it's a real joy. something about it reminded me of the dictionaries i work on - perhaps the different papers used for some signatures, maybe the fold out bit that goes through their gear, but it feels like a reference tome. it's an artifact, recording/telling the story of the music industry across those years, of a group of friends, of people who did something incredible with integrity, of loss, of new york (and la). the film of the related spike jonze live show is also great.
rich and i would sit and listen to check your head and ill communication while playing megadrive games, fiddling with guitars, dreaming up music. i loved that i could hear the pzm in their recordings. back then - before cheap high quality home recording gear - there was something hugely democratic about a cheap, weird square mic from
radioshackdid we call it tandy here? i can't remember.
that took an AA battery, had a bog-standard quarter-inch jack plug that would plug into anything and sounded great, somehow sucking up a whole band in a way other mics couldn't, and also showed up on awesome records like ill communication. i think we recorded an entire demo mini album with ours in the back of a martial arts centre in gloucester. i remember banging a nail into a wardrobe and hanging one on it to record demos for data in a hurry in a flat above an abandoned shop in leicester. it was command stripped to a wall in the cheltenham rehearsal room hells angels
with a bouncy castleit was a saturday. they had their kids with them. the bouncy castle was to keep the kids entertained while they made sure we fucked off properly
randomly evicted us from in 2016. i've heard they're great on double bass. it's currently sounding awesome somewhere near my guitar amp, as i make new scratchy demos.