jeudi 22 avril 2010

interview : Bill Drummond : The text you would like to produce a soundtrack for? and The record that freaks you out?


Here's the third and the last question :

The text you would like to produce a soundtrack for?

More confusion. By the word text, do the Offline People mean a novel or a play to be turned into a film? Or do they mean a text message on a mobile phone? I’m concerned that the English may not be the first language of the folk setting these particular four questions. Something may be getting lost in translation.

If it is the former of these two, it all gets a bit complicated, as over the past few years I have begun to resent soundtracks on films. It has got to the point that I feel cheated by the filmmaker when he/she sticks a bit of music on a sequence in a film to arose my emotions. If I am sitting in the cinema, watching film and soundtrack music starts up in the background of a scene, I will start to imagine this section of the film without the soundtrack just to see if it still stands up. If it does not, then I dismiss the film, or at least it starts to go down in my estimation. Its as if they have only stuck the soundtrack music on that bit of the film, to try and cover up, for the fact they have not been able to make the film strong enough, without over flavouring it with herbs and spices.

Thus, on ideological grounds, I would never be interested in making soundtrack music for a film, I would feel like I was being a whore or a… Look, if you were to offer me enough money I might consider it.

As for making a soundtrack to a text message, that sounds strangely interesting.


The record that freaks you out?

In late 1969 I went into the second hand record shop that was just out side the Derngate bus station in Northampton. I was flicking through the racks when I came across a double album by an artist called Wild Man Fisher. On the album cover was a rather arresting looking photograph of Wild Man holding a knife to the throat of a woman, who I later learnt was his mother. The albums title was An Evening With Wild Man Fisher. I remembered hearing a track off it on the John Peel show and thought it sounded good. It was a double album and it was being sold for less than ten shillings (50p). The record was also produced by Frank Zappa, this fact made it very desirable artifact in the eyes of some my peer group. Frank Zappa was about as hip as you could get.

That evening I was not going out, so instead I planned to spend the evening in listening to my Wild Man Fisher album from beginning to end – all 36 tracks. I was 16 years old and had recently painted my bedroom black. I lit a candle switched off the light, put the record on and lay down on my bed.

The music started.

Merry-go, Merry-go,
Merry-go-round.
Beep Beep.

So far so good. This was the song that I had heard John Peel play. It was a bit strange, but that is what you expect from a record produced by Frank Zappa. I had already got Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart, which was also produced by Zappa and also a double album. By the way, it being a ‘double’ meant that it was seriously serious. Releasing a double album meant you were as far away as possible from being a bubble-gum pop group as you could get. Only serious artists released double albums. Captain Beefheart was a serious artist. Obviously Wild Man Fisher was going to be a serious too.

But then track two started. And it wasn’t any sort of song that I could recognize as a song. It was Wild Man out on the street going up to people telling them that he could sing them a new sort of song that he had made up, if they gave him 10 cents. Then Wild Man, or Larry as I had now learnt was his real name, was not shy anymore. I made it through to the end of side one, flipped the album over in the hope that things would get more ordinary, or at least more recognizably like some sort of music that you could… I mean even Captain Beefheart made music that sounded like music, even if it sounded like it came from another planet.

Side Two and things were not getting better. There were a lot of short songs one after the other. All sung unaccompanied by Larry in his demented voice. As I lay there on my bed, things started to get strange inside my head. This was affecting me in a different way than any record I had ever listened to before had ever affected me. I wanted to stop and put on the new Van Der Graff Generator album or something to sooth me. But I knew if I did, I would be selling out, or something. I had bought the album thus I was committed to it.

So onwards to Side Three. This was getting tougher. Listening to a double album was not for the feint hearted. It was like doing cross-country, which felt like the worst thing in the world while you were doing it, but you felt great afterwards. But the more I listened the more I was losing it – whatever that IT, was. I was getting scared. But I kept going. I so wanted to go into school on Monday morning and say – ‘Yeah, I got the Wild Man Fisher double album, totally brilliant, even better than the Captain’s Trout Mask Replica. Now that even the girls in my class were getting into like Chicken Shack and Tens Years After, I needed to get a few steps ahead of the game.

Finally Side Four. Opening track – Why I Am Normal. ‘Maybe I should be more like Wild Man Fisher and just start singing the songs I am writing in my bed room, up in the Market Square on a Saturday afternoon. Sod all this trying to learn to play the guitar like Peter Green.’ I found my self being seduced by Wild Man’s world. Ugly Beautiful Girl sounded like a song that I should have written for the girl that I fancied up at the Open Hearth but was embarrassed to tell my mates because she was so conventionally ugly. After that track Wild Man just starts talking about his guitar and banging out chords on it, I mean even I was a better guitarist than he was. Maybe Frank Zappa might sign me to his label and produce a triple album of my songs. Then Wild Man says something like – ‘Imagine one day I might get some of those big amplifiers and I would sound like… Wooooosh.

And that is when my mind became totally freaked out. After 34 tracks of strange ramblings and unaccompanied songs, there is this huge fully produced psychedelic rock song with Wild Man singing. It sounds brilliant and beautiful and yes I am freaked out. Totally and utterly. No other album has freaked me out in this way before or since. When I was involved in making records I would often wonder if I would ever get the chance to be part of a record that could have that affect on a listener. Where the listener is so freaked that they feel that this particular record should not exist.

I have just put Wild Man Fisher into Wikipedia to find out what else he did or if he was still alive. The first thing I learn is that he is still alive (65) and at the age of 16 he was institutionalized for attacking his mother with a knife. That the An Evening With Wild Man Fisher, has never been made available as a CD as the Frank Zappa estate who owns the recordings have refused to as Wild Man once attacked Zappa’s daughter Moon Unit. And Wild Man has recorded some subsequent albums for Rhino Records.

On the side bar of this Wikipedia page it defined the music that Wild Man Fisher made as ‘outsider’. I was somewhat disappointed to find that what he did had been codified and pigeon holed. I have long held with the belief, that as soon as music can be defined as a certain genre it is dead. It is no longer fluid. It becomes just a style that can be defined and copied. As soon as people were making the decision to form a punk rock band and they knew what a punk rock band should sound like, whatever punk rock had been was over. It had become merely a genre.

What I also learnt on the Wikipedia page was that An Evening With Wild Man Fisher now goes for a fortune on eBay and Amazon. Along with Green River by Creedence and all my other old records, I gave my Wild Man Fisher album away to Oxfam in 2005 when I was clearing all the clutter out of my life. I hope who has ever got now got as freaked out by it as me and for them it is not just some curio from the late sixties that they can sell for a small fortune on eBay.

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