capsule May/June 2010
one and all to
Capsuleâ€™s 4th zine Within this little beaut you will find interviews with Nic Bullen and sound artist Jony Easterby, news about forthcoming Capsule shows (inc. the incredible Acid Mothers Temple), excitement over the announcement of Swans at Supersonic 2010 and some wonderful pieces from local illustrators. As ever if you would like to contribute to the zine email firstname.lastname@example.org with your recipes, doodles, reviews, rants etc. Lovely stuff Capsule team www.capsule.org.uk Design and layout - surely.uk.com Cover illustration - Bethan McKnight This page illustration - craigearp.co.uk
Wolves in the Throne Room + Tweak Bird
22nd May @ Hare & Hounds Epic, haunting and LOUD. Wolves in the Throne Room merge from the darkness with a terrifying beauty. www.myspace.com/wolvesinthethroneroom www.myspace.com/tweakbird For fans of Black Metal, Avant Metal, Melvins, Big Business
illustration - Lucy Wade
Acid Mothers Temple
+ Stearica + Gum Takes Tooth 26th May @ Hare & Hounds Birmingham will be invaded by the infamous Japanese ‘soul collective’. Their stunning live shows merge 60s/70s psychedelia with reverb laden noise improv, alongside tons of dancing and instrument swapping. Support comes from Italian trio Stearica (check out their amazing collaboration with Dälek) and Londoners Gum Takes Tooth. www.myspace.com/acidmotherstemple www.myspace.com/stearica www.myspace.com/gumtakestooth For fans of Hawkwind, Boredoms, Six Organs of Admittance illustration - craigearp.co.uk
Nicholas Bullen 1.
What for you were the most memorable punk zines around the 1980s? What was so fucking rad about them? For me, the most influential (and thus memorable) period related to fanzines spans the years 1979 to 1983. The ‘Do It Yourself (D.I.Y.)’ philosophy which underpinned the fanzines represented a means of creativity and selfexpression which existed outside of the sanctioned channels for discourse, and the sense of being part of a likeminded community appealed to me (I made my first fanzine in 1980 when I was 11). Initial inspiration and motivation came through the local fanzines from Coventry and surrounding areas (particularly Alternative Sounds, Adventures in Reality, Private Enterprise, and Damn Latin) and Birmingham (particularly Smart Verbal and Scrawl) which connected to my own life in a very direct manner and consequently provided a further impetus to create my own fanzines (and - by extension - music). In the wider context, although fanzines which had a predominant focus on music (groups and reviews) - such as Obituary (Gravesend), Aftermath (London), Fack (London) and Terminal Illiteracy (Derby) - could be both informative and inspirational, the most memorable fanzines were those which developed out of the ‘Anarchist Punk’ milieu of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
These fanzines directed their focus towards a combination of the political and the personal which was thought provoking, informative and inspirational, and – in some measure – were a precursor to what would now be known as the ‘Perzine’ (Personal Fanzine). There were many fanzines which emphasised this approach, but I am referring in particular to Scum (London), Protesting Children Minus the Bondage and Anathema (Teeside), Enigma (Kent), New Crimes (Southend), Kill Your Pet Puppy (London), Pigs for Slaughter (London), Joy of Propaganda (Telford), and Toxic Grafity (London). Notwithstanding the direction of the initial question, it is important to note many of the most interesting and engaging fanzines had a very tenuous link with ‘Punk’ such as the poetry fanzine All the Poets (London), Rapid Eye Movement (Brighton), Stabmental (Oundle), Vague (Salisbury), Flow Motion (Leeds), Force Mental (Antwerp), Exit (New York), Forced Exposure (Massachusetts), and the range of audio cassette ‘tapezines’.
hat kind of content did you include in your 2: Wearly zines? The content of my early fanzines (which included Black Cross, Sine Nomine and Death of Nothing) consisted of articles on music (including articles written by musical groups - as opposed to interviews - and reviews of records, fanzines and concerts), politics and personal self-expression, alongside collage artworks. Musically, the fanzines featured groups which were connected to the ‘D.I.Y.’ approach, including groups who later went on to release vinyl records (such as The Membranes, Sinyx, The Snipers, and Faction) and those who did not continue beyond the recording of demo tapes (such as The Snails, Bible of Sins, SVD, and
S.C.U.M.). Later issues tended to be focused on content related to politics and personal self-expression, so the musical content was reduced. The visual content of the fanzines consisted largely of collage, photomontage and the occasional photograph (often annotated by handwritten text and Letraset transfer lettering). Unlike some fanzine writers, I did not have any aspirations towards ‘professional’ magazine design, preferring the damaged and frenetic visual aesthetic of fanzines such as Toxic Grafity (London) and Guttersnipe (Telford). This aesthetic embraced disruption (particularly in terms of image content and the relationship between text and image) which reflected the influence of Dada, Futurist and Situationist strategies upon popular culture and graphic design. The use of collage in the magazines produced by the groups Crass (International Anthem and The Eklektik) and Poison Girls (The Impossible Dream) is particularly memorable for the way in which it provided access to a powerful symbolic palette which was available to anyone with images, scissors and glue.
How connected were the zines you were making to the music you were making with Napalm Death at the time? Fanzine writing and music were intimately connected and part of a symbiotic relationship: my first collaboration with Miles Ratledge was a fanzine (Antisocial in 1980) which led directly to the formation of Napalm Death (in 1981). The ‘D.I.Y.’ aesthetic simultaneously inspired us to create and gave us the practical example of how to do it and, as a consequence, we taught ourselves to write and print fanzines and to play instruments and write material for the group without any formal training. The later developments in the compositional approach of Napalm Death (towards Thrash and Hardcore) also had their
roots in fanzine culture through the inspiration provided by the early issues (in 1981 and 1982) of the American magazines Flipside and Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll which gave us access to the developments in different countries across the globe (through their ‘Foreign Scene Reports’ sections) and fostered a global sense of community of purpose.
Why do you think zine culture is so big again at the moment? Do you think it’s relevant or a bit passé? Whilst acknowledging the more cynical assertions (such as the movement of culture in repeating cycles and the element of exclusivity inherent in ‘retro’ stylings), I would suggest that the ongoing popularity of fanzine culture is directly related to its foundations in notions of connection, community and intimacy which speak directly to desire Current web-based models of communication may not fully address these desires, and also impose demands and restrictions upon self-expression (in terms of potential avenues of expression and the attendant universe of digital monitoring): to reject them may be seen as a politicised act of personal sovereignty. A fanzine remains free of the mediation and compromises inherent in a WordPress blog. The notion that fanzine culture is passé would seem to be symptomatic of a cultural structure which fosters distraction, disengagement and isolation. Beyond this structure are other possibilities, other worlds.
At the Home of Metal open days we recorded oral history interviews with metal fans. We’ve included this brief transcript from one of them in the Capsule zine as it describes how important fanzines and the DIY ethos they espouse were in the Grindcore scene. The fanzines and the politics were a massive part of it and made you kind of into the music all the more because you felt like you’d found a portal into a very – it was my first taste of fanzines and that kind of not for profit enthusiasm that you get with these music cultures and... I found it fantastic that you could listen to John Peel, hear a Peel session by a band and then get an album by them and that album would have a photocopied sheet in it with tons and tons of addresses on and you’d write to every single on of them and you would get replies back from almost all of them. You’d write to the band. They’d write back to you – they might even enclose a tape of their last rehearsal and it just felt like you were so welcome… and it was so marvellous to get an envelope through the post and you weren’t sure which of those addresses on that sheet it was from but you knew it was from one of them and it might be a fanzine, it might be a letter from one of the bands. All this was done in a very grass roots not-for-profit kind of way. I wish I’d kept them, (SO DO WE!!! – HoM) but the fanzines people produced, just for the love of the music and the politics that they upheld and things like that. I don’t know there just this charm about them and it represents, I don’t know – people being motivated by things other than money. So yeah, that definitely, that, without that loose improvised structure behind the Grindcore bands and the anarcho punk thing the appeal would be far less I think. It wasn’t just a musical thing by a long way. Rus Cuzner | www.homeofmetal.com
Dead Meadow + Einstellung 31st May @ Hare and Hounds
Dead Meadow’s bluesy stoner rock will be supported by those hard working locals Einstellung. They merge krautrock with Sabbath style riffage and have previously supported kraut gods Cluster as well as Aethenor, Acid Mothers Temple and Crippled Black Phoenix. www.myspace.com/deadmeadow www.myspace.com/einstellung For fans of psychedelic rock, stoner rock, blues and Black Sabbath.
Phosphorescent + Rich Batsford
5th June @ Hare and Hounds
Chaotic lo-fi folk from the prolific New York based Phosphorescent. Support comes from Birmingham based pianist and composer Rich Batsford, who creates a beguiling sound of rich classical composition within a minimalist framework, with elements of electronica. www.myspace.com/phosphorescent http://www.myspace.com/richbatsford For fans of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Iron & Wine and Bon Iver
A unique collaboration set in the theatre space of the mac; see Warpâ€™s foremost laptop wizards alongside players of the traditional Gamelan. For tickets go to www.macarts.co.uk www.plaid.co.uk/
www.sbgp.org.uk/ type & illustration - benjavens.co.uk
Independent Culture for Independent Students: Engaging New Audiences in Birmingham Arguably, one of the biggest influxes of new people to the city of Birmingham is the thousands upon thousands of new students arriving here every September. In September 2007, I was one of them. Upon arrival, I had very little knowledge of the city and what happens here apart from the events the student union were relentlessly promoting during freshers week. With loans providing a new found, short term wealth, the general consensus suggests to quickly consume as many £1 pints and 2 for 1 shots you can whilst vertical, and then pay a visit to the nauseating glamour of broad street (amongst others) to waste some more of that cash you’ll long for a few months down the line. Sure, the big night out, club culture clearly appeals to many and seems to do well at catering for much of the student
population. However, I soon found myself becoming quickly disillusioned with a student lifestyle that I wasn’t interested in being a part of, yet seemingly was all that was presented to me. Something that I now understand to be a fallacy, but why didn’t I then? The university I attend, without naming names (although I’m sure you can guess) has campuses across the city and whilst it offers a wide range of courses, it’s probably fair to say that many come under the general brackets of the creative arts and media. The students of which are exactly the sorts of creative types you’d expect to see filling live music events and engaging with the local cultural community. So why don’t they? Why do the West Midlands have much lower attendance for cultural events than other regions?
Well, there is the lack of late night public transport in the city, the actual geography and location of many of the better independent venues, making getting to and from particularly difficult for some (for piss poor students, a taxi fare is usually out of the question). What about the potential apathy of Birmingham audiences? This is something particularly noticeable in my fellow students, but perhaps, through no fault of their own. It’s taken me the best part of three years here in Birmingham to fully discover and become involved in its vibrant, yet hidden underbelly of music, art and creative culture and I love it. Prompting discussion among peers however often results in blank faces; they don’t know it exists, just like I didn’t. Its not the fault of the city’s independent promoters or venues, they do the best they can with what resources they have, and in most cases they do a bloody good job that goes unnoticed. But Birmingham’s creative sector needs help with the students. Universities - open up the gates for access; let non-union posters go up around campuses,
allow flyer distribution and evangelise about the city’s creative networks and many events. It’s no surprise that attendance figures in the union are dropping when all that’s offered is a spotty DJ with the latest Kaiser Chiefs record. Unions need programming and promoters need audiences. Opportunity knocks? We also need a council that does the same. Instead of attracting kids to Birmingham because they can spend their money in the same clubs, bars, restaurants and shops as any other large town in the country, sell Birmingham because it’s offering things that are unique to here. So, to all the higher education establishments of Birmingham and to BCC, lend us a hand will you? Let’s grab these new audiences before they get lost in the chaff and show them all the real reasons to stay in Birmingham on completing their studies. David Breese continue the discussion online at capsule.org.uk/blog and add to the comments with your thoughts.
With the mac re-opening in May, the anxious waiting is nearly over. How will it look inside? What new events are on the books? Located in the inviting, awe-inspiring Cannon Hill Park, the old mac’s dull exterior has been replaced with a modern, artistic patchwork of natural greens, yellows and oranges that reflect both the park itself, as well as the artistic values expected to take place within the interior. Misty’s Big Adventure, well known for their light hearted qualities, will begin the celebrations with a bang. Singing The City Sings, an anthem developed for the mac, Misty’s leader Gareth Jones explains: “We’re very honoured to be the first performance at the new mac. Everyone I know is very fond of it and has missed being able to go there over the last couple of years. It has an illustrious past, and now, with the renovation, a promising future.” Sitting next the river Rea as a construction site, passers by nosey through the gaps in the fence, taking a glimpse of the new prospects at the expense of a 14.8m renovation. A site that will put Birmingham back on the map of artistic creativity. Ross Cotton
illustration - Lucy Wade
What was the nature of the work you were creating at mac? mac was a really great inspiration for me. I staged my first performance in the theatre with Brian Duffy as part of the National review of Live art. Here we played around with materials, technology, performance and voice. This gave me the confidence to go out and try all sorts of new experiments in front of people, such as performing at the very first Big Chill festival as a one man art trail!
Sound artist Jony Easterby talks about was at this the re-opening Itevent that met Alan of the macâ€Ś James whoI was the visionary programmer at the time at mac. He saw the potential in what we were doing and invited Mark Anderson and myself to come up with an idea for a project fund he was programming at the time.
This led to the production of the event 7/8 of a second, experiments in outdoor sound in Cannon Hill Park, the title comes from the time it took for sound to travel across the park. For this event we invited a group of sound artists in including, Max Eastley, Peter Appleton, Bobby Bird, Noisegate and Brian Duffy to create work around the Park over two nights. It was such a great event and attended by thousands of people.
Fifteen years later a version of this event now called Powerplant is alive and well back from Edinburgh with rave reviews and due to tour Australia next year... thanks to a bit of risk taking! What was the mac’s reputation like at the time as an arts centre? mac had started to program some really interesting work at this time whilst Alan James was in charge of the programming, large scale events including Stockhausen as well as experimental sound work from artists such as Mark Anderson/ Blissbody, Lee and Daws, Forkbeard Fantasy as well as some great world music and folk roots stuff. It was always a great place to meet people and enjoy work both in side and outside the building. Oh and the café was really bad! What kind of works would you hope you to see them producing/commissioning now? I hope mac have the vision to allow emerging artists to come and create new work in a low pressure environment. I also hope they have the vision to bring in total heretics like that don’t fit in any box and start to rock the boat and redefine what Mac is capable of through their practice. mac is special in that it is inclusive in all of its programming and feels its identity to be part of Birmingham’s history and cultural mix. However it also needs to take risks and punch through its walls to let art in and out to let it spread throughout the city. mac should be exploiting the space around the park and the river Rea corridor to embrace urban ecology, open space, fresh air, unstructured play and creativity as well as the biodiversity and the potential for sustainable artwork. What form this should take is not up to me... just bring on those inspirational mavericks....
Mono @ The Asylum …they started with beautiful guitar harmonies and a xylophone. OK- nice, pretty sound. Then Holy F*ck where did that come from! My apathy wiped out with a torrent of distortion and feedback. This is a band that writes anthems proving the versatility of the guitar to delight and also obliterate eardrums. As one of our friends Nick mentioned they have songs that build up from no where. They don’t build up, they leap out on you when you least expect it. One of the songs even made me jump when the drums came in without any warning whatsoever.
-------------------------------- Jonny P | brumlive.com
@ The Asylum
No doubt about it, this was not a show for the unconverted. EHG’s sound and ethos is extreme, aggressive and unashamed. They write anthems for the sick, for the outcasts and losers of the world; and for what the band lack in the way of financial success or just plain good luck, they take their reward in the love and respect that everyone here threw their way for every minute of the set. And probably a fair bit of drugs as well. This was a show for the fans, and if you own even a single Eyehategod CD you should have been here, it was truly amazing. illustration - Bethan McKnight
Duncan Wilkins | brumlive.com
When I was 16, no-one in my circle wanted to see Swans on their Children of God tour. That year, Salt N Pepa, Simple Minds and Erasure formed the music agenda. I thought the ‘Smiths’ girl may understand so I lent her Swans’ Filth LP to listen to. ‘It’s the most incisive, introspective music you will ever hear.’ - ‘More so than Morrissey?’ Morrissey won the girl that night I went on my own to Manchester International Club to see them. In 1987, you had to find and buy music you wanted to hear. It was easy to read about it in NME and Melody Maker, but to hear it, you had to encounter it on John Peel’s late night radio show, or have cool friends who could play it to you in their bedrooms. Initially I didn’t pay much attention to Swans: from their name I imagined they would be twee indie pop (I also thought Big Black were probably a gangster rap act). Then came a pivotal 10 minutes during Steve Barker’s Radio Lancashire show “On the Wire”. I was at once introduced to Sonic Youth via Schizophrenia, any Big Black misconception was cleared up with L-Dopa, and I finally heard Swans, specifically Like a Drug (Sha La La La). That song has lost none of its excoriating
transcendence in the intervening 23 years, with its Ben Hur martial brass, tarnished bronze riffs and drug -slow vocals. I’m listening to it now and it still makes me want to break something and eat it. 1987 signalled a pivotal year for Swans too: they chilled out a bit. I bought the earlier, brutal albums, whose riffs could break your arm. I followed the band albums for the next ten years: mellower and melancholic but never boring. I was at their final show in London in 1997. ‘That’s it,’ exclaimed Gira with characteristic brevity at the end. I thought: What was it? What were Swans? In the beginning, Swans came from the same New York art-core background as the American conceptual Jenny Holzer. Her “Truisms” series were bold, incisive statements that would appear in ALL CAPS in galleries, on street posters and in 1982 - the year of Swans inception – on Times Square’s gigantic LED screens. Her statements have the same ring as Swans lyrics: I sense Michael Gira was either influenced by these words or formed part of the same zeitgeist which
produced them. In each instance, there was a very direct effort to experience and understand the world and its ways. STRONG MEN WIN AT VIOLENCE AND ABUSE – Gira ABUSE OF POWER COMES AS NO SURPRISE BEING SURE OF YOURSELF MEANS YOU’RE A FOOL BELIEVING IN REBIRTH IS THE SAME AS ADMITTING DEFEAT – Holzer Holzer’s alphabetically arranged statements went on for pages, occasionally self-contradictory: A STRONG SENSE OF DUTY IMPRISONS YOU
flayed off, there were more questions than answers. I remember hearing the lyric to Coward: “I’m a coward/ Put your knife in me” and thinking how it takes guts to admit your cowardice. Later lyrics expanded the themes but produced no c l e a r e r a n s w e r s , G i r a seemed to be simultaneously omniscient and impotent, every brash utterance was revealed to be shot through with doubt when dissected. Themes of money, failure, survival, the human body, violence, power, submission and latterly fame remained constants in Swans songs. Musically, the songs became sweeter but never lost any of their power. A solo, acoustic Gira set at Supersonic in 2008 showed every chord still contained the same naked essence of Swans existence.
ABSOLUTE SUBMISSION CAN BE A FORM OF FREEDOM
We can regard the news of Swans imminent return like the rumblings before the eruption of an ice volcano. It’s some way off, but will affect us all.
As much as Swans cut to the bone, and experienced the world with skin
Words and illustration Ben Waddington
Swans headline Supersonic Festival 22-24 October 2010 www.supersonicfestival.com
Theremin Day took place on the 24th April at The Edge in Digbeth. Starting at 2pm, and finishing just after 11pm, it was a pretty epic journey through the weird and wonderful world of Theremin. The afternoon was a fun filled workshop of optical Theremin building, organised by myself and the Birmingham hackerspace, fizzPOP. People of all abilities came along to make themselves a noisy box, which is played by adjusting the amount of light that falls on it. As well as having 3 .oscillators for a nice rich sound, the design also features a classic circuitbend, a power-starve knob, for maximum sound mash-up! I was really chuffed with how everyone got on. It meant a lot to see so many happy people, all ยง making a headache-inducing racket together! The second part of Theremin Day focused on live Theremin performances, starting with an assortment of Theremin videos. We kicked off with some documentary footage and some virtuoso playing, worked our way through some Theremin building / hacking videos, and ended with the classic Theremin cat video, which really broke the ice. Next up was Pete Ashton, playing music for Thingamagoop. His set was a mad orgy of 8-bit tunes, flashing lights and bleeps, topped off by some improv optical Theremin noodling by the people who attended the afternoon workshop. Pete set up a microphone so that they could bring up their optical Theremins and join in. Much madness ensued.
After all the madness had subdued, I attempted to bring us back to earth with something a little more
highbrow. I had built four optical Theremins of my own and I used them to do a rare performance of Steve Reichâ€™s Pendulum Music, for four optical Theremins and four torches. Imagine this classic Reich phase piece, normally performed using microphones and speakers, performed in the dark, with the only light source the four swinging torches, where each swing shapes the sound of each optical Theremin. Throughout the piece the torches go out of phase with each other, as the swings get shallower and shallower the notes get higher and higher, and the sound more intense. Last up was an enchanting Theremin performance by the talented Ms Hypnotique. As well as her delightful playing, she also covered various aspects of the history and technical side of the instrument. Here set was a mixture of stunning musicianship and education. I was delighted to help bring her to Birmingham, only a week after she had played at the Royal Festival Hall, as part of a 20-strong Theremin orchestra. She certainly didnâ€™t disappoint. So, that was the first Theremin Day, a success on so many levels, and hopefully the first of many! Written by In association with Sam Underwood www.fizzpop.org.uk www.mrunderwood.co.uk www.thereminday.co.uk
Banana loaf Ideal for using up bananas that youâ€™ve kept for a bit too long. 4oz butter or margarine 6oz sugar (granulated, caster or mix in some demerara, whatever you have to hand) 8oz self raising flour 2 eggs 2 large or 3 medium, very ripe bananas - Heat the oven to gas mark 4; 180C - Grease a 2lb loaf tin. - Mash the bananas with a strong fork. - Cream the butter and sugar together and mix in the eggs - Mix together the two yellow sludges you now have. - Mix in the flour. - Scrape into the loaf tin and bake for 40 minutes then lower the temperature to gas mark 2; 150C and cook for a further 30 minutes. Try to let it cool (turned out on a rack) before you devour it. Optional tasty treats such as hazelnuts, sultana, cinnamon, honey and even chocolate chunks can be added. hmmmmmmm tasty!
Put these dates
in your diaryâ€Ś 21st May Sugarfoot Stomp @ Hare & Hounds 22nd May Daytime vinyl swap meet @ 22 Green St, Digbeth Capsule presents Wolves in the Throne Room + Tweak Bird @ Hare & Hounds 26th May Capsule presents Acid Mothers Temple @ Hare & Hounds 27th May -20th June Florian Hecker @ IKON Eastside 28th May Stellar Om Source @ Chameleon, Nottingham 31st May Capsule presents Dead Meadow @ Hare & Hounds 3rd June Radio Black Forest present Goodiepal @ Wagon & Horses 4th-5th June Home of Metal open days @ Wolverhampton Art Gallery 5th June Capsule presents Phosphorescent @ Hare and Hounds 11th June Capsule presents Plaid & Southbank Gamelan Players @ mac