Tracking hooters and hitters…..

 

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I’ve spend some of this week salted away in the Vendhaus (above), recording parts for two very different projects.

The first was a challenge from the grand maven of everything ’60s, Rosie Cunningham (in her Purson persona), to come up with some ‘Christmas party sax’ (with a dash of Wizzard) for a new Purson song, ‘Chocolate Money’.  I tracked tenor and baritone sax horn section lines and a bit of flapping about on the flootie during the bridge. Roll over, Roy Wood, and pass me that face paint.

The second project is for Chicago’s uber sludge-psychedelicist Steve Krakow (AKA Plastic Crimewave).  Steve asked both Bobbie and me to contribute to a song for a forthcoming album. Steve’s direction was to ‘do whatever’….so that’s what I’m doing. Tracks include Comus-darkened darabuka and ancient-skinned, rusty-jingled tambourine, vibes, tenor recorder, baritone sax and bass clarinet and possibly a further dash of flootie once Bobbie has recorded her vocal parts. I’m a right little Mike Oldfield on the quiet. Or perhaps that should be Roy Castle  😀  (look him up in Guinness’s book of famously fatuous and unnecessary ‘records’).

The Vendhaus vibraphone is a wooden framed 1920’s Premier set. Many moons ago – and long before I acquired it – the resonators would have been driven by a clockwork motor, now, alas, gone. So I suppose that it’s more of a straight metallophone now, lacking the characteristic woo-wooing of a properly tooled-up set of vibes.

Here to finish are a couple more shots of some of the denizens of the Vendhaus.

The Comus recording tambourine, as featured on ‘Out Of The Coma’. God only knows where I got it from. We are actually talking here about a tambourine with a deeply sinister sound…..very Hoxton shamen, I’m sure.

The non woo-wooing Premier vibes (and a pleasing pair of Beyer M201s).

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The kindness of strangers…….

Over the course of the last year or so, Colin May, a writer for Oxford’s Nightshift magazine, has come to various gigs that I’ve been involved in around Oxford. He wrote a very nice review of  the live debut of some of the pieces from ‘Deathless‘, and, last time I saw him, I gave him a complementary copy of the album as a ‘thank you’ for the live review.

Colin has taken the trouble to review the album for this month’s edition of Nightshift, and this is what he wrote:

“It’s doubtful whether any local band release will be as mired in blood as this one. Its inspiration is the Minotaur myth as re-imagined by Steven Sherrill in his novel The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break, which has the Minotaur escaping the Labyrinth and living in a down-at heal trailer park having suppressed his appetite for a diet of Athenian virgins.

So we’ve got the original legend, Sherrill’s re-telling and Seagroatt and Staples’ take on that re-telling. The pair are renowned improvising musicians, so there’s free improv which is then manipulated and mixed until there are more layers than William and Kate’s wedding cake. You’ve also got a CD that can pose questions about compassion, redemption and forgiveness. Or you can forget about all this and just enjoy the music.

What Seagroatt and Staples have created is 
an album of instrumental and manipulated
sound without any obvious tunes or hooks.
 It’s bookended by a couple of short vocal
 pieces, beautifully sung by Bobbie Watson, which describe and comment on Asterion the Minotaur’s situation. On most of the ten tracks
 in between Seagroatt’s magnificently lugubrious and pure soprano sax, bass clarinet and flute dominate. There’s almost none of the high-speed parping associated with free jazz, not even on the track ‘The Minotaur Sits Exhausted, Knuckles Skinless, Toes Sticky With Blood, Head In Hands’, a title which seems heaven sent for a bit of parping. Instead Seagroatt, like the late great fellow multi-reeds player Eric Dolphy, dazzles with plaintive lines which he never lets become the musical equivalent of limp soggy lettuce.

Seagroatt’s reeds and Staples’ sparse but 
richly atmospheric guitar are integrated with an ominously echoing, rumbling drone soundscape which, like Ariadne’s thread in the Labyrinth, runs through the CD. On a casual listen tracks might seem to be samey, though this would be to ignore the nuances and how the atmosphere builds track by track. To get the max out of this album you probably need to get the headphones on and close your eyes.

This clearly been a labour of love, and Jon Seagroatt has created something that in its way is magnificent in conception and execution, and perhaps unique in the local music landscape”.

How nice is that….? Well very nice indeed. Thanks once again to Colin May.

Deathless‘ is available for £10 plus p&p from us via Paypal here, or for £8 you can download the digital version from Bandcamp. You can also listen to a clutch of tracks right here on Soundcloud.

Skronkin’ with Werewheels

Last year, myself, Roger Wootton and Bobbie Watson from Comus, along with our sometime violin player, Dylan Bates, appeared at a gig for a Lush cosmetics launch event in London as Cominus (Bobbie’s wordplay: Comus minus some members – geddit..?). Also on the bill that evening were Chicago’s Werewheels. Consisting of Steve Krakow (AKA Plastic Crimewave) guitar & vocals, and Dawn Aquarius (analogue synth & vocals), Werewheels punk-splattered ‘why use two chords when one chord will do’ attitude to psychedelia results in mesmerising sonic worlds. Steve refers to this act as ‘skronkin’, and that seems apt. They asked me to join them on bass clarinet for the last number of the set, ‘Nuclear Winter’, and this was the resultant aural maelstrom. It was a bit like a Red Square gig, but with a regular beat. Note, if you will, the fifteen oil-wheel light show firing off around us……. SKRONKIN’!

‘Nuclear Winter’, including skronkin’ bass clarinet,  has since been committed to tape for release on an upcoming Werewheels album.

We are all Area Sales Executives now……..

……..punting our various creative bits and pieces, in relentless bouts of bleary-eyed online self-promotion. It’s a plan for life with failure built-in because no matter how much you do, there’s always a bit more that you could have done. Mark Zuckerberg sets up a content-less website, and we all work like lemmings to fill it up with ‘interesting’ stuff. Now just remind me again; who is it who’s done rather nicely out of that arrangement…. (apropos of which, FB seems to have developed something of the flavour of MySpace recently)…..

Anyway, back to relentless Area Sales Executiveness; I’ve added a ‘merch’ page to the site, where you can buy some ‘merch’. I will get round to clothing it in a fig-leaf of artistic merit by renaming it a ‘Discography’, and adding in the albums that I’ve been on that I either haven’t got ‘in stock’ or are now out of print, etc., etc. But for the time being you can browse the Shop of Jonny right here.

Thank you for shopping at Shop of Jonny.

Not that you’ll probably buy anything, of course; you’ll probably just try to sell me some bloody trinket of your own…….

The celluloid dream of the Psychedelic Raiders…….

A very good friend, Colin Harrison, recently took the time and trouble to comp together the following ‘promo’ video for the Psychedelic Raiders. The footage of the band is real enough – captured by Colin one evening at a rather atmosphere-less gig in an Oxfordshire pub – but the artistry is in his cinematic narration of the audience……….

What follows is a promo for the Psychedelics’ new album ‘Cosmic Wheels’, featuring a song that’s not even on the album. As Colin himself noted in the Youtube publishing notes – Warning: this video contains hyperbole, distortions and downright fibs…

Success guaranteed then!

The song, by the way, is a Staples’ original called ‘I Don’t Believe’…….

Death, Decay & Renewal vinyl release……

This is slightly old news. Maybe just a few strands of mould on the loaf kind of slightly old. But you can always pick that off, and it’ll be fine. This is from July 2014, to be exact. So there we are; almost only yesterday, or at least no earlier than the day before yesterday.

We were asked by Steve Krakow, Lush cosmetics packaging art uber-meister and Chicagoan psychedelic skronk loafer extraordinaire, to contribute the bookend tracks from ‘Deathless‘ to a limited-edition double vinyl LP he was compiling to celebrate the launch of a new range of Lush perfumes called ‘Death, Decay & Renewal’.

I melded the two pieces into a seamlessly-segued continuous track by means of Subtle Artifices of Digital Specification and the resultant quite short track (with a quite long title) duly appeared on the album below.

Jon Seagroatt_Lush vinyl album

Bobbie and I also played at the launch event as part of a cut-down version of Comus, which Bobbie rather nicely dubbed ‘Cominus’. This consisted of Roger Wootton, Bobbie, Dylan Bates (Comus’ stand-in violin player when Colin Pearson is unavailable) and me. I also got to do a bit of scronking on bass clarinet with Steve Krakow and Dawn Aquarius as part of their Werewheels manifestation.

I really must find out what skronking actually is one of these days. Steve……?

There’s other news as well, of course: I’ve really got to get a grip and post some of it……..

Current 93 @ Incubate Festival 2014

Just discovered the video below on the Incubate Festival page devoted to Current 93’s appearance there next month. It was shot at the Union Chapel launch of C93’s most recent album ‘I Am the Last of All the Field That Fell: A Channel’, and includes two manifestations of tracks from that album. I contribute flute to the first, and bass clarinet to the second.

Despite Bobbie and I only having worked on three tracks for the album, David – as is his way – decided, during the rehearsal for the Union Chapel gig, that we should play / sing throughout the set. This required a bit of fleet-footed key / mode determination, and some high-wire improvisation, but the gig was one of the most satisfying I’ve played in a long time.

Like another friend, Steve Krakow, (AKA Chicago’s very own Plastic Crimewave), DT has fashioned a highly expressive, idiomatic written language. He is very good at the poetic trick of implying networks of meaning between words in a phrase, and over time he has constructed a rich, meaningful relationship with reality from the accretion and layering of arcane, sometimes archaic, religious and hermeneutic ideas.

He is also, famously, a ‘hallucinatory cartoonist at Docetic Mountain’. So not a muso then!

I’m very much looking forward to to playing the Incubate Festival in David’s ‘Final Hallucinatory Patripassianist rock group’ (that’s Current 93 to you and me)………..

Red Square @ the 2011 Tinderbox Festival

Here’s a recently re-unearthed two minute extract of Red Square’s 2011 set at the Tinderbox Festival. Due to timing over-runs, we had to cut our set down to twenty minutes, so a lean, spare instrumentation was the order of the day; no electronica, no bass clarinet, no flute. Just guitar, soprano sax and drums.

Boom!

Just like the old days………

Film and visual manipulations by Colin Harrison.

upcomings to which I will be ongoing(s)………number two: Villa Manuela Festival

What a flurry of postettes flow from my busily typing two fingers. No – wait – I’ve just counted. Make that four fingers. Two on each hand; left little and middle fingers and right index and middle…..

Number two in a series of (so far) two is the next outing for the gelflings and werewolves of Comus. We’ll be gracing the stage at this year’s Villa Manuela Festival, Madrid in October. As with Incubate, Villa Manuela features a host of interesting things and stuff, most of which I’ll probably have to miss.

Here’s the very flyer of which we are yet to speak. Clicking on it’s person will deliver you into the cornucopia that is the Festival website…….

Jon Seagroatt Comus Villa Manuela Festival

OK. That’s me done with posts for a bit, you’ll be pleased to hear.