SPK - Interview [Chainsaw #11, 1981]


This interview took place after their set at a Final Solution gig in Heaven, Charing Cross, supporting Throbbing Gristle and A Certain Ratio [23.12.80].

Heaven is normally a meat-market gay disco and it must rank as the most sordid venue I have ever been to - I'll certainly have doubts about going there again. It was unbearably hot, smoky and very dark towards the end of the evening it was literally impossible to see from one side of the hall to another. Decor (and background music) rather over-the-top disco. All in all, probably just about sordid enough for a Throbbing Gristle/SPK gig.

Incidentally a couple of years ago this. place used to be called the Global Village and had occasional gigs then too - the last time I saw the Users was in there. My, how it's changed.

I first became interested in Surgical Penis Klinik when their single "Meat Processing Section" came out in the summer last year (although it was recorded in their native Australia in 1979). This was in fact their second EP, the first (No More/Contact/Germanik) was released on their own label Side Effects Records early in 1979.

Tonight their set was quite an experience, to say the least. It is probably best described as an all-out attack on your senses. First, there was the sheer volume of sound - the constant low-frequency noises that were played at deafeningly loud volume. The sound itself - deliberately loud so as to cause distortion - more like the "Slogan" side of Meat Processing Section than the "Factory" side, but always with the booming low frequency noises in the background, that were missing on the records. The ligbts and the strobes were pointed straight at the AUDIENCE and not the group...

Current line-up:
Operator - Synth/Tapes/Rhythms
Mr Clean - Production engineer
Wilkins - Guitar/Bass

Genesis P-Orridge told me once that this group were the most deranged group that he'd ever come across. After seeing their set, and doing this interview, I almost agree...

Charlie: How long have SPK been going?
Operator: First started in January 1979 I think, but the first time we played together was June l979 and that was with me, a psychiatric nurse, a guy called Nehil who was a mental patient - schizophrenic, and two punk guys we got to help us, who left soon after to become pop stars.
Charlie: Who with?
Operator: They've got a group of their own in Australia called Secret Secret who are just making a lot of money in the clubs.
Charlie: Are you all Australian?
Operator: No. Wilkins is English, comes from Bristol, and Mr Clean and I don't come from anywhere in particular. We consider ourselves stateless.
Charlie: You were born in Australia, weren't you?
Operator: That's not necessarily true. But don't push it. That's an assumption that we wish to maintain.
Charlie: How many copies did you make of your first single?
Operator: We did two EP's in Australia - three tracks on each - and we made 500 copies of the first one and 500 of the second one, and then we had to do a re-release of 500. Then I came to England on my way to France, to live there - and Genesis of TG wrote to us and said he wanted to do a re-release in England of the second one, so we said yes. The second one has three tracks on the original - the third track was a throwaway which was fucked up after I left and re-mixed by the psycho guy, before he killed himself.
Charlie: He killed himself?
Operator: Yes... and actually recently we had another guitarist who killed himself, so that's why the group's so unstable all the time.
Charlie: Why did they kill themselves?
Operator: Don't know. They didn't tell me. They didn't leave me anything in their wills either, which is annoying.
Charlie: Who writes the lyrics? The words of some of your songs on the first single are a bit over the top.
Operator: Those lyrics were written mainly by Nehil who was the Schizophrenic, but we were working in collaboration all the time. I handled the music, he handled the lyrics. But all the lyrics are over the top. It's just that some of them are sung in German so they'd be over the top to a German, I suppose.
Charlie: There's no point in going over the top in a foreign language.
Operator: Why not?
Charlie: It doesn't seem over the top then.
Operator: But lyrics function as a dictatorial device - if you've got a set of lyrics, they'll tell you what they mean. You've then got no choice about any particular meaning in the piece of sound. So if you write lyrics in German, bad German at that because I can't speak any German, then the audience is free to take whatever meaning they want to from whatever the sound is.
Charlie: Your microphone was very distorted tonight. Was that intentional?
Operator: No, not particularly, but you can't help it when you've got that much noise going on. You can't get a good mix on a mike like that. Plus I'm shouting quite a lot in German because I like the language - it's a little fetish of mine.
Charlie: When you sing in German do you understand exactly what you're singing?
Operator: They're translated from an English idea, but they're usually cut up afterwards, so they probably don't mean anything to a German person either.
Charlie: So do you ever wan to play in Germany?
Operator: I have had thoughts about going to Dusseldorf because that's where DAF and Pyrolator are working, but I'm not sure whether I like their stuff anymore, I just don't like England all that much.
Charlie: Then why are you here?
Operator: I don't like places with any characteristics, I'd like a place that didn't have any characteristics, so I wouldn't feel oppressed by any particular culture, or anything like that. I'm not expecting to find anything, though.
Charlie: It's probably freer here than most places, though.
Operator: It depends what you mean by free. A lot of the things we're doing now are about information overload. For example tonight there was a tape which you probably couldn't hear properly because of the distortion, it was a compilation of chemical warfare and side-effects of psychotropic drugs which is an indication that if we're all excited about chemical warfare, it in effect started in mental hospitals in 1952, with people subjected to it all the time. Another case is a cut-up between several porno loops, hard core and the soft core that you get on advertisements, so we packed them all together, which is the state that you have in the so-called free society. You're just bombarded with shit all the time. And that's what we're saying. We're not trying to dictate any particular set of lyrics to anybody at all.

Charlie: So what kind of a place would you want to live in?
Operator: We'll all end up living eventually inside the head. A head without a world. I have no material needs at all - I live on £5 a week. In London that is some achievement, so they tell me.
Charlie: Do you ever get bored?
Operator: Never. You only get bored if you're expecting something better. And there isn't anything better, everything's the same.
Charlie: Isn't that a negative attitude? I get bored sometimes.
Operator: You must be looking for something. You must have your highs. I think I'm a pluralist to the extent that as much diversity is the best thing. It's categorisation, lines and so on that you get in the music scene in London which kill you. I can contradict myself one second after I've said something, because consistency is just another closed way of thinking.
Charlie: Doesn't consistency mean that you know what you're talking about?
Operator: Consistency generally means sticking to a set line, for example Marxist or left wing line, left wing / right wing - it's all the same - everybody's realising that now.
Charlie: Well I believe in some things and not in others.
Operator: Noem Chomsky, who's a really left wing linguist just signed a manifesto of the Fascist party in France saying that they should be allowed to continue. Because he says it's the only way it'll be controllable - there's no point in trying to stamp it out, that's the way to go about things. That's the way I think.
Charlie: Allowing any party to exist doesn't necessarily mean that you agree with what they are saying.
Operator: Exactly. That's why I wouldn't follow either opinion. One day I'd say that not allowing it to happen is OK. You can't make a decision either way. On any subject. It might help to fill in a bit of background here on why I think this way - it comes from experience in mental hospitals where no decision is ever right. For a schizophrenic person, for example, there's nothing you can do or say to a schizophrenic person that will help them, and being silent doesn't help them either. So what do you do
Charlie: What experience have you had with schizophrenic patients?
Operator: In general... I worked with a lot of alcoholics... senile dementia... manic depressive psychosis... schizophrenia... Schizophrenics are quite interesting. It's a series of superimposed masks with no personality behind - all they can do is switch from one to the other. They're not happy with any of them - they're unhappy with any of them. It's just a series of options - they don't believe in any one of them, they don't think any one of them is better than the other - they don't have anything behind it to stabilize on.
Charlie: Do you identify with them in any way?
Operator: Yes. There is considerable biological evidence that there is an entire schizophrenic system in everybody which surfaces more dramatically in some than in others. Yes, I think most people are schizophrenic to a certain extent. Not the classic split personality bullshit, but in the sense that at times the overcoating devices, the rationalities just break down and they'll go haywire - go crazy. One of our songs is called Retard, about a guy who just went crazy-killed somebody - no motive, nothing at all. He's spent thirty-five years in a mental hospital, paying for it. They couldn't have let him out though, he might have done it again. It's these dilemmas, no-win situations which intrigue me. That's what our music's about.
Charlie: So what are you intending to do now, as a group?
Operator: We'd like to do another gig, on our own, cos we were fucked around a lot tonight. When we were playing, in what position, and all this sort of thing - in other words we were shoved to side and they forgot about us. Not that I mind - I just don't like feeling some asshole's pushing me around. I didn't complain, or anything like that, but I'd rather control it myself.
Charlie: Where would you want to play?
Operator: Interesting venues, hopefully. Not the Marquee, or that sort of stuff. I'm looking into... they've started to rent out the old World War Two underground shelters under London. There's a huge network of them. I'd like to play down there, and if anybody got tired they could wander off and have a look. Some are run by the GLC, some by the police. They're useful for storage, mostly. But anywhere that comes up, I'm willing to play. I got approached by a guy tonight waning to put us on a compilation album of futurism, like Eric Random and Naked Lunch and stuff... I don't want to be labelled as futurist, just like I don't want to be labelled with Industrial.
Charlie: So you won't be doing anything more with Industrial?
Operator: I don't think so, no. It's a mutual agreement, we don't want to lump everything together - we want to diversify.
Charlie: Why did you release that second single on Industrial?
Operator: Publicity really. I couldn't afford to do it . It's not money, I think I made £15 out of the whole thing, even though they didn't have any pressing charges. We sold quite a few but I never saw any money - but that doesn't bother me because it was only to get a name.
Charlie: It didn't get much publicity in the music press.
Operator: It only got mentioned in Sounds - one line, it didn't get mentioned in the NME or Melody Maker, possibly because they had their big strike at exactly the time it was released.
Charlie: Would you have wanted more mentions?
Operator: Oh no, not really. It's a very difficult situation where you're trying to stay underground but still get a few people to know you. It's a situation where you say you want exactly 5000 people, no more and no less, any more and you're selling yourself and any less and you're wasting your time. It's difficult, cos you've got to tread that line all the time.
Charlie: So what about the future?
Operator: It depends on everybody else really. I'd like to diversify and do video, and maybe do some soundtracks for the video, I'm also writing two books, one on music, one on words - it's a hybrid of philosophy and fiction. Just on different types of thought, rather than the narrow ones we're restricted to at the moment. I like violent change, convulsive thought... ripping from one thing to another so nobody can tie you down and say "You are this, you are that", so if you gave me this interview tomorrow I'd probably tell you something completely different.

I didn't do the interview again, so I'll never know now whether that is true. Anyway Surgical Penis Klinik gigs are very thin on the ground to say the least - this was the only one they've done in England so far - so the best way to find out what they're like is to listen to their "Meat Processing Section" single which is still available on Industrial. I prefer the "Factory" side, which I still consider to be one of the best things to be released in 1980. Operator prefers the other side "Slogan" which is probably nearer the live sound.

Postscript. I went round to operator's place in Vauxhall a couple of weeks after the gig/interview... The group did not want pictures of them to be published, as one of their primary aims is to discourage identification with the star and other heroic images, and promotion of self-importance in individuals... They have shaosen three images, one for each of them. Fourth member 'Tone Generator' rejoining the group from Australia at the time of press.

Chainsaw 11, February 1981


COIL: An Interview

An Interview With The Band COIL


The difference between MONDO and magazines like Rolling Stone
can clearly be illustrated by comparing their list of the year's top ten
records with ours. First of all, we don't have one. And if we did,
R.E.M. wouldn't be anywhere near it and Coil would have achieved
Gold Disk status-alchemical gold. Their most recent release, Love's
Secret Domain
(domestically available on Wax Trax!) is a fascinating
aural descent into a rather delightful and exalted Inferno.

This is a realm inhabited by rabid Spanish guitars, Annie Anxiety
impersonating herself as drugged-out Mexican whore, sampladelic
mixing techniques, warped electronic voices, neurologically correct
noise, didgeridoo, oboes and bowed strings cast South of Heaven,
Burroughsian cut-ups of film dialogue, all fornicating somethin' awful
in a multidimensional sonic landscape, and presided over by those
charming and intelligent Goat-Gods, John Balance and Peter "Sleazy"

Those familiar only with John and Peter's past lives as members of
Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, may be surprised that in this
chaotic landscape the lamb lies down with the lion. Pieces of
surprising beauty-such as "Dark River," sounding like the grinding
and scraping of the celestial spheres or some monstrous bells-are also
to be discovered amidst the musical mayhem.

Once granted an audience we enjoyed a lively hour and one half
unraveling the social, psychedelic and sexual notions of the secret
celebrities at Threshold House, London. And now Ladies and
Viruses, the Anti-Popes of Pop_

-Diana & Jas.

MONDO 2000: As a magazine that promotes freedom of information
we are interested in the way in which the media is often used for the
opposite end, to control, repress and distort information. What's the
climate in England right now?

PETER CHRISTOPHERSON: I don't think that in England there is
anything that appears to be a coherent plan or organized government
system, it's just that the media is so biased and so narrow that it tends
to view things with the most stupid and fundamentalist attitude.
Those things [repression & distortion] kind of happen by default

JOHN BALANCE: I disagree with Peter because the state here has
been set up since 1800 or something as a like royal espionage thing,
which turns into MI5 and I think that in England far more than in
America what they call "transgressional publishing" hardly gets
started before there's a backlash. And I'm very suspicious of any
magazine or someone from England who will call us up and want to
talk to us with view to publishing radical viewpoints, because I think
they're in serious danger. Like Burroughs said, "If you're not
paranoid, there's something wrong with you." It's getting stupid! I'm
getting extraordinarily paranoid, but I think I have a perfect right to
be. And look, if it gets to the press and the whole media circus, then
that's just second hand information, the first hand has been
suppressed or will never see the light of day. But there's a very long
tradition of that kind of control. From the very first printing presses
in the 15th or 16th century, a control has always been exercised over
the method of distribution of information. Operation Sun Devil was
the beginning-you know the computer seizure stuff-of something
much large. I think it's a pre-echo of something that's going to become
legislation in several years.

M2: How do you see this coming about?

JB: I could see where the holding of corporate computer codes or
something will be an offense, a federal offense in itself.

M2: There's been an interesting case relating to that here in Berkeley
recently, involving some students. They're trying to determine the
legality of searching and ransacking electronic files and they're finding
that the same legislation that would apply to someone coming in and
burgling your house is somehow not considered applicable.

PC: Yes, exactly. I mean obviously the authorities bring it down on
the side which suits them best. They don't consider the fact that
electronic information may not be viable or that transmitting
pornography in digital code across a telephone or something is in fact
not the same as distributing pornography. None of these things have
been tested.

JB: Actually, they have. In fact there have been cases here recently
prosecuting people in possession of disks and files that could be
decoded in a pornographic way.

PC: It always falls in their favour. I mean why don't they get
prosecuted for decoding the code? If it remains as code then it is
nothing. It is in the ether. It's pre-existing. It's all a panic born of
confusion. There are myriad accesses and these people just want to
close down everything that they feel is threatening which is obviously
a human response but not one that I'm in favour of.

M2: Yeah, we have a situation that's come up here concerning smart
drugs. The FDA has not officially outlawed a number of compounds
that have shown some promise in intelligence increase and cognitive
enhancement. But we saw an internal memo from the FDA customs
and the U.S. Postal Service with instructions to just confiscate people's
prepaid packages. Has that been happening over there too?

JB: All of our packages are opened if that's what you mean.

PC: I mean the reason that all this stuff has never been classified by
the FDA, isn't it because the AIDS activists have managed to be
allowed to bring certain drugs in and that includes the nootropics and

M2: I think that has a lot to do with it. There's a whole underground
chemistry movement that's taken off in Northern California relating
to AIDS research.

PC: Well, no doubt they're going to be clamping down on that.

JB: There's been no lobbying campaign even on behalf of the AIDS
activists to get anything into the country here. It's only just by chance
that there's still a legal loophole. As soon as any serious media
attention is drawn to it's so-called abuse, no doubt they'll close those
loopholes. It's considerably more financially viable to have these drugs
tested in the public the way that they're being tested now rather than
having to set up trials in prisons and what have you. So, I feel the
reason that they are allowing a certain amount of minor usage in this
way is to find out what the risks are without involving any expense.
We're all guinea pigs.


M2: In your fax to us you mentioned some rather ridiculous laws that
have recently been passed regarding personal sexual choices.

PC: Yes, the S & M rulings. There was a celebrated court case here
called Operation Spanner in which Lord Lane ruled that consensual
acts of Sadomasochistic sex which involved sexual gratification, as
opposed to any other sort of gratification, were criminal acts. And the
consequences of this ruling actually meant that having hickeys, you
know, love bites, became a criminal charge which the police could
become involved in. I mean you don't have to have charges brought
on a personal level, the police can come in and see what's going on
and arrest you.

M2: Does it seem that they're seriously trying to enforce this or is it
more of a symbolic ruling?

PC: It went to the highest ruling in the land. It's going to the House of

JB: But the important aspect of it that hasn't really been considered is
that there's a distinction in law between having a sexual motive for
consensual assault, which is hurting someone else with their
permission, and any other kind of motive. For example if you go to
the dentist or a plastic surgeon obviously you're accepting pain on a
consensual basis, but it's not illegal. But the implication and what you
can extrapolate from that, is that your state of mind or your thought
or your attitude towards a certain action is what's illegal rather than
the action itself.

PC: So you've got thought crimes.

JB: And it's very similar in a way to the notion of having an illegal file
in your computer, regardless of whether it could be read or decoded
or not. It's just the very fact of the potential of what you believe it to
be that's illegal. We're in a far more nebulous and vindictive and
dangerous state that we've ever been before really.

M2: And what's the public reaction to this, or is it under wraps?

PC: The sort of news on the grapevine in the legal arena was that
people were really shocked by it and there's been a definite trend
towards picking up any cases of this nature so far. There's been a sort
of 90 degree swing again, but who knows, a precedent has been set,
and precedents get followed by bigots.

JB: And the national pastime in this country is lethargy anyway.

M2: As it is here.


M2: Can you give us any insight into what's recently happened with
Temple of Psychick Youth and some of the trouble they've been
having? We had heard from our associated spy network that some sort
of a raid had gone down at the home of Gen and Paula of P.T.V.

JB: [Laughs] The phone just went dead when you said "Psychick
Youth." But we haven't had any connection at all with that
organization for about eight or nine years now and are not really very
interested in it to be honest. I mean the media picked up on it in the

usual stupid media way: Satanism, devil worship, blah, blah, blah.
Not picking up any facts whatsoever, but I actually don't know the
real facts. If Gen's in America he can probably fill you in a little bit

M2: Has there been any overflow, any suspicion of what you all are
doing there?

PC: We don't know, we haven't had any active flak from that yet, but
we're assuming they're moving behind the scenes of course.

JB: We know for a fact that our involvement [with P.T.V.] and lack of
it has been well known in legal circles for some time, so we're not too
worried about it to be honest.

M2: This bit that was run in the media about Satanism, was that a
series of television programs?

PC: No, there was one television program which started it, by some
guy named.Andrew Boyd.

M2: Was he with a "Christian" group?

JB: Andrew Boyd, although he's an English guy, has been associated
with Christian Fundamentalists and Christian publishers in the U.S.
and by some strange coincidence, the day after his program was run,
in which Psychic T.V. were not specifically named but were connected
by association with Satanism, his book on Satanism was published.
And the television production company which made the program
closed down the day after.

PC: He conned Channel 4 into allowing him to make the program
which he said he had two years in solid research and evidence to back
up. The "evidence" in the program consisted of a woman who was sort
of nameless and anonymous or given a pseudonym who was basically
reporting from what seemed to be a mental hospital about ridiculous
allegations which he couldn't back up, wouldn't back up. And the
whole program had this sort of like Hammer Horror, 1972, Vincent
Price-type playground with dry ice and children's voices in the
background and then it would cut to this perfectly innocuous Psychick
Youth video from 1983 which featured Derek Jarman, the well-known
filmmaker, giving a sermon. It was completely ridiculous.

JB: But you know in the way that the media works, to some extent
there is a kind of guilt by association. So if you present totally
separate facts in the same program, in the same context, a certain
amount of people will always see that there's no smoke without fire.

M2: Speaking of Derek Jarman, have you been working with him?

PC: Yeah, he's got a lot of archive material we're going to be
soundtracking and we have a reissue of our first record called How to
Destroy Angels, which he promised to do the artwork for.

JB: We try to encourage working on all different kinds of film projects

M2: You also mentioned Gus Van Sant as someone you wanted to
work with, have you had contact with him?

PC: A certain amount through William Burroughs but not as much as
we would like. Greg Araki has just done a film called The Living End.
He's done a sort of gay Thelma & Louise, about an HIV positive
couple going across America and blowing away homophobics. It's
really a good, nihilistic, on the edge sort of film. It was supposed to
play at the London Gay & Lesbian Film Festival last week but for
some obscure reason it was cancelled and they wouldn't tell me why.

JB: It might have been a customs problem I gather.

PC: Yeah, I guess the film was too contentious for our bloody

JB: But that's definitely one we should recommend because our music
and quite a lot of other good music is incorporated.

M2: What about working with William Burroughs?

JB: I've known William for a long time, sort of off and on, and we've
collaborated on photo projects and various other things.

PC: We did hot knives with him. [Laughter all around]

JB: When I had Industrial Records we produced a record of his
seminal early tape cut up experiments with Gysin and Ian Somerville
and all those guys.

PC: And he keeps in touch with us, he sends us postcards and
semi-official lithographs and stuff, but it's very difficult to pin him
down. He's always sort of in a netherworld even when you meet him.
[Laughter all around] I'm never really sure that he knows who we are,
but then again we get invited to parties with him and Nick Rogue and
Bertolucci. I think he rates us in some way!

M2: Have you seen the film Naked Lunch?

PC: No, we haven't yet, no.

JB: We were hoping to do the soundtrack but he got that Howard
Shore guy again. We held out in vain hope that Burroughs might
recommend us for it. As far as I'm aware the film is striving for a more
mainstream appeal, so we probably wouldn't have helped in that

M2: I liked Clive Barker's comment about your soundtrack for
Hellraiser being bowel churning.

JB: He meant it as a compliment by the way.

M2: Yes that's how I read it. [More laughter]

JB: I just wanted to make sure. Clive has told us that frequently when
he tours the U.S.A. doing book signings and lectures, he's quite
bemused by the number of Coil fans that come up and ask him to sign
copies of our Hellraiser record. In excess of the number that ask him
to sign copies of the book, I think.


M2: I'm simply mad about your last record and had a question about
some of the Blakean references; a lot of his ideas about Energy seem
to relate to your ideas. I'm curious about your connection to that

PC: I think we're just travelling in the same mystical English paths.
Energy's Eternal Delight_ we keep playing around with that. It
reduces everything to the basic fundamental human frequency. We've
said the last album was about electricity and drugs.

M2: Yes! I had vaguely assumed "Teenage Lightning" to be about
lightning that wasn't quite grown up yet, and was delighted by your
explanation that it was really about the electricity created when you
rub two teenagers together!

PC: I think that Blake was travelling similar paths himself and that
we'll probably continue in the same vein, oscillating wildly.

M2: Do you think you would set any more of his poetry to music? I
noticed that you used a few lines from "The Sick Rose."

PC: Quite a few, yes. You're one of the first people to mention it as
well though. "The Sick Rose" is one of my favorites, it's one of the
best poems ever written. So, I think he'd give us the thumbs up over

M2: You mention a connection between drug energy and electrical
energy. Would you describe how you see that connection and how you
treated it in your record?

PC: I started to be obsessed with these things when I was about 11 and
I had taken a huge overdose of Psylocibin mushrooms and I
remember putting my hand into a sort of electronic green grid, a
hexagon grid that appeared on the floor about a meter above it. I
stuck my fingers into it and it fitted completely. And ever since then
I've been obsessed with these things. With frequencies and tissues. I
just think they can be reduced quite quickly to energies like this.

JB: We have quite a large collection of electronic stimulating brain
machines and in many cases the effects are very similar to those that
can be achieved chemically.

M2: Are you doing anything with the neuron impulses to the optic

JB: The optical ones really don't work as well as the electromagnetic
and straight magnetic ones, in which you put your head into an
oscillating electrical field. They're a bit over the top actually in some
cases. [Laughter] The guy that makes them here in London, Tony
Bassett is a kind of mad inventor who graduated to doing brain
machines from doing audio machines. He claims that a time travel, or
perception of time travel effect is achievable.

PC: I've experienced this. They give out massive doses of all the radio
waves and he says they recharge your soul and your spirit. You can
actually have OOBEs on them after about an hour on your own. But
if you're going through a group therapy with him it will happen in
about 45 minutes. He once had a journalist from one of the scurrilous
Sunday newspapers here, who he took back to being a German
soldier. The guy had gone there to do a disparaging expose' on him
but came away so convinced by it that he wrote a really positive piece.
He actually expierienced being killed and said that the physical thing
was so strong for him he almost gave up journalism. These are very
powerful machines.

JB: The effect of pharmaceutical substances is to rearrange energies
that are already present, so in one sense that is more natural but in
another way it acts sort like a bank loan, in that you have to pay the
stuff back later. And even with smart drugs temporary gains have to
be measured against the perception of subsequent loss when you stop
taking them.

M2: I want to ask you about other alternative ways of tapping into
altered states, non-chemically, either through the use of ritual or other
methods, also about childhood altered states.

PC: When I was a child we used to do this sort of death ceremony
where you would lie on the floor and people would press on you and
they'd say, "Oh, he looks ill, he is ill, he looks iller, he is iller, he looks
dead, he is dead" and then they would levitate you!

M2: This is amazing!

PC: Yes we would sometimes lift the person up about 6 feet in the air
and they were only 4 feet tall to begin with. And the person being
lifted actually felt like they were flying. When the teachers found out
about these things going on in the playground, they were banned
immediately. They became taboo and so we used to go into the woods
and do it. We'd also do hyperventilation, where we would breathe
really deeply and hard and then someone would squeeze your chest
when you jumped up from a crouching position, and those were
liberating experiences for me because you'd be reborn every bloody
time! I mean they did set me off on my errant course or whatever.

M2: Thank God.

PC: Thank God, yeah!

JB: I think these experiences are universal, I don't think they're
confined to particular areas. I mean it's all about what you can do
with a pre-teen body. But we won't get into that! [Laughter all around]

M2: Create some electricity!


M2: Have you had any experiences with synaesthesia?

PC: I had a very critical experience the other week.

M2: How would you describe it?

PC: I felt a sort of magnetic field in the whole place, my solar plexus
was pulling towards the center and I could see bands of energy like
magnetic fields around the earth or something.

M2: Where were you?

PC: Well, I was in a club. And there was a group of people, and as the
group got more concentrated I was pulled towards it with increasing
velocity. And it was really overwhelming and it started to feel like my
fingers and my external being were being pulled towards it, but my
internal being was still solid and upright. Very peculiar.

M2: Do you ever get sensory blendings? Do certain musical keys
correspond to particular colors, do you see music, hear visual

JB: Smell the music, yeah. [Laughter]

PC: My most common one is bending of the music into the
physical-the music starts to turn into shape.

M2: Does there seem to you to be any grammar or syntax to how
music bends into physicality?

JB: We're unfortunately rather undisciplined about these things.
When we're involved in those sorts of things we're involved in a lot of
other perceptions, and we're not in a controlled environment.

PC: In other words, we're out of it. [Laughter]

M2: Relating altered states to S & M now, I was wondering if you had
any comments on activating the pain threshold as a method of
achieving altered states and also if you were aware of our local "pain
shaman" Fakir Musafar?

PC: Yes, we know about his stuff. It's definitely an area that did
interest us. It's too illegal to interest us now! Literally, I mean you
would have to go abroad to explore it further.

M2: You've spent a lot of time in Thailand I understand.

PC: Yeah, we go there for the pain threshold. [Laughter all around]
That and the food. Synaestheseia, smart drugs and pain thresholds all
come into one via the food. I've had seriously mind altering
experiences with the food over there.

JB: I don't think anybody really appreciates quite what the chemical
processes are that are involved with spices of those kinds. We've
described ourselves as Spice Cadets in fact because we've
experimented quite heavily in that area.

PC: Like the Aztecs, their religion was based on chocolate and chilis
and sacred mushrooms and I don't think the chilis should be
underlooked here! It was the combinations they had. The whole
control system was sort of based on chili torture.

M2: Chili Torture?

PC: Oh God yeah! They shoved stuff like seventeen different sorts of
chilis up your anus for adultery or whatever. Or pulling whole strings
of chili through your tongue. It was all sort of par for the course over


M2: What is this project you're doing about the Black Star or the
Black Sun?

PC: Ever since we first did Coil, we always used the Black Sun as a
symbol, originally we got it from Crowley. But ever since then it seems
that a lot people keep coming up to us and they've had tattoos of
Black Suns. It seems to be a sort of millennium badge and I want to
do a book wherein I invite people to give us their interpretations about
the symbol. We've been discovering a lot of mythology about it as
well. I could go on for ages and ages about it. But it's basically Odin_
a dark rider_ the midnight sun_ nightmares_

M2: And this is a book you want to publish?

PC: Yeah, I want to publish it. But it's strange because we never really
pushed it as a symbol and then chaos magicians in London, the IOT
started using it as their symbol and calling it the chaosphere.

M2: What is the IOT?

PC: They practice what they call chaos magick which is a slight
reaction against Crowley's Golden Dawn-related magick and it's far
more personal and far more shamanic.

M2: And are you involved with this group?

PC: I'm affiliated. I'm an honorary member, I don't practice with

M2: About the pagan movement in the U.K., or the magickal
movement, whatever you prefer to call it. I don't know if you want to
talk about this personally but if you do, whether you practice within
an organized setting yourself?

PC: I would talk about it, but I actually don't practice within an
organized setting because the people I admire are like Austin Spare
who's the sort of archetypal early warlock. He was practicing in the
1920's. Even Crowley thought he was a bad sort [laughter] because he
could actually conjure up dead entities, and slime would pour down
the walls and stuff.

M2: That could ruin a tea party.

JB: It could ruin a tea party and it could also ruin a lot of paintings.
I've got several of his paintings and every place that he lived, the
whole place seemed to be dripping with water. He could never get rid
of these, like, water elementals. But I'm not sure about the pagan
movement here, it's not as on the edge and exciting as what appears
to be in America, we occasionally get these sort of gay, Pagan,
pandrogynous-type magazines from America which really excite me.

M2: Yeah, there's the whole Faerie movement which is quite active.

JB: And I don't know if it's because England is repressing it or just not
delivering the goods or if people are scared to express it.

M2: But an interesting thing about the English movement is the fact
that there's so much history to it, and there are so many ancient sites.
But Stonehenge you can't even get to! And the authorities know that
these places-whether they know directly or just sort of
instinctually-these places are dangerous to be revitalized. You know,
the whole order would crumble because real order would be restored.
It would be, you know decentralized anarchy. Are you hopeful that
this will happen?

JB: Oh Definitely! I don't know when. I'd love it to happen! Anything.
But half of Salisbury Plain is a bloody military zone anyway. And
there really is a suppression about the places that you can visit.

M2: Last time I was in England, someone had gotten in behind the
fence at Stonehenge and spray painted "LIVE" on the stones, and the
way the media talked about it was that someone was trying to write
"LIVERPOOL" had been apprehended before they could finish!

JB: That's very typical of the media. I suppose they thought he'd run
out of wall or something.

JB: In regard to English pagans, although there is a tradition of the
English eccentric they are generally seen very much as people on their
own. People that do not work within a framework or sort of standard
organization. For the last 500 years, the people in control of English
society have always been the church and the government.

PC: Elizabeth the 1st was a witch and so her government was one with
witchcraft at its helm. She had John Dee and Edward Kelly who were
sorcerers of the highest degree at her beck and call and when they
weren't she had their hands cut off. And I still think there's a tradition
carrying on. The Royal Family now who are far less empowered, still
have mystics and advisors of what you might call a very suspicious
nature behind them. I think these people are the white witches still
ruling this country. I hope so anyway.

M2: It's funny, it reminds me of the scandal about Nancy Reagan's
astrologer. Everybody was so shocked and I was like, are people
really surprised that the people in power are using these methods?

PC: Yes, Nancy Reagan and Yoko Ono.

M2: Now there's an unholy alliance! [Laughter]

JB: I'm sure they swap notes. But what you have to do is see the
people in these situations for what they really are. We certainly feel
that it's a bad time for us to put ourselves in a position of danger by
associating ourselves with a movement. Everybody's an independent
character who's able to make the decisions based on the way that they
see the world themselves rather than the picture of it that's presented
by the media.

PC: I mean, there comes a time where we feel we will lay our heads on
the block and stand up and be counted. But I think it's best not to do
it in your country as it were. Maybe we'll come across to America and
make a point there. Because to do it here is like shitting on your own
doorstep. You have to sort of suffer the consequences and they can be
dire. Just labelling yourself or allowing yourself to be labelled.

M2: In terms of the Anarchist movement over there then, how
connected is it to a magickal or pagan movement?

JB: There are definitely some links, but who's to say if they're the
effective links?

M2: In S.F., there's a quite interesting subset of magickal anarchists
who are trying to redefine culture in some new ways.

PC: Right! Americans for some reason have a much better grip on
presentation as it were.

M2: Sometime's that's all there is. [Laughter]

PC: But they know how to present themselves. Here, there's perhaps
an opinion or a groundswell of energy or whatever but it's quite
disorganized and it can never get together in a seriously organized

JB: And even if it did it would be suppressed.

PC: The Temple of Psychick Youth proves that when you form a body
which the state sees as sinister it will come down on it in whatever way
it can. Be it legal or illegal you know. If you pull people's strings
they'll react really. it doesn't make for the most exciting life actually,
but we spend most of our energies trying to appear other than what we
actually are.

M2: Would either of you express an opinion of the current British
house scene?

PC: In England, it's going very demented.

M2: In what way?

PC: Too much electricity. Too much energy. I mean, it's how many
years along the line, five, and it's getting far more seriously
psychedelic in what I consider to be the purest way. The music is
seriously taking people out of any sense of reality any more. And the
machine/human interface is so complex and so, not decadent, but
detailed that something really interesting is happening. I'm just
worried that the energy is being generated with no actual aim or

M2: It's like doing an energy raising ritual without grounding the
energy. You have to wonder where it's being sent.

PC: Yes right. It's like the height of the 60's, everyone saying you
know, levitate the pentagon and stuff, it's all very well, but no one's
even saying that anymore. I just wonder where it will be directed , or
whether the opposition now, the authorities, will pick up on the power
and just turn it against them.

M2: So then you see the need for some more leadership, some more
focus in it?

PC: Well yes, just a purpose! You know. I mean, there's a huge
reservoir of energy here, far more than I've ever seen, it's overspilling
and I've seen people go mad in the streets and sort of smash through
plate glass windows and stuff. With far more regularity than I would
ever imagine.

JB: But the house scene in this country has been allowed to grow and
allowed to happen and relatively large amounts of drugs are allowed
to come into the country and be sold because people would rather this
energy was expended in the middle of the night in a club rather than
on the streets with a Molotov Cocktail or whatever.

PC: The Metropolitan police we've heard have unnoficial guidelines
which say they don't bother with Ecstasy and Acid and stuff because
the prevalence of it in the population has caused serious lessening of
violence on the football terraces and stuff. People who were
traditionally football hooligans have been taking MDMA and have
caused no trouble whatsoever.

JB: It leaves them much easier to control. And also afterhours
drinking has gone down considerably, violence along with it.

PC: Yeah, I mean they were complaining that like 20,000 people
would meet in an aircraft hangar. The only complaint about that was
the fact that there was noise, you know, any 20,000 other people and
there would have been violence, stabbings and stuff, which never
happened with the Acid House thing. But they see something going on
and they want to control it, you know.

M2: This also relates to another topic I wanted to talk about. The use
of music in magick and as a tool for inducing heightened states of
awareness and how this can consciously be done?

PC: It's such a huge subject. I did a course a couple of years ago with
a woman called Jill Purce. Although I have reservations about her
methodology and where she got it from, the physical effects that the
course had on me were so immense, they couldn't be discounted. She
taught me overtone chanting and stuff and sort of unlocking the
chakras using sound. I did it for just over a week and it completely
cleansed me. I was having dreams of like violent volcanic eruptions,
and blood rituals and decapitations and disembowelments and stuff
and it was explained that these were all typical cleansings, where my
body was sort of being hacked apart and shared among people, and
these were all good.

M2: So how possible then do you think it is to really consciously try
to utilize music to try to focus our energy collectively?

PC: It was introduced to me that there was an exact science which
could be used. We were doing stuff with the Kundalini energy and
cleansing each chakra. And at the end of two days of this I couldn't
work out why I had a big bruise at the base of my spine. It was like the
vibrations where my body had been in contact with the floor made a
really serious bruise. The vision in my eyes was changing as well. I had
in mind a project to gather up from around the world all sorts of
similar vocal magickal correlation type things because I have a friend
in Sweden whose girlfriend could clot blood by singing down the
telephone, stop blood flowing. And things like this. It's from a sort of
Laplander farming religion.

M2: I'm interested because I'm a vocalist, and I've been exploring
ways of using the voice to do very specific things.

PC: I think you can get really specific. It depends on your mindset and
your cultural references, although I think thay are cross cultural as
well basically. As long as the nervous system is loosely related I think
you're going to come across similar situations! There's a woman in
England, Freya Aswynn, who deals with Runic systems and she's
attempting to use a similar sort of overtone chanting to re-find how to
actually chant the runes, because they're obviously a very physical
phenomena, apart from just being a vocal or alphabetical system.
There are obviously, you know, specific correlations that can be

M2: On Love's Secret Domain you work with a number of outside
musicians. How have you found them?

JB: Unfortunately, it's not correct to say that. We wish we were. But
generally what happens is on any specific project we have to go out
and find people that we think would be suitable for it and we're
constantly on the lookout for people who have similar sensibilities and
general ideas but that can bring in new or different musical
strengthsand quite often this happens in the so called coincidental
manner. For example on L.S.D. the digeridoo player that we used we
just happened to see on a cable TV program and wanted to get in
touch with him and tried to get in touch through the cable station but
were unable to do so and then about a month later when we were in
the studio we went out totally by chance to get something to eat and
we bumped into him in the street, so you know, those opportunities
are not to be missed really. Cyrung, who played on the album is really
amazing. We were a bit worried about folding it up and cutting it up
and everything and he sort of said no, no do whatever you want with
it, take it somewhere else. I think people sort of think that our music
is fundamentally sampled, and although it's true to say that the
structures are Macintosh sequence-based, we certainly don't have any
precious attitude towards computers. If it's possible to fuck them up
then we will. And likewise, we'd rather use a live musician when
they're going to bring qualities that the computer is not able to do.

M2: How did you end up working with Annie Anxiety? She
contributes a great vocal track.

JB: When we come to do an album we always, as I said, choose
around and we'd known her since like Crass days and we liked her
persona, she sort of has a set persona and we decided to make use of

M2: Was that track improvised?

JB: Yeah. I played her the base of the track, you know, the
instrumental version and I said to her "I've got a few ideas, like
disappeared people in Central America and stuff, shell shock." And
she just sort of played off those two lines really. Oh yeah, she got
drunk in the studio and came out with it in about an hour. [Laughter]

JB: When we have people with whom we feel we have an empathy we
like to set up a sympathetic circumstance in which they can do their
thing for like a few hours and then we take that and sort of
manipulate it, cut it or whatever. It's really a good way of working. It
was the same with Cyrung and the same with the Spanish guitar player
that we used on the record.


M2: Which one of you is it that appears in the "Windowpane" video.

JB: Me, John.

M2: Where was that filmed?

JB: Actually on the Golden Triangle, between Burma, Laos and
Thailand in the River Mekong there's a small island, a sand island
which is actually the Golden Triangle where the gold and opium
smugglers would meet. A sort of no man's land between the three
countries, and we hired a boat out there and filmed on it. Fortunately
there weren't any smugglers there at the time. Anyway it's quicksand
and I was thrashing about a bit and trying to dance in time with a
small ghetto blaster on the shore which I could hardly hear and I was
looking down at this quicksand trying to pull my legs back up before
I sank and later on all our Thai friends were saying "My God, you
went out there!" Because loads of people die out there. The sands shift,
the whole island shifts. And theres always a good chance of getting
shot at by the Burmese guards who haven't got anything better to do,
and might just do it for the hell of it during their lunch break.

M2: Did you go into Burma?

JB: Yes we did a whole field recording tour in Burma. We recorded a
track of a sort of animist pagan monk at a place called Pagan. There's
this whole mountain dedicated to dragon spirits and animal spirits
that has a carved dragon staircase round it up to the top and we
recorded the monks chanting for the end of the world on top of it. The
day before we arrived the government announced that all currency
notes above the value of about 50 cents were worthless so the country
was in some turmoil when we arrived. A few months before they had
a temporary student uprising. You're only allowed to go to certain
places in the country and you're always accompanied by a guide. And
the length of visit at the time was limited to six days.

PC: The whole place looks like 14th century Thailand or something.
Immaculate walled cities with moats and plains that just stretch on
forever with no roads or anything. It's really unspoiled-apart from
potholes caused by gunfire.

JB: Rangoun is pretty much how it was when the British left it in 1918
or 1924 whenever it was.


M2: Do you want to perform live ever?

JB: We have very mixed feelings about the whole nature of live
perfrmance because there are several sides to it from the point of view
of energy distribution, but at the same time there is such a stigma for
us involved with the notion of concerts and especially anything that
has a sort of rock association. It's difficult for people of our limited
resources to be able to stage something that sufficiently breaks
through those barriers to reach a new sphere of performance. We,
generally speaking, don't enjoy watching other people's concerts and
really don't see why people would enjoy watching ours if they were the

M2: Would you then be more interested in doing a multimedia thing?

JB: If we could yeah, but even with multimedia in the conventional
sort of indie music sense, you know of putting up a video wall, or
screens of super-8 projections and stuff, really it's not telling people
anything that they don't already know and haven't already seen a
million times. Probably Hollywood has the resources to make those
things look good, we don't really and the people that try although it's
a valiant attempt in many cases, it's sort of doomed to failure before
they begin I think.

M2: You have to meet our local visual design genius Charles Rose.

JB: Well, put him on to us!

M2: I'd come!

M2: What was the inspiration for the title of your instrumental,

PC: Your magazine. [Laughter]

M2: I'm flattered. I coined that word!

PC: Oh I did as well! [Laughter]

M2: Double parked in a parallel universe.

PC: What do they call them? Neologisms?

M2: Or portmanteaus.

PC: I've got hundreds of them.

M2: Jas. collects them too, you should compare notes.

M2: What is your interest in playing with language in this way?

PC: Well just sort of getting back to babble. About five years ago I
was really into writing whole books that appear to be nonsense but
when you go back and look there's a lot of interesting stuff there. But
it's basically babble. There's a story that Brion Gysin tells of listening
to the radio in Marrakesh before he could speak Arab fluently and
even when he wasn't stoned being very struck by the fact that even
though the radio was only broadcasting in Arabic from time to time
there would be what appeared to be a complete sentense in English.
Certainly that's what Chaostrophy is about. There's a tremendous
amount of layers in our music, specially that track, where words have
been recorded and either buried in the mix or folded in in some way
sublimated to the theme of the music but nevertheless what we hope
is that some aspect of the message will remain. It's like we've taken
away all the pointers, all the signs and indicators but we've left the
actuall purpose behind which I hope people can pick up on.


M2: What contemporary music do you find exciting?

JB: We like the music of the Eskimo peoples.

M2: The throat singing?

JB: Yes, amazing stuff. I think there's not enough research in that
area. Absolutely amazing stuff.

M2: What about Pygmie yodeling?

PC: Our dogs do that. We have two Basenjis which are originally
Pygmie dogs. A tribe called the Azendi-who are Pygmies with a
reputation for witchcraft even among the other tribes who live around
them-and the dogs we have are the witch doctor's familiars.

JB: They are sometimes called the Congo Barkless Dog, they do not
bark but they yodel. When they are in a high emotional state they
make these very strange yodelling sounds.

M2: Well, so much for our joke question.

JB: I think the main reason these dogs are kept in modern times-apart
from a few witch doctors and shamen-is because the women of the
tribes use the dogs for licking their babies bottoms clean and I'm not
going to say any more on that subject.

M2: I don't think Lord Lane would approve of that.

JB: No, we don't want our dogs taken away from us with a care order!


IAO Core

IAO Core (pronounced "yow-core"), was an Experimental / Industrial/ Electronic / Psychedelic Noise group whose nucleus formed in the late '80s in San Francisco at 455TENTH (a now defunct- warehouse & performance space).

Official manifesto, circa 1996(?):
Is Artiface Ours? Consider Our Recorded Evidence.

IAO Core does not exist. That is we do not choose to "stand out." We are in hiding. We live across from you. You have your blossoming stock portfolios photocopied by us. Don't worry, we'll give back the right change. We teach your children in universities, and we grade them very harshly. We chaperone your school prom with a sick little grin. You sit next to us in class everyday and never really thought about those words written on the notebook in, what is that language? We entered your name into the database as you registered your insurance adjustment convention. You check out your video equipment from us, too busy thinking about how to write your grant proposal to notice the peculiar insignia that hovers out of the corner of your eye.

We are the heaving piece of ass that you might tip at the strip club, or maybe not. You had sex with us in a toilet once and keep thinking about it now, how to get a hold of them again? You bought drugs from us, and as your head started buzzing like a bug killing lamp the particular curdling of the smoke in your room spelled out the scent of our sound.

Or perhaps today we are driving our children (that's right, children) to work and you think that there's nothing out of the ordinary until maybe you look again. You pray into the darkness for an opening, an answer, some sort of pulling aside of the curtains that seem to hang so heavily upon obscured, half-intimated truths, thoughts out of focus, never quite getting there.

IAO Core is the sound of illusion's abyss opening. We are everywhere, in several countries a once, several states, distributed across multiple time zones conducting interdisciplinary oneiric excavations of the world's cosmetically concealed trainwreck, snickering in the faculty rooms of different academic departments, gluing the cash register shut behind the dodgy, permanently closed doorways of several closed business fronts, scouring the temple floor for the dust of calcified incense for use in retribution via sympathetic magic, handing out nihilist leaflets at patchouli soaked gatherings, spectacularly vomiting on the floor in smart cafes at the peak of your poetry reading, dropping heaps of scrap metal in the quietest corner of specialist libraries, scrounging for tips in yuppie restaurants, flyering obscure suburbs, sowing the seeds of...what?

Don't worry. It's just the occasional crap improv noise set, where are my drink tickets? Or a stall at a media fair. Or an impossibly, unreadably "eclectic" fanzine. Or maybe we're just a band. That's all really. Or is it?

IAO Core does not exist.

Our aggregate identity is so loose as to hover upon the nether-lip of nonexistence, and yet we routinely reassemble, wielding home detourned guitar implements and catastrophically oxidized ritual electronics, disseminating via home made hibias tape dubbing our aleatory offerings, DAT-mastered akashic records on file, dripping with tattooed depictions of alternate evolutionary pathways, punctuating your dour urban parade ground with obscenely suggestive invisible billboards advocating involuted value/energy distribution schemes.

And now in addition to those medias we are a gaping hole within your net, your World Wide Web, your Totalized Tissue of Tyranny, in the place of the usual redundant tidal wave of stultifying info-sameness we pierce a tiny hold, a tear in the web, (giant sucking sound), the sound of Illusions' Abyss Opening.



IAO Core Consumption Program:

Sound Works Gaia Soundtrack/Musick for the Lifeboat 1985
Live at the Gilman Street Project 1987
A View From the Dogtower 1987
One Thousand Points of Light 1988
Strange Attractors 1992 (still available(?) C-60 $6.00)
Doomsday Passes With Earth Intact 1994 (available C-60 DAT mastered $7.00)

We were featured on compilation CDs: From the Machine (Index Records,1991); Arrythmia (Charnel House,1991); Co-project ATOI on "Sonic Acupuncture" (Silent Records,1995) (very brief and identified as Iao Kore). Video Works: Strange Attractors Video Accompaniment 1992 (available $23.00); IAO Core's Abject and Unusual Video Magazine #'s One, Two and the forthcoming 3. (only #2 and 3 available unless you really ask nice...$18.00) Involving The Haters, Pierson Post Industries, No One, Madelein Altman, Master Slave Relationship, and many others that I don't want to look up right now. These were a direct outcropping of the Abject and Unusual Video Festivals. This has happened yearly since 1987, though we haven't done it this year. Print Media: IAO Core Magazines # 1 through 13 and, of course, the forthcoming 14. Copyrights void where obtainable. (only #s 12, 13 and of course 14 available for $7.00). Radio: Currently we host a show from 3 AM to 7 AM on Free Radio Berkeley, it's very late so excuse the segues. It's either us or the estimable Jason Patrick on the bridge.
The above works available can be obtained by sending check, money order, or heck, send cash, but send it to IAO CORE 326 Dogwood Drive Walnut Creek, CA 94598 or to m.c. Schmidt (IAO-OAI) 850 Geary Boulevard #31 San Francisco CA 94109-7252 all prices include the postage paid (in the United States, for elsewhere, send a little more money...I don't know, a dollar or two.)

IAO Core is, and their other involvements have been/are...

David Gardner- The Null Set, Rhythm and Noise, The Exterminating Angel, Katharsis, PGR, 455TENTH
m.c. (Martin) Schmidt- MATMOS, The Red Rocket Theatre Company, The San Francisco Art Institute, 455TENTH, The Varangian, EX-I
Johann R. Ayres- IAO Core, Ambient Temple of Imagination (ATOI), Mozone, 455TENTH, The Varangian
Kalonica McQueston- Elbows Akimbo, Consternation of Pain
Kevin "Gasstation" McKereghan- Kulintang Arts, Consternation of Pain, Shaved Madonna Corps, Personal Dosimeter, Elbows Akimbo, 455TENTH
Kris Force- Amber Asylum, Neurosis, The Force/Nordstrom Gallery, 455TENTH, The San Francisco Art Institute, EX-I, Fourwaycross
Andrew N. Daniel- Crain, MATMOS, Klubstitute
Jo-Ann F.- Center for the Cultivation of the Post Modern English Renaissance, JOHN DEE Society,

Members we hardly ever see anymore have included;
~Demitria Monde Thraam (of offshoot project Choronzon)
~Danielle "Hell" Willis



French Industrial Record Label (Interview)

~Translated version, from French to English, see the original interview here >> http://www.nuitetbrouillard.net/interview2.htm


I Since when NIGHT AND FOG there as a catalogue of distribution exists? What gave you desire for creating it? How your meeting with this so particular type of music was held?

The existence of NIGHT AND FOG as a catalogue of distribution goes back to 1991. At that time this one included/understood only some references, of the cassettes mainly, some labels and formations with which we were in contact and thus we appreciate work and the step: HITHLAHABUTH RECORDS, MAJOR DISSENSION, FOG REC, NEW PROPAGANDA...
The development of a catalogue of V.P.C was not considered but was done a little itself, gradually... The continuation of a work of "distribution" already started a few months before: orders grouped place near certain labels intended for close friends, knowledge and with ourselves; nothing of thus premeditated in all celà...
Our meeting with these "particular" musics so was not it, on the other hand not fortuitous. It resulted from a will from discovered of different sonorities corresponding better to our personality, answering better our tastes, our waitings out of artistic matter that those which had been given to us to hear hitherto. A search for more intense, sincere and extreme emotions.

II You did an emission animate for a long time of radio, can you reconsider this period? (programming, evolution, experiment selected, withdrawn benefit...) Which are the circumstances which justified the stop of this emission?

We indeed animated an emission on a free radio of the Metropolis inhabitant of Lille of 1985 to 1997. The programming evolved/moved with the wire of time, primarily according to the tastes of the speakers, the current members of N&B while being the core with knowing two people. It was an interesting, punctuated experiment goods and worse memories. Which benefit drew some?... Financially not large thing (the programming still does not nourish its man)... Emotionnellement much more: pleasure of initiating the ears of a more significant number people than our only vicinity...
The circumstances having justified the stop of this emission... without any doubt the lassitude... moreover it was not possible any more for us to ensure programming worthy of this name (at least with regard to the preparation of the texts, of special emissions...), the activities of distribution and production taking a considerable time to us...

III For all these years, how have you seen the evolution of the musical scene "industrial" in France, in Europe, and in the world? Can one can notice that there is a typically Scandinavian sound, a typically Germanic sound, typically American, Japanese, in short, one does not make the same music in all these countries, how one explain that?

For these years, the "industrial scene" has not admittedly ceased evolving/moving... But this evolution was not done uniformly in the world. Thus you one has been able to observe in the middle of the Eighties the emergence and the development of many labels, structures and formations in Japan, in the United States, in Italy and especially in Germany while in Belgium, in Holland and especially in France they rarefied.
But the central element of this evolution does not reside so much in the quantity or the quality of the musical projects only in the "professionalisation" of the reception facilities: labels producing of the discs "to the chain" in increasingly luxurious conditionings, increasingly many and provided catalogues of distribution, formations living from now on of their art, which seemed still inpensable 10 years before.
If it is true that each country - or groups country - has a typical sound that less holds, according to us, in the conditions geographical, climatic, demographic etc that with the annoying tendency which have certain juniors to copy the work of their ainés. Thus does not count the your any more young followers of IN NATIVE SLAUGHTER, ARCHON SATANI, MORTHOUND in Scandinavia, of GENOCIDE ORGAN and ANENZEPHALIA in Austria and Germany, of WHITEHOUSE and Con-dom in England and in the United States, of MERZBOW in Japan.... groups of reference produced by labels to strong notoriety, mainly in the countries of origin of these same formations.
These specificities remain however less and less valid, musical information circulating better and better between the borders.

IV isn't difficult to survive as a distributor among all the other catalogues? Does your seniority ensure you a faithful public or as in a "traditional" business it is necessary to fight not to run?

The support of a faithful public tends to becoming a less and less valid element with time. The appearance and the multiplication of new distributors, labels and formations with the aimings and practical openly commercial tend to involve more and more this scene towards the laws of the market, supply and. The presence of these opportunist, useless and harmful, exert a pressure on the most sincere and creative structures, obliging them "to put water in their wine" not to sink. It is to only observe to convince of them certain productions of the most significant labels in the face left these last years.

However the development of consumer loyalty of a public is essential with the most innovative and just structures when those wish to go from the front one, to produce new formations, really original projects. Moreover energy déployéee by these first to be maintained with flood, not to sink vis-a-vis the commercial structures slows down them in their dash, preventing them from devoting itself to more creative and constructive activities: promotion of new formations, production of discs of quality, organization of festivals and concerts, etc.
The responsibility for these current commercial drifts is thus divided on several levels: fickleness of part of the public, too great taking into account of the request and waitings of the purchasers by certain labels and distributors, emergence of parasitic structures.

V Y-a it of the formations with which you maintain the privileged relations?

Obviously, we maintain with certain labels or groups the relations other than strictly "commercial", relations based on the friendship, the appreciation and the respect of their step artistic, sincere, personal, visceral and very often, radical. The list of the latter would be too tiresome to establish because we would be likely to forget some and useless so much that transparait in our programmings, (festivals, concerts), our chronicles, our productions...

VI Which are the criteria according to which you choose to include or not a production in your catalogue? Y-a it of the productions which you refused? Why? . Your catalogue in addition presents a number impressing of productions, how did you arrive at such an exhaustiveness?

Some productions, were indeed refused in distribution mainly because they did not present the artistic minimum of quality which one could expect. Our objective is not to distribute the maximum of references but the maximum of productions of quality. The choice is done in very first place, according to our personal tastes but also of the integrity of the steps. Of course, we must also hold so much is little account of the request. Thus ceased from now on almost completely distributing cassettes, those Ci being sold more or if little. What naturally we find strong damage....
Certain references of a label could be taken even if we as from the moment or we do not appreciate them like the other references or seem to us to be of quality. It was the case of the 25 cms of NIGHT at TESCO, of the discs of SANCTUM, PUISSSANCE... at C.M.I., of the box of DER BLUTHARSCH, etc.
Finally our structure could not be used as platform with the propagation of ideas politically too supported, whatever they are... Particularly when artistic creation remains subordinate to the ideology, when it is used only as medium with the latter.
It is thus a question of a balance - not always obvious - to hold between various poles, different imperative.

VII Why to have chosen this name for your association? How many people are impliquéés there?

We chose this name for various reasons that those are of a personal nature or call upon various references. On the historical level, HARMS AND FOG (NACHT UND NEBEL in German) is a reference to a décrét Nazi, promulgated on 7 December 1941 and signed by KEITEL, head of the WEHRMACHT in the west. The expression seems, it even borrowed from the work of WAGNER, type-setter particularly adulated at that time. This décrét, applied to resistant arrétés by the German regular army in the occupied countries of the West, tansférés of continuation in Germany, condemned, imprisoned or carried out, always in the greatest secrecy, intended for disparaitre in the Night and the Fog. With the débacle, the order had been given not to drop any NN alive to the hands from the Allies, or the losses higher than the average of the political deportees in the KZ. The name preserves in the collective memory an at the same time romantic connotation (borrowed from the Black Romanticism) and distressing, very strong . We thus chose this one to illustrate our action: an action of resistance, on our level and with our means, a cultural combat aiming to the development and a greater knowledge of the musics in which we believe, shamefully still "ignored" musics (forgotten) of large the médias.Il is to be also announced that NIGHT AND FOG is also the title of a medium-length film of Alain Resnais, superb moreover, and that it was the name chosen for the first industrial festival in France, which took place in Paris October the 4, and 5 1984 (appeared in it by order of passage DIE FORM, BERLINERLUFT, WHITEHOUSE, not coming (psychic TV envisaged initially) Nox, ART AND WOLKEN.
As you have already to include/understand it NIGHT AND FOG is composed of two people. It always was thus and it will be always the same unless one of the two members does not decide one day to entirely leave the structure what will imply then, I believe it a renaming.

VIII the problems of image were connait (sometimes justified), that this scene connait, think you that the ambiguity is nécéssaire to make react the public, of involving questions about what is proposed to him, or is this for you a source of incomprehension for this pblic or the traditional media in general, which can often involve difficulties for that which wants to organize a concert, a festival...

The ambiguity of an artistic step can be included/understood only if this one is deeply anchored in the personality of the individuals who are in the beginning, if this one obeys major motivations, related very often to lived their originators, or that this one results from the meeting of individuals to the personalities, ideas political, points of view, different, even completely opposite, bound between them by the same passion, in the event music. Short if the ambiguity is accompanied by sincerity, then yes, it is worth to fight to realise it, even if that generates incomprehension, animosity, even of hatred and some difficulties in the organization of concerts and the production of discs. Unfortunately, it is not often any more the case currently. Many new formations cultivate, often awkwardly this one simply to make speak about them, to draw the attention of an immature public or at ends all bonnement mercantiles. That enables them, indeed, to touch a public vaster than that which they could hope for if the music were only used for it of vector, in the event the extremists of right-hand side or left. The frustrated commercial small poor, with the teeth too little sharpened to be able to hope to overcome other wolves elsewhere... Others use this means because they do not dare to openly post their political ideas of fear of reprisals. What do they wait to position? The other element too often forgotten is time. To reiterate the ambiguity of a WARSAW, JOY DIVISION, DEATH IN JUNE or WHITEHOUSE fifteen or twenty years after does not take place any more to be. One cannot hope to cause reactions, questionnements during decades!

IX What does the qualifier mean for you "underground"? Do you think that it is a pledge of quality or at least, a pledge of honesty and integrity of the artist? To be "underground" is neither a pledge of quality, nor a pledge of honneteté and integrity but an established fact. Celà does not result, generally, of a choice: it is right a report of situation in which certain artists because of ostracism of which proof the great media make or in which are placed these same artists place themselves.

X HARMS & FOG it is also a label, since when? Why did you feel the need to widen your activities in this field? Is this part of your activity which you intend to develop in the future? Which will be the next productions?

The activity of production was former to the activity of distribution, the latter having been introduced by this first. Indeed, it is only after having contacted formations for creations of compilations that we decided to distribute cassettes and discs of those. The edition of recordings was always and will remain always the central element, even if this one were slowed down for temporal and financial reasons. In the future, we think of reversing the tendency and of devoting us of advantage to the production, on support vinyl and CD this time. This without neglecting the distribution... To work on all fronts to some extent... Our next productions will be: - CD and a video of ASCHE recalling their performance given during our last festival (DA III). - CD of LAW entitled "The Black Lodge" - PROPELLANT CD. - the video retrospective of various festivals "DEADLY ACTIONS", compiling the majority of the services of the groups present lasting these three editions.... All realized in collaboration with the "Hermetic" PROPELLANT label.

XI Actuellement one can note the multiplication of the labels, proof of a scene all the same alive, do you think that all can survive? Is not there there a risk to lose in quality? I do not think that there is currently a multiplication of the labels, quite to the contrary. In the Eighties, those were much more numerous but their size and the support on which those produced their achievements - the cassette primarily -, the lack of reception facilities - distributors - tended to distort perception which one could have of the industrial scene. This one was, according to us, much more dynamic than that which we currently know. The emergence and the development of Cd-R should mitigate that for best and the worst. The increase in the number of productions and especially of autoproductions- which will result risk from it to disorientate the amateur. As it is necessary as the distributors and especially the media offer clear information, precise and sincere. It is only in this condition that the "industrial scene" will keep its dynamism. To speak about survival as regards artistic production, it is to enter in fact a commercial logic which does not take place to be here. To survive what if not the laws of the market???

XII Internet?
Internet is the new space of freedom which is offered to us. Space freedom but also of control. Too many people forget this last dimension because they grant a blind confidence in technology. It is a new stage in the war of the information about which spoke already, at the time THROBBING GRISTLE. A war souteraine, without bloodshed, but whose stakes are clear: the control of planet and its occupants by the leading authorities.

XIII Or are the DEADLY ACTIONS it video which must leave compiling? In building site!!

XIV There were Deadly Actions three, which were then your motivations? Can one hope for a fourth edition? For when?

The motivation first lay in the organization in concerts and performances of the projects which seemed to us most interesting there at these moments and which carried in them an original and interesting scenic potential visual. Thus had never seen on scene the whole of the groups y having taken part, except DIVINE. It is probable, indeed, which place has a fourth edition but we cannot say some more, the date not being arrétée yet. That one does not hope for however programming in form of "best of". There are very little chances so that more than one group having already taken part rejoue at the time of this next festival!

XV Your personal tastes? Do your influence choices as regards distribution? Or do you manage to put them maximum side for avoirun of objectivity for criticisms and the choices suggested in the catalogue?

Our personal tastes influence, obviously, in our choices as regards distribution.... but less and less, must one acknowledge. Thus we propose from now on a great number of references which we do not like either because they are too distant from what we really appreciate, or because they are quite simply bad. If we distribute them it is because the other references of the labels which produce them interest us more or that they are likely to like others that us. Having tastes electic, it is not too difficult for us to in addition show objectivity in criticisms, primarily descriptive. Except the jungle and the drum & bass that we will exécrons, all the other forms of musical expression allure us. Only the annotations according to the chronicles réflétent what we truly liked.

XVI What do you think of new wave (Winterkälte, NOISEX, STAKE...)? Which are the formations -current or not- that you find most interesting?

About which new wave do you speak? The "projects" that you quote are only during electronic formations of second zone of the Eighties, over which one would have added distortion to excess - music and voice Of pale compromises between the EBM, the techno and the noise... too not very powerful to fall under this first, dancing to be it in the second, not enough extreme to join this third.... But suffisament pretentious and narcissistic to publish moults posters, stickers, bags and postcards with their éffigie. Really too commercial to be honest....
The formations which seem to us essential and impossible to circumvent are, initially, well-sure, those of the first wave ": THROBBING GRISTLE, WHITEHOUSE, S.P.K., CABARET VOLTAIRE, KRAFTWERK, CHILDREN'S NURSE WITH WOUND, NON, PSYCHIC TV... Formations which we did not cease to like despite everything this time and some "artistic mislayings" for some.
Of course, we appreciate considerable other groups that they died or alive, old or current, foreign or French. It is not possible for us to make you an exhaustive list so much they are numerous. Afflicted! Some names however of still existing or recent projects which seem significant to us: SLOGUN, LAW, RADIOSONDE, BASTARD NOISE, SPASTIC COLONIST in the U.S.A., MANDIBLE CHATTER, MLHEST, Dieter MÜH, BAND OF BREAD, THE DAUGHTERS OF CONCEPTUAL SEXDEATH, Condom and GREY WOLVES for England, INADE, ASCHE, TEMPLE GARDEN' S, ANEMONE TUBES, NÖVEMBER NÖVELET for Germany, IMMINENT STARVATION and SEEKNESS in Belgium, GRUNT, ALCHEMY OF THE 20th CENTURY for Finland, HAZARD for Sweden, G PARK, BATCHAS in Switzerland, VROMB in Canada, CONTAGIOUS ORGASM in Japan, ODD TOY in France, BAD SECTOR in Italy, WOLFSKIN in Portugal and always impossible to circumvent Con-dom, GREY WOLVES, B.D.N., TELEPHERIQUE NEPAL, BIG CITY ORCHESTRATE, SCHLOSS TEGAL, VOICE OF EYE, ZOVIET FRANCE, ANENZEPHALIA, SÖLDNERGEIST, SUTCLIFFE JUGEND...

XVII don't the tendency find not only currently in the artistic field, at least for the mass-media which represent the majority of the population is with the standardization? What do you think about it?

Personally, that frightens me... A long ago that we are not interested any more in the mass-media. They, why should we ignore us attach importance to them? Also let us not can not even say you what is diffused on the long waves and the large chains in this moment. The standardization and the levelling down are not a new phenomenon. With the wire of time, the system tightens its rêts, applying policy of an increasingly effective, but less and less visible social control. Effective because it gains all the social classes and all the spirits, less and less visible because people have the impression to be a Master of their destiny and their actions whereas they are controlled more and more and less and less free... And that the filthy middle-class men who listen to "industrial" music cease priding themselves to belong to an elite These even never left the row, too imbus of themselves which they are to think of their acts and their behaviors. The standardization about which you speak key even the music that you listenings. Observe simply the number of clones of existing prestigious groups! Always the same type of sonorities, always same topics approached, always same images suggested... Proof of the system effectiveness even in the artistic movements most marginal. Does technology bring fields of artistic expression to us quasi-unlimited, the topics are also very numerous, the as multiple and various approaches as the individuals, then??? Techniques of control - also subtle and fine are they function only if one wants to subject oneself to it well! its points of anchoring are called idleness, pride, self-centredness and claim... With each one to take its destiny in hand and to react!


Switched On: Early Electronic Oddities

EARLY ELECTRONIC ODDITIES is an exploration of the strange and subliminal sounds of early electronic musical instruments from 1860 to 1970, and many now almost obsolete daring and experimental creations like the Mixtur-Trautonium, the Ondes-Martenot, the Rhythmicon, the Ondioline, the RCA synthesizer, electro-theremin and the inventions of the Italian Futurists and Raymond Scott. Live discussions, field recordings and amazingly unearthed rare recordings presented by two theremin players, Miss Hypnotique and Bruce Woolley. Features recorded contributions by Bob Moog and Jean-Jacques Perrey.

Download MP3's of the archived broadcast:
[Early Electronic Oddities Pt. 1 (33 MB)] // [Early Electronic Oddities Pt. 2 (30 MB)]
(*Originally broadcast 10/29/04 on London's Resonance 104.4fm.)


Part 1:
1. Radio Nottingham - the Radiophonic Workshop
2. Chorale - Antonio Russolo
3. Celestial Nocturne - Samuel Hoffman (theremin)
4. Concerto for Ondes-Martenot - Andre Jolivet featuring Jeanette Martenot
5. Various soundtracks - Paul Tanner plays Electro-theremin
6. Now in heaven you can hear the latest Fall album - Hypnotique (Rhythmicon)
7. Jean-Jacques talk about the Ondioline
8. Demonstration from Fantasy for Mixtur-Trautonium - Oscar Sala
9. Telstar - The Tornadoes (Clavioline)

Part 2:
10: Bob Moog - talks about the RCA Synthesizer (background music: the Man from Uranus)
11: Nola - Felix Arndt (RCA synthesizer)
12. Return of the Elohim Pt 1- Zorch (VSC3)
13. CoilANS - Coil (ANS synthesizer)
14. Silver apples of the moon - Morton Subotnik (Buchla Modular)
15: Bob Moog talks about Raymond Scott (music from 'Manhattan Space Research')
16: Zwi Zwi oo oo oo - Delia Derbyshire (Wobbulator)
17: Modified clarinet - Reed Ghazal (Circuit Bent instrument)
18: In a Delian Mode - Delia Derbyshire (Radiophonic Workshop)
19. Return of the Elohim Pt 2 - Zorch (VSC3)
20: Futurama (Raymond Scott advert)

Written resources:

Early Sound Experiments

Even before the invention of electricity, man has experimented with mechanics to produce sound, from ancient Tibetan prayers wheels and the Greek's Aeolian Harp's which were played by the wind, through to the first wind up barrel organ in the sixteenth century, and in the eighteenth century, mechanical birds and the glass harmonica which anticipated the sound of electronics.

In 1752, the world became, quite literally Switched On, when Benjamin Franklin performed his famous experiment with a kite, drawing down electricity from the clouds and first stimulating the fusion of science and nature which is electricity. One of the founding fathers of electricity, Thomas Edison, illuminated the world with his demonstration of the light bulb in 1879, two years after inventing the phonograph. Telegraphs and telephony began to connect people, and in 1910 the first radio broadcast took place in New York. The world became connected by the power of electricity, and sound produced through electricity and electronic sound reproduction was set to take over the 20th century.

The story of early electronic instruments is the story of pioneers, dreamers, schemers and losers. It's a story of bold ideas and bad debts, bizarre lives and forgotten deaths, and events of "synchronicity" - actions which extend beyond mere coincidence. The relationship between sounds found in our environment and music has become closer, classical instruments and the old masters have become increasingly redundant, as new sonic possibilities have been unleashed to challenge the warring world.

The Futurists

Before electronic instruments became commonplace in the 1910s and 1920s, the Italian avant-garde Futurists called for an exploration into the possibilities of new sound worlds in their manifestos, like Busoni's exploration of Microtonal Harmony and the breaking of classical timbres in Russolo's Art of Noises. The futurists experimented with homemade 'sound boxes' to produce original and novel sounds. Edgar Varese, composer of percussive-sonic piece Ionisation saw the scope for 'sound producing machines' that would ultimately lead to the 'liberation of sound'.

The first electronic instruments

Towards the end of the 19th century, a number of instruments that can be considered electronic were invented by scientists and academics. Helmholtz's 1860 'Helmholtz Resonanator' used electro-magnetic vibrating glass and metal sphere to create different sensations of tone.

Although Elisha Gray was piped by Alexander Graham Bell to the patent of the telephone by just a few hours, he didn't miss a beat when he invented the Musical Telegraph in 1876 which amplified sounds from an electronic oscillator - the world's first electronic keyboard.

The greatest of the early electronic beasts, the Telharmonium, was drawn to live like Frankenstein's monster by Thomas Cahill in 1906. The 200 tonne 60 foot long sand, water and cement constructed keyboard instrument used dynamos to produce alternating current over various audio frequencies. Controlled by many keyboards, gears and wires and amplified by giant acoustic horns, the idea was to hook up the machine to a phone network to pipe music into restaurants, stores and theatres - a forerunner to Musak. So vast was the machine, during concerts it broke the stage, and the machine interfered with the phone network, so consequently it died a death before the first world war. Cahill was ahead of his time; it was to be another 50 years before electronic keyboard instruments finally caught on, as the principle of the Telharmonium formed the basis of one of the most successful electronic instruments of all time - the Hammond organ.

Vacuum tube technology

De Forest was a prolific inventor with 300 patents to his name. Shortly after a failed collaboration with Thomas "Telharmonium" Cahill, De Forest discovered a method of combining two inaudible high-frequency sound waves to produce an audible low-frequency wave, a technique called heterodyning, or beat frequency oscillation. In 1915, De Forest created the first vacuum tube instrument - a small monophonic keyboard called the Audion Piano (nicknamed by De Forest the "Squak-a-Phone"), but once more, it quacked an early death. However, vacuum tube technology was to take over the next era of electronic instruments from the 1920s onwards.

The theremin

The theremin, invented by Russian Lev Termen (also known as Leon Theremin), in 1920 remains the world's only true space control instrument - and one which has proved enigmatic, mysterious and popular for the last 85 years. Originally marketed by the RCA radio corporation as an instrument that "anyone who can hum, sing, or whistle" could play, it's unusually design of a cabinet with two aerials and nothing short of unconventional playing technique of the hands moving in the ether creating part of the electromagnetic circuit, one hand for pitch, the other for value - is visually hypnotic, but near impossible to master - which caused an untimely death, before it was revived in film soundtracks in the 1950s. The giant theremin, the Terpsitone, which the musician had to 'dance' the melody in a huge playing field was an even more challenging and bizarre incarnation which no longers exists. Only a handful of players over the years have truly mastered it, namely: 1930s Russian virtuoso Clara Rockmore, whose Art of the Theremin CD remains the classic theremin recording; Dr Samuel Hoffman, a chiropodist by day and thereminist by night who played on the soundtrack for spooky sci-fi and horror films like The Day the Earth Stood Still and Spellbound.

Nowadays, everyone who is anyone plays the theremin to standards good, bad and indifferent- from Comedians like John Otway and Bill Bailey to more serious contenders like Leon Theremin's grand-niece Lydia Kavina - considered the world's greatest living thereminist. Slide, glide, shape, gyrate, imitate, modulate or create - although just a simple pure electronic tone, the theremin remains the ultimate electronic oddity. Its scope extends far beyond the spooky sounds of sci-fi popularised in the movies, it delves into the deepest realms of the sonic imagination.

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Another instruments using the principle of heterodyning oscillators actually caught on a little. In 1928, French telegraphist and cellist Maurice Martenot conceived and constructed the Ondes-Martenot. Much like the theremin, Martenot's instrument was intended to be integrated into the traditional orchestra and it is still featured in orchestras across the world, principally in Olivier Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony.

Some argue that the reason for the Ondes Martenot's success was that, unlike the theremin, it used a traditional keyboard layout, with a separate finger control for glissando and vibrato as well as keys to adjust the timbre. Martenot wowed the French academia to love and admire his instrument, even at the curse of more commercial electronic instruments like the Ondioline, and to an extent Martenot had a stranglehold over other electronic instruments being used in serious contemporary music, thanks to the support of French composers like Varese and Messiaen. The Ondes-Martenot also found its way into the sounds of Hollywood with Franz Waxman's 1936 score for The Bride of Frankenstein and the three Ondes-Martenot's score for Hitchcock's film Rebecca. Today the instrument is still manufactured and ever-popular, even Johnny Greenwood from Radiohead plays one on their albums Kid A and Amnesiac.


This instrument really does give off Good Vibrations, as it was used on THAT Beach Boys track. The electro-theremin is not actually a theremin as it isn't played in space, but uses an oscillator with a guiding keyboard base to allow for better pitch accuracy - a sort of cross between an Ondes Martenot and a Hawaiian slide guitar. The sound is closer to that of the Ondes than the theremin as it is less rich, using only a sine wave and no vibrato, sounding more 'other worldly' than the vocalistic theremin sound. The electro-theremin was created by actor and electronics wizard, Bob Whitsell in 1958, and it was made famous by former Glen Miller Trombonist Paul Tanner on the album Music from Heavenly Bodies, numerous TV and film soundtracks, and recordings with the Beach Boys. Tanner sold his electrotheremin in the late 1960s to a hospital to use for checking hearing when he felt keyboard synthesizers were taking over.

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The brainchild of American avant-garde composer Henry Cowell in 1916, the Rhythmicon was the first prototype of a drum machine and sequencer. Cowell commissioned Russian inventor Leon Theremin to build him a machine capable of transforming harmonic data into rhythmic data and vice versa, which used broken up light playing on a photo-electric cell. Cowell wrote only two piece on the instrument before losing interest. The Rhythmicon featured in some movies in the 1950s and 60s including Dr Strangelove and the Tangerine Dream album Rubicon. No working instruments exist today, but you can use a four part digital simulation on the internet on The Online Rhythmicon website, and record your 'hit' to their internet database.

More information:
The online rhythmicon


A rival instrument to the institutionally powerful Ondes-Martenot, the Ondioline achieved a little popularity in cabaret and popular music - and it was possibly the first instrument capable of imitating the sound of other instruments. Few working Ondiolines exist today, but one who has championed its cause is composer Jean-Jacques Perrey on his early albums with Gershon Kingsley like Kalaeidoscopic Vibrations and The In Sound From Way Out.

The Clavioline and Joe Meek

M Constant made the Clavioline in 1947, a monophonic, portable keyboard which can control octave, timble, attack, and vibrato. It recreated sounds of brass and string in a natural way, and was widely manufactured as a dance-hall organ, marketed as being suitable for "twist, trad and rock". The Clavioline was made popular by pop musicians like The Beatles, Sun Ra, and Joe Meek with the Tornadoes hit Telstar, inspired by the 1962 first satellite transmission. Meek added the sound of the Clavioline to create an otherworldly sound, and he also supposedly added the sound of a flushed toilet played backwards. The weird space-age single rocketed straight to No. 1 and became a worldwide smash hit. Symbolically, when the Telstar satellite became damaged, Meek's life became more and more shattered as his career failed and demons took him over. He killed his landlady in Holloway Road in London before taking his own life in 1967, aged just 37. Meek was a true sonic pioneer and his "Meeksville sound" of compression and close-micing influenced a generation of music producers.

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In 1930, Dr. Friedrich Trautwein invented the Trautonium, the only instrument in the world capable of producing subharmonics, which are the mirror opposite of harmonics, or 'ghost' note like playing a string on a violin only half held down. Oscar Sala, a young student of Trautwein's, pioneered the development of the instrument and made the Mixtur-Trautonium, an improved polyphonic instrument which was used in the soundtrack of Alfred Hitchcock's film The Birds, as the instrument sounded more ominous than the sound of real birds. The Trautonium has advantages over a synthesizer giving freedom of intonation like a fretless string instrument to play microtones and continuous, unrestricted variations of pitch, tone and volume. The player makes contact with a wire stretched over a metal strip to create a circuit. It was a forerunner to the modular synthesizers of the 1960s. Nearly all knowledge of the performance and workings of the Trautonium has died with Oscar Sala in 2002, but the album My Fascinating Instrument, which is available today, is testament to Sala's musical genius.

The evolution of the synthesizer

By the end of the 20th century, synthesizers had take over the world's aural landscape. To synthesize means to take many parts and make it whole, which is basically what a synthesizer does. It is a purely electronic instrument, in other words, it won't make a sound until you amplify it. The early synthesizers were analogue and huge - a whole room full of equipment - but 1970s transistor technology allowed for more portable instruments - and thus classic analogue synths like Bob Moog's Mini Moog, which is still being manufactured today, the ARP Odyssey and the WASP are still revered by techno and electronic musicians today for their "phat" and squelchy sounds. Electronic music took over the world - the highly conservative Musician's Union condemned synthesizers as non-musical, worried that they would replace the need for real, acoustic trained musicians - which indeed they have, as virtually every popular music track now uses synthesized, sampled and sequenced parts. The Japanese 1980s electronics boom made a cheap keyboard possible in every home - with Casio, Yahama and Roland models now available from only a few pounds.

RCA synthesizer

The synthesizer revolution started in 1956 when RCA unveiled its Electronic Music Synthesizer. Originally invented in the 1940s by engineers Harry Olson and Herbert Belar, they produced a machine based on random probability, which would be capable of creating melodies based on the folk songs of Stephen Foster . It used Sixteen Function Binary Selection and pitch sequencing, but the device failed miserably in its intention, as the machine was incapable of determining characteristics that only a human ear can - idiosyncrasies of form, structure and melody. Olson and Belar intended this prototype synthesizer not to explore new sonic worlds yearned for by the avant-garde, but to reproduce the conventional. The result was a series of seemingly random notes and bleeps. Their prototype synthesizer was eagerly seized by the intellectual music academia of Princeton University and the avant-garde composer Milton Babbit, and premiered in 1956 as the RCA MK 1. It featured vacuum tube oscillators and a punch paper interface that allowed the user to program and control a wide range of sound parameters, a little like a 19th century pianola. The output was fed to disk recording machines, which stored the results on lacquer-coated disks.

More information:
- Peter Forrest's The A-Z of Analogue Synthesizers, RCA synth

- Mike Schutz's RCA synthesizer page

Synthesizers, their technologies and inventors have come and gone like the winds from world fairs to car boot sales in a flash. Here are a few of the more esoteric and innovative synthesizers:

EMS Synth

The EMS studios, founded in 1969 by English engineers and composer Peter Zinnovieff, created some of the more important synthesizers of their era, including the forerunner to software synthesis. The VCS3 was their classic synth which is still made today - operated with a joystick and a pinboard (instead of bulky patch leads) - making it also perfect for a game of battleships. The amazing sounds of the VCS 3 are unmatchable and great for ethereal sound effects. Zorch were Britain's first all synthesizer band who headlined the first Stonehenge Festival, their psychedelic "head" music was matched with a mind blowing lightshow. Their first album "Ouroboros" is the only album ever recorded at Peter Zinovieff's EMS studio in 1975, featuring the classic VCS3 Synthi 100.

More information:
- Zorch's official website
- EMS Studios Homepage

ANS glass synthesizer

The ANS is a photo-electronic instrument from Russia, made in 1958. Based on the photo-optic sound recording used in cinematography to create a visible image of a sound wave, the machine has a rotating glass disk with 144 optic phonograms of pure tones, or sound tracks, from high in the centre to low at the rim; the player selects a tone from a "score" made from a glass disk. The ANS is capable of producing 720 pure tones of everything from microtones to white noise.
You can hear the mysterious and somewhat "glassy" sounds in the new album COILANS by Coil members Jhon Balance, Peter Christopherson and Thighpaulsandra who recorded the album during a few days at the Moscow State University.

More information:

Buchla Modular

Don Buchla has been making world class modular synths since 1963, his latest invention the Piano Bar - a way of converting sounds from an acoustic piano to a midi (computerized) map - is now manufactured and produced by his old competitor, Bob Moog. With Serialist composer Morton Subotnik, they produced the seminal work, Silver Apples On The Moon (1967), the first work to be commissioned for record rather than live performance. A 'studio art' work, they believed it could be played, via a phonograph, by anybody, in intimate surrounds - a kind of 20th century chamber music style. Subotnik believed that using both programmed and random parameters allowed him complete artistic control, and "…the flexibility to score some sections of the piece in the traditional sense; and to mould other like a piece of sculpture". The Buchla allowed for evolving timbres during a single note duration, making possible "sustained yet transforming streams of sound".

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Inventors & pioneers

The evolution of electronic music, until the corporate 1980s, was driven by inspired individuals - inventors, scientists, musicians who were more often than not part-genius and part-lunatic. Many created equipment and instruments to create new sounds for their own recordings, purely out of a desire to produce something new more than for commercial gain. Here are a few of Switched On's favourite electronic pioneers:

Raymond Scott

In the early 40s, Raymond Scott, the young leader of the CBS radio house band found fame composing quirky jazz-influenced scores for Warner Brothers' "Merrie Melodies" and "Loony Toons" cartoons. Despite his success with his quintet, Scott preferred working in the studio with machines rather than the musicians who could never quite match his exacting standards. Jazz singer Anita O'Day believed that Scott "reduced musicians to something like wind-up toys."

In 1946 Scott founded Manhattan Research, Inc., "Designers and Manufacturers of Electronic Music and Musique Concrete Devices and Systems," where he focused his efforts on creating the machines that could meet his requirements. In 1949, Scott remarked:
"Perhaps within the next hundred years, science will perfect a process of thought transference from composer to listener. The composer will sit alone on the concert stage and merely THINK his idealized conception of his music. Instead of recordings of actual music sound, recordings will carry the brainwaves of the composer directly to the mind of the listener".

He created a sound effects machine called the Karloff, and his most commercially successful instrument, the Clavivox, like a theremin played with a keyboard. To realize his notion of "thought transference" composition, Scott spent twenty years working on the Electronium, an "instantaneous composition-performance machine". It had no keyboard, only switches and settings, and was a pitch and rhythm sequencer that controlled a bank of oscillators, a modified Hammond organ, an Ondes-Martenot and a few Clavivoxes. In 1960 on the Electronium he produced his three-volume work of minimalist synthesized lullabies, Soothing Sounds for Baby.

Despite his success, Scott was very protective, perhaps even paranoid, of people stealing his ideas, thus Manhattan Research remained purely research. In 1955 a young theremin maker, 20 year old Robert Moog, called at his studio on Long Island, and he was given a job assembling the Clavivox. Raymond Scott's work was to directly influence the next generation of electronic instrument designers who went on to realise his dream of what he called the "artistic collaboration between man and machine."

BBC Radiophonic Workshop & the Wobbulator

In 1957, a group of BBC producers used radiophonic technique to create music for dramas, modifying natural sounds using tape loops, tape modulations and splicing, similar to Pierre Schaeffer's academic technique of music concrete. In the 1960s, the Radiophonic workshop became a household name with their pioneering recordings on the BBC science fiction show Dr Who. Stars of the workshop including Delia Derbyshire and its founder Daphne Oram, who created the technique of Oramics - drawing onto strips of 35mm film read by photo-electric cells which controlled the sound characteristics - a technique developed from the RCA synthesizer. Daphne later left the BBC to pursue her career of creating serious art music. Early on, the Workshop acquired a wobbulator, originally designed as a test tone generator, it created a tone varied by a second oscillator which providing sweeping waves of sound. Delia Derbyshire's Ziwzih Ziwzih OO-OO-OO, composed for a sci-fi play based on an Isaac Asimov story, uses backwards voices and the tones of the Wobbulator.

More information:
Radiophonic workshop: an engineering persective

Reed Ghazalas Circuit bending

Reed Ghazalas is know as 'the father of circuit bending' - he's been doing it since the 1960s. The circuit-bent instrument, often a re-wired audio toy or game, creates a new instrument and a new musical vocabulary, which is part of Reed Ghazalas' 'anti theory' of opening up electronic to all audio frontiers, creating chance music and unpredictable audio events. You don't need to be have money, expensive instruments, or knowledge of electronics - just a speak-and-spell machine and a few parts from a radio store! Body contact is encouraged for the electricity to flow through the player's flesh and blood. Don't try this one at home, kids!

More infomation:

As electronic hardware is increasingly replaced with electronic software, perhaps the era of electronic oddities, bizarre boxes with sliders to fade, knobs to twiddle, and keys to hammer, is drawing to a close. Yet in the 1990s, musicians brought their old synthesizers, machines and theremins our of the bargain bin and began to recognize again the magical sounds which had so nearly become lost. So why not invent your own electronic oddity? It could prove to be the sounds of the future.