From farewell to welfare

Having just returned from the Canadian ‘mini tour’, we (being the various people that depend on Severed Heads for pin money) have fallen into discussion about our future. Usually our decisions are made without much care for business, but we have reached a point where some business must take hold.

Like it or not we are reborn. Having accepted death in 2008 we have been dragged back into life – although it’s a weird recapitulation of the previous one. On tour, we meet people that act like we’ve been stored in a cryogenic chamber since 1986, returning simply to remind them of their more handsome years. That was never the point.

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Best before 1986

But we admit that perception has been reinforced by our antique set list, which was designed for world-wide farewells. The farewells are now over. We plan new material but have been reluctant to risk upsetting our audience, losing their support. This problem impacts on all the rest of the thinking, as you will see.

We need to present new material. But I’ve always opposed an excess of albums which frightens off new people, so you end up living off dwindling completists. We must find a way to distribute new material without multiplying albums.

We have given away free material for a long time. This is partly generous, partly calculated – art is only worth what people will pay, and if people will pay nothing then it must be revalued some other way. But it takes time to produce music, and we have no time to waste, we must find a way to pay for this time. Of course, it will be stolen* by people who have no care – we know that. There are always snakes.

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We need to think about subscriptions. Musicians are being encouraged to try subscriptions just as newspapers are unable to sustain them. It works for software, which has an upgrade schedule. The problem of albums and new music might be solved this way – a constant flow of new material, paid by a constant flow of support. But I am concerned that unless we have an audience that is forward looking we’re not going to make that work.

We need to restore a coherent presence. This was a SEVCOM web page long before Google, but we have now become fragments on commercial services: Facebook for events, Bandcamp for downloads etc. The brand recognition must be pulled into shape. In any case, online presence seems worthless in real life. We keep meeting people who have heard nothing of us since the Internet was born. A Facebook event is not a real campaign.

So then, TL/DR, farewells are over, new things must come, a new model for distribution, a better effort at putting it in front of new people.

You are welcome to comment.

* people that say music isn’t stolen when it’s duplicated have no understanding of time, which is a non-replaceable resource.

It’s been quiet…

… although surely you know by now, it’s quiet because it’s been so DAMN BUSY ROUND HERE.

There is a Canadian mini-tour coming up, a remnant of a much larger plan chopped up into digestible pieces. Tours such as this are under discussion for months and not a word can be said until the plane tickets are paid for. So we’ve know about it for a long time, kept quiet – and there are more things on their way.

In June we will visit Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton. Please come.

vancouver:
https://www.facebook.com/events/455113241487800/   

montreal:
https://www.facebook.com/events/714583268723516/

toronto:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1072122906225417/         

edmonton:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1316977605047734/

calgary:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1153706898088073/

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Another live date came very unexpectedly – Severed Heads have been added to a package of younger bands playing at the Sydney Opera House. It’s unexpected but a welcome boost, we just hope that we don’t have to have too much contact with Vivid, who have never been a good friend to us. Please come.

http://vividlive.sydneyoperahouse.com/home/repressed-records-15th/

You’ll notice that often the links lead back to Facebook and I apologise for this. I’ve made a firm decision to avoid Facebook as much as possible, but I can’t break the rules for everyone. As much as time permits I’ll be posting here and not on The Great Abyss.

Meanwhile there’s work on new videos for the shows, and on 360º sound and video pieces, both for the band and long term business aspirations. The 360º has to be hosted by Facebook I’m afraid, as they are a major player in the whole VR business. Changed my mind. Facebook is wasting my time with free but messed up technology.

Personally I’m back teaching at university a bit but not getting involved in the management side of things which is just too painful if you have strong hopes and ideas about education. And the house now has two occupants – the Man Cave has become a bit more lady like. So I hope you can forgive the pauses in communication!

Yes I know, the Euro Tour story is late. I know.

Europe Endless Part 2

Wednesday 19th.

The instructions were to meet somebody holding an Unsound sign on the platform of Krakow train station. No such sign appeared as I gently floated downstairs in the sea of commuters, exchanging my Euro for Zloty with half an idea of getting a cab to any place which had a horizontal surface of any description. At which point Alice, volunteer wrangler of wandering Australians, caught me, and guided me to my apartment over in the Old Jewish quarter. She told me many things and I nodded at the right places to appear awake.

This fine apartment had several horizontal surfaces which I began to inspect in great detail for an extended period of time. Now, next door to the hotel there began a night of celebration which I can best describe as if Laibach were performing an extended set of Vengaboy covers, mixed with a shock documentary about domestic violence and the truck that picks up all the empty bottles at the pub, except louder. Which I figure is your standard Polish night on the town. This managed to pierce my oblivion about every 4 hours, but defeated each time by sheer exhaustion.

Thursday 20th.

Eggs. This day was for the Artist talk, but time first to visit the Old Town.

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I was most impressed that Krakow has a Starbucks dating back to 14th century.

The Artist Talk was led by a fellow from The Quietus who seemed to treat the experience like an exam nightmare without pants. Then the fine moment where I was introduced and the audience had no idea who the fuck I was or why they should listen. Like most Australian artists I’m pretty expert in being obscure and winning people over with colonial charm, and by the end they had all laughed and seen the game in action so win.

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Alice wanted me to see some of the other acts. I wanted to make a closer examination of the horizontal surface. We compromised on a visit to the nearby Bunkier Cafe, which celebrates the Central European art of chain smoking cigarettes to the point where every surface is covered in soot. We had a long talk about female mystics and Australia and relationships and aging that went on as we walked back through the rain to the apartment, because what better way to follow smoke than with rain if you want to keep your singing voice?

No party that night. Oblivion enveloped.

Friday 21st.

Eggs. Time speeds up. A jackhammer started somewhere above the apartment. Stewart was in the air to Warsaw from New York via Dublin. He was on the train. Alice was somehow to get him from the train station to the hotel and to sound check in half an hour. The Friday traffic was foul and seemed to be as much on the pavements as the street. Somehow we arrived on time at Hotel Forum, built by the communist government just before the collapse of the USSR.

Down in the hall the PA was of a such size that every time Stewart played a bass note he got a foot massage. Apparently it sounded fine out front. To my ears it sounded like a jet aircraft taking off complete with smoke effects. Who were the people there? We will never know as time was already running out…

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Saturday 22nd.

Halfway through the set it became Saturday, and a mad rush to get back to the apartment, wash, pack and leave for Amsterdam at 4am. As we were in the air, bands were still performing at the Forum. But this is a tale for the next installment.

Australian and Alice

Lost Australian, and the ever patient Alice about 1AM at Forum.

Treasure Map 2

I am exhibiting a virtual world called Treasure Map 2 for Unsound Krakow. This is now in production and it’s time to go behind the scenes and see what’s coming your way late October.

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Come on in!

The first Treasure Map was part of the Rhine album – it includes 5 video ‘beacons’, a world map and a set of lyrical clues. I’m not surprised that the meanings are still hidden – life was never meant to be easy. In creating the new Treasure Map I’ve made things much more immediate – it should take you a few minutes to find your first milk bottle and start dying.

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That was some party. A real killer.

If you played HH which came with Adelaide Festival 2013, you’d recall there was an underground bunker, and a back story about a ‘princess’ trapped in there, exploited in a dream like manufacturing process. You can get the whole back story here. TM2 is a riff on this story – a side show. Let’s say much much later people started to dig up these bunkers for the explosive energy they contained. Let’s say they piped out this ‘witches milk’, put it in silos, put it in bottles to power things. And of course there’s trouble when you do that sort of thing.They desperately tried to seal it up again, left signs and barriers and scarecrows.

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A perfect place for a picnic.

But any place where there’s trouble, there’s treasure. People still come for the ‘milk bottles’, people like you who have no idea what they were once for. You can wander around the island as much as you like, see the sights. Eventually you’re going to find a milk bottle. Drink it, you may as well. Or you might find where the milk comes from. That’ll kill you too. Some things will heal you and if you’re careful you might get to drink all the milk.

It’s essentially a music album, fuelled by toxic ‘witches milk’. You drink to hear the music, then try heal yourself enough for the next batch.

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Maybe you could – but it would take you a long time to get there.

Two months out from launch the island is built, the wind blows and the water ripples. There are structures, warning signs, signs of previous visitors, who have left you some warning information. Milk vats and bottles are spread around the place, only a few have milk in them. I just scripted the effects of drinking one – impaired vision, music, a big drop in health. Once tested on a single bottle it gets copied to the rest. The healing places are not yet built. Underground corridors are in their early stages. The ‘witch house’ is made but needs much more detail, although you won’t live long enough to see much of it.

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We use only natural wind power to pump our toxic sludge.

Very likely it’ll be a version 1.0 that gets out in October, with additions later on. For one person to get this going is hard work and there’ll be bugs. But anything that gets away from playing music from 30 years ago is worth all the late nights.

Facebook

I am on Facebook.

Why are you on Facebook?

Because I am leaving my job where I have had a steady wage, to go back into the wilderness. I will need to be more approachable and take up opportunities or I will starve, and that means Facebook.

You said Severed Heads were never going to be on Facebook!

No, I said: “Neither myself or ‘Severed Heads’ are available on FACEBOOK. Do not read this blog. This blog is not the fault of my employer.” This will now change; you are allowed to read this bog. Also I will not have an employer. But “Severed Heads” more then likely will never be on Facebook because all the people involved have moved on (and are Facebook anyway).

What happens to this blog?

It stays the same. I am not moving to Facebook, I am simply putting my name in the ‘phone book’ so that people can find me. All my bullshit stays here. The Man Cave stays here and I might even get time to fix the rest of it,

Can’t they find you at tomellard.com?

Apparently not. I can’t risk that any more, because of the starving bit.

Does this mean that you have given up on independent web presence?

No, it means that I have another way to get people to come here. I don’t see Facebook as my staging. It’s simply a big phone directory and being there is like listing your business there. It’s like having a FidoNet address in 1992.

Why didn’t you do this before?

Because I had a different life path planned, on a tenure track. Most people that have contacted me recently have found me by my workplace. But that didn’t allow the creative activity I need to be happy, so I am changing everything.

 

Vinyl is for couches.

vinyl-sofa

Vinyl is a great format. Except more than a third of people buying it don’t own a record player. And it pollutes the planet. And it’s really really expensive to make and post across the planet. When I ask, most people say they still want vinyl, but my guess it that’s all hat and no cattle. It looks good, damn what it sounds like.

A small pressing plant is open in Australia, and I can get stuff made that way, but it’ll be the most expensive 40 minutes you ever had and I am not mad keen on it. I am instead back to USB drives, but prepared to sink some serious money into it. (Just as an aside – yes a CD is still cheaper but triples the airmail postage from about $4 to $12. Plus it’s getting hard to find a computer that will load a CD. Plus a USB holds about 10x the data.)

The Rhine USB cost about $12 Australian to make and send. So at any time I had about $1200 out in the world, at a time when the USD and AUS were close. Now that the AUS has collapsed again I figure I can probably spend a bit more and go for a more professional look.

The credit card style has good and bad. Good – it can be more decorated. Bad – it is a pain to insert one into the side of a laptop, but you’re going to do that once only.

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I figure I can get 500 units up front with a universal design then overprint as needed. So every one of them will have the logo etc. but the album title goes in a white box. I could sell 1000 over time but that’ll eat more than $5000 before postage. Still cheaper than cassettes and don’t sound like arse.

But it’s the sleeves which are troublesome. For Rhine I have been using lanyard pouches at $2 each which are actually pretty good quality (good clear plastic) compared to most solutions. Today I found some clear plastic sleeves for business cards. They’re too fat, and they don’t look as nice as they should. Placing album covers inside them is not nice. Now these:

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I can get from China from about $1 a unit. I’ve seen these, there’s no way to decorate them with the album cover. Some duplicators will throw in a case with a clear window but these are 2cm tall. That makes the mailed item a package and – bang – 3x the postage.

Jewel cases for data cards would be ideal. But credit card sized. Maybe they exist.

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Maybe I can get slightly larger lanyard holders? If I get 500 then maybe a discount?

The idea is to provide a good feeling quality object that doesn’t cost the earth. Some people will pay a healthy amount for their collectibles but that’s not my game. I understand that people want something to hold in their hand, but unless you’re a DJ, the USB is the best deal for both of us.

Aversion

Last year we played the USA and sold an album called Better Dead Than Head. I thought that a download package would work but people found it was too alien and we will very likely have a CD instead this year.

Still not allowed to record any new music, it will be a fabulous collection of other people’s hits called AVERSION.

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I have two requests please, one simple, one intricate.

Tell me what tracks you might like to be on the disc. I have already chosen quite a few, and the majority of them are mid 60’s to early 70’s psychedelia because that’s the most fun to re-arrange. I’m reasonably open to any ideas but please not something completely ‘hilarious’. Something that can make a good track.

Make some sequenced ‘tape loops’. Back in 1982 we made a version of Tomorrow Never Knows. In the Beatles original there are many tape loops, but we made a rule that all our tape loops would be electronic sequences, and that’s what we did. I am hoping to include sequences recorded by people all over the place in a new version. Only a few seconds long. Think you can do it?

Much obliged!

“If it has a mellotron, then it can do no wrong”.

2015 A lot happened at Sevcom.

Sevcom is booming. Bloody hell it won’t sit down now will it? The funny thing is that almost everything here is an attempt to stop doing things. That ends up doing things. They say life begins at 40 but in this case life started some time after entering the aged care facility. The intensity of this regrowth is causing … growing pains. More on that later on.

A very good year for music.


NECRO: Vinyl reissues out now of both Petrol and Clifford Darling Please Don’t Live in the Past and both from the clean master recordings for the first time.

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NEW: At the beginning of the year (if you can remember back that far) the new album Rhine, which sold enough USB sticks to get Sevcom up in Bandcamp’s bulk seller category. Of all the things this year, you would understand that Rhine is my favourite. It includes a map with 5 Beacons, which you can now see as videos over here.

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Severed Heads played live in America and it was not a complete and utter debacle not at all. This included a new album of old tunes called Better Dead Than Head.

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NEW: Two free compilations on Terse Tapes, which was once my cassette label that ran from 1979-1983, and now continues as an online provider of international noise and music. In Easter you got Oompa Loopma Riot, and unexpectedly Christmas just saw Terse Greetings. It’s good to be a community again.

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Early in the year I wrote the back story for HH, which introduces a clearer game world for the sequel H3H.

A bad/hopeful year for life.


Barbara Island

On Barbara Island

A death ripples outwards. You have to guide that energy carefully as it can drown you. Instead the house here is evidence of riding a manic wave – there’s furniture and objects strewn about madly and odd things hanging on the walls as a new life forms. That same mania is causing all kinds of possible futures to erupt, and hopefully once things cool a bit there’ll be some public good out of all this.

Next year.


Next year is tricky, because that manic wave is crashing against some rocks. Do I want to go back to the starving artist lifestyle or do I want to continue to be fat and tenured?

NECRO: The Stretcher album is in manufacture, this time as a double vinyl in gatefold sleeve! Hoping also that a boxed set of Australian underground music will be completed soon.

NEW: In America I made a promise to collaborate on an album with another elder, who I had not seen for a while. I keep promises.

There will be some touring and the details are reasonably clear. But many things could go wrong and so nothing I say here is certain. There’s a very good chance of being at the next Unsound Festival in Krakow, including a new version of the Rhine Treasure Map as an installation. Once in Krakow, it would be good to do other parts of Europe. Suggestions from promoters are welcome.

There will be another run through North America, bigger and bolder. I hope this will also include the Rhine Treasure Map. There will be an album made to go with this called Aversion, and you can guess what that will be.

All of this liveness has inspired an attempt at a new presentation system that allows more variation between live shows, and the ability to make tracks longer/shorter and all of that. This is very tricky, because I don’t want it to look real time generated.

H3H is under way, but I don’t think it will make 2016. Maybe mania will make it so. It’s got to be a major advance on the older game and I might need to get investment. That’s a scary idea!

Best wishes to all at the close of a formidable year.

Renovations with an axe.

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Some changes have been made in preparation for a rebuild of tomellard.com.

All talk of synthesisers has been moved out of the blog and to a new Man Cave sub site tomellard.com/cave as the WordPress menuing system was no longer able to contain all my gluttony. (I hear that some people are uncomfortable with the term Man Cave. They’re also probably uncomfortable with words like satire and laughter and they should go weep somewhere else thank you.)

The photographs on sevcom.com/scans have been renewed and now include 1979 – 2015, although there are still some bad gaps.

In the real world I’m busy chopping up my furniture with an axe and tearing my books into pieces. I’m shredding important documents with my new shredder. Pretty soon I hope to have cleaned out everything that’s crowding my mind. This is a good healthy thing, although it looks odd. I’ll be able to go places.

Adrian Belew Flux:FX

{sponsored post} Just a reminder that I am entirely open to bribery large or small, in kind or in rude, I will take it and devote my entire mental apparatus to your ends for at least ten minutes. {sponsored post}

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Flux:FX is a multi effects rack with sequencer and touch control that runs on a late model iPad. There are plenty of sites that will give you a comprehensive, balanced appraisal. This is not one of them. You can read the manual and see the inside of a purple washing machine here: http://flux.noii.se/

There is also an app Flux:Music which is more Eno-esque, with sound and visual snippets, Flux:FX is focussed on making and storing your own effect chains. There has been some attempt to cross breed them visually, but not in intent, and that would be my main call here: breed ’em up.

I am a simple man, and I started with two main questions. Firstly, I looked all through the app and no Adrian Belew included, which seemed a relief because only so many beds in this house.

The second question is, how good is this at fucking things up? The pinnacle of fucking things up is likely the Ensoniq DP4. It has all kinds of stupid ways to connect FX that cause utterly horrible borborygmus. Flux has many more effects than that workhorse and you can line five of them in a row. They’re mostly the ones that you would expect – chorus, filter, fuzz – with a very generous range of control. A few of them have a style that is outside the expected – the Resonant Drone is the effect you get when you use a delay and set it so it’s just about to howl, and you get a nice static flanging – did a lot of that with my old EH Memory Man and it’s always a good test. The Ring Mod is pleasing, although most of the action is down the bottom left of the touch pad. Octave Shift does some cute things when you feed it a complex signal. The Binaural Delay is not really what you hoped it would be. Generally the sound is that of high end guitar pedals, like the Electro Harmonix ones, and if you have an iPad and interface then you would go for this over the pedals.

There are comparable things in dedicated hardware – like this. But they don’t have the big screen and the sequencing. The latter has discrete frames which you can interpolate, kind of like an analogue step sequencer. You can also use these individual steps as quick settings, again something we did with analogue sequencers back when dinosaurs ruled the earth.

In terms of fucking things up, there’s a lot of mangling that can be done with the sequencer in full frenzy, and generally the effects all do what you hope they would do – e.g. sequencing the delay time on a digital delay trashes the sounds and the analogue delay bends them. All good there. What it doesn’t have is feedback from later modules back to earlier ones, which let’s face it is A Very Bad Idea But Lots Of Fun. I would like to (for example) apply the nice filters inside a delay loop.

The other thing that needs a mention is the interface, which is elegant, although crammed with things to do. The animation (the purple washer) is something I was glad to turn off and would actually like to go away. If I was on stage, I would want most of it to go away, and you can touch plus signs to make only one panel be seen at a time, or switch to a Performance View. It still verges on the ‘hang on I need to get my glasses’ when in this simplest mode.

Maybe when I spend more time with it, I’ll get the muscle memory to know where I’m tapping. This of course is part of iPads in general – really powerful software for little money – the touch screen as a very flexible interface, but also a slippery slide of featureless glass that gives very little back to your fingers. It does have MIDI and you can add a controller. I should mention it does that inter-app sound/MIDI thing – I tend to use my pad as just one physical device so I just accept this as a plus.

All up this seems to me A Good Thing And Very Worthy but again I look in the box for Mr. Belew. He is not here, not only physically but in touches of individuality that I am not seeing in the patches and the process. In marrying the Flux Music and FX titles I’d not bother with the visuals and instead bring in the chances and the unexpected that we are told are essential. Some way to feed things back in a chaotic system. The word mangling is used – OK, show me the mangle.

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Summary:

  • Good shit, reminds me of EH pedals.
  • Yay sequencer, messes it up.
  • Needs a lot more Belew.
  • Where are my glasses?