Plans for 2020

Thank you for visiting this website, particularly over the last months when the news has been patchy and infrequent. There’s been a lot of other things going on behind the scenes. Here’s what will be being happening in the coming year.

Severed Heads

Although we have ended Severed Heads, I will keep the material available on Bandcamp, Apple Music etc. None of the material is abandoned or freeware. I’ll have to remove some music to reduce the maintenance load. At the same time there’ll be more effort put into a simple coherent museum on nilamox.com for the band’s 40 year history.

We have been assembling parts for replacement copies of Aversion 2 AKA ‘the rat box’. We’ll start by sending out copies where replacement is needed, then follow up with a small number of remaining copies to new owners.

Front - OW

Nilamox

The plan is to have both sevcom.com and nilamox.com link to a single site, in which sevcom will be a historical section. I am happy to tell you that my 1990’s side project Co Kla Coma will have two albums though nilamox, a retrospective Co Kla Pedia and the long lost Co Kla Coma 96 which was buried in the early 2000’s by a dispute between the two USA members, which has moved into ‘no longer care’ mode. It is going to take a little time to unpack and mix the vintage 96-bit stems but it’ll well be worth it.

This will be followed by a new album by Ike Ear, details to come later.

The Man Cave

See a post following on this blog for details of my decision to stop collecting music hardware. It can be summarized quickly – the only thing that matters is the sound, and software is where the most interesting sounds are being made. The Man Cave was always sceptical about the hardware, and it needs to act on that. It will need extensive development to move deprecated articles to a historical area and add new reviews of software tools. It may need to be unavailable for a while. It’s back up.

Radias Animation

Game Design

See a following post for information about the ongoing game design project. This project has reached the stage of a design document, and there are many exciting elements that have now been pinned down and made ready for pre-visualisation.

Other life changes

Unexpectedly I am back teaching at UNSW in 2020. I left the university in 2016 to start up touring, at which time I thought I’d be out of work forever, but it seems some bridges don’t burn that well. Employment is hard to find at my age so it would silly for me not to take up the offer.

Unfortunately surgery to remove half of my thyroid has revealed that there was cancer, and we must go on to remove the entire gland to try ensure it doesn’t come back. If you have to have cancer, then the thyroid is a good place to have it, so I’m not worried, but I’m bloody cranky about it let me tell you.

Last days. Again.

It’s funny isn’t it, how the busiest times seem to jam up at the death of things. It’s busy now, very busy, as we prepare another larger coffin for Severed Heads. How many coffins has this corpse escaped so far? Houdini!

zombie

Yeah, well, OK. But just once more.

Severed Heads is very weary. It shuffles along carrying another heavy load, confused by being alive and dead all at once. Reanimated for as long as some more publicity gets injected, but frankly it starved to death years ago. No one gave a flying fuck until it was buried. Now they keep digging it up.

dogwithbigbone

Look I found the track with old guy’s voice in it!

Weary. Now that’s the word, more spiritual than just plain old tired.

I think this coffin is going to be the big one. There’s going to be a TV crew, outside broadcast van, the contract is 47 pages long, residual rights blah blah names and likenesses blah blah LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT of this old cobble of bones. Documentation that this thing has finally carked it and “pity we didn’t go to see them when they were still around?”

Like any dying thing you keep gasping for air, it’s primal. You think that you can drag that few more minutes out of the universe, but you’re already gone. I’ve got a whole album of music I’ve been recording and some drunk midnights almost get to planning some kind of distribution. Thank God that next morning someone will write and ask if they can re-issue 1983 for the 1000th time and remind me why I just record for myself – cut out the middle man.

And frankly, the wonderful people (I really mean that) who are supporting us aren’t the current listening audience. We’re one generation away from people who go to The Opera.

Florentine-Opera-Company

If I go to the op’ra house, in the op’ra season
There’s someone sure to shout at me without the slightest reason
If I go to a concert hall to have a jolly spree
There’s someone in the party who is sure to shout at me
“Where did you get that hat? Where did you get that tile?
Isn’t it a nobby one, and just the proper style?
I should like to have one Just the same as that!”
Where’er I go, they shout “Hello! Where did you get that hat?”

So then, weary but not lazy. Let’s make a great show of it, entertain, play the old bones another round. Always have pride in your work. Do the song with the bloke in it after all it’s going to be on TV as long as that old Rock Arena horror. After that, well Stewart’s got a Tangerine Dream style band he keeps threatening to launch (and I’m mentioning to guilt him into launching) so I’ll ask if I can be Conrad Schnitzel. That sounds fun.

If you’ve got any suggestions for what his band should be called I reckon you tweet him. He’ll hate that. If you don’t tweet leave a suggestion here.

Brainwashed Interview

In 2010 I was contacted by a writer at Brainwashed.com and answered a bunch of questions. This seems to have been abandoned, so before I trash the emails I’ll put the unedited exchange here so it wasn’t a complete waste. As a lot of the information is out of date I’ve made a few notes.

Are you a remarkably organized person?  You clearly spent quite a bit of time amassing a vast library of found sounds and samples – did you have a systematic means of archiving and locating them?  Do randomness and chance play a large role in which snippets make it into your work?

 Fundamental to answering this question is the difference between a library and an environment. The majority of the sounds are those that we lived in – radio and television, odd music cassettes that we already enjoyed, the noises of our life. There’s a different intent between what has become known as plunderphonics – taking up a significant shared sound and incorporating it in a new work, and sample based folk music. Our music was based on the minutiae of our soundscape, whether or not it made sense to outsiders. So I tend to describe what I have done as ‘gardening’, which organises the natural features of a living space.

In many cases I have no idea where a sound is from. It was on the TV or it was from a pile of toys. Once it fell into a bit of music it took on significance in retrospect. We have a policy of saying that all samples come from the film Lassie Come Home which is as likely as any other source.

What you might be noticing is our archiving has been surprisingly good. That comes from using tape recorders – obviously things get documented automatically, and from a happy accident where I could afford one of the first digital recorders in 1985. In that year I threw all our cassettes onto a few digital tapes, which still played when CD-R came along.

Which seems more improbable to you: Severed Heads’ relative success or Severed Heads’ relative obscurity? 

I’ll borrow from Kurt Vonnegut. “SH was the victim of series of accidents, as are we all.” There have been a few moments where somebody happened to be somewhere and the wheel turned. It turns one way and then it turns the other. Of course I respect the plotting and planning that goes on with some artists and their management, but never really had the nous for it. Look at Graeme Revell, who has organised himself excellently over the years. I can’t help but be impressed, but it’s not for me. When we have climbed I have been pleasantly surprised and each time we have fallen I can shrug and remember that it was all a bunch of kids making noise in any case.

One advantage of this is ego protection. Any artist knows how you get surrounded by praise for a while, and then get told that you are embarrassing dated shit. Wait a little while and everything that was dated becomes cool again. Then not cool. If you care too much you get hurt.



Some of your work (Skippy Roo Kangaroo for example) seems wilfully annoying.  Is that ever your end goal?  Do you deliberately use “obnoxious” source material sometimes to make the act of transcending it into an entertaining challenge for yourself?

 Skippy Roo is much more than that. It’s Australian Radio for Schools, broadcast across the entire continent, children clapping and singing in hundreds of tiny isolated towns, the teacher’s broad accent, the way she loses the note at the end of the phrase. This is not just random shit. If you can understand how this represents our take on ‘folk music’ then we’ve made mind contact. I love that teacher, and I’m framing that moment in diamond and gold. When that blast of easy listening hits at the end I think everyone should line up and salute.

I don’t find this sound annoying. It’s like using white noise to try sleep (which I do). The context of the noise matters very much, it becomes music if the mind of maker and listener are able to synchronise. What might seem chaotic and tedious is often infinite possibility.

ABC Radio Kindergarten Of The Air

Were you surprised or embarrassed when Vinyl-On-Demand contacted you about releasing a lavish retrospective of your earliest work? 

I was curious. It seemed to be an honourable thing, and Frank was very informed and helpful. Actually I was mostly interested in working with two sided media again. I was back at university after decades and working up to a thesis about the influence of recording media on music. How to fit everything into 20 minute long segments?

At the same time, Severed Heads had just been shut down as no longer fun.  That called for an exorcism and that’s what the document became, a coffin for the old order. I wrote a bit of a eulogy, comparing the box set to a grave stone. It was a mix of self mocking and serious.

Your earliest work is more conspicuously perverse and uncommercial than what Severed Heads eventually evolved into.  Was there an epiphany that steered you in that direction?  Like “Hey…dancing is fun.  Making uncompromising collages for a small number of serious music snobs is markedly less so…I’m definitely going about this all wrong.”

 Oh no, not at all. The very earliest music we made was pop music. In 1979 we declared that we made ‘Chinese Fungal Disco’. Severed Heads always made what we enjoyed, and in your life sometimes you want sugar and other times salt. And of course we had very limited equipment and ability which both grew over time; it would have been dishonest to contrive our earlier sounds year after year. No, I am much happier to have so much different music to look back to, even some country and western!

There’s another factor – the recordings did not disappear. Once you make an album it remains made. Why make it again? Why not make something else? It’s still there. People who ask why we don’t make something like (their favourite album) again don’t understand that you are just as likely to subtract as add to a work by doing it over. Really the best thing for any musician to do is to make what they themselves want to hear and if others like it as well it’s an extra.

And another – the earlier music was, to me, too much about calling attention to a single idea or effect. I call it ‘Sci Fi music’. There might be one sample that dominates the whole thing for example. Since then SH made pop music that had just as many ideas, but presented without calling attention to one aspect. Like having bird sounds on every track of the Rotund For Success LP. That’s more fun than stodgily making an album only out of bird sounds.



Do you listen to much “pop” music for enjoyment or do you relate to it in kind of a mad scientist kind of way; like as a body you can harvest organs from for your own creation?

 Pop music defies analysis; it’s about your body and the chemicals that flow through your head and muscles. It’s like fucking, basically. Making pop music is learning how to fuck, and if you are taking notes you are not doing it right. There was a time when Autechre made some great pop music, sexy stuff. I was really into it, and then they went off in some uptight puritan tangent which might have satisfied some music priesthood, but for me the mind had overcome the ass. Point being too much analysis spoils music.

Have you ever had a collaborator that had as strong an appreciation for the absurd as you?

 They all did! Everyone who has passed through SH was in some way their own pervert. They all did great music before and after the band and one thing that makes me sad is when somebody like Garry Bradbury gets lumped with his time in SH – about two years – when he’s spent a lifetime making really excellent noise. The band had a revolving door, they came, they went and everyone that came through contributed some of the personality: Richard Fielding’s radiophonics, Stephen Jones and his home brew video gear (now somebody has built a replica!). Bradbury’s intensive tonality, Simon Knuckey’s lead guitar (R.I.P.), Paul Deering and his communist noise bursts (R.I.P.), Robert Racic’s late night House (R.I.P.), Boxcar’s precision, Kriv Stender’s cinematography. It was a really messy shared house; all I did was make sure the rent got paid.

What convinced Richard, Andrew, and yourself that you could release albums and that people would probably want to hear them? In the late 70’s making an album was like making a blog now, although it cost. Not expecting a large audience, but still a making public act – adding our small voice to many. I guess the current jargon is ‘the cloud’. We didn’t think that Ear Bitten would be heard widely (only made 400 copies), but it would add to the general noise and that made life more enjoyable.

Were there any important non-musical influences that shaped your direction?  Do It Yourself culture included fanzines, comics, super 8 films and a lot more. A generally creative environment helped us take a chance. There was space to grow as well – less rules and expectations. I already had a computer (a Radio Shack TRS-80) making up word salad ‘poems’ and made super 8 film loops and anything else that seemed like fun. Multimedia had been around since the 60’s and oddly seemed more commonplace than it does now.

What sorts of things are currently inspiring you? I hope I’m not the only person who feels overwhelmed by the sheer volume of ideas, artworks and tools that are pounding at the door. I can’t be, given the nostalgia about. Either you cultivate ignorance or you hopelessly flap between new music, new software, social networks… I mean just on YouTube there’s another 24 hours of video uploaded every minute. There are probably 1000 bands I should love and an equal number of gadgets I could use to make a racket.

I tend to love too many things and collapse from optional paralysis. At my age I probably should just settle down into senile collecting of 80’s underground cassettes… but nostalgia pisses me off.

Anyway I think computer game engines are a way forward. Look at free tools like Unreal Development Kit or FMOD designer. So many untried ideas come from that world that it makes me dizzy (and paralysed). Even a Blu Ray disc has such amazing potential for reforming narrative into branching and looping parts.

Right now I am burned out with music. My favourite music right now is a recording of a thunderstorm. That sucks but it won’t last.

What do you think/hope will follow CDs?  It seems like you still have some hope for physical media.  Is something important being lost in our shift to “virtual” media?  Does the convenience outweigh it?  How do you view the current resurgence of vinyl & cassettes in the underground music scene?  I think the fetishization/scarcity part is pretty exasperating, but a lot of music definitely sounds better with some crackle, hiss, and grit.  Also, I tend to better remember things I listen to on vinyl- putting a record on is an “event” of sorts. The main worry is the change from 20th century mass production to 21st century virtual distribution. Where in the past you would buy a cheap replica of a high end object, now there is the download, a souvenir of the thing itself. The wealthy own the book, the poor own the PDF. The mp3 is the musical object stripped down to its least potential. It leads to music sold by volume: how many songs on your player. It seems to me a bit of a trick and that’s why I still sell my stuff on CDs. (n.b. gave up in 2011)

Piracy is congratulated by many as anti-authoritarian. It’s actually a kind of self harm where the powerless attack those that have some small power, not touching the status quo at all. Lady Ga Ga will survive piracy, but the independent bands will go under.

Vinyl fetish acknowledges the missing magic and is a self empowerment – but also points the wrong direction. Yes, we should resist the virtual ghetto, but not by falling back on safe and ironic. Surely there’s a way forward, and my little survey of formats suggested some of the things we should keep. I think something like Blu Ray or even DVD could be the forward fetish, if it survives.

I’ve always thought that Severed Heads could’ve only emerged from Australia.  Do you feel similarly?  Are you able to articulate why? Yes, although it’s very hard to explain that from the inside. Think of a small town, it can be dead boring but you can also have good friends, places to drop in – a bit of a scene. A lot of good art moves out of small towns – Sheffield and Seattle are well known examples. Sydney was like that, a small group of people, an internal logic, and lots of in jokes. It was refreshing for outsiders when it finally emerged.

That Australia has since died. Earlier this year we held a festival and seminars about the old ‘inner city’ scene, organised by kids who wondered why it had disappeared (the Circa 79 Festival). It’s just that media became centrally planned for efficiency, and Internet has made it overpowering. Facebook is like the Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Did the dissolution of Severed Heads coincide with a significant decrease in the amount of time you spend working on music? Kind of. I wanted to take personal responsibility, drop the band bullshit, and make less music better. Just compose and not go through the whole rock distribution fantasy.

Also as an academic I’m supposed to be working on ‘serious music’. I have a commission for a major work next year which is a new, frightening step for me! It means working on the one piece for months on end, and nothing is heard in the meantime. When you are called ‘Severed Heads’ you don’t get offered that kind of work. (The Shape of a Note)

Have many of your current projects been percolating for a long time?  Is Aerodrom the most ambitious thing you currently have in the works? Aerodrom is something that … never gets off the ground. It’s like the short story you keep writing and then throwing in the trash and starting anew. And that’s because the interesting part will only come as a side effect of the work, like a soundtrack that’s more important than the film. But I have to ‘shoot the film’ first and that needs some time and skills that I have trouble collecting.

The most ambitious thing is probably my doctorate. The idea is to retrieve video by a psychometric profile, which seems bogus on the face of it and I get some hostile responses. But in the project is a call for data retrieval not based around the ‘who, what, when, where’ kind of thinking which tends to favour narrative over abstract work. If we tend to retrieve video in a certain way then we will end up only with a certain kind of video: a person in a place at a time.

I was recently dumbfounded at a speech by a well known guru of ‘sound art’. In just one part of an annoying tirade he suggested the need to develop ‘expanded cinema’ as part of training for acousmatic listening. It became obvious that he really meant ‘cinema’ – as in narrative movies – and was setting up a whole new academy like the one that used to divide music into ‘serious music’ and ‘jazz’. When I asked about VJ work he basically dismissed it as colour organs. With people like that in positions of power there’s a real potential for non narrative video art to be left out of the search – and these days that means death.

ABC Radio Kindergarten Of The Air

So back to Skippy Roo … I have a ton of questions now: 1.) when is that recording from?  did a young Tom Ellard ever get to clap and sing along with Australian School Radio?, 2.) Is that “bury someone close to you” line normally in the song?, and 3.) Were a lot of your loops meaningful/important to you before being re-contextualized in your music/video work?  I understand that everything was meaningful in a sense, being taken from your immediate environment, but I am curious about how intimate/personal you were.  I am guessing you’d want to slug someone if they described you as a surrealist. Well I did clap along, but not in the late 80’s when that recording was made! I don’t think there’s the line “I buried Paul” in there, but I wouldn’t argue if you say it is. No, I don’t think they are meaningful… it’s very difficult to pick the right words. They are not significant in themselves, but have an important place in a wider ‘sympathy’. Like the smell of toast is not meaningful but could be crucial within a person’s impression of existence. I am really struggling with this point right now and don’t have the training to do it justice.

It’s far too late to be a surrealist, but I believe that we are guided by the unconscious, which is a continuous activity of the brain. I am certain that music is formed in collaboration with instinctual mechanisms that are not explicit to the person. I’ve been through analysis and (to my own satisfaction) have seen how sublimated urges have been honed over the years to allow me to create. It’s a wonderfully rich world and I feel sorry for people who claim there’s no ‘I’. They should stop signing their research papers if that’s the case.

Were you working with tape loops and mucking about with gadgets for long before Severed Heads cohered?  I have a romantic image of you obsessively taping everything around you as a child, amassing teetering stacks of unlabelled cassettes that later wound up in your music. Well, yeah. All of us started creating long before the band thing. I have a cassette of me as a kid screwing around with spinning records in the late 60’s. (Actually the most important thing is the cassette itself is an original 1st generation Philips dictation cassette.) By the early 70’s I had a portable recorder and in 1975 some open reel machines which I connected up like the illustration on the back of Eno’s Discreet Music. But tape loops were more fun!

When I met Bradbury he was making some infernal noise by firing off a ghetto blaster in a public space and recording that onto another ghetto blaster. Then repeating that process. Insane volume in libraries and buses! I Am Shitting Up A Room.

Your short wave radio project is one of my favorite things that you’ve done.  Do you think hearing all those strange transmissions as a child did a lot to shape your taste and aesthetic?  What is the most unusual/memorable thing you remember hearing? Shortwave radio was just the most amazing thing for a child – you could turn a few knobs and make the most wonderful soundscapes. My old man liked to hear people and music but I liked the noises. The thing we could both like were the ‘numbers stations’ which were numerous and powerful back then. I soon got the sound out of the shortwave radio and put it on a tape loop. It’s funny that a guy I met years later called Ian Andrews was doing exactly the same thing a few suburbs away! But we were two of the very few who did that kind of stuff as teens.

When I heard Kraftwerk’s Radioactivity it was like – my god, there are other people out there! I was so happy. Then I heard Stockhausen’s Gesang der Jünglinge and realised that it’s a long flow of ideas, and innovation is perhaps a myth.

Do you think distributing your music through Sevcom has worked fairly well?  I imagine setting up and maintaining it consumed a lot of time. Sevcom only ever met demand, never encouraged it. Occasionally I’d talk with a company that offered to promote the music & deduct a fee. Talk was about buying shelf space, buying live gigs, paying off radio stations … what use? Back in Severed Heads’ most commercial moment with top 20 airplay and all that, we were talking to our label about what to do next. Can’t be ‘Severed Heads’ – change the name, change the music – roll over, play dead … what was the point of it? Become Elton John? There’s a point where ambition folds over.

Do you think working with record labels in the past was a good idea?  I’ve noticed that a lot of bands I like release their music on their own, but it seems like that is only a feasible option if you’ve already established yourself with by making a big splash through shock/extremity or name recognition from a stint at a “big” label. Absolutely! We drew great benefit from our time with majors. The champions of self marketing and market dumping all had major labels first build their goodwill. By market dumping I mean giving away your material, funded by cash reserves that younger bands can’t match. Many multinationals: Roche, Microsoft etc. have done this to destroy their competition. The sad thing is that the young bands are convinced that they too will eventually win the race to the bottom. They denounce labels and publishers without having experienced either.

Has the direction of your commissioned composition been solidified?  I’m pretty curious about where you’ll go with with it- will it be a totally new direction or an elaboration upon one of your past phases?  I’ve always thought that a piece like Wonder of All the World could work quite well as a long-form work.  Are you planning a visual accompaniment? It’s not solid yet, I’m very anxious. It has to be suitable for high school music studies, explain what I think is important about music and yet still be an interesting work. One concept for example is that tempo and pitch are two ends of a spectrum. OK, so that’s easily demonstrated with an oscillator. But how do you make that beautiful? It has to demonstrate that moving image is music – not just ‘visual music’ but all moving image. The conservatorium are taking a huge risk on me and I’m puzzling through the elements and hoping it starts to come together pretty damn soon.
There are a few old things I could rework. I remade Gashing the Old Mae West today as an Ableton project, not too hard as it’s simply an 8 channel loop.

How did your collection of weird cassettes begin?  Is there any one that you keep going back to again and again?  I’m kind of fascinated by the amount of old “exotica” LPs I find at thrift stores- it seems like the average person used to be a lot more open to music from other cultures than they are now. I am sad that no bland suburban families are buying Hawaiian music or mambo albums any more. The cassettes are mostly family heirlooms, brought back from various trips around Asia in the 60’s and 70’s. They’ve been picked up in markets as souvenirs, bootlegged from records with lots of surface noise and added distortion. I’ve added a whole layer of crank, religious and business tapes from hock shops throughout the 80’s. A curious thing is how mysterious old Asian tapes are now identifiable online. I had reused sounds from some indecipherable Hindi tape on a track 25 years ago. Trying to find a better copy I ended up on YouTube watching the film from which my old cassette was dubbed. That’s kind of disturbing – the obscurity is peeled away and the reuse seems referential now that I know the original author!

Do you see 2010 as a particularly bad time to be a musician?  It certainly seems quite hard to make a living or even get noticed in the relentless torrent of releases these days, but it also seems pretty easy to record, distribute your work, and get cheap, sophisticated gear & software. A visit to ‘Mutant Sounds’ shows that back in the 70’s and 80’s there were an enormous amount of bands pumping out cassettes and 7 inchers that no one much cared about. Looks like every second street corner had a teen ‘industrial band’ flogging ten copies. Perhaps there are not more bands now, just more people on stage than in the audience, because everybody can be on stage.
We want what we can’t have: a rare edition or fame or riches. It all comes down to power, and having made distribution more equitable has left the power relationship unchanged. In fact it’s more vicious – the lower end is judged in hits and tweets and downloads.

Did you ever get involved in making videos for other artists?  it seems like it would have been quite natural, since Severed Heads was so far ahead of the curve in regards to video art, but all of your work that I’ve seen is very instantly recognizably “Tom Ellard.” 

It’s endearing to play the piano badly on your own recordings but to then go out and act like a session musician is a bit foolish. I don’t think I should make videos for other bands. I’ve actually done plenty of corporate video but it’s all very nondescript – banks, utilities – and I keep it very secret!

How are you dealing with the culture shock of being immersed in academia?  Do most of your students know that you are a titan of post-industrial music?  if so, are they appropriately awed? My students were born around 1990. When they were six the Internet became mainstream. Their whole lives have been spent in an information sewer, and the entire notion of scarcity is beyond them. They see history as a mockumentary, everything a punchline. When I have been compelled to talk about myself to them (which I avoid like anthrax) they stare at me like I was their dad on drugs.

One of my friends is very insistent that Dance be played at her funeral. Was there anything notable about the conception of that particular piece?  What would you play at your funeral? Dance is based on a TRS-80 home computer which was made before there were rules about RF interference. If you ran a series of instruction loops in BASIC you could broadcast primitive music around the whole neighbourhood and Dance is part of a recording I made with a radio placed near the machine, changing the tuning every now and then to alter the timbre. Computer pirate radio.

I’m flummoxed by the funeral question. It’s not going to matter much to me what they do. They can use a garbage bag and play a polka.

Which of your works is your current favorite?  I am especially fond of Cuisine, myself.  Is there anything you’ve recorded that still kind of astonishes you (like “Where the hell did that come from?) Every musician probably hates everything they have ever done until that drunken moment when you think – “hey that’s not so shit after all.” I like what I do now far more than any of the old albums, but seems like the opposite is true for the audience. That’s a bit unsettling because it means you’ve become a comfortable old chair. I guess I like the two parts of Over Barbara Island the best. Dead Eyes Opened makes money. Barbara I have to give away.

Do you have any closing wisdom that you’d like to impart to the masses? Well, one reason people make music is to make friends. It works when you are starting out and you do meet some really sweet people. But you also seem to meet these incredibly bitter, fucked up people that vent their jealousy and rage at you like you were a thing, not a person. I used to compensate, but since freezing the band I’ve realised they’re the ones with the problem. I guess the lesson is – they’ve already cast you an arrogant prick – so GO FOR IT. You might even get a laugh out of it.

Baggage

Eh, I was supposed to work on the game this weekend but a mounting level of

filled up the two days. Projects have weighted urgency and unfortunately the time had come for polishing the antiques.

I’d promised to restart the old scan section on sevcom.com which is kind of like promising to clean the fridge that broke down 3 years ago, you don’t even want to open it – just nuke the entire folder and start again. The best way is via yet another WordPress install but rather than annoy Stephen I figured out a template and cut n pasted pages for every year. Each page is a bunch of JavaScript droplets where I can load images and make the thumbnails automatically. Some weird stuff with the tool caching wrong pictures but eventually working.

Next problem is that I’d made all the scans into PDF which is sensible in that Acrobat does OCR and adds metadata so a more complex library could be based on searches of the actual text. Overkill for this job but good for possible employment skills. However the PDFs won’t thumbnail and all have to be made into JPEGs. Despite the leap second – by midnight on Sunday I’d only got pages for the first few years, some 90’s stuff and 2010 done. And that’s it for the museum for a while.

Heh, you wish.

The fantiques are the loudest pressure group and would gladly have me do 1982 until death. Scans will need to be renovated at a decent pace to avoid emails with the same tone as your grandma discovering you’re no longer going to church.

Videos are another problem. When moving to Vimeo I made an agreement with Stephen R Jones that I’d work from masters or at least good copies, but there’s not always one available until he’s managed to cut together all the dubs he has on file. Sometimes I get asked why this or that isn’t up and the answer is the YouTube version was off VHS and we’re trying to go back to the original. It takes time. I’ve currently got A Million Angels in my request bin, but no good copy to work with.

Only two weeks ’til term starts again and I get washed under students. Course design is back on the agenda, as is the damn annual exhibition. This was a year where I was supposed to take it easy. All this workaholic stuff must mean I have some kind of psychological

Rebigotting part 2 – Help design a box set package!

Gosh – how time flies when you’re still servicing high interest debt! It was April when I last reported on the Bigot album. Since then I got the hot water replaced. (Hey, you might not care but to me that’s one less source of cold showers I’m going to have to face. Three thousand bucks to place a concrete sarcophagus over the old one, move people out of the infected region and install some special $300 valve that is now lawful.)

"Rheem" is Japanese for expensive.

Now all I have to do is get the kitchen fixed up and … anyway. Bigot. So I met with LTM over in Belgium and the plan is now to box up Bigot with a couple of other LPs – Stretcher, Bigot, Bad Mood Guy and Rotund. In each case I have to revert to the original track listing and none of this modernity stuff. OK.

This is most difficult with Bad Mood Guy because I have the digital masters, but not the analogue tapes that Robert then hand spliced from those masters. Robert transferred some tracks to open reel tape and then used sticky tape to make edididididididits. That open reel tape was then duplicated to have vinyl cut (the Nettwerk LP was a dub of a dub). When I remade the CDs, I thought that the edidididididididits weren’t as important as working from the original sources. Well think again buster. LTM want it just like it was in 1928.

This was a puzzle indeed, because there wasn’t much chance that the tape still existed in which case you have to use a transcription from the vinyl which is more poetry than fidelity. To my surprise there had been a PCM digital copy made back in the 80s, and I still have the PCM recorder that could read it. Score 1 me. Getting good playback is a bit tricky (it’s on videotape) but I now have a decent rough of the whole album.

Next problem is that the analogue tracks have a different sound to the digital ones. They have gone from PCM tape through a mixer to 1/4″ tape then through a mixer to PCM and that through a mixer to my Pro Tools A-D. First, get rid of the 50Hz hum. A tiny bit of exciter rebuilds the treble. The bass is a whole different problem – it undulates very slowly, gaining and losing strength over a period of seconds which I think has to do with the way PCM used to work. There’s not really a way to fix this and so it’s just another factor in the patchwork that of this accursed album. Hell, the mix was made both at my studio and at CBS in 2 days flat. No two tracks are quite the same already. Let it be.

We haven’t decided on how the box set will be packaged. James asked me and I asked Stewart and he said he wanted it to sit nicely with all his other CDs. What do you think? A box? Jewel case? Hat box? Hollow out a goat? I’m a bit over CDs so I don’t feel that concerned.

It could come as many large boxes and a woman that took the CDs out for you when you wanted to play them. Although that would be creepy because she would stare at you while you had the headphones on.

Like this except with Captain Kirk crossed out and Severed Heads written on it in texta. Actually leave Kirk in, so long as he is the bad Kirk from the parallel universe that’s pretty accurate.

This Pentangle Box would be a good CD box if you smoked cigars. You could buy the Bigot Box and tip the CDs out and put cigars in it instead.

Maybe you have a better idea for a CD box set? If you have an idea that we can use we’ll credit you as executive box consultant or something.

“Severed Heads” name traded for basket of chocolate?

ADELAIDE Monday.

Reliable sources report that the name “Severed Heads” may have been traded for a largish basket of hand dipped chocolates. There has been no official confirmation of the report and the band are tight lipped, but if the reports are to be believed the Severed Heads name could be winging its way back to the UK next week, a trophy for the mother country.

Security cameras caught the trio entering the Hilton Hotel late on Monday night after their final Australian performance carrying what appears to be something wrapped in cellophane. A document is said to have changed hands. And some fans took photographs of the ex band with a basket of chocolate similar to the one described.

The band have been part of a tour led by Gary Numan, entertaining middle aged business women and their husbands around Australia. Theirs was the job of warming up (and in some cases resuscitating) the silver haired fans for their date with the Numan wall of fog. Their success was such that the tour management may have decided to bribe them them to stop and go home – a win for Australian music!

Update

Previous ‘Severed Heads’ lead guitarist Tom Ellard has issued this statement:

I would like to thank everybody who came to the shows and it was a great pleasure to be able to say hello and goodbye to more of our local friends. I would especially like to thank Red Ant Touring for booking us and the Gary Numan team for making room for us in the luggage. By the time we reached our last show we’d managed to get quite decent! I should also mention that the group this time was Stewart and Tom on stage with Ant doing all the tecchy.

Bands will retire and then be tempted to return just one more time. We did – we owed some more shows. But we now have made a solemn chocolate fuelled promise that Severed Heads will not perform in Australia again. We have a secret document which, if transgressed, will unleash an ancient curse of robot pilots. So please do not ask this of us. Pilots are scary.

Of course there is a Tom Ellard concert in October. That is not Severed Heads. There is the ‘overlord’ event. That is not Australia. But once ‘overlord’ is completed there will be NO MORE of this Severed Heads kind of thing.

Will they keep their promise? Will the name ‘Severed Heads’ be for ever lost in some foreign clime? Or is this just some vague in joke that only makes sense to the people on the tour? Are chocolates yummy?

Oh, let’s just have a photo.

Sydney - The Enmore - click for big

 

The Future laid bare – strange portents.

The information embargo has cleared and so I just updated the sevcom front page with all the gossip. To save you the small motion of your finger on a mouse button, it reads:

Live Events in 2011:

Video retrospective:
NEW YORK
8TH MARCH
NP Contemporary Art Center 131 Chrystie Street

Playing with Gary Numan:
BRISBANE
THU 12TH MAY. TIVOLI
SYDNEY
FRI 13TH. ENMORE THEATRE (ALL AGES)
MELBOURNE
SAT 14TH. FORUM
ADELAIDE
MON 16TH MAY. HQ

Concert performance:
SYDNEY
22ND OCTOBER.
THE JOAN SUTHERLAND PERFORMING ARTS CENTRE

“Overlord” DECEMBER still to be confirmed.

{I don’t think this retirement idea is working out. Or is this how it works out, declare that you have died and they take an interest? Seems backwards but anyway. Note that Overlord is still in embargo and will be for a few months more I’d say. Anyone with the slightest military history would have guessed it.}

Just to explain that the concert is the main event of the year – e.g. it will be the first time I’ve performed Gashing The Old Mae West in 27 years!

Other thing is that I have moved most of the albums over to BandCamp because Mr. Phantom Circuit said that was where ‘they’ were hiding. I feel kind of bad about that, because independence is a rare thing, but people buying FLAC and getting it straight away is better than what I was offering. And now anyone can inbreed our stuff on their FaceBook thing without having to steal it. Oh they will anyway but still.

It means I leaped onto SoundCloud for no good reason but I’ll find one. Maybe (shock horror!) new music? Where to leap next? Do I join FaceBook? Has it come to this?

I have completed all the cassettes, so the banner here will have to change. Didn’t get much clamor for Pidgin Little Red Riding Hood, looks like Allegron For Your Pensioners is what you will get next. Sucks to you.

ATTAIN MAXIMUM PANIC LEVEL

AH SHIT

Built the performance rig – Roland keys to laptop running Live 8.1. Sound from MBox2 to the new Yamaha stage mixer. Launchpad controller for switching inputs, live scenes and volume mixing (this is turning out good, easy to see the buttons). Sony PS3 for the video out, although the production want component video sends and the cable I bought doesn’t work. New cable or replace with backup BD player. Testing the rig on a daily basis, one major collapse so far due to a plug in. Stewart will be coming up from Tasmania soon with keys and Logic, be good to practice together at last.

Quite a lot of the performing is happening on macros built in Reaktor with occasional jamming on Live using the probability launching feature. Hardest bit is tapping the keys to get good sync. Have to get latency down.

All the videos are complete and on both BD and the hard drive of the PS3. Some strange problem with dull sound quality when compiling the video … I’ve remastered and replaced the video sound from a different editor but have to investigate once we’re out of the panic zone. (Could it be 44.1 to 48KHz or am I doing something wrong with the compression or what).

aladdin-sane

Deep into preparing the speech for Saturday … I’ve got way too many images now and have to try figure out how to build a coherent overview out of all the conflicting ideas: like what is the difference between Lady Gaga with a lightning bolt on her face and Kraftwerk using El Lissitzsky on their album cover? Why would you call a glitch label Mille Plateaux? Why did they wear purple wigs in UFO? How can I connect Daft Punk with Space Patrol?

Building the listening kiosk for the exhibition. Every damn track has to have a page with an embedded Java player on it otherwise the monkeys can break it.

PUBLICITY How many more images can I get of 1981? Christ how I was I supposed to know to have a frigging photographer covering everything that happened 30 years ago… got two publicists from the festival working on it … the Sydney Morning Herald are doing the Post Punk thing in the Spectrum mag this coming weekend. Daily Telegraph is doing the gig. FBi radio this Thursday are doing Sevs history live to air 9pm. I guess JJJ will take John Cale which makes sense. Hell, John Cale might have trouble when Al Green is in town.

I have to catch up with Roger Bolton soon, back from London from working with Inside Us All and has a VJ night in mind in March for Rainforest Rescue – be a good excuse for me to get wrapped in Quartz Composer and databases for the thesis. As soon as the festival is over the retro stuff stops cold dead – I have to get busy with what happens NEXT. I suspect it won’t be me saying no, it’ll be some other shiny history bauble that catches the sun…

Can’t sleep. Clowns will eat me.

ziggystardust_468x627

Oh finally…

the launch is done and the gag is off the mouth.

HAPPY 3oTH BIRTHDAY SEVERED HEADS
World’s longest running shaggy dog joke.

birthday_dogs

Modular and the Festival of Sydney present:
SEVERED HEADS & THE REELS
STEVE ‘MAL’ MALLINDER & MARK MURPHY

BECKS FESTIVAL BAR JANUARY 14TH

More information and some picture they found in a cupboard that had been sitting there for nearly 25 years at the Sydney Festival site!

Brought to you by BEER.

‘sapnin

I would love to tell you what is going on. But then I’d have to kill you. And I’d have to travel around to people’s houses to do that and it’s Sunday night so I’d rather stay in. Mind you, I could arrange for people to come here so I could kill them which would be more convenient. But then I’d probably have to wait around for people to show up. And I’d go out and come back and find a note CAME AROUND FOR YOU TO KILL ME BUT YOU WEREN’T IN. So really it’s best if I keep on being mysterious about WHAT IS GOING ON.

Actually the funny thing is the closer I get to being able to say, “Yes, OK I know what is going to happen and I can announce it now”, the more likely that it will cause a sudden plot twist where the spy woman that I thought was shadowing me is actually a male relative who is running away from aliens or something like that. But not as interesting.

You see, last week I thought that January wasn’t going to happen. Because I hadn’t heard anything for a while and I went to the website of the organisers and there was nothing listed so I thought, well that’s yet another disappointing life experience, shall I become an alcoholic? No! I will update my web presence instead. And I wrote to the person organising December, who had started last January. Are you following?

But now the person who was organising December hasn’t written back and I suddenly heard that January is on. What’s more if I do January then I can’t do December because somebody would get cross for reasons that I can’t say. Or I’d have to kill you and that’s too much trouble. God I am so grateful that I don’t Twitter, or I’d have to announce nothing several times an hour.

Look maybe it’s better if I say what ISN’T going to happen. Is that OK? Great.

  • I am not adopting an African child, nor is an African child adopting me.
  • You may have heard something about Dolly Parton, it is completely without foundation.
  • Chocolate Clinker biscuits are not coming back onto the market despite being the greatest invention of mankind. I die a little when I accept this.
  • There are NO plans for any new Severed Heads record, tour or TV show.

When I actually have details that won’t disappear the moment I try rely on them, I’ll spill the beans. If I have beans. I don’t have any right at this moment.

09_37_4---Baked-Beans-on-toast_web

Shipping of CDs is a bit late. I will now attempt emotional blackmail … I’m sorry but work is frantic right now. Last Thursday went from 9AM to 9PM, Friday I was busy building a new video production course, Saturday I got to filling orders as well as editing a video for The Interpreter. Today I allocated 1 hour of human contact before getting back to study and … and … birds pecked me. Yes.