Recognise this handsome pair?
Why, it’s none other than Public Service Broadcasting, the brainchild of banjo-gutair-synth-n-samples-wielding maestro J. Willgoose Esq. (right) and drummer Wrigglesworth (left) who are currently on a whistle-stop UK tour promoting debut album ‘Inform, Educate, Entertain’, available now in all good record shops. You might remember that back at the beginning of 2012 they asked your humble scribe to provide a warm-up DJ set for their live show at Tooting Broadway Market. Well, the stakes have been considerably upped since then and I was recently delighted to receive a second invitation to provide ‘the grams’, only this time at a sold-out show at Shoreditch’s rather enormous Village Underground. The result was a carefully chosen selection of corduroy-flavoured jams (including a couple of requests from Mr. Willgoose himself) likely to appeal to an expectant crowd awaiting PSB’s high-octane mix of newsreel footage, public information films, thundering drums and sleek electronics. I’m posting it here for the benefit of those who missed it – you would also have missed these fellows subsequently tearing the roof off , but I’m afraid there’s not much I can do about that until the DVD comes out:
This was my ‘in-between bands’ set and while a couple of these tracks have featured in my online mixtapes before, surely nobody could dispute their collective status as party-rocking gold standard. I also have a recording of the evening’s much longer opening set featuring a more laid-back mix of vintage library favourites, but I thought it best not to saturate the market just yet. I’ll get round to posting it up at some point.
Speaking of teasing, though I’m reticent to lay bare the editorial processes of this website, a desire for full disclosure forces me to reveal that when searching for a nice press shot of Mr. Willgoose online, this really rather upsetting article was the very first thing to, quite literally, pop up. Displaying a morally ambiguous combination of sympathetic biography with cheap, titillating sensationalism, it’s the kind of thing you could imagine a guffawing Sid James reading aloud to Bernard Bresslaw in deleted scenes from ‘Carry On Being Objectionable’. I can assure you that my search criteria was merely ‘Willgoose’ rather than ‘handsome pair’, so heaven only knows what would have happened if I’d googled the title of recent PSB hit single ‘Spit Fire Bird’ – a flaming Barbara Windsor, perhaps? What kind of world are we living in where we can’t even find a sensible answer on the internet?
Curious times, my friends…
You might remember that back in December Mr. Joseph Stannard of the The Outer Church (not to mention The Wire and lots of other goodly works) kindly invited me to DJ at one of his regular live events, where I warmed up the pews for excellent live turns by Silver Pyre and Kemper Norton. I took the liberty of recording my set and the resulting mixtape became one of my most popular, receiving almost as many hits as that smutty one I did, but not quite, because this is Britain after all.
What you might not remember is that a few months previously I had also contributed to The Outer Church blog’s regular series of guest mixes. It was around the time that ‘Ghosts Of Bush’ was first gathering attention and given the nocturnal nature of that album it was decided that a mixtape designed for consumption in the small hours would be just the ticket. Despite it’s trim forty-odd-minute length, the resulting ‘Foggy Nightshift Mix’ was a labour of love two days in the making, as I agonised over the track selection (indeed at least three hours were spent unsucessfully trying to shoehorn Shut Up And Dance’s ‘Autobiography of a Crackhead’ in somewhere). But I have to say I was very proud of the results and am pleased to announce it’s now been uploaded to The Outer Church’s Mixcloud page, where it can be enjoyed along with many other fine guest spots by the likes of Time Attendant, The Geography Trip and more. The original post on The Outer Church site featuring my own detailed track-by-track commentary (containing one swear word and a couple of minor grammatical errors) can be found here. I’m not going to insist that you read it while listening, I’ll merely posit the suggestion and leave it up to you to decide:
Finally, to right a wrong and because they made some of the truly incredible dance music I’ve ever come across, I’ll let Shut Up And Dance have the last word:
Described by the writer Gary Mulholland as ‘F**k-the-man brave’ and possessing a social conscience that saw them tear the roof off at an early Resonance FM benefit gig for a fraction of what they would normally ask (‘we wouldn’t have taken more if you’d had it’, they said), Smiley and PJ truly are heroes of the hardcore scene. Having never indulged in crack myself (rather more-ish, so I’m told), I can only speculate as to what needing a fix might involve, but I love the panicky, itchy and claustrophobic feel of this track. In my original notes when I was preparing tracks for this mixtape, I remember putting something down about it sounding like a junkie being chased through an alleyway by the spirit of a disapproving Gregorian choir, something I should probably have kept to myself. They also took a completely insane hardcore re-interpretation of ‘Walking in Memphis’ to number two in the UK charts without asking permission, then reputedly instructed Mark Cohen’s indignant legal team to ‘f**k off’. Despite near-ruinous legal proceedings they never stopped putting out tracks and to this day they’re still out there ‘ripping up shows’, as they might put it. They made some pretty weird jungle too:
PJ and Smiley – I salute you!
Thanks to everyone who came down to Howlround’s debut live performance on the Resonance FM stage (or to be more accurate just in front of it) at The Great Escape Festival in Brighton on Saturday. The full thirty-minute performance will be aired on Resonance on 25th May as part of a full and generous line-up of all the performances that took place on their stage across the three days of the festival. You’ll be pleased to know that Monday 25th just happens to be a Bank Holiday, allowing you to enjoy the entire day’s programming uninterrupted, as I’ve no doubt you will.
As it happened my aforementioned trepidation at taking a number of heavy-yet-fragile, reliable-yet-unpredictable reel-to-reel machines and conducting an entirely improvised performance using a tangled mass of tape loops proved mercifully unfounded. While our previous day’s rehearsal had been an orgy of tape snarling and loops snapping, our equipment performed it’s duties on the big day competently and with a minimum of fuss. Indeed, after so many years of sitting forgotten at the back of studios, being used as door stops or catching fire, our Revoxes positively thrived with all the attention. All of which should bode well for our subsequent live performances later in the year, about which details will follow in due course.
Special thanks to Larry Gale for the marvellous picture above and also to the Resonance FM Sharpie, for being the most useful pen ever:
For those of you limbering up to accuse me of resting of my ‘BBC Resident Hauntologist’ laurels (in truth I have yet to be challenged regarding this, but it can only be a matter of time) I hereby present a small taster of a much bigger BBC-related hauntological study planned for later on in the year. It’s going to be a sequel of sorts to ‘Ghosts Of Bush’ but I can’t tell you much more than that, partly because I’m sworn to secrecy, but mostly because I simply haven’t got a clue how it will end up, other than a better idea of what it WON’T sodding-well sound like, thanks to some rather tiresome recent developments. But let’s focus on the positives – I have some nice new demos on my hard-drive and when the time is right and I’ve tweaked them to perfection, hopefully quite a large audience will get an ear-full.
Speaking of new demos, this track ‘The BNCS Blues’ came about during a quiet half hour alone in one of the studios used by the BBC Arabic programme ‘XTRA’. You might remember this fine show very kindly ran a feature on the Bush House record last year, so I knew they wouldn’t object if I borrowed their studio and used it to muck around instead of doing any of the remotely useful or sensible things that I’m actually paid for. And thanks to the BBC’s new ‘transparent’ policies, when I say ‘alone’ I actually mean ‘sitting in a glass box in full view of the entire building’. Great days.
Thrillingly, BNCS stands for ‘Broadcast Network Control System’ and consists of a computer screen containing a number of ‘shortcuts’ to lots of different things useful to the making of current affairs radio. A bit like a virtual patch-bay, you can assign different audio feeds to your mixing desk, connect to different studios, monitor different radio networks, have someone thousands of miles away read your headlines, or you can even scream ‘HELLO CAIRO, ARE YOU THERE!!!!!????’ at five o’clock in the morning. The choice is yours.
One other thing a BNCS panel has is a number of tone generators. To explain it to the small number of regular visitors to this site who aren’t impossibly geeky, a standard 1Khz tone (or sine wave – gosh, I’m even starting to bore myself) is used by studios to test sound levels, to send signals to each other and on rare occasions make weird ethereal noises. Everything here was made using a number of these tone generators and an automated time-check signal similar to the speaking clock, only better of course because this is the BBC, darling. Of course I have to admit that although BNCS generated every sound you’re hearing, most of the trickery took place in the edit. The tone generators only play at a single, unwavering frequency and volume, but as they are a ‘pure tone’ they can be sped up or slowed down to create pretty much any pitch you’d care to create, including that rather splendid low end. And although I pride myself on very rarely working with additional effects, unmodulated sine waves sound remarkably flat, so a little reverb here and LFO there helped give the piece some atmosphere. Not a bad evening’s work. Sound really is the most incredible medium when you stop to consider that everything here with the exception of the automated voice started out as this:
In other news, I can confirm that Chris and I are booked to play our first ever Howlround gig at The Great Escape Festival in Brighton.
This is partly thanks to Resonance FM curating it’s own area at the ‘Day For Night Stage’ (Brighthelm Centre, Queens Rd, BN1) on 16th-18th May, and I highly recommend coming down if you can make it to catch some of the very special performers spread across the three days, including Khuljit Bhamra, David Thomas, Jali Burama Mbye, Kinnie The Explorer, Birkwin Jersey, Beatrice Dillon, Fletcher, Ian Helliwell, Monster Island, Elle Osbourne Trio, Saturday Sun, Why I Onions and more. Pretty auspicious company to be mixing in, and I must confess to a certain amount of trepidation of taking our notoriously unpredictable set up on the road (or indeed plugging it in to the mains, as only last week we discovered that one of our machines had spent at least part of it’s career ON FIRE). It’s a total step into the unknown for us and the sort of thing that’s really quite hard to rehearse, as most modest three-bedroom houses aren’t really built to accomodate five tape machines, loops, mixing desks and PA systems without displacing housemates and upsetting neighbours. Fortunately we’re on at noon on 18th, so unless the proverbial one man and his dog file regular copy for The Wire, we should just about get away with it. Cross our spools and hope to die…