Thursday, March 8, 2018

opening doors to the blessings of potential realised.

someone inviting you to something. now.
with a hop, a step, the raising of many small flags and trebles all round, Simply Superior has something for you:

indeed, much to read, ponder, and inwardly digest; this is a concerted, serious offer to all, and as such, needs verbiage to support it before the actual experience is obtained.

so not much to add except to state again that all correspondence on this subject will be replied to, and a huge, nay, massive entreaty to all those reading this and the webpage itself to spead this news as far and as wide as possible through whatever means are available: this way is the only practical way at present to spread Complemation with the lack of possibilities for public events at the present time (for reasons it may or may not be useful to go into later), and your help - yes, yours - will be greatly appreciated and useful in the war efforts.

may all be well.

Monday, February 19, 2018

finally, and in conclusion, again.

outside Desmet Cinema, Amsterdam, Feb 22nd 1986
Q&A session, Desmet, Dorothea Franck & Z'EV in front row

Q&A session, Desmet, Dorothea Franck (obscured) & Z'EV in front row

Sunday, February 11, 2018

is persistence everything? until it isn't.

I am in deep, deep shock that I am writing this; I really thought that Jóhann Jóhannsson would bury me. it feels completely wrong that these words are now being typed by me, having learned that he died a day or so ago, when we had been in contact less than a week ago. I feel compelled to say something no matter how ineffectual and paltry it will, of necessity, be. what good does it do? I cannot honestly say. at all. and yet these appendages affixed to my hands, indeed, part of my hands, if we have to define them as such, and not as "four relationships" as Bateson would have it, keep on making movements that result in characters appearing on a screen, that will ultimately find their way into the retinas and brain cells of others. but is that not putting to fine a point on it that Jói was part of that conglomeration of what I laughingly refer to as "my life?" no. he was part of me. and so, it seems, I was of him.

Although I cannot be completely sure, I think we were first introduced when I was doing live sound for Unun, a group he played in for some time in Reykjavík, a few times. or maybe it was through Reptilicus. or maybe just generally being there in Iceland, as at that time, it was almost unavoidable not to meet everyone doing something in that time at that time, before it became the multi-cultural hub that I understand it now is, before the stag party weekends and gigantic spike in tourism. it seemed to me that if you walked down the main street and threw a stick, you hit three  musicians, and possibly some more. later it would be artists. doesn't matter. Jóhann was cut from a different cloth to others I knew - no disrespect to them, at all - by nature of his upbringing, his education for some part being outside of Iceland, and some slightly aloof tendencies, which I later learned were shielding a lack of self-esteem. no, I really don't think he would mind me saying that now, since you ask.

over the course of a short time, we ended up becoming embroiled in a situation which was called "a studio" and that is being charitable, to say the least: it was a garage. and so it came to pass that we were basically in each other's hair (for we both had some at that time, gentle reader) a great deal of the time. after some rather terrible times on my part, I ended up living above this, and gradually, things started to get entangled in the way that cables do when left to their own devices in a box, no matter how carefully they are wrapped up. Jói was busy with several dextrous fingers in several warm-ish pies, and for a long time was not really putting his eggs in any one basket, although perhaps he would have had an easier time of it if he had. everything he was involved with came to the brink, and many times, several brinks of rampant success. but the brink, or brinks, they remained.

until one day. and this is real memory talking here. I remember when he brought in the tape his father had supplied him with of the "singing" IBM machine. it was impossible to ignore what this was. Jóhann had been swallowing material I fed or left around or suggested to him for a long time after we came in contact of the "odd" sort, and it is easy to say that his real vision (but I would be lying if I said I thought he owned that vision for himself at that point) to combine the considerable obvious musical facility he had with the strangeness and "otherness" of that which he digested from my crappy cassette copies of the classics of "weird music." the piece made him. and rightly so. it was the first really "him" piece. well, that's what I say. that was not the soul of the machine on that record; it was his. I begged him for years to let me mix it, and now, in retrospect (lovely thing that it is) I see why he wouldn't let me.

when we worked together, on various things and in various roles, he drove me almost bonkers with his perfectionism. I would pass by the studio to see if the thing was being used (which it nearly always was), or to fix computer problems (my job) or chinwag about various abtruse philosophical ideas; and on one occasion, he was working on two bars of a rhythm track, I think, for a LHOOQ song. I came back two days later, and he was working on the same two bars. obviously, this had been more or less continuously chewed on in the intervening period, but I could not detect any difference whatsoever. I doubt, by this point, that he could. but he was hoping that it would perfect itself because of his persistence. and because I share that double-edged sword - the other edge of which is called "stubborness" - I understood.

Jóhann always wanted to be "the man behind the curtain," and finally, he wasn't. thank $DEITY for that. although you will not find our collaborations listed in many places, they exist, and quite intense they were and are, too. I was "consultant" on a few of his more recent projects, supplying him with input both sonic and literary. the reasons these things did not bear (public) fruit cannot be told at this time. but Jóhann was always generous in attributing infuence from my rather random input: 


there are more if you care to go looking.

we did not do nearly enough together, and we did not see each other nearly enough in the last years. although we were planning to about a week ago. the new "secret" project he wished me to consult on would have been quite a mind-blower, and the correspondence was long and involved.

what he managed to do, in a relatively short time, is find his own voice and that, friends and listeners, is a truly rare thing in this day and age. naturally, you can hear his influences, of which there are many, but you will not, I dare say (I double dare) be able to deny on listening to his rather stupendous output that it has something unique about it, and I hope you wll pause to reflect on how he can, and does, and will continue to, touch the soul of the listener. you may not know exactly where, but it reaches in and does things. things that should be done. things he worked long and hard to allow himself to do. he overcame something that many people cannot, and to a large extent as far as I can see from this insane distance with which I am now faced, found something that is so human that it can frighten most people away never to return.

Jóhann Jóhannsson, you taught me that persistence is something not to be afraid of, but a tool to be used until it no longer becomes necessary. I wish I could have helped you more, and I will honour your memory, and actual (not pretend) friendship, as long as I have another breath left in me. I wish, I really wish I wasn't writing this. I really will miss you.

(photos by Einar Snorri, 1995 - used without permission, but I hope he won't mind)

[edit] some photos of the "studio" (NT&V), ca. 2000

the back of Jóhann's head bottom right.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

last, but not least, of all, that ends well.

[possibly not final cover, but close.]

this was an enormous effort, thrwarted by many circumstances and obstacles, rescuing these materials from almost certain oblivion, and puzzling out what it all actually was. your friend and humble narrator's first credit as editor. about 28 years from when I first started typing out these rather poor quality recordings until now. my flabber is indeed gasted.

the mill grinds slow, but exceedingly fine, to be sure.

[update May 4, 2018]

still have not seen a copy.

Monday, December 18, 2017

not going gently, into that night of goodness. or similar.

so it seems that prophesy is unavoidable, and that which is done in dark jest is inevitably taken the most seriously. Z'EV, someone I worked with on many projects and for some years, has slipped away, and quite a bit falls from the lip-chamber, escaping as it should have a long time ago.

I first met him when I came to Amsterdam for the first Hafler Trio lectures. he sat in the front row and asked 'tricky' questions. I had wanted to meet him for years. and so I did. he was living close to the Central Station with his then 'partner' Dr. Dorothea Franck, and later we would become Mother Tongue. slowly but surely we saw each other most days and most nights; I did live sound for him so many times I lost count, mixed tapes, remastered cassettes so they could be released on LP, treated tapes so they could be further played around with, composed tracks for him with his material while he lay in bed with the 'flu, and delighted him when he arose, designed promotional material and record covers for him, and a great deal more, generally involving carrying odd-shaped pieces of metal and encountering difficulty with trains. we played Dutch billiards at a bar across the road from where I was living in a squat, very close to the centre of Amsterdam, the name of which I forget because we always referred to it as "The Second Office." we were pretty good. we listened in awe to the production on Neil Diamond's greatest hits. really. Z'EV and Doro were incredibly kind and generous to me in my ridiculous, self-imposed nightmare of a transition period of moving from the UK to Holland. I took his tsing-tsa (Tibetan hand bells) to London to record his composition "Geelgalayah" and they broke in the middle of the session. actually shattered into several pieces, without having being abused in any way. I tried to hide this fact, and he discovered the broken pieces before I had a chance to even try to replace the bells. it is impossible to convey how guilty and terrible I felt.

"Shemesh" A.K.A. "Geelgalayah" score.

I saw Z'EV play many times, mixing, equalising and effecting his sound as part of the performance with him; and on a good night, I swear, there was nobody to touch him. nobody. what is a painful fact is that much of what was amazing either a) did not even record onto tape (the frequencies were so extreme that no cassette on earth would have held them) or b) were so badly recorded as to be useless. no amount of treatment could save them. I tried. really. a few made it through. so bear in mind when you hear his work that much that would completely blow you away is lost forever, and much of what you can hear was many times greater in actuality. it is of course possible to say that about many people, but in Z'EV's case, very much more than just true.

Z'EV had many stories, and I listened to all of them. this was a man who told me that he had seen The Doors perform before they were signed to a record label, after all, just to give one example. but some of them were somewhat painful. there was a double attitude; on the one hand, his pioneering work was truly neglected, and it was indeed obvious to anyone with half a brain cell that it had been copied wholesale and watered down for great career effect by others. however, on the other, there was an undeniable self-destructive side to him of which I could tell many stories but will not, that he himself revelled in, in a perverse sort of way. this was coupled with a bitterness which while understandable, was also clung to a little too tightly and paraded a little too often for comfort.

Mother Tongue once performed at the AIR Gallery in London; this was to have been a major opportunity to get a financial backer, and big things were going to happen. supposedly. Genesis P-Orridge (as was) videotaped the event, and captured a horrible, ugly, quite unbelievable fight after it between Z'EV and Doro, revealing the side that was desperate to have what "he deserved," and blaming anyone he could when it did not arise as he wished. I truly hope that tape does not exist any more. the "deal" never materialised, and a major breakdown took place which was a very disturbing thing to witness, which we all did for a day or so. so it can be said with certainty that I saw him at both ends of the scale and a great deal of what was in-between.

Your Humble Narrator, Z'EV, Doro Franck = Mother Tongue. photo by Esther Wollheim.

I sat with him and helped him edit his entire history up to that point, which became "One Foot In The Grave" and was his first real release outside the channels he had been 'stuck' in, his first real 'retrospective' and his first CD(s). I was still involved with Touch, and introduced him. I thought he deserved a professional, properly done package of quality to show how incredible some of the work he had done was (and is).  he nearly destroyed this by coming to the appointment to master it all with me and lighting a huge joint. after me strongly suggesting to him that dealing with the presentation of his life's work might be better served with a clear head, he left, and came back the next day. not under the influence.

gradually, I left Amsterdam, and eventually Holland. Z'EV went through a series of ever-more bizarre living situations, including a room which was surrounded by doors, and in someone's office, sleeping under a desk, so that he for the first time in his life worked office hours, I recall him telling me. he helped me understand the Qabalistic/Numerological processes and details so that "I LOVE YOU" (the third, unreleased part of the so-called "Sexual Trilogy") could be finished. (well, it isn't really, but it got to the stage that it could be presented live.) I learned that his hearing had deteriorated somewhat, which is not suprising, given the battering his shell-likes must have taken over the years. this was confirmed when I heard some work where I recognised the signs of top-end hearing loss that I had noticed with a few others that I had worked with, and heard from some mastering engineers that the tapes which Z'EV submitted were quite some work to make useable. but in the end, I think he knew this, and worked with it, and if anyone could make it work, it would have been him. after all, the sound was only a small part of what he was dealing with.

I was always fascinated, and in awe of his written/translations. it is a huge shame and sad reflection that most of it was never published.

3 incredible, extraordinarly potent, transformative and transportational translations. unpublished. (as far as I know)

we planned to do a US tour in 2003. the artwork and an extract from the CD that was to accompany it are here:

and of course, like most of these things, it never happened. the title of the CD came from an actual toast I once heard in a Liverpool bar, and Z'EV truly loved it. it took years between me telling him of it and it getting used. and it didn't, eventually. and now it does. ironic, to be sure.

we also planned to re-release the Mother Tongue record "Open In Obscurity" with extra material on CD. Z'EV had it mastered by a friend of his in the 'states, and the dreaded and now defunct Phonometrography were to re-release it. again, some sort of offence was caused in the communication stream, and this never happened. a sketch for the typography for the sleeve is here:

between this and today, something happened, and it seems I will never know quite what it was. a month or so ago, I wrote to him to invite him to have a conversation as part of the podcast "WWHWW?" the reply was so extreme in its hatred, that I was quite taken aback; I had been aware of some stories floating around, but nothing so savage that would generate such a response. and now, I cannot ask, and I cannot even try to repair any damage, real or imaginary.

I subsequently discovered that he had removed me from his history; Wikipedia page, home page, everything. he is not the first, and possibly not the last, but it is still very odd and unfathomable to me why such things happen, and that the erasure of someone from history is thought to be even possible, let alone desireable.

Z'EV was always someone that you were either 'for' or 'against'. there were no half-measures. principally from his side.

I was always 'for' him, even in the dark times. he taught me a huge, actually unquanitifiable amount, which I will never, ever be able to repay. my gratitude will endure.

it is not how I would have wished to have this story end, but that's how it has to be. he would have called everything I have written here "bullshit," but I hope that he would have been wrong about at least most of it, at least this time.

 (if anyone is interested in releasing the two items mentioned here, please get in contact.)