Oystercatcher Salad

Last September, I played as part of a great bill at Leeds’ Recon Festival, along with Richard Dawson, The Bohman Brothers and The Pheromoans. I prepared a piece for quadraphonic sound collage and glissando guitar, while Paul Walsh showed one of hiss cut-up films.

Immediately after I played, Dan Thomas from Sheepscar Light Industrial asked if he could release the results as part of his limited edition 3″ CDR/Bandcamp download series. So, I edited it down to 21’30” length and delivered it to him. I have a small number of the CDRs available from my bigcartel shop, and the download is available for pay-what-you-like on the Sheepscar Bandcamp.

Here’s a shorter video version, with some of Paul’s film


I’ve just done a mix for my Mexican comrades Decayed Tapes. After much conceptual wrangling on my part, trying and rejecting various harebrained ideas, it ended up being a simple selection of music I like right now – some new music, some old favourites, no stylistic thread particularly, just something I’d enjoy playing myself. Listening back to it before I sent it to them, I was struck by the idea that there might be something on here to annoy the hell out of everyone apart from myself. So be it!

Coney Island

A music collaboration between Derek Morton and Neil Campbell. Video by Derek Morton.

Union Pole!

My old friend Jeff Fuccillo has recently resurected his 90s tape label Union Pole, home to a few of my old releases. In addition to new material and offereing the entire Union Pole back-catalogue for download for a dollar (that’s a dollar for it ALL), he’s also making a few projected releases available that slipped through the cracks at the time.

One of these is OFF, a temporary band from 1993 comprising myself and Stewart Walden backed by Janet Bradley, Kate Eaton and Frances Hampton, three friends who had never played any music before. This was intended as the first Union Pole CD, but for various reasons it never happened. But now it’s available, download only (again, for a dollar) here.


To coincide with this, Jeff asked if I would make a mix for his Soundcloud page. I normally like to show off how wild and eclectic my tastes are, but at the time he asked the only things I was really listening to were my own recent recordings and Ke$ha. So I made him a 55-minute mix of these sounds, often playing simultaneously. Most of my own music here is at this time unreleased, some of it as ASC, some with Michael Flower, Richard Youngs and John Clyde-Evans, Early Hominids, Declan Owen and Iibiis Rooge. Here it is:

Half Japanese “School of Love” = yeah!

I was asked recently to answer some questions for the regular Under the Influence feature in the Leeds freebie music mag Vibrations. The gist of it all was to pick one song that I felt had shaped my entire musical/artistic world in some way.

Well, songs are OK I suppose, but they’re merely vessels for something much more mysterious and powerful – obviously it’s sounds that are the important things. That was my first thought anyway… Then I thought it’d be fun to talk about early Half Japanese, for no other reason than I’ve not thought about them for a while, and their first 7″ was my most played record 25 or more years ago … still sounds great now too.

So, for the benefit of anyone unable to pick up free mags from record shops in Leeds, here’s the interview, in its unedited form:

So, the question is: which one song has had the biggest influence on your music making? And at this stage, it has to be ONE song.

I thought about this for a while, and realised one of the main things that put me on the path I’m on was hearing the first ½ Japanese 7″, and my favourite song from the nine fantastic songs on there has always been “School of love”.

Do you remember when and where you were when you first heard it?

Yes. It was right at the end of 1984. I was 18, had just left my parents’ house and was living in the dirtiest most run-down little house in Kettering, Northants, sharing with a couple of flamboyant homosexuals. We’d all grouped together, flying the small-town freak-flag, throwing crazy parties, revelling the moral and physical squalor. I was also in a ridiculous band called ESP Kinetic – we wore dresses and made a hellish angry racket on vocals, synthesizers and scrap metal, so had a lot of fun baiting the lumpen local punk audiences.  When you live in a small town in the middle of nowhere, unusual and creative people seek each other out, so I was approached at the end of a particularly tense live show by a guy called Mark Turner, who I quickly became fast friends and artistic collaborator with. He was perhaps the first person I’d met that I thought was possessed by some sort of genius, and that he was dead a couple of years later is something that makes less and less sense to me the older I get.

Anyway, one of the first times Mark came to visit us he brought the first ½ Japanese 7” ep with him, saying he loved it, but that everyone else he’d ever played it to absolutely hated it. The record ended up living at our house, Mark seeing how much joy it brought me and being famously generous with his possessions.

Do you remember what went through your mind when you first heard it?

“Jesus Christ! What the bloody hell was THAT?” I probably laughed out loud, as I often do when I hear something that floors me. I’d heard descriptions of ½ Japanese, knew they were “weird americans” who had made a supposedly-unlistenable triple-LP (!), but nothing prepared me for just how raucously FUN and unlike anything I’d ever heard before they were.

Had you already started making music when you first heard the song? If so, did it change your approach in any way? If not, how significant was it in making you want to make music?

I’d been making music for 4 or 5 years when I heard this, had already had various listening epiphanies with the likes of Throbbing Gristle andd The Velvet Underground, but Half Japanese had all of those beat for sheer primitive gonzo excitement. No overdubs, no studio, no effects – just a beat up old drum-kit, untuned electric guitar, their fantastic voices and a shitload of lunatic swagger and good-time attitude. So what if they couldn’t play, had no money for equipment or studio time and their songs were bent out of any regular shape? It affirmed for me that the most important thing to do when making music (or any other art, or anything in life, really) is to stick to your guns, keep it simple and don’t worry too much if it doesn’t correspond to anything anyone’s ever done before.

Have your feelings about the song changed over the years?

Only in as much as it being something I loved at a formative age that still sounds vibrant and inspiring to me now in middle age. There are loads of things I obsessed on in the late 70s/early 80s that have completely lost their lustre for me, so I’d surmise that early ½ Japanese is a solidly built piece of kit, fit for the long-run. I look forward to dusting it off for my grandchildren, and even my great grand-children.

Can you pick out any other individual songs, pieces of music or musical experiences that have significantly influenced what you do over the years?

I have very fond memories of zoning out to shortwave radio and chasing the fade into vinyl crackle on 60s pop records when I was a kid. Then the relentless piano and ostrich guitar solos on “All Tomorrow’s parties” by the Velvets blew my 15 year old mind right open. And hearing Thomas Tallis’s “Spem in Alium”, where renaissance polyphony goes wild and morphs into something beyond psychedelic, did the same to me 20 years later. I’m still open and ready for new ideas, always.

What are you listening to at the moment?

Lots of Nerve Net Noise, this Japanese band who build their own oscillators and set them off with minimal human intervention, pretty much no effects, to create these little slices of gorgeous repetitive parallel universe pop music. I recently rediscovered what a great and audacious pop band The Associates were too, especially the singles collected on “Fourth Drawer Down”. And I’ve been loving the ridiculously lush orchestrations on Canteloube’s “Chants D’Auvergne”. Apart from that, when I can find enough space for listening I listen to a lot of Ornette Coleman, Florian Hecker and The Fall.

Any advice for young noise makers struggling against indifference and hostility?

Under no circumstances learn to do anything “properly” or try to copy anyone.

What’s next for Astral Social Club?

I’m always working up music at home, and even take it out on the road from time to time, but recently I’ve not been fully concentrating on ASC. Instead, I’ve been doing more disparate things like playing in a duo with my old Vibracathedral pal Mick Flower and recording internet collaborations with Robert Horton, Sean McCann and Iibiis Rooge. There are a few ASC records ready to be pressed by various labels, but I’d like the next big release I do to be a substantial departure from what has gone before, so I’m gathering sounds and ideas for that. No idea how it’ll pan out, mind, which is always a good thing.

Agdam compilation CD

agdam coversI’ve just received a pile of copies of this compilation on Agdam records, straight out of Azerbaijan. Many thanks to Ahmed over there, who selected 7 meaty tracks from the many hours’ worth of tape I provided him with and assembled them on a full-to-the-brim 79 minute CD in an edition of 500. Nice work.

The track list is as follows:

1 = STEWART WALDEN “Mmmmorning” (November 1990)
2 = GAY ANIMAL WOMEN “Children on Fire” excerpt (May 1989)
3 = WELL CRUCIAL “English Second Language” (January 1986)
4 = WALDEN / CAMPBELL / PLAISTOW “Morons” (December 1990)
5 = SEPOPEPLEL live at the 13th Note, May 1998
6 = NEIL CAMPBELL live in Aberdaron, August 2004
7 = AFTERCLAP live at the Pyramid, Warrington, June 2007

And here’s a press release thing I helped assemble:

Celebrating aspects of the multi-tenatacled freewheeling monster-truck madness that was and is The A Band. Featuring archive material by key players in the band, recorded between 1986 and 2007.

Kicking off with a solo track from Stewart Walden’s golden age of singer-songwriting, “Mmmmorning” features Stewart’s highly original power-starving (ab)use of a casio keyboard, over which he laments for not being able to stay in bed all day.

Gay Animal Women was Stream Angel’s late-80s multi-media project, largely solo but often featuring people who would go on the play major parts in The A Band. “Children on Fire” is a 23 minute excerpt from an hour-long performance in Nottingham in 1989. Stream set up a system of slowly evolving loops and beats, let it run for a long long time, then gradually added a variety of singers to maintain a constantly peaking state of semi-verbal ecstacy. For this portion Stream and Richard Youngs soar through sheets of stuttering reverb while the loops shimmer and shake underneath.

Well Crucial was the conceptual precursor of The A Band, formed by brothers Stewart and Martin Walden to expand the possibilities they opened up in their legendarily WTF duo The Strolling Ones. They eventually enlisted scores of people from all over the UK, many of whom would never meet, to form a virtual band, prone to pre-internet style postal collaborations and unilateral one-off guerilla performances. “English Second Language” is one of the earliest Well Crucial tracks, a maddening and mind-melting solo Martin Walden plunderphonic workout, where overlaid locked-grooves are interspersed with recordings of Martin’s repeated call-ins to bemused local radio quiz programmes.

For a few years at the end of the 80s and start of the 90s, Stewart Walden and Neil Campbell were a cabaret-style duo, specialising in abrupt, absurd and abject “pop” tunes. They recorded several LPs of songs, most of them unreleased and willfully obscure. “Morons” is the title track from their second LP, where they are joined by A Band founder Jim Plaistow on guitar for a comparatively mellow acoustic come-down. It’s easy to have fun when you’re a moron, indeed.

There have been few groups as obscure as Edinburgh’s Sepopeplel, who existed in the late-90s, consisting most often of husband and wife duo Stewart Greenwood and Minty Cracknell. Stewart was a late-period A Band stalwart and occasional Prick Decay collaborator, and it really shows. This live excerpt is a fine example of their self-styled “Viking Soul Music”, with blocks of radio static breaking open to reveal a tender clarinet and accordion duet at its core.

Neil Campbell’s solo track comes from a period post-A Band, pre-Astral Social Club, when he was a member of Vibracathedral Orchestra. A live excerpt with twisting loops and strings that could, and probably did, go on all night.

Afterclap was the first significant appearance by The A Band in nearly 15 years, a “remorphing” for the Warrington Festival of Experimental Music in 2007. For this performance, included here in its 33 minute entirity, the 12 piece band included several old-guard members (Stewart Keith, Neil Campbell, Sticky Foster etc), abetted by younger players such as 15 year old Megan Fletcher-Cutts, who previously played with the band as a 6 month old baby back in the early 90s, and drummer Pascal Nichols from the fantastic Part Wild Horses Mane on Both Sides. The ensuing ruckus is a timely restating of the visceral oomph and non-generic weirdo blare the A Band first unloaded on the world back in the early 90s, and a reminder that they continue to do so to this day.

I have copies of this for sale for £8 within the UK, or £9 worldwide – drop me an email if you’re interested.