Monday, February 25, 2008

Beard radio celebrates Joe Meek! 25.2.08

Following the UK premiere of the excellent documentary A Life In The Death of Joe Meek, Stewart and Reuben bring you some hits and lesser known gems from Holloway Road.

We're also very excited to bring you an "unheard" Velvet Underground song, from a 1967 live bootleg that's been doing the rounds online this week. You can download five tracks from here, including a wild version of Run Run Run where Lou's ostrich guitar appears to give birth to Keijo Haino, and an epic Sister Ray, complete with Lamonte Young style organ breakdown.

Carrying on the Velvets theme, we've also got a gorgeous track from Moe Tucker's criminally out of print 1989 album Life In Exile After Abdication. Our good chum Ben Haggar has written a great piece on this album on his Stereosanctity blog.

This week's show pays tribute to two musical greats who passed away recently. Visionary producer Teo Macero spliced and edited Miles Davis's jams into such masterpieces as In A Silent Way and Tribute To Jack Johnson. We remember him with a classic blast of electric era Miles.
Chris Townson was the dynamite drummer with one of the most exciting British groups of the '60s. In his memory we bring you their immortal hit Desdemona.

The newly reissued Wavy Gravy compilation has been dropping jaws, splitting sides and blowing minds at Beard HQ this week. Trasharama rock n roll oddities mixed up with deranged b-movie trailers - what's not to like? And just to keep things in the best possible taste we've thrown in a butter wouldn't melt classic by The Cramps.

Anne Peebles - I Can't Stand The Rain (1974)
The Headliners - Voodoo Plan (Wavy Gravy: For Adult Enthusiasts Vol1)
Josef K - Drone (Etymology)
Boards of Canada - Chinook (Aquarius 7")
Joe Meek & The Bluemen - I Hear A New World, Love Dance Of The Saroos (I Hear A New World, 1960)
The Honeycombs - I Can't Get Through (B side 1965)
Velvet Underground - I'm Not A Young Man Any More (The Gymnasium, 1967)
Miles Davis - Miles Runs The Voodoo Down (Bitches Brew, 1970)
Earthboys - Space Girl (Wavy Gravy...)
Heinz - Big Fat Spider (Joe Meek's Freak Beat, orig B-side 1965)
Kraftwerk - Radioactivity (Radioactivity, 1975)
Health - Triceratops (Lovepump United, 2007)
John's Children - Desdemona (1967)
Jason Crest - Black Mass (1969)
Moe Tucker - Pale Blue Eyes (Life In Exile After Abdication, 1989)
The Cramps - Can Your Pussy Do The Dog (A Date With Elvis, 1986)
Okwukwe Na Nchekwube - Celestine Ukwu (Nigeria Special)
Velvet Underground - Run, Run, Run (The Gymnasium, 1967)

From the Beard archives: Daniel Johnston

Originally published in Beard #4, 2005.

Words: Neil Erik Jaques
Illustration: Kelly Dyson


“Daniel! Interview!”

The weary voice of Daniel Johnston’s octogenarian father crackles down the phone line as we make small talk and wait for Daniel to arrive. He sounds tired.

All of a sudden a fusillade of stomping noises can be heard in the background.

“We need to get another phone ‘cause this one is too cheap,'” wheezes an unmistakably clarion voice.

More stomping.

From photos and seeing him in concert, I picture Daniel as a pedomorphic Ignatius J.
Reilly (minus the bile and hatred), shambolically blustering around, knocking things over, sweating profusely.

“Hi, how are you?” he chirps cheerfully.

It’s an auspicious start, and I must admit that I approached this interview with trepidation. Looking back at his history and formulating questions about it was like driving a monster truck across a minefield.

He’s been through a hell of a lot: jail, manic depression, unrequited love, Satanic hallucinations (he crashed a plane his father was flying, believing him to be the devil), institutionalization, delusions of grandeur and religious guilt. He’s been cast as a laughingstock, a genius and a fool, and has suffered exploitative friends - not to mention bad acid and bad medication.

At 44, he still lives with his parents in Waller, Texas and earns his spending money from selling drawings to his Dad (“for cigarettes and soda pop and for DVDs and CDs and Kleenexes and art supplies and stuff“). He’ll soon gain more independence, as they’re building him a house next door.

In any case, most of his day-to-day life is spent in the garage. Converted into the ultimate recluse’s sanctuary, this is where he writes his songs, drinks tea, smokes cigarettes, watches horror movies and listens to the Beatles, one of his greatest loves. I’ve barely alluded to them and he’s off on a lengthy discourse on their importance, peppered with confusing expositions on how they inform his work. Eventually he calms down.

“When I started buying records myself at garage sales I got a bunch of singles and I played them all and I loved them all, and my two favourites were by Paul McCartney. So I was like, cool: Paul McCartney,” he says, brightly.

“Then I found out that Paul McCartney was in the Beatles and I got the Beatles stuff. I was like cool! Paul McCartney’s old band! I wonder if they are any good?”
He finishes the sentence with a snorting, nervous giggle.

Throughout our conversation, his voice will lurch from fatigued and hollow to febrile and joyous. His responses are either brimming with enthusiasm or truncated by curt monosyllables. Sentences stumble into each other, ideas are repeated, everything is punctuated by “y’know”, almost anything he’s done is described as “a lot of fun”, and he’ll answer simple questions with torrents of dialogue, uttered without drawing breath. He seems at his most guarded when I’m praising his songs or ability. He’s not, however, shy about his past.

“I had a great childhood,” Daniel says bluntly.

“I was so young and positive and everything was great! I had the best childhood, but when I was in junior high I had a nervous breakdown and then that’s when I became a manic depressive.”

There’s an uncomfortable, seemingly endless silence.

“I suffered so bad with depression for so many years, like five years, and my life was just ruined. I’ve been a manic depressive ever since. Life has been a real struggle between manic and depressive and in my childhood I was so happy. I had the perfect childhood. I was a real well-balanced and together person, y’know. In my childhood I was very happy.”

After all the emotional nadirs, institutionalizations and horror stories, the current incarnation of Daniel is far more stable. He’s on better medication, his profile is as high as it’s ever been, and, he admits, he’s never been happier.

“I’m doing pretty well, I feel like I’m climbing the ladder and that maybe someday I can really make it in the big time. Every day I’m making attempts at it. I’ve just got to keep the ball rolling,“ he pronounces, sounding bored.

For the most part, Daniel just does his own thing. He’s devoutly religious and plays regularly with a Christian band, Danny & The Nightmares (who have an album in the works); he’s planning to make a gospel album; he has four solo albums worth of songs and his next record, four years in the making, and due in September, will be “surprising, pristine and complex,” he informs me.

The past year has been a particularly eventful one, with the release of the acclaimed documentary, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, as well as a tribute album featuring an impressive roster of stars.

“The songs are just fine,” says Daniel laconically. “When I was first asked who I wanted, I was sayin’ Paul McCartney! Elvis Costello! The Who, y’know! But all these people [Tom Waits, Beck, Bright Eyes, et al] did just fine.”

The genesis of his extraordinary and vast songbook can be traced back to his college years. And, as is the paradigm for so much art, it can all be attributed to a woman.

Laurie has become so entangled with the legend of Daniel Johnston that anyone with even a passing acquaintance with his work will be familiar with her. To Daniel she’s a deity who kicked his ass and soul into life; to his fans she’s a metaphor for heartbreak and hope - indie rock’s equivalent of Gatsby’s amorphous green light.

“When I first saw her, it was the very instant I fell in love with her. She was beautiful. We became really good friends right away. If she hadn’t liked me, I would have been, y’know, just completely…I would have died,” he says, aghast.
“But she was polite to me right away and there was a certain charm about us, we were good friends, even though she already had a boyfriend that was a mortician, an undertaker. It didn’t seem to matter to her.

“She treated me just like gold,” he says, voice trembling with emotion.
“We were really good friends and, um, everything was funny, y’know, it just happened that way and I was writing songs and I played her some songs and she said, y’know, you do that well and I just freaked out! I was banging on that piano every day and I just went crazy about writing songs. She inspired me to the max and that’s how Songs of Pain was born.”

His songs from this period were taped using only a rudimentary tape recorder, and if anyone wanted another copy he’d have to re-record it, live, in its entirety. With their beatific faith in the redemptive power of love, these simple, timeless songs can tear your heart out, and are also some of the finest examples of melodic song-writing since McCartney cared.

He cut a strange figure, trundling around Austin in the early 80s, handing out fragile, ramshackle, but somehow perfect tapes to passers-by (“the pretty girls especially!”), convinced he was going to be a rock star.

Beloved, eccentric Danny was a local best-seller and his music was becoming a defining fixture of Austin’s fecund music scene. So when MTV came to town he was a natural choice to feature on their seminal music programme, Cutting Edge.

Things were looking up: the buzz surrounding the MTV show gave him the attention he craved and he was being lauded by both the musical underground and the music press. Cross-over success beckoned. Sadly, on the night of the broadcast, he assaulted his manager while in the throes of a bad acid trip. It was to have lasting repercussions on his mental state. All the pressure had taken its toll, and it is a sad reoccurring trend that when Daniel is most successful, his mind is at its most fragile.

During the next twenty years, despite his at times crippling depression, he continued to pen inchoate, beautiful and unadulterated musical missives to Laurie. Even though he was unsure she’d ever hear them he was determined not to stop dreaming or fantasising.

It wasn’t until recently that, as a complete surprise to him, they were reunited at Austin’s SXSW festival for the premiere of The Devil and Daniel Johnston.

“It was so great to see her,” he gushes effusively, words colliding as he tries to express it all at once.

“She was every bit more beautiful than ever. They [director Jeff Feuerzeig] invited her to come to the festival and she was so beautiful and every moment that we spent together they were filming it, filming us right and left and she was talking to the camera and talking about the songs, talking about the albums, and I couldn’t believe it!

“I’d never heard her talk so much about the albums or anything. I hadn’t seen her for like 20 years! She, uh, y’know, looked so beautiful, more beautiful than ever and, ah, it was unreal! It was so great, y’know. I was hugging her, kissing her, hugging her and kissing her more than I’ve ever done before. It was unreal, it was just like a dream. There’s hope for me now, there really is.”

At the very least you’ve rekindled…I begin to say.

“It really was strange,” he interjects, but is at a loss for words.
“It was really real! It was just like a dream, it really was. She…looked great.”

Long pause.

“She was more beautiful than ever.”

Is she still married to the undertaker?

“No, she’s not. She had another marriage but she didn’t act like she was married, y’know, I mean once I would hug her, she wouldn’t let go, you know what I mean? It was great! I couldn’t believe it, y’know. When I knew her before I only had kissed her once and only hugged her once. This time we were at it again and again. It was unreal!

For somebody who has written so extensively about the redemptive power of love and the hope and pain it entails, I put a question to him I’ve been dying to ask: What is love?

Immediately, he begins to sing a biblical excerpt from Corinthians:
“Love takes patience and time. Love is not arrogant or boastful.”

He trails off.

“Love makes you love, I guess.”

He laughs briefly and there’s another pause.

“Love is something that tastes good. Something perfect, something that strives to be good, or something that’s scary, something that’s….horror.

“It’s something funny,” he adds.

I can hear the clattering sound of a table being set in the background. He’s momentarily silent, then declares:

“Well I’ve got to go, we’re having supper right now.”

Monday, February 18, 2008

Beard radio gets funky - 18.2.08

We were supposed to have Reuben on to do a Joe Meek special this week, hence the majestic strains of Telstar as the opening track, but he couldn't make it, so I just stuck to my original plan of getting funky. Wanted to let my hair down a bit after Instal y'see. So lots of funk, soul, hip-hop and post-punk disco type stuff, as well as some uncategorisable stuff that is nonetheless funky. The Thai Radio stuff is incredible! Listen again.

Tornadoes - Telstar (Decca 7", 1962)
James Brown - I Got The Feelin'
Temptations - Psychedelic Shack
The Feelies - Crazy Rhythms
Liquid Liquid - Optimo (Slip In And Out Of The Phenomenon, 2008 comp)
Konono No.1 - Kule Kule (Congotronics 1)
21st Century Perspiration - Radio Thailand Sublime Frequencies comp
Pyrelli - Buss It Up
Betty Davis - Anti-Love Song
Bongwater - Obscene and Pornographic Art (Power of Pussy, 1989)
Annette Peacock - My Mama Never Taught Me How To Cook (X-Dreams, 1978)
The Funkees - Akula Owu Onyeara (Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds & Nigerian Blues 1970-6)
Raekwon - Ice Cream (Only Built For Cuban Links, 1995)
Nina Simone - Sinnerman (Pastel Blues, 1965)
Spanky Wilson - Sunshine OF Your Love
Allen Toussaint - Get Out Of My Life Woman
Mofungo - Hunter Gatherer
Jean Claude Vannier - L'enfant La Mouche Et Les Allumettes (L'enfant Assassin Des Mouches)
Don Covay - Yo Yo Pt.1
Beastie Boys - Shadrach (Paul's Boutique, 1989)
Charlie Rich - Big Boss Man
Bush Tetras - Can't Be Funky
Ohio Players - Fopp
Black Star - Definition (Mos Def & Talib Qwalli are Black Star, 1998)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Instal competition closed

Our competition to win two pairs of tickets to this weekend's Instal festival in Glasgow is now closed.

Thanks to everyone who entered. Having delved deep into the Beard tombola, we can reveal the winners: Colin Laughland and Emma Balkind. Congrats to them, commiserations to everyone else. You should buy a ticket anyway, cos it's gonna slay.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tube drone and skip gigs - it's the Instal launch!

Well, that was a blast! What am I talking about? Why, the Instal launch of course. Last Thursday found us being plied with free whisky at The Arches before marching down to St Enoch tube station for a very special Nackt Insecten set. "Er, this might not work" said the organisers as a crowd of at least forty people waited for the train. There was a delightful sense of mischief in the air, the audience well aware of the slightly illicit and incongruous nature of what was about to take place. Happily, everyone managed to squeeze into an empty carriage and the gig was on. Out came a mini-keyboard, effects and a pair of boomboxes. Although it was at times hard to hear the cosmic drones and static interference over the rumble of the moving carriage, Nackt Insecten's sonics made enough of an impression to intrigue even those stuck at the back of the train. The odd random punter joined at the next stop, wondering what on earth was going on, only adding to the fun. Three stops later and it was all over. A genuine happening - inclusive, fun and somewhat audacious. More gigs should be like this.

With the first part of the evening's entertainment successfully concluded, it was down to Woodlands Road, where Edinburgh noise monkeys Usurper were performing in a skip beside the statue of cartoonist Bud Neill's greatest creation, Lobey Dosser. The newspaper who once employed Neill criminally threw out much of his original art work. Some of it was recovered from a skip by an artist, hence the site specific performance. You might say they were reclaiming the skip for creativity, as opposed to disposal. Whatever, it was a great wheeze, as everyone gathered round to watch Usurper in action and passers by looked on in bemusement - some even came over to check it all out, which was great. Photocopied Neill strips mingled with Usurper's equipment in a gloriously creative jumble. With numerous contact mics, pedals, and old Walkmen, the duo playfully, yet meticulously explored the sonic, and performative, possibilites of scraping and squeaking fingers across bin bags, rolling marbles across surfaces, dropping bottle tops, nails and other pieces of household detritus on metal and wood, reclaiming metal cd racks as wind chimes, and parping through rubber tubes. It was somewhere between dadaist sound artists the Bohman Brothers and a couple of tatrazine addled kids messing around. And hurrah to that, says I.

A great taster of things to come. And if you've never read any Bud Neill, I strongly urge you to. A hugely inventive comic artist, he combined Glasgow humour with Westerns, sci-fi and Cold War paranoia.

Thanks to James Cadden for the photos. To finish things off, here's Lobey, sallying forth on his two-legged steed El Fideldo!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Win tickets to Instal with Beard radio!

As Instal approaches, the sad news reaches us that Yasushi Ozawa, bassist with Marginal Consort and Fushitsusha, has passed away. Marginal Consort will still be playing Instal, albeit with a member missing. So in tribute to his memory, this week's show ends with a mind-blowing blast of Fushitsusha in all their live glory.

This week's show focuses on artists from Instals past, present and future. Well, past and present certainly. So strap yourself in for a third-eye opening ride with Opaque, Jazkamer, Richard Youngs, Old Time Relijun (Arrington De Dionyso's deranged swamp skronk outfit), Oshiri Penpenz, and Borbetomagus, as well as Keiji Haino with Fushitsusha of course. All that and the goodies listed below.

What's more, thanks to the lovely people at Arika, we have two pairs of tickets to Instal to give away!!!

Simply answer the following question...

Which band is saxophonist Don Dietrich, appearing at Instal as part of the Energy Births Form improv marathon, a member of?

(a) Borbetomagus
(b) Naked City
(c) Steely Dan

Email your answers to

The competition closes on Thursday afternoon. Winners will be announced that evening.

Ok, now go listen to the radio show. It's dead good, honest.

Autechre - Ipacial Section (Untilted, 2006)
Fire Engines - Candyskin (Hungry Beat, 1980)
Opaque - Cold Mist (The Cult of Survivors, Unreleased Tracks 1997-2007)
Link Wray - Girl From The North Country (Swan Singles)
Scott Walker - Farmer In The City (Tilt, 2005)
Swell Maps - HS Art (A Trip To Marineville, 1979)
Voivod - Voivod (War and Pain, 1994)
Jazkamer - Friends of Satan (Metal Music Machine, 2006)
Richard Youngs - Blossom (River Through A Howling Sky, 2004)
Oshiri Penpenz - 2 (White Album)
Vialka - Everywhere and Nowhere (Curiosities Des Coutumes Populaires,
Mr Bungle - The Air Conditioned Nightmare (California, 2000)
Old Time Relijun - Indestructible Life (Part Three of the Light Trilogy,
Madvillain - America's Most Blunted (Madvillainy, 2005)
Kevin Ayers - There Is Loving (Whatevershebringswesing, 1972)
Edgard Varese - Ionisation (Complete Works Vol 1)
Shirley Ellis - The Clapping Song
The Fall - Pay Your Rates (Grotesque, 1980)
Borbetomagus - One for Trarn (Buncha Hair That Long, 1992)
Fushitsusha - Track 2 (Double Live, 1992)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Krautrocking with the Baader-Meinhoff gang! It's Beard on Subcity 4.2.08

Here it is, another exciting edition of Beard Radio, featuring rambling conversations about the Baader-Meinhoff Gang's Krautrock connections and the first of two previews of the upcoming Instal festival.

You can hear a bit of the old doom, a bit of the old black metal, a bit of the old French pop, a bit of the old Krautrock, a bit of the old folk, a bit of the old free noise, bish bosh.

Mudhoney - Hard On For War (Gimme Skelter, Buddyhead comp version)
Richard Youngs - Life On Beam (Naive Shaman, 2006)
Amon Duul II - Eye Shaking King (Yeti, 1972)
Spank Rock - Rick Rubin (Yoyoyoyo 2006)
Nackt Insecten - Stairway To Levitation (2007)
Jacques Dutronc - Le Cactus (En Vogue, 1966)
Emperor - The Burning Shadows of Silence (In The Nightside Eclipse, 1994)
Dick Gaughan - Willie O'Winsbury (Gaughan, 1978)
Maja Ratke - Joy (Voice, 2002)
Nadja - Base Fluid (Corrasion, 2003)
The Monkees - Porpoise Song (Head, 1968)
Wooden Shjips - Blue Sky Bends (S/T 2008)
Usurper - Bladder of Bayonets (15 Slabs comp on Beefy Maurauder, 2007)
Moondog - Marimba Mondo 1 The Rain Forest (Elpmas, 2001)
Roy Orbison - Working For The Man (All Time Greatest Hits)
Brigitte Fontaine - Eternelle? (Est Folle, 1970)
Earth - Rise To Glory (Bees Made Honey In The Lions Skull, 2008)