Archive for March 2004

avoid emptiness: be full of shit   Leave a comment

The other day I was on the phone to a certain Cambridge electronic musician and he was bitching about a certain “new” electronica artist because of his use of a particular performance gimmick, which he had apparently recently employed in a live context, presumably to avoid the “just another dude with a laptop” syndrome. Because I like to appear balanced at all costs, even if it means never having an opinion about anything, I replied that, whilst I was all in favour of those who are not afraid to try and entertain, I did indeed detect the prevalence of a kind of emptiness in a lot of modern avant/underground/whatever musicians’ showmanship, as though the antidote to being boring is to take the piss with ironic posturing and insubstantial gestures. You know, like: “Hey! There’s this great new guy that we have to go and see. He comes on dressed as a shoe and at the end he goes into the audience and kicks people’s butts!” While I was on the phone I was smugly imagining that I sidestepped this sort of fundamental artistic flaw because, even though I’m a bloke with a minidisk/stupid hat (“cool!”) I still sing real songs about pain and stuff, just like Thom Yorke.

About two days later I received my rejection letter from the Sonar music festival, as expected. With dread fear in my fingers I emailed Phil to see if he had got one too, not because I hate the space cunt or do not want him to succeed, but just because I had this feeling that they might go for him and not me, and that, for some reason, would be a profound kick in the teeth. It’s not as though it feels like a knife in the ribs every time Phil gets a cool London gig, and in fact we help each other out with getting gigs quite a bit, but at the end of the day I suppose there is a bit of friendly rivalry, and for him (and not me) to be jetting off to Barcelona this summer would just be too fucking much.

“I’m sorry to tell you this,” he wrote, “but I’m going to Sonar…”

I barely read the rest I was so livid. The voice in my head would have sounded something like this: “I knew that it would happen, just because he’s got a fucking theremin and he’s called fucking Man From Uranus (then I start doing impressions of the Sonar programmers). “Yeah! We got this guy called Man From Uranus who plays the theremin!” Hey! That is so cool! We’re going have a great time this summer! Yeah! It’s going to be great!” And I’m almost spitting at my computer in rage as I denounce the entire global artistic music scene for its preference for form over content, and for empty gesture over subtlety, depth, emotional engagement and contradiction. I even email Phil to tell him that he’s a cunt.

Then I read his email again and realise he’s joking. He’s not going to Sonar. He didn’t even send them any material.

Posted March 31, 2004 by peteum2013 in Uncategorized

Down with Charles   Leave a comment

Man, I felt for my nigga Charles Kennedy when he had to do that speech after his recent bout of ill health (and subsequent questions about his lifestyle). They had some nasty-looking close-up shots of his pale and sweaty chops that they were using instead of the words, the cheeky BBC bitches.

Hey! Guess what my man Adam gave me when I visited him in Bristol last weekend? Have you guessed yet? That’s right! About a hundred-odd BBC wildlife recordings on 7″ single in pristine condition. Oh yes. To paraphrase Professor Wrongangles (about whom, more in a mo): “There’s a new DJ in town. Have you heard him?” To give one brief example of the sort of thing I’m sitting on, we’re talking:

Courtship begging by female
Copulation (distant)
Copulation (close)
Plus ‘choking’

You want snipes? I got ‘em. Etc.

Yeah, the other day I’m in The Catflap charity shop and Professor Wrongangles bustles in carrying two busted-up children’s guitars and various other mania-gear and announces to the catty old women “There’s new guitar-player in town! Have you seen him?” He says this with the kind of comic timing that can only come from making it up as you go along, of course. “He hasn’t been taking his pills so you might not be able to though,” he carries on, provoking nervous laughter from the staff. He’s the dude.

The other day the bell goes and there’s Loukas holding an Akai S950 sampler. “Any use?” he asks. Well no, not really, but for £20 I can pretend I can’t do all that shit with a computer. I remember when samplers were like the Holy Grail, only much, much better. I remember first hearing about their existence and thinking, well, that’s it then. That’s the answer. Only problem with this one was that it has one of those rectangular power leads that are so unusual they’re practically collector’s items in themselves, and it, er, didn’t have one. I used to have one for a Marantz amplifier but I lent it to my brother for a weird keyboard he had and then he flogged it and that and then emigrated to Australia with the money in a pair of pink and grey check golfing slacks that are also still technically mine. The Aussies have now got him touring in a freak show as BOBBY THE HUMAN BRITISH PENIS, so its karma, I guess. Anyway, after much hassling of the digital artistic community here and about I think I’ve established that they’re fucking difficult to get hold of but luckily Loukas reckons he can put his peaceful hands on the original so hopefully everything’s cool and I’m finally going to be able to make music like they did in the early 90s.

The other day in Bristol I had one of those special hangovers you get from cider, bitter, Guinness, red wine, port, skunk and generally hanging around with Adam Teasdale, mine host par excellence, for slightly too long. The nausea is bad but the worst feeling is the dull ache at the back of your neck that makes you feel like you’re going to black out at any second. We were walking slowly through the park and I told Sam that I wanted to change my epitaph from:

Here Lies Pete Um.
He was A Very Silly Man


Here Lies Pete Um.
Serves Him Right.

Posted March 26, 2004 by peteum2013 in Uncategorized

I'm The Face   Leave a comment

Today’s Guardian has a story about a Palestinian kid of 14 on a suicide mission with loads of explosives strapped to his chest who obviously decided he couldn’t go through with it and gave himself up at an Israeli checkpoint. They’ve got pictures of him in his bomb vest with his hands in the air, then on his knees stripped to his pants, and then being paraded for the media, looking really broken. I bet that kid doesn’t feel too proud of himself right now, but to me he’s a fucking hero, and I wish I could write to him and tell him so. Sure, he did it because he was scared to die, but essentially the unfucked-up still-a-child part of him must have thought: “You know what, fuck this. I don’t really want to die. I want to live.” Them Israelis should have just disarmed him, turned him round and told him “Right, piss off laddie. Don’t let us catch you doing this again.” Give him something to think about.

Immediately after reading about that I went into a charity shop and the old Nazi behind the desk was going “I watch that Des and Mel show. I just think it’s a really nice, happy show, with none of that filth on it.” She all but spat out the word filth. These are the sort of people they should be strapping explosives to, in my opinion.

Had a weird gig at the Portland the other night where I lost my bottle a bit because just before I went on Michele springs it on me that Nicola from Big Brother (Series 1) is being brought along by our mutual friend Ben, and because I am a sad Big Brother aficionado I start to feel wobbly on the dubious thrill. On top of that Davey Graham has been dragged out of retirement to do the sound and it’s been so long since I’ve had seriously decent sound that I end up being totally thrown by it. Normally I make up for the fact that I can’t hear shit by concentrating on the visual side of Um, but I suddenly found myself having to stand very still and concentrate on attempting to sing the song like the song goes. The room wasn’t too full either, so the atmosphere was unnervingly intimate. Into this hushed scenario suddenly walks C-List celebrity gobshite Nicola BB1, and my personal surreal-o-meter goes into the red and stays there. The second I’ve finished my set a bloke walks up and asks if I’ve got a copy of Um For Charity for sale (funnily enough I took one out of my box earlier to make room for extra copies of The Old Album) and then old-friend James starts talking to me about the blurry old past, and then, get this, Nicola BB1 walks up and starts telling me how much she enjoyed my set, bless her coke-blown mind. “I feel like I ought to have my photo taken with you,” I blurt out by way of response, which was a sort of involuntary joke/insult/reference to the fact that her media profile has been reduced to small pictures of her with other celebs in clubs, but of course it comes out like I’m saying “I wanna photo of me with you because you’re famous!” Anyway, for the rest of the night I continue to covet this untaken photo, which has a deliciously gristly Um-type quality in my head, but I’ve totally over-analysed it to the extent that I can’t just nudge it into reality without looking like someone who has only a partial picture of what life is really like. Pete Sutton, on the other hand, looked alarmingly comfortable in the company of Nicola and her (striking lesbian couple, very tactile) mates. The richly complex look of pleasure on his face is an image that I shall treasure always, but I think she wore out even he in the end.

Talking of my life as being like the Cambridge Electronic Underground’s answer to Tara Palmer-Tompkinson, apparently my picture is in The Face. There was a photographer at The Tate gig snapping away, and he took one of me just after I came offstage, hanging with Adrian from The Teenbeat. I could tell it was shit as soon as he pushed the button because I like Adrian, but don’t know him very well, so I really didn’t know what to do with my face and ended up smiling like an accommodating rape victim. Later on, after a few more little bottles of Becks, I tapped the photographer on the shoulder as he was trying to get pictures of my good mates The Broken Family Band and asked him if he oughtn’t to have one of me with my shades on. They were very cool shades. Anyways I’ll wager that that’s the one they’ve used.

Funnily enough I was reading in The Times (like you do) whilst Richard was eating his sausage sandwich on our REALLY CRAZY ST. PATRICK’S NIGHT OUT that The Face is almost certainly going out of circulation soon. It’s just not hip anymore apparently.

Oh yeah…

23-19! We got a 23-19!

Posted March 25, 2004 by peteum2013 in Uncategorized

Tate/Interzone: London almost kills me again.   Leave a comment

Last night I was cycling back from Studio Dave, which is a legendary holy site in electronic music circles, and possibly because I’d had a long day and a reasonably lengthy life I was struck painfully with the realization that I’m a deluded asshole and everything I’ve ever done is shit. This might also have been related to the fact that I was a bit caned and that Studio Dave is a fucking hell of a long way away on a small unserviced ladies bicycle. The Arbury gives me the heebie-jeebies too.

Tate gig was pretty cool. They had exactly the same sandwiches as last time, although I didn’t enjoy them as much because my brother wasn’t there. Also it wasn’t in a big gallery space like LAST TIME I PLAYED AT THE TATE and there wasn’t multi-coloured REAL ART on the floor like last time and, because the room was smaller, the hubbub sounded different and less like something of cultural importance was taking place. Even though there was a lot less “cathedral” setting reverb going on the sound was still atrocious, possibly something to do with the fact that 13 acts hadn’t had so much as a line check and there was some kind of ill voodoo shit going on with the monitors. My first song (I Don’t Want To Be A Sailor) came through them sounding like pub piano favourites as interpreted by Merzbow, and from then on they just did that thing which particularly annoys me – cutting in and out randomly, sometimes to the left, sometimes to the right, sometimes minidisk, sometimes vox and all permutations thereof. This means you have to keep singing and doing your physical goofing around even though it sounds as though the music has just gone off, which makes you suspect that you’re looking like a pranny like you do when a car beeps and you wave and then realise it was the three laughing teenage girls behind you who were being beeped at.
I was relaxed, having played previously at the Tate (bit of an old stamping ground for me, if I didn’t mention that before) but all the little bottles of Becks in the world couldn’t calm me down entirely because I knew I had to play this other gig at the Interzone party later on, where I was hooking up with the Man From Uranus, and apparently they wanted me on at 3.15AM, which was a long way from 4PM that day, when the cases of beer had been opened (by me) and too bloody close to 11AM the following day, by which time I had to be back in Cambridge to take charge of Syd for the rest of the day, his mom being in Avebury doing vegan catering for people taking an “Anarchy & Clowning” course, of course. I was therefore extremely concerned that I would make it to the party in time to in order to potentially decide against playing and get the train home instead in case Phil had impetuously opted to fuck the party off and stay put in Stow-Cum-Cuy with Stimmung on the headphones. I didn’t want to end up stranded in London like last time with that Eggboy fool. So, yeah, I just had a quick drink in a shite pub with them genial blokes from The Broken Family Band and the lovely Timothy Victor, and then I picked up my bag and strode purposefully off into the horrible urban night. At this point I was intercepted by some female character-from-a-novel type who had bought my CD earlier at The Tate, who proceeded to get us both lost over and over again in an area she claimed to know well, and things eventually got very weird between us because she sensed that I was getting in a control-freak rage because I didn’t want to get trapped in London, and she was damn right. Possibly she was just having an off-night, but things got so deeply off-the dial so rapidly that one suspected she had a complicated past, and that she might even have been a Scorpio. She even reminded me of my ex-girlfriend, though not the Scorpio one. Basically we spent a lot of time on Brick Lane telling people we weren’t hungry, and some time on Commercial Street, and then just when a physical fight might have broken out, we finally found the party on Commercial Road. Up and up the sort of stairwells where you find yourself releasing adrenaline, especially when they’re adorned with Burroughs quotes like NOTHING IS TRUE: EVERYTHING IS PERMITTED etc, until we finally get asked by some dudes for our £5 entry-fee. When I explain that I am UM-who-is-playing-tonight one of the guys reacts like I’m Thee Special UM Dude Ov Legend, and while this would be just fucking great at any other time I’m in far too much of a hurry to find out if Phil is here with his petroleum spaceship and if, therefore, I’m going home at some point to be a semi-responsible parent or if I’m marooned like a monkey in thee London shitehole. Once we’re inside I clock a scene that looks like some bad music video director’s idea of a really crazy place where a lot of really crazy rock stuff is going on, because in the middle of the large (and worryingly empty) warehouse is a boxing ring, or a small stage mocked up to look like a boxing ring, on which is playing what looks like a bad TV ad director’s idea of a crazy rock band. By which I mean peroxide blonde female drummer bashing hard, black female bassist lying on the floor, black male (but outrageously camp in eye-make up and skin-tight denim jeans and bomber jacket) singer with legs akimbo and giving it loads. But I’m not looking at them because I’m so busy trying to see Captain Phil and I’m properly freaking out because the last train’s gone and here I am stuck in London with my new pal at a party that clearly is never going to happen. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! What is the fucking point of being a super-neurotic control-addict if everything is just going to fuck up on me constantly anyway? And Phil is nowhere…nowhere…nowhere…oh no…

“Hi Pete.” He says, and then gets hugged and hugged, but unfortunately for what he means, rather than whom he is, even if he is a great big, lovely space-bloke anyway. “Do you want me to show you where the free beer is?”

So, yeah, within about a Lowenbrau my shaky sense of equilibrium was restored and I was able to apologise to my PSYCHOLOGICAL MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR GUIDE, and when Iain and Claire-Harriet pitched up with special PhD champagne I could almost feel a human heart beating in my chest again. I then noticed that people were starting to filter into the party space and also that they were being entertained by a succession of guitar players in ones and twos, and it struck me that what they really might want is a drunk bloke in a hat with a mission to rock the minidisk. Duly I renegotiated my playing time from 3:15 AM to rightaboutnow and got up and hit them with the animal songs and the spazzy dancing, and the by-now sizable crowd seemed to dig it. Unfortunately I handed Phil a camera with no tape in, or I would have got some good footage of the whole Escape From New York style spectacle, because I’ve certainly got some great stuff of Phil. Then I drank some Nigerian Guinnesses and watched people play football, paint the walls and swing from the ceiling on ropes and then checked out the mighty Charlottefield’s awesomely chunky sound. In short, I ended up having a really good time, which just goes to show don’t it.

Posted March 25, 2004 by peteum2013 in Uncategorized

Shandpaper Shessions/Astute Tina from Hitchin   Leave a comment

It’s taken me quite a while to realize that there is some grist to be had out of only being allowed an 8-minute set at the Tate this Friday. Because I’ve got lots of short songs innit? I reckon I might get six in without any bother, and look kind of athletic too.

Right. Friday. Sandpaper Sessions. Hadn’t had any booze for some 114-odd hours so I had a real hard time readjusting to life on the piss. Two pints hammered me and I felt slowed down in the body and confused in the mind, but I tried to think of the bigger picture and kept caning Stella in plastic cups. At some point whilst Chevron was on I started to get some kind of weird crisis of confidence trip from a mixture of adrenalin and his splatterbreaks, so I headed to the bar and leaned on it. No sooner had I done so than Tara and his mate from the “mental health circuit” came up and started chatting at me in that slightly emotionally dulled way that people on that kind of prescription do, so I had a tequila and another pint, by which time I was pretty much a mess. I feel like I have to explain all this because I acted like a tit during my set and I still feel really ashamed about it. There was a lot of tequila feedback going on inside me and a lot of real feedback on the outside. The so-called good microphone stopped working about three songs in and I had to exchange it for the shit one, which was on a shorter lead, which made for more squealing and howling. I don’t mind doing these really off-it gigs once in a while but I like to feel like I can put my hand on the rudder if I need to. I introduced some song with a comment about the prevalence of animals in my work and a bloke heckled something like “I don’t like animals!” which might have been intended as being provocative in a helpful way for all I know, but all I could think of to so was to snarl “FUCK YOU!” back at him. This is not good. I just bashed him over the head with the rudder. To soften the blow I complemented the guy on his goofy dancing that I’d noticed earlier, and then realized it was most probably an entirely separate individual. Twat.

Afterwards I trucked along to Eric’s party, dragging the Bad Timing crew along out of cruelty. I’d never met Eric before and I still haven’t, but his party was cool. Stephen Rodefer out of The Great British Underground Art Film was there, as was JH Prynne, and Keston Sutherland, and lots of poets and Europeans. I saw Prynne sitting at the top of the stairs with glitter on his bald head watching boy-on-boy crazy French dude/poet kissing and scrambled to video it in drunk-o-vision. Earlier I spent a little while in the hallway talking easily to women, so you know I was pretty inebriated. Later I dragged the Bad Timers and the pan-European boys from Klipp AV up to the smallest landing in the house and flumped my bones down to skin up, whilst everyone else stood around and talked shop about electronic music. English-boy from Klipp AV teaches SuperCollider (the software – he’s met Ross Bencina!!!) and I asked him a dumb question about whether he was teaching people to make music or not. He responded that he was teaching them how to use the software and I went back to rolling spliffs. It wasn’t what I meant – it just came out wrong.

I started writing this about a week ago. I’m getting crap with the diary, like I’m trying to beat Jamie Vichy who hasn’t posted since February 17th. Are you alright Jamie?

Then it was Hitchin and I spent a lot of money on train fares, kebabs and lagers and didn’t get a sov for it. Club 85 is a great venue, but I think all the many staff (Bob the Man, two sound guys, doorman, stage manager youth who doesn’t like to be called stage manager etc) had all been to some crazy Hitchin party the night before and they were sleep deprived. Bob thought I played theremin, and the sound guy thought that the main band were tiny children or something. I did a focused set which involved a lot of tightly-controlled evil, and it went down really well. Got rid of a CD to a man in his late forties. Afterwards I met a strange woman called Tina who had the gift of being worrying astute. She was a real geezeress, but she managed to chew her way through my silences into the meat of the whole Um thing in about a minute flat. I can’t recall all the details but it might be summarised as:

Um is a unique and entertaining act
I’m quite different in person
I won’t get anywhere if I don’t push it

It doesn’t sound so clever now but she was really switched on I tell you. It was like being seen from a great way off.

Then I came back and had a bit of time to spare so I got the old reel-to-reel fired up. Halfway through some naïve electronics involving a lot of OSCar the fucking tape snapped, so I switched back to digital and did a song about coming back from a gig in Hitchin and doing a track on the four-track and having my tape snap (Another Orphan). It’s all grist to my mill I tell you.

Posted March 10, 2004 by peteum2013 in Uncategorized