Archive for June 2010

High Fidelity: Pete Um's "Evil" and The Beta Band.   4 comments

Here’s a classic bit of Grist, or at least it is if you’re me. So, what, two years ago or thereabouts I do that song Evil which has just a smidgen of a sample of some guitar and some claps from some Beta Band tune – I don’t even know which one to be honest. I don’t do much sampling any more (in fact I keep meaning to force myself back into it because I’m obviously not a proper musician and I could do with the assistance basically) but when I do I tend to sort of shut my eyes when I’m doing it like I won’t be blamed for nicking the cookies. I don’t fetishize samples anyway, cos it’s 2010 innit? Maybe I would if I knew how to slice a loop onto my MPC but I’m essentially a dickhead and I march to a different drum. So yeah, because I actually like the Beta Band (one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to and I don’t really know why, cos apart from the films they just stood there and played and normally I like a bit of something going on) I kind of got infected with the vibe and to my mind that tune owes more than a few strums and claps to the old BB. There’s the kind of underdog’s ontological wrestling bout feel or tale of spiritual redemption or whatever it is that sounds like such a sincere rallying cry kinda vibe coming out of Steve Mason’s mouth and has the power to uplift in some weirdly northern English soully type of way. Hmm, put like that maybe the song owes nothing to The Beta Band ha ha! Anyway as soon as my pal Pilar in Hamburg heard the tune she professed herself a fan and before long was on at me about making a 7″ on which it would feature. Given she hadn’t engaged in the joys of negotiating one’s way through the treacherous terrain that one must cross to produce a piece of vinyl I was not holding my breath, but the project has crept along over the months for something approaching a couple of years. Then, recently, I heard the Greenmind bloke Mr Baker had booked Steve Mason to play at The Haymakers in Cambridge and I asked to support, only in part because I thought it would be funny to bust out the track in front of him and see if his face did something funny. Plus, if I’m honest, I thought he might like it. For one thing of all the music he’s made over the years I am a particular fan of his Sings Nelly Foggit’s Blues in Me and the Pharaohs record as King Biscuit Time, and in particular the track Little White. In fact just doing a bit of research for this post I came across the following description of the song by an Amazon customer:

“The EP’s real gem is ‘Little White’, a short, sombre effort that really doesn’t sound like anyone else – Mason really is some sort of unfocused genius with melody, and the sheer colour of his music. “

Excellently put, I would say. I’ve tried to rip off that short sombre vibe matey refers to several times, I can assure you.

Anyway, despite the fact that I forget the power supply to my mixer and it throws me a bit the gig goes quite well. Partly this is due to the fact that Simon decides to pay me in Guinness and partly because the soundman Rob misunderstands my request for a high table and has me sort of sat at a desk, which seems to work and lends itself to a whole range of intuitive upper body performance tics. After a couple of tunes I am pleased to see obvious signs that Mr Mason is not only present but also possibly enjoying himself. Alas, however, at the very point at which Evil begins he rises from his chair and goes to exit through the back door, at which point Simon (who is hip to my little Evil plan) twigs what is going on and hurries over to him to awkwardly explain that he is about to miss something he may well not give a fuck about. Indeed this must be the case for after he cocks an ear for a few seconds in the direction of the stage he continues out the door and I am ever so mildly crushed.

Then the Steve Mason section of the evening begins and although the band have a slight air of the “what the hell are we doing at The Haymakers” about them everything sounds pretty tight and polished and Steve’s voice carries everything along in that manner which is oddly difficult to define, and by the time they do I Walk The Earth there is a sense of BRITISH SOUL UNDENIABILITY feedbacking around the North Cambridge pub. After the show Steve’s reputation for not really being a fan of bullshit leaves me unwilling to exploit any shmoozing opportunities, and besides I’m enjoying some agreeably random chats with some agreeably random punters. However, just as I’m set to leave my Guinness levels must have been sufficiently high for me to speculate that it is not entirely unreasonable for the support band to say goodbye to the main act and when I do this I am pleasantly surprised to quickly find my “old man in a pub” routine, as Steve styles it, praised for its virtues. He also speaks to me quite matter of factly about a couple of other support slots I might step into on the rest of the tour, and asks me if I have a pen to write down my number. As I don’t he darts back inside the pub and when he doesn’t reappear for a few minutes I follow him inside because I am concerned that I am the one getting the favour and he’s the one doing the legwork, and, sure enough, there’s Steve Mason from The Beta Band at the bar queuing up to get a fucking pen so he can write down Pete Um’s number. I should relish this funny little moment of course, but instead I just feel massively Englishly awkward as usual.

Anyway, blah blah blah, eventually I get asked to play London and Brighton but unfortunately I can’t do Brighton because I have to go to Huntingdon to learn about mentees the following day but I do get to play Cargo last week. My set isn’t that great, partly because the whole Neil thing makes standing up on-stage and asking for attention a bit pointless but also because it is a bit pointless when the sell-out crowd are watching the World Cup in the adjacent bar, or all of them apart from about 15 people anyway. Luckily for me however, one of those people is Steve Duffield, formerly of The Beta Band. Thus it is that when I wake up the next day and switch on my computer I have a Facebook friend request from Mr Duffield, who is gratifyingly keen to find out where one can buy Pete Um vinyl online. As usual when anyone asks me this question, and in marked contrast to the amount of effort I generally put into making sure this information is anywhere near under anyone’s nose, I send Steve an exhaustive list of where you can get your hands on that sweet Um shit. As an afterthought, and because I’m half thinking about Evil and The Beta Band connection, I mention that there’s meant to be a single coming out of Germany but I don’t know where you can buy it. About a month previously Pilar had told me I should be receiving my personal copies of the record in the post within 7 working days but since I’d seen neither hide nor hair of them I’d come to believe they were missing for good. So, with a degree of spooky inevitability, as soon as I’ve sent the Facebook message and go in search of cups of tea and whatnot, I discover the bloody things are on our downstairs table. And this, dear reader, is how the first person to buy Pete Um’s Evil is a member of the group that sorta inspired the song. Pretty cool huh?

So, if anyone wants to buy into the conceptual wormhole that has Steve Duffield doing for the Um brand what John Cusack did for his old outfit, or even just buy a copy of the 7″, I have a few available at, say… £3.99?

I wish I had a link to direct people to a place where you can buy it online, as you can somewhere, but I am waiting on that. Suffice to say that the single is a split between me and Miss Hawaii, is the first release on HomeRec and has no catalogue number as far as I can tell. My tracks are of course Evil, as well as That’s Too Close. Miss Hawaii brings us Oyasumi. 300 for the world on randomly-coloured vinyl, i.e. they are all different!

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Pete Um/Miss Hawaii 7"s arrive from Germany.

Neil Suddes RIP.   1 comment

RIP Neil Suddes. Crate-digger and music-lover extraordinaire, DJ, photographer and designer, sometime producer, bon vivant, very funny guy and fucking nice bloke, taken from us at 41.

The best tribute I can offer is those left by others here:

I found that thread because when I’d heard he’d died I had no other information and I simply googled his name. How fitting that people are still contributing at a vinyl-enthusiasts message board to a thread some 166 posts in, with many of those never having even met him in the flesh. In fact it’s startling to feel how deeply people are mourning the loss of an online presence, and how in keeping that feels with the guy I knew for what now feels like far too short a time. I’m annoyed that I didn’t know he posted on that board, a click away, when I’ve barely been in contact with Neil for about 8 years. We had an email exchange in February of this this year, for which I am now grateful, but reading our mutual promises at the end to stay in touch feels like a cruel joke. He also mentions in the emails a label project he is trying to get off the ground to do obscure reissue stuff (and I can’t think of anyone better qualified than Neil to do something like this) but also suggests that it might involve some of my music. Obviously that is an honour that I will never receive and I am reminded, not for the first time in my life, that it really is a good idea to make your hay while the sun is shining. When people die it seems that we achieve the state of grace that eludes us when we’re stumbling around awkwardly during our lives, and the shape and size of the hole that the person leaves is suddenly apparent in all-too-perfect clarity. In Neil’s case this is immediately apprehensible reading the VG+ thread. Even leaving aside what good company this hilariously dry, very talented and extremely generous dude was, personal qualities that his characteristic modesty could only try to hide, I can’t help but also wish that the world had made better use of Neil Suddes while it could. It’s like someone’s burned down a museum or a great library, because he was like a kind of machine for bringing the more hidden treasures of music to people, and my archivist’s soul is distressed by the loss of that huge, huge knowledge. I know a little bit about music, have more records than I’ve ever had pounds in the bank and I can boast that I can easily sort the possible wheat from the inevitable chaff in a box in a charity shop, but Neil made me look like someone who says they like Massive Attack because they think that that will make them look cool. He was the first guy I’d ever met that talked about things like Venezuelan Psych and handed me records that were worth £80 and up (and up – I remember him selling some British jazz record on Ebay for about £360) and made me realise that there was actually a much murkier and more arcane world than simply knowing about Can or The Residents or whatever. I still think of his record collection with awe, and that was the version of it that existed circa 2002, whilst the last email I have from him makes reference to the “walkways” that were evidence of an out-of-control vinyl habit, as he ruefully observed. Anyway it would be unseemly to talk about what his records might be worth but someone ought to check his Paypal account if they can.

A few drunken memories of nights with Neil:
Once me and my ex had a cocktail party and he overreached himself consumption-wise and ended up spending a good while lying on the back doorstep. The thing was, he was so charmingly, needlessly ashamed of himself and it wasn’t like we gave anything approaching a fuck by that point.

Me and Neil spent the evening of 9/11 finding the unbelievableness of what had happened that day impossible to numb with wastedness.

The night we listened to the Raymond Scott Mahattan Research Inc CD when it was released and it just completely recalibrated our understanding of electronic music one track at a time.

Also I remember one night round Panton St when a record got stuck and he jumped up, not to stop it repeating but to find another record to mix in with the locked groove, which he expertly did. Just typical of his subtle, inventive creativity.

For a while Neil produced his own tracks, and did a CD-R release called Bob’s Big Black Brake Block Broke under the unaffected SUDDES moniker. His great ear and exhaustive music knowledge made him a natural sound collagist but he was also adept at building on his cut and pastings with bold, richly melodic and producerly midi instrumentation. However, I always felt that his stuff fell short (to his ears) of what he wanted from it because he seemed reluctant to keep at it beyond this point. If he ever made any other music after he moved from Cambridge I’d love to hear it.

Neil also remixed a couple of my tunes around this time, Holy Fire and You Maybe Understand. They weren’t really remixes per se, more like total recontextualisations, turning my scratchy little sketches into these big, classy, almost showy numbers that were perfect for doing live. In fact Neil’s version of You Maybe Understand became one of those songs that I would include in sets when I felt like I needed big guns to win unfamiliar crowds over. The only problem with using Neil’s versions was that I would very often get people asking where they could buy them and I grew tired of hearing myself telling them that they were by this guy who had moved up North and didn’t do music anymore. In fact I finished with Holy Fire at Cargo in London the other night and this bizarrely insistent woman wanted to get hold of the song “because that one’s good, and I know good.” At the time I was in that post-show haze and mindful of the need to get myself offstage but later on it felt like a kind of eerily distilled version of the typical scenario. I must have told Neil about this phenomenon every single time we were in contact after he left Cambridge but he always seemed profoundly unfussed by the news. In any case it doesn’t surprise me that crate-digging was his preoccupation until the end. It was his thing, man.

Farewell Neil. We didn’t get enough of you.

Holy_Fire_(Suddes_Mix)

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Trashy Boys   Leave a comment

I love the economy of everything to do with this.

Posted June 24, 2010 by peteum2013 in Uncategorized

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Dream Box   2 comments

Old video.

Posted June 18, 2010 by peteum2013 in Uncategorized

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Steve Mason Support again innit?   Leave a comment

Next Tuesday at Cargo in London.

Posted June 18, 2010 by peteum2013 in grist, pete um, umbusiness

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Green Mind presents Steve Mason (Beta Band) + Um + world cup football   Leave a comment

Supporting the Beta Band front-dude tomorrow night at the Haymakers.

I like a bit of Steve, particularly this tune.

Details here, including the tech specs of the TV screen.

A wink and a smile to a Mill Road exile.   4 comments

Yesterday I was in the Cat’s Protection League doing dumb things like wondering if I should spend £7 pounds on a hugely outsized cream-coloured kind of, uh… ornate designer bling streetwear jacket and just about resisting but then hardly wondering at all whether i should spend 50p a pop on some old 78s of Maori music and a version of Onward Christian Soldiers and a sweet looking 10″ of some Polish spoken word. Whilst I was in there I hear some voices outside, and in my nosey way I clock this Mill Road Character woman (who I can always scent a bit of a story about because she has these fiercely intelligent eyes and a way about her that just suggests she’s a bit of a wrong ‘un) and another, older female companion. Anyway, Wrong Lady is saying something like “How much is that? That’s nice that is. Have you got four pounds on you you could lend me?” and I have to say I’m immediately thinking the worst of her. Sadly, it turns out I’m not entirely on the wrong track of the Wrong because a minute or some later she comes up to the counter with a cat-transporter-box thing and says to the Cat Woman “Do you know how much this is? Is it two pounds? Is it two pounds is it? Cat Woman smells a rat and asks her co-worker out the back how she put on the item and quickly the chancer-lady starts going “Or was it… four? Was it two, or four? No, no that’s fine. I’ve got a Burmese, see?” As soon as she leaves the cat persons start muttering about how this isn’t the first time.
Then I go into the RSPCA and I’m buying a Dictators 12″ and this short, intense-looking spoddy chap asks the manageress in posh, clipped tones “Have you any Pevsners?” And when she looks a bit in askance he just reiterates “Pevsners”. “Everything we have is on the shelves…?” she attempts, and then as she kind of gives up and walks off he clarifies slightly by saying “I’m looking for the County Durham one…”. Anyway, I know I was in animal shops but it all felt a bit anthropologically very Cambridge indeed.

Maori music
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Me and Simon had this conversation the other day about the Japanese-looking chap who is always on Mill Road and apparently has been bothering our separate curious minds. He’s always alone, and although quite neatly turned out and well-groomed has slightly well-worn elements on his clothing, like where the backpack he habitually carries has rubbed into the fabric of his jacket etc. He is often seen smoking and drinking outside local pubs and cafes and usually carries an umbrella. Apparently Simon has mentioned him in his lyrics somewhere. Anyway the conversation with Simon put me in mind of one I’d had with my brother about how sensitive observers of the human condition are often spurred to travel to foreign lands not so much out of an adventurous urge to encounter the new but rather to escape the maddeningly familiar, and in particular the banality of the background noise that is immediately apprehensible as a native. My brother used the example of his recent trip to Colombia and how shitty commercial radio there was nothing like the awfulness of its UK equivalent. We speculated that this Japanese exile was merely resting his troubled intellect in what for us was our over-familiar numbingly-crap lowest common denominator British street culture, almost (but not quite, lest it seems like I am getting carried away) like Burroughs and Bowles might have found a kind of nourishing solace in an alien environment like Tangiers or whatever. If I ever get the chance I am going to ask this guy what he is all about. It’s starting to feel like I am obligated in some way, to be honest. Then again, perhaps I should be preserving his psychological ecology, or something, and I should probably just give him a wink and a smile.