music

Michael Rother, Robin Hood and….

me and michael

Me and my son Charlie just spent a thoroughly enjoyable morning showing Michael Rother, Hans Lampe and Franz Bargmann around the sights of Nottingham. I met Michael years ago through Julian Cope and have stayed in touch with him ever since. We ended up drinking tea in the old Trip To Jerusalem, Britain’s oldest pub!

Sadly I won’t be able to make the show tonight because we have the six by seven movie premiere going on at the same time. For those of you who don’t know, Michael was a founding member of Kraftwerk and in NEU! and Harmonia. Hans was the drummer in La Dusseldorf and also Conny Planks engineer in the studio. Franz was in German band Camera and plays guitar with Michael now.

You won’t meet three nicer people and it was great speaking the old German again!

KluBMiX!33

I don’t really know what people thought of this album when it came out apart from what I was told at the time. The press girl I worked with refused to work it saying: “It’s nothing like the album before!!” I played it to some friends and they said it was great but too different. Yeah, I knew all that. It took some balls to put it out but I had to do something. At the time I started to write it, two people had just walked out of the band on the same day and given me no reason why and the band collapsed overnight. At the time, because of this, I was suddenly financially in the shit again shall we say. I’d manufactured all these records and put everything into promoting Love And Peace And Sympathy with the idea of having a live working band and all of a sudden, after a really great gig in Poland with Public Image LTD,  the band was no more. I’m not bothered about that now and I received an apology from at least one ‘traitor’! It’s all crap under the bridge but it is the background to that album.

I was so distraught that I locked myself away and one good thing to happen was that I formed the MuZiK KluB. That was the idea that I should record demo’s and sell them to keep me going while I’m making the next record. I think that is why I love this record and it’s my favourite album because it was made with all the love and help of the fanbase and in return, everyone who helped me got a credit as executive producer! The names on the back of that record are etched in there forever.

I’d been collecting old synths for years and when I sat down in the studio to write I felt that each synth had it’s own charm and character, one would be good at noises and the other quite rhythmic, just like a band member. The great thing was that none of them would ever be late or send me an email saying: “Had enough, see ya!” Boy, I needed a bit of that. What I love about this record is the space. I was right down on my luck and yet I seemed to turn towards my voice more than ever before, not hiding it or burying it in a sea of guitars. The song Give It Time has the best opening line ever:

“Nectar card slice cocaine on glossy cracked porcelain.”

The record was also a statement of intent in that I was so pissed off with the band breaking up all the time that I just wanted to change it so drastically that only real fans would be left behind and I didn’t care how many.

I was shocked at how many emails I got from people saying they loved it. Or was I? I think I spent more time on that record than any other before and I can still listen to it now without once thinking: “Shit, I wish I hadn’t done that.”
I only pressed up 300 and now there are about 10 left. Someone has put it up on YouTube now so I’m making it available as download, now that all the vinyl is almost gone. Back then when I put it out, I didn’t want anyone to hear it before buying it. Remember those days?

At the moment I’m working on a follow up to the groovy Kickstarter only CD I did a while back, the Krautrock inspired six by seven: EX. Actually, this is another record I’ve spent months and months working on (probably years if you count saving up for and finding the equipment) and I’ve done it in a very specific way. I’ve only used instruments from the 70’s, mainly Korg MS20 and MS10 and also a Korg KR55 drum machine which I had to wait  4 months for after buying as it had to be shipped from Japan as they are very rare. It’s the same drum box that Daniel Miller had in the late 70’s and it was used extensively by early Mute artists Depeche Mode and Fad Gadget on their early albums. So, six by seven EX II is very intense and building and groovy with real drums and the songs are very long. It’s not finished yet but I’m settled now on the tracks I’m going to use. It’s going to have 5 songs on it…3 on each side..but how?!! You’ll have to wait and see.

I shall start a Kickstarter Campaign to make it on vinyl really soon.

The six by seven : EX album was on CD only and I’ve had lots of emails from people asking me to re-release it on vinyl. I’ve looked into doing a double vinyl with both the new and the old together with different coloured vinyl but it will be super expensive to make. I’d have to charge £40 a copy and wouldn’t be able to sell it in the shops. I might do a questionnaire to see how many of you would be into that. It could be great to make it really special but the trouble is that it costs exactly twice the amount to manufacture a double album as it does a single and you can’t sell a double album for more than £22 in the shops. If I make it double I’d have to charge £40 for it on Kickstarter to make it work but then I couldn’t sell it in the shops because you can’t charge people £40 and then sell it for £22 a couple of months later.

This time around I’ll make it available on CD too as well as vinyl. It’s going to be a unique record, much like KluBmiX!33 was, unique in spirit, but it won’t sound anything like that record. It’s exiting for me to be making music this way. I went to a Robert Rauschenberg retrospective at the Tate Modern last weekend and I was fascinated by the way he made his art, in projects with the materials that he had at hand. Sometimes he too was broke and would make art out of things he found lying around, but he always kept going. It was inspirational. I think that is why I love KluBMiX!33, it was done out of desperation, on my own, on 8 track but I did it to the best of my ability and what came out was completely different yet now it stands the test of time (with me) and is all but sold out. (Took a while but will now become legendary. Incidentally, the six by seven Hollywood Splatter vinyl has done much better than I expected and also down to the last 8 or so copies.)

I know how many of you want us to carry on in the original line-up and believe me I’m working on it. I need to survive first and foremost and I need to work out a way for us all to get back in a studio and record together again. It’s very difficult as people have jobs now and other commitments and it’s hard for everyone to find the time all at the same time to do it. We don’t have a record deal and we would need about £10.000 or more to fund it. That’s probably too much to ask for at the moment. That won’t stop me trying to think of a way to make it happen. It has to be worth it though, it has to pay for 5 peoples time and it has to sound right.

Anyway, I’ve enjoyed the last hour this morning sitting here writing this and listening to KluBmiX!33 again…and it’s looks like Spring is coming at me through the window next to me. I’m gonna walk to Sainsbury’s and buy a fat free yogurt.

Soundblab 10/10 review…

Everyone has a band that has fallen and you’ve ruffled your worried brow in disbelief that more people didn’t sit up and take notice.  For me one of those bands was Six By Seven.

Sat between a caustic merge of noise, harsh guitar parts and Chris Olley’s dark lyrics they seemed a given to make a success in the business.  Their debut ‘The Things We Make’ came out in 1998 and although it didn’t dent the charts it did lay the groundwork for this, their second album ‘The Closer You Get’ which was initially released in 2000 and is now a re-release in 2017 possibly due to two gigs in March with the original line-up that made the album.

Whilst the band’s debut had a connection, this second album saw the band in a much more buoyant place personified by the opening bars of ‘Eat Junk, Become Junk’ which ended up being worn by Kele from Bloc Party on a t shirt, to such a degree people thought it was from his band. However let’s not take away the awesome power and clean arrangements on ‘Eat Junk…’.  The vibrant guitars bounce off each other perfectly whilst Olley tells us that if you “Eat Junk, you become junk, I never broke no law no”. The pace doesn’t let up when ‘Sawn Off Metallic T-Shirt’ hits the lugholes.  A song of just over 2 minutes, packed with a breakneck pace and Olley screaming “I’ve got a pretty bad fucking haircut, I’ve got a backseat for a bed”.

There’s a great deal of twitchy band tension on this album and the tightly wound members put this across in their music with the quite brilliant ‘Ten Places To Die’.  A slow burner of a track that lights up halfway through and descends into a malaise of cathartic power. ‘New Year’ is of similar intensity but it swoops and soars instead and with Olley’s mainline chorus: I wanna reach out, and I wanna stay, how can I lose, if I refuse to fail”.

The mainframe of Six By Seven’s framework is their ability to create a wall of sound that is so monolithic you haven’t a fucking prayer of climbing over it.  Yes it is malevolent at times but it’s also soothingly uplifting and effortlessly cool.

‘My Life Is An Accident’ is more sedate in arrangement but still maintains their trademark menacing aurora.  Packed out with layers of alien guitar that brood and brood until they can’t keep a lid on it any further it’s like letting a pack of bulldogs off the leash when the bludgeoning six strings take the centre stage and beat the living shit out of us. In some ways it seems possessed by the atonal noise parts of Sonic Youth’s ‘Diamond Sea’.

Whilst their debut was a masterclass in long songs ‘The Closer You Get’ has its fair share of shorter numbers reflected in the mid to latter part of the album with the high energy ‘Don’t Wanna Stop’ and ‘Slab Square’ both of which clock in at less than three minutes apiece but still ably equipped with enough of a draw to have you fully mesmerised by their output.  Olley puts warts and all into his shredding vocal: “I’ll meet you there down in slab square, we’ll make a pair, I wanna shake the sky, C’mon and shake the sky”

It’s lighters ahoy on the mellifluous melancholy of ‘England & A Broken Radio’.  Olley’s lyrics are kept lo-fi, seemingly sung through a redundant cassette microphone and accompanied by a metronomic beat and jagged guitar compliments perfectly.

‘Another Love Song’ takes another twist.  A plethora of mellow electronic beats are quickly joined up by the soaring keyboard and crashing drums which have the intensity of a man drumming for food.  The layers jump up again when the guitars crash in and all in all we have a fucking party.  This is the least love song you could ever have.  It has no frills, no jolliness, just sheer belligerent parcels of blackness. ‘Overnight Success’ is so similar ilk and maintains a rich high-water mark of output.

The mellowest moment is saved for closer ‘100 And Something Foxhall Road’.  The guitars are retired, well almost and replaced by all things percussion and one note keyboard.  Olley tells us: “The Dream Is Sweeter Than The Taste”.  Maybe he’s right but when he looks back on the back catalogue of Six By Seven he might just scream out this was our best album.  ‘The Closer You Get’ is a lost classic and hugely understated.  I dare you not to wallow in its simple brilliance.