diaries: Damo Suzuki Band/Spybey:Plotkin.
I have just returned from what is probably the single most affirming experience of my career. I have little to say! There are many private memories. I took no photographs, saved no memorabilia.
When I was about 13 years of age, I encountered the music of CAN. If you like experimental music, you owe CAN a great deal. I can say no more. I will start to sound like I am trying to convince people.
I spent nearly two weeks in the company of Damo Suzuki's Band. This included Michael Karoli, the Can guitarist and three other gifted musicians. People who seemed completely at ease with the load they carried. Infact, Damo exuded a youthful passion for making music. Every set was improvised. They had no set list, no obvious leader on stage. They absolutely LOVE to make music. Damo jumped into the audience at the end of each set and spontaneously hugged people..This was no showmans act. It was a genuine gesture from a man who is ernestly grateful for the gift of being able to appear on a stage. For the pleausre of being able to communicate with an audience. Michael said that he tried to ignore personalities on stage and simply communicate through the making of music. This approach is the complete opposite of so many bands for who the cult of ego outweighs the need to make music with others.
I would like to thank Damo, for his enduring warmth and affection. To Michael for his consistently insightful thoughts. To Alex Schonert, Thomas Hopf, Mandjao Fati and Peter Braatz. We will carry good memories from this tour. Finally, Thomas Ziegler deserves some kind of Nobel Prize. He carried this tour on his back.
I was delighted to involved. Thrilled that Elaine could be part of this experience. Saddened that James Plotkin had to return home after three shows and mightlly relieved to meet Tommy Grenas in Los Angeles. He and his wife Cathy basically lived with Elaine and I for 48 hours. It was an incredibly joyful experience. To Dustin Donaldson and Cub of I Am Spoonbender for all their help, musicial and otherwise. The list goes on.
Sadly, when I was in New York City I recieved an early morning telephone call to say that my Grandmother had died in the U.K. She was my last surviving Grandparent. Her name was Edna. Many people knew her as "Ted." She consistently cared for me. The earliest photo I have of myself is as a baby in her arms. She was my Godmother. Grief is a very private thing. I wanted to mention her on this site because it's one way of remembering her. As I write I feel very sad but joyful to have been loved by such an open, caring and focussed person. She dedicated her life completely to her family. I will miss you Nan.
Is certainly the wrong place to be when your heart and soul craves time to reflect. Although musically I "enjoyed" our performances and it was good to spend time with Donna and the DVOA possee, I had a dreadful time at the venue itself. My head was certainly not in the right space.
Days Inn, Clark and Diversey. Pizza Capri. Stephen Collins and Eric Pounder. Chicago is a city of friends and relations. Gnat and Luke from Invisible. Joel, Sarah and Bruce from Kranky. Matt Skaggs. Dave Babbitt.
The House Of Blues is a marvelous venue. People sat down on the floor and chilled to Jim and I's set, the last we played together on the tour. Sadly, he returned home the next day. On the long flight to Los Angeles I created a draft of how I would do the remaining 4 shows. At the airport Damo asked me to play with his band for their second set. I was completely taken aback. Instantly felt ridiculously nervous but honoured. We flew directly over the Grand Canyon. In LA we were met by this strange Irishman, Tommy Grenas.
Spent the best part of a day and a half with cEvin. We were royally ferried around LA. Ate great food and talked about his new life in the City of Angels. Real, real nice to spend time together. At the venue, a small club called Spaceland I asked Tommy to play with me. cEvin volunteered to mix my set. Tommy is a veteran of many spacerock bands. He has toured extensively as a menber of Hawkwind, and recorded as Farflung, The Brain, Anubian Lights and other bands. We share the same sense of ridiculously exaggerated British humour. Obscene and insulting. We travelled to San Francisco together in his van crammed with gear and luggage. Our sides were raw from 48 hours of solid laughter.
The show in Los Angeles is the best of the tour so far. cEvin weaves an insane mix and Tommy is a space rock veteran. The result is a psychedelic maelstrom. I play ( nervously ) with Damo's Band during their second and more raucous set. I turn around and Damo and Michael are looking and smiling at me. Damo runs up and gives me a huge hug. They depart into Mother Sky and I am instantly energised. Those spine-tingles first felt when I heard Tago Mago twenty odd years ago return. This time I am on stage with them. cEvin is in dreamland, entranced by Alex's guitar playing. It was one of those gigs that everyone present will remember. Incredible. I think the audience were instantly transformed into a family.
This was to be the longest drive of the tour, in fact the only drive with the exception of the quick border hop between Seattle and Vancouver . I've never played what I consider to be a good show in San Francisco. The hotel was in a bad part of town. Ugly. The Alcatraz line-up was bad enough for us to cry off going. The venue ,"The Justice League," looked neat. However, a pervasive apathy from the staff and the absence of certain items from our rider, most noticably a bass and guitar amp forewarned problems. We anxiously called friends to borrow gear. Suffice to say, I'd never play there again and I certainly wouldn't encourage anyone else to play there.
Lowlight of the night was this guy trying to yank at my shorts whilst I was on stage. The same guy had, minutes earlier, pulled Tommy's hand off his keyboard. ( We were in the middle of our set by the way ). The guy had absolutely NO insight into why we blew his head off after the show. Apparently they wanted our set to finish early to accomodate the other support act . Now the guys in that act were fine but their music was disposable japanese noise. We all left the club feeling dazed. Something was very, very wrong. The owner and promoter didn't even introduce himself to anyone. If he did he would have been plagued by a seething swarm of stung tourists.
Personally, I couldn't wait to leave San Francisco. I was sick and tired of being propositioned on the streets by aggressive acid casualties. Even the homeless had an aggressive flavour. Kinda strikes me as apt really. Hippydom is just a thin crust of flaked selfishness.
Jerry is dead, thank God.
We fly to Seattle. The last flight of the tour for Elaine, Tom and I. My gear couldn't take much more baggage handler abuse.
The Fenix seems like a second home. It's owner Rick is a genial giant of a man. There are lot's of familiar faces in the club. We meet Dustin and Cub in a rubber stamp store. They had travelled on a greyhound from SF. A 26 hour ride. Dustin and I discuss strategy. Seattle seems quiet on a Sunday night. The show was good but not great. The sound was immaculate however. Dustin and I played a set which dynamically veered from pindrop quiet to blistering heat loud. Dustin is an ex- member of Thought Industry and Pansy Divison. Together with Cub and Brian he is about to release the debut cd of I AM SPOONBENDER. They will be huge. It's written all over Dustin's boyish face. He drools with enthusiasm. This is the guy who was entertained at the dinner table by the late William.S.Burroughs. Dustin and I met at a club in Munich during the Download tour. We immediately clicked.
Border crossings invoke terror. Granted, I've never had a problem at a border but I still feel terror. Home. The Gate is a luxurious club on a slightly seedy block in Downtown Vancouver. It's a pleasant space. We are surprised to see a large crowd for Vancouver. Many friends. Many, many smiling faces. Our set felt fine. Damo's set blistered. Dustin and I jammed with them. At one point Damo said he would like to thank Dustin and I, his " brothers From Future Space." ( being a reference perhaps to the Can studios..the original being Inner Space, Michaels being Outer Space ). I thought this and LA were the best shows. There was a magic, a telepathy between those on stage and the audience that I have rarely seen. Nobody partied. Nobody seemed to ignore the band. Quiet sections were respected and maelstroms revelled in. My personal highlight was a transition in an extended version of Mother Sky in which I moved the band from a quiet to a loud section. These musicians actually listen to each other.
Damo jumped into the crowd and hugged people. Damo is a small man who eminates much warmth. Damo hugged everyone on stage and everyone hugged everyone else. We bade a fond farewell in the carpark with all of Damo's Band genuflecting to Elaine and I.
The story goes on.
Dustin, Darryl and I recorded music the day after in Darryl's studio. I found out that the boys had arranged to catch a late flight from Vancouver. So I invited them to the studio. They wanted to eat Sushi and go to the beach, so we suspected that they wouldn't have time to make it.... But at about 7 in the evening, Michael Karoli, Thomas Hopf and Peter Braatz appeared at the studio ( Michael carrying his violin case ). In less than an hour Darryl managed to get two violin takes and two drum takes down on tape to a piece we had been working on earlier in the day. Darryl's face had the same look on it as on the countless people we had met on the tour. It's a look of bliss. No Can fan expected they would be lucky enough to see then play in North America. In Darryl's case, after listening to the band for 20 odd years, one of their members had walked up HIS stairs and recorded in HIS studio. It was a delightful honour and a fitting end to a wondrous experience for all of us.
During the course of this session a new band was created. ( we are ) Aluminum was officially born on the 5th of October. Michael agreed to do more work with us through the mail.
The tour was documented thoroughly by Peter Braatz for a potential German documentary. Clancy Dennehy filmed the Vancouver show and the footage is excellent. If we can release anything through this website we will.
Thanks to everyone who helped. Especially to Donna , Brian and Deeno in NYC. Stephen and Eric in Chicago. cEvin, Tommy and Cathy in LA and Dustin and Cub, who dropped everything to travel with us. Much appreciation and love to all who made this tour happen.
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