Held on May 25, Bradford Threadfest at Fuse Art Space was an immense afternoon and evening of cutting edge new music and established acts. Rich Jevons managed to chat to Champion Up North’s three top picks from the day: Dean McPhee, Female Band and Philip Jeck.
First up is Dean McPhee, a solo guitarist based in West Yorkshire, who comes from a rock and experimental music background but uses tremolo, reverb and delay to create dreamy and psychedelic harmonics.
He explains: “I grew up with blues music like John Lee Hooker, Bukka White and Howlin’ Wolf and rock like Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath which is what really got me into the guitar.
“I try to do my own thing really but some of my musical influences include Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Lee Scratch Perry, Ali Farka Toure and NEU! I tend to be influenced by the feel of things or the ideas behind them more so it doesn't make any difference to me how the music is made and whether it is played on instruments or not.”
McPhee has released two CDs, Brown Bear (2010) and Son of the Black Peace (2011) with record label BLAST First (petite). At Fuse his set featured the song Fatima’s Hand from the forthcoming album of the same name.
It’s the concept of the evil eye. I just find it really interesting, the idea of how other people’s envy or praise is seen as being able to harm a person, and how a symbol like the evil eye could be used as a form of psychic protection. The tune’s in 5:4 so I couldn’t help but think of the five fingers of a hand. Also, there’s a vaguely Middle Eastern feel to it.
You were playing deep bass notes and then picking on top of this.
It’s been something I’ve been doing for a long time. I’ve been playing the guitar since I was six but I’ve been working this way since I was 18. I decided I’d solo and play bass at the same time so it was a thing that I had to try and develop.
You were using an EBow too?
Yes, it uses magnets to make the strings vibrate continuously almost like a violin bow but without touching the strings.
Was the last track improvised?
Brown Bear is one of my oldest tracks, and I improvised around that because I’m so familiar with it.
McPhee plays at the Sin Eater Festival, Shropshire on 20 June 2014.
Dean McPhee on Soundcloud.
Nottingham based, Russian-born Anastasia Vtorova’s project Female Band produces a haunting and hypnotic sound that is part ambient electronic, part industrial noise (though you don’t need your ear plugs for this one).
I thought it reminded me of the way Throbbing Gristle’s Genesis P-Orridge used bass with reverb.
I’ve been told to listen to TG but stuff I listen to is more like Massive Attack and Portishead. A lot of people do compare me to Sonic Youth too. Everything’s been done before, it’s about how you do it.
There’s the subsonics from the bass but also the treble from touching the strings, isn’t there?
I basically do experimental stuff with my bass, the bass is everything for me. There are certain things I do on computer and I put it back and sample it and then play on top of the samples. There are found sounds too. But the bass is definitely driven in every song for me.
Could you tell us a bit about your kit?
It’s very simple, a Jazz bass guitar, which is a fake Fender, which has specific really beautiful sounds, and basically have a reverb pedal, a delay pedal and a 100W Marshall amp.
It’s about experimenting with sound, tweaking something. You can play one thing and then it can sound like something completely different and give you inspiration.
And the voice is used very much as an instrument.
Yes, that’s true, it’s kind of to get me beats because obviously I don’t have a drummer. So voice gives me a drone-y background so I can work on top of that. So definitely, I like using my voice in different aspects.
Where were the found sounds from? The Exorcist?
I don’t want to give away all my secrets but it’s actually a well-known sample that you can download for free. It’s French teenage girls talking and I’ve added effects on top. I have reversed the sound so you kind of like start thinking about horror films you’ve seen before. It’s a subconscious thing without any intention to do so.
Anastasia is performing as Machine Woman at The Kirkgate Centre, Shipley on 17 August 2014 supporting Vatican Shadow under the auspices once more of Golden Cabinet
Machine Woman’s cassette Pink Silk is released on Tesla Tapes.
Female Band on Soundcloud.
Finally, the key highlight of the day was Philip Jeck, whose performance saw him building up layers of atmospheric sound using old record decks fed through a digital mixer.
Born in Cambridge, 1953, Jeck was schooled in Yorkshire and from the age of thirteen attended a reform institution run by Quakers. “As a kid I always loved music and actually at school there was a good music teacher so I learned guitar and keyboard. But I could never create anything that was so interesting. I started collecting vinyl at that time.”
He then went to Dartington College of Arts in Devon and spent one day a week working in the theatre department. “Later on in London I worked with theatre companies as a performer but my way into music was through DJ-ing. I went to New York in 1979 where I saw some fantastic DJs so I started off by copying people like Walter Gibbons and Larry Levan. I brought a lot of 12 inch stuff back from the States – that’s how it started.
“But then I started to move away from just playing disco and began playing all sorts of records. An early influence was when Christian Marclay came over to London where he did the sound for a physical theatre company. That was a bit of an epiphany, it was a real kickstart for me.
“I was also lucky enough to work with the choreographer Laurie Booth. We travelled all over Europe and even went to the States and I was starting out working with record players so I learnt on the road and got paid well.
“Originally I was using Technics but I I bought an old record player because it had 78 rpm and an output for my mixer. But in the end it was the 16 rpm that interested me which was a medium made for spoken word, super low-fi. There was something wonderful about playing something that slow, especially when you play it through a big sound system with sub-bass.
“The fidelity was much lower, it added colour to the sound. And when you play each record on a different record player there were different tonal and pitch qualities.” What in particular interests you in using the old low-tech record players and vinyl?
“I like the colour that they bring to it, it’s not just me doing something. At home I have a have a really superb turntable and that’s great the old ones actually bring something else to it. Also, when I first started using them, they would normally have been thrown away.”
So it’s almost recycling then?
Yes, it was stuff that was going to the landfills. But they’ve still got life in them, there’s still things that can be done with them. Also, I could pick them up for next to nothing. Now they’ve become a little bit more valuable but at that time car boot sales were full of them.
Do you enjoy the actual process of collecting?
No, I hate it, I’m not a natural collector. I do still occasionally look through charity or junk shops though most charity shops have got wise… They actually over-value.
The simple techniques you use with the stickers on the vinyl to create loops, where did you come across that?
That was Christian Marclay. In terms of people working in turntables there was John Cage working with Merce Cunningham way back in the early 60s but Marclay was I think the first one to use lots of different records and quick cuts. So for me it was him and Martin Tetrau, a French Canadian living in Montreal.
Where did you come across them?
Somebody played me Christian Barclay and I went to see him when he was playing with a theatre company at the Riverside and I met Martin later on. I actually got to work with both of them and there is a release with the three of us playing in Belgium and they’ve become friends of mine. Also there’s Otomo Yoshihide who was doing some really interesting things with turntables.
What’s the crossover between the analogue and digital world for you?
Vinyl is the material I use but in a way I am happy to make whatever format. I have lots of CDs at home, I collect CDs. But CD is really struggling now because people download so much and there is a niche market for vinyl as well.
Philip Jeck’s Vinyl Requiem celebrates its 21st anniversary with a performance at the Arnolfini, Bristol in September. He is published and licensed by Touch.
Threadfest at Fuse Art space was organised with Golden Cabinet as part of Bradford Threadfest.
Bradford Threadfest Director Andy Abbott explains the ethos of the festival as a whole, which is now in its third year: “It came about wanting to showcase some of the lesser known music in Bradford, not necessarily Bradford bands, but things that the organisations and venues are doing.
“Then as it’s grown over the three years it feels like it’s getting more of an identity to do with a certain sort of music. But I still think it’s more diverse and wide-reaching than a lot of city festivals and we tried to bring that visual art strand to that too.” (see our feature on Dark Matter Institute).
All in all, this is definitely an event we’ll be keeping our eye open for next year! For now, check out Fuse Art Space's next event on Sunday 8th June, a three-act show featuring Belfi/Grubbs/Pilia, Tara Jane ONeil and Andy Abbott as Elizabeth.
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