Steveís Gig Diary: 1997, Part One

We kicked off 1997 with an intimate and relaxed 3 set performance at Londonís October Gallery in February. It was good to have a whole gig to ourselves for once, and a cool sunny Sunday afternoon atmosphere in which to do it. The Gallery offered a perfect ambience for us, with courtyard, cafe, and exhibition space in addition to the theatre. It was here that we first employed video artists Curious Yellow who provided an exciting visual backdrop, particularly as darkness descended in the late afternoon. DJís Pete and Paul should also be given much praise for their inspired choice of interval sounds (Taking the stage to The Carpenters `Weíve Only Just Beguní was particularly memorable!).

The theatre space at the Gallery is situated two floors up (yes we did manage somehow to get the Tron up there) in the form of a long room with a wooden floor, and our first task was to utilize the many cushions and rugs which were thoughtfully provided to create a comfortable environment. It looked great and helped to avoid an atmosphere which was too formal. Dave Lawís PA was sounding great as we soundchecked ; just the right size for the room.

We played three 40 minute sets with a good long break in between, and people had the time to wander about and take in the static and human works of art populating the place, and have a glass of wine or two. (I am assured that next time there will be beer too for those in shock at itís absence) The sets featured a few pre-planned structures along with total improvisation, and in fact it was here that we managed to record the version of Organ Harvest (Part One) subsequently featured on the album. We were on good form and enjoyed playing without the pressures usually associated with gigs. It was ours and we could do what we wanted. The audience was very receptive and this was one of those days that makes everything worthwhile.

In early summer however,we undertook to play a couple of gigs which would soon be ranked in the retrospective category `never againí.The first at Willesden Greenís Cafe Gigi, was for the benefit of Friday evening drinkers who would have been in the bar whether there was music on or not. They preferred to talk as loudly as possible through the whole thing, and our plight was not assisted by what has come to be known as `wildly out of control monitor sound syndromeí. We do however appear to have developed a way of playing `blindí (`deafí ?) when we canít hear what we are doing properly, and curiously our recording from the desk sounds calm and assured.

There was a vaguely threatening atmosphere about the place in general , and that along with some very dubious goings on in the gents bogs, suggest that this venue is unlikely to be on the itinerary for a future visit. Topping that however, was the Kosmische Club at the Rheingold off Londonís Oxford Street. It was the day in July that the first live pictures from Mars were due, and we felt that the vibes would be good. How wrong we were. Having secured last minute (untaxed) transport courtesy of Warm Jets singing sensation Louis Jones , we arrived at the venue via a labyrinthine series of streets to find ourselves facing a long alleyway down which we would have to carry all the gear, and upon investigation found that the club itself counted among itís features an awkward staircase/doorway/corridor arrangement. On finally arriving at the room where the club was about to take place we found that there was a cabaret going on that had over run `a littleí, and that the stage was the size of a postage stamp. We had to share this with another band . At this point we seriously considered turning round and going home, but the old bulldog spirit took over and we decided to do it whatever the circumstances seeing as we had dragged the mellotron there and Gary had come from Manchester. By the time we made the stage (floor actually, the other band got there first) we were unsoundchecked and unimpressed. We played a version of Organ Harvest with a mad electronic bit in the middle and a confused improvisation which vented some of our frustration before being ushered off due to lack of time. As the dying notes of the final piece faded a member of the audience hollered "Get off the f***ing stage youíre sh*t". My reply of "come up here and say that" was sadly not heeded. We then had to wait another three and a half hours until 3a.m. before we could load out which we had to do by squeezing past a set of ignorant dolts who had chosen the narrowest of corridors to stand chatting and didnít even think of offering to move out of the way as we struggled through with various heavy bits of gear. Cheers you morons.

We finally closed the van doors at about 4 a.m. and left without even bothering to ask if there was any money. "The last thing we need now is an incident with the rozzers " observed Duncan. Approximately 2 minutes later and half a mile from the club we were out on the pavement being searched by her majestyís finest officers of the law, after being pulled over in the van. None of us had been smoking anything naughty and when they heard what kind of day weíd already had it seemed to appeal to their better nature and, it seemed they themselves were partial to a bit of off-duty drinking at the club we had just left . They let us go even though the tax was up and we had a dodgy back light.

We then had to get back to Duncanís, unload all the gear and then return the van to Jets guitarist Paul Nobleís flat in EC1, and drop the keys through the letter box ,as he needed it first thing the next day. By the time the Mellotron and flight case were safely up the stairs again, fatigued would have been an understated description of our states of mind .This did not help in locating Paulís flat which I suddenly realized I had not visited for at least three years, hence the geographical details had become a little hazy. I was leading in the car, Gary and Duncan followed in the van. I could not for the life of me remember how to get there , I could picture it in my mind but somewhere in the puzzle there was a bit missing. Duncan, with the clarity that comes from not having had to drive through the maze of one-ways and no-entries that is the West End, eventually pointed out the correct route when we conferred at the side of the road in the cold light of Saturday at 5 a.m. On eventually reaching the said block of flats I was then faced with the dilemma of which number Paul actually lived at, again those years had taken toll on the memory.If the keys went through the wrong letter box that was it. Nightmare. Looking through the letterbox for clues, I spotted the Sonic Youth poster on the wall and my problem was solved. We returned to Duncanís in the car. At 6 a.m. we booked a taxi to take a shellshocked Gary to the train station and back to the comfort and sanity of Manchester. It didnít turn up.

What relief then to be once again heading for the glorious surroundings of Jodrell Bank in Cheshire on the final day of August. We had procured Jones the Jetís van once again despite reservations about itís general condition and specifically the gear-box. So Leeds United had lost to Villa that afternoon, but what the hell, the sun was out and once again the beautiful sight of the enormous satellite dish loomed into view. Although we have visited the place on several occasions now, it is always a magical moment. There is a great feeling about the whole set up here, the staff that run the place seem perfectly happy to trust their electronic guests with the planetarium for the evening without being over the top about security.

Itís rare gig that can combine a wander round scientific exhibits, green fields and electronic music. Lack of three piece preparation for this gig actually served to heighten our enthusiasm for the performance, itís safe to say that the band was `cookingí. Garyís two weeks on the beach and away from his axe had definitely done him good, he was raring to go from the minute he plugged in at the soundcheck. We played a couple of extended improvisations, and premiered a new piece utilising some samples of apollo astronauts. This we had named `Plastered In Parisí from Neil Armstrongís comment that the surface of the moon was essentially grey, "just like plaster of Paris". We finished off the concert with `A Minuteís Silenceí and disappeared back to Garyís house for some well earned `relaxationí. The strange significance of the aforementioned track titles would slowly dawn on us the next morning as the grim news of the death of Diana Princess of Wales emerged...

Duncan and I left Manchester for London at 3 Oíclock that afternoon. It is never a thrill negotiating the Sunday traffic on the M6 motorway at the best of times, but this time the atmosphere was even more subdued. Louisí van hadnít the luxury of a cassette player and THAT news was on every radio station, either talk of the tradgedy or some dismal song by Elton or Eric. Then the nagging metallic clunks from the van that had been puzzling us up to this point, climaxed with a horrifying wrenching sound as the gearbox expired. This was only 30 or 40 miles into our journey, with another 200 to go;oh boy.

The Jet-mobile begins it's eight hour wait (in a muddy puddle) to be carted home in disgrace. Location :An industrial estate, Nowhere Central, Staffordshire.

Of course we hadnít checked to see if we were covered for breakdown emergency and several fruitless phone calls left us none the wiser. We were towed off the motorway to an industrial estate somewhere near Newcastle Under Lyme, where we waited in a bare office next door to a firm amazingly called `RMI body partsí. We were there for 8 hours,before a vehicle carrier arrives to take us back to London. The sight of the transit with every piece of gear in the RMI arsenal still in it, teetering around on the back of this huge wagon doing 90 m.p.h. while we sat helpless in the cabin was about as much as the nerves could stand. Iím sure the thought "I hope heís got it strapped on securely" must have entered Duncanís head too, but we darenít speak it to each other.

We arrived back at RMI HQ precisely 12 hours after leaving Manchester. It had cost us more than we got paid for the gig to get home. Lessons are sometimes learned the hard way. As I write, Louisí Warm Jets are Top 40 with their smash hit song `Never Neverí. Letís hope heís soon able to afford a new van.

Do Electric Sheep Dream Of Space Rock?

This hour long collage of Radio Massacre International material consists of previously unreleased material from various sessions between 2003-15, and might be seen as their version of `The Faust Tapes' in its construction. Endlessly fascinating, playing as a continuous suite, it is an unpredictable journey through many of the places RMI have found themselves in whilst working and improvising together.

Purchase the CD-R now!

Join radio massacre international on BandCamp

Join radio massacre international on Twitter

Join radio massacre international on Facebook