Column: Gordon Raphael #28 - January 2011
18 Jan 2011
update: for some reason, gordon’s in texas! he hangs out with barefoot 18 year old musicians! he’s found a load of bands he wants you to hear! and it’s brilliant to have him back.
Good January, Readers! I told you last summer about the 2010 I had, air-lining from Capetown, through Berlin to Sweden, Norway, London Hollywood etc, recording super-fun bands and visiting interesting new places. Well, the year ended with a shebang as follows:
Had a glorious month at home in Berlin, frequenting Galao - my favorite coffee shop near Rosenthaler Platz, visiting Sarah and Graeme Maguire and walking Tiva (our mutual Dalmatian puppy) through Wienburg's Park. From there I had a month is Seattle where I bought a green Ibanez Roadstar guitar- green cuz it reminded me of Seattle, not the people's faces due to rain, but actually the trees and mountains! Visited my family, and recorded 13 songs with a really brilliant 14 year old piano-playing singer/writer named Audrey Bochsler. Her music struck me as fascinating because of its depth and beautiful power, and she referred to having formed her lustquest for music growing up absorbing ideas from Regina Spektor and Julian Casablancas. In a way it was like directly harvesting musical fruit from my previous projects, in a way that I found very sweet and rare. Check her out now!
From Seattle I went to San Pancho Mexico to see the wedding of my friend Anna Mercedes, who I not only played in Absinthee with, but who helped me build Transporterraum Studio in New York, and who came with me to live in London for the 5 years I stayed there, starting in early 2002. The party lasted 5 days, on the beach and in the town, in glorious sunshine. I met there a provocative, gorgeous girl named Ivy, from Beijing China. She had a cute white Nikon camera, and I had a new black Canon, so there we were snapping away at the people and scenery. She is a top illustrator and teacher of the Manga style in her homeland, and she wowed us all with her impromptu drawings. Ivy goes by the moniker of Buddy for her artwork. We released baby turtles into the sea together, one dark and moonlit night!
Well no trip to rainy Seattle and sunny Mexico would feel complete to me without a one week slog through the icy winds and snow of New York City. So trekking out to stay with friends in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (I had never, ever stayed in Brooklyn before- except when was growing up I had grandparents and an auntie who lived there!) The first day there I ran into Julian from The Strokes, hadnt seen him since the previous Christmas in Berlin, touring with his own band. We hung out and he showed me his fantastic and well decorated Cult Records headquarters, really nice to catch up with him. New York was yes, extra chilly-cold, but lovely to be back in one of my hometowns that I'd missed for a few years.
Recommended hot spot: Mud Coffee Shop on E.9th Street. It’s a coffee adventure!
Well, just when I thought I'd be cruising back to Berlin to settle down for a long minus 15 degree winter, and some cool music jobs, I got a call from... ready??-- SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS. What? Texas? Who me? I remember touring several times in Texas, back in my Sky Cries Mary band days; Dallas, Houston, Austin, El Paso- and from those experiences, never actually thought about that state EVER! But here was this guy, Josh O'Buddy calling me to say that if I came to San Antonio I'd discover an untapped musical goldmine. He went as far as to say "The scene here is covered in gasoline, and if you came here Gordon, you'd be the match to set it off!". Well, I for one enjoy a blazing music scene, having danced in Seattle during the late 80's/early 90's, working away in New York in 2001 and seeing great mayhem in London the next years. (London is again really pleasing me with its creative and innovative scene starting about a year ago, I see another great renaissance there too!) So I cancelled my trip home to head out to Texas and record 3 bands in San Antonio.
The first day I was here we put a recording studio together from equipment I had shipped out of Seattle and Berlin. Other people also lent me their gear, and after wiring, decorating it up with Spanish and Mexican blankets and a huge tapestry of Pamela Anderson Baywatch (that I scored whilst shopping with Skin at the Brick Lane Sunday Market) and burning some ceremonial incense- a must to remove previous recording demons from a studio!, we were ready for action. Action number one was a "welcome Gordon party" held at Vintage House clothing store.
Gordotronic Models at Vintage House,
Scene of the Gordon Party
Anthony from Ill Prospekt
3 bands played and I DJ'd at a warm outdoor party area at night, behind the shop. Now I do occasionally DJ, but here they had assemble some very cute, pretty models and dressed them in quickly made designer T-shirts featuring spray painted stencils of my own face, and some with my logo for GORDOTRONIC (more on that soon!). I got to collaborate with a visual filmmaker and artist named Laura Grace Robles, who projected very wild movies in a sexy, avante-gard psychedelic style against the back wall. The afore mentioned festive and well dressed lasses then were assigned to dance around me as I Dj'd, which had the exact result that Josh had planned: the people and media were now engaged for a guerilla style cultural/musical revolution in their town of San Antonio. As I laid down the hits from King Crimson, through the Libertines, to Colourbox, Sugar Hill Gang, Heaven 17, The Damned, and other of my favorite notes and rhythms, the town was gently lifting off towards an unknown destination.
The first band to record with me was Education, as Josh wanted me to experience that as my intro to what he was on about! Yes, it was a trippy-trip hearing and producing this band. Hard to describe except for to say - imagine the sons of Johnny Cash, now imagine them singing and playing in the Dead Kennedys. Ooops! What would that be like? Well Education, of course. Sometimes the heartbroken young Texan boy, lamenting about his and other peoples heartbreak, and suddenly taking a left turn with punk-curdling screams of rage, and buzzsaw guitars going off in all directions. It’s a great record, and I look forward to y'all hearing this one, fo sho!!!
Next I got to meet and greet a band called Tangible Green. They hail from the nearby town of Boerne, Texas one of the many hilarious culture clash towns in which German settlers came to develop in cowboy era Texas. Tangible Green made a 7 song EP in a 2 day period, featuring songs that really impressed me because they were quite loosely structured, and not nervously in a hurry to end at 3 minutes for easy radio edits and short attention spans. Very young guys, fresh out of High School, barefoot guys, in fact- rocking a Hendrixy jammy vibe, which would maybe be hard to listen to if it wasnt done with such style and excitable energy. Dan and Josh, bass and guitar respectively, are brothers who play many instruments between them having grown up in a family that perform Cajun and Zydeco music. Their third musician Sinisia is one of the rare Texans who is actually from Bosnia, and he has a very loud and expressive drumstyle to be sure! Josh's guitar playing really drives the songs, and he really is going places with his discoveries on that instrument. So much so that I have asked Tangible Green to be my backup band when I play my own shows here soon!
The last band I was scheduled to work with is the electronic outer space group called Ill Prospekt. This is a science project for sure. Their leader Dr. Grey sets up a truckload of analog synths (the kind that make me sweat, especially the Yamaha CS-30, that dirty dirty boy!) and boxes of wires, and Moogerfoogers left right and centre. Among the Theremins and cables, 4 lads can be almost seen darting about frenetically making another very odd combination of sounds: Blasts of noise, and plutonian space exploration tones, but always backing up a very very sweet and tuneful melody! Like interplanetary space chirping featuring very smooth uplifting, memorable melodies either performed on the Moog Voyager or Vocoder (a good analog one too!). On the night of my party they exploded one of their PA speakers, and the thing burst into flames! Maybe that’s also what Josh O'buddy was referring to about setting this city alight!
Every day I sit here in San Antonio, another band asks me to produce a record, and I go to 3 shows a week, where I am always having a revelation and a panic because of the quality and uniqueness of what I find here. So far I have recorded 10 bands-37 songs in the first month of my visit. 2 of the honorable mentions go to Victoria Zaleski, another 14 year old gal musician who I saw play at "Gig on the strip" club and immediately asked her and her mom if I could record her very original and evocative acoustic guitar + vocal music. I also was contacted by We Leave At Midnight who recorded 2 songs with me that feature 60 layers of vocal harmonies (these guys know their voice leading and music theory to a high degree, believe me it was stunning!). Kind of hyper 1960's Beach Boys meets ...well, Sonic Youth kind of sound, if you can fathom that. I really love these 2 songs.
I will leave this rant with four more names: Deer Vibes, Hyperlite Driveship, Verisimilitude and Aly Tadros. Can’t leave any of them out, and can’t live without them now!
Briefly: Aly Tadros did a solo show at Gig as well, and I could only stay for 3 songs. I experienced her music as a modern woman master of 3 acoustic stringed instruments and with a voice that is so well tunes to her storytelling that it was like watching a masterclass on creative musical expression. I felt a memory of Joni Mitchell during the Blue phase that really speaks to me. Aly is frequently touring around the US and Europe, and I can truly understand why! We may be recording together in the coming months!
Deer Vibes, a 10 piece band featuring horns on the left, strings on the right and in the middle a classical symphony of acoustic guitars, keyboards and a bass player who is more fun to watch than a 5 ring circus. And he plays the living hell out of his bass, absolutely.
Hyperlight Driveship- 2 brothers (again!) writing and playing what I must describe as pure undiluted psychedelic swirls of ancient chanting, spitfire Texan blues guitar and unrelenting journeys into the center of the Universe's mind. Thats all.
Verisimilitude- 2 (sometimes 3) brothers: Zachariah (14 years), Dakota (16) and AJ (18) and the powerhouse drummer Felicia. I saw them last night play a 3 song set in their shack behind their parents house. All instrumental, and doing things that just were not possible until now, musically. Bassist Dakota is a legend in the making, and I am going to gather the resources (plenty in San Antonio) to make a documentary featuring them and the other bands in the next days. I will share it with Rockfeedback for sure. Verisimilitude are, for me, a vision of what the future will look and sound like, and its a rosy-glowing future, and if there's any way I can help it along, I will.
Cheers- and hello from the other side of Texas, USA.