Thursday, August 23, 2007

Draggin' for Tail

T-Model Ford was born at some point in the 1920s. There have been differing opinions about how old he actually is. Nearing his 60s, he found himself in a heated argument with his wife over a guitar and amplifier that she had given him. His truck driving job didn't yield much money and things were fiscally tight in the family, so he was beside himself that she had taken on the task of purchasing this expensive gift- especially since he couldn't play a guitar.

A week later, she was headed out the door with all of their children and he found himself all alone with this guitar. He sat down to play it and found it was out of tune. Not knowing how to properly tune a guitar, he decided to tune it the way that he wanted it to sound. Listening to Muddy Waters songs and attempting to reproduce them was how he started to learn to play and soon enough he was belting out tunes of his own. At some point in the mid-1990s, he got a knock on his door from Matt Johnson of Fat Possum Records, who was interested in recording him even though he had no clue that he was any good. Ten years later, T-Model has found himself touring through the US and Europe playing the blues as only he can deliver.

The Austin Chronicle has touted T-Model Ford as having the perfect resume for a blues musician. He was severely beaten by his father as a child and lost a testicle as a result of his punishment. He killed a man in a bar brawl in self-defense and was sentenced 10 years in prison but only served 2 years on a chain gang and has the scars to prove it. He has had numerous wives and has sired 26 children. At the time of this album's release, he was living in Greenville, Mississippi in the most crack-filled, gangster-riddled part of town and played in the streets until the sun came up every night. All of these experiences have helped build his credentials as the current lineage holder of the blues musical experience.

Listen to Pee-Wee Get My Gun.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Stop Eyein' Me!

Definitely one of the most interesting albums ever released on the Crass Records label!

The album had all the earmarks of a record that would never see airplay due to its multi-cultural musical influences and use of lyrics interspersed with English and that of the Icelandic tongue. What could not be foreseen was the worldwide popularity that several members of the band would see ten years later.

Áfangar, a radio show sponsored by Gramm Records, was to broadcast its final episode and was looking to put together a "super-group" to perform for the bombastic occasion. The band was composed of members of various bands: Björk Guðmundsdóttir, vocalist of Tappi Tíkarrass; Einar Örn Benediktsson, a trumpeter and vocalist in Purrkur Pillnikk; keyboardist Einar Arnaldur Melax, from the surrealistic group Medúsa; Birgir Mogensen, the bassist from Spilafífl; and finally drummer Siggtryggur Baldursson and guitar player Guðlaugur Kristinn Óttarsson (a.k.a. Godkrist), both from the band Þeyr.

The first live performance that KUKL played was with Crass in 1983. This was after Einar Örn contacted the group while he was in college studying media and had access to many contacts within the so-called "industry."

The first album the band recorded was The Eye, named after Georges Bataille's Story Of The Eye- a tale of a French couple and their sexual misadventures. On the surface, the book is nothing more than a tale of pornography told under the nom de plume Lord Auch (suggesting "Lord of the shithouse"). Upon extensive research and rumination, however, the use of symbols throughout the work suggest a deeper message; one that would be the basic construct of his developing philosophy of a base materialism, which would involve the use of metaphors such as the eye, the egg, the sun, the earth, and the testicle. The basic tenet of this thought lies in the attempt to destabilise philosophical oppositions by the introduction of an unstable ‘third term’. Although, Bataille was virtually ignored in his lifetime, his writing was absolutely essential in influencing the work of Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jean Baudrillard and Jacques Lacan.

The idea can be perceived when reading the liner notes that accompanied The Eye on its release. There was an inherent distrust of the use of nuclear technology of any kind within the anarcho-punk scene but in statements released in the record The Eye, the band was calling on scientists involved in nuclear technology to use their work to bring something healing and positive to the world. Locked in the political landscape that either endorsed or opposed the use of nuclear technology by governments, this was a very different kind of argument being made regarding the issue.

"Do not conform, not in your life-style, your art or your attitudes. By using this law in our music we introduce a incongruence into the Psyche of our audience and as we do not attempt to utilize this to our own ends, this leaves space for the individuals to fill up for themselves. A single non-conforming attitude will breed a host of others. You have no right but to BE YOURSELF!" -Statement from KUKL.

The instrumentation used on the record also follows the same train of thought. For instance, the use of drums varied from what one would expect from a band in the anarcho-political scene. In some tracks, there are hints of Killing Joke, Einsturzende Neubauten, even Siouxsie & The Banshees. Then, later, you can hear bits of Stravinsky mixed in with Japanese and Icelandic folk tunes and, even later, jazz influences. Their sound backed by the audio engineering skills employed at Southern Studios and fronted by the vocal stylings of Einar Örn and Björk are haunting.

"Their musical creation literally explodes into the faces or masks of the audience, thrusts itself into its consciousness and even if you don't happen to be interested, there is no way of avoiding it or refusing to take it into consideration..." -DV review of one of their shows in April of 1984.

In Details (July 1994), Björk stated "I might just make it my mission to make everyone in the world read [Story Of The Eye]." It's no surprise that the first album that KUKL release should be the musical manifestation of this book.

When the band broke up in 1986, many of the members created a new band and this led to the formation of Sykurmolarnir or, in English, The Sugarcubes.

When asked about KUKL today, Björk dismisses their musical and philosophical efforts. "We were stupid terrorists."

KUKL- The Eye

Details interview with Björk

Read Story Of The Eye on the Georges Bataille eLibrary. The entire book can be downloaded as a .pdf file for free!