The Italian Job

Posted in robin's life, robin's music on February 23, 2008 by robin guthrie

Day 1
I’m on tour in Italy. I arrived yesterday in Catania. I’ve never been to Sicily before so it’s fun just to look around and enjoy being somewhere else. Catania is surprisingly close to Mount Etna. The Italians, apparently lacking good judgment in such matters, seem to have chosen really odd places for some of their cities, Naples and Venice for example. Um, Pompeii comes to mind as well. Anyway, I’m going to be here for the next 10 days so I thought I’d write a little about it to illustrate the glamourous life I live and the torment I go through just to bring some fine tunes to some folks in Italy, well at least the folks who have the good taste to actually come along to one of my shows. I, sort of, suspect that won’t be many on this trip, but then, no one who knows me would exactly describe me as an optimist. I kinda think of myself as an optimist with experience, however that’s not the same. I’m lodged in a funky B&B called BAD and eat real good food at a restaurant called, well something vaguely commie sounding, can’t remember. Pee in the street on the way back to the B&B..tout va bien

Day 2
Show day. After promising myself that I’d get up and look around town, I lay in bed until lunchtime regretting, well, most things, but more exactly the choice of staying up late and peeing in the street.
Now, before we go any further, and because this is important, I should fill in a few blanks. I’m not travelling on my own this time, I’m travelling with a dear friend, who I’ve not seen for some time, who we’ll call Mark. Actually his name is Mark Cox, we’ve known each other forever, but hardly seen each other in the last 10 years, but I won’t write that so as not to break his anonymity.
Doh
Anyway I met Mark in Paris after he took a flight from London, where he lives and I took a train from Rennes, where I live. It was lovely to meet at the airport, check out each other’s graying hair and set off on our little road trip, chit-chatting away like we saw each other last week.
Have a look around the fish market in Catania, quickly decide that I wish to live there, eat lunch at the ‘L’Etoile d’Or’, reaffirm the decision, start looking for houses, then suddenly realize that I made a promise to myself never to buy a house on an active volcano. Call me old fashioned but, hey, each to his own. Anyway, I don’t need an active volcano, I have women in my life.
Next up, went to find the venue at the appropriate time mentioned on the contract, gave up after a couple of hours looking around in the dark at, as it happened, the wrong building, squeezed in some a little dinner, which would have tasted much nicer had the promoter paid for it as agreed, then found the place the show was happening, only to find it abandoned. Sat around, not quite sure what to do. I figured I was in the right place as there was a poster up on the wall with todays date on it. Waited… waited…waited some more. Eventually some people arrived, it’s already 10pm or so, and showed me where I should plug in, play, etc, did a very quick soundcheck , then, well, played the show.
Did the best I could.
Always do.
Hungry, looked for snacks afterwards. Don’t like fucking peanuts.
Got my picture taken with seven forty year old men.
However that wasn’t the funnest part of the evening, no sir. On the way back to B&B got arrested by a fat necked, sweaty, fucking caribinierri who told Mark to walk back the B&B as he didn’t have his passport with him. Well, of course he wouldn’t. He’s English. Fat neck made me get into the driver’s seat and drive. Umm, OK. I was rather tired and emotional. Tired and emotional as a newt, I think Mark put it, but, hey, best not to argue with a sweaty guy with a gun.
Good night.

Day 3
Sad to leave Sicily, really good arancini. Have to drive a bit to take the ferry to mainland Italy, across the straits of Messina, surely one of the worlds shortest and least impressive ferry crossings, however the Italians didn’t fail to impress with their alarming lack of efficiency and dismal attitude to those of us born outside Italy and unable to speak Italian. It’s OK though as I have experience of such things, living in France. While all the cars seemed able to get on to the two ferries which came and went while we were waiting, we pondered the logic of having a ticket office only open between 11am and 2pm selling tickets for the rest of the crossings for that day. Anyway, finally we managed to cross the straits in about fifteen minutes, on a ferry that we had arrived at some two and a half hours before.

Day 4
I’ve always wanted to experience Calabrian cuisine and, as I have a show in Cosenza, here’s the perfect opportunity. This should mean, a home cooked meal by someone’s mamma, super spicy, in relation to most Italian cooking, and mouthwateringly fresh. However tonight’s performance had been booked into a rather small rock club, totally inappropriate for performing ‘Lumiere’ but with friendly helpful locals. One can’t be disappointed if one is aware of people making an effort. However, the rather sad frozen hamburger dinner which was offered to me did disappoint after hearing so much about calabrasi cuisine.
Oh, I played a concert as well, with ‘Lumiere’ showing on a screen the size of a small TV.
I probably sucked, I can’t be sure as I was paying as much attention my performance as the organizers had paid to my contract, however I played the best I could in those circumstances. Got my picture taken with eleven forty year old men. At this point I’m thinking of printing some ‘Robin Guthrie, Why the Fuck do I Bother? Tour 2008’ T-shirts but I doubt I’d get many sales.

Day 4
I’d never been to Salerno. It’s very pretty. I had a bit of an adventure trying to drive around the old town, which was definitely not designed for motor traffic. We were accommodated in an odd sort of a youth hostel place by the local promoter Paulo, who we dined with that evening. This was arranged, no doubt, so that he could take the opportunity to break it to me gently that this was another rock club with a tiny projection screen. This whole touring business was, quite frankly, starting to seem a little surreal and the experience of sleeping in a bunk bed pretty much convinced me that I may be getting filmed for some candid camera reality TV sort of thing. Anyway, at the restaurant, I had gnocchi which was absurdly good and happened to ask one of the guys what the local delicacy was and he informed me it was mozzarella di buffala. As soon as I said that it was a big favourite of mine he whipped out his cell phone and called his mamma and asked her to prepare some. True to his word 1.5kg of the finest mozzarella arrived at the venue the next day. Yum. Next day I bought some pomodoro secchi, basil, olive oil and ciabatta to compliment it and had caprese in a little picnic area by the side of the highway, while watching the autostrada prostitutes hopping from one truck cab to the next. Who say’s touring isn’t fun?

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, Salerno, did a show, was probably OK, got my picture taken with nine forty year old men.
At this stage I start to ask myself some questions. Things are OK, it’s nice to be somewhere new, it always is, but what the hell am I doing here? I have got this Lumiere thing together, informed everyone involved of the requirements for the performance to work, and am starting to feel like someone is taking the piss. Sure, it’s nice to be playing but I’ve only done one show so far which is anything like the type of place I can perform this in. I’ve said it before. It’s a sit down, chill out, get overwhelmed by the big screen images which float over you while listening to some, rather lovely, quiet instrumental music. It is not me playing at 1am, playing after a deafeningly loud rock band, or a DJ that is obsessed with A Forest, by The Cure, in a sweaty club, with a big bar, and people shouting , the rabble of cocaine idiot talk and strangest of all, everyone standing. This is, how could I put it, ever so slightly challenging for me.
And then someone brings their face to withina couple of inches from mine and says “Hi, just wanted to say… You’re a piece of history” and I think to myself “you’re a closed minded fucking asshole who has just been dancing to echo and the fucking bunnymen. You are so stuck in the past, fuckwit” but of course I politely say “Thank you”.
Now I’m starting to understand why some artists choose not to play or make records, preferring instead just to stay at home and become legendary. They must have been to Italy.

Day 5
Rome. Same shit, different day. Another fucking night club, oh, and it’s not my show anymore, it’s a festival now and there’s a bunch of other people playing before and after me, so I haven’t really got much stage to play on, but that’s OK as the screen is about the size of my TV at home. I’m starting to feel sorry for any audience members that actually wanted to see me, as seeing me in those conditions must be very uncomfortable. I ate a thouroughly average Pizza, probably the worst Italian food I’ve eaten (and remember I live in France…) however I was very happy to see an old friend, Allessandra, that I haven’t seen for about fifteen years and catch up. To Rococo Rot play and I think I like them, certainly liked the people when we had a chat. Got my picture taken with fourteen forty year old men. Went to the supermarket. Considered throwing all my musical equipment in the trash, filling up my suitcases with food and going home. Had some prosciutto instead.

Day 6
Bit of a travel day, drive 600km to Milan. I’ve discovered something called ‘Pocket Coffee’, a small, liquid centered, chocolate filled with coffee. Life is beautiful, once more. I’m enjoying the driving, always do even when driving towards, what can only be described as, the low spot of the tour. And this is, don’t forget, a tour of low spots. It had all the usual ingredients, no projector, wrong cables, monitors made from cornflake boxes, sticky floor, The Cure playing, the cleaners closet as a dressing room but a new added twist, no audience, well at least very few, but hey, one has to play for the people that are there, not the ones that didn’t come. Strangely, I actually enjoyed playing, for the first time, even although the sound was horrible. I think I may be getting better as the days go on… Oh, I get it, it’s practice. Right. OK. Well, whatever, I enjoy getting lost in the music and feel less and less pressure from the audience to be good. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn, as the great man said. Another anomaly of the evening in Milan was that I saw Mark get cross with a waiter in a Restaurant. I’ve never even heard of Mark getting cross before. That can’t be the same guy I saw doing Tai Chi in the hotel lobby, could it?. As we left the venue and said our ‘goodnights’ and ‘thank you’s’ the promoter said “next time, bring a band”. I replied with a quick “next time bring an audience”. Well, it made me laugh. Truth is, I’d rather sever my own head off with a hacksaw than return to that place. Sorry. Got photo taken with five forty year old men.

Day 7
Guess What? Florence. Night Club… No wait, keep reading. What a fantastic place, a club called the Viper Theatre. Nice People, great sound, lights, 3 projectors, people that know what they are doing. Easily the most impressive looking visuals I’ve been able to present here. Wait, can this still be Italy? Ah, well actually, apparently so. Empty room syndrome again. Oh, well, at least there weren’t a lot of people dancing to A Forest either. Mark tells me to ‘Let it be different’. He has a point, but it will take me a day or two for the word to sink in. Got my picture taken with four forty year old men. Had a quick drive into the city the next morning to look around like tourists. Pretty, but it’s not a day off, so hit the road. Starting to feel like I’m coming down with something.

Day 8
Like something out of Heidi, Rovereto is a town with an alpine flavor, wedged between mountains, you can’t help but fall upon it when heading north towards the Brenner pass. It’s really rather charming with that model train layout feel. After the last couple of shows I didn’t imagine that even the janitor of the venue would be there to let us in, as the theatre, yes, I said theatre, is a couple of kilometers out of town on the way up a mountain. Did I tell you that this touring thing could be surreal? But happily the promoter greeted us and was very helpful. I arrive at the theatre, which looks perfect, check out the equipment, which is all that I asked for, start thinking to myself ‘well if this is all OK, what will go wrong? Something will.’ Well, after a couple of low turn outs I was pleasantly surprised to play to a rather full house, which seemed very appreciative. I thought it was as good a ‘Lumiere’ performance as I have ever given. It certainly worked. I couldn’t help wondering if there was a connection between me being able to present the show in the correct environment and a successful performance and happy audience.
Just a thought.
Got picture taken with nine forty year old men, then had an early night, as I’ve definitely got something nasty. Can’t breathe and feel like shit. Goodnight.

Day 9
Bologna. Oh, it’s a club. Well some of my frantic calls and texts to my agent must have paid off as they’ve put some seats out and have another artist, a guy called Christian, performing a nice downtempo film and music piece. More of the show later. Lasagne Bolognaise, what a wonderful thing, especially in the little trattoria, like something out of a movie, which we were taken to. The food was really ridiculously good, the ambience perfect, and most affordable, as the promoter was paying. Someone else paying never fails to add a certain richness to the whole eating experience. Now, about that show, well, although it was in a club, I think it was quite nice. It was nice that the promoter had made an effort to make the environment more sympathetic to what I was trying to put across and the people, seemed to be relieved to be sitting down, when they saw me play. I could have done with a seat as well, as I was feeling really rough now, a snotty stuffed up nose and sore throat. Too many late nights, I guess. Got picture taken with seven forty year old men.

And that was that.

Dropped of my rental car at the airport, flew to Paris, said my thank you and goodbyes to Mark, got on a train home, got there near midnight. Go to bed. Feel ill, looking forward to sleeping for a week…

post script
The next morning at 11am I get a text message from Steve from Heligoland. It read’s “did you get my email?, I’m at La gare de Rennes .” To cut a long story short, I never did get that week in bed, nor even a day, as I’ve spent the whole of the last week mixing the Heligoland album. Then I hopped on train back to Paris, with my luggage still unpacked from my time in Italy and as I write this I’m in Mexico City, minus, it goes without saying, my luggage. But that’s another story.

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Twinkle…

Posted in robin's music on December 22, 2007 by robin guthrie

So this is Christmas.
I am at the top of a very wobbly ladder in my garden attaching Christmas lights to a tree. I am 45 years old. I feel like Rod Hull. My cellphone has gone off twice in the last five minutes, Steve from Heligoland arranging an upcoming session and a text from my friend Gaelle, who couldn’t possibly know that I am up a tree but will surely feel bad if I a/ fall off, b/ electrocute myself, c/ fall off while electrocuting myself. Nevertheless this is Christmas and I’ve a very strong urge, no, need, to hang little lights in my trees and become festive. I realize that for the last couple of years Christmas has come at a really inconvenient time to me, usually halfway through a session or something equally as inconsequent, but this year, as if responding to some primeval programming, I’m breaking out the Dean Martin Christmas album and acting altogether like a middle aged man who realizes that there is only a finite number of Christmas’s left to experience. That, and I bought some really cool little lights from Ikea which change colour, allowing me almost to relive, albeit briefly, being off my face at a Happy Mondays show in the late 80’s, albeit without the fear of an imminent drug death but maintaining the risk factor by standing atop a somewhat wobbly metal ladder in my garden while connected to the mains electricity. Anyway, bottom line is my six year old Violette saw the lights and told me that they were, and I quote, “delightful and magical”. So I guess it’s fuck you to anyone who cares to believe that it’s not cool to hang little lights in trees.

And what have you done?
Well, you know, I met a man named Mark Mushet from Vancouver BC earlier this year, a portrait photographer with few peers, and he, being a man with obvious good taste, looks at this weblog every once in a while. While talking with him about what I write here he told me that he didn’t know what to make of the lengthy pauses between my posts, and then, after lingering to reflect for a moment, was able to inform me that during such pauses all must be well. Well, you know, there’s something in that, as I do just tend to bitch about what’s not well, or even worse, obsess on the petty and unimportant issues, instead of churning out press releases on what I’m up to, as if it really matters. So, naturally, here I am, recapping a little on some of the things I have done this year. It’s not over yet, I’ve a couple more things to do get done but, without the aid of a written diary I’ve, produced an album for the outrageously talented Annie Barker from Los Angeles CA, I’m currently producing an album for Australia’s Heligoland, a project which is taking everyone involved to a new level, producing an album for Resplandor, from Lima, Peru, a group I fell in love with after seeing them play, I’ve done collaborations with Ulrich Schnauss, a rather talented young German fellow and Manual, a rather talented young Danish fellow. Of course, then there is Mahogany, led by the rather talented young Andrew Prinz and fellow New Yorkers Apollo Heights, who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for such a long, long time. It’s truly heartwarming to see the aforementioned getting the credit that they deserve. Also from NYC, The School of Seven Bells, from Oxford, England, a certain Mr Mark Gardener and from Brussells, Colour Kane. And then of course, there are the two albums that I’ve made with Harold Budd, After the Night Falls and Before the day Breaks not to mention Telefon Tel Aviv and Honeychild Coleman. Yes, they have certainly taken up some of my time this year, as did the soundtrack to the Dany Saadia movie 3.19, come to think of it.
Naturally it’d be easy to imagine me stuck in my studio all year but I’ve managed to play some shows as well, in the USA, UK, Chile, Peru, Norway, France, Spain and Italy and maybe even more but, hey it’s late and I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast.

Another year over..
Oh yeah, I remember, the one with no summer. Boy, did I feel silly buying that big assed gas barbeque. Tell you what I did do that was eventful though, apart from all the messing around with musicians, that is, I put a new mixing desk in my studio and built myself a quad core music computer..

And a new one just begun
Well that’s a little presumptuous, given that it’s Dec 22nd but here’s what I want/have to do before the new year is too old. I have to finish the Resplandor lbum, the Heligoland album and I really need to make some “Robin Guthrie” music for a new CD, I want/need do shows in Peru, Russia, Itally and Mexico..I want to wear a suit to the premiere of 3.19 and I want/need to find out why my new desk doesn’t save things properly. I want to be very careful while taking the Christmas lights down from the trees in my garden and I need to do all of those things before March, as I have my annual dream of taking it easy to fulfil…

I am the Passenger

Posted in robin's life on October 6, 2007 by robin guthrie

And I ride and I ride
5.45am, I was in Seattle driving down interstate 5 towards the airport, thinking to myself, “well robin, something’s going to happen today. I can’t imagine having to take a trip from Seattle to Lima, with all my equipment and it going smoothly to the plan laid out before me on my little printout from American Airlines, can I?”. You see, I’ve become a sort of realist and realize that my serenity depends on breaking down a travel day, in fact any day, into small bite sized morsels and, not only accepting them for what they are but enjoying them as well.
For I have come to believe that this is living.
Also it has saved the lives of a few airline employees and fellow passengers.
That morning, I knew, instinctively, that the day will be tiring and unpredictable. I wasn’t to be disappointed. I dropped off my car at the rental return, struggled with my two shinny new samsonites, just bought to replace the two that the TSA destroyed on my way into the United States (locks broken off, even although they were left unlocked unlocked, rendering them impossible to close). All was well, except that there were about 400 people in front of me in the line for the security check, which took an hour to clear, thus relieving me of my only chance of a cup of coffee and breakfast. However, with all that time to ponder upon a solution to the security issue, I finally realized that the war on terrorism has been lost. The bad guys won. The simple fact is that travelling around the US has become so fucked up that it’s become all but impossible to get anywhere on time, make connections and have your luggage arrive. I mean I could be wrong but have any of the bad guys ever been caught at a security checkpoint. Even Richard Reid, that fool with the bomb in his shoes didn’t get stopped by security. No, as far as I can see, all this extra security is just to keep ordinary folks fearful. I mean, I have to say, that after removing my shoes, having my laptop chemically tested and my nipple rings setting the beeper thingy off, three times the same day, I felt ever so much safer. I mean if the security folks could save me from doing really stupid things to myself, I’d feel safer, but generally speaking all they do is bully people with their petty rules. Oh, and while I’m at it, wouldn’t it be safer to take someone’s luggage off the fucking plane if they don’t show up for the flight. Like when my luggage arrived the day before I did in Seattle when I missed my connection due to increased security measures. I mean, the person who makes up these security rules must be a stupid as pig dribble.
Anyway, back to my little histoire.
I catch my flight, Seattle to New York, scheduled to be five and a half hours, and settle myself into my window seat and gently sob myself to sleep worrying about the plight of western civilization and what they do with all the toenail clippers that they confiscate. I was awoken a little while later by a little old lady sitting next to me and her wheelchair bound husband who was occupying the aisle seat. Yes, that’s right the wheelchair guy has the aisle seat. Well, looks like I’m not going anywhere quickly, does it. I nod off again, vaguely aware that breakfast, well a little pathetic bread roll and a polystyrene cup of pissy brown water, was being served. I opened my eyes and was told rather abruptly by a, somewhat less than agreeable, flight attendant that there was none left for me, and if I hadn’t been sleeping I’d have got one. So I went for the glass of water option and felt a twinge of sympathy for the bad guys who bring planes down. I drifted in and out of sleep for a couple of hours and when I awoke the little old lady informed me that we were in a holding pattern, due to inclement weather in the New York area. I picked a book out of my bag and started to read, while we circled around Cleveland for a while, and it was then she started to pray and then took the opportunity to ask me, completely out of the blue, if I had ever considered converting to the Mormon faith. You see, little old lady and her husband were from Salt Lake City and were believers and perhaps, young man, it would do you some good to stop reading books like that and start to read something full of goodness like the book of Mormon. She must have been looking at my book as I was reading. As it was ‘Blood Meridian’ by Cormac Macarthy, I guessed it was something not exactly on Brother Brigham’s recommended reading list. Now, I have to say, I am quite respectful of little old ladies and, while the deep rich prose, describing violence in an almost goyaesque fashion, of ‘Blood Meridian’ wasn’t something that she felt comfortable being near, I opted to put it away and read my only other book, but ‘Body Dump’ by James Ellroy didn’t pass the test either so I opted for the Sky Mall magazine and wondered over all the marvelous crappy inventions that I so often almost buy but thankfully don’t, and tried to find the one which was in the poorest taste. I was stuck between the ‘little dog steps’, a small staircase designed to help your dog be able to get into bed with you, which, frankly, is dis-gus-ting, and the ‘shoe warehouse’ which is a rack for storing a hundred pairs of shoes.
Like, isn’t that just a tad excessive? I mean I have, maybe three pairs of shoes.
Ah, maybe it’s for girls. Just a thought.
After circling Cleveland for an hour and a half, the pilot told us over the PA that we were running out of gas and would have to make an accelerated descent into Detroit at which point the plane dropped like a fucking stone and we were on the ground within ten minutes. Now to be in Detroit wasn’t exactly on the plan. Detroit hurts me. But, what the hell, maybe I could get a connection to Miami and on to Lima from there, my connection at New York already being missed, but instead of arriving at the terminal to deplane we got refueled at a distant corner of the airport and stood on a taxiway for the next three hours. Now, remember the snack I missed? We weren’t offered anything else to eat as there was nothing on the plane. Now we’ve been on the plane seven hours. I got another glass of water. I wanted to get up and stretch my legs but mr fucking wheelchair, whose name, by now, I had decided was Norman; Norman the Mormon, couldn’t get up so I sat and listened to why I should visit Salt Lake and go hang out at Temple Square. Now, anyone who read my account of flying with the really hip high tech rabbi recently should understand that I was very impressed that when he prayed for the flight to be safe and arrive on time, it actually was and did. Not so with Norm and his wife. Make your own conclusions.
We finally arrived in New York eleven hours after leaving Seattle. I’d been in my seat the whole flight and had two plastic cups of water. I’d missed my flight to Miami by five hours and had to spend the night in New York, sans luggage, which was checked through to Lima.
The airline gave me a toothbrush.
Next morning I got a Flight to Miami where I met Andrew Prinz who was there with Ana and her boyfriend Lloyd and Scott from Love Lies Crushing, who had also missed their flight the night before due to the same weather problems which affected me and gone through a similar scenario. We all took the flight to Lima, which, of course, was delayed and arrived seven hours later. My luggage didn’t make it.
The airline gave me another toothbrush.

Real Time

Posted in robin's music on October 1, 2007 by robin guthrie

Seattle dB Festival performance with Harold Budd
The show isn’t meant to start yet, I’ve just come onstage to switch on all my equipment and tune up my guitar, but my presence generates applause and the lights go down. Silent anticipation from the audience as the sound of my heart beating faster resonates from the stage. Everything seems to take an age in this silence, then, what the fuck?…..My computer has just did a ‘blue screen of death’. Oh dear, it’s going to be one of those concerts.
It never fails to amaze me that I fall for Harold’s charming, confident, nay, cavalier attitude towards soundchecking and getting all the tech bits just right. He seduces me into believing that everything will be all right, as indeed it usually is, but tonight I have problems.
Standing on stage with your computer rebooting is sort of like standing onstage with no trousers on. I mean, it’s reaaallllly embarrassing and I’m no Brian Rix. I can’t really make this funny. My laptop slowly comes to life, I start the first song. Minutes have past. What the fuck? It’s done it again, another blue screen. I imagine all the shit my friend ken will give me for not using a mac. This is now reeeeaaaallly embarrassing. I ask the audience if anyone from Microsoft is there tonight, it being Seattle and all. I sense myself becoming Brian Rix. A few people laugh. Fuck it, where’s Ken. Ken, please come on stage and make it work. I think, fuck it, I have to do something so I start to play the guitar while Ken comes on stage and tried to remedy my problem. I’m making up some nice improvised tunes with my looper which is working while he messes around with my laptop and says things in my ear like, ‘dude, you really should be using a mac’.
No, I really should be using a band.
I play guitar for a few more minutes making stuff up and feeling, rather inadequate, when ken does his magic and makes my laptop work. I play some of my songs. Well I play for about half an hour and at a certain moment Harold appears at his piano and joins in with what I’m doing. Nice. I play for a bit and then discreetly fuck off. I sit backstage for a while having a panic attack, consider leaving the building but the dressing room window is two stories up and if I jump out of the window, I know I’d land in a dumpster or something, it’s that kind of a night, so I opt for going to watch Harold play, which is, as ever, quite breathtaking and very inspiring. I wait until he plays a certain chord and then rejoin him on stage and play with him for half an hour or so. Just a moment or two before we finished I started to feel relaxed. Then just as quickly, it was all over. We were very nicely received by the audience and I wanted to thank them all for showing a little empathy, or at least not pointing and laughing while I was onstage with my trousers down.

Same old…

Posted in robin's music on September 20, 2007 by robin guthrie

Time to write a little about music. I should, and often mean to, but more often than not start to ramble on about some small calamity or other. I’ve started a new production, a very interesting band from Australia called Heligoland who are currently based in Paris have asked me to produce their next album, so I’ve been in Paris recording some of the backing tracks with them and I’m really very excited about this project, the working dynamic is very pleasant, focused and the tunes have already gotten themselves under my skin. It’s nice to be working with others again, something that only now I realize that I miss. So, it’s early days for this album but I have a feeling it’s going to be very special.
As I write this I’m flying over North Dakota on my way to Seattle where I’ve been invited to play at the dB festival, and, while I’m sorely tempted to do another travel disaster story, I’ll spare you.
Suffice to say I just spent the night a couple of thousand miles from my intended destination, have no idea where my luggage is at but am on rather intimate terms with every possible security/immigration agency that the US have to offer. I now know what SSSS means which appears on every boarding card that I’ve been issued in the last five years. It means, we’re going to fuck you up so that you miss your connecting flight. I swear to god that everyone with a uniform in the airport at Philadelphia had it in for me. They look at my boarding card, see that little string of s’s and SWAT teams drop down through the ceiling on ropes and drag me away. I think even the Dunkin’ Donuts coffee lady thought she had the right to fuck with me as well because she had a uniform. I think she saw the SSSS on my boarding card, which was sticking out of my pocket, before short changing me $20.
OK, enough of that, I’ll get back to the stuff about music. As I was saying, I’m going to perform at the dB festival, and it promises to be a special one as I’m going to be performing both on my own and with Mr Harold Budd who will also be performing. That’s good news. It’ll be nice to see him as I haven’t seen him since before the summer. Curiously, the last time that we performed together was in Seattle, last year during the film festival. Well, those folks in Seattle sure have taste because we’ve never been invited to play together anywhere else. It would be nice to play more often with Harold as it really is quite special when we play together. It’s also scary as hell as he has the habit of using those black keys on the piano from time to time, which confuse and confound me no end. So, although we’ve made some records together I shouldn’t imagine that we’ll be playing any of that stuff. In fact I haven’t the faintest idea what we will play, which is one of the things that is appealing about doing a show like this.

After that, well, I’m due to spend a little time in Lima, not playing this time, but spending some time in the studio producing a band called Resplendor. I really enjoy the energy of this band, who have performed with me twice recently, and they have now invited me down to Peru to do some recording with them. It’s been a while since I’ve produced bands and it is nice to be doing this as I get the chance to practice some of the other disciplines involved in making music. I’ve learned that being a producer is very different to being an artist, to start with I have to make them happy with their record. I think in my dim and distant past, the formative years of me producing people, I put in too much of me and not enough of the artist. Younger men have larger egos, I guess. I don’t feel the same way now, as far as producing is concerned anyway. So it’ll be interesting to see what comes out as I have no idea what the energy will be like in the studio. That’s exciting.
Oh, and the food is really good down there
More travel nightmare stories soon, he says with some degree of certainty.

Things I did last summer….

Posted in robin's music on September 14, 2007 by robin guthrie

All through the summer I was invited to play at some small festivals and other events which were, for the most part, pleasing if not a little exhausting. I had imagined a peaceful summer, spent doing all those things I never have time to do, just popping away for a weekend here or there to do a show. Didn’t really work out like that as I always forget that most of the shows I do involve travelling great distances, careful rehearsal and all the other things that are part of my life, you know, like, losing my luggage, being selected for secondary screening and third degree at every airport I travel through and the other adventures I encounter every time I leave the house. So my summer didn’t really provide much rest and relaxation and I certainly wasn’t really very productive. Playing live is reproductive which doesn’t really count.
When arriving back into France after that little adventure in Seville I started to, perhaps regret, just a little, having spent the last few years giving France such a hard time. Curiously, the simple act of crossing the border gave be the impression of coming home, even if home was still two days drive away. That’s quite a nice feeling. I can’t say I have felt it for a few years.
One of the concerts I played was at Heyres, in the south of France, as part of the Midi Festival, an intimate gathering of Electronica, in a beautiful setting, the Villa Noailles, sitting atop a hill overlooking the Riviera town with an incredible view and an interesting history, it being a favorite hang out of Man Ray and Jean Cocteau. I was welcomed warmly and everything about the way the event was organized was warm and friendly. The gentleman who invited me, Frédéric Landini, was very nice indeed and I’m not just writing that because I want to get invited next year, he was really cool. However, it was strangely disconcerting to be playing a concert in France where no-one was running about being stressed and obnoxious. What was also a bit strange was that I played in the afternoon, without the benefit of my Lumiere film to hide behind which almost guaranteed that I’d do something stupid in full view of the public. Well, I don’t like to disappoint. A consequence of my clothes being stolen in Seville was that I had no shoes, so I had to go on stage wearing some flip flops, which, is not really very fucking cool. Worse though, was that when I tried to press one of my effects pedals, I pressed about five of them at the same time, because the aforementioned flip flops were about the same width as the snowshoes that arctic explorers wear. So I had to stop playing, take off my shoes and play in my bare feet, which was realllllllyy fucking embarrassing, maybe worse than wearing flip flops in the first place. It was not, as my loving family pointed out, attention seeking behaviour.

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me at midi
Doing a road trip is usually fun, doing one with your family on board, while you have some concerts to play is, well, interesting. It’s nice to cross a few boundaries every now and again, my life normally being so compartmental. Switching back and forth between artist and dad several times a day is something which, in our home, most often happens without effort although put me on a stage and have my six year old at the front trying to take a picture of me with the lens cap on and I’ll not be sure how to act.
Of course my instinct is to stop playing, put down my guitar and go to her aid but I’m guessing that’s not the right thing to do in that circumstance. That, and I’ve already stopped to take my shoes off a couple of minutes before and it could be taken as a sigh that I’m not really concentrating.
Then of course there the big one, the teenage daughter along for the ride as well. Who knows what goes on in her head as she’s watching her father looking uncomfortable on a stage with a guitar around his neck?
In fact, who knows what goes on in her head? Period.
I’ve had some totally surreal exchanges with her recently, the most outstanding of which I started to scribble onto a paper napkin as we were eating at the time. She was talking about turning up at some event or other dressed up as a persocom, to be precise, a chobit, a metal eared human looking robot or rabbit, I may have misheard.
I looked blank. “You know nothing about Cos-Play, do you dad?”
I looked blank again and scribbled some more. “Oh, no, you’re not going to write that into your web log are you? That stupid little window into your pathetic miserable little life”.
Too fucking right, I am.
I really wish that she’d been brought up by normal people.
Anyway as we sat eating a pizza my whole family criticized the way I pronounce dogshit in French. They broke it to me, gently at first, but then with a little more persistence, that when I tried to talk with the audience in French, no one understood a word of it and they were all being polite by not pointing and laughing.
To have the opportunity to pass the time with my girls, while rambling about the continent playing my guitar, well, it seemed a pleasant place to be right at that moment, even if they do remind me how retarded I can be all the time. You can’t really ask for much more than that. Unfortunately it doesn’t give me much to write about in a web log. I mean, come on, who really wants to read about me getting on OK with things. There’s no entertainment value in that, is there. Still, it doesn’t happen often, so indulge me.

Next, I ventured back to the country of my birth to play a couple of shows during the Edinburgh Festival, which were in a really unusual venue deep in the heart of the old town. Edinburgh is a great place to experience at any time, but during the festival it buzzes like no other place I’ve ever been. The atmosphere is only marred slightly by the presence of an unusually large number of mime artists.
Can’t say much about my shows, I think they were OK, or at least nobody told me that I sucked. What I do know was that they were really late at night and I dozed off just before showtime, only to be awakened by the applause after my introduction (which no one had told me about). Thus I entered the stage with that look of a startled rabbit, caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. I’m useless at the best of time after having a nap; it takes me five minutes to recognize my surroundings so I probably appeared even dopier than usual. Whatever. I found out what tired really means the next morning when I climbed to the top of Arthurs Seat with Violette as I had, in a moment of insanity, promised we would do before we left Edinburgh. I managed to survive the ordeal without being hospitalized although I ached everywhere for days afterward. I played Glasgow as well on that trip in a tiny little venue with candles on the tables, and met a nice bunch of people after the show, hung around and talked shit. That was fun.

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me@punkt

After that, well I was invited to Kristiansand in Norway to appear at the Punkt festival. That was a real quick trip but included six flights to get there and back but nothing untoward happened to me at airport security, no planes were missed, no luggage lost as Madame Guthrie was with me and things like that don’t happen to her. She has a smile, you see, which melts people. No one would ever lose her luggage or remove her toothpaste. Arriving in Kristensand at night left the biggest surprise for the morning, when, on opening the hotel room curtains, was revealed the sheer beauty of a small Norwegian coastal town, with the full complement of blue sky, water, mountains and trees. Soundcheck was at 9am so we had the rest of the day to look around and took up an offer made by the festival organizers of a little boat trip around the fjords, stopping at a little island for a delightful lunch of fish soup and returning a few hours later. It was like being on holiday. Lovely. The only problem is that my Madame now imagines that I get spoiled like this every time that I travel to do a show and therefore has ceased to believe me that what I do is hard work. I was very impressed with this festival, and I not saying that to get invited back there either. I loved the venue and the care taken over the production. I was able to use multiple projectors in the theatre which is something I’d do more often, given the chance.

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me@punkt

Don’t know when that’ll happen though, as I’m kinda really needing to get some new music done, my studio needs to have a little life breathed into it and a layer of dust brushed away. It’s been a while since I wrote any music, for me at least. It’s overdue.

Seville

Posted in robin's music on August 4, 2007 by robin guthrie

OK…OK….OK, I know, I only write about stuff when things go wrong and It must seem like when many weeks pass without me writing that things must have, apparently, been OK.
Well, I have to agree, this is probably the case.
But hear this one out. It’s a doozy.
Seville is, acknowledgedly, the artistic, cultural, and financial capital of Southern Spain. It is the capital of Andalusia and therefore somewhere which sounds worth driving 1700km to have a look around, make a nice concert and, more importantly, if given the chance, taste some interesting new dishes. So I was happy and grateful to be invited to play at an open air festival there, in an old monastery, a most historical building, claiming a tree planted by Christopher Columbus after returning from the new world. How cool. Why not?
So jump in the van with a somewhat less than rock’n’roll attitude, rather more of a, well, a let’s take the children, I can’t remember the last time we spent some time together, kind of an approach..
It was a nice drive down there and I felt glad to see the sun and blue sky which seemed to be evading most of Northern Europe this year. It was a fairly relaxed journey which I spent listening to audiobooks while driving, with a stop of in Bordeaux at my favorite restaurant, one in Vitoria to pick up a teenage child and another in Madrid to break the journey. On arriving in Seville I met my production host, Andy Jarman,who warned me about leaving my musical equipment in the van as Seville is a city with a lot of crime. I was able to have him take my equipment to his place rather than leave it in the hotel or street. However you have to park somewhere I parked on a busy, well lit street as he suggested and emptied the vehicle of valuables which we duly did.
However, with the experience of recent events it was really not too much of a surprise to arrive back at our vehicle the following morning to find the left hand window broken in and all of our possessions either scattered all over the place or, in the case of all of my clothes, missing. My six year old daughter Violette had her clothes and some of her toys missing too and seemed thrilled by the idea of being robbed however my other daughter, Lucy Belle was gently sobbing saying ‘motherfuckers…. motherfuckers…..motherfuckers have taken my vans and cyberdogs’.
I had no idea what she was talking about as she is, of course, a teenager but later found out she was referring to her shoes and really strange big trousers which young people of a certain ilk take delight in wearing.
The strange thing is the thief largely ignored the items that I would have stolen had I been a Spanish junkie, you know like Lucy Belle’s credit card and cash, which she had, rather stupidly, left in the vehicle.
No, it sort of got me thinking that this person needed middle aged mans clothing with teenage girl underwear and all of our dirty laundry. Well, you know, I’ve not much experience of Spanish people so maybe that’s normal.
Another curiosity of stealing my clothes is that it was over 35 degrees and while I could understand stealing, let’s say, a Speedo, it seemed a strange choice to run off with a navy blue woolen suit, even if the thief would look very dapper indeed while wearing it, if not a little sweaty as I would have, had I had the fucking chance to wear it..
Anyway, I digress; I’ll get back to my tale. I fashioned a quick repair to the broken window with cable ties, the things which, increasingly, seem to hold everything in my life together, locked up and headed off to the police station to make a report. This took about an hour and consisted of contemptuous policemen grunting at us, shrugging a lot and regarding us with a look that said ‘what did you expect, you tourist filth?’ I understand that there is not much to be done in a situation like we found ourselves in at that moment, no rounding up of the usual suspects and no team of detectives following up leads. The only lead I had anyway was that the thieves would probably be dressed, well, just like us. I didn’t want to end up in a Spanish prison so we quickly left.
On arriving back at the van I experienced a strange feeling of déjà vu. Well not quite déjà vu as this time it was the right hand window which had been broken in, while we were in the police station, and this time it was a more professional and thorough job. What had been missed by the first thief wasn’t missed by the second one. To be robbed on a busy city street in broad daylight is quite something, even for someone from Scotland.
Welcome to Seville.
Now, call me old fashioned but this situation was starting to become, as my firstborn would put it, a little irksome. There seemed really very little to be done except smile and get on with it. So, we went to the venue, the aforementioned old monastery, and soundchecked, which was rather pleasant, ate and then tried to return to the venue only to find ourselves locked out. I imagined Christopher Columbus beating on the same gates shouting, ‘Come on guys…. hey, guys……let me in……I have some seeds’.

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I spent most of the show looking at the audience to see if any of them were wearing any of my clothes. I played as well as I could,which was not bad for someone who knew he would smell real bad the next day. No really, I kinda, sorta, um, er, well, how do you put it, mmm, enjoyed the performance. I could see the moon and the stars as I played and it sounded just lovely. Just for a moment I forgot that someone needed my dirty laundry more than I actually did and that felt just fine….
Trouble was, the next day I had to go to France.