Julian Cope’s Krautrocksampler is one of my all-time favourite music books, an expert guide to the psychedelic jungle of German rock from 1968–1975. (And it seems to be out of print. Damn.) Now he’s written a follow-up.

Julian Cope, eccentric and visionary rock musician, hip archaeologist and one time frontman of Teardrop Explodes, follows the runaway underground success of Krautrocksampler, a cult deconstruction of German rock music, with Japrocksampler. Japrocksampler is a short history of Japanese youth culture in the post-war years. It explores the clash between traditional, conservative Japanese values and the wild rock and roll renegades of the 1960s and 70s, telling the tale of six seminal groups of artists in Japanese post-war culture, from itinerant art-house poets to violent refusenik rock groups with a penchant for plane hijacking. Cope tours regularly and has just brought out a new album, Dark Orgasm. His website, Head Heritage, is widely acknowledged as containing some of the most entertaining and insightful album reviews on the web. Julian’s fans (Copeheads) as well as the generally interested reader will lap up this take on the Jap Rock phenomenon.

Via Arthur.

See also:
Les Rallizes Denudes
Keiji Haino / Fushitsusha
High Rise
PSF Records
Acid Mothers Temple Soul Collective | AMT concerts at the Internet Archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Chrome: Perfumed Metal
Barney Bubbles: artist and designer
Metabolist: Goatmanauts, Drömm-heads and the Zuehl Axis
The art of Shinro Ohtake
Maximum heaviosity

The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda II

invasion.jpgLong, Strange Trip for a Hypnotic Film

By James Gaddy
August 27, 2006
The New York Times

IT TOOK 38 years, but Ira Cohen’s cult film, The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda, which was first screened in 1968 at the high point of the psychedelic hippie head rush, is now commercially available. Given the close calls, the long absences and his chaotic archival system, Mr. Cohen, 71, is a little surprised himself.

“It didn’t really involve patience,” he said in his apartment on West 106th Street in Manhattan, surrounded by books stacked waist high. “It was just reality.”

In 1961 Mr. Cohen built a room in his New York loft lined with large panels of Mylar plastic, a sort of bendable mirror that causes images to crackle and swirl in hypnotic, sometimes beautiful patterns. After a few years experimenting with the technique in photographs, he invited his friends from the downtown scene—like Beverly Grant, Vali Myers and Tony Conrad—to make a film.

The finished product sets languid images of opium smokers (in fantastic makeup and costumes) against a droning, chanting, tabla-beating soundtrack by Angus MacLise, the original drummer of the Velvet Underground. Xavier Garcia Bardon, film curator at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, said the film is an important artifact of the era.

“It’s like going on an ecstatic journey to another planet, full of magical beings, animals and plants,” he said. “It’s a hallucinatory, almost trance-inducing experience.”

Mr. Cohen left New York in 1969, shortly after the film’s first screening, for art- and drug-filled travels in India, Ethiopia and Nepal. He roamed through the 1970s and 80s. While he was away, the film’s legend grew, even as the original few copies slowly disappeared.

Mr. Cohen said he dropped off the original print at DuArt Film Laboratories before he left; the staff reached him in Kathmandu in 1978, asking for $300 in storage fees. He asked the lab to send the print to the Museum of Modern Art, but the museum has no record of receiving it.

“If you have money, you can store it any way you want,” he said ruefully. “But for some people, $280, $300 changes the way things turn out.”

It wasn’t until a compilation of Mr. MacLise’s music came out in 1999, 20 years after his death, that interest in distributing the film began. Jay Babcock, editor of the underground magazine Arthur, and Will Swofford, a composer who was then studying at Wesleyan University, independently tracked Mr. Cohen down.

Mr. Babcock said he was curious to see how Mr. Cohen’s early Mylar photographs would look like in a film. “I had dreamed for years what it would look like,” Mr. Babcock said. He began pressing for distribution rights.

Meanwhile Mr. Swofford had persuaded Mr. Cohen, whose health has been failing (he’s had two strokes in the last year), to let him operate as an archivist and agent. Mr. Swofford eventually found 40 cans of unused outtakes in a green trunk, buried beneath books, papers, slides and assorted creative runoff.

“No one had touched the film for 25 years,” Mr. Swofford said.

Because the original version lasts only 22 minutes, he began beefing>up the content for the DVD age. Mr. Cohen wanted to use part of the found film, an eight-minute section in which he is buried in mud, as a prelude; Mr. Swofford used the nearly four hours of outtakes to fashion Brain Damage, a 30-minute coda. The DVD also features a slide show of Mr. Cohen’s photographs, audio recitations of his poetry and two alternate soundtracks to the film.

One of these versions was by the band Acid Mothers Temple, which had recorded a live soundtrack to the film at the music festival Kill Your Timid Notion, in Dundee, Scotland, in 2003.

“I had no idea what a DVD could be,” Mr. Cohen said. “I would have just put the film on there.”

The film was released last month, the result of a collaboration between Bastet, Arthur magazine’s music and video label, and Saturnalia, Mr. Swofford’s label, with distribution limited to the magazine’s Web site and a few independent music retailers. Thanks to labor donated by both parties, the initial 1,000-copy print run cost about $8,000.

But $8,000 is still a lot of money for a magazine like Arthur, a break-even labor-of-love venture. “It’s shameful, with the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on movies every year in Hollywood, it’s left to a penniless publication to put this out,” Mr. Babcock said.

Yet he remains optimistic. The film received positive reviews when screened at the 2006 Whitney Biennial. Next month Mr. Bardon will hold a screening with live music in Brussels, and Tony Conrad, now a professor in the department of media studies at the University of Buffalo, will screen the film in Atlanta.

Mr. Babcock is already making plans to release Mr. Cohen’s two other films if Arthur can recoup the investment on this one. “We hope this is just the beginning,” he says.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda

Maximum heaviosity


Left: Comets on Fire at the Arthurfest,
Los Angeles, 2005.

Bassoons, flamenco, monks’ cowls…
welcome to the new rock underground

Julian Cope explains why heavy metal, so often maligned, is at the heart of today’s rock avant-garde

Julian Cope
Friday August 18, 2006
The Guardian

IN APRIL THIS YEAR, after my half-hour stint as a guest vocalist for the US doom metal band SunnO))), I left the stage at Brussels’ Domino festival and removed my burka. Backstage, I remarked to the band’s biographer, Seldon Hunt, how open-minded heavy metallers had become: they were accepting, as festival headliners, a band without a drummer, a bass player or guitars, and with every bearded, long-haired musician among them clad in the habit of a Christian monk. Percipiently, Seldon commented that because the support acts had contained all of those ingredients (except the habits), SunnO))) considered it their duty to reject every metal cliche, replacing each of the archetypal rock instruments with Moog synthesizers, downtuned enough to bring the plaster off the theatre’s ceiling.

SunnO))) are taking metal to places you never imagined. Their music inhabits the territory that once was the preserve of meditative, ambient and experimental music alone. And they are doing it through the most critically reviled music of all. More remarkably, they are not alone. Across the world, underground scenes are using the shell of heavy metal—the volume, the grinding riffs, the imagery, the nomenclature—to test rock’n’roll perceptions and explore boundaries, all the while shamelessly subsuming other vastly different musical styles into their own work.

In a worldwide underground music scene that encompasses artists playing improvisatory music, folk, psychedelic and free jazz, metal is the common thread. You don’t hear much about this music in the mainstream press, especially in Britain, where the kingmakers of the music press have inadvertently created generations of musical whores, all doing their utmost to produce what they think the NME will want, rather than the music they want to make. But why is metal the link? Because the avant-garde musicians in the vanguard of today’s experimental underground scene grew up on it. They spent their late childhoods/early teens playing noisy computer games, watching 24-hour news of the first Gulf war and listening to grunge and metal. As they are mostly in their late 20s and early 30s, their strongest cultural landmarks are the suicide of Kurt Cobain in 1994, and, before it, the overwhelmingly loud sludge of Slayer, Megadeth and Metallica. Therefore the “inner soundtracks” of the new avant gardists are informed by grinding metal bands, just as the sound of the Velvet Underground’s Sister Ray informed that of my own punk generation. Older readers who equate the term heavy metal with the brash, stupefying 1980s anthems of Def Leppard and Bon Jovi will do well to remember that these bands are long out of the equation, having been at their height over 20 years ago.

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