Tuesday, September 23, 2008
In recent months, the vintage Sydney music label Prince Melon has been revitalized by its founder Ed Kuepper. The label started in late 1980 with the release of the Laughing Clowns single, Sometimes The Fire Dance. The label released a further few singles by the Laughing Clowns in Australia, while Rough Trade Deutschland and Red Flame handled the European market.
The label also released singles by Peter Milton Walsh's post Apartments group, Out Of Nowhere and Ollie Olsen's post Whirlywirld project, Hugo Klang. The label dissolved around the time of the Laughing Clowns split in late 1982 and when the band reconvened in early 1983, they joined the ranks of Sydney's Hot Records where further records by the Clowns were released, as well as Ed Kuepper's vast solo catalogue and that of the Aints. In Autumn of this year, Ed Kuepper has rekindled the label he started after his disenchantment with Missing Link, the label which saw the release of the self-titled debut of the Laughing Clowns.
Three Bootleg Series releases of have so far been issued this year, with limited CD pressings of 500 each. They're all available via Prince Melon's myspace page. Prince Melon looks to release a a final title this year, a recording by the Ascension Academy, a group which played a one-off show in March this year for the Institute of Modern Art's Brisbane Sound exhibition. 2009 will see a Prince Melon release of a new studio project by the man himself.
This interview was conducted at Kuepper’s Brisbane home by Donat Tahiraj in November 2007.
EK: By that stage i was essentially the label, so i booked the session which i also attended in some kind of executive producer capacity. I did think both of the songs were too long to fit on a 7 inch single so I suggested they should distill them down to their melodic essence. They decided not to do this however. Overall i remember the session being a bit strained,with a lot of tension between Milt and the studio engineer. Afterwards I had the records manufactured and gave copies to some media people that i thought would be interested, and sold as many as possible to independent stores. I also got them some support spots for the Clowns in Sydney.
DT: What was your impression of the Brisbane music scene of the early Eighties when the Clowns first played in Brisbane?
EK: Ken West organised most of the putting together of that film. There were a few people involved who’d had ties with the film school in Sydney. As for the set, Ken may have painted that, but I’m not entirely sure. George Craglietto and Jeff Perrin – who were sort of involved with doing lights for the Clowns — also had a strong involvement. German expressionistic films of the early 20th century were kind of an influence on the way we were presenting the band at the time. As far as the costumes go, the band wore what they felt like wearing.
EK: Every time there was a major shift in the line-ups – I guess there were three different forms which had line-up shifts. I’d say the first line-up which included the band going from a four-piece to a six-piece and back to a three piece at one stage. Then the five piece, which did the Mr Uddich-Schmuddich and Everything That Flies sort of stuff. And then the four-piece with the Law Of Nature sort of stuff, with either Peter Walsh as a bass player or with Paul Smith who replaced Peter after he left. Each of those three line-ups had their own sort of audience and not all of them made the transition. As to which one was more successful? That depends how you interpret these things. The second line-up was the most overt in terms of expressing a jazz influence, which I tried to stop. Where I thought the band was most successful was in terms of the band’s performance with songs like ‘Everything That Flies’ – that was powerful. It was the most successful realization of what I was after. Live, sometimes the more sort of exploratory stuff would work, other times it became too much of a formula in itself. I guess after that, I wanted to move back to a more structured form of performance, hence the Law Of Nature and Ghosts Of An Ideal Wife period. Law Of Nature was almost something in some ways that wouldn’t have been out of place if it came out directly after Prehistoric Sounds. I think there’s quite a close sonic link between those records.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
The music of Drenica, or an uncritical aesthetic study on the hill-country folk music vernacular of Western Kosovo part one
The Albanian music which has been fed through to the west via a small and steady circulation of 'world music' compact discs and records over the years have often misrepresented the cannon of this particular brand of eastern European music.
As far as music from the Albanian music of Kosovo is concerned, little information en Anglais can be found on the music of Drenica, a small rural area of in the center-west of Europe's newest nation. Worse still, the information available from Albanian language sites offers precious little information.
Drenica is a place where most (if not all) conflicts between Albanians and Serbians tend to come from. It's hilly, harsh and its music is a reflection of countless years of Serbian oppression through story-telling. It's almost exclusively male-orientated amongst its players and listeners alike and a style that's exclusive to this region in terms of song-structure and instrumentation.
For many years leading up of Yugoslavia's disintergration in the early 1990s, the state-run RTP - Radio Television Prishtina issued cassettes of Kosovo-Albanian music (the most popular format amongst Albanians for as long as I can remember), as did the Jugoton label - both during the time Kosovo was a province within the former Yugoslavia. The music released on these labels didn't profile Drenicak music for the most part.
The music that was released on RTP and Jugoton tended to have a commerical and near-pop slant, creating very little opportunity for veteran folk artist Rizah Bllaca (see photo) to put down a 33 minute rendering of Bajram Begu e Hasan Prishtina.
With the dissolve of Serbian control over Kosovo, independent labels have since released a healthy amount of CDs and DVDs of Albanian music not heard outside of flea market bootlegs. One must understand first and foremost that this style of folk music coming out of Drenica was banned by the Yugoslav authorities at the time due to its strongly anti-authoritarian sentiment in its songs. Performances were limited to impromptu shows in people's houses and thus predating the post-punk craze by a few good years.
The focus in the lyrics are more often than not a oral account of Kosovo's history which pays homage to its freedom fighters from the post-Ottoman years to former US president Bill Clinton.
A featured clip here is a home recording of Rizah Bllaca performing Vajtimi e Avdies (Mourning of Avdi) with a Sharki, a five string instrument which is rarely performed as a solo instrument.
My solution is in trying to avoid these new trends and new sensations - focusing more on yesterday's wine than today's whine. Working in a record shop doesn't help this at all, but nevertheless I'll trudge on and create a focus (in this blog) on some of the more overlooked talents. There will most likely be a strong emphasis on Australian and New Zealand post punk and I'll do my best not to overlap with other blogs I've seen in my travels. It might not be such a simple task, but what the hey.
This of course will spin out of control and veer away from any previous plots, so I'm just going to write about things that interest me, as that's what blogs are generally about.