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Review of 2020

JG Thirlwell kindly invited me to contribute towards a group roundup of 2020 for his tumblr. I put mine together on the morning of 01/01/21 with a mild hangover and you can read it here.

A new irregular series of interviews with artists from a broad range of disciplines that I enjoy, or just find interesting for whatever reason. First one is Louis Johnstone a musician of sorts from Rainham in Essex but now living in the north of England. I would call him a “sound artist” but Louis would probably (quite rightly) take the piss out of me for saying that. He’s mostly known for his project WANDA GROUP which exists/existed as an abstract music project and a highly entertaining and provocative Twitter account, often critiquing aspects of the industry. He was banned from the platform permanently in 2019 and continues to release music through his Bandcamp page.

How are you – weird times eh? What have you been up to? I understand from your Instagram that you have a day job which led me to wondering if you have anything resembling a daily routine or are you in control of your daily destiny, more or less? 

HELLO, LUKE. WHAT A FUCKING NIGHTMARE, EH. ON MY LAPTOP, I MEAN. THE THINGS FUCKING ANCIENT NOW. WELL, SORT OF.  JUST A FUCKING DUST BOX. BATTERY BARELY WORKS AND JUST FUCKING POKING OUT ON THE KEYS BOSH BOSH BONK BONK JUST A FUCKING JOKE. HATE TYPING ON MY PHONE SO BACK TO THE OLD FUCKING LAPKING.

ANYWAY, MATE. SORRY.

I DO, MATE, I WORK IN A BREWERY FULL TIME HERE IN HUDDERSFIELD. DOING ALL SORTS. CANNING, KEGGING, PUTTING SHIT ON PALLETS, CLEANING UP, DRY HOPPING, FORKLIFTING. DUMPING OLD MALT AND HOPS IN A FUCKING FARMERS TRACTOR BOX. LOVE IT, THOUGH. KEEPS THE STOMACH SOLID.

HAVENT STOPPED WORKING AT ALL OVER COVID. PLACE HAS BEEN OPEN AND PRETTY BUSY PRODUCTION WISE. HAD MY ANNUAL LEAVE AND THAT BUT NOT LEFT FUCKING HUDDERSFIELD FOR ALMOST A YEAR NOW. OUCH, EH.

Your Instagram is first class and very amusing. You approach it quite creatively, almost like an extension of your recorded output. Any comments on that ?

WITHOUT SOUNDING LIKE A CUNT, I LIKE GIVING EVERYTHING I DO A TOUCH OF THE OLD ART. BIT OF PAINT AND GLUE OR WHAT. JUST JOKES AINT IT. SOME FUNNY PHOTOS. SOMETHING IMPORTANT SOUNDING AND THEN SOME FUCKING STUPID PHOTO OF A BIRD ON A LORRY OR SOMETHING. I THINK EVERYTHING I DO IS ME, SO IT ALWAYS ENDS UP COMING OUT LIKE A FUCKING PISSTAKE ANYWAY.

As a musician who sits outside the mechanics of the music world somewhat I’m curious to know if the pandemic has led to any change – positive or negative – regarding your creativity? For me it has felt like a very odd time to be making music so I’m interested to know how you’ve found it.

NO CHANGE REALLY.  HAD SOME SHOWS CANCELLED BUT ALSO I DIDNT REALLY DO MANY SHOWS ANYWAY. AS I DONT DRINK ANYMORE IT WAS HONESTLY A BIT POINTLESS. I LIKED GOING TO A NEW PLACE AND HAVING A FUCKING DRINK. NOW WHAT ? SIT ABOUT WITH SOME FUCKING GLASS OF WATER IN A LITTLE ART STUDIO IN MARSEILLE OR SOMEWHERE ? MAYBE

IVE STOPPED USING MY COMPUTER TO MAKE MUSIC. ALL I USE NOW IS FUCKING VOICE MEMOS ON MY PHONE. SO THE PAST YEAR IVE BEEN DOING PRESSURE CARCASS WHICH IS JUST RECORDINGS IN A MONTH THAT I DO ON MY PHONE AND THEN PUT THEM OUT AS THEY ARE. NOTHING FANCY. COULD BE ME TALKING OR A BIRD SINGING OR A CAR OR ME ON CELLO FOR 10 SECONDS OR THE OVEN OR ME WASHING UP SOME PLATES OR JUST ME SINGING SOME FUCKING SONG ABOUT GOD ?

MY COMPUTER IS A NIGHTMARE AND I DONT HAVE THE TIME TO EDIT OR GO THROUGH ANYTHING THESE DAYS SO VOICE MEMOS IS PERFECT. SOUNDS SHIT BUT KEEPS ME GOING. ALL GOOD, THOUGH. LIKE FUCKING WRITERS SAY, IF YOU WANT TO WRITE THEN WRITE. SAME WITH SOUND, EH. JUST FUCKING DO THE FUCKING THING.

How do you see your musical aliases in relation to one another? Wanda Group is the project you are most known for I guess, but you record many different pieces of work under different names. Some even seem like they are conceptual to a degree – are you able to talk us through a select few? 

I GET BORED, I GUESS OR I FEEL LIKE SOMETIMES ONE THING AINT FOR ANOTHER THING. I LIKE PEOPLE WHO CAN USE ONE NAME AND JUST MAKE ANYTHING FOR THAT ONE NAME BUT I CAN’T.

WANDA GROUP WAS POST DEM HUNGER. I WANTED TO GET BACK INTO NOISIER SHIT AND THEN I GUESS THAT TURNED INTO WHAT I WAS. SOUND RECORDINGS AND MUSIC CONCRETE STUFF. THE OLD FUCKING SOUND ART GAME.

HENRY CARAVAN ME JUST DOING SONGWRITING BUT ONLY ALLOWING IT TO BE IMPROVISED. SO I PRESS RECORD AND WHAT COMES OUT IS WHAT COMES OUT AND THATS IT. NO EDITS OR ANYTHING. JUST GUITAR MUSIC OR PIANO SONGS OR JUST ANYTHING I CAN SING WITH, I THINK.

THE HERS WAS MY FUCKING DRONE SORT OF THING. STUFF THAT DIDNT INITIALLY FEEL WANDA GROUP’Y. SO LONGER DRAWN OUT SHITE. SOME 9 MINUTE PIECES RATHER THAN MAYBE 300 PIECES INSIDE A 22 MINUTE PIECE, IF THAT MAKES SENSE.

ERRRRRRM. EVERY EAR IN THE WORLD WAS A RADIO SHOW THING BUT EACH ONE HAD TO BE DIFFERENT. SO SPOKEN WORD IMPROVISATIONS FOR AN HOUR OR ME DRIVING ABOUT AND TALKING. OR FREEFORM FUCKING RADIO WITH MADE UP TORIES OR JUST PURE IMPROVISED BLAH BLAH MODULAR SYNTHESIS WITH NO ACTUAL MODULAR. JUST LIKE USING THE BATH OR THE SINK TO MAKE IT SOUND LIKE A SYNTH.

YOU KNOW HOW SOME PEOPLE WANT THE SOUND OF A BOUNCY BALL GOING DOWN THE STAIRS SO THEY SYNTHESIZE IT ON 4 GRAND EQUIPMENT AND SOME PEOPLE JUST RECORD THE SOUND OF A FUCKING BALL GOING DOWN THE STAIRS. THAT BUT FLIPPED, YOU KNOW ?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the first Wanda Group recording came out in 2011 which is almost ten years ago now. Congratulations for putting in a decades worth of work. Any favourite titles in particular from the catalogue that you’d recommend to someone if they hadn’t heard your music before and wanted to dive in?

YEH, BASS URINE FOR NNA. I WANTED TO FUCK OFF DEM HUNGER AS I DIDNT NEED TO DO ANY MORE OF IT. SO I GOT A LAPTOP AND A USB RECORD PLAYER AND JUST FUCKED ABOUT WITH THAT. TRYING TO GET OUT OF THE WORLD WHERE PEOPLE JUST WANTED BEATS AND GET BACK INTO SOUND BEING SOUND BLAH BLAH. THAT SOUNDS WANKY BUT I JUST DIDNT WANT TO MAKE DRUM STUFF ANYMORE. SO WANDA GROUP JUST EXPANDED MORE AND MORE.

ONES I REALLY ENJOY ARE

A SLAB ABOUT BEING HELD CAPTIVE – MADE WHEN LIVING IN BRIGHTON. MAINLY USING A REALLY OLD MASSIVE TAPE RECORDER WHICH I THEN FUCKED ABOUT WITH IN FRUITY LOOPS. JUST LOADS OF EDITS AND THINGS GOING INSIDE THEMSELVES. HAD FUN MAKING THAT.  https://umbrog.bandcamp.com/album/a-slab-about-being-held-captive

OSCULATIING ELEMENTS FROM ASTORB DATABASE FOR 991 THAT ORBITS DAGENHAM 24 HOUR ASDA – THAT WAS MY IDEA OF A FUCKING SATELITE GOING ABOUT HOVERING AND RECORDING DIFFERENT THINGS ALL OVER THE PLANET. SO ITS NICE AND ALL OVER THE PLACE. https://umbrog.bandcamp.com/album/osculating-elements-from-astorb-database-for-991-that-orbits-dagenham-24-hour-asda

I ALSO DID THREE SORT OF UN WANDA GROUP ONES WHERE IT WAS JUST RADIO CUT UPS ON A TAPE RADIO I FOUND FROM WHEN I WAS ABOUT 9. SO I MADE TWO WHILE ON HOLIDAY. BOTH A YEAR APART BUT IN THE SAME PLACE. THEN ONE JUST USING RADIO FROM ENGLAND, I THINK . ALL IMPROVISED AGAIN. JUST SCAN THE RADIO AND RECORD AND THEN STOP THEN SCAN AGAIN AND KEEP GOING UNTIL ONE SIDE OF A TAPE WAS FULL UP.

https://umbrog.bandcamp.com/album/sweat-equality

https://umbrog.bandcamp.com/album/viaducte-de-place-de-la-mar

https://umbrog.bandcamp.com/album/viaducte-de-place-de-la-mar-dos

THEN  I WONT GO ON, BUT ANOTHER WAS AN IDEA OF A MADE UP CDR, WHICH WAS ONLY A MADE UP CDR BECAUSE I COULDNT BE FUCKED AFTER I MADE IT, TO PUT IT OUT ON CDR. SO I PRETENDED I DID AND THAT IT HAD SOLD OUT.

THAT WAS ER RECEP 1993 KOM SAP BEAUTICIAN. IT’S MORE ELECTRONIC, I GUESS. NO TAPES OR ANYTHING JUST FUCKING ABOUT WITH SOUND ON FRUITY LOOPS AND SOME FREE SOUND EDITING SOFTWARE. JUST EDITS. SOME 2 SECONDS AND SOME 4 MINUTES. ALL LACED TOGETHER. https://umbrog.bandcamp.com/album/er-recep-1993-kom-sap-beautician

Have you missed playing live? Or has time away from this made you re-evaluate the relevance of performing? I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last few months so curious to know your thoughts – if any.

AS I SAID BEFORE, I LIKED PLAYING LIVE BECAUSE I LIKED HAVING A DRINK WITH PEOPLE IN A NEW PLACE. OR JUST SITTING ABOUT WITH A BEER OR WINE. BUT NO MORE, SADLY. ID LIKE TO DO MORE IMPROVISED STUFF, I THINK. LESS LAPTOP AND TAPES AND MORE JUST SIT ABOUT WITH A DRUM OR SOMETHING. MAYBE DRUM AND PIANO AND SOME SINGING. ID LOVE TO GO AND PLAY BACK IN CAVE 12. PROBABLY MY FAVOURITE VENUE. LOVE THE PEOPLE AND THE PLACE SO MUCH.

I’d also love to hear about the worst experience you’ve ever had performing live if you wouldn’t mind recalling that.

I WOULDNT SAY IT WAS THAT BAD BUT IN AUSTRIA AT A FESTIVAL. ALL MY STUFF JUST STOPPED WORKING. I HAD ANOTHER LAPTOP THAT WOULD OVERHEAT AND JUST STOP.  AND IT DID THAT MID SET. SO EVERYTHING WENT. MY MIXER WAS PLUGGED INTO THE LAPTOP SO I HAD NO SOUND AT ALL. NOTHING. SO I STARTED TELLING A STORY WHILE IT ALL POWERED UP. PEOPLE THOUGHT IT WAS PART OF THE SHOW THOUGH SO ALL GOOD. PLUS I HAD DRINK IN ME SO I DIDNT REALLY CARE. IT WAS IN KREMS. PROPER LOVELY PLACE.

Why did you get booted off Twitter? I deleted my account a while back and missed the juicy details when they went down so would love to know.. 

ONE DAY I JUST FOUND OUT I WAS PERMENTLY BANNED. THEY DON’T EMAIL YOU OR ANYTHING, YOU JUST CANT TWEET OR READ YOUR MESSAGES ANYMORE. AND THATS THAT.

I THEN TRIED TO START SOME NEW ACCOUNTS BUT SOMEONE KEPT REPORTING MY TWEETS AND EVENTUALLY BECAUSE THEY WANT YOUR PHONE NUMBER WHEN YOU SIGN UP. EVERYTIME I WOULD PUT MY NUMBER IN, TWITTER WOULD INSTANTLY BAN THAT ACCOUNT. SO FUCK KNOWS WHO WAS DOING IT BUT THEY GOT ME.  YOU CAN JUST REPORT ANY TWEET THAT HAS CUNT IN IT AND YOU GET SUSPENDED OR EVENTUALLY PERMENTALY SUSPENDED. SO I GUESS SOMEONE KEPT DOING THAT. FUCK KNOWS WHAT ENEMY I HAVE. IT WAS ALL A JOKE, ANYWAY. I JUST FUCKING WOUND UP PEOPLE, I GUESS. NOT ALWAYS ON PURPOSE BUT FUCK ME, PEOPLE ARE PRETTY SENSITIVE ABOUT STUFF. ESPECIALLY THEIR ‘ART’.

What are your music listening habits like? Do you listen to a lot of music, or hardly any? Might seem like a weird question but I know some musicians who don’t listen to anything which is strange, but then I always go through phases myself.

I HONEST DON’T LISTEN TO MUCH. MAINLY SHITE PEOPLE PLAY IN THE BREWERY BUT SOMETIMES I MANAGE TO SNEAK US MAPLE ON OR ORTHRELM AND SHIT LIKE THAT. THEN IT GOES OFF PRETTY QUICK. I LOVE MUSIC OBVIOUSLY BUT I AM HAPPY TO NOT LISTEN TO IT ALL THE TIME. I LIKE LISTENING TO OLD CDS IN THE CAR. SOMETIMES WATCHING OLD VIDEOS OF BANDS I LIKED ON YOUTUBE. FLOATING BACK THROUGH TIME TO WHEN I WAS 20 ETC.

I DONT COLLECT MUSIC ANYMORE. STOPPED A FEW YEARS BACK. I USED TO GET LOADS OF SHIT RECORDS TO MAKE MUSIC WITH BUT I DON’T HAVE THE FUCKING TIME. SORRY, I HAVE TO GET MY CHILD FROM NURSERY. ILL BE BACK IN A BIT. DOES THAT WORK IN AN EMAIL ? NOT REALLY, ITS NOT MSN MESSENGER IS IT ? MAYBE IT IS ?

ANYWAY, YEH MUSIC IS FUCKING BEAUTIFUL HAHA

A bit of a deep one here perhaps but are there any ambitions you have which aren’t related to the process of making music? Anything you would like to see yourself doing in ten years time maybe?

RIGHT, I’M BACK. I WENT TO NURSERY AND CAME BACK AND THEN HAD TO SORT OUT OTHER STUFF. NOW ITS THE NEXT DAY AND ABOUT TEN TWENTY IN THE MORNING. I HAVE A DAY OFF TODAY, MAINLY TO TRY AND HELP SORT SHIT OUT IN THE HOUSE. IT’S AN OLD HOUSE A VERY OLD HOUSE LA LA LA. I THINK INITIALLY WHEN I STARTED MAKING MUSIC (MAYBE AGE 12 ?) I JUST WANTED TO MAKE STUFF THAT I WOULD LISTEN TO. OR THINK ABOUT A RECORD THAT DIDNT EXIST BUT IN MY HEAD I COULD HEAR IT, IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. IT ALWAYS TURNS OUT THAT SOMEBODY HAS ALREADY DONE THAT BUT STILL, AT 12 YOU DON’T FUCKING KNOW SHIT REALLY. I STILL DON’T. I’LL STILL HEAR STUFF FROM LIKE 1930 AND THINK ‘FUCKERS, MAN’. SO NOW I JUST TRY TO STILL MAKE WHAT I WANT. IF I LIKE THE SOUND OF SOMETHING I’LL TRY TO RECORD IT. OR IF I AM SITTING ABOUT AND THINK OF AN IDEA, I’LL TRY TO REMIND MYSELF OF THAT IDEA AND WORK ON IT WHEN I CAN. MAYBE IT’S A SENTENCE TO SING OR MAYBE IT’S THE SOUND OF A FUCKING BOUNCY BALL GOING DOWN SOME STAIRS. I THINK WE MIGHT BE THE SAME IN THE SENSE THAT WE PROBABLY JUST LIKE SOUND. WHICH I AM SURE A LOT OF FUCKING PEOPLE DO BUT YOU KNOW. SOUND TO THE POINT OF ANY SOUND. NOT JUST COMPOSED OR ORGANISED SOUND. JUST FUCKING SOUND. LIKE THE OBVIOUS IDEA THAT SILENCE DOESN’T EXIST TO US. THIS IDEA THAT YOU ARE INSIDE SOMEWHERE WITH NO SOUND OR ANYTHING, YOU WILL STILL FUCKING HEAR SOMETHING. EITHER INTERNAL OR A LITTLE CREAK SOMEWHERE. SHIT LIKE THAT. I DUNNO, MATE. I JUST WANT TO MAKE STUFF AND WHILE I’M MAKING IT HAVE SOME FUN OR BE INTERESTED BY THE END RESULT. IN TEN YEARS I HOPE I’LL STILL BE MAKING STUFF. EITHER STILL ON MY MONO SHITE VOICE MEMOS OR MAYBE BACK TO TAPES AND LAPTOP. MAYBE JUST WALKING AROUND THE HIGH STREET WITH A CLARINET PREACHING TO PEOPLE ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WORKING CLASSES BEING ABLE TO BE INVOLVED IN ART. YA YA YA YA. HOPEFULLY I’M JUST CONTENT AND NOT TOO WOUND UP WITH EVERYTHING. NOT ANNOYED BY PEOPLE NOT GIVING A SHIT OR THE GOVERNMENT CONSTANTLY FUCKING OVER PEOPLE AND THE RIGHT AND CENTRISTS NOT BLAMING ‘POOR’ PEOPLE. CUNTS, MATE. I KNOW YOU ARE WITH ME.

Lets wind the timeline back a little bit closer to the present day. What lies in store for Wanda Group and your various aliases in the not too distant future? 

I THINK I’LL JUST CARRY ON WITH PRESSURE CARCASS FOR A YEAR. I PUT THE FIRST ONE OUT AROUND FEB THIS YEAR SO I MIGHT STOP AT FEB NEXT YEAR. THEN BE DONE WITH THAT. I’D LIKE TO GO BACK INTO MAKING DEM HUNGER TYPE STUFF BUT I JUST DON’T FEEL LIKE THE WORLD OR ME NEEDS THAT SHIT. OTHER PEOPLE DO IT BETTER AND HAVE MORE SOUL INVESTED IN IT. I’LL PROBABLY DO SOME MORE RADIO CUT UP STUFF. I’M NOT TOO FUSSED AT THE MOMENT, REALLY. JUST TAKING IT EASY. UPLOADING STUFF TO MY UMBRO G BANDCAMP. I’M HAPPY WITH THAT. I’D LIKE TO DO ANOTHER FREE IMPROVISED THING LIKE I DID AT CAFE OTO BUT I NEED TO FIND A DECENT SPACE FOR IT. A SPACE THAT CAN INVOLVE PEOPLE WHO MIGHT HAVE NEVER HEARD STUFF LIKE THAT BEFORE AND NOT IT JUST BE FOR THE ARTY TYPES.

ANYWAY, MATE. I HOPE YOU ARE DOING ALRIGHT.

Thank you Lou. If there is anything you’d like to plug or mention then please do so.

NOTHING REALLY. JUST MAYBE MY UMBRO G BANDCAMP. SOME STUFF ON IT IS PAY WHAT YOU WANT, THE SUB IS PRETTY CHEAP. BUT ALSO IF ANYONE WANTS ANYTHING FOR FREE THEM I AM HAPPY FOR THEM TO CONTACT ME ON GIRLSTEETH@HOTMAIL.COM AND I’LL SEND THEM WHATEVER THEY WANT.

https://umbrog.bandcamp.com/

 

Two new live albums released digitally through Bandcamp.

Saturnalia is a recording of my set from the Saturnalia festival at Macao in Milan a couple of years ago – one of my favourite ever gigs. Oregon Crisis is a recording from the Portland date of the USA tour with Blanck Mass and Steve Hauschildt, one of my favourite gigs of that tour. Both are mastered by John Hannon and Jack Callahan respectively.

I chose to release these due to gig cancellations and loss of income related to myself and my label Alter due to the COVID19 outbreak. If you cannot afford to pay the Bandcamp price for whatever reason then get in touch and we can sort something. Everyone is effected right now but your support during these bleak and uncertain times is nonetheless appreciated.

Photos from the sold out show at the ICA, by Anne Tetzlaff.

 

New York, round 2

For Queen and Country

Live this weekend:

13th – Mirth, Marvel & Maud, Walthamstow w/ Gazelle Twin

https://www.facebook.com/events/472773603504220/

14th – WOS Festival, Santiago de Compostela, Spain (Live A/V w/ Tatsuya Fujimoto)

https://wosfestival.workonsunday.es

A special two-day event at Café Oto this October. Curated by myself and featuring a mix of old friends, new friends and long time inspirations.

October 18th:
Helm w/ JG Thirlwell & Apartment House
Andrew Chalk & Tom James Scott
Anna Peaker

October 19th:
Helm / Valerio Tricoli (duo)
Teresa Winter
DJ Lara Croft’s Dentist

Tickets / info: https://www.cafeoto.co.uk/events/helm-two-day-residency
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/2067054850257836