Make a compilation of the best bits of live music in Liverpool and, chances are, the songs you return to time and again have arrived courtesy of Andrew Ellis, pic r, the Samizdat supremo and one third of promotions triumvirate Wingwalker, easily amongst the city’s most exciting promoters – helping to crowd our calender with red circle events.
Last year alone, the man was involved in some of our best nights out: soundtracked by the likes of Chrome Hoof, Sleigh Bells, Holy Fuck, Foals and local electronic wizard Philip Jeck. The man’s batting average is better than Don Bradman’s.
Next Saturday, Samizdat presents Rhys Chatham – the NYC ‘guitar orchestra’ maverick-punk composer. A living legend, Chatman’s the all round go-to noise genius who’s worked with everyone from Steve Reich to Sonic Youth. A coup, of course, but nothing less than we’ve come to expect.
So, enough from us. Let’s allow Andrew Ellis to entertain us…
SS: Why Rhys Chatham?
AE: I’ve been a big fan of the whole ‘no-wave’ movement since I was a teenager, the No New York and New York Noise compilations are some of my favourite records of all time. Through reading up on the whole scene and discovering side-projects I stumbled upon Rhys Chatham. His epic work ‘A Crimson Grail for 400 Guitars’ (image above taken from a previous performance) blew my mind.
How complex were the negotiations to bring him to the city?
It was more time consuming than anything, I started working on the project last March, it was more of a matter of securing funding (which at the moment is pretty hellish) and sorting out the logistics of the event. I wanted to curate an event which was based around my instrument of choice, the guitar, but I didn’t just want another band night. The event has a number of different elements, first off there’ll be an installation by Liverpool’s foremost electronica promoters/curators, The Hive Collective, which will be in the Bluecoat hub for free from the 23rd.
Our good pals Ex-Easter Island Head performing on the 26th (again for free) at 3pm, 5.30pm and 7pm, and supporting Rhys will be a.P.A.t.T. performing a piece for synthesizers using guitar, bass and drum patches, subverting the typical band set up but with similar arrangements. There’s also a lecture by Rhys at the University of Liverpool on the Thursday, also free.
On Saturday we’ve got two performances with Rhys, first off will be probably his most well known work Guitar Trio (previously performed by the likes of Sonic Youth) which will be performed by ten guitarists, bass and drums, these musicians have all been to or are currently at The University of Liverpool.
The main performance is my favourite work by Chatham, Die Donnergotter, one of his early works from 1984, it’ll be the first time it’s been performed in the UK.
It’s an epic Kraut-rock masterpiece and will be performed by musicians from local acts: Hot Club de Paris, SSS, Outfit, Mother Earth and Ex-Easter Island Head.
Is this one of your most (personally) eagerly anticipated events?
After all the work that’s gone into it I’m only now beginning to realise that it’s really happening. I only really work with acts that I’m a really big fan of and this is no exception. It’s certainly a different affair to my normal promoting and it’s the direction I want to be moving in, curating events of this nature.
How’s the live landscape shaping up in Liverpool?
I know everyone won’t agree with this and some may say that the scene is too underground but I really feel that Liverpool’s scene is at a peak after a bit of a lull for the past three years or so. No, we’re not producing any award winners but frankly as a music fan I couldn’t care less.
Of course it would be good if things broke through, but from my perspective I see a great deal of quality from local acts on a regular basis as well as some amazing headline tours that have been coming through more and more frequently over the past few years. There’s more good promoters than ever, Harvest Sun, La Racaille, Brickface and Obscenic to name a few, and venues such as the Kazimier and Don’t Drop the Dumbells, which I can’t praise enough for their ongoing efforts to provide amazing spaces to see your favourite acts.
One of the beautiful things about this city (I can’t vouch for rivalries in the ‘corporate’ side of thing) is that everyone gets on, promoters will attend each other’s shows, help others out, and overall I feel that the network of fans, bands, promoters, designers and everyone else pulls together in a way that’s rare to find.
Are we as in love with live music these days?
There’s kind of two ways to look at it, bands are more and more reliant these days on live shows, with phsyical sales being so low and with labels pushing 360 contracts on bands the whole touring element seems to be the life-blood of most bands these days. This means more tours, more bands, more shows and a greater availability of quality gigs for us all to go to and work on. As I said before I love the acts I work with, I’ve been able to work on shows with acts I love like Oxes, Liars, Deerhunter, Daniel Johnston, The Vaselines and most recently with Wingwalker the amazing Les Savy Fav, and every one makes me sing inside.
Live music is still one of the greatest things on earth for so many people. Overall however, at least once a month there’s something for everyone to go to and be totally awe-struck by, where physical sales may be failing I don’t see people’s passion for live music ever going away.
How’s attendance levels/response from the city?
Unbelievably unpredictable. You can generally work out if a show will break even and whether or not to take a punt on it but sometimes it’ll just be a bad day (Liars/ Deerhunter, great show, torrential rain, no walk-up whatsoever) and sometimes you’ll unexpectedly sell out. It’s a swings and roundabouts game but as long as along the line you’re breaking even all’s well.
What made you get into promoting?
A complete lack of musical ability combined with being a generally big music fan!
The Jesus Lizard, Drive Like Jehu, Nation of Ulysses and Nirvana, in the Kazimier.
What’s the most exciting memories?
Probably singing ‘Drain You’ by Nirvana on stage with Oxes, the atmosphere at Les Savy Fav last month and running the Never Record project with Ted over the summer. I did a show with Hot Club de Paris and That Fucking Tank on my birthday and it was epic (despite a stupid amount of technical difficulties), we were running late and when we opened the shutter to let the crowd in there were 150 people outside!
What’s right about Liverpool?
Good magazines, good venues, good bands, good coffee, self-sufficiency, ex-nursing homes, cheap rent, independent shops, galleries and spaces. It’s the village everyone who’s visited loves to love and everyone that hasn’t loves to hate.
What’s wrong with Liverpool?
The fact the epic amount of funding for 08 means that the cuts now are even harder to adjust to, though there is enough going on ‘outside of the system’ for things to continue to be fruitful. Finally, some bands not understanding the difference between local influence and total pastiche.
Anything else you care to mention?
Be great to each other.