Spectres of Spectacle: AND Festival Forest Swords, Samizdat and the persistence of memory – part two


Ahead of Forest Swords’ event at Static Gallery next Thursday, promoter Andrew Ellis talks to Getintothis’ Peter Guy about music consumption, the demise of Liverpool institutions and iced buns.

Static Gallery hosts the specially commissioned event, Spectres of Spectacle on Thursday September 29 as part of AND Festival 2011. In part two of Getintothis‘ discussion, we caught up with promoter Andrew Ellis of Samizdat about what’s taking place and the inspiration behind the collaboration with acclaimed Wirral musician Forest Swords.
Getintothis: Hey Ellis, how’s tricks?
Andrew Ellis (Samizdat): I’m good! I’m currently in London in Outfit Towers with a food hangover after going to the greatest food establishment in the world, Bodeans, last night.
Getintothis: You talk in depth about the inspiration behind your collaboration with Forest Swords and Mercy being largely to do with the death of the active consumption of music – do you think music is too readily available these days and not cherished enough?
Ellis: In uni we studied a guy called Adorno, he’s officially the most negative dude of all time but he makes some really interesting points regarding active and passive listening. He first sparked an interest in my head about current trends and listening methods.
There’s no point in getting into the dissemination of music and the internet debate because that’s been discussed a lot of late and while it’s related, it’s kind of inevitable. The one thing I wanted to really bring to light was the culture of ‘muzak’ and the lack of active listening these days.
Music is everywhere, it’s used to market insurance, it’s used to make you eat faster in restaurants and it’s used strategically to bring cultural capital to corporations et al. Music has become (not universally of course) a secondary activity, often becoming background noise to working, walking to town and a whole plethora of other activity.

Maria Minerva also appearing at Spectres of Spectacle.
With the amount of music available and non-physical formats present, active listening seems to be a diminishing practice.
Connection to music through actively sitting down and listening to a record is a beautiful thing, those albums that you now love that you bought in your teens that were ‘growers’ because you’d spent all of your pocket money on it and wanted to get your moneys worth are now ending up in the recycle bin because they lack instant gratification.
I don’t want to be too nerdy about it because it’s all subjective, listen to music however you want to but if people took the time to maybe set aside once of twice a week to listen to an album they’re not too familiar with they might find a gem that they might have overlooked.
Working with Matthew (Barnes/Forest Swords) has allowed me to work towards creating an event which embodies the idea of active listening and effectively forces people to sit and listen to a record with the same importance as a live show because otherwise, they’ll never get the chance to hear it again.

Under Commie governance in the 20th century you could basically only get hold of Shostakovich and a really tight selection of music, you couldn’t set up a pressing plant and there were no specifically produced formats to cut onto with a lathe.
People discovered that by using a lathe and used X-rays you could take a Beatles record, smuggle it into the country then by cutting it to X-ray (this practice of underground self-publishing is known as Samizdat, more specifically Magnitizdat) you could allow many, many more people to hear this ‘forbidden’ music, even if the records will only play a couple of times, those listening experiences will have been incredibly special and I wanted to recreate that in this piece.

Getintothis: The piece also says we should celebrate or commemorate the passing of institutions – don’t artists fight to bring down institutions?
Ellis: Total punks might say ‘fuck all institutions’ but that would be a bit shortsighted.
By all means rebel against bullshit corporation and unfair governance but institution is not a byword for these things.
The Sailor’s Home for example has Williamson Tunnel‘s vibes, it was a non-for-profit home set up to make sure the masses of sailors coming into port had a safe, clean place to stay in the city, awesome humanitarian times.
Without institutions full stop art and artists would have fewer opportunities, the pieces being played are not referential to corporations, they’re responses to no longer existing amazing parts of Liverpool’s history.
Getintothis: The piece is also about memory, tell us about your earliest memory and something you’ll never forget.
Ellis: I remember using my 40p spending money when I was four going to the bakery down my road after playgroup and buying an iced bun.
There are too many amazing memories that will be impossible for me to forget but after spending 18 months putting together the Rhys Chatham guitar orchestra (Getintothis review), I’ve never been so moved watching live music.
Getintothis: Fact or fiction?
Ellis: Fact. Unlike most of my friends I’m shit at being creative, I think that transfers through to my love of all things factual.
I watch alot of documentaries, Werner Herzog‘s The White Diamond is my top tip, it’s a wonderful story.
As far as fiction my favourite book is probably a collection of related short stories called, Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan, or A Vendetta by Guy de Maupassant – I’m a fan of short stories.

Getintothis: Finally, what tips from 2011 – music, culture, football?
Ellis: AND Festival on the whole looks absolutely amazing, really exciting forward-thinking stuff.
Musically I’ve been listening to Barr and the re-issue of Icky Mettle by Archers of Loaf.

My favourite records this year have been Ravedeath, 1972 by Tim Hecker, the Pinnacles/YeYe split by Fourtet and Daphni and Nat Baldwin‘s People Changes.
I’m really excited to see Oxes again in December as they’re shitloads of fun. Locally Sun Drums new output has been amazing, Mother Earth and Ex-Easter Island Head have continually been great throughout the year and of course it’s been good to hear Outfit coming through the living room floor during my lovely Lodge time.
Football, it’s been lovely seeing such a cohesive West Ham side, I’d be happy to stay in the championship if we performed like this every week. I’m also really enjoying watching the Premier League impartially, the City-United derby is going to be incredible – or a terrible gridlock, we’ll see!

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Also featuring at the event is Maria Minerva, as co-promoter Jon Davies explains.
Hailing from Tallin, Estonia via East London, Maria Minerva comes across like a superfamous pop star from an alternate universe, perhaps even a warped tape that you’ve found cleaning your old Corsa between your All Saints, Seal and your ill-advised purchases of Gina G and Sash!
But in reality it’s deeper than that – Cabaret Cixous is a beautifully crafted mashing of Europop, Italo, disco and post-punk, familiar melodies and beats float in and out, and are created and destroyed within the same breath. It’s not too far out from the chillwave du jour, it’s just a bit weirder, more schizophrenic, and defiantly more feminine (in a Nico kind of way) and definitely more deliberate than you’d think. And what has this got to do with Hauntology? Everything, just you wait and see…
Maria Minerva interview with hosts Mercy.
For full information ahead of Forest SwordsGround Rhythms evening at Static Gallery visit here.
For more information on AND Festival in Liverpool go here.
Getintothis interview with Forest Swords.
Getintothis interview with Samizdat‘s Andrew Ellis.