Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Janey mac: Physics fascinating.
I started creating the skipping video (at the bottom ⤵) in 2008 and finished it on Friday - in February 2010! I was kicked into video-editing action having shot and edited 20 minutes worth of video in one week. My friend Angeline, the other half of the aforementioned Avanti Maria! and member of the fucking fantastic band P.U.S.H., has recently returned home to NZ and is doing a few gigs around that side of the world including one in Tokyo, which she asked me to do some visuals for, which I am really excited about, but more on that later! It is so great to finally finish all these projects 'of the long finger' as it were. It feels pretty, pretty good. Anyway, since I usually offer a wee tale to accompany my creative treats, I should do the same for Janey mac.
Janey mac has it's roots in an old friendship of mine with Ross Clarke, a painter and a writer, back in the days when my hair was long, red and Klimt in 2006. I was just beginning to make silly but ambitious recordings of my own music, clumsily using a four track cassette recorder but mostly making do with what I thought was the simpler option - a number of tape players: first recording one part on one tape, then playing that tape while I played the second part over it, recording both parts on another tape in a second tape player! Sometimes there were three or four parts, so I still have a huge box of unlabeled tapes, each full of different parts of the same songs. I've been meaning to trawl through it and digitize them all. There are some lo-fi gems let me tell you, and interestingly as each layer was applied to different tapes, the sound changes with each recording. (Physics fascinating, no?).
It was this process that got me thinking about the potential in every riff for multiple existences. And in many ways that is what Janey mac was for me as a compositional project. When Janey mac were at their most active I was also in Party Weirdo and then Holy Ghost Toast (the latter of which I was also writing the songs for primarily on my own), and with regard to HGT, I was living in a different country! I had bands in both towns who were willing to play my songs and so I sometimes played the same songs in both bands, realizing the incredible and possibly infinite potential for recreation, let alone the creative addition another individual will bring to what you have already begun and it develops from there, in different directions. The following video is an example of this duality although the difference is probably unrecognisable in this case. It's a song called Upturn and is reflective of some guitar and voice music I do which is rarely appropriate for any of my bands and often goes unpublished (although I think that is going to change soon). There is a second part to this song, a video of which can be watched here:
Those of you who have downloaded the Holy Ghost Toast album (below) however, will recognise this as a Holy Ghost Toast song: you can listen here. In Janey Mac this same thing applied to my concepts around making music too. Sometimes I'd request the same drum beat for more than one song and the later Janey mac incarnation the band talked several times about having either myself or Mick do that exact thing live for an entire gig. A durational performance piece of stregth, agility and stamina! I still would like to do that, but Janey mac are currently on an hiatus of a kind.
But let me return to the beginning and Ross Clarke. I was playing in a band called Star Kicking when I got to know Ross and he used to get up and 'sing' along to some of our instrumental stuff, sort of paying homage to his favourite musicians like Tom Waits and the beat poets. He had a wonderfully slow unrhythmic way of using his voice, hadnea a note in his wee head, and smoked a lot, all contributing to a beautiful voice, or at least an interesting sort of plodding one: I wanted to make more music with Ross. What resulted is captured in a stack of recordings of us making Beat Happening meets Dead Moon sort of crappy, lyrically flamboyant songs with an assortment of instruments: guitar; bass; homemade percussion instruments and old keyboards. Unfortunately much of those tapes also captures me being bossy about getting it ABSOLUTELY PERFECT, with lots of half songs and bits of interrupted songs. AH! A streak of perfectionism I thankfully recovered from when I played with Party Weirdo. It was exciting and lovely while it lasted, and I have these gorgeous images that Ross made for our project, the first and foundational Janey mac:
It was soon after this that I got together with Cathy and it was from there that Janey Mac really started to develop an (almost) particular sound. We jammed for a long time just the two of us, and wrote really ridiculous songs which were feckin' hilarious. I'll have to dig out some examples and figure out how to upload audio on here at some stage. Next we found Brian from Zing, who we had played some shows with, and after stomping round the streets and sitting in Stoney Batter playing music all night long (what subsequently became known as the Boom Boom Parade and one of the best damn nights of my life!)... Lets have a visual interlude shall we?
THE BOOM BOOM PARADE:
Myself and Cathy and Brian did lots of stuff without drums, but eventually it was the drums that sealed the deal. Mick, a very old, much beloved friend of mine sometimes got up with us to stomp on the drums for one of our songs, "Telly". Eventually he was just invited to join the band for keeps, which he did. It was awhile after, when we were a well worn trio that we wrote our number one Pencils. People love this song and before I finished making this video, I felt vaguely embarrassed by it! I think I am exiting a process of recovery. At the height of Janey mac's activities I enjoyed writing extremely explicit lyrics - not in a sordid way - but in a desperately compassionate way and a too-close-to-home sort of discomforted way. Now, as my friend Ewa told me the other day: "You hide behind the loud noises in your music". But funnily enough, I am recovering a sense of ownership and conviction as a vocalist, and maybe that has something to do with finishing this video after such a long time.
It was filmed in Portobello by the canal with a crowd of friends and a bright, but wet day with fizzy Irish rain. I had a vision of skipping inspired by the pace and rhythm of the drums and hoped that a whole crowd of people (and all band members!) would turn up to play rope, but it was a Sunday and you know how slow Sundays can be. It didn't matter though, it was FUH-UN!