Thursday, July 17, 2008

10 Questions

Hello readers! I'm feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the enormity of today's Guest.
Proof comes from the fact it has taken me the last six hours, (plus shedloads of time prior to now), just re-researching the welter of information as regards our subject. Cor blimey!

Why not start with some biographical information from his own hand:

"We were young, spunky, good-looking and very, very talented and launched a musical revolution from the common room of the ultra-strict London Oratory school.

I'd lived with my family at 20 Wetherby Gardens, off Gloucester Road - 100 yards from Anita Pallenberg, Brian Jones and Keith Richards, 200 yards from Syd Barrett and the infamous 101 Cromwell Road and 50 yards from Mervyn Peake (Auntie Veronica was friends with his daughter Claire). A bohemian atmosphere, you get me? I have fond memories of those times.

Beyond that . . . just of being in the trenches fighting the Great War - winning - going our separate ways at certain points in our lives, only to come back and fight another war . . . like foreign legionnaires or mercenaries . . . perhaps I was the most mercenary of all.

That we almost uniformly came from Catholic working class backgrounds – grew up in council flats in Kensington and Chelsea … some of us in single-parent families for one reason or another … we could all paint and draw, play instruments, write songs, take the piss … the Ready Brechtian kids … we were armed.

Our secret origins were that none of us were really English .. a bit Irish, a bit Scottish, a bit Iberian …

We grew up in the eye of Swinging London, yet for seven hours a day we fell through a timeslip into a Dickensian nightmare world … the apple and the cane … Mr MacIntosh and Father Napier … Life Art …Roundtree’s thrashing in If … Art Life … the psychedelic violence of Performance…

We started to get a good idea how music was made – from hearts through minds, controlled with voices and hands. We applied the ideology of our favourite 60s groups to the chassis of our primitive punk beat. We’d never heard the sound outside our own heads and were keen to live it as O Levels, Personalities or Filmstars.

I don't know how to explain this, but broadly speaking, I see music in my head and can automatically play back vast compositions after one hearing, despite not being able to read or write music. But even with this affliction, I was treated as rather an idiot in music lessons at junior school, given a stick to bang on the floor while other supposedly more talented children were given the keys to the music cupboard. Later on at the Oratory, I would sneak into the assembly hall during breaktime to furtively pick out tunes from memory on Mr Ferguson's upright.

“Ball! Stop with that hooliganism!”.

John and Gerard Bennett would've been a party to all this, we'd shared the same celebrity neighbours and education since we were five years old. Revenge at sweet seventeen would be our first record as O Level, containing the names of our most hated teachers, played most nights on John Peels radio show. But we're getting ahead of our story somewhat . . ."

Indeed. In the words of (the mighty) Stewart Mason, writing the bio' on AMG:

"For someone with such a short solo discography, Edward Ball's story is a long and complicated one because he's also recorded many solo albums and EPs under various band names. Ball, a resident of north London, first appeared on record in the post-punk '70s, teamed with his schoolmate Dan Treacy and future Creation Records executive Joe Foster. The threesome self-released various singles and EPs under the names the Teenage Filmstars, the Missing Scientists, and the O-Level (under which name they recorded the legendary "Where's Bill Grundy Now?") before finally settling for good into the name the Television Personalities. (Most of the Teenage Filmstars and O-Level material was reissued on the 1992 CD A Day in the Life of Gilbert and George under the latter band's name; some also appeared on the Television Personalities' 1995 rarities compilation Yes Darling, But Is It Art?) Although Foster left the group before the recording of their first album, Ball and Treacy remained a duo for the first three Television Personalities albums, And Don't the Kids Just Love It? (1980), Mummy Your Not Watching Me (1981) and They Could Have Been Bigger Than the Beatles (1982), all of which were released on the Whaam! label, co-owned by Ball and Treacy (the pair renamed the label Dreamworld after receiving a substantial payout from George Michael's management around the time the tanned popster's first singles came out in 1982). While still a member of the Television Personalities, Ball formed his own '60s Brit-pop-obsessed band, the Times. Though the first Times album, recorded in 1980, went unreleased until 1985 (when it came out in Germany as Go! With the Times), the second, Pop Goes Art!, was released on Whaam! in 1982. The Times released a steady stream of albums and EPs on Ball's own Artpop! label (funded with his share of the George Michael payout) after he left the Television Personalities: This Is London (1983), I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape (1983), Hello Europe (1984), Blue Period (1985), Boys About Town (1985), Up Against It (the songs for a West End stage musical based on Joe Orton's unproduced screenplay for the Beatles written by Ball and Tony Conway of the Mood Six, 1986; this is unrelated to Todd Rundgren's later musical based on the same script), and Enjoy the Times! (1986). The Times broke up around the end of 1986 and Ball joined Foster as an executive at Creation Records. It wasn't long, however, before Ball restarted the Times; this time the name was cover for a solo career with a less Carnaby Street-obsessed outlook and more of an interest in current trends. 1988's Beat Torture was standard late-'80s U.K. guitar jangle à la Creation's house band, Biff Bang Pow!, half of which serves as Ball's backing band, but 1989's ecstatically titled E For Edward dips tentatively into the acid house boom spreading over the country that summer. (Ball recorded three acid house EPs under the name the Love Corporation in the early '90s.) Three more Times albums followed, Et Dieu Crea la Femme (1990), Pure (1991), and Alternative Commercial Crossover (1993) before Ball discarded that band name for good. Rather than start a proper solo career right away, however, Ball simply picked up one of his old pseudonyms. Although Foster and Treacy aren't involved, Ball released two solo albums under the name the Teenage Filmstars. 1993's Rocket Charms is not too different from late-period Times albums, but 1995's Buy Our Record, Support Our Sickness is something of a conceptual masterpiece: with the exception of the drums, every instrument and vocal is recorded backwards, resulting in a surprisingly listenable piece of experimental psych-pop. (Ball also played rhythm guitar with labelmates the Boo Radleys during this era, but didn't contribute to the writing or production of their albums.)

The first record to come out under Ball's own name was 1995's Welcome to the Wonderful World of Ed Ball. A career-spanning compilation chosen by Ball's boss, Creation head Alan McGee, the two-disc set samples records by every Ball project save the Television Personalities. A bewilderingly all-over-the-place collection showing Ball's extreme stylistic versatility, it's nonetheless a fine introduction to his songwriting skills. As if in response, Ball's first real solo album, 1995's If a Man Ever Loved a Woman, is the most musically focused and lyrically direct (the album deals with Ball's divorce in uncharacteristically personal terms) album of Ball's career. The 1996 follow-up, Catholic Guilt, was similarly strong, if a bit more uptempo. Unfortunately, the demise of Creation Records in the late '90s at least temporarily derailed Ball's recording career."

So, there. You've guessed it! It's Edward Ball!

The man who assisted in giving us "I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives", "I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape", and a string of essential albums under a number of guises the likes of which has my head near to exploding! (Then you put the headphones on and it actually does explode.) Again from Stewart Mason, on The Times album, Pop Goes Art!from 1982: "...Pop Goes Art! is basically a Television Personalities album with Treacy and his longtime cohort Ed Ball trading roles: Ball is the singer and songwriter, and Treacy just plays guitar and bass...(the)no-budget production can't hide the wit and inventiveness of Ball's take on Carnaby Street-era pop. Besides two immediate classics, "Miss London" and the brilliant "I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape" (a song Ball would record several more times in the '80s), the album includes the B-side of Times' first single, "Biff! Bang! Pow!" — not the song by Ball's freakbeat heroes the Creation, but an homage to that band using the same title — and the eight-minute psychedelic closer "This Is Tomorrow," featuring the sort of droning plane-crash guitar that would figure into the next couple of Television Personalities records. Pop Goes Art! is a completely ingenuous record with no agenda, other than the re-creation of one of Ball's favorite musical eras." Amen Stewart.

Or this review, by Nitsuh Abebe, of Teenage Filmstars (brilliant! jaw-dropping!) Ssenkcis Rou Troppus Drocer Ruo Yub: "After the decline of the shoegazing trend that Creation records was the center of, the label fell upon somewhat hard times — Buy Our Record Support Our Sickness, released in 1997, could be seen as one of the last great records to come from the label. As for the Teenage Filmstars, a shoegazing reference could be made, but it would be pretty far off — for this ambitious psychedelic concept album, the group looked to predecessors like Can's Tago Mago, then created an album on which every element (with the exception of drums) is recorded backwards (hence the reversal of the title). The result is far more appealing than one might expect: rather than winding up with an interesting but not-so-listenable conceptual piece, the group manages to create tracks that actually tend to rock, recalling the best and most avant-garde forces in sixties and seventies experimental and progressive rock — even more amazing, very clear organizations and melodies come through the reversed attack of each guitar and vocal line." Phew! This one is dizzying!

Edward has been inside-and outside, of every major movement in rock music for 30 years now. He even abused grunge. (Praise!)

Shall we..? C'mon then, it's what you've been waiting for...

1. In ten words-or less, define "psychedelic music."

Yub Ruo Drocer Troppus Ruo Ssenkcis Eganeet Sratsmlif !PopTra Sdrocer

2. What is the most psychedelic instrument, why?

The Mind, The Brain, The Imagination . . .

3. Favorite psychedelic album of all time?

Spirit Of Eden ~ Talk Talk / Chill Out ~ KLF / loveless / MBV

4. Is psychedelia still a viable genre? Why or why not?

Always. It's there to be used by those brave enough.

5. Who was more psychedelic: Alan McGee or Phil Smee? Why?

Alan McGee.

Phil Smee, like Mike alway, is an inventive craftsman of great repute. But if we're defining psychedelic as in mercurial genius of imagination, creativity and MindSoul provocation then the Creation label's journey from 60s, garagey, punkpop, through the very heart of psychedelic darkness in the late '80s / early '90s has no competition.

My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream and Teenage Filmstars ALL owe the existence of their greatest works to this man.

6. What psychedelic album do you wish more people knew about?

Can't think of one - i'm not very good with trainspotting - too busy running my own railway company.

7. What band, active today, most defines "psychedelic" to you?

Can't think of one - Too busy running my own Airline.

8. You've been given access to The Wayback Machine: which band, recording what album, are you going back in time to witness?

Piper At The Gates Of Dawn . . . mainly to witness Norman "Hurricane" Smith's occasional exasperation with the wayward Sydney.

9. Top Ten Psychedelic Songs?

Kiss Me / Loving / Inner Space / Apple / Flashes / Kaleidoscope / Vibrations / Soulful / Hallucinations / Moon. They all happen to be on the same album, star teenage filmstars.

10. Turn the tables, if you'd like, and ask me a question.

Edward:OK . . . Am I a true Psychedelitian, if so, in no more than 87,000 words, please explain why? (Timewarp allowed:8 1/2. Acid brown may be worn. Examination fee will be offset by a Continuum Books publishing deal. Do NOT scrawl Magic Realist / Merry Pranksteresque graffiti in the margins).

Yours with a handshake...

-valis: ...ssenkcis ruoy, (etulas dna), troppus I, sdrocer ruoy thguob ev'I

Note: STAR (Lift Off Mit Der Teenage Filmstars). Release Date 21/7/08 (ARTPOP 13)

2008 digitally remastered and expanded edition of this album from one of Ed Ball's many pseudonyms (The Times, O-Level, etc.) featuring four previously unreleased bonus tracks. Available for pre-order here!



sr-71 said...

I definitely support Mr. Ball's sickness - that's one of the most wonderfully disturbing recordings of all time.

Does Ed know where Syd is buried?

Anonymous said...

Good. Frikken'. Grief.

THAT was your most sublime interview yet, Val old boy.

Jim K.

scotpsych said...

super duper once again, oh vast Active one.