Glitchin’ Accomplished

Well, I’m back from a week’s visit to Amsterdam. It was nice for Glitchpuke to be reunited again. We played two gigs and recorded in Studio -2 in the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, where our first album was laid down.

Our first gig was opening a jazz jam session in the awesome vegan non-profit eatery, De Peper. It’s a familiar spot to all of us in the band, and we were happy to be the house band for a night. However, we weren’t able to use the restaurant vibe/format to our advantage. Glitchpuke has always been about making unexpected use of situations. However, just like our gig at The Waterhouse, we found it tricky to be “the entertainment” on a stage. Audience expectations in this situation are so constrained. Afterwards, I thought we should have explicitly tried some audience interaction, or some very unusual way of playing. What actually happened was, we got into freak-out mode pretty fast, paid little attention to the crowd, and most patrons left.

During the jam session, myself and Sidney had great fun playing some hard swing. Playing more conventional grooves was one new area that we both enjoyed exploring during the week.

Our other gig was in the art/performance space Mixtree. This was more our bag – small stage, arty mood, and some lighting to create mystique. I liked the gig but Andrius and Sidney had reservations. With free music in particular, it can be very hard to agree on what’s a good or bad performance!

Our favourite Amsterdam cinematographer Kim “Bas Raad” was there to shoot some footage, so stay tuned for that.

Finally we went into the studio last Monday for the afternoon. I haven’t listened to it yet – gonna get fresh ears by waiting a while.

I think Glitchpuke found it tricky in general to work without the platform provided by studying in the conservatory (where we could work with teachers and consultants on music promotion & management). And encouragement was not the only thing I missed. When we were inside an institution, there was an obvious direction for “subversion”. That’s not so clear in the real world where attention is a scarce resource and freaky music can seem like a squandering of that resource. Then again, noise and experimental music is getting bigger and bigger right now.

My next goal for Glitchpuke is to bring the band to Ireland. There we’re hoping to be able to put in some solid rehearsal, do more recording, and get on some festivals.

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More Lessons Part II

Second in today’s critique, some thoughts from our 2nd gig in the Waterhouse on May 23rd.

Basically, we all felt this one was “good but not great”. We pin-pointed a few details:
1) The bass amp was placed behind a guitar amp stack so I couldn’t see Sidney
2) I struggled to get the sounds I wanted from the amp, with a tendency to find something kinda good and stick to that rather than keep improving
3) Sidney only played drumkit, with no laptop stuff

All of these could have been fixed with some more focused preparation and sound checking. The question is, does that go against our philosophy of taking any situation and playing with it, applying a spirit of experimentation rather than perfectionism to amplification and sound…?

I think there is a clash between making things go smoothly so we enjoy the music-making, and our stated intent of pure playful subversion. We need to balance these two. Maybe it also reveals that even “spontaneous subversion and play” must contain a lot of calculation and preparation to succeed… that is, it’s impossible to escape from the fact that we are performers (rather than working on pure instinct and instantaneous decisions).

I guess this creative tension is something at the centre of Glitchpuke!

1st Time in Vrankrijk

Just a quick report on last week’s gig in Vrankrijk on Spuistraat…. Well, this place, an ex-squat and social-political discussion space, suited us down to the ground. There was a large and engaged crowd, plus a nice supportive vibe from the sound technician and volunteers.

Sidney experimented with a customised setup – just high-hats and a selection of drums laid on the ground. The results were heavily tribal! I came up with some fun bass techniques. First I experimented with kneeling down and holding the bass horizontally as it screamed feedback. But when one of the Vrankrijk volunteers asked me did I want a beer crate to hold it up, I realised that it might just look like a technical problem. So I instantly decided to get more theatrical and started holding the bass upside down, dragging it along the floor, rolling a guitar slide up and down the neck, etc. Meanwhile Andrius kept up a barrage of saxophone extended techniques.

Really, though, what made this gig was the crowd reaction. I can’t recommend this venue enough, it seems to attract a really interesting, alternative demographic… for instance, “Priapus”, a 42-year old autistic drummer from the US who kindly kept an eye on my amp while I was loading out.

A great night!

Hipper than Hip

Glitchpuke performed in The Waterhouse last weekend – a nifty art space in Amsterdam-Noord. This was the first time we played a party or played at night. I was surprised to find that the context of an open-minded, hip party felt more restrictive than the music-school or art-school situations we’ve played before. I guess there were two reasons for this:

1) Anything weird we did was easily interpreted as a showbiz gimmick rather than a social interaction (lighting and smoke machines added to this).
2) People wanted to dance and have fun.

Similarly to the last gig, it’s hard not to act like musicians when we’ve been trained that way! Anyway, people dug what we did and we were able to explore more grooving, techno-ish sounds than usual.

1st Gig Thoughts

Here are some thoughts I wrote down after Glitchpuke’s first gig, in the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, which forced me to question whether we’re as “subversive” as we thought…

The gig organiser had a particular concept: we should stop playing music and freeze anytime someone walked into the room. (It was an open day for the school so parents and students were walking around, inspecting crafted objects on display.) From the start we had a problem with this. We tried to negotiate a variation that would let us actually play for people. In the end we used our own variation of the concept (playing really quietly when people walked in) and sometimes just ignored it.

The organiser told us that we’d failed to follow instructions.

Here’s what I concluded:
1) Despite our goal to be an unconventional band, we couldn’t help being stereotypical (conventional) musicians: taking long smoke breaks, talking amongst ourselves between numbers, and hamming up our playing for pretty girls.
2) Despite our goal to be artistically open-minded, we weren’t able to deal with an artistic vision that denied us audience interaction.
3) It was disturbingly easy for us not to take the organiser seriously, because we were guys and she was a young girl. Afterwards, I wondered if we had shown the kind of sexism that Björk pointed out recently in her Pitchfork interview: men not granting artistic autonomy to women.

So, this gig was musically very satisfying, but in terms of what we stand for, it was also a reality check.

Looking forward to the next one!