Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ashes & Diamonds – Collaborations between Philip Sanderson & David Jackman.


Illustrated with short MP3 samples
In spring 1980 I was sitting in my dank basement in Westbourne Terrace Paddington when the doorbell rang. Outside was a bloke clutching a crash helmet and manhandling a bright orange moped. “Hi – my name is David Jackman, saw your Snatch Tapes listing in the NME and thought I would pop round”. This sort of thing was not unusual at the time so I asked him in and over several coffees David talked about the music he was making, his time in the Scratch Orchestra and so on. I no doubt waxed lyrical about this and that and by the end of the conversation he had bought a copy of the newly pressed Storm Bugs EP and I had asked him to contribute to the forthcoming Snatch 2 compilation. 
Over the next few months David popped round fairly often and not only contributed to Snatch 2 but helped to compile it and design the sleeve. Snatch 1 had been a fairly straightforward compilation with six distinct tracks on it but for Snatch 2 there was more material and we put together a few linking sections and ‘dub” parts – the Scratch Dub for example involving a slightly unholy alliance of VCS3 rhythms and snatches of the Scratch Orchestra, John Cage and the Beach Surgeons (an early Graham Massey project).

Snatch 2 compiled we began work on some collaborative tracks recording them in the Paddington basement using almost exclusively acoustic sources - pretty much whatever was to hand: grill pans, bird whistles, bongos etc. This was not improvised acoustic music however rather the sounds were recorded and then manipulated and edited on ¼ inch tape – sped up, slowed down, played backwards and often as not made into tape loops.

The resultant music was a curious hybrid of our respective practices; Storm Bugs recordings were at the time often willfully excessive whilst David’s recordings were stripped-back almost minimal. David’s music was often as not from acoustic sources whereas my own work was electric/electronic. Somewhere between these almost opposites we put together three completed tracks, two long pieces with the working titles of Terrain 1 & 2 and a third unnamed piece.

Though it was common in this heyday of DIY to record something one week and put it out on tape the following week for whatever reason the two Terrains were not released on Snatch Tapes, one would appear on David’s Aeroplane label a couple of years later, and one would not be released for another 22 years. 

Once the Terrain sessions were over we carried on collaborating now and then over the next couple of years. In the summer of 1980 David joined myself, Steven Ball and Sarah Pomeroy for a somewhat ill fated live Storm Bugs gig in Maidstone, Kent. David played ezraj, Steven ‘flumper” (an instrument made out of a long piece of wood with a metal ribbon attached and pick-up), Sarah played guitar (or possibly cello?) and I sang or tried to. We had a backing tape of VCS3 rhythms which half way through the gig the soundman at the mixing desk started fast-forwarding. No doubt we were less than note perfect but the sound of a fast-forwarding tape brought an abrupt end to the performance. More successful was some live gigs in 1980/81 in London with myself David, Nigel Jacklin from Alien Brains and other assorted improvisers and experimentalists. A short excerpt from one or more of these live gigs would later surface on the Nigel Jacklin Verdenskang cassette release. As I had better equipment at home than David (i.e. a Revox rather than domestic tape recorders) and access to the Goldsmiths studio I also helped David out with engineering on a couple of his tracks.

Sometime In 1980 The A & R man at Cherry Red had seen the Snatch Tapes display in Rough Trade and taken a liking to some of the material and consequently we were both included on the 1981 Perspectives and Distortion compilation LP released in the late summer of 1981. Indeed we bookeneded the album; David with the last track Untitled and myself under my Claire Thomas & Susan Vezey hat (with vocals by Nancy Slessinger) at the start with Bright Waves.

In early 1981 I had moved back to Deptford and David, myself and Clip from a band called Orior began to play every Wednesday afternoon in the basement of the electro acoustic music studio in Morley College (now part of the Siobhan Davis dance studio complex). It was a rather unlikely teaming, I had a bank of VCS3s, Clip had a guitar and a Wasp synthesizer and David had largely acoustic instruments or sound sources such as bowed cymbals and the like.

Sessions would start quietly and then gradually Clip and I would tend to increase the volume on our respective instruments producing a wall of sound in which it became hard to identify individual sources, especially David’s contribution. We nevertheless carried on playing for a number of weeks recording what was in essence live improvisation and completed at least one long 20-minute track. None of these recordings were ever released and indeed to my knowledge no copies exist though possibly there may be a cassette in Clip’s loft. A live and more restrained appearance was also made by the three of us at the 1981 summer concert at Morley College.  
In late 1981 Snatch 3 was released. Whereas Snatch 1 and 2 had been compiled quickly Snatch 3 took much longer possibly as we were trying to be more ‘professional’. The sleeve (designed by David) for example was printed rather than photocopied and I painstakingly screen printed the cassette labels in Pink and Turquoise. There was even an accompanying poster made not with David but with Michael Denton.
Also in 1981 Snatch Tapes released Ritual, a cassette single by David Jackman which, featured Ritual a Jackman solo composition on the A side and Offshore a Jackamn/Sanderson composition on the B side. My memory is that Offshore is the third track we worked on in 1980 though when I discussed this with David a few years ago he thought Offshore was not from the 1980 Paddington sessions but was recorded separately. The cassette sleeve advertised Offshore as being from a “forthcoming duo cassette album”.
Offshore never appeared on the duo cassette album but the following year In 1982 the 0° North Sanderson/Jackman cassette was released not on Snatch Tapes but on David’s Aeroplane label it featured 5 tracks: Ashes & Diamonds, Fade of Light, Terrain, Under Press of Sail and Zero Degrees North. It was a curious compilation as not only did it not feature Offshore but three of the tracks had appeared the year previously on the Snatch 3 compilation. It did however include one of the previously unreleased Terrain tracks.

Ashes & Diamonds is a Jackman/ Sanderson collaborative and features flute loops recorded in 1980. The flute loops were together with some abstract vocals by Nancy Slessinger (who had provided the drifting vowels on the Claire Thomas & Susan Vezey Bright Waves track) and some percussive sounds fed through a 2 Revox tape delay system to create the track. For a while there was talk of it being included on Cherry Red Pillows & Prayers but this never came to anything.

Fade of Light is a Jackman solo track recorded by him in Barnes and quite characteristic of his sound at the time.

Terrain is a Jackman/ Sanderson track one of the two Terrain tracks we recorded in 1980 in Paddington. The longest piece on the tape it is a slowly shifting mix of percussive loops.

Under Press of Sail is a Sanderson seqeuncer/VCS3 track recorded in early 1979 and originally released on Snatch 1 under the Claire Thomas & Susan Vezey pseudonym.

Zero Degrees North is a Jackman/ Sanderson mix featuring the drum loop I had made for the Storm Bugs track Tin overdubbed with ezraj by David. Zero Degrees North had also appeared on Snatch 3 but credited to Ice Yacht.

The next release to feature any combined Sanderson/Jackman input was the 1985 Nigel Jacklin Verdenskang tapemade in co-operation with: Philip Sanderson, Meat Means Bloody Murder, David Jackman and introducing: Zena” to quote the sleeve. The exact contribution of the various parties is not listed further but listening to it a couple of years ago I could identify a number of sections, which were taken from live gigs, which took place between 1980 and 1982.

Also in 1985 I began compiling an LP featuring various collaborative tracks from the previous 5 years in particular a number of tracks made with Michael Denton. As part of this process David (who at the time had a room in my New Cross flat) came into the IPS studio and added home made flute to two tracks. Ups and Downs and Apostrophe S. Ups and Downs was a Sanderson/Denton track recorded a couple of years previously for a video Michael was working on whilst Apostrophe S had been recorded by myself and Steven Ball for another short video project. The homemade flutes made by David have a particular sonic quality, which can be heard on his Organum recordings from the same period.  Here combined with more rhythmical backings the effect was rather different as heard on Ups and Downs and Apostrophe S. The LP never saw the light of day but a cassette version entitled Telephone Music was made in an edition of 5-10 copies. A tape delay version of the flute part from Ups and Downs was made for potential use in a film project and this exists as a cassette copy (unreleased).

There were no musical collaborations between David and myself in the 1990s; I was working on various light and sound installations and he was busy with his Organum releases though as ever we kept in touch as we both shared a passion for bicycle building so much time was spent discussing the merits of 531 tubing, 26 13/8ths rims and Sturmey-Archer hub gears.
In the 2000s as various back catalogues began to be re-issued on CD and LP we began to discuss re-issuing some of our old collaborative recordings. The first of these to be released was Terrain, not the one that had appeared on the 1982 Zero Degrees North cassette but the other Terrain from the 1980s sessions. This was released by Dir Stadt as a ten inch single in 2002 backed by Adrift from the David Jackman Snatch Tapes cassette single of the same name.
In 2003 Offshore (the B-side to the Ritual single) was included on David’s Up From Zero CD released by Robot Records. Then in 2004, Fusetron in New York released Up the Middle, Down the Sides a Storm Bugs compilation of mostly previously unreleased tracks. Nestled towards the end of side 2 is a one-minute track called In the Naked Girl’s Majesty.  This was recorded in 1980 and is constructed from one of the percussion loops David and I made for the Terrain tracks with an improvised vocal track.
In 2006 Vinyl On Demand released Snatch Paste - featuring an assortment of tracks from the first three Snatch Tape compilations. Amongst these were solo tracks by David and myself but also Diamonds and Ashes and alternative (and arguably far superior) mix of Ashes and Diamonds from Snatch 3/Zero Degrees North.
And that for the moment is that. David and I did play live together one more time about 4 years ago when he suggested at short notice that we attend one of Eddie Prevost's Friday Workshops which take place in the basement of a chapel on Southwark Bridge Road. We were the only two participants not to have recognizable musical instruments and it made for an interesting evening as David crashed about banging brooms against fire extinguishers and I made feedback squeaks with a small amplifier and cassette recorder. It was all good fun and there was talk of us both attending the workshop regularly but we never did.

To my knowledge all of the re-issued material from the 0s is still available for purchase from various outlets (see discogs). The original cassettes are much harder to come by however digitized versions do appear regularly on line on blogs, youtube etc (a quick Google showed three sites with Zero Degrees North). The sound quality is often very poor and sometimes the track listing is wrong but it is the only way to hear the tracks in their original context. 

Jackman/Sanderson collaborative tracks by date of release.
1981 -  Offshore. B- side to the Ritual cassette single by David Jackman (tch211).
1981 – Zero Degrees North. Appears on the Snatch 3 compilation tape (tch 300) credited to Ice Yacht.
1981 – Ashes & Diamonds. Appears on the Snatch 3 compilation tape (tch 300) credited to Claire Thomas & Susan Vezey.
1982 – Terrain. Appears on the Zero Degrees North Jackman/Sanderson tape release (AR4)
1982 – Zero Degrees North. Appears on the Zero Degrees North Jackman/Sanderson tape release (AR4)
1982 – Ashes & Diamonds. Appears on the Zero Degrees North Jackman/Sanderson tape release (AR4)
1985 – Various contributions to the Verdenskang - and it’s there tape (compiled by Nigel Jacklin) (AND 20). See text above for description.
1986 – Ups and Downs. With Michael Denton appears on the Telephone Music Tape.
1986 – Apostrophe S. With Steven Ball appears on the Telephone Music Tape.
2002 – Terrain. The previously unreleased Terrain was the A-side of a 10 inch single on Die Stadt records.  
2003 - Offshore. Included on the David Jackman Up From Zero CD released by Robot Records.
2004 - In the Naked Girl’s Majesty. Track on the Storm Bugs, Up the Middle Down the Sides LP on Fusetron.
2006 – Diamonds & Ashes. Alternate mix of Ashes and Diamonds appears on the Snatch Paste compilation LP on Vinyl on Demand records.

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