After my bizarre dream about Kavus Torabi the other day, I figured it was time to badger him into sitting down to answer a few questions. On the off-chance you’ve forgotten who he is, he’s the wild-haired guitarist from Cardiacs, Knifeworld, Guapo, The Monsoon Bassoon, Chrome Hoof and a dozen other collaborations.
I figured I’d start with asking him how he wound up working on The Interesting Alternative Show, a weekly prog-rock indulgence co-hosted by Steve Davis. Dare I ask he wound up doing a radio show with some bloke famous for playing snooker?
KT: Well, it was fairly straightforward. Steve is a massive music fan and has impeccable taste. We met at a one month residency Magma were doing at this wonderful venue, Le Triton, in Paris. We pretty much hit it off straight away. He came to a couple of Cardiacs shows, we started hanging out quite a lot, he had me as a guest in The Interesting Alternative Show which he had been doing for a couple of years or so. It was such fun he suggested, if I was up for it, perhaps I could come in on a more full time basis … which ended up being every week.
For one brief, beautiful moment, Cardiacs were in phase with the rest of the the planet. Most of the time, they career along the same spiritual bypass as their fans. Eccentric. Off-centre. People used to believe in four “humours” – sanguine, etc. – and I think there’s a certain truth to it when it comes to music. Melancholic people like Swans, who I admire but don’t get much enjoyment from (at least as far as I’ve heard). Not sure which the manic-depressive personalities fall under, but there are certain bands that intrinsically appeal because the music is written in those sorts of frequencies: Cardiacs, Foetus, Mr Bungle … obstinately difficult, but not just for its own sake. A jittery sort of energy; a strident sort of bounce seemingly at odds with an underpinning sort of sadness. You either get it or you don’t, and most don’t: they admire it, but don’t get much enjoyment from it.
Is This The Life? seemed to come from some other place. It doesn’t sound like a Cardiacs song at all, which isn’t a good thing or a bad thing but perhaps explains its unique appeal. It’s the closest thing the band ever had to a hit, peaking at number 80 in the UK charts in 1988. The single was the breakout song from their fourth album, A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window, which mostly sounded like this: Continue reading →
You may have noticed that we don’t give marks out of 10 here, partly because it renders reviews pointless (you just read the number, not the words) and partly because it’s not fair on the recording itself. The issue is one and the same: without the context of pointing out exactly what makes it a “good” or “bad” album, you’re doing a disservice to the band, to the listener and to the reviewer. I know why I like something, but if I don’t tell you why I like it, you’re not going to know if you’ll like it too. I could give a metal album 10/10 but if you just plain hate heavy metal, you’re not going to get past the first five minutes. Sure, you save two or three minutes reading the review if you can just get a score, but you waste – what? – an hour? A whole hour of your time struggling through something you were never going to enjoy in the first place because I gave it 10/10 and that means that obviously it must be perfect. I don’t want to waste your time or your money: I’d rather just give a few details about the listening experience and let you make up your own mind.
More problematic still is the 7/10 album. Why is an album less than 10? Because it’s mediocre? Well, that’s unforgiveable, isn’t it? Given the choice between a record that’s been branded “10/10″ and one that has not, you’re not going to bother with the latter, are you? Life’s too short – might as well reserve it for the best. But what about the ones that fail to be “the best” – not because they are boring, but because there’s one big problem marring an otherwise awe-inspiring album? Such as: Continue reading →
I’m British like I’m Irish: when it suits me. I view the Royals with the same casual indifference as I view … peas. The Queen is a public servant, and provided she keeps on doing the job well and bringing in more than she costs, I’m quite happy for her to continue.
We’re going to spend the weekend munching miniature cupcakes on the village green with all those neighbours we’ve never said more than two words to. I did buy some tiny Scotch eggs, but I probably ought to have grabbed some sausage rolls, too, while I was at it. Oh well. It’s going to piss down anyway, so the whole thing will likely fizzle out after about half an hour. Why didn’t I buy any Pimms?
Having purchased a tiny Union Jack bowtie (for my baby daughter to wear as a headband) and fully loaded up with cucumber-and-cream-cheese sandwiches I’m about ready for a right royal knees-up. For which we’ll need a soundtrack … Continue reading →
Funny how these random tweets keep panning out. This one was via The Quietus to Knifeworld‘s twitter, in which Kavus Torabi urged us all to tune into The Interesting Alternative Show on Phoenix 98 FM. It’s actually an Essex-based community radio show, but it streams here and every Monday plays some pretty spellbinding stuff. This is this week’s playlist: Continue reading →
I’ve never thought to wonder whether William D Drake was born in England, but The Rising of the Lights makes me wonder. I take my very English version of national pride (faint smugness rather than any sort of nastiness) as being a by-product of not being born here. You have to an outsider to really appreciate a place. Continue reading →
“Mostly only art created by women has any validity. The male experience has been created and recreated so often” – Everett True, 1992
That is such bulls***. It’s like saying that only Tuvan throat singing/rock hybrids have any validity because you don’t get much of that, either. (And, f***, it’s good stuff.) I don’t flip the sleeve over to check the gender before I’ll listen to the record, any more than I’d think too much about whether they were, say, Turkish. And, yes, a Turkish act does bring a certain flavour to the mix that you rarely get with non-Turkish acts. It’s informed and shaped by its Turkishness but not wholly defined by it because it’s more than that and to reduce it to that is to insult it.
Take Aylin Aslim, for example. I don’t know who she is, but I love her. I don’t have the slightest clue what she’s singing about (though Google translate tells me it’s called “ghoul”). There’s definitely a Turkishness to what she does, but I don’t set out to listen to Turkish folk. I just like this one – her – because she has such a don’t-give-a-f*** attitude and playful energy that makes her an absolute joy to listen to.
Lucy Cage’s superb review of the new William D Drake album was such that it inspired veteran Cardiacs-hater Everett True to give them another listen. It certainly inspired me to spend some time listening to Cardiacs this afternoon, and picking just one song isn’t merely impossible, it’s plain wrong!
It’s so easy to find people who say “I don’t like Cardiacs”, but after over 30 years of making music, that’s a lot like saying “I don’t like David Bowie”. Sure, there’s certain recogniseable common elements that you can associate with “the Cardiacs sound”, but their music is so varied that even if you think you hate them, you’ll love at least one of these.