The Wire


Vision Festival 21: Celebrating Henry Grimes

New York City's free jazz fest celebrates 21st anniversary with special artist tribute

The 21st edition of Vision Festival will be presenting free jazz bass player Henry Grimes a Lifetime Achievement Award in tandem with a series of special events celebrating the man and his work. “In the 1950s and 60s, Henry Grimes was recognised both in mainstream and in free jazz performing with a diverse range of artists, from Benny Goodman to Cecil Taylor. Grimes disappeared from the music world for approximately 30 years and made news when he reappeared in 2003 performing at the Vision Festival. The same year, he was nominated Musician of the Year by All About Jazz New York,” states Vision Festival’s announcement. “The aim of the Vision Festival is to keep alive in hearts and minds, all of the idealism, integrity and sense of responsibility that lay at the heart of the creative movements in the 1960s.”

Director of Arts For Art Patricia Nicholson Parker adds, “Henry Grimes exemplifies this idealism and integrity in addition to his artistic achievements. And this is why we chose him to receive the Award.”

Hamid Drake, Whit Dickey and ​Patricia Parker will open the festival on 7 June, followed by Henry Grimes Quartet (featuring Geri Allen, Grimes, ​Graham Haynes and Andrew Cyrille), songs by Lisa Sokolov ​to poems by Henry Grimes (with Karma Mayet Johnson, Meshell Ndegeocello, Grimes and others), and the Henry Grimes Septet (featuring Charles Gayle, Melanie Dyer, Grimes, Nicole Mitchell, Tomeka Reid, Marc Ribot and Chad Taylor).

Other events on the festival bill include Sun Ra Arkestra 60th Anniversary ​led by Marshall Allen, Poet Quincy Troupen, Mivos Quartet and more.

Vision Festival 21: Celebrating Henry Grimes takes place at New York City Judson Memorial Church from 7–12 June.

Wolf Eyes announce free entry to Trip Metal Festival

Midwest noise figureheads explain TM philosophy and open door policy

Wolf Eyes have announced that the first Trip Metal Fest, set to take place in Detroit this May, is to be a free event. Artists so far confirmed for the festival, curated by Nate Young, Lindsay ‘Viki’ Karty, and Forest Juziuk, include Morton Subotonik, Marshall Allen, Hieroglyphic Being, Andrew WK and members of Wolf Eyes themselves.

The phrase ‘trip metal’ has cropped up frequently in interviews, twitter feeds and dispatches from Wolf Eyes in recent years, and its usage falls somewhere between a new Wolf Eyes aesthetic motto, a band in-joke, and an absurdist meme. We tried to get an explanation of its meaning from John Olson and Nate Young of the band. “This guy named Vince was on LSD at a Wolf Eyes gig,” says Young. “He texted Jim [Baijo] after the show and said we were ‘totally trip metal’ It made us laugh so hard, it just stuck.

“Trip metal is an answer to the failures that experimental music and art make,” he continues. “Imagine a world where nobody understands art and they are seeing it all for the first time. That confusion might unite us by establishing a common thread. We all are confused, so let’s just admit it and start asking questions.”

John Olson’s twitter feed has been filled with gross-out gifs, bizarre videos and sci-fi pics in recent months, many of which carry the hashtag #tmapproved. “If you #tmapprove something: it's yours,” he announces. “It’s like Columbus discovering the world with candy, wicked jams, and an open minded smile instead of Christ's broken promises and useless culture killing violence as land conquering dogma.” Wolf Eyes submitted a trip metal chart for The Wire 382, which compiled together 15 allegedly TM-approved items, from demo tapes and record labels to movie recommendations and even local skate parks in the Midwest.

If trip metal is music, what does it sound like? “What kind of question is that?” Young fires back. “Have you heard of Wolf Eyes the fathers of trip metal?” As to how a trip metal fest might pan out: “It will be a free event from 27–29 May in Detroit, Michigan. The festival focuses on the gathering of close friends for a dinner and a show. Every day Trip Metal Fest will begin with a 5-star meal followed by a open conversation. First up is Morton Subotnick, John Olson and Andrew WK. After the meal and conversation we will go to El Club and jam. We are focusing on free food for musicians and free music for the public.

“If we can do a free event why can’t other festivals? Hasn't Coachella made enough money?” he asks. “Or for that matter why does SXSW cost so much and pay nothing to artists?” Other performers on the weekend bill include Nautical Almanac, DJ Dog Dick, Brain Transplant, Drainolith, Joseph Hammer, Sick Llama, Lexie Mountain and Scroll Downers, and many more.

The plan to make Trip Metal Fest a free event seems to have only been arrived at in recent weeks. However it came about, the prospect of a free gathering of the noise tribes in the Midwest has awakened an idealist strain in the band. Trip Metal Fest takes place on Memorial Day Weekend, and goes head to head with the long-established Movement electronic music festival. The group hope to “make trip metal free and leave the world better off than when we arrived”. Or, as Olson puts it, “100000000 MILLION WEIRDOS HAPPY TO BE THEMSELVES AND SHARING THEIR TRIP EXPERIENCES WITH OTHERS. #nosquares.” More info on Trip Metal Fest, along with a host of TM-approved videos and images, can be found here.

Prince's The Revolution reform for live shows

Prince's best known backing band reunite and promise live performances

Prince's best known band The Revolution have reformed to play some live shows. They announced they were getting back together in a video made by members Wendy Melvoin (guitar/vocals), Lisa Coleman (keyboards/vocals), Mark 'BrownMark' Brown (bass/vocals), Robert 'Bobby Z' Rivkin (drums) and Matt 'Dr' Fink (keyboards) and shown via Brown's Facebook page.

Though the band had existed in putative form since 1979, the first album officially credited to Prince & The Revolution was 1984's Purple Rain, which featured significant input from Melvoin and Coleman in particular. Following the expansion and eventual dissolution of the band after their tour supporting 1986's Parade, Melvoin and Coleman continued to work together as a duo while their former bandmates pursued solo careers and in the case of Fink, continued to work with Prince.

Over the years there have been reunions involving various configurations of ex-members. In the late 1990s, Prince toyed with the idea of releasing the Revolution-backed album Roadhouse Garden (named after an unreleased and widely bootlegged fan favourite recorded live in 1984). In 2000 he played a Minneapolis show where he was joined by Fink, Rivkin and Brown for a version of "America". In 2012, the band – without their leader – played a benefit show at First Avenue, Minneapolis, where the live segments of the Purple Rain movie were filmed.

Watch Prince & The Revolution playing "Let's Go Crazy" live in Syracuse circa 1985:

Wire Tapper 40 Mix

DJ Mixsoup gets in the mix with The Wire's longrunning compilation series

In celebration of The Wire Tapper series reaching 40 volumes since the first compilation arrived with issue 170 in April 1998, Berlin based DJ Mixsoup has decided to make a mega mix containing 32 tracks spanning the entirety of the collection.

“I deciced a few weeks back to take the opportunity of the release of Wire Tapper 40 to put together a mix based on selection from Wire Tapper tracks,” says the DJ. “It goes for me for The Wire Tapper compilations as for the Wire magazine itself, I hardly know ten per cent of what’s in it but that’s what’s it’s all about, right? [...] 32 tracks & 70 minutes later, here is the result.”

The mix comes via Music Is My Sanctuary, where the tracklist is also available

Wire Tapper 40 is available on the cover of every copy of issue 387, and subscribers to the magazine can download every volume since Tapper 25.

Prince 1958-2016

Prince Rogers Nelson dies at Paisley Park studio complex in Minnesota

Prince Rogers Nelson, known to all as Prince, died on 21 April at his Paisley Park studio complex outside of Minneapolis. He was 57.

Prince was a skilful multi-instrumentalist, band leader and seasoned studio player before he’d even graduated from Minneapolis's Central High School. He recorded a demo tape with his group Champagne at Minneapolis’s tiny Moonsound studio when he was 15, and studio boss Chris Moon would lend him his keys to the studio and encourage him to experiment. Prince recorded with the local group 94 East the following year, which yielded the single If You See Me/Games that was included on the Numero Group compilation Purple Snow: Forecasting The Minneapolis Sound in 2013.

A demo tape eventually secured a generous contract with Warner Bros, and his 1978 debut album For You (recorded when he was 19) bore the extraordinary credit "produced, arranged, performed and composed by Prince", with him playing over two dozen instruments on the album. He later became a master of the Linn LM-1, an early programmable drum machine and one of the first to use digital samples of real percussion instruments, which can be heard on numerous Prince recordings.

Prince went on to record 18 studio albums for Warner Bros, from 1978 all the way to 1996’s Chaos And Disorder, redefining the face of modern pop, funk and rock in the process. He appeared on the cover of The Wire 90 in 1991 around the time of Diamonds And Pearls, in an article written by Andrew Pothecary, who photographed Prince on his 1986 Parade tour. Joseph Stannard wrote on Prince for The Wire’s Deep Cover issue in June 2015, unpicking the many pseudonyms Prince worked under in his prolific career, from Camille to Gemini to The Kid to his production alias Jamie Starr.

Alterations Festival explores the work of the influential 1980s UK improv group

Alterations’ Steve Beresford, Peter Cusack, Terry Day and David Toop reunite for a festival celebrating their legacy

The 1980s UK improvising supergroup Alterations will reunite this summer for a festival dedicated to their work and legacy. The quartet, formed by Steve Beresford, Peter Cusack, Terry Day and David Toop, existed between 1977–86. They reformed last year for a London performance; and they’ll be back together again for the series of performances, workshops, talks and an exhibition making up the Alterations Festival happening between 13–19 June. Alterations will perform both as a quartet and in various combinations with outside players including Elaine Mitchener, Max Eastley, John Butcher, Evan Parker, Thurston Moore, Rhodri Davies, and many more.

Alterations released three albums in their lifetime. They were at once notable and notorious for adopting a seemingly irreverent attitude designed to shake up the UK improv scene of the time, adding toys, sirens, balloons, laughter, etc to their more conventional instrumentation. "Until I saw Alterations play," wrote Richard Cook back in The Wire 10, "most improvised music had seemed to me to be an inflexibily serious enterprise."

The festival will explore connections and overlaps between free improvisation and sound art generated by Alterations’ use of conventional instruments and non-musical objects. It also includes a series of talks on the subject of “Alterations And Free Improvisation”, plus workshops about field recording conducted by Peter Cusack, and how to make bamboo flutes conducted by Terry Day. The festival will also mark the launch of Ecstatic Peace Library’s republication of the complete run of Musics magazine, an improvising journal partly founded by Beresford and Toop in 1975 which ran to 23 issues in the latter part of the 1970s.

After Alterations broke up, the four members went on to form or collaborate with countless UK groups in the spheres of improvisation and beyond, from Flying Lizards, People Band, General Strike and The 49 Americans to London Improvisers Orchestra. Beresford and Toop have also written extensively about music and sound, most notably for Collusion and The Wire. And in recent decades, Beresford, Toop and Cusack have pursued their individual, unorthodox paths through education and academia.

The festival will take place at various venues around London, including Portland Hall, Cafe Oto and Oto Projects Space, between 13–19 June. More information can be found here. Subscribers to The Wire can read Richard Cook’s 1984 article on Alterations here.

Bill Orcutt releases open source audio program

Cracked is a “primitive and stripped down” free application created by the former Harry Pussy guitarist and programmer

Guitarist Bill Orcutt has created an open source coding program for working with sound. Entitled Cracked, it is a "free app for Mac OS. It’s a Javascript library and live coding environment for sound making."

Orcutt is best known for his abrasive guitar playing in Miami post-hardcore group Harry Pussy and his solo and group improvisations of the last decade, but he has long pursued a parallel career as a software engineer. His interests in electronics and music first came together in 1998 with Harry Pussy’s Let's Build A Pussy, a double album exploring longform drones reissued by Editions Mego on 2012.

“Lately I've been trying to find a more personal approach for making sound on the computer,” he emails, “something that feels like a software equivalent to one of the cheap Silvertone or Kay guitars I use – something primitive and stripped down, where the inner workings are exposed and easily modifiable, and the music feels like it's being made by you rather than by the program.”

Cracked, he says, “has no traditional user interface, no buttons or knobs, just a window to code into. As you type, changes are interpreted immediately and the sound updates as you go.” A video sent to us by Orcutt shows him jamming on a MIDI pad controller in front of his computer, its screen filed with lines of code, while the speakers spew out a barrage of twisted sounds. “The code itself has a syntax that mimics the way you'd patch a modular or hook up guitar effect boxes,” he argues. “Sound flows from left to right and modules are connected from outputs to inputs. So a line of code like “__().sine().lowpass().ring().reverb().out().play();” does exactly what it looks like: creates and connects a sine oscillator to a lowpass filter to a ring modulator to a reverb to the output and then starts it all playing.”

Orcutt reports Cracked is compatible with various web platforms, and that he’s working on Linux and Windows versions of the program.

“Peter Rehberg of Editions Mego told me that laptop music stopped being interesting when the computers stopped crashing,” he says. “Cracked has yet to crash my computer, but the newness of it can feel risky and occasionally produces unexpected results. Modular synths have become ubiquitous in the 20 years since the introduction of the Eurorack and for many musicians seem to have become an unexamined default. I’d love to see a new generation of cheap, open digital tools that encourage freaks to code so they can spend their money on drugs instead of saving up for the latest module.” Freaks who like the sound of that can download the program here.

Ian Brighton has released his first album in 40 years

Ian Brighton’s Now And Then released by Confront

Ian Brighton, one of a number of UK guitar improvisors who emerged in the 1970s (others included John Russell and Roger Smith), has returned with his first solo album in nearly 40 years. Called Now And Then, most of the music on it was recorded between 2013–15. His previous solo LP Marsh Gas was released in 1977 by Bead Records. Now And Then follows the 2013 appearance of some of Brighton’s archive recordings on the Tony Oxley A Birthday Tribute album. It was conceived as a way of “getting together with old friends through a recorded medium”, and features contributions from associates Frank Perry and Trevor Taylor, as well as the voice of Derek Bailey from an interview with The Wire’s Brian Morton on its opening track. “All that's wanted now is a couple of gigs,” proclaims Brighton on Facebook.

It is one of a number of releases Mark Wastell’s Confront label has planned for its 20th anniversary celebrations this year.

New book and album from David Toop

David Toop publishes new book and recording this summer – watch a video for the track “Compelled To Approach”

Room 40 will release a collection of recordings by writer, musician and veteran Wire contributor David Toop this June. His first new album in ten years is called Entities Inertias Faint Beings, and it contains a selection of tracks drawn from three “periods of solitude”. These include recordings made on Tamborine Mountain in Queensland, the same province’s Gold Coast and the UK coastal town St Ives. “The music existed already,” explains Toop. “Spores maybe or dormant clusters of digital files.

”Why would anybody release music in the 21st century?” he ponders, continuing, “In solitude I contemplated death, decay, the gush of life.”

Toop’s new book, Into The Maelstrom: Music, Improvisation And The Dream Of Freedom: Before 1970, sketches a history of, and meditates on the philosophies behind improvisation in music. It will be published by Bloomsbury in May.

Entities Inertias Faint Beings will be released by Lawrence English's Room40 label. You can watch a video for the album track “Compelled To Approach” below:

24 hour drone happening this weekend

The second annual 24-Hour Drone: Experiments In Sound & Music is taking place this weekend at Basilica Hudson, New York

New York’s Basilica Hudson are set to host their second 24 Hour drone performance series this weekend. Run in collaboration with Utrecht's Le Guess Who? festival, Second Ward Foundation and Wave Farm/WGXC, the series features performances from musicians and sound artists as well as long duration video, interactive art installations and a 24 hour coffee bar. People can either attend for the full 24 hours or buy tickets at $1 per hour.

Artists on the bill include Oneida, Innov Gnawa, Hospital Productions’ Dominic Fernow presenting Drone Block, Camilla Padgitt-Coles, Bonnie Baxter of Kill Alters, Efrim Manuel Menuck of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Noveller, Christopher Tignor performing alongside Meshell Ndegeocello, and more. Second Ward Foundation will present a series of videos, and the whole event will be streamed live via and broadcast Saturday through Sunday morning on Wave Farm's WGXC 90.7-FM.

24-Hour Drone: Experiments In Sound & Music starts at 3pm on 23 April. General admission and Drone Survival Kits can be bought via Brown Paper Tickets.