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Gallery: England’s Hidden Reverse and beyond. Photos by Keiko Yoshida

March 2016

Ross Cannon in his council flat in South London. Mid-1980s © Keiko Yoshida

Before I read the excerpt from David Keenan’s Furfur: Sideways Into England’s Hidden Reverse published by The Wire online this February, I only knew that Ross Cannon from Tasmania was the man who cut my hair in London! I did not know any of the music activities he was involved in back when I visited his hair salon, which was actually his council flat in South London. He was the hair dresser of John Balance when I knew him. I didn’t think the haircut Ross gave me was that unusual – it was cut very short at the back – until a bus conductor asked me who cut my hair? I said, a friend. He replied: “I wouldn’t call who did that to you a friend!”

John Maybury. Photo taken in the 1980s. Date unknown. © Keiko Yoshida

Film and music video maker John Maybury in his council flat in Camden Town, London, 1985 © Keiko Yoshida

We interviewed John Maybury at his council flat close to Mornington Crescent tube station, the day before he went to Scotland to make a film with the dancer Michael Clark. (Michael Clark choreographed pieces to the music of Laibach who played it live while he and his company danced, and later, The Fall, among others.) John was then an art student and film maker who had worked with Siouxsie And The Banshees early in their career. He knew them through The Banshees’ drummer Kenny Morris, as they went to the same art school. Kenny abruptly left Siouxsie And The Banshees with guitarist John McKay early in their UK tour supporting their second LP Join Hands. Kenny later released a 12" record on Genesis P-Orridge’s Temple label. while John Maybury worked on an early Psychic TV music promotion video, as well as with Derek Jarman and Cerith Wyn Evans. And he was art director for the fashion brand BodyMap.

Ross Cannon was also involved with BodyMap! He is pictured here in a BodyMap outfit at his hairdressing salon in his South London council flat, 1985 ©Keiko Yoshida

“I used to go down to Produktion just to see Paul, Christine and Ross,” [Steve] Stapleton recalls. “I met them through William as they were huge Whitehouse fans, really sweet people. Ross was really into the camp element of it all. They were always putting on happenings and events all over the place.” (From David Keenan’s England’s Hidden Reverse)

‘The perfect hair model’ showing off Ross Cannon’s skills as a hairdresser: John Balance at home in Chiswick, West London, 1985 © Keiko Yoshida

John Balance (left) with Current 93’s David Tibet at London’s 100 Club, 23 April, 1985 © Keiko Yoshida

Coil’s John Balance (with mouse, left) and Stephen Thrower at home in Chiswick, West London, 1985 © Keiko Yoshida

Coil’s John Balance (left) and Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson at home in Chiswick, West London, 1985 © Keiko Yoshida

Simona, Shoko and I visited Peter Christopherson and John Balance at their house in Chiswick to interview and photograph Coil for Obscur. This was after the premiere of Derek Jarman’s The Angelic Conversation in February 1985 at Berlin International Film Festival. Coil’s soundtrack was a very important part of the film. The same month I saw Laibach and Test Dept at Berlin Atonal festival. During the interview with John aka Geff Rushton, I remember us all stopping to watch Pete Burns and his group Dead Or Alive performing “You Spin Me Round” on TV!

Contact sheet from the Obscur photo session with Coil’s John Balance and Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson in Chiswick, West London, 1985 © Keiko Yoshida

Details from the artwork for the booklet accompanying the compilation cassette Peyrere, 1986

Peyrere is a cassette compilation featuring tracks from Coil, Nurse With Wound, Current 93 and more. I put the cassette together and programmed it as an introduction for Japanese readers to the early 1980s music I was discovering while working on Obscur. The original plan was to release it with the sixth issue of Obscur in Japan but unfortunately the magazine folded before it came out. Later on I met Robin Rimbaud at Air Gallery in London, who helped find the engineer Ian Caple and a friend of his working at an independent record company and they helped get it released independently in the UK instead of Japan.

Details from the artwork for the booklet accompanying the compilation cassette Peyrere, 1986

Pure’s Matthew Bower (right) in Amsterdam, 7 November, 1985.

Obscur’s feature spread about Laibach, photographed during their performance at Three Weeks Of New Music At London Bloomsbury festival, 8–27 July, 1985

Laibach were a far more conceptual performance group during this early period. At Bloomsbury, they presented the English language version of the Laibach manifesto The Ten Items Of The Covenant. Our Obscur feature presented the first Japanese translation of the manifesto.

The poster for the Three Weeks Of New Music At London Bloomsbury festival, 8–27 July, 1985 (left); a page from the festival programme matching Laibach with French avant torch singer Agnes Bernelle.

Before David Keenan used it in the title of his book, I first heard the phrase ‘the hidden reverse’ spoken by the philosopher Slavoj Žižek in the 1993 film Laibach: A Film From Slovenia: “What we usually perceive as the image of Hitler was only its hidden reverse […] official ideology itself was based on a certain split between acknowledged public values and the hidden reverse, and Laibach simply staged, I think this is how I think it worked, Laibach simply staged this hidden reverse, and precisely because of this reason they can in no way be accused for really standing for fascism etc. It is precisely the opposite. The moment you pronounce this open, it cancels itself.” (The film was written by Chris Bohn and directed by Daniel Landin for Slovenian TV.)

Coil feature in GROK 48, published in 1983

Reading the UK music press undoubtedly fuelled our desire to publish our own magazine Obscur to share our passion for this music with Japanese fans. Sometimes, however, small run fanzines created by obsessive fans gave deeper and far more intense responses to Coil’s work. GROK’s 48th issue published a commentary on Coil’s profound alienation by using political-style photomontage and juxtaposition of Coil in words and pictures with a concentration camp picture and a famous fight-back quote from a concentration camp victim, the German Pastor Martin Niemoeller, imprisoned by the Nazis between 1937–45.

One page in the life of a Coil feature, published in GROK 48:

“First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the communists and I did not speak out – because I was not a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me
– and there was no one left to speak out for me”

Pastor Martin Niemoeller

Underground/overground boat party in West Berlin, September 1984. Top: (from left) Die Tödliche Doris’s Tabea Blumenschein, Wolfgang Müller, Nikolaus Utermöhlen (1958–1996). Middle: Nena (left) dancing with Gudrun Gut. Bottom: Blixa Bargeld, just right of centre, among other party revellers

View a selection of photos and artefacts taken from photographer Keiko Yoshida’s visual archives from 1983–86, some of which featured in David Keenan’s book England's Hidden Reverse: A Secret History Of The Esoteric Underground, including Coil’s John Balance, Peter Christopherson and Stephen Thrower, John Maybury, Ross Cannon, and others.

Here you can find a selection of photographs and artefacts from 1983–86 taken from my visual archives, writes Keiko Yoshida. Some have been reprinted in the new, expanded edition of David Keenan’s England’s Hidden Reverse: A Secret History Of The Esoteric Underground (just published by Strange Attractor Press). Others featured in the booklet of Peyrere, a 1986 compilation cassette originally put together to give readers of Obscur, a Japanese fanzine produced by four Japanese women then living in London and Tokyo, a taste of the music it was writing about. The rest are previously unpublished.

I was one of Obscur’s founding members, the magazine initiated by my friend Simona Inagi, who was in London at the beginning of the 1980s and wanted to introduce post punk and positive punk to Japanese readers! We all used to follow music avidly through the UK weekly music papers NME, Melody Maker or Sounds when they were sold a few weeks late at import record shops in Tokyo. I was in Japan when she told me about the West Berlin women’s group Malaria! (with Gudrun Gut) and Einstürzende Neubauten making their first appearances as special guests of The Birthday Party at London Lyceum on 7 March 1983.

Though the four of us at Obscur were based in London and Tokyo, we travelled all over Europe to hear other music recommended to us by the people we interviewed. Gudrun Gut's enthusiasm for new music was especially infectious. We happily followed her recommendations to attend an underground/overground boat party in West Berlin, or to meet her at Pandora's Box industrial festival in Rotterdam! Gudrun played at the festival with her new group Matador, but she and many other Berliners wanted to go so they could see Psychic TV. But the big revelation for me was seeing the Icelandic anarcho punk group Kukl featuring Björk. Unfortunately, I had run out of film so I don't have any pictures to prove I was maybe the first Japanese person ever to see Björk sing live!

So we did not see this music in exactly the same context as David Keenan in England’s Hidden Reverse. We saw these musicians as part of a wider international alternative art, film and music scene, with some very good festivals in West Berlin, Rotterdam, Amsterdam or London bringing these people and their ideas together and providing a broader cultural context for our interviews with them. Stevo’s Some Bizzare record label was also a very important connection. I visited their office to interview Lydia Lunch and Jim Thirlwell aka Foetus. The label helped us get in contact with Coil, Psychic TV, Test Dept, Swans, Cabaret Voltaire and Einstürzende Neubauten.

Obscur ran for five issues. The last one included articles about Coil, Test Dept, The Band Of Holy Joy, Robin Rimbaud, film maker John Maybury, and others; plus Japanese translations of Laibach’s manifesto The Ten Items Of The Covenant (the English language version was introduced at London Bloomsbury Theatre’s Three weeks Of New Music festival in July 1985) and “Die Sprache Der Blumen”, a short story by Die Tödliche Doris’s Wolfgang Müller. We also asked the artists to give us self-portraits that we could publish alongside the pieces about them.

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