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Strange pray tell...

Richard Strange interview, summer 2008

I’m probably a bit behind in what you’ve been up to lately, what’s been happening in Strange world?

God… well I’ll just shoot things off at random, this thing I did last week at the Horse Hospital, Derek Raymond is a Soho-boho-old-etonian crime writer, he’s just being reappraised at the moment, and he wrote a series of crime thrillers that were very graphic, very London-centric for the most part, very tough, very noir books. This one, Dora Suarez, ‘I was Dora Suarez’, is possibly his best, and about 15 years, he did it I think in 1995, about thirteen years ago. About fifteen years ago, two friends of mine from a band called Gallon Drunk, Terry Edwards and James Johnson, were put in touch with Derek Raymond with a view to doing a project together, and what they did, they recorded a CD using excerpts from this book, with Derek Raymond reading it and Terry and James performing atmospheric music, and then they performed a version of it at the National Film Theatre I think, just before Derek Raymond died.

And the books have been, he’s been rehabilitated as a writer the way a lot of people are after they die, and Terry called me up and said ‘we’re trying to do a reprise of that show that we did with Derek, would you come in and do the readings’, which I was delighted to do, and we did that last week with fairly scant preparation but it was a great success and a very nice project. Terry and James are really good improvisational musicians, it was the two of them and me on stage, and I was just reading from the book, sections from the book and they were providing this sort of sonic landscape behind it, and that was very enjoyable.

Now I’m working with a Pakistani artist or sculptor, called Haroon Mirza, he must be in his twenties, who typically makes very theatrical kinetic sound-sculptures. He builds these fabulously exotic Heath-Robinson machines that generate sound, either using water, or bits of old piano, or coins on a loudspeaker being triggered by an electronic pulse or a piece of music, or a combination of the two. And he had a private view of an exhibition about two months ago, a mutual friend introduced us, and we got chatting and sort of amused each other and exchanged addresses and he was about to move his studio up to Sheffield. He got onto my website and saw what I’d done in the past and got in touch and said ‘I’d love to do something with you, how do you fancy that’, and I’d been onto his website and liked his website, I said ‘Yeah, that’d be great, what shall we do?’ He said ‘I’ve got a show coming up in Dundee I’ve got to make a specific piece for, which I’ve then got to bring down to London, how about doing a specific piece for that? Some texts, your voice in some way, use your voice and write the texts and I’ll integrate them into the sound piece itself.”

One of the many joys of computers and the internet now is you can actually collaborate with someone without even seeing them. And you can collaborate on music without being in the same room as them. I sent him out some stuff, he said ‘Yeah, maybe more like that, less like that’, he sent me some of the stuff he’d got as a work in progress, if you’ve got a fairly sophisticated computer programme like Logic or Cubase, you can send each other sound files as an attachment to an e-mail. And so, whereas in the old days, when you were working with someone, you’d send them a cassette in the post, and two days later they’d get it, take a day to listen to it, maybe a week later you’d get something back. This way, it’s to all intents and purposes instantaneous, and he gives me a note or suggestion, I work on it, send it off, he sends it back to me, and so it’s a very quick, instant-gratification way of working with someone and I really enjoyed it.

So this piece is opening in Dundee in the first of august, it’s called a sleek Dry Yell, and I’m getting up for the first night to do a performance of it, in the gallery, and then the recordings we’ve done will play for the duration of the show. And similarly in London, I’m gonna do the same thing, at a gallery called Solo projects which is up in Hackney, on the fifth of September.

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