Friday, 22 October 2010

'The television screen is the retina of the mind's eye'

Droogies, boozers, strumpets and losers, we're back, and how. After 2010 being dominated by the magickal processses by which it's been wrought unto this earth, We're delighted to find ourselves set to release our second platter o'splatter, the otherworldly missive from the netherscape that is ‘Your Mercury’ on Monday November 22nd.

You can already check some of this ur-transmission in a variety of transport caffs around the information superbighway: 20 Jazz Funk Greats hosted the debut of 'A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.' as only those sonic satyrs knows how, and the same jam later turned up on both Altered Zones and Pitchfork.

We'd also be fools to ourselves if we didn't take this opportunity to alert you to the inspiration for this futuristic juggernaut: Our old mate the Legendary Black Marquis, whose original Fictional Film Club review of the Tim Thurber-directed 1979 motion picture set us on a suicide mission to summon its spirit in the ether.

'You're Mercury', the (almost) title-track, first saw the light of the enchanted metropolis on but can also be heard right here: fasten yer seatbelts...

Teeth Of The Sea - 'You're Mercury' by Tim Chester NME

To celebrate the album release, we’ve got a series of dates with destiny lined up, at which synapses will fry on a mighty third-eye-cleansing frenzy fit to transform our chilly surroundings

The first of this trinity of terror is an instore show at ROUGH TRADE EAST near Brick Lane, on Thursday November 18th, at which Teeth will grind at 7PM. This will actually be the first opportunity to lay hands on a copy of ‘Your Mercury’, which will be in the shakin’ racks early for the occasion.


On Saturday November 20th, the TOTS shocktroops will be returning to DJ at one of our favourite haunts, the Olde Peculiar at THE MUCKY PUP in Islington, where we’ll be spinning the usual delightfully deranged meld of aural treats on the decks. Said DJ deliverance will doubtless include everything from Robyn to Repulsion, from Harry Thumann to Hasil Adkins, and from Cerrone to Cheap Trick. Drinks will flow and blood will spill, and if the boys want to argue about Miles Davis, you better let ‘em.


Perhaps most enticingly of all, however, on the fateful night of November 22nd itself, as ‘Your Mercury’ is properly unleashed on the unsuspecting ears of the world at large, We're delighted to relate that we're hosting the devil’s own launch party at THE LEXINGTON on Pentonville Road. A stellar cast of characters has been hand-picked for the occasion.

Over from Paris especially for the occasion, we have a very rare London show from the amazing, Amazonian HIGH WOLF, whose pyramidal meditations on the Not Not Fun label have blown us away of late, dwelling in an intoxicating, mystical forest of rhythmic, exotic drone somewhere to the east of Pocahaunted and the west of Sun Araw. As if that wasn’t enough, the lupine one will be joined onstage by members of Teeth Of The Sea’s favourite UK band, the Salford psych-savants GNOD. This is set to be an intimidating trip who knows where.

High Wolf

Kicking off the proceedings in style, we’re delighted to have on board London’s own MARIA AND THE MIRRORS. a fearsome and fresh trio who deal in mind-melting psychic invocation and ritualistic abandon. Their percussive, demonic mantras create a mighty and malevolent reverie that evokes Gang Gang Dance, Bow Wow Wow, and the ayahuasca scenes from 'Altered States' in equal measure.


As if all that wasn’t enough, we have delirious, flashback-inducing lights courtesy of the celebrated magus of illusion JOHNNY O and selections from not only our fave spinner of discs, HEIDI HEELZ (Glamracket/Dice Club) but earthly representatives of our favourite website THE QUIETUS.

Tickets for this aural and visual sensory overload are available in advance for a mere four pounds sterling HERE. This will be both a gloriously messy evening, and a ceremonial rite to remember. Miss it at yer peril.

In the weeks and months to come, we're also chuffed to be playing

London Islington Zenith Bar with YE
(Sunkan Dymonds show for Oxjam)

Bristol Louisiana with MUGSTAR and THOUGHT FORMS.

Oxford Jericho Tavern with WIRE
(Audioscope Show for Shelter)

Blimey, this is our happening, and it freaks us out.

Here's TOTS' playlist for October 2010, before we bid y'all the fondest adieu:
JUAN ATKINS-20 Years 1985-2005
(One of our fave London bands of the last five years. Their Monster Magnet-meets-Wizard-meets-Boss Hog-racket sent us into a dark carnally-aligned reverie. Very sorry they never got to make an album)
(Peachy pop record,serving to banish this cold snap quite nicely, and when that gets a bit twee, we reach for...)
SWANS-My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky

See you at the party, Richter!

Monday, 16 August 2010

'Machines don't understand sacrifice...neither do morons'

Teeth Of The Sea are gutted to relate that, due to Sam being involved in a bike accident that’s left him with a broken collarbone, we're not going to be able to play Supernormal Festival at Braziers Park next weekend, We’d been looking forward to this show for months, and want to extend our apologies to Supernormal and to anyone who was planning on coming to see us. Rest assured our absence will only inflict very minimal damage on what’s going to be a stellar festival, including live sets from the likes of Faust. Diagonal, Gnod, Bong. Alexander Tucker, Mary Hampton, Emily Breeze, Thought Forms, Proxy Music, Maria And The Mirrors and Hyrst, plus a whole host more thrills besides.To compensate for our absence, Mat and Jimmy TOTS will be performing a special DJ set at the caravan bar of the festival in our old spot to help prepare the assembled for the mighty Saturday night headline act, Faust. Expect a particularly potent selection of rippers that spans from psych-rock righteousness via disco hedonism, to interstellar freakout and all points in between.

We also unfortunately can't play our Death Trip show at CAMP on Friday August 27th with Peepholes and The Way Through. Many apologies to anyone involved in that night, which will also doubtless continue to rule in our absence. We’re hoping to return to CAMP under the Death Trip auspices at some point in the not-so-distant future.

However, we’ll be back for the attack at the Offset festival on Sunday September 5th, where we’ll be appearing alongside another fabulous line-up including Atari Teenage Riot, Eighties Matchbox, Chrome Hoof, Cluster, Rolo Tomassi, Factory Floor, Bo Ningen, Liquid Liquid and about a hundred more killer combos.

However, most exciting of all, after a gestation period that saw up losing our marbles in Manor House for six months of intensive jamming, writing, and frenziedly consuming movies of dubious origin, our second album is finished, and all set for a November release. It’s entitled ‘Your Mercury’, and it sees up spinning into a whole vertigo-inducing new orbit, above and beyond anything we’ve committed to posterity before. Rest assured you’ll be hearing a whole lot more about this opus in the weeks and months to come, as Teeth Of The Sea boldly traverse into dimensions unknown with little more than their wits and six-for-fives of premium lager to guide them.

Adios Amigos And Adversaries Alike, We’ll all see y’all at Offset, but we’ll be there at Supernormal in spirit, and in some cases in body if not in mind...

Teeth Of The Sea.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Great Lost Bands. Part 1: The Cloud Shoppe

It’s fair to say that the psychedelic music of late 60s Britain attracts more than its share of obsessive fans and collectors, and yet, even amongst the most stalwart and hardcore of these dusty fingered myrmidons, the name of The Cloud Shoppe is, more often than not, met with only an affronted glare - as if the very existence of something that has passed under the freak radar is an affront to the sensibilities of the dedicated scourer.

The band’s obscurity is understandable – not many psyche acts can say that their base of operations was rural Devon, or claim to have displayed the kind of cavalier attitude to fame and fortune that The Cloud Shoppe did in their brief lifetime – and yet, none the less, the heart is saddened by their obscurity, because, in their brief time together they managed to cut one of the most essential sides of post-summer-of-love flower punk ever stamped on wax – the evergreen ‘Thirsty Grass/House of Flying Daggers’.

The bands story is typical of the time: “We came together because we were the only kids at school into Hendrix and Soft Machine.” Claims former singer Tony Perk. “This was 1967 and all the other kids were soulies, so I used to get the shit beaten out of me regularly, as you can imagine!” It was during the course of one of these beatings, administered at current paragon of higher education, Tavistock College, that Tony first met his future guitarist and sparring partner, Tony McCorkindale, as tony remembers: “This little freak with long hair and the coolest pair of boots I’d ever seen was having a hard time of it from some of the local colour. They were giving him a serious hiding, so I stepped in to take some of the heat. We were inseparable after that.”

Tony McCorkindale already had a certain pedigree on the Tavistock scene. As the guitarist with Mike Brian’s Moneyshots he’d already toured as far as Luton and back, and had gained a reputation as something of a Jack-the-lad amongst the local ladies!
“He was fucking Cocker-the-walk, that lad, ” remembers Tony, “always in trouble, always gobbing off, always going full-tilt at everything. I just adored him. We were the two Tony’s, y’know? Plus: he had the most beautiful guitar I’d ever seen: a cherry red stratocaster. I used to go round his house just to stare at it.”
As the two teenagers shared an interest in the heavier sounds of the freak scene, it was only a matter of time before talk came round to them forming a band of their own. McCorkindale was already tiring of The Moneyshots’ constant schedule of touring and practicing, and was eager to dip his toe into the swirling waters of psychedelia.
“We loved it. When ‘Purple Haze’ came out we put the little money we had together and spent three days just listening to it over-and-over. Didn’t eat, didn’t sleep, didn’t do nothing. It was like another world had opened its doors.”

Flush with The New Thing, the two Tonys set about recruiting other members. The first to get on board was bass player Mike Saxon.
“Mike was a lovely fella,” claims Tony, today, “he was training to be an electrician at the time, and he was a bit straight, but we soon convinced him to grow his hair long and join in. He was a quiet lad, liked his football, and knew everything that there was to know about cement. Seriously, he was a fountain of bloody knowledge on cement.”

Next came drummer Norris Beer. “All that stuff you’ve heard about drummers? All true. Norris was in-fucking-sane,” remembers Tony, “a proper loon. He used to wind up Mike something rotten. Called him ‘The Mop’, for some reason. He could drink for Devon, could Norris. I once saw him put away an entire bottle of Merrydown before we even got onstage. Plus, he had his own van, ‘cos he was a baker’s delivery boy, so we used to go everywhere in this white van with ‘better fresh’ written on the side.”

With the four convened, rehearsals started in Mike’s front room. Much to the annoyance of the local neighbours. “They’d moan, we’d turn it up. We were well into pissing people off. I think his mum was just happy that he had some friends to play with.” A set of covers was soon put together, with one original, the long-lost “People of Today”, a Perk/McCorkindale composition. “That were a heavy number,” recounts Perk, “there’s a tape of it somewhere, but I’m buggered if I can find it. Hendrix-y, y’know, but well good.” And the name? “Well, that’s the sort of name that all the cool bands had at the time. We were playing Stones stuff, Hendrix, obviously, a bit of Beatles, so we wanted a name that would fit. It were no good being called something like ‘The Champion Band’, y’know? We needed something heavy.”

‘Heavy’ name decided on, the band began gigging, much to the bemusement of the local punters. “Nine-times-out-of-ten there were a fight. The first gig we ever did was a battle of the bands at Tavistock town hall. Loads of people there. Most of the blokes in the audience wanted to kick the shit out of us so we set about winding them up. Tony was doing his Brian Jones thing, blowing kisses to the girls and all that, and we ended up escaping out of the window and hiding in a fruit and veg wagon. Norris didn’t bother. He just took ‘em all on. There must’ve been about sixty blokes trying to kick lumps out of him and he just took it. He nearly killed one bloke, twatted him with his kick pedal. Blood everywhere. That were a brilliant night.” And the competition? “We lost, obviously.”

Undetered by their failure, The Cloud Shoppe embarked on a series of gigs up and down the country. It was at one of these gigs, in the Shaky Doo arms in Bere Alston, that they were spotted by local carpet warehouse manager and budding impressario, Derek Chuff. “Derek cocking Chuff,” ruefully remembers Tony, “he was a fucking nobber.” Nonetheless, initial impressions were positive. As Chuff himself recounts in his frankly unreadable and mercifully unpublished memoir of the times, “Underlaying Tension”: “The four lads looked terrifying. They were very much dressed in the London styles of the time, showing off their muscular physiques which were driving the ladies in the audience mad with desires almost Grecian. After they had finished I immediately made my overtures and offered to manage them.”
“’Mad with Grecian desires’? What the fuck is ‘e on about?” Notes Tony, “There were about four people there and I think they were trying to watch the racing.” Nonetheless, wooed by Chuff’s promises of fame and riches, and even more entranced by his guarantee of a supply of steady cash from his burgeoning carpet warehouse, the band accepted his offer of management.
“We were skint, y’know? And he certainly made it sound good. Gigs in London and all that. And then he offered to put us in the studio, which sealed the deal.”

With an eye on the eventual recording, the two Tony’s started to write the two songs which would be immortalised forever under the titles “Thirsty Grass” and “House of Flying Daggers.” Several factors contributed to their creation. “Well, we’d tried acid by then. Not Norris and Mike, that would’ve been disastrous, but me and Tony had given it a go. I enjoyed it, but Tony, fucking hell, he loved it. Couldn’t get enough. He managed to find a regular supplier in Plymouth and that was that. He was a freak for the stuff.”

The two songs that emerged were rehearsed and put down in Bob Tugg’s tiny recording studio in Tavistock, a place more used to the delicate strains of various rural folk acts. “There were a band in there recording before us called Bodger’s Mate. They took one look at us and began to piss themselves laughing. Couldn’t believe these freaks who had rolled up. They stuck around for a bit to take the piss, but they rushed off pretty quick when we started playing “House of Flying Daggers,” I can tell you that.”

The reason for the scared folkies flight is obvious to anyone who listens to the finished offering. “House of Flying Daggers” is a monstrous track. From it’s opening stacato guitar, to its frenetic, headlong conclusion, it is one of the earliest examples of what is now called “Proto-punk.” Featuring McCorkindale’s scorching, Hendrix influenced lead guitar, a gruff, powerful vocal delivery from Perk and a rhythm section powered along by Beer’s thunderous drums, it is a lesson in the power of simple recording techniques. “We set up and we let rip. We knew we were the heaviest band around, and having those wankers laugh at us just made us more determined to prove it. They did us a favour in a way.” Though still staggering in its power, “House of Flying Daggers” is eclipsed by the work on the singles eventual A-side – the stunning “Thirsty Grass.”

A song in two parts, “Thirsty Grass” can best be compared to the Pretty Thing’s psych opus “Defecting Grey.” It has a similar sense of mania and mystery, although its strange, isolated feel is completely unique. “That was Dartmoor,” claims Tony, “just such isolated countryside. We were trying to capture the coldness and bleakness of it. Me and Tony used to go up there tripping. It used to get really fucking scary sometimes, what with the wind and the knowledge that there wasn’t anyone about for miles. I used to get freaked out, but Tony, well, Tony wasn’t afraid of anything. We came up with the title of the song on one of these tripping sessions, where Tony reckoned he could hear the grass crying out for water. That shit me right up, so I figured we must be onto something good.”

“Thirsty Grass” weaves into view with a beautiful, lambent guitar shimmer. A strange drone is just detectable in the backround (which Tony claims to have no memory of recording) before Perk’s vocal whispers into earshot; “Beware this thirsty grass,” he intones, “Come a time thirst becomes hunger/and the grass knows how to bite.” The song rises in volume and tension, anchored all the time by Saxon’s simple-but-effective bassline, before a sudden lurch, as McCorkindale’s steel edged guitar cranks out a delirious riff, and the band pounds into oblivion, Perk’s vocals still swaying above the chaos. It ends, after four too-short minutes, with a howl of psychedelic confusion from Perk and a neon swarm of distortion. It remains utterly magnificent. “I fucking love that song,” says Perk, today.

“When we first heard it back we were just delirious, jumping around the room. We knew we’d made something really good.” However it was manger Chuff’s opinion that first showed signs of a split in the Cloud Shoppe camp. “He hated it, just hated it. He couldn’t get his head around why we hadn’t recorded something more commercial. We were stunned. I mean, this guy had been to see us, he knew what he was getting, the kind of band we were. For him suddenly not to like it felt like treachery.”
Chuff’s biography goes into more detail. “The single was a disaster. Badly recorded and with no chance of commerical success. Would girls dance to it? Would it leap, like an olympian, to the very top of the hit parade? There was nary a chance. My boys had let me down.” Perk’s reaction is less wordy: “Wanker.”

After convincing Chuff to front the money to press the single, the band embarked on another relentless schedule of gigs. “We had to get out there. We had written more new songs and they were beginning to dominate the set, so we had to get them heard.” Unfortunately, disaster never seemed to be too far away from the band at this point, and Norris Beer, particularly, began to show certain alarming character traits.
“I mean, we knew he was mad,” recounts Perk, “It’s just how mad that came as a surprise. Once, after a gig in Morcombe, I saw him eat an entire raw fish. Just like that, y’know? He grabbed it from a barrow, flicked the bloke the money and just popped it in his mouth. Bones and all. That was worrying, but it was the fighting that began to get a bit silly.” Beer’s reputation as a hard man was beginning to get the band noticed, particularly in their local area. “It got to the point where we just couldn’t play in Devon anymore. Wherever we were, Whitchurch, Bere Alston, Exeter, we would always end up with a huge bunch of lads at the venue threatening to kick crap out of us. This was fine for Norris, he could look after himself, but for the rest of us, and especially Tony, it was a bit much.”

McCorkindale’s acid use had accelerated, as a result the constant violent scenes that accompanied the band on tour were becoming too much for him to take, and would often leave him in deep, paranoid moods that would last for days. “I tried talking to him. We all did. We told him to stop taking so much acid. He would just sit there before gigs, staring into space. Not even communicating. Chuff began to go on about getting rid of him, but he could fuck off. It was nerve racking though, ‘cos it was getting to the point were he couldn’t deliver on stage anymore.”
One particular occasion stands out. “Tiverton, March 3rd, 1968,” recalls Perk, “My mum’s birthday. I’m never going to forget that. No sooner had we arrived than this bunch of nutters locked us into the dressing room. We’re all standing there, trying to force the door, when suddenly the window breaks and this fucking German stick grenade comes rolling into the room. Needless to say we fucking shat and smashed the door straight off its hinges. I mean the bomb was a dud, they were just trying to shit us up, but it shows how paranoid we were at the time. They were waiting for us outside and we took a hell of a beating. Tony ran away and we couldn’t find him for hours. He was just sitting on a bench, crying. We missed the gig and took him home.”
And where was chuff during all this? “Fuck knows. He was always saying that he had bigger fish to fry, y’know? We thought maybe he meant sorting us out a big gig in London. Turned out he meant something quite different.”

The big gig in London did arrive, however. “Oh yes, the big one.” Winces Tony, “how can I forget that gig. Those sodding suits…”
Unbeknownst to the band, Chuff had been working hard to secure them a slot and London’s prestigious UFO club, one of the foremost venues of the burgeoning counter-culture. “God, we were excited. Even Tony was getting het up about playing the UFO. We had read about it in the NME all the time, y’know? It was were all the heaviest groups played and we were going to be right up there with ‘em. We practiced really hard for that gig.” Upon arrival in the capital, however, the band received a shock. “We thought it was all about peace and love, y’know? But everyone we met was really snobby to us. They didn’t like that we were from Devon, that we weren’t wearing the most fashionable clothes. The other groups that were playing that night just ignored us. We never felt so out of place. At least back at home they would aknowledge our existence by belting us, y’know?” However the greatest shock came just before stage time. “We were all getting ready to go on – first, of course – when Chuff came backstage and showed us our new stage get up. These bloody horrible jump suit type things. They were all matching and had these pictures of clouds all over them. We were just horrified. I mean, at first we were laughing. No bloody way were we going to wear these at the UFO, we would be a laughing stock. But then Chuff started to get nasty. It was weird how it happened. Just one minute he was Derek Chuff and the next he was a monster. He started screaming, I mean, really screaming right into our faces, about how we had let him down, how we had no right to refuse him after all he’d done for us. Then he started throwing stuff around and, as a last straw, he started picking on Tony, slapping him about, and poor Tony’s in no condition to put up with it. We were all just shocked. Even Norris was terrified. Chuff put his whole hand through a pane of glass and stood there, hand covered in blood, howling at us. In the end we were so scared that we just stuck the suits on and went on stage, shaking.”

The gig itself was, according to Perk, a disaster. “The audience couldn’t believe it. Here were these fucking farmers, trying to play psychedelic rock, with a practically catatonic guitarist, in these fucking jumpsuits. I mean, we tried, we really did, we all tried to hold it together, but it was no good. If you don’t have the audience behind you it can be an uphill struggle at the best of times, but what with everything else, we didn’t stand a chance. I remember looking over at Tony and him just being lost. He didn’t know what was happening. I finished the gig by tearing the suit off and just standing there, tackle out, with Norris flicking v’s at the audience. Not the London debut we’d all dreamed off. I mean, I laugh about it now, but very rarely. We took off as soon as we came offstage, devastated.”

Upon returning to Devon some changes were made. “It broke my fucking heart, having to sack Tony, but it was obvious to everyone that he needed help and being on the road was no good for him. The last time I saw him was when I went round his house to tell him the news. It had to come from me. He took it pretty well, I suppose. I mean, he hardly said anything when I told him. He just sort of looked at me, nodded and asked if I wanted to do some acid. I refused and left. I just didn’t think there was much hope for him. Chuff we never saw again after London, thankfully. It was only a month or so later that we all read the news in the paper.”

On the 16th of October 1968, Tony McCorkindale was found dead from exposure on Dartmoor, he was 21. “It’s still a bit of a mystery, I suppose, but knowing him like I did, I can imagine what had happened. He’d gone up to trip in the dark and lost his way. That’s all, just something as bloody silly as that. He loved the moors, did Tony. He used to talk about wanting to capture the feeling of being up there through his guitar. It sounds silly, but if you listen to that record I reckon you can hear it. It’s hard to think of a more suitable way for him to have gone but I miss him every day. We were the two Tonys, y’know?”

Perk eventually reconvened with Saxon and Beer, along with guitarist Mike Savage, to form the heavy rock group, Toe. They carried on for a while with limited success, before disbanding in 1970, leaving no recordings. Derek Chuff hanged himself in 1973, following a series of accusations of financial mismanagement. “We’d been part of his plan to set his finances straight. We were used by Chuff as a fucking tax dodge. No, I can’t say I was sorry to hear about his death. Sad, yes, but not sorry.”
Norris Beer eventually became a locally succesful boxer and news agent. He succumbed to cancer in 1987. Mike Saxon became an electrician. Him and Tony still meet up for occasional drinks. “We don’t talk about the band much,” Tony claims, today, “as far as I’m concerned it’s just too sad. My best friend dead, all those dreams in ruins.”

And what about the single, does Tony still listen to it? “All the time. We really captured something there, something that no other band was doing. At the time I suppose you could see that as a flaw, it was just too unique, now, as the years go by, I think that’s its major strength. Every member’s personality is captured on that record, especially Tony’s. Sometimes, when I listen to it, I imagine he’s playing it now, from Dartmoor. The ghost of the moors, y‘know? Singing to me with that beautiful cherry red Fender.”

Thursday, 15 April 2010

'Jenkins...chap with wings there. Five founds, rapid.'

Daemons-a-go-go, it's been a fair old while since Teeth Of The Sea have made any forays into the live arena. This is largely because we've spent the last six months drinking in a pub with the best pinball machine on Earth (see above) Battling with the very notions of fancy dress and the guilty pleasure, and trying to think of ways to exact a terrifying vengeance on whichever person allowed Mr. Hudson to become a pop star. Oh yeah, and also we've been writing and recording our second album, which is gonna be out at the start of October.

However, it's a pleasure to relate that we're hammering back into action with a vengenace in the merry month of May, and moreover have all manner of exciting shenanigans to relate besides that.

First off, muchas gracias to those chaps at the Dexter Bentley Hello Goodbye show on Resonance FM. where we sullied airwaves aplenty shortly after noon last Saturday. This was our third session for those chaps, and a radio premiere for our new monster 'You're Mercury'. You can listen to this quarter-hour's worth of racket on the site very soon, as well as some bashful ramblings from us lot shorty afterwards.

Naturally, we've booked a whole host of shows for our return to the fray in May 2010: First of these if gonna be a show at The Macbeth at the behest of The mighty Quietus for the London Stag And Dagger on Friday May 21st. A killer bill this one, what with the thrillingly disorientating brass abusers Gyratory System, dreampop afficianados White Hinterland and
the mighty blues barbarians Archie Bronson Outfit.

Secondly, we're beyond thrilled to announce we're supporting Ben Frost at Kilburn's Luminaire on Sunday May 30th. 'By The Throat' was pretty well our favourite record of last year, so this has all the hallmarks of a memorable evening's chilly entertainment.


As if all that wasn't enough, we're also playing Cafe Oto on July 15th with everyone's favourite travelling shaman Damo Suzuki, and we're also spectacularly chuffed to be journeying up to Brazier's Park in Oxfordshire in August for Supernormal Festival, alongside a host of esteemed ne'er-do-wells including our old sparring partners in degeneracy Gnod, The A Band, Emily Breeze and the headliners, the imcomparable FAUST.

In the meantime, we shall leave you with this little beauty from Harry Thumann. Mr. Thumann's 1982 future-synth smorgasbord 'Andromeda' was unknown to us until quite recently, but believe us when we relate that this beast has to be heard to be believed. Not always for the right reasons, we'll admit.

Right, we're off to hotwire a Commodore 64...

'I can't believe, how you slurred at me/with your half-wired broken jaw'
Jimmy TOTS x

Monday, 5 April 2010

TOTS Blogmix No.1

Jupiter & Beyond The Infinite: A TOTS Mixtape inspired by the infinite cosmos, of spinning endlessly in the void, of the vast unfathomable mysteries of space.
And good music.
Mike TOTS x

Jupiter & Beyond The Infinite by Mike TOTS

Sunday, 28 March 2010

John Hicklenton 1967-2010

I was genuinely saddened to hear of the death of comic artist John Hicklenton after a long struggle with illness.

Hicklenton's work existed right at the polar edges of the kind of stuff that The Galaxy's Greatest Comic would foist upon the young and impressionable. His tortured forms and grotesques an early alarm bell, warning you that what you were reading was formed from the raw, inky matter of The Weird. The dudes work managed to make everyone else's efforts that issue seem distinctly normal and when you consider that he used to share page-count with Heads like Kevin'O'Neill, Simon Bisley and Brendan McCarthy you go some way to understanding just how deeply unsettling his best work was.

His most famous run was on Pat Mills' Nemesis The Warlock, wherein he completely revamped the look and feel of the series. Turning Nemesis into a multi-angled swarm of inks and his enemy Torquemada into a fanatical, muscle-ripped boot-boy. I remember seeing his work for the first time and being petrified of it, as it pulled the rug from under me by exploding the rules of anatomy, turning the protagonists into livid, sweating flesh tornadoes.

Sadly, this ruptured view of the human body was thrown into all-too-sharp focus when he was diagnosed with M.S. in 2000. He leaves behind a phenomenal and inimitable body of work and some well-blown minds. All Hail.


Thursday, 11 March 2010

"Me Guts Are Out!"

Being an appreciation of the works of Neil Marshall

Elevation to the status of Pulp God-head can be a circuitous business. How many films did John Carpenter have to bung out before his gore-hound public could finally turn to each other and say "Y'know what? He's the Maestro. I forgive him for Starman." It's a dangerous path, fraught with money worries, near break-downs, hubristic attempts at "Serious Art" and actors. And what's worse is that having achieved these giddy heights, having crawled your way to the top of the mountain of skulls, your undeserving public can still turn round and rip you from your pedestal if you fail to deliver the squirm. In geek shorthand it's already termed "Doing an Argento" (See also "Argento-ing One Off").

As a result of these horrors, genuine Pulp God-heads are a rare breed so it is gratifying to feel a tingle of excitement that maybe (and I mean Maybe) there is a dude who has his feet on the path; who will go for gory glory; who may live to sip the tears of the afeared from the Chalice of The Infinite Night. You can keep the tiresome buffoonery of Eli Roth, the polished jade rollercoaster that is the 'Art' of J.J. Abrams, I want it served hot, red and stoopid. I want it like this.

Fucking ridiculous.

Dog Soldiers was the first film by Neil Marshall ('cos that's who the big lead up was about. Like you didn't read the title or something?) and was, more importantly to me anyway, the first film I'd seen since I was 12 to have inspired me to play a game of Guns. It's plot is thus: SQUADDIESLOSTINWOODSFIGHTWEREWOLVES. It delivers on this breathless premise with aplomb. And poor jokes. Lots of poor jokes. And did I mention gore? Lots of gore. Yet be not fooled, making films like this 'aint easy. It's never just a question of ingredients. You need wit to keep folks on the side of something palpably ridiculous, and Dog Soldiers is not lacking in wit. It's a Clever Stupid Movie.

Dog Soldiers also has the taste and distinction to star one of the true greats of the British Film Industry. A Titan in the rape fields of indecency: Mr Sean Pertwee. Now Mr Pertwee has his detractors. People who will sink as low as to mention 'Blue Juice' at the merest mention of his name. What these plebeians forget is the sheer hard work Mr Pertwee has put into the cause of Pulp-ology. By the Prophet, the man was in Event Horizon! That earns him a right to drink free in any Harvester restaurant for the rest of his life at least! Not to mention the fun that can be had playing the Sean Pertwee Death Game, in which you guess, to the nearest minute, at what point Mr Pertwee will cop it during any film he features in. Don't worry, even I got it wrong with Equilibrium.

Okay so it was fast, gory ("ME GUTS ARE OUT!"), featured some great lines ("ME GUTS ARE OUT!") and had a bit where a dog started chewing on someones intestine while they was still alive ("ME GUTS ARE OUT!") but it didn't exactly seem like the work of a lasting talent. Post-pub barf fodder full-the fuck-on, yeah, but I wasn't particularly looking forward to seeing a film with Marshall's name on it in the near future. Hell, I wasn't expecting there to be a film with his name on it in the near future. Which made what came next a proper shock.

The Descent knocked everyone on their ass. A near perfect mix of setting, tension and sheer pulp nastiness. I mean, spelunking horror! Why did no one think of that before? As if that shit wasn't terrifying enough already! It shared Dog Soldiers sense of desperation but was slower, infinitely more atmospheric and a lot bloody scarier. It also broke one of horrors major rules, that of having an entire cast of women, not one of them brain dead, showing exactly the same mixture of terror, confusion and bravery as any bunch of movie-blokes ever would and still getting whittled to bloody match wood for their efforts. Add to all that a twist ending that ACTUALLY WORKED, and you had one hell of a knuckle biter. This Marshall chap was obviously one to watch especially when you factored in that he'd conceived and written these two pulp nuggets as well as directing them.

What mainly separates The Descent from its predecessor is its sophistication. not just 'cos it doesn't have any bum jokes in it, but because it knows exactly how to tell its story and never strays into the superfluous. You care about the characters predicament, you want them all to be alive at the end (how many horror films can you say that about?) and you feel every gnawing moment of sharing those caves with something inhuman, breathing in the darkness. Some people disagree when I suggest that it's the best British Horror in twenty years. I think they're wrong.

Then this happened.

Doomsday. Dear God.

Writing coherently about Doomsday is going to take every fibre of my mental being, so in order to delay the agony I'm going to start on a digression. I'm going to tell you about The Caligula Award. The Caligula Award was a special prize for the movie that, irrespective of quality and often outrageously at odds with it, provided the most slack jawed, disbelieving enjoyment of any film in its given year. It would have to be a yuk provider of, well, Caligula-esque crassness. A rolling juggernaut of poor taste. When I tell you that one of the previous winners of the Caligula was Wrong Turn 2, in which Henry Rollins goes apeshit on a bunch of sadistic cannibal inbreds, you'll understand that for the winner it was not enough to be so bad it was good, it had to be so good it was bad.

Shortly after the release of Doomsday the Caligula Awards were discontinued.

You can see why the studio gave Marshall a big budget. He'd a done a popular low budget horror comedy, followed it up by proving that he could make a bloody good straight(ish) fright-fest and was clearly a talent worth watching. However, you'd have thought they would stick the kibosh on any future projects after Marshall rolled into the offices, coked off his nut, waving a fistful of soiled copies of 2000AD above his head and bellowing about making armoured land carriers fight Knights on horseback. For this, surely, is the only way this stunning monument to distaste could have been pitched.

I have tried to explain the greatness of Doomsday to many in the past, unfortunately the truth of the matter can only be understood by initiates. If I list some of the salient memes contained within its buckling exo-skeleton you may begin to gain an inkling of its greatness: killer plagues, big fucking guns, hot female commandos, Scotland, Sean Pertwee, 80s worship, man-eating cults, Fine Young Cannibals, Medieval Knights, Malcolm McDowell (how come he's always in these films?), a Bentley and mayhem. Great globs of mayhem. And did I mention the gore? From the first exploding head (approx. 2 minutes in), which erupts over its surroundings like a mince filled paint bomb, I knew I was in the presence of Pulp greatness. That the film then proceeds to accelerate into insanity at a rate almost exponential means that by the end, when you're watching a car chase across apocalyptic Scotland being sound tracked by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, you've practically stopped noticing and are instead staring at the screen, slack jawed, waiting for, oh I dunno, Peter Sissons to appear with a flamethrower or Rhona Mitra to take on the characteristics of a French market seller. Doomsday pushes pulp innovation into the levels of the surreal. A lot of fatbeards were well upset when Doomsday came out, citing its obvious debt to films like (the massively overrated) Escape From New York, Mad Max 2 and The Warriors as some reason to disparage it. Let me tell you something, dullard, Doomsday does not simply 'borrow' from other films. Doomsday is to plagiarism what Genghis Khan was to neighbourly disputes. Doomsday drives a massive armoured land carrier over its 'influences' causing them to explode like overripe melons, showering pulp in every direction.

Anyway, Doomsday's biggest influence is clearly The Galaxy's Greatest Comic, 2000AD. Whole scenes are lit to make them look like Simon Bisley artwork, genres are skipped with the authority of Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill's Nemesis The Warlock and the film has that same Thrill Power rush that the comic had in its heyday. That magical commitment to entertaining the strides off all in its path through a mixture of talent, insanity and bloody mindedness. Borag Thung, indeed.

Obviously this masterwork set the bar unreasonably high. Who could top that? Jesus, why would anyone want to? Where next? The answer, gloriously, appears to be Rome.

Of course! Rampant masculinity! Bellowed pronouncements! The clash of steel on steel!

Now I must admit that there are elements that worry me about Centurion. Not least of which is its alleged 15 certificate. Will Marshall tone down the splatter to fit within a mid-teen remit? Will the carnage be controlled? Let us hope not. The possibilities for rugged, manly action (not to mention ill-advised imperialist propaganda) are practically limitless. He hasn't put a foot wrong yet, and when he has he's put it so far into the arena of the tasteless it begins to resemble one of Billy Idol's coked up fever dreams. Whatever happens I'll be sitting in row F, guffawing loudly into the gin and tonic I've snuck into the cinema, loving every blood splattered minute and praying that Marshall doesn't drop the Imperial Standard. There aren't enough directors of his stripe out there, who live by the maxim
'Entertain Vel Intereo'! Let us hope that in striving for Pulp God-head he doesn't end up taking a holiday in Argento-tania.