- This Is A Test (0:46)
- An Appeal To Reason (2:12)
- Enough Is Enough (13:40)
- Fretful (3:33)
- Stop and Think Shit Heads (9:15)
- Sinister (9:25)
John Clement: Guitar
Greg Curnoe: Kazoo & Drums
Bill Exley: Vocals
Murray Favro: Guitar & Drums
Hugh McIntyre: Bass
Art Pratten: Pratt-a-various
Recorded live at Forest City Gallery London, Canada on Dec. 27, 28 1984 Jan. 3, 1985
Greg Curnoe : Producer/ Engineer
A Warren Pratten : Assistant Producer/ Engineer
Greg Curnoe : Front Cover Design
John Boyle : Back Cover Design
Art Pratten : Graphic Production
Bill had been in good from tonight before a very enthusiastic audience of young London second generation nihilists and their punkish friends. Audiences excite Bill. Once he trust his finger down his throat and vomited on the recording studio microphon. Once he removed his shoes and socks and laughed hysterically as his wife and friends tickled his feet. Tonight he performed behind the heavy black baffle curtains of the Forest City Gallery claiming he's at his best when unobserved. Unseen he sang and moaned as the band committed its violence among presious pieces of sculpture devoid of interest insisting on their space on the maple floor under the demented gaze of the artist in rubber booths, among the bounding and bowling punkers in this strange and complete little city in southwestern Ontario.
The noises of the night still ringing in their ears the crowd issued onto Dundas Street where law and order reign, where the sound of singing warns of danger, Laughter portends trouble, where police vehicles just back from artillery training in Alabama outnumber civilian traffic. We talked of building a curtained stall for Bill for use in future concerts. It would be just like singing in the shower at home. We walked around the corner to Mario's Restaurant on Clarence Street where we've been going as a group for twenty years. No hails of welcome greeted us as we enertered the gaudily decorated Greco-Italian restaurant, no smiles of recognition. Instead we were made to sit at small separate tables and lied to about reservations for larger empty tables and policies forbidding the pulling together of smaller ones. Most of us shock our bowed heads, as one must learn to do in this province of caution and reguralions, and muttered into our bland warmed-over pizza. Bill however trembled with rage and left hurling imprecations and threats.
That's how it is in this bilge tank of American effluvia, this timorous and beautiful land of mediocrity and self doubt, where we constantly ridicule and excuse ourselves in the same breath, as though we were umprecated observers in our country. Rules are made to be obeyed. The customer is always wrong. The only enduring thing about the best and most original art in Canada is its ephemerality, because it invariably breaks rules which must be obeyed and is therefore rejected by the customer, who is always wrong. It dies with the artist and is forgotten forever.
Not so with the Nihilist Spasm Band. We have endured for twenty years and learned to love rejection. And we have multipled. Teen-aged sons and doughters are currently being educated to carry on our noise research and follow it where it leads. What rules have inadvertently evolved over the years have been broken and smashed again and again, and with Canadians for custmer, we know they could't possibly be right.
The nature of the band's instruments has always fascinated audiences. The first ones were simple twenty-five cent Kazoos. bought because they appeared to be red and black, the colours of the anarchists (In fact they were red and navy blue), and used by a group of friends to make the sound track for a film by Greg Cornice. Inspired by the examples of black American traditional musicians like Tampa Red and by New Orleans street jazz bands known as spasm bands whose players made their own instruments, the kazoos were amplified by soldering on klaxon horns front and top, and extended by adding lengths of tubing. Megaphones were built for Bill Exley the singer, a gut bucket became Hugh McIntyre's first bass, various found drums were put in working order and played alternately by Curnoe and Murray Faces, and former member Archie Leach invented a marvelous slide clarinet. It was when guitars were introduced by Murray Favro that electronic application appeared. Then all the order instruments went electric in order to be heard. At this time the Kazoos recorded into the background as they could never equal the efficiency of the stringed instruments. In recent years some of the band members, notably Curnoe, Favro and Art Pratten have become increasingly interested in electric gatgetry to alter the timble and tone of their contrivances to the point where Curnoe's Kazoo is virtually unrecognizable as a kazoo (It sounds more like a short wave radio), and Pratten's violin has been sonicly transmuted into pulsating electric gold. The introduction of each new gismo has generated tensions within the band of course, but we seem to thrive on strife. Commercially manufactured guitars have begun to appear of late as well. One wonders if we will live long enough to evolve into a conventional band of musicians.
And that brings us to the music, or noise assemlages. One can buy instruments and machines but one can buy ability to play them. It would require a thousand generations of nihilists to re-invent music. There we casnnot undo ourselves no matter how great our efforts, for most of us are more or less tone deaf, without a sense of rhythm and musically illiterate. And we are not entertainers.
From the very first squawks on the Kazoos the fierce creativity of the individuals in the circle of artists, writers and intellectuals prevented them from being imitative of traditional forms of music. More importantly we were prevented from playing the kind of indigenous folk music that might inspire a similar group of people in any other country in the world, for here all traces of home grown cultural expression are expunged by the great American washing machine. No one knows anything but the top forty from the American hit parade, and in this case, Lucille picked the right time to leave us. We had to imoprovise our history as we went along. Naturally we were influenced considerably by black new music from the United States--, Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, Pharoh Saunders. But All of the members did not move in any given direction in concert. Exley, for exsmple, had little interest in Jazz, preferring Alfred Deller and Gilbert and Sullivan, and their influence is detectable in his songs and technique. Presently some of the group under the influence perhaps of their teenaged children, are interested in contemprary rock music, and a hard electric swing can be heard in their emanations. But adolescent wailings hold little interest for me these days. Fortunately no individual or subgroup can successfully manipulate the entire band for any length of time. Most importantly, I think, all of us are true South-Western Ontario Canadians. This means we are unable to accept, to have true confidence in anything we recognize as our own. Yet because we are artists we cannot simply copy the music of others. Therefore we are driven by the nihilistic compulsion to demolish and destroy all information, and to assemble the rubble into structures unnecgnizable even to ourselves. We are repulsed by the familiar. And it is this basic revulsion for our music, for ourselves and for our audience that impels us to surge onward in a permanent state of flux. But structures they remain, recognizable or not, and evolution is slow. In whole or in various parts the band has played at least once a week, year in and year out, for twenty years. The patterns we weave are a language that speaks of our specific humanity with a certain force and beauty. We have little patience with those who will not undestand.
All of the pieces on this our third album were recorded during a series of three concerts at the Forest City Gallery, An artist-run centre in London, Canada. We plant them in the garden of your mind like a bomb.
John B. Boyle Elsinore
¬x~x=x : the unique object not idential with itself. This concept of an impossible object was introduced by Gottlob Frege, an eminent German logician, to designate something arbitrary for improper descriptions to refer to.
Dr. William Harper
- This Is A Test
- An Appeal To Reason
- Enough Is Enough
- Stop and Think Shit Heads
- This Is A Test
- An Appeal To Reason
- Enough Is Enough
- Stop and Think Shit Heads