The Prolific Life & Genius of Francis Bebey

Francis Bebey (July 15, 1929-May 28, 2001) was a Cameroonian-born father, musician, artist, filmmaker, author, musicologist, anthropologist and composer. He was born in the city of Douala, where he attended college, played in a band and studied mathematics. Bebey is considered the father of African music, educating inquisitive minds and ears to African culture, musical songs, rhythms, sounds, history and theory. In the mid 1950s he moved to France to study at Sorbonne University. In Paris, Bebey was influenced musically by Spanish guitar player Andres Segovia, who played there often and specialized in concert flamenco and classical guitar. Bebey also loved jazz artists like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, stating he bought Armstrong’s records like he was buying cigarettes. Bebey sang, played Pygmy flute, African sanza thumb piano and guitar in his younger years. In 1960, after attending New York University, Bebey settled in Paris where he worked at various radio stations, broadcasting shows and educating listeners on different forms of African music and culture. He was eventually hired by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to document and research African music. Throughout this time Bebey continued to work on his own music. He eventually left UNESCO to focus on composing, playing and blending Latin American, Western, and Asian influences with African music (Kisliuk, 2003).

Bebey was a multifaceted artist who immersed himself in every aspect of musicology. He went through a “colonialist” period fusing Western technology with African rhythms to promulgate any preconceived notions about African rhythms being “primitive.” To facilitate this he sang traditional African songs and ballads in French, English and Douala. He also yodeled (Kisliuk, 2003). In the 1970s he integrated synthesizers, drum machines, harps, flute, electric keyboards, guitar and electrified sanzas, overdubbing all of the instruments on his albums Fleur Tropicale, La Condition Masculine, Heavy Ghetto, Sanza Nocturne and Un Petit Ivoirien and other releases on his label Ozileka. Ozileka studio was a spare room built onto his apartment where he recorded and released over 20 albums between 1975 and 1997, not counting 12 or more on other labels.

Bebey’s artistic manifesto was spreading information about African music. Throughout his life he was focused on regenerating African art. From an interview with Bebey by Chris May in 1982, Bebey wrote, “Many of the foreign influences that have penetrated Africa will be incorporated into a new form of black African art. This form of initiation may be deplored by those with deep-seated conservative or racist tendencies, but far from resulting in a bastardised and damaging modernism, we believe this mutation will breathe new life into African art and will demonstrate the triumph of humanism and universality over esoteric sterility….It is imperative that the future of African music be based on the idea of development and not merely upon preservation.” Focusing on preservation would be tokenizing African music much like exhibiting pieces in a museum, concluded Bebey (The Vinyl Factory, 2018). The “world music” movement hounded Bebey for much of his career. He challenged colonialist views about African musics’ “authenticity” perpetrated upon African music from audiences who are Western. Many Western audiences questioned “foreign” influences in African music, implying racist beliefs that African music cannot modernize without changing qualities. This inspired President Sekou Toure in independent Guinea, and other post-colonial African countries later, to support traditional African arts while also embracing avant garde creativity and experimentation (May, 2018). Bebey coined a term “amaya” in English, which stood for “African modern and yet authentic” as an umbrella descriptor to explain his work (Winders, 2006).

As an example of Bebey’s modernization of African music, Bebey yodeled in Pygmy vocal style, refashioning Western style song structure. From his book, African Music: A People’s Art, Bebey explains how the human voice is the most widely used instrument by Africans. Voice is used by Africans in differing nuances, such as manipulating appendages to produce modulating timbres similar to yodelling. Like a modulator, voices can be reconstituted by pinching the nose, fluctuating the tongue, plugging the ears, or singing through a repository. Bebey asserted that the West’s definition of a “beautiful singing voice” is a subjective notion that applies to the standards of melodic pitch, perfection and purity in tone, all based on Western criteria. A “beautiful” African voice, according to these criteria, could be a tonal accident in traditional African music. Music in Africa is used every day to delegate life, nature, beliefs and rituals where the context of “beauty” is secondary in maintaining a constant purpose. African life requires musical adaptation, preserving a collective aspect where no one is ruled out as being a “bad singer.” Anyone who has the urge to sing or make their voice heard have the liberty to do so, and singing is not a grandiose or beautiful affair. Africans use musical affirmations to fill conversations when retelling indiscreet affairs with a husky voice, or using a mocking tone to produce a satirical account of a circumstance. It gives people a rite to preach, pray, validate, settle affairs, and execute their actions in pronounced verbalizations. Voice is a common language that all African ethnic groups can understand to reframe life banality with philosophic wisdom (Bebey, 1969).

Bebey’s song “Divorce Pygmee” exemplifies his feelings about African voice as an instrument. Translating the song in English from French, Bebey is singing about a failed Pygmy marriage; or more specifically, a wife’s treatment from the husband’s standpoint, where she is asking for a divorce. He sings, she does not tell him nice things anymore, after everything he has done for her to change her from a thin “small leaf” into a beautiful “fat” woman (being a thin woman is considered less attractive by African standards). Bebey yodels after each song segment which adds a satirical inflection on the catastrophic circumstance of divorce. In addition to entertaining, he is also educating listeners about the process of marriage in African communities, where giving gifts such as elephant tusks to the bride’s parents is ceremonial in Pygmy culture, much like a dowry, mirroring marriage ceremonies in Asian cultures.

Bebey was an experimental African music visionary, ranking with legends such as Fela Kuti, Manu Dibango, Franco, William Onyeabor, and Odion Iruoje. Like Bebey, Iruoje believes that Africans should be proud of their musical innovations and aimed to integrate these sounds into his production and arrangement for EMI Nigeria throughout the 70s and 80s. He is currently reissuing some of these records with deejay Temitope Kogbe on their reissue label, Odion Livingstone. Given the global north’s colonialist history of unauthorized bootlegging of African records, it is important to see a Lagos-based label taking ownership of what is theirs.

Photo courtesy of Pierre Rene Worms

Bebey was prolific, releasing 25 albums, authoring 9 books, radio broadcasting, lecturing about musicology and African culture, plus performing his music globally. His albums have been compiled by numerous labels, highlighting different periods of his career. John Williams composed a tribute piece honoring Bebey, named “Hello Francis.” The piece is based on the Makossa dance rhythm from Cameroon documented and performed by Bebey and other African musicians. Arcade Fire also has paid tribute to him through their song, “Everything Now” which includes the flute melody from Bebey’s “The Coffee Cola Song” played by his son, Patrick. Bebey passed away on May 28, 2001 and is survived by his wife, a daughter, and two sons: Toups (saxophonist) and Patrick (keyboardist) Bebey who continue his father’s legacy of “amaya.”

References

Bebey, F. (1969) African Music: A People’s Art.

Kisliuk, M. (2003). The Pygmy: Hunter, Gatherer, Survivor, and Yodeler: The yodeling and hocketing of Pygmy singing has served as an icon of social and musical utopia. In Platenga, B., Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World, chapter 6 (pp. 137-149). Routledge, New York, NY.

May, C. Cameroonian trailblazer Francis Bebey https://thevinylfactory.com/features/electric-futurism-francis-bebey/

Winders, J. (2007). Paris Africain: Rhythms of the African Diaspora. Palgrave MacMillan, New York, NY.

Written by Karen Lee (Weekend Family Music Hour)

 

 

 

 

Love of Music

As I look back into the railroad tunnel of my past, I can not recall ever not loving music. But logic suggests that this must not be true, or at the least of it, music must have been difficult to come by, considering the manner in which I was raised.

Neither of my parents were musicians. Neither of my parents were singers. Neither of my parents purchased or collected records with any regularity.

The music of my youth came from the radio. And the only radio I can recall would have been in the car that my parents drove. They probably had several cars, and I have no memory about their details, their wheels, interiors, or headlights. Transitions were the only constant. As a family we had several homes. We were always renting, and during my elementary school years, we seemed to move every year. I changed schools at least 4 times between kindergarten and fifth grade. Nothing was ever the same.

Would the radio have been a source of my some grounding then? Music might have been something I could claim as my own. Neither of my parents were too concerned or seemed to ever notice songs as they were broadcast from the tinny dashboard speaker of their AM radio. Neither of them reached out to the volume knob to turn it up, should a favorite song come on. I don’t believe either of them ever had a favorite song.

Although later in life would find this to be untrue. My Dad once told me that he liked Creedence Clearwater Revival, and that he had seen Ike & Tina Turner perform. The details behind these admissions do not exist for me. Our lost conversations leave me with a vague voice in my head, his few words reciting over and over.

I do however recall a brief moment in which my Dad remarked to my Mom that I knew all the words to songs on the radio. I must have been in the backseat, mumbling and singing along. I wasn’t impressed by my Dad’s realization, as song lyrics tended to rhyme, and it was often easy to figure out the next line.

Life moves forward in a way that does not often lend itself to perfectly encapsulated polaroid moments. Memory is a function of associations. The five senses working in tandem. And with myself, music is a doorbell by which those gates open.

My first memories of records around the house are after my parents divorced. My family consisted of my Mom and Brother, a friend of my Mom’s from work, and her daughter. There was always change. Rooms changed. Houses changed. My route to walk home from the school bus changed. But the few records in our living room seemed to be the same. There was a copy of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon,” a live album by Black Oak Arkansas, The Greatest Hits album by Simon & Garfunkel, and “Of Cabbages & Kings” by Chad & Jeremy. These records had been garnered from Record Club mail order offerings. They were the records I would play often and with which I became quite familiar.

The constant change in my life may have made me socially awkward. I spent a lot of my time alone. Listening to music. Drawing pictures. Making my own comic books. I barely remember playing outside.

As a teenager, I became aware of Rolling Stone magazine. By going through its pages, I discovered new music, and in that discovery, found a better version of myself. I began to seek out music, rather than settle for songs as they spilled out of the radio.

I dug into Devo & The Doors. I perused record stores. I learned about musicians, bands, producers, and people who master records. I made choices on future purchases based on what I had read in reviews or interviews with bands, and also what I had gleaned from records that I owned.

A daisy chain then: U2 to Tom Verlaine, Television to R.E.M., The Velvet Underground to Patti Smith, Echo & The Bunnymen to The Sound, and so on.

Nothing made me happier than breaking the plastic wrap on a new record with my fingernail, hearing the cover creak as I pulled out the record, placing the needle down to hear that first rush of new sound. The energy in such an act was palpable. I was addicted and remained so for many years.

Music was the subject of or the underlying subject of every conversation I had. I made jokes, puns, and connections to lines of conversation based on recalled bits of song lyrics. I learned about politics, geography, religion, and all subjects in general from song lyrics. Music provided a wealth of knowledge that was rarely discussed or reviewed.

In the context of certain situations then, I would have appeared perfectly normal, an adult male, amongst other adult males and females, interacting and acting friendly. But outside of my peer group, I felt nothing but socially awkward, and rather than stepping forward into the situation, I would retreat to silence. More often than not, at a party for instance, moving to a room that contained the comfort of books or records.

The addiction remains, with softer edges now. As I mentioned in a prior blog piece, my music collection is digital now. I no longer have a room overflowing with records and cd’s. Instead I have a virtual ever-expanding space from which I draw certain designated songs and albums to be included on my iPod. A device that never leaves my side, to which I am plugged into close to ten hours a day, five days a week.

I often walk under starlit skies with a song in my ears. And when I am sure I am alone and unobserved, I raise my arms up as the music reaches a crescendo, the physical result of a churning joy in my heart and body. It’s this embrace of music that I love most of all.

Noah Fence hosts It’s a Nice World To Visit – Punk, Post-Punk, Garage Rock, Psych…A mix of new tracks and old favorites. On Freeform Portland Radio.

Lost Ladies of Country #1: “Mistress” Mary Afton

Fans of country-rock won’t be strangers to Clarence White’s name. In addition to earning the distinction of second longest-serving member of the Byrds – just after Roger McGuinn – White’s driving guitar and mandolin graced dozens of essential ‘60s and ‘70s albums. He can be heard alongside everyone from Lee Hazlewood to Linda Ronstadt to Phil Ochs to the Everly Brothers, often wielding the Telecaster he modified with a mechanism designed to simulate the sound of a pedal steel.

But the strangest credit on his extensive discography is a 1969 private press LP called Housewife, written and recorded by unknown artist Mary Afton. Performing as “Mistress Mary,” Afton appears on the album cover in languid Old Hollywood pose, with handwritten liner notes that label her music as “country-western, some soft-soul, some whatever.” How Afton got one of the greatest session guitarists of all time to play lead on her first and only record remains a mystery – but the quality of White’s playing elevates each unconventionally sexy, often drily funny song and makes Housewife rise above other private press recordings of the era.

“And I Didn’t Want You” is the standout track, although “The Bible Says,” “Praise Me A Little Bit” and “Dirt Will Be Yer Name” hold up well and capture Afton’s wry tone and unconventional vocal stylings. It’s a debut that showcases a distinctive artistic vision, and you can easily imagine Afton evolving in a way that would have earned her a more recognized place in the LA country-folk canon. Instead, she walked away from the music industry after Housewife to teach car mechanics, self-defense and belly dance classes for women before making a successful living as a disco dance instructor.

Housewife surfaces occasionally on Discogs for $200-$300 – it’s hard to say if any of those copies are the one Afton sent Elvis personally.  For those of us on a more limited budget, Light In The Attic reissued the record in 2016 after the Numero Group included “And I Didn’t Want You” on their compilation of private press country recordings, Wayfaring Strangers: Cosmic American Music.

Afton’s liner notes identify her as a “wife – mother – civic leader – etc. – artiste” (with accompanying glamour shots), but Mistress Mary can be remembered a songwriter above all. Whether Housewife would have its cult status without Clarence White’s involvement is debatable, but fans of freak folk, Americana and Laurel Canyon will do well to give it a spin.

Rachel Good is a Portland writer, singer and DJ. As DJ Stonebunny, she can be heard on Freeform Portland every other Saturday from 6-8pm with “High Rollers in Sin City,” an exploration of weird psychedelic country and folk from the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Portland Musicians Corner with DJ Sonic Szilvi – Interview with Ender Raine

Ender Raine is a local multi-instrumentalist with witty, cynical lyrics covering a broad spectrum of life as a human. Musically, he fits best into the indie piano pop side of things with a Ben Folds influence. His music can get one through various moods and emotions, often with just one song.

Sonic Szilvi: Ok I have to start with the video “Strawberry Shortcake.” I need to know how that came to be a song? What exactly prompted you to do that song? Tell me about the video shoot too, it looks like it was a lot of fun!

A: When I wrote “Strawberry Shortcake,” I was starting a new band and it was just me and my drummer, Michele. Although we had a lot of fun messing around with rhythms and grooves, we didn’t really have any fully formed songs yet, so I needed something I could lock into her style with. Michele had worked at a Tower Records growing up so she had this really rich background of sixties, seventies, and eighties music that I wanted to tap into, and I’d been listening to a lot of The B-52s, with their fun, sexy boy-girl vibe. So I took that idea, spun it a bit more noir, and out came this unstoppable call-and-response rock song that was either about blood or food or sex, depending on how the listener felt.

The video shoot took place over three weekends with the help of my incredible wife, Katelyn who carted me from place to place all over Portland to shoot the little three-second clips the video is partly comprised of. I wanted to show off Portland, the cool fabric of this place, and the art that’s woven right into the city. For the narrative segment, I had my friend Shannon Brinkley play the Strawberry Shortcake character to help portray this sexy heroine that refuses to be stuck in a relationship that was going to hell in the mind of the guy (played by myself). Shannon did an incredible job. She also helped me write the storyboard. The video was shot on a budget of about $200 including the extra large Slurpee that was poured over my head.

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Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo- Black Screen Images and the (e)motive Notion of Freakiness: Vaginal Davis Lectures at Time Based Art Festival 2018

PICA’s Time Based Art Festival (TBA) 2018 had the privilege to host a lecture by the multifaceted artist Vaginal Davis. Davis is a black punk feminist evocative innovator and teacher who specializes in terrorist drag. She is biracial, intersex and from South Central Los Angeles, and was raised in a matriarchal household. She does not have a license to drive; she is a performance artist, visual artist, musician, producer, director, social antagonist and author who helped pioneer and mother the homo-core punk and gender-queer arts movements. She is the writer and publisher of zines: Shrimp which focuses on licking bigger and better feet, plus Fertile Latoya Jackson with tips on makeup plus stories with scandal and gossip. Her bands include Pedro Muriel and Esther, Cholita!, Black Fag, The Afro Sisters and The Female Menudo.

Davis has labeled herself as “sexual repulsive,” refusing to conform to conservative assimilation tactics imposed by corporate gay culture. She has made her own biography within gay and black identity politics, barreling through stereotypes and challenging heteronormative and LGBTQIA+ binaries. By using punk music, self-mockery, inciting sexual revolutions in art and film, Davis rails against assumptions that inhabit heterosexual and queer culture plus her own Black and Hispanic identities. Davis is an instigator in keeping an open running narrative against propagating appeasement and appropriation by the mainstream over individuals’ rights to their own freakiness (Johnson, 2017).

Vaginal Davis & Bruce LaBruce – photo courtesy of we are flagrant

At PICA, Davis presented some of her short films mentioned below. She provided commentary to enable better understanding behind the processes that inspire her art. Her films are politically, ironically and truthfully grounded in the experience of lived individual oppression/s endured by herself and gender-queer community, which protests the established institutions behind race, gender and sociocultural politics. She has inspired filmmakers Bruce LaBruce and Woody Allen; late queer theorist Jose Esteban Munoz; and had a lesbian love affair with Gwyneth Paltrow before Paltrow married that guy in Coldplay. Davis attributes her name from being inspired by activist Angela Davis and being the first person in her family to graduate college. In college, Davis studied Angela Davis and the Black Panther Party which inspired her militant counteridentification within the dominant culture. In the 1980’s she enacted her first performance with two white women with afro wigs named the Afro Sisters. The performance “We’re Taking Over” focuses on the Sexualese Liberation Front who kidnaps the white corporate leaders of America so they can assault them anally with black dildos and hold them for ransom. Many audiences in L.A who frequented the clubs where she performed were middle-class postpunk crowds and they were not privy to the camp element of Davis’ performance art. Audiences were often offended which had no effect on Davis at all.

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Hayao Miyazaki’s Music & Message Behind His Movies

On our radio show, Weekend Family Music Hour on Freeform Portland, we played some soundtracks from our favorite Studio Ghibli films. Many Studio Ghibli films are scored and composed by Joe Hisaishi. There are also songs by Asian singers and songs sung in Japanese. He blends many music styles including Japanese classical and electronic synthesizer. Hearing Hisaishi’s music in Miyazaki’s films is exciting, especially in scenes where there is conflict and hope.

Hayao Miyazaki is an amazing filmmaker and producer who founded the Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki is the creator of animated films such as, My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Howl’s Moving Castle and more. One common thing Miyazaki does in his films is he bases them off of real life scenarios, like mental health challenges and the destruction of the environment.

One of my favorite films is When Marnie Was There (2014). Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi and animated by Studio Ghibli, the movie is about a foster child who is suffering from depression. She becomes friends with an uplifting ghost who is somehow related to her. When Marnie Was There focuses on foster children. Foster children are at risk for suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. Each year 44,965 Americans die of suicide, averaging 123 suicides per day. Suicide is very common among teenagers (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). Major depression is one of the most common mental illness in the U.S. Each week almost 60,000 children are reported for abuse, with nearly 900,000 confirmed victims of abuse in 2004.  About 520,000 are up in foster care each year. (ABC news).

Studio Ghibli also made a film called Pompoko (1994). Directed by Isao Takahata, the film is about shapeshifting racoons whose forest is being destroyed and replaced by buildings. There is a war between racoons and humans that shows how fragile humanity can be when humans decide to consume and abuse our natural world. The animals and earth will fight back. Pompoko makes me think humans are continuing to destroy forest to build new things, leaving animals without a home. Animals are being killed and human population is increasing rapidly, unlike animal populations, which are decreasing at high rates. Global warming is also affecting ecosystems because ecosystems have to adapt to climate change which kills animals and plants.

Another environmental film from Studio Ghibli is Ponyo (2008). Directed by Miyazaki, the film is about a fish who shapeshifts into a little girl after she tastes human blood. The ocean is being polluted by humans and Ponyo’s home is being destroyed. Thinking about Ponyo, I know most ocean pollution starts on land. Pollution is caused by factory chemicals making greenhouse gasses from cars, buses, trucks, tanks and more. Pollution such as human waste, wildfires, volcanoes and trash causes global warming and destroys ecosystems. Soon there will be more trash in the ocean than fish.

Written by Opal Lee Green (DJ Bubble Tea), Weekend Family Music Hour

Noah Fence Interviews Martin Bramah from Blue Orchids

The band, Blue Orchids, has a new album “Righteous Harmony Fistwhich will be released on October 19th on Tiny Global Productions. 

Martin Bramah, who has been fronting the band since 1982 agreed to do an interview with me via email, as it was not possible for the two of us to be in the same room together.

Enjoy!

N.F. – Congratulations on the new album, “Righteous Harmony Fist“. I have been listening to the album for a few weeks now, and it sounds like a triumph. Can you tell me about the recording of the album, was it a simple process?

M.B. – Thank you. It was pretty straight forward, yes. I like to work fairly quickly with the band recording the backing tracks playing together live in studio with no ‘click track,’ then adding vocals and any other essentials as overdubs – classic Tony Visconti style. He remains a big influence on my approach to recording.

N.F. – A few of my favorite songs from the new album are “The Art of Falling,” “In the Acid Garden,” & “Get Bramah”. Lyrically they seem very personal, yet induced with humor and a bit of surrealism. Can you speak about your writing process? 

M.B. – My writing is very personal to me in the sense that it’s like keeping a lucid dream diary; humor and surrealism play a part, and my real life experience is scattered about throughout and reflected back in kaleidoscopic mirrors.

On the other hand, I’m writing for an audience not just for myself; so in that sense not personal.

N.F. – The Blue Orchids have been a going concern for some time, although there was a bit of gap there, from sometime in the 90’s, to 2008 when you released a solo album, “The Battle of twisted heel”. What were you doing when not recording and releasing music?

M.B. – First of all, don’t forget Blue Orchids 2003 album ‘Mystic Bud’ – but yes, there was a lull between the mid 1990s and my return to the stage in 2008.

Basically, I started to question why I was making music and what my relationship with the music business was. This ball had been rolling since I’d started The Fall in early ’77 and I needed to reassess my position and decided to jump off the merry go round and dive into ‘real life’. I moved to London (being from Manchester originally) and worked a series of blue collar jobs: bus driver, delivery driver, warehouse hand, record store staff, etc. I also took up training in the Japanese art of Aikido, which took up a lot of my time and eventually attained black belt. Normal stuff like that.

I never stopped playing music though – I just made it for my own pleasure.

N.F. – Following the Solo album, you formed the band “Factory Star” which I quite enjoyed. Did “Factory star” genuinely end. or did the band just somehow just become “The Blue Orchids”?

M.B. – Yes, we basically just morphed back into Blue Orchids. The marketplace demands that Blue Orchids is a stronger brand than Factory Star and will not indulge the high minded whims of artists.

Plus, Factory Star was all about my return to Manchester, and I’ve moved on again now and am living by the sea in Wales. I guess I’m just destined to be a Blue Orchid.

N.F. – It seems to my ears that all of the bands with which you have been involved, there has been a basic and very effective instrumental set up. There always seems to be guitars, complimented by keyboards, and vice versa, Does that stem from an influence of 60’s garage rock music? If so, can you tell me about a few of your favorite 60’s garage rock songs?

M.B. – Yes, I am drawn to the guitar/keyboard combo. Keyboards add color to the guitars’ edginess, which I find pleasing.

60s garage is a big influence. It all started for me with the first Stooges album ‘The Stooges’. You can take any song from that album as a classic. Also…

The Seeds – Flower Lady And Her Assistant

Pilgrimage – Bad Apple

The Calico Wall – I’m A Living Sickness

Art Guy – Where You Gonna Go

Gary Scruggs – Gentle When You Say The Word

Savages – The World Ain’t Round It’s Square

Oh boy, there are just too many to choose from. Those are a few I’ve been listening to lately.

N.F. – Obviously I have no idea when you started to play guitar, but I do know that you were the original guitarist for the Fall, starting in 1976. Being the first guitarist in The Fall, you set a blueprint for all of the guitarists that followed you. The Fall is obviously one of the greatest bands to have come out of England, and sadly with the passing of Mark E. Smith, their legacy is a closed book. Are you proud of the work you did with the Fall?

M.B. – Proud? Well pride comes before the Fall.

But yes, of the original members, I put the most thought and effort into creating the Fall sound template and I’m happy to be able to say that.

I first picked up a guitar in my early teens and taught myself a few blues standards like ‘Big Boss Man,’ ‘Don’t Start Me Talkin,’ ‘Boogie Chillen,’ and it seemed natural to write original songs from those few chords and licks – turning them on their heads and stripping them down and getting to the root of what made them tick.

N.F. – The Punk and Post-Punk era was an explosion of music, there were so many records released, and in among those records there were a number of signature musicians with great guitar sounds, for instance, John McGeoch of Magazine, Andy Gill of Gang Of Four, Rob Symmons of Subway Sect…and I would definitely rate your work with the Fall, Factory Star and The Blue Orchids as I do the work of those I mentioned. Can you speak about how you arrived at your sound, and some of the guitarists that influenced you?

M.B.- My original sound came from a Fender Stratocaster  plugged into a Selmer 50 Treble & Bass tube amp – with the bass turned all the way down and the treble turned all the way up!

Some of the guitarists that influenced me are: Buddy Holly, John Lee Hooker, Link Wray, Brian Jones, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, Sterling Morrison, Johnny Thunders, James Williamson, Robert Quine, Tom Verlaine & Richard Lloyd, but so many others too.

N.F. –The first album by The Blue Orchids “The Greatest Hit (Money Mountain)” came out in 1982, given the albums garage rock / psychedelic sound was the group lumped in the “new psychedelic” sound from Liverpool (Echo & The Bunnymen & The Teardrop Explodes) by Critics? Or how was the record received by critics and fans?

M.B. –Critics said we were new wave/retro… they couldn’t decide whether we were throwbacks to Dylan, Velvets, Doors or cutting edge neo-psych. The jury is still out on that.

To some extent we were compared to The Bunnymen and Teardrop Explodes as we were all friends and playing the same clubs. The same goes for the Postcard Records bands from Scotland. We also got lumped in with the early New Romantic scene when it was still an underground thing.

N.F. –For a time after the release of the first Blue Orchids album, the band worked with Nico, who was living in Manchester at that time. Are there any recordings hidden away from that time period that see the light of day?

M.B.-Unfortunately not. There is some live bootleg stuff – but we never set foot in a recording studio with Nico. In those days making a record was expensive and you were always waiting for a label to offer you a record deal – at that point in time no one was offering Nico a record deal. Hard to believe but true.

N.F. – The band the Crystal Stilts covered a song by The Blue Orchids, “Low Profile” on their “Radiant Door” EP. Did you know in advance that they were going to cover your song? Does a band have to ask permission? And finally, what is your opinion of their rendition of your song?

M.B. – No, I didn’t know in advance. I found out like everybody else when the record came out. I was thrilled as I was already a big Crystal Stilts fan by then and it sounded great. I really like their nod to Nico’s Indian pump organ sound that they used in the intro. And so no, they obviously didn’t ask my permission – I don’t think you need to – and I never have anyway.

N.F. – I noticed that the label that has released your album, Tiny Global Productions, is being distributed in the U.S. by Forced Exposure. How important or effective is distribution like that, in light of the fact that bands and label have access to the internet and sites such as Bandcamp to promote direct sales?

M.B. – It all helps to get the albums out there. Some people like to order from their local record store or just walk in and browse the racks. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to find our music in the most convenient way for them.

N.F.  – With the release of the new album, The Blue Orchids seem to fairly busy touring in the U.K. Any chance the band will ever visit the United States? I have never seen the band and would love to do so.

M.B. – We would love to play in the USA. However, current US policy on aliens obtaining a work permit makes it prohibitive; the cost of a work permit for the band means we would have to sell a lot of records in America before we could take the financial chance of touring. But no one knows what the future holds.

N.F. – Finally, I have read a rumor that the band is already hard at work on new songs with plans for a new album coming soon, perhaps next year. Any truth to these rumors?

M.B. –  Yes, we are halfway through recording a new collection of songs; something of a tribute: ‘Ut Americae Septentrionalis’ you might say.

And that is all I will say at the moment. 

Noah Fence hosts It’s a Nice World To Visit – Punk, Post-Punk, Garage Rock, Psych…A mix of new tracks and old favorites. On Freeform Portland Radio.