Think of radio plays, and you most likely think (or I most likely think) of the form's American "golden age" in the first half of the 20th century. That time and place in radio drama conjures up a certain more or less defined set of sensibilities: rocketships hurtling toward unknown worlds, hard-bitten detectives sticking to their cases, suburban couples bickering about the behavior of their jalopy-driving children. By the 1950s, the conventions of radio plays had ossified too much even for old-time radio audiences. Who best to call to tear up the form and start it over again? Why, Samuel Beckett, of course.
"In 1955 the BBC, intrigued by the international attention being given to the Paris production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (see a version here), invited the author to write a radio play," says the short history provided in the program of the Beckett festival of Radio Plays. Though hesitant, Beckett nevertheless wrote the following to a friend: "Never thought about radio play technique but in the dead of t’other night got a nice gruesome idea full of cartwheels and dragging of feet and puffing and panting which may or may not lead to something.'" That "gruesome idea" led, according to the program, not just to Beckett's 1956 radio-play debut All That Fall, but four more to follow over the next twenty years.
Christopher David is a musician from Florida who has performed in various punk and hardcore bands throughout the past fifteen years. On top of this, he’s recorded solo music under the names City Medicine, Chris Donaldson, and Christopher David. His works under the Christopher David moniker are all self-released, limited-run CD-Rs that feature the sort of quiet music that Joshua Minsoo Kim refers to as “non-music,” which was discussed in The Wire (Issue 431) and in the first issue of Tone Glow. Joshua Minsoo Kim and Christopher David talked on the phone on July 31st to discuss his works under this name, his record labels Hologram and Drugged Conscience, his work as a nanny, and more.
What was it like being a nanny for the same group of kids for an extended number of years?
It was pretty crazy because my wife had worked for them for four years before that and it was seven for me, so I’ve been with the little girl since she was eight months old.
Oh, your wife was a nanny as well?
Yeah, just for a handful of families before that. She’s the one who got me into nannying—she said I should try it—and I ended up working for this family while she wanted to become an RN. I said, “These guys are gonna die when you leave, why don’t I just take over since I’ve had some nannying experience.”
It’s really intimate because you feel obligated to care for these kids as if they were your own, but you’re also an employee so you’re stuck in this position where you want to keep your job so you do exactly what the parents say. There’s this nagging feeling of knowing what’s right for them because you’re around them a lot more than the parents. It’s a really fucked up dynamic. I’m hoping I don’t have to do that again when it’s all over (laughter). It’s really personal, there’s no clocking in. And those kids are on my mind every day, even now.
Is there a specific time you remember aside from all this stuff with COVID where you wanted to do something for these kids that the parents disagreed with?
Yeah, these parents were really into the whole helicopter parenting thing. The day was just shot, man. I’d get there at 6 in the morning, get them ready for school, pick them up at 2, shuffle them around the city from 2:30 to 7 at night between piano and karate lessons and tutoring and all this shit. The kids never got to just be kids and, at some point, not having a personality or being alone with yourself is gonna affect you more than the education you have.
These kids never know how to spend their free time—they’re used to having something put in front of their face 24/7. You couldn’t put them out in the yard and let them dig a hole and pretend that the princess was there or something (laughter), they didn’t have that creative spark that boredom forces you to have. To their detriment, we’ve learned a lot about what we want to do with our kid.
Duma is a grindcore duo from Kenya made up of Martin Khanja aka Lord Spike Heart (vocals) and Sam Karuga (production, guitar). While both have been part of the country’s metal scene for years, their upcoming self-titled debut on Nyege Nyege Tapes places their music in both the metal world and the cacophonous electronic music being churned out by labels like SVBKVLT. Joshua Minsoo Kim called Duma via WhatsApp on July 24th to discuss their new album, the Kenyan metal scene, their mentors, and more.
Joshua Minsoo Kim: Hello Hello!
Martin Khanja: Hello it’s Martin here!
Sam Karugu: And I’m Sam!
I’ve been telling a ton of people about the album, it’s great, thanks so much.
Sam Karugu & Martin Khanja: Thanks for listening!
How did you both get into music?
Sam Karugu: For me, I used to go to a lot of shows—metal shows, classical music shows, whatever—just to listen to music. When I got into the metal scene I saw that anyone could do it, you just buy a guitar and start playing. I loved it and it was like, “Yo, this is something I wanna do.” The first instrument I got was a laptop, I had FruityLoops and started messing with it. Then I got some shitty ass guitar and started playing and then from there ended up in a lot of bands.
Martin Khanja: Yeah, for me the first show I ever played was when I was eight years old. My mom took me to a festival in a county in our town. I played that and we killed it. I got into art—drawing and painting—and then I went to school and thought about what I was gonna do. I decided to form a band and started playing vocals. I started researching how to do vocals and how to sing well, but I really liked this hardcore shit. As long as it’s hardcore, you feel like your emotions can explode.
So I was like, yeah, let’s do it. I formed my first band when I was 17 years old and then we made an album after two years or something. I never looked back—I was 17 and I’m 27 now, and I’m still going. I made a band with Sam, I made a band with friends in Kenya—we just love performing and being in the studio and making it happen.
Were there any mentors you had who really helped you grow as musicians?
Martin Khanja: Yeah there were, like one of my best friends, Sam Kiranga—but he died, yeah? He committed suicide. He showed me how to really record metal properly and we used to do it in his house. He used to be in Lust of a Dying Breed, Black Dog Angel, and Koinange Street Avengers. I met him and just started talking, and then we started recording and I really got into it because of the way he showed me how to do it. And that’s all I needed; he just advised me along the way. And then I met Leon Malu from Mortal Soul and started recording with him, and all these other artists and instrumentalists.
There’s a lot of people, and they’re doing all this crazy shit. Some of them were doing videos, some of them were doing art, some of them were doing guitar. I really just wanted to express myself and like, you know, bleed on the microphone—record proper shit that can get to people’s nerves. Subliminal, deep shit.
BEAR BONES, LAY LOW * CHRIS IMLER * FELIX KUBIN * FLORIS VANHOOF * FYOELK * MIKA OKI * NOVA MATERIA * OSILASI * SAGAT
Crackling down a phone line from Los Angeles, Jon Hassell apologises in advance. Now 83, the multi-instrumentalist and composer – a hero of Brian Eno, Björk, Bono, Jean-Michel Basquiat and others – fell in his recording studio earlier this year, breaking his leg. The subsequent recuperation in a convalescent hospital went on for four months. He had no visitors, due to the coronavirus pandemic, “so I only had my cell phone to maintain contact with the outside world”.
It is an experience that has had after-effects. “I’m feeling a little bird-out-of-cage-like,” he says. “I’ve just got a new apartment and I’m sitting here looking at all the things I’ve brought out of storage yesterday. The place is full of stuff and I have to dig through a lot of things now. And that kind of includes my memory,” he adds, referring to our conversation. “You might hear me searching for really polished answers. But let’s give it a try.”
He really does not need to apologise. He occasionally pauses after I ask a question – “Now, let me see …” – and occasionally returns to a subject some time after I assume we are done with it, but Hassell is a fascinating interviewee, with an astonishingly rich history and umpteen intriguing theories about music.
His most recent is what he calls “pentimento”, a term he borrowed from painting that refers to images and forms that have been painted over in a finished work. He has applied the idea to music on his latest album, Seeing Through Sound, and its 2018 predecessor, Listening to Pictures: they are dense, shifting sound collages, in which, as he puts it, “layers of corrections are used to effloresce out to something”.