• tazartes

The ending of visa-free travel for artists threatens the livelihoods of many musicians, especially in the underground. Yet while fighting for change to these Brexit rules, we must consider the wider implications for those beyond the EU, and how attitudes to migration reflect Britain's colonial history, argue Fielding Hope, Mariam Rezaei and Stewart Smith

The recent rejection of a visa-free work permit for touring UK-based artists and industry professionals in Europe, either by the hand of the UK government, or by the EU (depending on which account you trust), is a significant blow to countless workers, many of whom are already facing challenging times under the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of Brexit and inadequate government support for arts organisations is not the entire picture, however, and neither should we only consider UK or even EU-based artists and music biz workers when thinking about how art and people move across borders.

New restrictions add further hurdles for artists looking to enter the UK, and follow on from a long history of racist and exclusionary legislation which restricts cultural workers from far beyond the borders of Europe. This is not just a major threat to us as individuals – it's a threat to internationalism, our cultural ecology in the future, and a further blow to migrants seeking to come to the UK to live and work.

The UK music industry is in serious jeopardy of collapsing as a direct result of both the lack of meaningful support from the Conservative Government throughout the pandemic, and the messy visas row in the Brexit negotiations. According to studies by the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), the UK music industry grew to £5.8 billion in 2020, providing more than four times the value to the economy than fishing's £1.4 billion. When combined with other creative industries, which are also greatly affected by this lack of provision, the sector is worth £111.7 billion. Before the pandemic, 44% of UK-based musicians earned up to half of their earnings in the EU. Touring forms the fiscal backbone to a lot of artists' careers, but the current restrictions limit this in numerous ways.



Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt

Bill Orcutt and Chris Corsano should need no introduction for readers of this newsletter, but let’s give it a go anyway. Bill Orcutt first gained attention in the early 1990s for his guitar mangling with powerhouse noise-punk group Harry Pussy. In 2009, he returned with a series of recordings rewiring musical traditions in his singular playing style featuring a 4-string Kay guitar. Corsano is an endlessly prolific and creative drummer, whether performing on his own or with a list of experimental heavyweights that stretches far beyond the limits of this intro.

The duo are now set to release their latest collaborative album, Made Out of Sound, on Orcutt’s label Palilalia. Recorded remotely, it showcases a relatively restrained approach in comparison to previous outings with the guitarist overdubbing spidery dive-bombs onto the drummer’s free-flowing clatterstompf. Jesse Locke chatted with Orcutt and Corsano on the morning of Joe Biden’s January 20th inauguration, with everyone keeping an eye on their televisions or news feeds. This lively conversation touches on Canadian connections, finding inspiration from individual musicians instead of genres, and the importance of personal chemistry in improvisation.

Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt. Photo by Hans van der Linden.
Jesse Locke: How’s it going, guys? Are you watching TV right now?

Chris Corsano: Yeah, I just noticed what time it was so I came upstairs and tore myself away from the thing. 

I’m honestly really glad to be doing this interview today so I can tear myself away from it too. Have you been following American politics as obsessively as everyone else seems to be?

Chris Corsano: I think so! (laughs).

Bill Orcutt: You know, four years ago I was so pissed, just on a selfish level. I couldn’t believe I was going to have to look at this guy, listen to this guy, and think about him and his stupid family. Aside from all the terrible things he did, it’ll be nice to not have to look at his face every day.

Absolutely. OK, I guess we can dive into some questions. I’ve read that the first time you played together was a trio with Alan Bishop in 2011 that you called B.O.C.—Bishop, Orcutt, Corsano. Had the two of you met before that?

Bill Orcutt: No, I don’t think so.

Chris Corsano: Not really. We did meet quickly at Byron Coley’s place when we both played that church in Amherst. I talked to Tom Lax a lot that night so everything else was eclipsed.

I’m sure Tom has a lot of interesting stories.

Bill Orcutt: He thinks so! (laughs).

Chris, you’ve mentioned that Adris Hoyos from Harry Pussy is one of your all-time favorite drummers. What specifically do you like about the way she plays?

Chris Corsano: Nobody else is like her! It always fit perfectly with whatever was going on with Bill in Harry Pussy. It was the thing that needed to be done and I don’t think anybody [else] could do it. Seeing her live was eye opening because she generates a different economy of motion than I had ever seen before. She moves a lot! Sticks get fully extended in the air, almost like a Pete Townshend windmill thing. It’s amazing that you can keep this continual flow without it being disrupted. She invented a whole style that I haven’t seen anybody else do. I mean there is that video of the dude playing the ZZ Top song with stick twirling and crazy arm motions…

Oh yeah, it’s called something like “the drummer is in the wrong band.”

Bill Orcutt: Yeah, that’s it! (laughter).

Chris Corsano: If you close your eyes, that guy is just playing straight beats. I guess that’s a different thing, and the YouTube play count would tell you it’s interesting, but for me it’s way less interesting than a drummer like Adris. The physical movement of what she did was all about opening up new sonic possibilities, I guess. Nobody sounds like her. At the same time, it did the same thing for me as Muhammad Ali—Rashied Ali’s brother, not the boxer. A lot of so-called free jazz drummers were able to generate all of this sound with so many things happening in it that were far away from a straight 2/4 rock beat.

Bill, do you still talk to Adris? Is she playing drums at all?

Bill Orcutt: I don’t think she’s playing. We swap emails a couple times a month probably, but if she is drumming she hasn’t mentioned it. I’ve encouraged her and think she should be, but she’s also busy raising a couple kids.


I’d never heard of Native Instrument (the collaborative project of field recordist/composer Felicity Mangan and poet/improvisor Stine Janvin) before coming across this release, and so I unconsciously expected something along the lines of Musica Sveciae’s Fornnordiska klanger, which sought to replicate prehistorical musical traditions. This 4th installment in Brussels imprint les albums claus’s live ateliers claus series, however, reveals that the duo’s name refers to a nativity beyond that which can be possessed or identified by humans, a primality that hints toward evoking the volatile majesty of nature. Mangan has previously proved her mettle in the area of phonographic assemblage that transforms familiar sounds—birdsong, buzzing insects, rustling leaves—into an abstract, multifarious mass of textures (think Abby Lee Tee’s recent work, an earthier @c, or that sweaty pestilence that begins Murmuüre’s “Disincarnate”) and this live recording is no different. Even though the performance took place in the same year as Native Instrument’s first and only studio album Camo, the interplay between Mangan’s prickly swarms of croak, chirp, and click and Janvin’s mixtures of throbbing electronics and processed vocalizations feels much more developed here; it’s livelier, more agile and organically-paced, and therefore much more enjoyable. This music lurks at the ambiguous crossroads of observance, improvisation, and techno (if you happen to know the GPS coordinates, please let me know; I hear it’s lovely this time of year).…;


  • ?I

The Electronic Revolution is an essay collection by William S. Burroughs that was first published in 1970 by Expanded Media Editions in West Germany. A second edition, published in 1971 in Cambridge, England, contained additional French translation by Jean Chopin. 

The book is divided into two parts.

Part one, entitled "The Feedback from Watergate to the Garden of Eden" invokes Alfred Korzybski’s views characterising man as "the time binding machine" due to his ability to write. Burroughs sees the significance of a written word as a distinguishing feature of human beings which enables them to transform and convey information to future generations. He proposes the theory of "the unrecognised virus" present in the language, suggesting that, "the word has not been recognised as a virus because it has achieved a state of stable symbiosis with the host."

Part two, "Electronic Revolution" concerns the power of alphabetic non-pictorial languages to control people. It draws attention to the subversive influence of the word virus on humans and dangerous possibilities of using human voice as a weapon. Recording words on tape recorders and employing the Cut-up technique can easily lead to the false news broadcasts or garbled political speeches causing confusion and psychic control over individuals.

The basic idea of language as a virus has been widely used and quoted from several of Burroughs' interviews. Here is a passage from the text:

I suggest that the spoken word as we know it came after the written word. (...) we may forget that a written word is an image and that written words are images in sequence that is to say moving pictures. (...) My basis theory is that the written word was literally a virus that made the spoken word possible. Doktor Kurt Unruh von Steinplatz has put forward an interesting theory as to the origins and history of this word virus. He postulates that the word was a virus of what he calls biologic mutation effecting a biologic change in its host which was then genetically conveyed. One reason that apes cannot talk is because the structure of their inner throats is simply not designed to formulate words. He postulates that alteration in inner throat structure were occasioned by a virus illness ....

The referred German Doktor Kurt Unruh von Steinplatz is another of Burroughs' inventions. 

The book influenced numerous musicians in the industrial music scene of the 1970s. Richard H. Kirk, of Cabaret Voltaire, employed many ideas and methods from the book, saying, “A lot of what we did, especially in the early days, was a direct application of his ideas to sound and music.” He described it as "a handbook of how to use tape recorders in a crowd … to promote a sense of unease or unrest by playback of riot noises cut in with random recordings of the crowd itself." 

 The Electronic Revolution (1970, Expanded Media Editions) [PDF, 832kb]