I did debate about including this article. It is very long and the layout only really worked on the old site by being spaced out with lots of photographs of the night. Sadly, the web archive does not have any of the photos there. However, it’s still here for purely sentimental reasons.
DAMO SUZUKI NETWORK - The Cornerhouse, Huddersfield, Friday 27th January 2006
How could I possibly write a fair or objective review of a gig that I promoted? The answer is "I can't". I was too involved in the whole thing to have a perspective that even remotely matches that of the other people stood there in the crowd.
So, it seems like the best thing to do, is tell you how it happened. A behind the scenes look at the gig. Hopefully, you'll find this interesting but my real intention with this article is that you'll find it inspiring. We all have to do our bit to keep the musical underground alive. It's not going to be done by the big companies. It won't be done by the mainstream promoters. It has to be done by people like us.
I went to Damo's website and I e-mailed him asking him if he'd like to come play Huddersfield. He e-mailed back saying he would, we worked out a suitable date and he told me his requirements. Town is usually dead in January, so the venue were happy to give me a Friday night.
The time seemed right. There'd been lots of great gigs in Huddersfield in recent times. Great rock and indie bands thanks to Half-Cut Promotions & Bar 120. Chocolate Fireguard were putting on the best leftfield urban acts at free events like the Timeless Festival and Lark In The Park. The town was back on the gig map but no-one was putting on anything a bit more leftfield. So I did.
So, I went out with the posters
Stuck them up in the venue and the local record shop. Gave them both tickets to sell. Told ticketline they could sell some. Made a little page on this site. And we're off.
When it came to sound carriers, I knew the first person I wanted: Martin Chung (aka Chungy) from The Nu Popes. I'd always thought he was a top guy and an amazing guitarist. As he runs a monthly jam session, I knew he'd be up to the job.
My next step was a bit of nepotism. One of my oldest and best friends, Benji Moss has always been a damn good keyboard player. However, like some kind of musical lonely heart, he'd never found the right musicians to play with. His tastes were just a little too avant garde for most of the Oasis/Charlatans wannabes. He is also a massive Can fan. So it'd have been churlish not to use him.
So, the next thing to find was the rhythm section. I didn't know anyone and I knew this would be the biggest challenge. So, I went over to the huddsmusicscene.co.uk
forum for advice on support bands and rhythm sections.
I knew lots of great rock, funk & indie bands in Huddersfield but I needed something a bit wilder to support Damo. One name kept coming back to me again and again. The Window Right. The only thing was, I couldn't tell if they were local or not. Their website had a couple of mp3s and they sounded like a really promising post-rock group but the only gig they had scheduled was in Manchester. Were they even local? People told me they'd played with them at Bar 120 but no-one seemed very sure who they were. Their website had no band photos or biography and I'd have felt funny sending them an e-mail saying "are you local?".
I knew I had to have a local support act. I knew there had to be some excellent left-of-centre local band just crying out for such an opportunity. Naturally, it all came together by chance. I was helping out at a gig where If I Were King were playing. I knew Tom & Luke from their old band, The Jacasta Project [like If I Were King, an amazing, epic alt rock band]. I asked Tom if he ever saw any of his old band mates and he told me two of them were now in a group called The Window Right. It turned out they were now a massive krautrock fan too.
So, I got their number off Tom and called the next day. Needless to say, they were up for it.
I found myself overwhelmed with interest from drummers. Some came to me via the appeal for musicians on this page and some via the appeal on huddmusicscene. It was really difficult to choose one but Benji was adamant it should be his friend Richard Beech from Fear The Lizard. Eventually, Benji got me a mini disc recording he'd made of himself & Beechy playing in his cellar.
Sadly, I didn't have a mini disc but thanks to my flatmate Phil, I finally got hear this drummer Benji had been banging on about. Much to my surprise, Benji was right. Beechy had a raw power that most drummers lacked and when Benji pushed him at the recording session to go beyond his usual style of rock drumming, it was immediately apparent that this was the drummer.
For bass player, I had been contacted by just one person, via huddsmusicscene. I went along to watch his band play Bar 1 Twenty. The New Johnny Saville Mystery Project are an amazing experimental grindcore band. Their bass player, Chris made a huge impression with his innovative sound yet unselfish playing. He was perfect. He was up for it.
Sadly, when it came to time to organise a rehearsal, it turned out he was no longer available to play the Damo gig. However, for some reason I didn't let it worry me. I had this feeling that everything would somehow be alright.
It was. I soon got an e-mail off a guy called Michael Canning. He'd seen a plug for the Damo gig in my e-mail signature when I'd posted on the Yahoo canopener group. He clicked on the link and read that I was looking for musicians and got in touch on the off chance that there might be any vacancies. I asked him what he played. Turned out he played most things.
I checked out a stream of one of his solo recordings (he records on his own as Mass Spectrometer and has his own record label, Ghostjogger) and one of the most striking things about the track I listened to was the bass playing. That was that sorted.
Two weeks later, the group & myself assembled in Benji's basement in Dewsbury. Benji & Beechy had played together before. Benji & Chungy had met before. Other than that, they were all strangers. The funny thing is, the moment they all plugged in and started playing, it was very clear that things were really working.
Sitting their in that little room, watching them jam was an incredible experience. It filled me with confidence for the gig and I felt privileged. It was like I was at the birth of something big. Phone numbers were swapped and they all vowed to carry on meeting up and playing together after the Damo gig.
So, the fateful day arrived. Damo Suzuki came to my hometown. He had a little CD holder that he traveled with. It only held a few CDs. One of them was The Window Right [he was also very into Broken Social Scene and turned us on to another excellent Candian band called The Riderless]. After so many good omens, it was impossible not to feel completely relaxed and to simply enjoy the night without stressing or worrying.
I had the man Trevor Baines on sound & light, bringing his skilful touch that has made him in demand all over New Yorkshire. Damo was a really nice guy, easy to get on with and very passionate about music, both as a musician and as a listener.
The number of people from round our way who were Can heads made me feel pretty sure that I wouldn't end up out of pocket and, sure enough, there was a great turn out and a really mixed crowd. A broad age range and a cultural mix too.
The Window Right, who I'd been unable to catch live prior to the gig, really knocked me away. I liked their demos but live they were so much better, particularly the new songs they played. They play a deep blend of post-rock and minimalist electronica. These guys are definitely ones to watch. People were coming up to me afterwards and asking me if the band had any records out to buy.
As they packed away, I couldn't resist putting on an Acid Mothers Temple CD. The idea of playing them to a busy bar in Huddersfield on a Friday night was too good to be missed. After all, it was the right kind of crowd.
So, eventually they all took the stage and began the gig. The second time the sound carriers ever played together.
I have to be honest - the chemistry between the sound carriers that was so strong when they first got together took a bit longer to kick in. They were a little bit too laid back and conventional for the first 3 or 4 numbers but then it all started to kick in.
Suddenly, they were weaving their magic. Chungy was playing like a king, Beechy & Michael were making infectious, innovative rhythms and Benji played those keyboards in a world of their own. On top of all that, you had Damo singing his heart out. Sometimes sweetly, sometimes almost growling. The great vocal improviser making spontaneous music here in Huddersfield.
It's hard to know what more to say, really. There was a great crowd in there, a wonderful atmosphere and an exciting musical event. It was really an honour to have played a part in a wonderful night.
Words by Ned Netherwood
Pics by Ned Netherwood & Duncan Ross
Huge, groveling thank yous to:
Benji for his help, support & encouragement. Trev for sound & light. Chungy, Michael & Beechy for joining in. The Window Right for some serious support. Shida, Jim & Conor for their invaluable aid. Hannah & Dave for inspiration. Charlotte, Sam & all at the Cornerhouse. Steve O & HMS for encouragement and the forum. Xander @ Flux & Jenny @ The Examiner for the coverage. And of course, Damo!