Damo Suzuki R.I.P.

I woke up to the awful news that Damo Suzuki is no longer with us.

Forgive a guy for a rambling, half-awake tribute but he was someone who touched a lot of lives.

Obviously, there is the cultural sense. Although he was very humble about his contributions to Can as their front man from 1970 to 1973, its a quantifiable fact that they were a different band when he was in them. Not that they didn’t still make great music after he left or before he joined, but the chemistry was extra special. Like he wasn’t just the singer, he was a catalyst.

Another undisputable fact is the wide-ranging influence of those 3.5 albums he made with Can back then. They pollinated ideas and were generously borrowed everywhere from hip-hop to techno, from indie rock to contemporary classical music. I could write paragraphs and paragraphs on it with a directory of examples.

However, far beyond the cultural force for change, Damo touched people’s lives for a much simpler reason. He was kind, generous and incredibly sweet. When he returned to music, he set out on a mission to travel the world with his microphone and to play every show with a new set of local musicians in the places he played. One of those ideas whose simplicity was equal to its genius.

He was someone who loved to meet people and though most of us were initially a bit star-struck and overwhelmed, his humility and his big-heartedness soon put you at ease. Not to mention his gentle, cheeky sense of humour. As a promoter, the first show I ever organized was Damo Suzuki at the old Parish Pump [I think it was temporarily renamed The Cornerhouse at the time] with an entirely local group of musicians. This was Friday 27th January 2006.

I put him on five times in all, twice in Huddersfield, three times in Hebden Bridge. He loved Hebden Bridge. The first time he played there was also the time his significant other Elke had decided to join him for a tour. We all sat up all night on cushions in my conservatory with the door open – drinking, smoking, chatting, laughing and listening to CDs.

Damo had asked me for advice on places to visit with Elke on their days off earlier in the tour and I’d said for Northern England the essentials were Whitby and the Lake District. I was so glad they’d taken my advice and I think that definitely gave me some kudos. We all warmed immediatley to Elke. She was funny, sweet and such a bright light. Exactly the sort of person you would expect Damo to share his life with. I can’t even imagine how she’s feeling now and send all my love to her.

There’s something that I don’t think other tributes to Damo are mentioning, though if you subscribed to his newsletter, you’ll know where I’m going with this. Once he came to visit us in Hebden Bridge on some off days, he went round the local organic stores and the farmers market to get all fresh ingredients and he cooked for us.

Anyone who experienced Damo’s cooking will tell you his work in the kitchen was every bit as remarkable as his contributions to music history. It was something he was very passionate about, although he was usually too polite to say anything against the food he encountered on his travels (except for YO! Sushi, that place really got his goat). He also loved to eat the local foods and always craved a good Sunday roast dinner when in town.

Visting Damo at home in 2015, it came as no surprise to find he lived wihin walking distance of a very well stocked organic store and he got the warm welcome of a very good customer. I think it is no exageration to say he could have been a very famous chef in an alternative career.

I’m sorry about the poor quality photos. My friend Michelle who made the excellent documentary “Energy: A Documentary About Damo Suzuki” has some amazing photos of the same shows but I wanted to make it more personal, even though I don’t have a fraction of her skills.

What are some other things people don’t mention about Damo? He was a huge film buff, with a massive DVD collection. When I visited, he showed us “The Legend of 1990”, a great film. He also introduced me to the local style of beer, Kölsch, which I’d never heard of before but when I emigrated a few months late, found out it is incredibly common at American craft breweries. He also had what appeared to be a complete collection of all the Osamu Tezuka manga. He’d originally wanted to be a manga artist himself.

The timing feels horrible. Can had only just announced their first live album to feature Damo, Paris 1973, out later this month. “Please Heat This Eventually” his 2007 collaboration with Omar Rodr​í​guez​-​L​ó​pez had only just come to vinyl and Bandcamp. “Energy: A Documentary About Damo Suzuki” DVDs are imminent. I had vaguely mooted plans for something for the end of the year and was looking forward to more chats with him about the project. 2024 was meant to be all about Damo but not like this.

History will remember him as being part of a powerful creative force that changed the face of music. Those of us who met him, though, will remember something more. A man who spread kindness and good energy all across the world.

R.I.P. Yeti

We lost a vital member of the Was Ist Dad? family yesterday, our dog Yeti. His main contribution was wandering into the frame during my video reviews with an almost knowing approach to mise-en-scene, bringing a little life and humility to counteract my music rambles. He also sat next to me while I DJ’d a couple of times. You can also see him on the poster for the Tor Ist Das! Festival. A celebrity on the Hebden Bridge pub scene, he will be sorely missed.

R.I.P. Dieter Moebius

Sorry to learn that Dieter Moebius passed away this morning.

Moebius was first in the band Kluster with Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Conrad Schnitzler. Their recordings in this era were unusually harsh, almost industrial. Then Moebius/Roedelius broke away from Schnitzler and began recording as Cluster with producer Conny Plank. This era saw them embrace a sound more in tune with the German scene of that era and they made records just as challenging, timeless and innovative as Kluster but with softer edges.

A collaboration with Michael Rother of Neu! lead to three piece supergroup Harmonia whose two studio albums are held up as absolute classics of the era and drew in Brian Eno as a collaborator both with Harmonia and Cluster.

Moebius leaves behind a vast body of work and many more classic collaborations such as his albums “Material” and “Rastakraut Pasta” made with Conny Plank. I had the pleasure of meeting him once when he played Hebden Bridge back in 2006 and I was DJing. He seemed sweet, unassuming and charming. He also gave me a couple of bottles of beer from his rider which guarantees my eternal thanks.

This October German label Groenland are releasing a deluxe Harmonia box set with both studio albums, the Brian Eno collaboration, their live album and some unreleased material. Although Moebius may have sadly left us, his music shows no signs of going away and continues to fascinate and inspire. Our commiserations to all who knew him well.

R.I.P. Joe Yamanaka

Less than 24 hours after writing an obituary for Conrad Schnitzler and here I am having to write that Joe Yamanaka has passed away today.

Joe will be best known to our readers as singer from classic Japanese heavy psychedelic rock band Flower Travellin Band. Emerging from the ashes of previous band The Flowers, the bands debut album “Anywhere” features the iconic image of the band nude on motorcycles, later used as the cover for Julian Cope’s Japrock sampler. Their second album, “Sartori” came joint first in Cope’s Top 50 from the book.

However, Joe had other sides to his career. He was friends with Bob Marley and replaced him as singer in The Wailers for five years. He had a very successful solo career in the far east and also acted in films, including working with director Takashi Miike. He reformed Flower Travellin Band in 2007 and released their fifth album “We Are Here” in 2008 but then Joe’s diagnosis with lung cancer halted further activities.

Conrad Schnitzler R.I.P.

Electronic pioneer Conrad Schnitzler has passed away from stomach cancer on August 4th.

Scnitzler was an early member of Tangerine Dream. He playedg on the band’s avant rock debut album “Electronic Meditation”, released through Ohr in 1970. However, he is perhaps best known for his work in Kluster. When Roedelius & Moebius departed to work under the name Cluster, Scnitzler concentrated instead on his Eruption project before going solo.

All three of these acts came out of the Zodiak Free Arts Lab in Berlin, which Scnitzler co-founder with Hans-Joachim Roedelius. Scnitzler and Roedelius reunited in 2000 to record the album “Acon 2000/1” for Japanese label Captain Trip. Schnitzler revived the Kluster name in 2007 and released both new music and archive material via such labels as Important and Qbico.

A random fact about Schnitzler is that he contributed the introductory track to “Deathcrush”, the debut release from Norweigan black metal legends Mayhem.

Ira Cohen R.I.P.

The film-maker Ira Cohen has passed away, as confirmed by his website.

Although also a photographer and a poet, Cohen is best remembered for his short psychedelic, avant garde film “The Invasion of Thunder Bolt Pagoda”. The film was released on DVD by Arthur Magazine with the option of viewing the film with the original psychedelic drone soundtrack by Angus Maclaise or with new soundtracks recorded by Acid Mothers Temple SWR and also by Sunburned Hand of the Man

R.I.P. Peter Christopherson

The sad news has reached us this morning that Peter Christopherson has passed away in his sleep at the age of 55.

Peter, better known as Sleazy, was a musician (Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, Coil & Threshold House Boys Choir), a designer (for legendary album designers Hipgnosis, of whom he was made a partner) and video director (for everyone from Paul McCartney to Sepultura, Van Halen to Rage Against The Machine).

Our thoughts go out to all who knew him.

Below is the video for Coil’s Tainted Love which he directed and is on permanent display in the New York Museum of Modern Art.

coil – tainted love from biobox on Vimeo.