Toxicity 91

Posted: January 15, 2016 in Toxicity
Tags: , , , , ,

BowieBy Glen

Virtually every modern day musician cites David Bowie as an influence, and The Airborne Toxic Event is certainly no exception. Today we explore the connections between TATE and Bowie, before catching up again with Anna Bulbrook and The Bulls.

Jollett on Bowie

As tributes poured in for the dearly departed Starman on Monday, Mikel Jollett added his voice to the despondent chorus.

The meeting of which Mikel speaks took place in the summer of 2003, when he met up with the legend at his Soho studio for a Filter Magazine interview and sneak peak of Bowie’s new album, Reality. Here’s the full version of his Twitter-abbreviated story:

AND THAT’S WHEN THE clocks began to melt. We’d moved on to a discussion of the end of rock and roll. The fact that rock music was now caught in this self-referential spiral in which new artists no longer merely referenced older ones, but straight-up copied them – the exact same sort of denouement suffered by jazz and classical music, two art forms far more obsessed with their past than with their present or future. And just then, the publicist leaned in through the door, looked at me, pointed discreetly at her watch. The time was almost up. And it occurred to me that it was all ending too soon: the interview, rock and roll, David Bowie. And so it was at that point when we were discussing it, and at this point when we are documenting it, when it is perhaps best to get out of the way, and simply let the man speak, because he says great things and there is precious little time left…

“Let’s put it down to post-modernism. It’s almost like the cat is really set among the pigeons. When Nietzsche said, ‘There is no God.’ That really disturbed the 20th century. And it f**ked everything up – philosophically and spiritually – when he said that. And I think when the post-modernists in the early ’60s put around the idea that nothing new will ever be devised again, it kind of f**ked things up too. It’s a trickle down thing. That idea has definitely become part of our way of thinking. (He paused here, sensing a change in theme. A crossing over:) And you know, you do start to wonder: Radiohead, as much as I love them, is it basically a kind of Aphex Twin with a backbeat? You know, I mean, how new is that? And is that important anymore, I wonder. Should we not be quite so keen to think that the original is the be all and the end all? Our culture is put together… it’s style, not fashion – I’m very emphatic about that – style is how we put our culture together. It’s why we choose a chair. Because it looks a certain way. I mean, why bother? Why do we have a choice of chairs? We need to have that to kind of say so much about ourselves.”

He was staring down at his hands, folding a piece of paper, caught up in it. “But that’s what’s interesting about it. I’m older and the sense of idealism was so clear-cut in the ’60s. I remember when I was 16 or 17 years old. I was such an idealist about what could happen in the future and all that. I just don’t know. I can’t read whether younger people – and I won’t say “young people” because I would include you as “younger people” (he looked up at me) – actually can feel that sense of idealism in the same way that I probably felt it back in the ’60s. (So here was this odd little paternal moment between me and David Bowie. And it occurred to me that it could have been with just about anyone who reads Filter. I just happened to be there. He was thinking, and he kind of looked up and said) Is it harder for you guys to feel that there definitely are certain things that we should abide by?”

I answered him. It’s not important what I said. Feel free to fill in your own answer here:

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“Yeah, the contradiction really f**ks you all up doesn’t it?” is his reply.

You could probably mail your answer to him. I’m sure he’d love to hear from you. Because Jesus, the guy is a sponge for the zeitgeist – chaos theory in mathematics, the search for a unification theory in physics (to no avail), the evolution of post-modernism to post-post-modernism to a return to a classicism and a search for meaning. I don’t know if he reads these books or talks to these people or if he’s just the sort of person that senses such things when he walks down the street – but one way or another, he knows it. He gets it. He’s soaked it up.

“I think now, we don’t have a God. We don’t have a trust in any kind of politics. We are completely and totally at sea, philosophically. And I don’t think we want new things. I think we’re kind of scrounging around among the things we know to see if we can salvage some kind of civilization which will help us endure and survive into the future. We don’t need new. (And then, emphatically) We are f**ked. We’ve got enough new. Enough! (He yelled into the ceiling. This is the moment, remember it.) I think we will feel a lot more content when we are able to accept that life is chaos. I think it was an awful thought 10 or 15 years ago. But I think we are beginning to become more comfortable with the idea that life is chaos and it’s as simple as that: it is chaos. There is no structure. There is no plan. We are not evolving. We have to make the best of what we got. And if we can become happy about that, I think we ought to be able to establish a lifestyle in which we are more content.”

Bowie’s inspiration of Jollett was more than merely theoretical. Rather, he had a very specific role to play in the genesis of The Airborne Toxic Event’s most recent record, Dope Machines.

Every so often, one song can change everything. For The Airborne Toxic Event, that particular number happened to be an A Capella version of Queen and David Bowie’s classic duet “Under Pressure”.

“Somebody played it for me, and it blew my mind,” declares vocalist and guitarist Mikel Jollett. “I made a decision to change my whole approach to music. I just wanted to be joyful about it. I wasn’t going to worry anymore. For the first three records, I thought mostly like writer. My mindset changed. It was about inventing a musical logic that was unabashedly catchy and rhythmic, but way weirder than anything we’ve done in the past.”

The closing lines of Mikel’s interview with the master are particularly poignant, given the events of this past week.

I began to review, but then the time was up. He said – “It’s lovely to have talked with you. I’m so sorry we don’t have longer…”

We are all sorry.

Condolences and Reflections

Of course, Mikel is not the only member of The Airborne Toxic Event to be touched by Bowie’s death. We already discussed the fingerprints Bowie left on Anna’s serendipitously released new single, “Prudence.” She also took to Twitter on Monday to share her thoughts:

Steven Chen had this to say:

Adrian Rodriguez, meanwhile, posted a tribute on Instagram, while Daren Taylor said all that needed to be said: “fuck.”

Anna Bulbrook: Blazing a Trail for Women in Rock

While the biggest news from Anna this week was the Bulls’ unexpected release of “Prudence” and its b-side “Alright,” the songstress also continued to beat the drum (metaphorically and, I suppose, literally) for her fellow female musicians.

After all the talk about the reigning perceptions of women in the music industry, and after my 9 years of being the lone female performer at the alternative radio festivals much of the time, I felt called to do something purely positive for other women and with other women. Getting to fashion this little celebratory nest for a community of brilliant, driven, and talented people to connect and ‘do’ with one another has been the most meaningful and satisfying project I’ve taken on in a really long time. There are a lot of formidable female minds out there doing incredible things; we just want to highlight and give weight to the excellence we already see around us. There is a power and a magic in getting everyone together. We hope to continue growing our community and its impact for a long time to come, and I should add that people of all gender identities are a warmly welcomed part of our whole thing! As we like to say, a rising tide raises all boats.

Anna is quickly becoming a spokesperson for women in rock, but it’s far from empty words. As the driving force behind this month’s #GIRLSCHOOL festival, she is not only giving other artists an opportunity to showcase their talents, but also raising much-needed funds for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls LA. It makes a fan proud.

Toxic Gold

Somehow Anna also found time this week to drop in on a local Dear Boy gig, where she joined the former TATE openers on stage for a rendition of “Ghost in You.” HT to Sean and Veronica for the recording, and to Elva for pointing us to it.

GlenGlen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.

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