Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Japanese guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama and Chicago local legend Chris Connelly.
Listed: Tetuzi Akiyama + Chris Connelly
Born in Tokyo, Japan, on April 13, 1964, Tetuzi (pronounced Tet-suey) Akiyama specializes in creating music with elements of both primitivism and realism by connecting his own aspirations, in a minimal and straightforward way, to the special instrumental qualities of the guitar and other instruments, or non-instruments. Sometimes delicately and sometimes boldly, he controls sound volumes ranging from micro to macro, in an attempt to convert the body into an electronic entity to quantize himself. His latest albums include the guitar compilation Spectra: Guitar in the 21st Century on Quiet Design Records, Varianter Av Døde Trær with Martin Taxt, Eivind Lønning & Espen Reinertsen on Sofa Music, and Low Cloud Means Death with Christian Kiefer and Kevin Corcoran on Digitalis Recordings. Around the corner lies The Darkened Mirror with Tom Carter and Christian Kiefer, also on Digitalis
While I was looking for my own style a couple of decades ago, there were music or musicians that fascinated and attracted me with the way they touched their instruments, in order to get the best tone. Here are just a few names that impressed me most, with both their sound and voice. No particular order but lots of personal bias.
1. Walter Gelwig - J. S. Bach / Suite in G minor BWV995
While staying in Kathmandu for one month in the summer of 1990, I was repeatedly listening to a cassette tape of Bach’s lute works played by Swedish Göran Söllscher with his famous 11-string guitar. I like the sound of the guitar. It relaxed me. After coming back to Tokyo, I looked for more by other artists and found Walter Gelwig was the best at evoking its purist sensitivity. Of course, the great sound coming out from his baroque lute (which I did not know so well at that time) was another big reason to like it. Maybe it’s just me, but good music sounds a lot better when its coming from unique instruments. Even John Cage’s "4’33." (I like to be careful with the noise that surrounds me during my day.) It’s not so much conceptual, but practical. Anyway, Gelwig was one of the leading forces behind of the early music revival, but this recording was done just two years before his death in 1966. It should be heard by more people. He also left some compositions, which I have no idea if anyone recorded or not. But the scores can still be bought.
2. Thurston Dart - J. S. Bach / French Suites
Maybe you have experienced this kind of situation; you wanted to lend your favorite records or CDs to your friends, because the music is so great that you could not help but share your feelings with others. Then these records never came back… This happened to me, for Pink Floyd’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Velvet Underground’s first album, Nico’s Chelsea Girl, and a CD which contained French Suites played by English clavichord master Thurston Dart. After a long time, I even forgot whom I lent it to, so I tried to buy it again – in vain. It’s out of print. Fortunately, seems like two CDs are reissued and you can buy it from the British Clavichord Society. What I owned was a Japanese CD, and it started with Suite No. 5, which caught me with its cheerful major motif. Until then, I did not know about the clavichord, but soon found out it was one of Bach’s favorite instruments. I cannot play keyboard instruments, but love to listen to piano and cembalo music. But when it comes to clavichord, its finger vibrato adds more human expression, just like bending technique of blues guitar. Seems like Dart played one made by Tom Goff, which was constructed differently from ones you can see these days. Maybe the magic lies somewhere around it.
3. Henryk Szeryng - J.S. Bach / Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin (recorded mono in 1955, Paris)
I marvel at the sensitive touch of a great violinist. For me, this is the best performance of this composition (and I’ve checked out more than 50). Maybe the second best is by Sigiswald Kuijken, with a baroque violin. And to my surprise, I think the third best is by Salvatore Accardo, who is more famous for his Paganini performances. I heard a later recording of the same title by Szeryng, but it didn’t appeal me so much. Maybe I have the same problem as the original’s engineer, Peter Bartók, son of Bela, who supposedly stopped recording after stereo technology came around.
4. The Music Emporium - “Sun Never Shines” (from The Music Emporium)
This tune is the only one guitarist Dave Padwin composed on this album. I think this is one of the best examples of how to play the electric guitar "psychedelically." On first listen, this might sound kind of ordinary blues-based electric guitar work, but I say it has more magic. Padwin had worked in some country rock bands, and I think he mixed that sad feeling of country music with acid. The result: The tone becomes very sticky and you can hear the guitar breathe by itself. The time is laid back, holding for short moments, and bending with a fast and delicate vibrato. My opinion is that guitarists do not always need to use fuzz or stomp boxes to express the psychedelic. Other good examples of this feeling could be heard in works by Martin Stone in his Mighty Baby era, and when looking for that under-the-California-sun feel, I’d choose Dan Harris (ex-West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band) on "Underachiever," from his brother Shaun’s solo album on Capital. It sounds to my ears like a post-psychedelic-after-death feel, and it makes me believe that when we die, all the people go to Paradise, and that it looks similar to a Los Angels beach town.
5. Syd Barrett - “Terrapin” (from The Madcap Laughs
I don’t think I need to add anything to the analysis of this song. I’d just like to say that what most impressed me was not his poetic imagination nor odd rhythm sense, but the strumming noise by his guitar pick, which he emphasized more than necessary. I listened to other tracks recorded by the same engineers, but produced by Waters and Gilmour, and it wasn’t so explicit. Maybe producer Malcolm Jones called for it. My guess is that Syd used a celluloid soft pick, at least medium gage under 0.70 mm. Anyway, I liked this plucking noise, and I was so influenced that I only use soft picks when strumming the guitar.
6. Hapshash and the Coloured Coat - Featuring the Human Host and the Heavy Metal Kids
How to freak out. The main members were graphic designers who created lots of psychedelic event posters in London in the late 1960s. I can hear the hardcore essence of what invented British underground rock music. When this kind of hippie collective jam session happened in U.S., much would sound characteristic of the musicians who participated. Red Crayola or Godz, for instance. But Hapshash managed to sound pretty anonymous. That is probably because they were not really trying to make "Music" at that time, just freaking out. I like this point – many people can play music very well, but only a few can freak out with a historically good result.
7. Can - “Bel Air” (from Future Days
I still remember the magical moment when I heard this tune for the first time. I was 17 years old. I think I got very naturally high. Until then, I had played the guitar for some years, but never thought that music actually affects people’s minds so directly, and can result in a real magic inside. So that was the day I really made up my mind to be a musician, who wanted to make his own magical moments.
8. Giuseppi Logan - More
I think this is the first free jazz record I came across, also around 17 years old or so. The recording was a bit unclear, but the sound still rushed into me chaotically. I still think this is the best "free jazz" record, if that term is even relevant anymore.
9. Andy Fernbach - “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” (from Me and the Devil: The Anthology of British Blues)
This album contains Andy Fernbach, whose works are not easily found elsewhere. There are two other tracks by him that are more up-tempo, and also other contributors Jo-Ann Kelly, Dave Kelly, Simon and Steve, and Tony McPhee. They tend to stay too steady with the beat, and chip some of the charm away from the blues. On the other hand, this is the best British cover version of this famous song. Medium-slow, minimal guitar work and strong vocals. I like this performance because he breathes as if to make sure he’s still alive, not only on the intake but also outward, which is more important from a concentration standpoint.
10. Gene Clark - “American Dreamer” / “Outlaw Song” (from the soundtrack to The American Dreamer)
These two masterpieces are very short, like one or two minutes. A good song is like a good photo; minimum information is required, but the images are crucial. While I’ve never wanted to be an American dreamer, sometimes I kind of feel these tunes sound like my theme songs. By the way, I got the idea to put a machine gun on the cover of my Don’t Forget to Boogie! album because I thought it was cool to see Dennis Hopper holding a machine gun on the cover of this soundtrack. I put a Thompson on my cover, but later I realized that Dennis was holding an M-16. Anyway, so I was surprised to get a coincidental offer from an agent guy, who was at my Los Angels concert, to play those boogie tunes for Mr. Hopper at the closing party of his photo retrospective exhibition three years ago. Unfortunately, this once (or never)-in-a-life-time chance did not happen, so I still owe him for my machine gun fetish.
Based in Chicago, Scottish expat Chris Connelly was an integral piece of Chicago’s late-80s/early-90s Industrial-disco scene and is still one of the most prolific musicians in the city today. After leaving Glasgow’s Fini Tribe to join the Revolting Cocks, Connelly made his way through the ranks of Ministry, Pigface, Murder Inc., The Damage Manual and Acid Horse among others. As well as working at Chicago’s three most distinguished record stores in the last two decades – Wax Trax!, Dusty Groove and Reckless Records – Connelly has evolved into an avant-garde singer/songwriter, incorporating glam, folk and cabaret into his enigmatic sound. Working with a wide range of the city’s finest rock, jazz and experimental musicians, Connelly has led the production of 10 diverse records since 1991 under his namesake for the likes of Wax Trax!, Invisible Records and Current 93’s Durto Jnana. imprint. His latest album, the austere and moving Pentland Firth Howl, will be released on LP in late May via Addenda Records.
It’s nigh on impossible to come up with 10 records that I consider influential to me, especially given my staggering age! But, here it is, in (partial) chronological order:
1. David Bowie - Station to Station
I bought this from a friend of mine, or swapped it for something, I think in the spring of 1976, just after it came out, to a brat my age, it was -and still is-both melancholy and cold simultaneously, powerful, mechanical and vulnerable, it’s still in heavy rotation 33 years later.
2. Can - Tago Mago
Picked up in a bargain bin for 2 pounds and 49 pence, one wet afternoon on the way home from school in the autumn of 1976, it reflected perfectly a cold Edinburgh twilight, I loved that the record’s second half was a complete nightmare of sound, and I would play it in my bedroom late at night with all the lights off.
3. Captain Beefheart - Strictly Personal
This was hard to pick, I bought three or four Beefheart albums when I turned 13, I think this is the favourite because it kind of exists outside time, the songs seem to bleed into each other, and most of the time they aren’t really songs: in fact, they sound a lot like the way Don Van Vliet’s paintings look.
4. Alternative TV - The Image has Cracked
1978, the first "punk rock" record I bought that told me in no uncertain terms that being "punk" or conforming to what "punk" was supposed to be, really was not very punk rock at all- the long tracks, the mixture of live material and studio experiments along with a naive abandon make this a classic.
5. Throbbing Gristle - D.O.A.
Late one night I heard the track "Hamburger Lady" on the John Peel show, it scared me out of my wits, and it changed my life irrevocably, I quickly bought this album and started a dialogue with the members of the group (which remains to this day) This album takes the Alternative TV theory about ten light years further, it pushed everything to an extreme, sound and aesthetic… and they were the nicest people in the world...
6. Wire - 154
I was introduced to this album by a member of the local band Visitors, who I followed, he told me to listen to it, the production and the songs had an icy majesty and yet remained completely off-kilter and surreal, and, it typical Wire fashion, a couple of infectiously catchy pop songs.
7. The Associates - Sulk
1981 or 82, I was 17 and I was starting to go out to clubs, "SULK" was decadent abandon, great European dwellings in decay with spilled wine everywhere. It was me and my friends running through Edinburgh’s Georgian streets high and shrieking with laughter
8. The Durutti Column - Amigos Em Portugal
Music that drips and ripples around a candle lit bedroom where you sit with the girl or boy you want so much
9. Current 93 - Live at Bar Maldoror
When I heard this, I thought it was the saddest thing I had ever heard, I thought it was the end of the world, a lonely phrase from Faure’S "Requiem" repeated over and over again for a whole side, It has always fascinated me how David Tibet can make melancholy as beautiful as a rose.
10. Scott Walker - Climate of Hunter
The sheen of the mid-’80s production barely conceals the paranoia, madness and violence that haunts the lyrics and melodies of one of the most terrifying records ever made, he is not looking for resolution here, because it does not occur that there could be, it’s a permanent midnight, barely populated by the living, the album is spent hidden and scared as it is a voyeur to some sort of nocturnal decay.
By Dusted Magazine