Monday, March 02, 2009

Conceptual Art: The Fantastical Existential Death Experience

(If you're wondering what this is all about, click here.)

This week, Swiss Toni shares his vision of a band called The Fantastical Existential Death Experience...

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Bugger talent contests; bugger sticking an advert in the NME and bugger endless auditions... if I have to be a svengali, then we're going to do things the old fashioned way. I'm in charge and the only people who are going to get anywhere near this band are the people that I INVITE to come and play for me. No one will refuse me, obviously. It is such an honour to join this band, that not even death can prevent you taking up the much sought after invitations. Being fictional need not be too much of a hindrance either. I have strict criteria for the people I want in my band - the strictest: every single member is going to have to have done something that has moved me in their musical career. There's going to be no room for just any Tom Waits, Richard Hell or Henry Rollins.

Let's start with the engine room, shall we? Drum and bass: the heart and soul of any good band. In my books, a good drummer can normally be identified by one of two things: the sheer number of drums that he has in his set-up or the way that he joyously sings along to every hit of his drums. In the former category, I take a long look at Iron Maiden's Nico McBrain, who has more drums lined up in front of him than he can possibly have a use for, and in the latter category I instantly think of Cast's Keith O'Neill, the most entertaining drummer I have ever seen, and whose "ba-doom doom bah" vocalisations easily proved more interesting than John Power. Spanning the two categories is Metallica's Lars Ulrich, a drummer who thinks he ought to be the centre of attention at all times, and who has such short arms and such a massive drum kit that he is forced to play with extra long drumsticks. The man I'm going to ask to join the band though is White Denim's James Petralli. On the face of it, Petralli fits neither of my criteria for a good drummer, playing as he does upon a kit so small that it almost looks like a toy, and not noticeably singing along with every hit of his kit. He is, however, without a shadow of a doubt, the best drummer I have ever had the pleasure of watching. White Denim are only a three-piece, but both bassist and guitarist play facing into Petralli and taking their lead from him as they jam and improvise around their own songs. He's a genius and he's in the band.

Bass. The heartbeat of any band. My enduring love of heavy metal throws up a few candidates here: Flea, Les Claypool from Primus and his elastic playing style, Lemmy... because he's Lemmy. Slap bass legend Mark King is probably worth a mention here too, but there is only really one person in it: the son of the owner of a marginally successful telephone sanitization business, a reknowned Shrewsbury Town fan, prize-winning gardener and an afficionado of the strategically placed foil-wrapped cucumber... Derek Smalls from Spinal Tap is in the band.

Keyboards. Hmm. I'm not a massive fan of these in my band, but there are one or two outstanding candidates that are forcing my hand: Clint Boon from the Inspiral Carpets and Jon Lord from Deep Purple. Much though I love 'Saturn 5', at 67 years old, it's the genius hand behind the keyboard solo in 'Fireball' that gets the invite.

Guitar? I'm picking two. On rhythm guitar we have the Bahamian legend that is Joseph Spence. He was called "the folk guitarist's Thelonious Monk", and although his distinctive calypso playing is reason enough to pick him, what really assures him of a place in the pantheon is his bizarre grunting vocal style that makes him a real shoe-in for backing vocals. He's dead, but that's no reason not to include him in the band, eh? Lead guitar goes to Johnny Marr. Every solo record that Morrissey releases makes me realise more and more what genius Marr brought to The Smiths.

Morrissey himself is an obvious candidate for lead vocalist, as are Dusty Springfield, Johnny Cash and the air-raid siren wail of Bruce DIckinson. The place goes to the most honeyed bass baritone voice ever to be committed to record, Scott Walker. His journey from boy band idol, through existential crooner and on to meat-slapping avant-garde and borderline unlistenable genius has been well documented, but listening to Walker changed my musical horizons and so the 66-year-old is an essential choice.

So. There we have it. The band is together. James Petralli on drums, Derek Smalls on bass, Jon Lord on keyboards, Joseph Spence on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Johnny Marr on lead and Scott Walker on vocals. That's a young Texan, a dead Bahamian, a 67-year-old in semi-retirement, a 66-year-old perfectionist who doesn't perform live and who releases records at the rate of less than one a decade, a 45-year-old nomadic genius and an entirely fictional character. Some of the songwriting combinations in there are fascinating - can you imagine what a Walker/Marr song might sound like with a driving Hammond organ backing track and Joseph Spence grunting and howling along behind Walker's smoothly tormented baritone? If I was you, I wouldn't be holding my breath waiting for the concert dates or for a record to appear on the release schedules. The record, if it ever materialised, is certain not to be the least bit commercial.... but I'm in it for the art, man. After all, what kind of svengali is in music purely for the money?




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Thanks to ST. I know exactly what you mean about Morrissey's solo material...

Next time (Monday 16th March): Paul


Blogger swisslet said...

The band name, if you're wondering, is The Fantastical Existential Death Experience --- FEDEx.

Yes, I think I can see them working that weak joke into their t-shirt logos too.

Sound like a lot of fun at parties, right?

11:03 pm  
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