Bad Bonn @ Rough Trade East

Bad BonnBBSB_Cover_final_23-2-16_simuliert venue in Düdingen celebrates its 25th anniversary this year with – amongst other things – the publication of a unique book: over the past few years, bands appearing at this idyllic location in the rolling green hills near Fribourg have been asked to donate one song each for the project. Some sent sheet music, others sent drawings, poems, chord sequences and collages. “The Bad Bonn Song Book” collects 140 of these in a splendidly glittery coffee table book published by Edition Patrick Frey in Zurich.

A unique collective work

IMG_3966The impressive and diverse list of participants ranges from Flaming Lips and Bonnie “Prince” Billy to Goat, Jandek, Sebadoh, Sleaford Mods and Suzanne Vega. To launch the book, Bad Bonn came to the legendary Rough Trade East shop off London’s Brick Lane. The choice of venue made sense: Most of the lyrics in the book are in English, many of the artists involved are from the UK, and the shop carries one of the most comprehensive selections of music-related books anywhere. The two-pronged event attracted an excellent crowd of around 150 people.

A panel and a solo concert
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Hanspeter Kuenzler, Tom Relleen, Luke Turner,Christophe Schenk, Daniel Fontana

The first part consisted of a panel discussion, “Can a Live Music Venue Change a Small Town?” with the participants, Tom Relleen (musician with Tomago and The Oscillation, concert agent with the Julie Tippex Agency), Luke Turner (writer, founder of the Queitus web-zine), Christophe Schenk (Swiss television), and Düx aka Daniel Fontana (founder, Bad Bonn). A lively exchange was peppered with excellent anecdotes, including Relleen´s story that many a band he had booked for the venue called him up in desperation, fearing the GPS had misdirected them when they found themselves driving past freshly tilled fields and manure

IMG_3856silos instead. Following the discussion – the conclusion: of course it would! -, Richard Dawson, a highly original singer/songwriter from Newcastle and a happy regular at Bad Bonn, gave a breathtaking solo performance, sometimes with his battered guitar, sometimes acapella.

 

 

The Bad Bonn Song Book, Edition Patrick Frey.

Take Five Switzerland: Edition II

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With musicians Yilian Cañizares, Christoph Irniger, Yael Miller, Mandla Mlengeni, Manuel Troller, Julie Campiche, Nils Fischer and Joel Graf.

I’ve just visited the second edition of Take Five Switzerland, an invite-only, professional development course for musicians. There are sessions on everything from legal affairs to communication skills, and time to network with a selection of European promotors and experts. Run by Serious, the UK’s most standout organisation in jazz, it’s an intense week, softened by the setting of a beautiful, organic farm in the ‘garden of England’ (Kent).

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Christoph Irniger

“… great to meet someone from every aspect to build a career” Yilian Cañizares
Edition 1 of Take Five Switzerland in 2013 was my personal introduction to the creative intelligence and ambition of Swiss artists and honestly, my love of music was re-invigorated by them. Their feedback maybe shaped Edition II and the latest group were unanimous in their appreciation of the week. “There is a lot of information that I need to digest,” said Yilian Cañizares, “but it’s been really great to meet someone from every aspect to build a career and in my case that’s what I’m looking for: how to meet the right people to push me, help me with skills to get to the next step.” The experienced Christoph Irniger agreed, “Nothing is really new but when you hear it enough, it becomes clear: there are no shortcuts, you have to be really patient and it’s all about personal connections.”

The ‘personal touch’ was a key theme. It can be used to build a fan base and to address promotors when looking for gigs. The saxophonists, Nils Fischer of the Great Harry Hillman, Joel Graf of pommelHORSE and Christoph, were all keen to think more deeply about what venues might like their sound and target them as part of developing a strategy. Christoph said he would, “Check out who might programme my music and go for that…The spam is what makes the business so hard.”

“…choose clubs that fit our music” Nils Fischer
Jan Ole Otnaes of Nasjonal Jazzscene confirmed this and advised putting thought into targeting venues and writing personal emails to promotors. This came out in useful Q&A sessions that were in relaxed settings (literally around the fireplace) encouraging open dialogue. Nils heard the message clearly, “Now we know to focus on specific countries with the booking, really using personal contact, and choose clubs that fit our music.”

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Manuel Troller

“You sharpen your consciousness about things” Manuel Troller
The Sony consultant Wulf Muller was another expert happy to hang out with the musicians and harpist Julie Campiche recognised it was a privilege to have quality time with such experience, especially at a time of uncertainty. “You know, as an artist you feel something – I want to go in a direction, but am I right or am I wrong? Is it my fear speaking or is this good intuition?” Her conversations at Take Five were, “a confirmation that I’m on the right path.” Manuel Troller, a guitarist to watch out for, intelligently observed, “You sharpen your consciousness about things – if someone speaks about something that you completely disagree with then you feel even more strongly about it, or if you agree, it helps you develop new ideas.”

“To have…something that helps you artistically and personally was great” Joel Graf
Yael Miller noticed that one expert said Facebook ‘likes’ were vital, whilst another promotor ignores them. Yilian felt the best advice was to forget Facebook ‘goals’ and, “Look at your audience as ‘friends’, you are building friendships – people you communicate with through music that have common values and ways of seeing life.” In order to do this artists need to learn how to speak openly. “The work with Mary McCusker [a communication coach] was fantastic,” said Joel Graf, “…to have all this information on the course, but also something that helps you artistically and personally was great.” They made short videos simply talking about their music and although Joel wasn’t sure of their usefulness, having to think of concise phrases to describe themselves and their creative work was helpful.

“It made me define what I want to do next, better” Yael Miller
When I arrived at Take Five I discovered that the band Orioxy were splitting up to allow Yael Miller and Julie Campiche to follow new creative ideas. Both were unsure whether to attend the course because everything was changing for them. However the promotors said they loved discovering artists who were transforming and it forced both of them to verbalise their ideas. Yael said, “So then I started talking about it and being open about it. It made me define what I want to do next, better.” Yael added of Take Five, “It was the thing I needed at this time because I’m in a transition period.”

There are some lessons that can’t be learned in Take Five. How do you face moving on from a band and deal with the consequences? These are situations that can be mis-handled but what spoke volumes to me was that Julie and Yael both turned up on the course. It takes balls to deal with changes and to face something like Take Five in a state of uncertainty. Yael’s concerns about taking a new direction were calmed, “One of them told me, ‘This is artist development.’ And it’s true, you have to take time to think about what you want, to be true to yourself…it was really reassuring.”

 

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Charming gardens of Bore Place

“For me, healing myself…was through making music” Mandla Mlangeni
The last word goes to Mandla Mlangeni, a trumpeter from Soweto invited onto Take Five. When he was just four years old his activist father was murdered by a bomb sent to his home. Mandla explained, “For me, healing myself and all the pain that lingered in me, was through making music.” Ultimately all these musicians at one point or another felt this power of music and the professional side of things is there to support that. Mandla added, “Take Five has opened my eyes to a whole new world of opportunity and made me think about my career in ways I never have before particularly when it comes to making contacts.” So, if it helps such people, the future generations of this music, get their work out there, then it’s doing its job.

Take Five

 

Pablo Nouvelle “All I need”

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Fabio Friedli, aka Pablo Nouvelle, is a young Swiss German soul-boy turned bedroom-rocker whose first album couldn’t get an official release because of all the Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson samples that needed clearing. The term “plunderphonics” seems to have been coined for this studio magician thanks to his particular talent for the art of sampling and restitching. Three years later, his new album, All I Need, is less of a post-modernist chop-up job and more of an organic studio project full of contemplative beats and atmospheric vocals, both skillfully employed to tease out a strong feeling of space and mood.

A surprisingly mature and emotionally delicate second album from a 29 year old who, when not winning awards for his work in film animation, finds time to record 4o tracks for his new album in London and Los Angeles. It has slick, catchy, pop/soul electronica stamped all over it, a feast for chill out lounges, downtempo playlists and elegant Manhattan shopping arcades. Though shamelessly commercial in its intention, the album is rich in feeling and texture thanks to a minimalist approach to the production that lets each track breathe in its landscape. Little wonder it struck me as the potential soundtrack to a film featuring hypersensitive characters figuring out their mercurial relationships on a snowy horizon.

Fabio explains that what starts off as a vague musical sketch at home on the keyboard and drum machine then gets elaborated in the studio with a singer who helps co-write and develop the piece turning it more into a song rather than just a sampling mosaic, a new situation for him formerly used to solitary confinement with his machinery. However sampling still features heavily as the vocals are often looped, chopped, slowed down and generally manipulated in some way to create the essential, raw direction of the track. Often compared to the likes of DJ Shadow and The Avalanches, the beats are tight, crisp, the uptempo numbers aching with dance floor potential.

Joined by a drummer and bassist on stage, Pablo Nouvelle will be on tour throughout Europe for most of spring 2016. Quoting Bonobo, the XX and Radiohead as his influences, I wouldn’t be surprised to find the work of Pablo Nouvelle alongside his heroes on heavy rotation on an intelligent radio station near you soon. With the one Marvin Gaye sample on the LP finally cleared, All I Need is out now on the award-winning Dutch label, Armada Music.

Pablo Nouvelle tour dates in March and April are on bandsintown

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