TRACK-BY-TRACK: Mark Stewart
, December 2nd, 2012 06:15
The industrial master talks us through his new album Exorcism Of Envy - listen to the "funkenstein" in full below
Mark Stewart, former leader of the Pop Group, all-round sonic pioneer and relentless left-wing activist, is set to release a new album Exorcism Of Envy next week, December 3, via Future Noise Music.
It's a new version of his last album The Politics Of Envy, which was released in March after being put together over the last two years, over which time Stewart accrued a huge host of collaborating luminaries including Factory Floor, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Keith Levene, Kenneth Anger, Richard Hell, Massive Attack’s Daddy G, Primal Scream, Tessa Pollitt of The Slits and Douglas Hart of the Jesus And Mary Chain.
Working in classic dub tradition, Stewart has completely reworked the LP, adding seismic drum and bass tracks (and a deftly-deployed bit of Beethoven) to the already-potent sonic heft of the album, to form an entirely different, rechristened yet stil furious, type of beast.
What gave you the idea of reworking Politics Of Envy and when did you decide on it?
Over the years people have always asked for a Mark Stewart in dub album and because of the international critical acclaim of Politics Of Envy, I thought now was the time to strike. Even in my teenage years with The Pop Group on Y and 'Beyond Good And Evil' my love of dub led us to experiment with dubmeister Dennis 'Blackbeard' Bovell and of course the later projects with Adrian Sherwood, who I continue to collaborate with, so I’ve been wanting to do a full on rework for years.
Did you recruit any collaborators to work with on Exorcism, beyond those already on Politics?
The nature of the beast was to ghost and spook out the original work done, somewhat in the nature of an exorcism, with me as the puppet master, so the mad cast of the original album, like Kenneth Anger, Lee Perry, Gina Birch of The Raincoats would wake up on another planet where they could then breed and hybridise. It's like a strange mutation or what I call a funkenstein. Someone I would have loved to have got in for this was Ari Up from The Slits as I fondly remember our nights out at the Bali Hai in Streatham skanking at the bass bins to the Jah Shaka soundsystem.
What was your ethos for revising the tracks going in?
I try and leave a lot of things in life open to chance but I’ll explain stuff track by track:
'Babycino' - Being immersed in the bass culture of Bristol from a very early age I’d been searching for the sirens and special FX used by the DJs at the shebeens - now I’ve found them and I can’t stop myself playing with them. (I think it all comes from the spaceship noises we used to make in the primary school playground).
'Sexorcist' - This is the dub of the hit 'Stereotype'. PiL seemed to be running parallel paths to us in The Pop Group back in the day and dubbing up Levene has always been a dream of mine, the way his brain works is like a giant FX patch bay.
'Gustav Says Dub' - Krautrockers Der Plan provided the beat for me to twist, again in formative years I’d be listening to Neu, then King Tubby, then Sun Ra so the pigeons have come home to roost.
'Method To The Madness Dub' - I wrote this in an amazing studio which was a part of a castle in Bohemia just outside Prague; for some reason I keep on feeling that this is still really the medieval times but with drones in place of lances.
'Codex Dub' - Here I was kind of riffing on the electro tropes I grew up with, like Bambaataa and Mantronix, some of the 12" mixes and bonus beats out of New York were as crucial to my education as the pre-releases from Jamaica and people don’t seem to realise that you can do a dub of any kind of music, it doesn’t have to be reggae.
'Want Version' - Nik Void from Factory Floor guests here on the mash up, my hymn to hyperconsumerism.
'Mirror Wars' - Without the influence of Lee [Perry, guest on the track] from an early age I think I would be a completely different person; he taught me how to be lateral or sidereal. Special guests on this are my favorite Kreuzberg crew Xacute.
'Letter Full Of Tears' - We decided to strip the original sci-fi lullaby back to the bone and add a blast beat. Often when watching a film, I drive people mad by running around trying to get a machine to record a gunshot or explosion to make a rhythm out of.
'Apocalyse Dub' - Daddy G’s voice conjures up visions of smoky late night blues dances and hanging with The Wild Bunch (Bristol soundsystem), my love of scratch DJs like Whiz Kid and latterly Q Bert and Mr Dibbs. I think that whole cut and paste ethos, like on Steinski’s Mass Media has had a big influence on Exorcism.
'Attack Dogs' - Bobby Gillespie and the Primals parachuted into a sink estate on the outskirts of Bristol. I got Douglas Hart from The Jesus And Mary Chain to play guitar again - he is now a great film director - I think it's the first time they played together since Bobby was their drummer.
'Killswitch' - This is the one when Kenneth [Anger] gets out his Theremin. I first met him in a haunted dancehall in Bario Alta, Lisbon when I was curating a retrospective of his work, the guy is an absolute legend.
Who did you look to for inspiration in the reworking process?
Obviously to one of the most important collaborators, Lee Perry, for his pioneering decontructions - more like complete dub destructions - with The Upsetters at the Black Ark studio; he and Kenneth have been an inspiration throughout my life. Kenneth’s primary heretical act of inserting found ‘Biblical’ footage (sent to his parent’s house by chance) into his homoerotic biker film Scorpio Rising was for me one of the most important art interventions of recent history and this concept of juxtaposition, of putting things where they shouldn’t be, has always been crucial to me and has really come to play on this piece.
Why do you think it's important or attractive to re-interpret/re-mould material? "Re-make re-model" as Roxy said: editing, scanning, mashing up, cranking, slicing and dicing is a crucial life skill in this age of anxiety, so you can choose your own brand of truth, as there seems to be ‘version galore’.
Why rename the tracks?
The exorcism began to take on a life of its own.
Which versions of the songs do you prefer - those on Politics or Exorcism?
For me it's like trying to choose between one child or another: one you respect for its petulance, the other has eyes of prophecy.
In terms of completely new material, is there anything in the works for next year or beyond?
I’m just starting to write some stuff with KK Null, Russell Haswell and a brilliant footwork/juke producer out of Chicago called Chrissy Murderbot and hopefully Ian Svenonius of Nation of Ulysses and Ornette.