This ambitious programme commences here in London later on this month, with a launch at Village Underground headlined by actress Maxine Peake and her fellow purveyors of oddity, Adrian Flanagan and Dean Honer. The trio’s musical outfit, Eccentronic Research Council, will be performing their concept album, 1612 Underture, in its entirety and the evening will also feature an impressive DJ line-up, representing – so we are told – “some of London’s most legendary club nights at the start of the 21st century”. Among this special bunch is DJ and Noise of Art founder Ben Osborne, whose set will make use of some of Russolo’s electronic sounds.
Ahead of their one-off appearance, we interviewed Eccentronic Research Council’s Adrian Flanagan about the threesome’s involvement with Noise of Art, their new cassette-only record label and working with Maxine Peake. As you will see, there was certainly no mincing of any words…
Your headline show at the Noise of Art launch night is one of the few performances the three of you have done together. We’re presuming it’s going to be unique. Give us a clue as to what we can expect…
A bunch of northerners grumbling onstage about beer being £5 a pint whilst pounding your faces with next level pre-digital Sheffield sonics [laughs]. The ERC are the square peg in the asshole of all that's trendy. If you want something different then we quite possibly could be your favourite new band. If you want to take pictures of yourself with a drink whilst chatting about the lack of organic hummus in the Dalston area then I don't think we'll be for you.
Well, to be fair, Londonist should definitely be reporting on any lack of organic hummus in Dalston. It’s within our remit. But while we’re looking into that, can you please explain how you first got involved with Noise of Art?
We'd been turning down London shows for almost six months then Noise of Art made us an offer we couldn't understand and now we appear to be headlining an event in Shoreditch!
You hail from Sheffield — what, to you, is the main difference between the Sheffield music scene and the London music scene?
I actually hail from Salford but live in Sheffield. The difference is…we invent it, London copies it but then dresses it up like bloody David Bowie and then has a world wide smash with it [laughs].
If that doesn’t get our readership bombarding the ‘COMMENT’ function below, nothing will. Let’s now turn to the vision behind your concept album, 1612 Underture...
1612 Underture is one part political commentary and feminist manifesto and two parts fake-loric sound poem based on the mistreatment of the Pendle Witches via a modern day travelogue to the home of the legendary Lancashire Sisterhood.
Why make the Pendle Witches the focal point of the record?
Ever since we were kids, Maxine and I both had a fascination with the Pendle Witches. We are both from that neck of the woods in Lancashire, you see, and we just got talking about how it would be good to do something together about them. So we went for a day out in the car, driving around the Pendle Hill area with a flask of tea and some custard creams and I went away and wrote about it. We had no idea how it would manifest itself at that point, we certainly didn't think we'd end up with a critically acclaimed album, doing sell-out shows as a band and going on the Culture Show being deconstructed by a load of smart alecs [laughs]. It's funny how things turn out.
And how did your collaboration with Maxine initially come about?
I wrote to her asking if she'd be so kind to dress as a giant rabbit and let me chase her with a water pistol for a video for another project I do called The Chanteuse & The Crippled Claw. Thankfully, she said yes. We are both into a lot of the same things, music, films — both a bit quirky. She's pretty much my favorite person on earth. I've so much respect for her as an actor but also as a human being. She really does rock with the best of them.
You’ve set up Desolate Spools, a cassette-only label. That’s a bit esoteric, isn’t it?
Music to a lot of people has become quite worthless, this stuff that just floats about and has no physical presence. We just thought it would be fun to do some super limited runs of ERC music on bespoke cassette and other lost formats. Dean and I are always making music, making imaginary soundtracks to films never made and doing the odd collaboration so we need somewhere to put this stuff. We want to make nice artefacts to house this music in, kind of turn what we do into outsider art pieces. I think kids are getting miffed themselves at spending money on itunes and actually not owning anything for it when they know they can just listen to it for free on Spotify. There's a whole new generation of kids that are getting into vinyl and cassettes, they want something physical for their pounds, they are sick of pooling their money into the empty vortex that is apple. We are in the process of getting some releases together at the moment.
What sort of releases?
Dean and I have been getting friends from all walks of life such as teachers, scientists, mothers, outsider art gallery owners, actors, documentary film-makers, journalists recording their dreams and nightmares for us and we've been soundtracking the audio they've been sending us. There's still loads of people saying they want to do it so we might do a few volumes of these. 'The Dream Catcher Tapes Volume 1' should be available quite soon.
Do you remember the first tape you bought?
My mum got me my first ever tape and a little Phillips tape recorder for my 7th birthday. It was a Roller Disco compilation tape. It had stuff like D.I.S.C.O by Ottawan on it and something by BA Robinson. The first tape I bought myself was “The Wonderful & Frightening World of…” by The Fall.
You recently announced that the three of you will be recording a new album this year. Is the next record likely to be inspired by a particular theme again?
It's a secret. But it won't be witch-based. Everyone's doing witch records now, you can't move for them. Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead can do one for a start!
Would you say that politics play an important part in your writing?
Not in a Billy Bragg sort of way but I think if you’re alive in the UK in 2013, politics pretty much has many a decent person by the throat with a switchblade. It's affecting people in pretty much the same way as it did in the times of the Pendle Witches, which is why our album is resonating with people. The unemployed, the sick, the working classes are all being marginalised, punished, set upon by the people who are supposed to be on their side. It’s glowingly evident this coalition has nothing in common with human beings. I don't know what it's like down there in London but People Up North are really angry and you can understand when you've got people in Sheffield expected to pay for your lovely London Olympic village and a funeral for a woman who robbed their fathers of their jobs and self-worth, then they come home from a hard day’s graft to find wheel marks on their couches where a disabled person has climbed through their windows dragging their wheelchairs behind them to steal their TV to sell on in the boozer because their benefits have been stopped. You've got to ask yourself: what part of this Britain is Great exactly?
Noise of Art’s 100 Years of Electronic Music is on at Village Underground on 17 May (8.30pm). Tickets, priced £10/ £12.50/ £15, are available here