Category Archives: RIP

Severed Heads Finally Escaped From Further Zombification

In Autumn last year Tom Ellard finally succeeded to get rid of the name “Severed Heads” which stuck to the group from 1979 onwards and even with him when the group started to evolve into a one man project beginning in the late 80’s.
He stated fair enough it was not his choice (Australian for Talking Heads?) but even with side projects and solo efforts he had just put to much energy into it to drop it like that. After all Severed Heads where rooted in the same Australian diy scene as S.P.K. and a well-known name (brand?) in early electronic experiments with tape, loops, found noises which continued with their constant use of available technology including video productions and screening containing defamiliarized images and a mixture of psychedelic mutations of electronics starting as early as 1982.

The audiovisual band featured Stephen Jones on Video Synthesizers and headed into their strongest phase starting with “City Slab Horror”. When they toured “The Big Bigot” in 1986 I had the luck to see them in Munich (together with Indie Rockers Inca Babies, Gaye Bikers On Acid and the then recently reformed Wire) and was heavily impressed of the futuristic sounds and graphics they produced. Distribution and licensing deals with Ink Records (UK), Nettwerk (USA) and Volition (AUS) where in place and all looked very promising until their gear was stolen. Slightly demoralised and back in Australia they started working on what became the ill fated breakthrough album “Bad Mood Guy” featuring the heavily promoted single ‘Hot With Fleas’.

This was the first of many attempts to create a hit single and please the labels.

“Rotound For Success” followed in 1989, aiming even more directly into the area of electronic dance music with pop appeal leading to a mediocre album where electro, ebm/industrial and experimental roots shone through only in the technical craftsmanship. The pointless Pumpkin on the cover nearly said all, I actually waited years until I got a cheap and perfect copy just for completion. No less than three 12″ singles had been issued surrounding this one to feed the happy dancing crowd – ‘Big Car’, ‘All Saints Day’ and ‘Greater Reward’ the best of the lot.
Further attempts to popularize the band – meanwhile Ellard and Jones – where made in 1988 with the “Bulkhead” Compilation which lead to a first revival of ‘Dead Eyes Opened’ and in 1991 with the newer Remix collection “Retread”. The last proper Album for Nettwerk followed with “Cuisine (with Piscatorial)”. While it started great with ‘Pilot In Hell’ everything that followed went downhill with only a few exceptions. The balance between commercial appeal, wierdo Pop and interesting electronica of the times was just too much too handle. Ellard later said in interviews we tried to make club music for drugged party people while we never went to clubs or took drugs – so it basically could’nt work. Nettwerk dropped them afterwards (I guess the extra experimental section Piscatorial at the end of the CD did not help) in favour of female singers and rappers while distancing from the whole ebm/electronica acts which made them big. The European distribution via PIAS got lost along the way.

1994 saw Severed Heads (now Tom Ellard solo) return with “Gigapus” on Volition in Australia, with ‘Heart Of The Party’ issued as single on the heels of the ‘Dead Eyes Opened’ Remixes by long term collaborator Robert Racic. 1995 a Carlos Perón remastered version in Europe and 1996 an USA version. Several versions include VHS, CDRom content etc. Again a hell for collectors but nothing helped to increase the fading popularity and the crash of Volution Records ended basically their career with the music industry for good.

Back to basics Tom Ellard as always interested in technical progress was one of the first musicians to embrace the DIY of home-burned CD-R’s and perhaps the first to offer downloadable music from his SevCom pages. The new found freedom had it’s price, loads of equipment was sold, full time jobs etc. The Music Server series was started (Muzak to create working atmospheres 1998 – 2002) followed by the idea of an ever evolving Magazine like release (OP 2002 – 2007) and more. The first of these was licensed as soundtrack for the Australian movie “The Illustrated Family Doctor” and Parts used as Soundtrack won the ARIA, the Australian Music Industry Award in 2005.

‘Haul Ass’ in 1998 and ‘Under Gail Succubus’ (2006) where the only regular Studio Albums issued and they showed a return to form.
The later, coupled with the first of the Barbara Series led to another series of (including this) 4 releases up to 2018, the other volumes credited to Tom Ellard. A highly welcome work crossing all borders.

Besides LTM issued a Heads Live CD, a double Best Of called “Commmerz” and the collectors label Vinyl On Demand a Box with old and oldest recordings, revised and supervised back in 2008. So the first Ending hat not really a chance to stand. Severed Heads stepped out of the grave once more….

These activities lead to a revival in reissues, performing and reworking releases and videos. Also some solo stuff. Also free stuff. Side Projects and remasters. Installing an ever-changing bandcamp site and facsimile reproductions on Vinyl. Besides the usual strange stuff, Tom Ellard Solo & a dive into new and unusual concepts and formats whenever possible.

As a final goodbye there was a limited CD available (now digitally available) to elaborate on what he felt like performing the ‘greatest Hits’ over and over again:

‘The Living Museum’ features the tracks in their final updated versions as performed on the last live Shows in Europe, US and Australia during 2019. This is the 2nd serious and most likely final attempt of Ellard severing ties with Severed Heads and progress actively forward.
The new banner which greated visitors of the SEVCOM home over a period of months announcing his new organisation :

[click it’s online now]

Poems. Lydia Tomkiw. Collected.

Dan Shepelavy from ‘Universal Exports of North America’ is the the publisher & editor of a new, comprehensive re-issue of the hopelessly out-of-print poems of Lydia Tomkiw.
It features an introduction by poet and Tomkiw’s teacher Paul Hoover, a recollection by poet and close friend Sharon Mesmer, and an assessment of Algebra Suicide by music critic/Trouser Press editor Ira Robbins.

Besides each book also includes a download of Algebra Suicide’s 1986 debut album Big Skin – significantly the only time a book & record were released simultaneously, with the same poems, in the same order.

Today available only splattered on the re-issue LP Compilations by Dark Entries (Feminine Squared and on Still Life) but luckily also saved in it’s original form but from a 2nd gen source at archive.org.

This is most likely the only chance to get all of her out of print collections and more for a reasonable price and as someone who collected Algebra Suicide and Lydia Tomkiw works for years I know how expensive (if for sale at all) a copy of “Popgun Sonatas” can be.

Genesis P-Orridge R.I.P.

Neil Andrew Megson later Genesis P-Orridge and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge born in Manchester in February 1950 to move and shake the art and music world boundaries with COUM, Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, a.o. died aged 70 yesterday. You did not need to like or agree with his ever changing development and his ways to be influenced, direct or indirect in many ways. It was an Inspiration. Thank You.

Pandrogyne Genesis

An excellent short orbiturary can be found at the NY Times.

Quick Change World : Ric Ocasek (1944 – 2019)

Sad Song.

So, this is it. The final single by Ric Ocasek was by the reformed Cars’ from 2011. Richard Otcasek died now, aged 75 this September after a long and varied career from early psych-soft rock to The Cars, Producer of Suicide, Bad Brains, Alan Vega, Romeo Void involving mega-stardom at the height of the 80’s with a.o. “Drive”, co-starring on Live Aid 1985, working as A & R Man a few years besides releasing his own solo records.
He was a father to 6 sons (!), a genuine wordsmith and a songwriter par excellence. He lived a live between underground and stardom, 80’s fame including marriage with a model he met during music video shootings.. Paulina Porizkova. He was a guitarist, keyboardist and singer with a own voice. A typical American in the best way who enjoyed his personal freedom and individuality. Always interested in art, photography and life.
In 2012 he published his collected lyrics and prose in bookform, paired with some b/w photographs, had some exhibitions of his pop art influenced paintings over the years.
In 2018 The Cars where inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018 – 40 years after their debut and without Benjamin Orr who passed away in October 2000.
The Cars and Ric Ocasek always held a special place in my heart even if they where perhaps the most conventional ‘Rockers’ amongst the American New Wave – DEVO, The B-52’s, Talking Heads, Blondie.

The noise electric never stops…

Live, Last & Lost – DD Gallhammer’s Jaywalker Remembered

Last November I had to learn that Dietmar Gallhammer, whom I first knew as driving force behind the swiss anarcho-hc-experimental band Jaywalker had died in Autumn 2012. We’ve been in touch briefly during the late 80’s and early 90’s resulting in an interview and an concert in my then home-town. On Klappstuhl I issued one of their tapes – live recordings from 1988 – on which I stumbled last Autumn again.
I needed a break from the heady electronic & experimental stuff I’ve been listening for some time continously and started to assemble the various bits and pieces, including the final tape he sent me as Jaywalker Recordings with permission to use it as it fits.
Over time parts of it appeared on various Compilations but never completely. So instead of simply reissuing the live tape for the digital age I’ve decided to remaster all the material and compile an Archive Release in the spirit of anarchistic DIY attitude as Free Download release with artwork based on DD’s original prints and dedicate this release to him.

When Jaywalker fell apart Dominique Mollet appeared as member of Dwarfish while DD founded another hc trio; Religious Overdose shortly after with Ivo Pärt & Thomas Peter, resulting in the album ‘Flatus Flow Rate’ in 1996. His more experimental leanings where sat on the back seat with this but not for long. In fact he got simultanously involved in Destroy After Use with Frankie Buchholz and Martin S. Past with whom he kept performing over the years on guitar and videoprojection. See some excerpts here on his utube channel.

Besides his musical musings he kept an interest in graphics and invested his time besides parenthood in a multi-media workshop for mentally handicaped people and founded a time-trade (trade of abilities and time instead of payment) platform in his home area Aargau.
Some of his graphical experiments with HDR photography can currently be viewed via his Flickr account.

A final glimpse showing the direction his musical path was going in 2012 is this otherwise unreleased solo track:

RIP & Thanks for all.

Wipe Out – Z’EV 1951|2017

Boyd Rice spread the word on Dec. 17th, 2017; the mighty Z’EV is gone.
66 years is perhaps not the shortest lifespan and no one get’s out alive but it left me speechless for quite some time. The shock waves are increasing.

If one person was the anti-figurehead of Industrial culture it was him. Nice and handsome in person, incredible consequent and forward in his works. I’ve only met him once, approaching him after a performance in 2005 slightly embarrassed to out me as a ‘fan’ but I could not resist to let him know how much his attitude and concepts meant to me.

After studies at CalArts he moved to the bay area where he adopted the artist name Z’EV in late 1979 and developed his unique percussive style with found and used objectsformed from industrial materials such as stainless steel, titanium, and PVC plastics f.e..
“The foundation of my work, regardless of genre, is Process combining the Dadaist / Duchampian notion of Found / Finding, the Cut Up of Brion Gysin, and Cagian indeterminacy” says Z’EV in his own words.

In late 1980 he opened up for BAUHAUS on their british / european dates. His influence on Test Dept., Einstürzende Neubauten and others can only be guessed today.

Z’EV lived more than 10 years in Amsterdam, and guested there as Teacher at the Theater School for New Dance Development besides pursuing his projects. While performing was his main way of reaching people he released plenty of audio works, solo and quite a lot collaborative efforts (with Chris Watson, KK Null, Merzbow, Genesis P. Orridge, Larsen, Hati and Organum to name only a few) and published several writings.
Most famous is ‘Rhythmajik‘ on Rhythm and Magic obviously, first published by Temple Press in 1992 as book, later distributed freely as PDF via his site. Examples of his audio visual works sculptures, videos etc. can be found also. Some more music was self-published or reissued via bandcamp.

Back to the original fb posting, I feel there’s not too much one can add to these words:

“I would say that Z’EV was to the avant garde what Iggy Pop was to rock and roll: total intensity, energy and raw power and he often left the stage in the early eighties cut up and bleeding from the injuries he received from his own instruments. ………… a man I thought was one of the most under appreciated figures in modern music. A linguist, an ethnomusicologist, a scholar, a mystic; but a man who could distill all this into a performance so intense that it could captivate an audience in a punk rock venue. That was his unique gift. He was one of the most talented people I have ever met. And there has never been any performer akin to him.”
[Boyd Rice / NON]