Friday, 27 August 2010

INTERVIEWED: Michael Yonkers in this month's Dazed & Confused

In this month's Dazed you can read my Cult VIP piece on guitar experimentalist and forgotten noise icon, Michael Yonkers.

I first heard of Yonkers in 2004, when I was running a low-grade indie night in a basement in Cornwall, where I was at college - the Michael Yonkers Band song 'Kill the Enemy' was on a Sub Pop compilation that I used to fall back on when I'd run out of up-tempo Fall numbers, and it was too early for Blondie.

The album Microminiature Love had been rereleased by the label, 35 years after Sire records had pulled out of releasing it in 1968. To me it was the sound of something totally new, unearthed; a kind of garage avant-rock that straddled time, made by a hitherto ignored king of distorted songs. To since learn that this monstrous, battle-weary baritone wasn't from some Vietnam vet singing the blues but a 21 year old from Minneapolis was mindblowing. And to talk to him a few months back was like fulfilling some dream that started back in that cellar club.

Despite a near paralysing back injury in the early 1970s he has recorded hundreds, maybe thousands of hours of unreleased music since then; he told me how he recorded songs from a motorised hospital bed he had installed in his basement appartment, and of mysterious 1980s electro projects made when he was in too much pain to play guitar, so switched to synth. One later album, Lovely Gold, came out on Chicago label Drag City earlier this year, but there is much still hidden away in his flat in boxes, and in an out of town storage lock up, waiting to be heard. He's currently in his Minneapolis appartment sifting through it all, one tape at a time.

Friday, 20 August 2010


This summer, commissioned by Robin Turner's ROAM project, I undertook a walk of each east London Olympic borough: Walthamstow, Hackney, Newham & Tower Hamlets (grouped together to make one walk), and Greenwich.

Seeing as the bicycle utopia that many self-consciously subversive Londoners have been trying to will into being has become a Barclays-sponsored commuter-friendly enterprise under His Royal Blondeness, Boris, it seems the only decent mode of travel a refusenik has left these days is to walk. However, to say that you are going to walk a fair distance - across a borough, say - draws desperate scrambling from certain company, who fling their Oyster Cards at you, try and lend you their bikes, reel off endless bus routes, train stations, and taxi company numbers in an effort to save you from being exposed to the monotony of London's endless concrete jungle.

Yet it is in traversing these streets by foot that one experiences London's layers; in London Fields, Hackney, for example, it is difficult to meditate on the Death Factory, former home of industrial music pioneers Throbbing Gristle that still stands today, when you are powering past it on two wheels, following the commuter flow in or out of the centre. Slowing down the process allows you to better absorb London's life, and its remnants.