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Jun 182008

Ninki V

Over two years ago I mentioned a re-mix that I had completed, but no more was said. Unfortunately the album it was destined for, a special re-mix version of Ninki V’s album “We Can Fly”, is currently on-hold, so the song, called “Count the hours, Fix the Wings”, will appear on our debut album.

We Can Fly Cover

The song is based on Ninki V’s original solo melodica piece, which has been warped and extended before adding several layers of theremin, guitar, mandolin and vocals. I have now also re-recorded the vocals and added some de Florette drums through the process of xenochrony, and so we now have another Lunacy Board track to add to the growing collection.

Ninki V’s style is certainly as eclectic as our own – she composes for a Wakemanesque collection of Casio keyboards, theremin, flute and melodica, whilst her stage show includes playing the theremin with her hair and extensive use of puppetry. Jump over to her website for some samples.

The Dougmeister

In a similar vein we’re pleased to be including our first foray into xenochrony on the album. “Xenochronous Requiem For A Head Laying In A Field In Butler” was based on a bass solo by Board collaborator Doug Boucher and was originally destined for the “Stockholm” soundtrack album.

Since the track fits within the style of the first album so well, and has already been regularly featured on Spellbound Radio, it has been placed where it belongs. Doug has been pretty busy writing new material for his solo shows lately, so a trip to his Myspace page is worth a regular visit as he swaps new material in and out on a regular basis.

Aug 052007
Mick and Wilco

It’s been a long time since I’ve been on stage, and never as a ‘solo’ act, so it was with some trepidation that I set off on the road to Bushey (near Watford) for the ‘Hands Off 2007′ Theremin Symposium. Various people have posted reports of the main event, which was a great success, but of most interest in these pages is the little set I did on the Sunday night for the ‘survivors’ of the whole weekend. This came after a packed weekend of workshops, demonstrations and a truly wonderful concert by a variety of thereminists from around the World, so it could easily have been a total wash-out with everybody drained. I happen to think it all went rather well.

I rehearsed a batch of new Lunacy Board songs, along with a couple of old Deserters numbers – just me playing guitar and singing, using an old Linux PC running the ‘Sooper Looper‘ software to set up sections of repeating chords to play solos (either guitar or theremin) over the top of. At some point prior to the event it occurred to me that it would make life a bit easier for me and a bit more interesting for the audience if I was to have some collaborators up on stage, so contacted a group of performers with the offer of the post of ‘Stunt Thereminist’ for The Lunacy Board Subcommittee. I received a couple of positive responses, so re-arranged my setlist to fit around their choices of song, and I was ready to go.

Nerves were absent as the performance drew near – probably just because the day had been so busy and I had barely time to think about the evening show. I got the stage more-or-less set up as soon as the main concert had finished, took half an hour to get refreshed, then returned to the stage to finish off. At which point I discovered that I had not brought a video cable for Sooper Looper. It can run quite happily without one, as I control it from a set of effects pedals, but should anything go amiss I would not be able to reset it or see what was wrong. Live and learn. The audience came into the room and chatted as I prepared for the first song.

To warm up my fingers and voice I kicked off with ‘Morning Rolls’ – a very short song with no instrumentals or frills. With that complete and with only a small fluffed chord change I invited Wilco Botermans to the stage. Previously in the weekend Wilco had demonstrated his theremin effects set-up which he controls using a specially wired glove to control parameters of a group of Moog ‘Mooger Foogers’, as well as the visually stunning ‘Croix Sonore’ – a unique instrument with similar properties to a theremin. For the purposes of his guest appearance he was using his TVox Tour theremin (the Russian-built instrument favoured by Lydia Kavina and Barbara Bucholz), and the Mooger Foogers, though without the glove controller.

We started off with ‘The Unofficial National Anthem’, followed with a very laid-back version of ‘Requiem For A Head In A Field In Butler’ – using Doug’s original bass part which we improvised along to, and finished off with ‘One Night In The Back Of A Fire Engine’ complete with audience participation (cheesy, but fun). Wilco played a mix of melodic accompaniment and weird special effects which worked well – ‘Requiem…’ seemed to really benefit from this approach as far as I can recall. The concert was recorded in full, but I’ve only had a chance to hear a few snippets back.


Wilco left the stage and I played another short song – ‘Jim Crow’, then Hypnotique came up onto the stage. We played ‘The Man In The Boat’ followed by Lee Newe’s ‘The Woman In Red’ – both fairly slow songs, to which Hypnotique added some legato cello-like theremin parts. Her solos on ‘The Woman In Red’ were particularly effective at bringing the sad nature of the song to the fore.

At some point during the previous song, the looper had stopped responding, so this stopped me doing the new multi-part song we’ve been working on, which needs several looped layers to work, so I called for another stunt thereminist and Terry Bowler came up to play on ‘The Winning Smile’ (a rare love song I wrote last year, which now also incorporates the music from ‘Goodbye Mr. V.’) and ‘The Ballad of Serenity’ (the only cover version I’ve tried, with lyrics which fit into the Lunacy Board remit). I finished off with one more guest thereminist, Captain Ants of ‘The Jaw-Line of Julianne Moore‘, playing the somewhat rockier ‘Fairytale Propaganda’.

It was good to finally get some of these songs out on stage, and great to be able to play them with a group of musicians from a range of backgrounds. I hope to get some video clips posted in the near-future from this.


 The Lunacy Board  Comments Off
Mar 062007

One of Zappa’s favourite tricks around the “Joe’s Garage” era and beyond was the practice he called “xenochrony” or “strange synchronisation”. This involved him taking a piece of music (often a studio backing track) and overdubbing it with a totally unrelated (usually a live guitar solo) track from a completely different song. After some fiddling about, the result was a melody that would play what appeared to be insanely complex polyrhythms over the top of the new song. It’s something I’ve always wanted to have a shot at, but lacked the source material to work with.

Then I came across a beautiful bass solo written by Doug Boucher over on his MySpace page. It’s called “Requiem For A Head Laying In A Field In Butler” and is dedicated to the very wonderful Mike Keneally. I really enjoyed the piece and tried playing some haunting theremin over the top, some of which came together quite nicely, and other parts of which were less successful. I then tried putting the piece together with some of Sean’s drumming for (I think) The Winning Smile – two unrelated bits of music coming together to form something new altogether. To this new hybrid track I set about playing guitar and theremin, with pretty good results. There are places where the bass and drums drift apart to give a very laid back feeling, and others where they synchronise exactly, including some where the drums and bass reach a crescendo at the same time before gently tailing off.

As usual, you can find more about the track over at The Lunacy Board site.