Dissonance comments

Instruments used: hoovers, feedback loops , food blenders, automated slimmers aid, tape loops, electric guitar, glockenspiel, varispeed turntable manipulations, various tape techniques (inching, etc), electric piano, h&h 100 watt amp, watkins copycats, 4x12 marshall cabinet, chair springs, prepared electric guitar (various types of paper/ball bearings, clothes pegs, combs etc), violin, bowed glasses, tuned percussion, various domestic motors, marbles, tins, percussive bowls, soprano sax, voices, tremolo effects, distortion effects, radio feed, marbles/tin lids + contact mic. All of the above (to name just the few that I recall) were used as sound source material to realise this project.

Created using a Grundig 2-track domestic tape recorder, mastered to cassette whilst live feeds were made into this master – thus enabling further chance musics and collaging. This ‘master’ was then further edited, with various intuitive section processes deployed to achieve required representation of Dissonance/Antagonistic Music.

Some clues apropos key creative impulse/rasion d’arte at work behind Dissonance/Antagonistic music: The actual “spoof titles” perhaps tell much more about the puckish spirit at work behind Dissonance … .

Dissonance/Antagonistic Music (ASR 001, Experimental noise pieces, 1979/80, C 60 Cassette)
Bird Trapping Wing (In Steel Bars)/Ship in Distance with Cerise Backdrop/Child Squashing Frog/Planes in Collision, Falling/Mona Lisa’s Sister and Subsequent Burning/Figure Amongst Ruins/Dead Seahorse with Sky Melting/Engine Failing-Resultant Crash/Church with New Shoes Squeaking

Interestingly regarding the Dissonance Americas Version: a couple of years I jokingly gave titles to some ‘artificial’ short track divisions accidentally made when copying from tape to a Cdr. Here they are, for ‘completeness’ sake … Slipped Shafts/John Sings/My Imagination, Working/Fahey Evenings/Cow at Dentist/Door Sandwich/Saucepan Satellite/Workshop Rok/Revolvinini/Symphonicmoron Music/Chop/Spacegun Serenade.

First version of Dissonance, sleeves bore the following legends:
“One hour of thrills!”
“A low Hi-Fi recording”
“Produced by No-One”
(You will also note that the label’s original name was Pure Noise Tapes. This was however, dropped at the advice of Geoff Travis – who cautioned that Siouxsie & The Banshees have a whole barrage of lawyers (it transpired that Pure Noise happened to be the name of their publishing company).)
Migraine Inducers personnel was listed as:
Martyn Bates: instrumental ambivalence
Ann Biguous: grundig and random noises

The ‘ambivalence’ which I was to later take to heart with Eyeless In Gaza (not to mention more or less every production that ever to have emerged from Ambivalent Scale Studios) referred not to a nihilism, or apathy, but to a musical freedom – as in:
- The spaces between the notes, any/any key.
- No slavish adherence to a particular musical style.
- Ambivalence to improvisation.
- Ambivalence to notions of rules and standardised codes, across the board.

Advertising flyers for the first Dissonance, offer some telling descriptions of the music as being:
Ambivalent Scale
Cacophony Pop
DIN Music
New Noise
Antagonistic Music
Co-Incidental Music
Freeform Anti-Beat Pop
Sewer Ambiance (!!!)

Migraine Inducers’ tape includes embryonic snatches of tunes that were later fully realised – e.g.: ‘Calls of Birds’ (a tune appearing on Letters Written) and ‘Kodak Ghosts Run Amok’ (the very first Eyeless In Gaza release).

Tom’s questions [of Beta-lactam Ring Records for the re-release of Dissonance versions in 2007 on Cd]

Q: So, the original British version ran about 60 minutes or less, yes? And the so-called American version (a bootleg?) added another half hour?

Martyn Bates: The Americas version of Dissonance (NOT a bootleg), runs for approx 43 mins of music. The original version of Dissonance (Dissonance/Antagonistic Music by Migraine Inducers … ) runs for approx 60 mins of music.

Q: When did the American version appear?

Martyn Bates: mid to late 1981 – around the time of the release of Caught In Flux/The Eyes of Beautiful Losers by Eyeless In Gaza.

Q: Are there different covers?

Martyn Bates: The UK release (Migraine Inducers) has two or three covers.

Q: Was the release reviewed in any zines at the time, or were there any interviews that early on? That would be good liner note fodder.

Martyn Bates: Just this one, as far as I know – tho I might well be wrong about that.

Early 1980: (following on from a lengthy correspondence) Geoff Rushston wrote in Stabmental # 3 & #4:
“ID 004 Dissonance by Martyn Bates: I was so intrigued by the really vicious electronic scrawls that Martyn Bates produced (he describes the tape as a scream of frustration) … I had to find out more. We corresponded regularly [about this] violent anti-music: I think this is a brilliant tape … haunting, beautiful and totally fresh sounding.”

Q: I wouldn’t mind referencing the 99 Eyeless remix/megamix at some point as well.

Martyn Bates: The remake, made in 1994 by Pete Becker & myself is aprox 34 mins of music. And, it completes the thing really – by collecting all three versions together, and I’m glad that were gonna include it in the 2xCd edition. It makes perfect sense to do it. As a piece, the remake is more of a post-isolationist psyche piece, and could easily be described as being the ‘electronic’ version, in the old-fashioned send-in that this version is centred around a great deal of tape manipulation techniques.

Regarding Dissonance Americas: It’s a conflagration of the ‘art attack’ (if you like/dislike) of the first version with a fried John Fahey (?) thing going on + plus proto Eyeless style solo improvisations – a methodology intuited and then mixed as a performance of low-fi collage. It’s a bit shorter than Dissonance One, running for approx 44 mins. I guess you could say it’s a ‘sideways’ insight into the way some aspects my early music-making evolved/unraveled.

Oh, Dissonance was mooted for some sort of exhibition set up by Thurston Moore – a sort of “the cassette medium as anthropological & sociological artefact” type exhibition, around the year 2000. My friend John Everall of Sentrax was doing the legwork – as far I know it didn’t materialise, and I’m not sure that the idea got of the ground, or how far John got towards suggesting Dissonance … .

Q: Can you please recount your musical route until today?

Martyn Bates: My musical route may appear as quite a strange path to some people. I believe that my first musical interest was folk music, combined with certain aspects of pop music … . But it wasn’t until punk happened and the subsequent movement towards so-called industrial music that I became seriously interested in creating music myself. It was the whole scene around industrial music that galvanized me – I got seriously interested in that whole world of ideas, philosophy etc. … . It intrigued me both intellectually and emotionally. And suddenly I felt inspired, and determined to find a way to have a platform, to make my own music; it seemed perfectly viable within all this staggering eclecticism encapsulated within this medium. I decided that I wanted to work in a small unit as opposed to a full-blown group; the autonomy and focus of a concentrated unit. Initially I had wanted to work in a trio format, but having met Peter Becker I discovered a wonderful synchronicity within the principle of two. We had all the colours we needed for our explorations – more to the point we had the vital factor of control contained within a compact symbiosis. Another major factor about this decision, and it’s something that has continued to be an interest and an area that we’ve explored in lots of atypical ways – a shared interest in minimalist music. When I say “minimalist music”, I’m not thinking of the so called “modern classical music”. such as Reich and Glass – that doesn’t particularly interest me … . (In fact I wonder if that’s not merely a blind alley.) In a personal sense minimalism simply means something that delves right into the tone of the music, into the heart of that music … . To explore it and yet not “do something” with it … . It’s a way of leaving a skeletal picture that lets a lot of other spaces come into the music … and also it allows the listener to become more active in their involvement as a listener, within the experience of listening to the music that’s been created; it invites more participation somehow. We wanted to make music that people could become involved with, themselves; active rather than passive. We wanted to make a music that inspired, that promoted investigation of one’s own spirit and creativity; a kind of emancipation via music … via the impetus of example, as opposed to patronising and proselytizing. We always thought of what we are doing as “art” (with a small “a” – a kind of “folk-art”) as opposed to pop music … . Which sounds quite a precious statement to make. However, we always had a consciousness about songs, melodies, and the value of that discipline; what we wanted to do was to combine all of our interests, above all we always want to communicate; and so we had the duo, the perfect medium for our conflicting aims … .

Q: How do you regard nowadays the kind of stylistic revolution that occurred in the beginning of the eighties. How important to you was the punk thing?

Martyn Bates: It was very important in terms of focusing ideas, and in personal terms it was especially important as a means of providing an impetus and a platform – it was a case of just putting out your antenna and tuning in and receiving it – it was an agitation, something electric in the air, something that picked you up and away you went with it … a tangible, benign energy. Its major strength was the co-existence of stylistic differences, an inclusive creativity – although I personally don’t feel any affinity with any the bands that you mentioned there – I have to say that I didn’t back then either … . Except that, I valued the quietism of Young Marble Giants, the way they invented their own language for their music – what I valued most of all was the delicious eclecticism of the times; that vitality … and now, it’s still that elusive quietism of the spirit, that I value above all in music, in any art-form … I still find that this the most sublime element, particularly in any kind of music, and it’s the hardest element to detect, too … . And I’m not talking about any thing as vulgar as volume or lack of it – to me; true music is the music of the spirit, where the soul sings.

Q: Your first outfit was called Migraine Inducers … . (The album will now be issued via Metamorphic Journeyman records – a limited edition, out within the next six months, hopefully before that [??? -ed.]), which you describe as “Industrial”, close to T.G. or Nurse With Wound’s works. Quickly, you moved, with Eyeless In Gaza, to a more musical and lyric mood … . How did this happen?

Martyn Bates: Essentially, it’s always all down to whatever changes are happening in my personal life …. I’ve never thought about music in terms of “I will construct, design and harness it” … it’s always been something of the opposite; a situation where I follow, if I’m able, if I’m allowed to, really … though I do recall specifically with that project that it felt more than ever like some kind of catharsis, a shout, a clearing house in many ways … . That project, and some of the early Eyeless songs, like “Knives Replace Air”, “Whitewash”, “John of Patmos” were very cathartic … . Though I am still interested in that whole world, the developments that emanated from “Industrial”, all that strange symbolism, the mysticism implied … . The basic metaphor … .

Q: Thus, you have begun with a quite industrial work. In the mid eighties, EIG somehow quit the minimalist compositions, releasing songs that were more “Pop”. Now, in your recent works, we can feel a more abstract turn. How do you explain this cycle?

Martyn Bates: Again, its not such a strange thing to me, somehow … to me, the artist’s position is that of “everyman” i.e: you are one person/you are all persons … . It’s a reflection … of life, of my life, of things that happen along the way … to me “art is a mirror”. – I am definitely not interested in using it as a hammer, in proselytising; it’s insulting to do so … . And I don’t feel the need or the want to qualify, clarify and most of all, understand my work in this way … . After all, what can this kind of self-analysis mean anyway, ultimately?? – This kind of self-conscious, so “self-aware” analysis??!! In the end, its just one’s warped prejudice … . One moment’s inaccurate attempt to identify and categorise/analyse the essence out of the art … . Something just disappears when you do this, something is rendered invisible; its ultimately a self nullifying act that wont help you to function as an artist, wont help you create a fucking thing … . I would sooner the spirit, the magic, the religiosity of anything come to me intact, and not interfered with … . You know, its as simple as attempting to explain the following question; “how do I explain being alive”! – E.I.G. is a total mirror of Pete Becker and myself, metaphorically speaking, and in many ways, in actual physical terms … . We’re dear friends that respect and love each other, with the arrogance to attempt to commandeer to coax some ethereal spirit into being … . A vehicle for self expression maybe … blinded, guided by the simple everyday knowledge that we are all everyman; no more, no less.

Q: I think that EIG and C93 share many elements; a more “Industrial” beginning, then … .

Martyn Bates: There are parallels … its like a story, a journey that many shared … . This particular pathway started with an exploration of the outside world, a shriek, a shock of recognition … . As time goes on you sense the futility … and you internalise, examine perspectives of trying to change worlds from within … it’s a path shared by many of that era, the ones that have had any kind of longevity … . Swans, TG/PTV, NWW, Nocturnal Emissions … . And many more – I don’t know if its just something peculiar to this field or if it’s something with much wider sociological implications – I wouldn’t really like to say. I appreciate Current 93; their totally singular approach is a genuine light in the darkness … . Not many people dare even mention folk music. I think that the most salient thing to observe here is that from the early eighties, there are several key bands/units that sprouted from the industrial “seed-vision” that are still totally valid, still fully functioning … . All of them are unique, and all are totally and utterly different to each other … . All continue what they do outside the concerns of commercial success, mass-market, youth orientation and other such ephemeral bullshit concerns … . Off the top of head, I think of Eyeless, Current 93, Coil, Nurse With Wound, Nocturnal Emissions, Legendary Pink Dots, Death in June, Chris and Cosey … . With Nocturnal Emissions and Eyeless having the least kind of critical acknowledgement, least sales etc, probably … at the moment, anyhow … and yet somehow, via various circuitous routes we all continue doing stuff; the thirst, the curiosity refuses to disappear … .

Q: How important is intuition in your work?

Martyn Bates: It’s a key, one of the most important things in this particular macrocosm of expression … . Too much craftsmanship kills music dead – you lose something, something precious … . And you gain only inhibition and sterility … . Lots of people mistake my meaning when I say this. You need to be in touch with your unconscious self when you create … not straitjacketed by an over emphasis on technique … music is a orgiastic, beautiful medium and you owe it to yourself not to ruin it by over-analysing it, over-recording, and generally worrying the thing to death; too much “craftsmanship” and you can kill it stone dead.

Q: I was listening to some Igor Wakevitch in the car yesterday and couldn’t help drawing some mental lines to Dissonance. What were you listening to at the time that inspired you to release this?

Martyn Bates: Inspiration & sources: T.G, Agitation in Anticipation of Offspring I-IV, Cage, ‘Dub Train’, Berio’s Visage, Revolution No. 9, The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny, Chance Meeting, Stabmental , Final Solution, ‘Dromm’ e.p., L. Voag, Clock Dva ‘Tape No. 2’, Peking –O, Augm. (+ 100’s of other, less obvious points of origin that I simply don’t recall … ).

Q: Did you shortly afterwards have the epiphany that you could sing as well, or could you always sort of sing and you just decided it was not yet time to trot that out? I hate to draw the parallel, but I’m sort of alluding to the situation that existed in the band Vice Versa, where they sort of plodded along doing their agro-angsty coldwave thing (which I love, btw) and then it finally dawned on the whole band that Martin Fry could actually sing, and the whole thing U-turned into ABC.

Martyn Bates: No, it wasn’t like this at all. I was just excited to be around when fellow travellers were crawling out of the woodwork. Plus, I’d spent an awful lot of time being around musicians who intimated me, to be frank. I felt that that because I didn’t have their dexterity and proficiency, whatever I wanted to do with my own music wasn’t valid somehow – which was nonsense! So, it was very much an exercise in autonomy and release.

Q : Where is that seedy, tell-all paperback with loads of pictures about Eyeless In Gaza?

Martyn Bates: Still waiting to be written. It would make a fascinating read, I believe. I even approached Cherry Red books with the idea of writing it myself – and the fuckers put me RIGHT OFF the idea!!! By the time they’d finished I’d convinced myself that it wasn’t worth the fucking hassle (I think that’s called ‘motivating the artist’ (NOT) ).

However, a small press, based in Brussels are going to put out my third poems/lyrics etc in June, all being well – tho I’m still writing/preparing it at present!!! The book is to be called A Map of the Stars in Summer. Now, if I could just get the first two books back in print … !!!!

Dissonance Americas version

It’s a conflagration of the ‘art attack’ (if you like/dislike) of the first version with a fried John Fahey (?) thing going on + plus proto Eyeless style solo improvisations – a methodology intuited and then mixed as a performance of low-fi collage. It’s a bit shorter than Dissonance One, running for approx 44 mins. I guess you could say it’s a ‘sideways’ insight into the way some aspects my early music-making evolved/unraveled.

First version of Dissonance/Antagonistic Music (using the aegis Migraine Inducers)

A “cassette tape only” release from late 1979. It’s either one of the last of the first wave or one of the first of the second wave of this then new (post-punk) method of independent music making and distribution in the U.K.

Origins: After a very small run (approx. 12 copies) on Pure Noise Tapes, Dissonance was swiftly released again (approx. 30 copies?), this time on the Mark Perry/Paul Reekie/John Balance run I.D Cassettes label (and featured/mentioned several times in tape listings/news items in various editions of T.G’s Industrial News magazine) – Dissonance was re-issued by Ambivalent Scale following the initial batch of issues on that label. Mid 1981 saw the Americas Version issues, which included new material (approx. 150 copies?)

The Pure Noise Tapes (the fore-runner of the Ambivalent Scale label) label release bears the following legend: “Produced by no-one/a low-fi production.”

The whole hour was initially promoted as exercises in spontaneous improvisation. Although conceived as continuous piece, a list of titles was provided for listeners to adhere to whichever portion of the music they deemed to be most appropriate. These titles are as follows:
Figure Amongst Ruins
Planes In Collision Falling
Bird Trapping Wing (In Steel Bars)
Church With New Shoes Squeaking
Child Squashing Frog
Ship In Distance With Cerise Backdrop
Dead Seahorse With Sky Melting (Setting)
Mona Lisa’s Sister and Subsequent Burning

ABOUT THIS WORK: The only contemporaneous review (that I’m aware of) appeared in early 1980 by Geoff Rushton (John Balance). He wrote in Stabmental # 3 & # 4:
“ID 004 Dissonance by Martyn Bates: I was so intrigued by the really vicious electronic scrawls that Martyn Bates produced (he describes the tape as a scream of frustration) … I had to find out more. We corresponded regularly [about this] violent anti-music: I think this is a brilliant tape … haunting, beautiful and totally fresh sounding.”

In some ways, the two versions of Dissonance constitute a ‘sideways’ insight into the way some aspects my early music-making evolved and unravelled.

Some scattered, paraphrased noise music thoughts

One of the key ideas is that noise engenders ideal conditions for breaking down control by acting as white noise which to jam its pervasive signal – the breakdown of the rational, opening up channels for space beyond these mapped out confines and routes.

Noise Music is often linked with outlandish images of transgressive/abusive sex or power/violence schema. However, a quite different way to reach parallel places of abandon is via the tapping into of the pathways of dissociation, using the device of humour as a shortcut or juxtaposition. Placed together with violent noise, as in the Migraine Inducers version of Dissonance particularly, the effect can be startling.

Noise, of course, can be understood to act as critique of music per se – as a means to effect a tabula rasa, and begin again (which is definitely what was going on, on some level, as a main motivating force for me in making these works). It’s a rich, complex language that takes you elsewhere, beyond – the hope is to move thru it, to the other side. Also, I liked the idea of music without musicians – hence the original credits, as listed on Migraine Inducers sleeve. Plus of course, there’s an awful lot of humour as self-effacing defence mechanism stuff going on here as well. Such beautiful armour!!!

Dissonance/Antagonistic Music

The story begins – as you know – with the very first Dissonance being very much a product of the late seventies first wave of cassette only releases (a then reasonably new and totally independent means of music production – this point is important, politically, for 1979). I was contemplating setting up a lable to release it myself (which I later did, of course, Ambivalent Scale), I thought I’d send a copy or two out in order to get some feed back, of any sort. I sent one copy to Industrial Records of Martello Street (the tape is listed in at least two issues of Industrial News), and the other copy to Stabmental magazine. Dissonance/Antagonistic Music was then chosen by Geoff Rushton, Mark Perry and Paul Reekie (of the Factory released band operating under the name of Thursdays) to be released on the cassette-only label, I.D. Cassettes.