Time Travel, Retro-Futurism and Religion – Raf and O

I recently attended the premiere for Raf and O’s new album “Portal” in the beautiful setting of St James the Less Church in Pimlico. Raf and O are Raf Mantelli and Richard Smith (O), combining acoustic guitar and drums with an eclectic range of electronica. People ask, what do they sound like and I have to say “Raf and O” !! This is a rare achievement in a world of repeat performances and soundalikes.  They describe themselves as performing unique detailed avant-pop, fusing electro/ acoustic drums, self-made triggers, pads, samplers, vocals, synths and acoustic guitar bathed in effects. This is accurate even if it does not trip off the tongue in a media friendly soundbite !! 🙂

The Eagle Has Landed - with Raf and O

iThe Eagle Has Landed – with Raf and O – where less is more at St James the Less – Click on the picture to buy the album on iTunes

David Stubbs of The Quietus also attempts to explain Raf and O’s music:

“The excellent Time Machine represents the very antithesis of EDM – There is a butterfly, acoustic delicacy and yet also the deceptive, steel strength of spider silk in their complex weaving – Raf’s vocal ranges far and wide in her emotional and lyrical foragings”

I first came across Raf and O at Richard Strange’s “Cabaret Futura” club – a place where Marc Almond, Spandau Ballet, Depeche Mode and Alexi Sayle first passed through. Since that time, Raf and O performed at Richard’s stunning production “Language is a Virus from Outer Space” at The Southbank Centre. The production celebrated the life of William Burroughs, leading light of the Beat Movement and author of “Naked Lunch”.

The album “Portal” explores time travel, although, questioning the real and the imagined via a sound world of spaciousness, tinged in sinister shades. It articulates their journey of the last two years, a series of connections, discoveries and dreams, seeming at times to tune in with the people who passed, leaving a mark into this world and unto our consciousness.

Photograph by Peter Tainsh

If you are looking for instant gratification in a busy world, try listening to “The Deadliest Flower” or “Magic” to give you an insight into just one window pane of their diverse work.  Find them on You Tube for an insight into their performance capabilities.

The evening was started by an equally awesome performance from Emmy nominated electronicist Robert Logan. Robert’s list of collaborators include Grace Jones, Brigitte Fontaine, Steve Roach and Skye (Morcheeba). He recently collaborated with Raf and O on a series of sessions working closely in the same space, in their own words:

“Concocting a deconstructed and layered amalgamation of song, electronic sounds, dense atmospheres and organic instruments, textures and further exploration of fragmentation”

On the evening itself, Robert built up an impressive soundscape in the Church, using modern versions of classic Korg Synthesisers fused with modern digital technologies – the sweetspot where ancient meets postmodern. Even a prayer mat was involved …

Where Church Meets Korg - The Set up for Robert Logan

Where Church Meets Korg – The Set up for Robert Logan

If you are bored with hearing template music and want to hear sounds you have never imagined, get hold of some music by these artists for a change …

Fusing tradition with church and electronica - Click on the picture to find Raf and O's work with Robert Logan - Photography by Peter Tainsh

Fusing tradition with church and electronica – Click on the picture to find Raf and O’s work with Robert Logan – Photography by Peter Tainsh

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Check his latest book “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise” out at Bloomsbury.

Author and contributor to 11 books

Punks, Virgins and Pop Art

I’m proud to present a unique event on Friday November 27th 3 pm at The Virgin Lounge in Eagle Place, London with Richard Strange, founder of proto-punk band The Doctors of Madness, who inspired The Sex Pistols, The Damned, Spandau Ballet, Richard Branson, The Jam, Joy Division et al.

Urban Blitz performing with The Doctors of Madness at Richard's celebration of William Burroughs at The Royal Festival Hall

Urban Blitz performing with The Doctors of Madness at Richard’s celebration of William Burroughs at The Royal Festival Hall

Richard will talk about leading the pop art / punk rock revolt and the wider notions of disruption in music and business. He will share some hilarious and insightful stories, including his time as a Virgin Records artist, how not to deal with Bryan Ferry and various other delights  Strange will also talk about a mammoth undertaking last year, where he put on an entire theatre production at the Royal Festival Hall to celebrate the life of William Burroughs, author of “Naked Lunch” and a primary figure in the Beat Generation who influenced David Bowie, The Beatles, R.E.M, Steely Dan and U2 to name but a few.

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Ginsberg and Burroughs in the Theatre Production by Richard Strange

Take a look at the trailer video for the show:

Join us in the Lounge with Richard for an interview supplemented with great video footage, Q and A, meet and greet and possible mini acoustic performance.

Please contact the London Eagle Place Lounge on 0207 439 8802 to register your place.

Never Mind The Credit Card

Never Mind The Credit Card …

Oh Bondage Up Yours … Punk Rock CEO’s

I had my attention drawn to an article about Tim Eades, a “Punk Rock CEO” in Los Angeles recently – see Tim’s article at Punk Rock Leadership.  Tim started life as a punk in London and more recently took up the role of CEO at vArmour, an LA based security firm. There are some resonances in Tim’s article with my own writings in Punk Rock People Management and it’s even feasible that I may have met Tim, since he seemed to follow punk bands like The Damned. Here’s some parallels we have noted between punk rock and business leadership done as a series of pithy quotes from the artists themselves:

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Come along to our launch party tomorrow June 09 in Kent, featuring The Godfather of Punk, Richard Strange. Richard led proto-punk band The Doctors of Madness and has appeared in Batman, Harry Potter and Robin Hood alongside performances with Tom Waits, Peter Capaldi, Spandau Ballet et al. It will be a great night. Get your tickets at Punk Rock.

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Death Eaters

June 9th AOR

I have the extraordinary pleasure of bringing Richard Strange to Kent on Tuesday June 9th to present an evening of film, music and spoken word at the Sun Pier Arts Centre.  Tickets available at Death Eaters. Here is the former “Doctor of Madness” with “Doctor Who” aka Peter Capaldi and Sarah Jane Morris of The Communards fame and much more. And a rare clip of The Doctors of Madness performing.

Richard Strange, Death Eater, Writer, Musician and Kevin Costner's Executioner

Richard Strange, Death Eater, Writer, Musician and Kevin Costner’s Executioner

My personal memories of Richard’s wonderful work include regularly missing the last train home and having to sleep on the stairs of Charing Cross Station after Doctors of Madness gigs at The Marquee. At one gig I was hosed down with a fire extinguisher by Captain Sensible of The Damned. An amazing solo gig at Hastings Caves and bizarre evenings at Richard’s Avant Garde Club Cabaret Futura, with Soft Cell, Keith Allen, Blancmange, all guarded by an 11 foot long python which coiled itself at the door to the club.

The Marquee in Wardour Street, breeding ground for the underground

The Marquee in Wardour Street, breeding ground for the underground

What Do I Get?

For just £10 you will be getting:

  • A mildly hilarious set of observations on the parallels between punk rock and business, punctuated by some punk rock riffs and storytelling
  • A rare performance of some of my solo material set in the “retro-futuristic punk ambient” style
  • An interview with Richard Strange plus Q&A opportunities
  • Richard Strange’s one man show, which includes film, music and spoken word
  • A possible appearance by Sarah Jane Morris, solo artist and performer with The Communards
  • An opportunity to meet a Death Eater

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Peter Cook launches “Punk Rock People Management” and a brand new version of “The Music of Business” at the event with Richard Strange.   Get your ticket for Punk Rock Biz.

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Anarchy in the UK

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 13.53.39I’m delighted to announce a groundbreaking once in a lifetime event that examines Punk Rock as a “disruptive innovation” and crosses this over to the world of work.

Come to our special event on Tuesday June 9th evening in Kent, where I will be speaking on punk rock and disruption and working alongside The Godfather of Punk, Mr Richard Strange.  Richard has worked with Jack Nicholson, The Sex Pistols, Martin Scorsese, The Damned, Spandau Ballet, Sophia Loren, Tom Waits, Marianne Faithful, Jarvis Cocker and Damon Albarn, as well as appearing in Harry Potter, Batman, Mona Lisa, Men Behaving Badly, Robin Hood and Gangs of New York.  The event will feature keynotes, interviews, film and a cameo music performance of Richard’s work across 38 years from The Doctors of Madness and beyond.

I will be launching the 2nd edition of Punk Rock People Management – my anti-establishment book about the establishment at the event.  Expect some irreverent and possibly irrelevant ramblings about the crazy world of work, punctuated by a few punk rock riffs. I will perform some ambient music soundscapes from my basement and may also accompany Richard on a few numbers from his canon of work with The Doctors of Madness.

Tickets are just £10 and strictly limited in numbers via Punk Rock.  Get yourself a copy of the ludicrously short but succinct book Punk Rock People Management – A manifesto for faster and better humane relations via The Cultured Llama.

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An audience with Marc Almond

It was an immense pleasure to attend an audience with Marc Almond hosted by Richard Strange, The Godfather of Punk, in the great company of Rowena Sian Morgan, Musical Geisha and cover girl from The Music of Business.  Marc Almond has been referred to as The Judy Garland of the Garbage Heap, The Acid House Aznavour and Marc Bolan and Juliette Greco’s love child.  Richard Strange helped launch Marc Almond’s career with Soft Cell, featuring him and his work at the wonderfully decadent Cabaret Futura in the 1980’s.  Since then Almond’s career has gone from Electro Pop through French Chansons to Russian Romantic Gypsy ballads and beyond …

Marc Almond with Richard Strange at the original Cabaret Futura

Marc Almond with Richard Strange at the original Cabaret Futura

Here’s some of the highlights of the evening with some transferable lessons for all:

Almond On Critics

The Yorkshire Evening Post reported on one of Soft Cell’s early pieces “This is one of the most nihilistic, depressing pieces I have ever heard”  Whereas most artists would have been destroyed by such feedback, Marc Almond was delighted.  It does not always pay to listen to critics … 

Almond On Developing a Unique Offering

At some point in the early development of Soft Cell, Marc decided that they wanted to be as outrageous as possible.  “This included smearing my naked body with cat food on stage” he said. Soft Cell’s songs were also unusual.  Almond mused

“Dave Ball mainly wrote about household products and the boredom of daily life”

Soft Cell’s name hinted at the core of their identity – both a bitter and sweet quality to the songs.  Soap powder crises and sofa dramas are unlikely topics to get record companies excited.  As a result, their first single “Mutant Moments” was financed by Dave Ball’s mum!   The lesson here is dare to be different!

Marc with Andy Warhol - the embodiment of 'different'

Marc with Andy Warhol – the embodiment of ‘different’

Here’s Almond singing “Tainted Love” to a video of some disk drives playing the piece electronically.  Marc spotted the video a while back and agreed to add a vocal line to the piece.  Quite different:

Almond On Diversity

Marc has continued to pursue an eclectic collection of influences, starting with “Torment and Torreros”, which brought in influences from South America, Turkey, through Jaques Brel to his infatuation with Russian Gypsy ballads:

“They like Russian songs in Russia, they just don’t want Russians singing them!”

Marc’s Russian obsession developed after The British Council adopted him to do a tour of Russia, Siberia and The Baltics.  It sounds such a strange idea that The British Council would do this and it gave me great hope for our “men in grey suits” that they would sponsor such a mission.  Indeed it’s entirely possible that Marc’s appearance in Siberia did more to reform the communist system than Ronnie Reagan and Margaret Thatcher combined!  Value requisite diversity.

The Stars We Are - Marc and Richard Strange at the House of St Barnabas

The Stars We Are – Marc and Richard Strange at the House of St Barnabas

Almond On The Soul Inside

Almond has always sought to get inside the heart of the singer when presenting other people’s material, such as his work with Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel, Gene Pitney et al. Dig deep to find your soul.

I asked Marc whether his beautiful singing voice had received any training at all and he said that the major contributions to his vocal development were stopping chainsmoking and spending six weeks in Canterbury getting off ‘prescription drugs’.  He did also take some lessons in breathing and projection from two voice coaches later on, but without looking after the basics, this would have been fruitless.

Here’s some pieces that give witness to Almond’s ability to reach inside the artists heart and transmit that to his audiences.  Firstly a piece from his album “Jacques”, dedicated to Jacques Brel, then the Charles Aznavour number “Yesterday When I Was Young”, one of his Russian ballads from “Heart On Snow”, a new piece of electronica entitled “Worship Me Now”, featuring a low budget video inspired by David Bowie and finally a tribute to Don Black via the theme from Thunderball:

Huge thanks to Richard Strange for putting together such an amazing evening and to Rowena for her kindness and good company as always.  Catch us at Cabaret Futura soon.

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Mad about the girl – Rowena Sian Morgan – Music Networking Host extraordinaire and my co-conspirator for the evening – she helped Marc prepare to receive his Ivor Novello Award

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching. Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.

Our bookshelf - On Amazon and available direct from the author by clicking on the picture

Our bookshelf – On Amazon and available direct from the author by clicking on the picture

Life’s good – Lou Reed 1942 – 2013 R.I.P

Lou Reed - Rock'n'Roll Animal

Lou Reed – Rock’n’Roll Animal

“One chord is fine. Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz”

Lou Reed

Lou Reed was a formative part of my teenage life and it was a real shock when I heard the news of his death at 71 yesterday.  I say shocked, but not surprised.  Based on Reed’s chemical intake earlier in his life I guess that, on paper, it was something of a miracle that he lived as long as he did.  He reportedly said that he gave up drugs using alcohol, but that didn’t work …  Nonetheless, a sad day which must be marked by a sad song ….

What did Lou Reed mean to me?

Lou Reed was not afraid to write songs that dealt with difficult themes such as addiction, depression, terminal illness, poverty, politics to name but a few.  Some will of course say that music is meant to be bouncy and happy.  Lou Reed gave music an ability to deal with subjects well beyond sugary pop.  It’s always bemused me that the BBC chose the song “Perfect Day” as it’s theme tune for Children In Need, when some say the song deals with Heroin addiction. Lou Reed also taught me about the use of feedback in music and indeed, the art of noise.  Reed was not exactly a flash guitarist in the traditional sense of the word, but he did know how to use noise and tone to illustrate a piece of music – critics would even say annoy. Perhaps the most extreme statement of this ‘rock’n’roll animal’ came from his album “Metal Machine Music”, which consisted of 64 minutes of seemingly unstructured white and pink noise.  Following hot on the heels of a hit album this tested his audience’s patience (and that of RCA, his record company) to destruction.  Rolling Stone Magazine described it as “the tubular groaning of a galactic refrigerator”  A slightly more palatable example of Lou Reed’s animal approach to noise comes from “Sister Ray” by the Velvet Underground:

The lyrical quality of Reed’s songs have also had an impact on me at a deep level.  Essentially poetry set to music, his words are direct and his delivery speaks directly to the person, almost as if he is sitting next to you in a room.  It is perhaps this aspect of his writing that has set him apart from others.  Reed’s acidic wit, a willingness to go to places that other people would not touch and the simple beauty of his words have made a long term impact on me. I wrote about Lou Reed, Andy Warhol and the Factory as an exemplar of innovation in the book “The Music of Business” – little did I know just how little time he had left to live.  Just as well he made the most of it.  In his own words:

“My week beats your year”

What did Lou Reed mean to others? Václav Havel found inspiration in darkness from the Velvet Underground’s music, when he was a Czech dissident.

“The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band.”

Brian Eno

“RIP Lou Reed 71. You defined New York City. Too f****** young. Wayy too young. Berlin one of my most loved albums”

Mick Hucknall

Here’s a performance of Reed’s song “Pale Blue Eyes” by my good friend Richard Strange with Peter Capaldi and Sarah Jane Morris, which perhaps sums up the long term influence of Lou Reed’s songwriting on others:

What did Lou Reed mean to Lou Reed?

“It’s depressing when you’re still around and your albums are out of print”

“I do Lou Reed better than anyone else”

“I don’t like nostalgia unless it’s mine”

“That’s why I survived because I still believe I’ve got something to say”

Lou Reed

What did Lou Reed mean to you?

For more on the topic, check out The Factory.  Share your thoughts here.  Lou Reed, 1943 – 2013 R.I.P.

Goodnight Mr Reed

Hello, it’s me. Goodbye Mr Reed