Simon Pomery aka Blood Music’s live shows are a visceral experience to say the least. Twisted electronics and contact mic abstractions crumple beneath Pomery’s crushing rhythms, in an onslaught which leaves your bones rattling. Where bands setups tend to push drummers to the back, in response to an “unspoken and repressive hierarchy” as he put to us during an interview last year, Blood Music shows put them back in focus.
This is due to the fact his style if drumming is far from ordinary. Rather than sitting behind a kit, Pomery stands - wielding something between orchestral mallets and traditional sticks. His approach to drumming takes influence from everything from Japanese Taiko drumming to Singaporean martial arts. His recorded works capture this energy perfectly - his ‘Chicks’ 12” for Diagonal last year alternating between chugging motorik abstractions and pensive droning interludes.
With a show at Cafe Oto this evening alongside Peder Mannerfelt and rkss, as well as a debut LP in progress, we decided to invite Pomery to discuss five of his most memorable gigging experiences. As ever from those from the Diagonal camp, his contributions are as lively and engaging as they are unexpected.
The only acts on the bill familiar to me were Hijokaidan and Hatsune Kaidan, who I saw at Multiple Tap, Oto. Hatsune were so much better at Oto, with a different ‘singer’ interpreting their digital woman creation. But the curation of this festival was killer. In amongst all this noise there was Asiq Nargile, an asiq bard from Georgia.
I listen to so much music all the time. Each day I want to hear something I know nothing about. Tusk presented many discoveries for me. So, I was trying to buy something from the record stall but this big hairy yank was in my way, which was actually Jim Sauer. When Borbetomagus came on, Don Dietrich, whose skin was the complexion of the inside of a teapot, kept asking for his monitor to be louder. You couldn’t tell what sound was coming from where. They ripped the whole place apart from the word go. It was horrible. Donald Miller was reclining in the middle, playing his guitar as if on a beanbag. In terms of locating the sound, there seemed to be some sort of lag - a delay in everything, but the actual sounds seemed to be at 300 bpm. The sense of real and imaginary time being altered in front of you was made worse by the documentary footage of them being screened behind, covering 40 years of gigs: they had cheated time, they hadn’t aged. Like Incapacitants, they hadn’t changed their sonic method: their art is true and beautiful. These three horrors were so locked into each other that they were orchestrating the whole thing.
As Donald said at the Q&A, “we’re fucking musicians, okay? Fuck you”. Inside the feedback of two bells and one guitar, there are multiplicities of melody in the frequencies. The roar pummels and engulfs you. There is no escape. You are as locked into the cacophony as their saxophones are when the two men standing do their famous ‘bells together’, locking swords. It’s so homoerotic.
In those 45 magic minutes, Borbetomagus was the ONLY time I have ever in my life (and I like to think I can take some extreme musical experiences) that I have literally, physically been knocked over by a performance. On my iPhone recording of this experience, you can hear my girlfriend saying “do you want to sit down?” I was wobbly and hadn’t noticed. Maybe it was the varieties of Newcastle brown ales I was drinking. But really, it was the sound of Borbetomagus. My phone recording captures something of the experience. I can hear myself breathing weirdly.
Fennesz badly needed a haircut. Kevin Drumm was good. Russell stole the show. This is ever more amusing when considering what a mess his set was when he played with Blood Music the night before, at the first Diagonal Showcase. In the Waiting Room, it was a more broken, faulty version of what would become a 37 minute workout. For Mego, Russ put his pothole light on his head, the strobes were out, so was the white noise. Brucey played in his shed. I was wandering around with Oscar [Powell]. We imbibed quite early that day, which meant I couldn’t take anything seriously.
My shoulders were sore because the day before I had trained Taiko drumming with the Ondekoza. I left the club after soundcheck to wander around the neighbourhood. On my return, there was some resistance on the door. I couldn’t open it at first, but when I did there was a small long-haired bearded man on the other side. “SSSSIIIIIMMMMOOONNNN!” Pain Jerk and I embraced for what seemed like 15 seconds of love. On the live recording you can hear him shouting “ENCORE” at me. It was a room of 50 people sweating, losing their shit, and shouting at me. It was pure joy.
When I left the bar and said “bye” everyone in the venue turned and just screamed with joy. This was beyond language. In my vocal work that night I said stuff about what it is to be or think ‘beyond language’. Miclodiet calls his night ‘Wasted’ so I made a track especially for him: my rework of a favourite, “All My Friends” by Snakehips featuring Tinashe. One day, I would like to work with Tinashe. I love her voice and her work. It was the best drum sound I have ever had live: that sound man is a beast and makes everyone else who has mic-D my drums seem weak. He totally got what I was trying to do and did a perfect mix of electronics and acoustic drums and voice. Soup is such a special venue.
There is no DJ like him. His style is 100% his own, crafted over years of breaking filters and mixers and making unexpectedly perfect mixes. He usually takes his shirt off. This set ended with him playing Arthur Russell and me finding the same pitch with a contact mic on my drum, in a perfect symbiosis of accident and design. He said later “so we had a session”. He would be one of my top five DJs.
I had spent the night in a karaoke bar and found out the morning after that Haino was in town. My set included Iggy Pop, Bowie, and several tracks by Steely Dan. There was some sort of glitch which meant every Steely Dan track came on twice. I didn’t complain. Sometimes it’s better to go for the fun option.