Somerset’s Hacker Farm have been taking things apart and putting them back together all weird since 2009. Their new album UHF (Exotic Pylon Records) has gained considerable acclaim for its unique strain of confrontational DIY electro-rural noise, while its self-released 2011 predecessor Poundland is equally worthy of investigation, not least for its excellent use of crows. What a carrion! Here, ahead of their appearance at the sold-out February 16th edition of The Outer Church in Brighton with Kemper Norton and IX Tab, Hacker Farm’s Kek-W and Farmer Glitch pay tribute in word and sound to one of their formative influences: Mave.
“Mavis Slater - or ‘Mave’ as we call her - is a face familiar to generations of music-lovin’ Yeovilfolk. She’s like our favourite aunt or something.
“Mave is Mutter Slater’s mum - you know, that bloke from Stackridge -but we all know her as the lady who, over the years, has sold us some of our best-loved, most treasured records and CDs. She’s part of our landscape, our musical lineage. Everyone round here who ever played in a band owes her big-time - everyone! - she’s our accidental muse, the woman who provided the coal that fuelled our respective fires. Just ask Polly Harvey, or Mark Wilson from The Mob, or Tim Goldsworthy of Mo’ Wax/DFA infamy, or Wayne and Bruce from The Pineapple Thief: everyone knows and loves Mave. We all owe her an unspoken debt.
“Now in her mid-eighties, Mavis is the engine that underpins Acorn Records, its beating heart. Chris Lowe might pretend to run the shop, but we all know who really pulls the strings! Two, three times a week Mave is there, busy behind the counter. And whenever we see her the years melt away.
“I first consciously encountered her in the mid-70s back when she worked in Radio House, Princes Street. It was an oddly cool shop: old school TVs, stereos and radiograms in the front; albums, singles and listening-booths at the back. Stockhausen albums were stacked up next to Baker-Gurvitz Army and the Edgar Broughton Band: a vinylspotter’s wet-dream. To us snotty-nosed rural kids, Mave was “that funny lady”, the one who’d make an insightful and deliciously sarky remark when you waved some crappy album under her nose and demanded she played it. She was both knowledgeable and knowing, street-smart and a good laugh; in retrospect, Mave must’ve had the patience of a saint, dealing with all us cocky, annoying, hyperhormonal teenagers conducting our uncool teenage transactions in the shop, but never actually buying anything. Though, actually…
“I bought Neu ‘75 and Zappa’s One Size Fits All on the same day in a Radio House sale from Mave. Still have the same copies. Still adore them.
“A couple of years later, we would pile into Radio House every Saturday and rummage through the box of Punk seven-inches, elbowing each other out the way to get at the good stuff. I heard Donna Summer’s I Feel Love for the first time in one of the Radio House listening-booths. They were painted black, scuffed and decorated with the torn remains of promotional stickers and labels. Moroder’s sequencers pumped away on the tinny-sounding little speakers and my friend Ken said, “This is the future, man. One day, all records will sound like this. This and Kraftwerk…” And I nodded in sagely-uncool teenage agreement.
“Ah, those listening-booths! People used to get pissed-up in them on tinnies, pee in them, throw up, cop off and even, sometimes, try and have a surreptitious quickie. It’s true: Mave told me she once caught a couple at it.
“Rewind briefly back to the mid-70s and a couple of hippies - Rob Bacon and Chris Lowe - hit town after finishing college in London and open a tiny, cupboard-sized record-shop down the road from Radio House called Acorn. Man, I lived in there too: boxes and boxes of Duul, Can, Nektar, Hawkwind, Kraan, everything you can imagine… most days of the week, I yo-yo’d between Acorn and Radio House. Good times, man. Great times.
“So, when Radio House shut in the late 70s and Acorn moved to larger (more modern!) premises down by the bus-station in Glovers Walk, Yeovil, they poached Mave and the three of them headed off into local record-retail legend and the pages of Last Shop Standing. Rob’s sadly no longer with us - and, man, I sooo miss his acerbic wit and his opinions on Country Joe & The Fish, Dylan, etc - but Mave and the boys, well, they should be proud: they’ve seen them all off over the years: Our Price and Virgin and HMV and WH Smiths and….
“You know, I didn’t realise until half a lifetime later that Mave had worked in the record-department of WH Smiths back in the 60s, so I probably bought Monkees singles and Gerry Anderson EPs off her before I knew her. And I bet IX Tab almost certainly bought his Orbital and Coil albums from Mave in Acorn in the 80s and 90s.
“We all owe her a debt.
“Sometimes, it’s the smallest of things that change us, the little things that set events and subtle transformations in motion.
“We’re all ripples in a pond. But the ripples that quietly emanated from Mavis went much further and touched far more of us than she could ever realise or know. Sure, she didn’t make the great music that we bought, but she fed our dreams - helped enable us.
“It’s time to acknowledge that debt, though I don’t think that I - or any of us - could ever pay it back in full. Mavis has enriched us in ways that it’s difficult to quantify or describe. Just by being there, just by being Mavis.
“For years I wondered where it came from, all that music. Mavis is like a conduit, I guess - a Portal - the music flows out through her, into her son, into the world, into us…
“But where did it come from, the music? And where will it go?
“Well, wherever we let it take us, right?
“Mave, this is some love back. From all of us to you.”
HACKER FARM, YEOVIL, JANUARY 2013
A recent conversation with South London based artist and electronic composer Paul Snowdon turned to the subject of formative influences: what arcane sounds kicked off the process that would culminate in the birth of his horological alter-ego, Time Attendant? On discovering that Snowdon’s creative secretions were initially stirred by the extreme end of early 90s Metal - not so unlikely when one considers the abrasive tones and textures of his recent Tournaments EP for Exotic Pylon Records - we invited him to pay tribute to the rampant morbidity and restless innovation of that unholy epoch. Soon after, the nasty, brutish and short Caput Mortuum mix arrived in our narthex, leaving a sulphurous odour that persists no matter how hard we scrub the stonework. Download it here and read on for Snowdon’s commentary…
“Here we go, retracing the musical steps of my teenage years… after a brief stint of early 80s electro, which at the time I found too camp and vacuous, I rapidly descended into the murky world of Heavy Metal in search of a more difficult, challenging and therefore more meaningful sound, or so I thought. Positively sprinting through Soft Rock, Glam Rock, anything ending in Rock, pausing for a while in Thrash Metal, some of which stuck with me. I wandered into Black Metal, didn’t like the theatrics, and eventually arrived at the gates of Death Metal, which gripped me with it’s powerful angry tales, confirming what it was to be human and vulnerable.
“By the time I was 15 years old I’d bought my first electric guitar and formed a Metal band, practising every Sunday in a drafty farm barn with a big old combine harvester as company. On discovering that it was really quite difficult to play as fast as my heroes, I drifted into Doom Metal, writing long elaborate riffs that were impossible to drum to, but great to zone out to.
“As soon as I was old enough to drive, I bought a van for the band and the next five years saw several oufits form and dissipate, with regular gigging slots around the scummy pubs of North Yorkshire.
“Then came university and being an art student, I thought I’d better stop listening to Metal and start listening to Jazz, ha! This has been my route into experimental music and the reason why Time Attendant sounds like it does, innit.”
1. Entombed ‘Left Hand Path’ (from Left Hand Path, Earache 1989)
“Back in 1989, Tomas Skogsberg, soon to become a highly respected metal producer, got together with Swedish death metallers Entombed to produce their debut album Left Hand Path, and practically invented a new guitar tone in the process, primitive, soily, grinding and disintegrating. A kind of super-heavy stuttering ‘FUZZz’ which phases around reverb-drenched vocals. Entombed are all dark magic and chainsaws. One of the first and best of this Metal subgenre.”
2. My Dying Bride ‘Act 1’ (from Symphonaire Infernus et Empyrium, Peaceville 1991)
“Austere northern romanticism from Gothic Doom kings My Dying Bride. Quasi-religious lyrics, mournful violins and massive gloom! A Shakespearean darkness delivered with the brutality of a ripper murder. I would love to see and hear this bleak, old and seedy-sounding music accompanied by some classic lantern-lit scenes from the BBC archives.”
3. Paradise Lost ‘Gothic’ (from Gothic, Peaceville 1991)
“Paradise Lost’s Gothic is a highly original album that doesn’t rely on heaviness to produce the right level of dread. Instead, icy harmonious licks from a guitar that sounds like a keyboard are saturated in delay and chorus, forming a kind of constant solo. Operatic female vocals and shifting visceral growls combine over a low mix of power chords and doom-style drumming. A classic.”
4. Obituary ‘Circle Of The Tyrants’ (Celtic Frost cover from Cause Of Death, Roadracer 1990)
“It was at this point in my long walk through the undergrowth of Extreme Metal, age 17, that my old dad popped his head around my bedroom door and simply said, ‘I’d just like to say that I think your taste in music has really gone downhill of late.’ Ha! I don’t remember my response but needless to say, I did think I was on a righteous, rebellious path. I also recall feeling genuine fear on hearing John Tardy’s vocals - what kind of depraved human would make those sounds? Obituary’s music is quite simply about all the different ways we might expect to cop it but I find these bloody tales of mortality life-affirming.”
5. Cathedral ‘Reaching Happiness, Touching Pain’ (from Forest of Equilibrium, Earache 1991)
“The poetically fantastical Lee Dorrian (ex-Napalm Death) croons away in dreary pain on this psychedelic, hippie-tinted, Dope Metal classic. Combining half-sung warbling vocals, flutes, keyboards and achingly slow riffs, all packaged up in Bosch-style artwork with a Tolkienesque twist. This is music without horizons as the drizzling grey sky of Cathedral’s home town of Coventry merges with faceless post-war blocks passed off as buildings. A pre-groovy Cathedral here, and a personal favourite.”
6. Autopsy ‘In The Grip Of Winter’ (from Mental Funeral, Peaceville Records 1991)
“Death, doom and gore! Autopsy cover the lot. Theirs is a hollow, loose, downtuned and out-of-control kind of sound, emanating from muffled amplifiers and deadened drums, seemingly made from the bloodstained cardboard of a homeless heroin addict’s abode. Yet the genuinely memorable riffs will stick to your brain like flypaper, as we circle around the sticky mass of poison and decay. Conceptually perfect in every sense, Mental Funeral is a no-brainer!”
7. Slayer ‘Raining Blood’ (from Reign in Blood, Def Jam 1986)
“I wasn’t going to include Slayer in this mix, thinking them too obvious a choice, but then realised that no Metal mix could ever be complete without the best Metal band ever! The only way to close the mix, nuff said.”
You may already be aware that February 16th edition of The Outer Church at Caroline Of Brunswick in Brighton will include live performances from West Country frictioneers Hacker Farm, Kemper Norton and IX Tab. In addition, we are very proud to announce that the event will also incorporate a special midnight screening of writer Leo Whetter and director Will Hutchinson’s zero-budget psychological horror film, Overhill. Shot on location in Cornwall, the film is sure to escalate the atmosphere from the compellingly weird to the utterly terrifying.
Advance tickets for the event are available here