On (finally) getting published (and reviewed).

Chasing the Shadow cover, photo by Simon Crab

After nearly seven years, I am relieved the Muslimgauze book was finally published earlier this year. It is a strange feeling to hold something I thought might never happen since the first publisher (SAF) fell off the face of the earth and the second publisher, Soleilmoon suffered from the tragedy of lead designer Josh Berger’s injury. When Vinyl on Demand took on the project, I half wondered what tragedy would befall them? Third time’s a charm as my printed copy arrived in the mail and I unwrapped and flipped through the pages of a book more beautiful than I imagined, the freshly printed aroma hovering like incense.

Then there are the reviews, which are positive. The most detailed are from Frans de Waard of Vital Weekly and Clive Bell who writes for The Wire. deWaard had misgivings about whether a book on someone as secretive as Bryn Jones was even possible. But he concluded, “This is indeed the most definite word on the mystery of Muslimgauze.” There was a lot more information than de Waard realized, his favorite section being chapter 4, on Jones’ sessions at the Cutting Rooms studio with John Delf. You can view the full review near the bottom here. the other review was a one page piece in Wire Magazine available here and here. Writer Clive Bell opines, “His book is scrapilly written, not particularly elegant, and a quick polish by an editor might have removed blunders like equating the Arts Council with the British Council.” While I agree my writing can always improve and I do aspire to elegance, the other two details I would like to respond to. “Scrapilly written”, as in ‘fragmentary’ is accurate since this book is a collection of memories of Bryn Jones from friends, family and colleagues. Some of these memories are dim (we are talking memories circa the late 1960’s to 1999 while interviews started in 2003), but give tantalizing clues to the kind of man Bryn Jones was. The memories varied based on the kinds of relationships interviewees had with Jones as not all people I interviewed actually liked him.

Perhaps one of the more disappointing interviews was with Allan Jones (Bryn’s father) who recalled very little about his son either through hazy memory or desire for privacy. Allan claimed he was too busy minding the family business to give Bryn much attention and by the time he retired, Bryn had holed himself up in his bedroom making tracks. Allan said he wanted to read the book so he could understand his son better. Sadly, he passed away before the book was published.

Bryn connected with many people throughout his life and when possible, I tried to choreograph them into a quilt of narratives. It would have been great to have accessed Bryn directly, or even his mother (during my time in the UK, she was in the hospital recuperating from a stroke, and died shortly after my visit). For this book, I  really did manage to grasp the last vestiges of memory from those left around Bryn. As for the final part, “…Arts council with tne British council”, that was from an interview with Geert-Jann Hobijn who recalled attempts at trying to get funding for Jones’ flight ticket from the UK to Germany for a live performance from some arts council or other. Some interviewees did get cloudy on details and if I did have documents to cross reference, I did, otherwise the transcripts were written as spoken. Bell further elaborates, “Khider turns out to be Jones’ ideal listener, the guy who loves the music so much he set off to investigate the titles…” While I can understand this interpretation, the book did start off as magazine articles that ballooned into a book, and investigating the titles is part of the documentation process. If I investigated all the titles, it is because Jones provided a very well-informed narrative that turned out to be an excellent course on Western policy in Middle East among other places. And yes, photographs of Bryn’s home may be spectacularly banal, it also goes to show how some of the most visionary soundscapes can come from the humblest of abodes. 

Chasing the Shadow book inside

Kickstart Kris Weston's heart

Kris Weston

Previously, I posted on hanging out with Kris “Thrash” Weston and received positive feedback from readers who do not normally frequent this site. Soon enough, Weston himself found out about the post and responded (in the comments section) in his usual affable manner. I assure you, Qwis Weston is every bit as lovable as Oscar the Grouch. However, get into a discussion on politics, technology, or music and you will be hard pressed to engage a keener, more alert mind.

Weston kept busy since we last spoke, sharpening his technical skills as an audio engineer, craftsmanship as a musician and adeptness as a computer nerd. Kris also adds eco-activism to his repertoire since he is a dedicated WOOFER (Working On Organic Farms) and animal rights champion. If all that were not enough, Weston will soon launch a Kickstarter project featuring accomplished musicians who will perform his original compositions. The budget and scale of the project is impressive, highly indulgent and if successfully funded, sure to be a masterpiece.

In my small way, I helped Kris by penning his heavily abridged bio. Since 2003 I recorded hours of interview footage with Kris on his various projects, including his most famous tenure with The Orb. I now have enough material for a book, the first (and most successful) phase of The Orb from 1988 to 2005. How a group of obscure audio engineers and ambient chillout club DJ’s ascended to Top of the Pops fame and the Ultraworld. If you are a publisher, or more importantly, a reader and fan, please get in touch with me on whether you would like to read a history of this band from the perspectives of an insider. Mind you, I also approached Mr. Alex Patterson some years ago about fleshing out this bio further, but he seems to want to keep a tight lid on things. Well, I’m quite happy to throw away the lid and give you readers some fascinating narratives about some heady times and even headier music.

Below is Kris at a massive mixing desk. He was one of the first to come up with the idea of bringing his entire studio out to a live show.

It’s happening for real, this time.

After several years, more than one publisher, and numerous emotional roller coasters, it is finally in production! Muslimgauze: Chasing the Shadow of Bryn Jones is currently being printed at Ultrailmail Productions and published by Vinyl on Demand. Mo of Arabbox fame has put together a website to promote the book while different groups like Cultures of Resistance are promoting it. I asked Ultramail to send me production photos to help me keep readers abreast on the books’ progress. As I understand it, there will be a run of 1000, hard cover. Copies will include a Muslimgauze compilation by Soleilmoon called A Putrid Oasis, which features retrospective tracks plus a previously unreleased one. Half of the 1000 run will be part of a ten LP Muslimgauze re-issue box set (featuring Jones’ Limited Editions releases during the 80′s such as Hunting Out With an Aerial Eye), the other half will be a stand-alone book edition. The LP box set looks fantastic and has original art. Plus, both editions will include a fold-open poster. More details (and images) to follow.

(Back) in the Hot Zone with Kevin Sites

Kevin Sites

 

Conflict sojo (solo-journalist) Kevin Sites has brass balls. He goes to some of the most war torn regions on Earth with a back pack, cameras (still and video), laptops, and satellite phone hook-ups to capture the exchange of bullets, mortars and missiles between disgruntled factions and countries. Sometimes Sites goes embedded with an invading army but mostly he hikes out on his own as a high-tech back packer.

Sites first gained notoriety when in 2004 he covered the US invasion of Falujah in Iraq. During the US siege, Marines entered a mosque where wounded and unarmed Iraqi combatants sought refuge and executed them. Sites captured this on video and posted it on-line, uncensored. He struggled with the idea but in the end felt the American public needed to know what was really happening in this war. For this, Sites received equal measure praise and hate mail. However, Yahoo! was so impressed with this balsy footage and act that they offered him an all expenses paid trip to every conflict zone in the world for one year and a platform to report. Sites accepted and so began one of the best things Yahoo! ever did, Kevin Sites In The Hot Zone. One man with his laptops and cameras trekking alone from one pocket of hell to another. I was impressed with the series, this was one of the best things on the internet I have ever seen; a new style of reporting.

Sites reported from war torn regions of Somalia, Afghanistan, Gaza, as well as tense places like Iran and Lebanon. He was also in Lebanon during Israel’s 2006 invasion in their bid to quell Hezbollah, and razed the entire country in the process. At one point while Sites was in South Lebanon, a civilian building was reduced to rubble and people rushed to pull out survivors, Sites put down his camera, dragged an old woman out of the rubble and carried her to the nearest first aid station. The networks were outraged, claiming that Sites violated journalistic objectivity in helping the old woman. Sites responded that after he got the footage he needed, he made time to be human being and help a civilian out. He would do the exact same thing if the old woman was an Israeli.

In contrast to other more text based journalists like Robert Fisk who researches history in order to make sense of why and how these conflicts occur to help readers understand, Sites prefers to just deliver video and still footage and let viewers draw their own conclusions. He tends to capture full, unambiguous moments with as clear a context as he can muster. The resukts are stunning and horrific, but also informative. If you visit his website, Kevin Sites Reports you will get a slice of what war is really like. If anything, Sites maybe does his job too well as he takes footage of incidents that need direct humanitarian intervention and often suffers guilt from ‘just recording’ an incident.

After his stint reporting on international conflicts for Yahoo!, Sites suggested another ‘Hot Zone’ trek, within the USA. There are many American cities where gun casualties occur daily, en par with war zones elsewhere with casualties astonishingly high for peacetime. This BBC report on gun violence in Los Angeles reveals one ray in a spectrum of violence that plagues the country. Unfortunately, while Yahoo! is happy to report on misery elsewhere, they are not keen on showing the problems within. This is a pity since it is an excellent idea that deserves coverage and I hope Sites finds a backer. For all you folk looking for something more ‘accessible’, here is an interesting piece Sites did for Vice Magazine on going swimming with Afghani warlords.

Chasing the Shadow to be released by TMPS

TMPS

 

Today we now have confirmation that Soleilmoon will no longer release the Muslimgauze book and it will now be an The Muslimaguze Preservation Society (TMPS) catalog item. The layout is no longer under the direction of Plazm, rather a new design team has taken-over to see the book to completion. I am quite excited to work with Simon Crab, who not only is a considerable creative director in his own right, but also happens to be the one who ran the first label, Recloose, to release E.g. Oblique Graph and Muslimgauze (apart from Bryn Jones’ own imprints). We have an excellent layout designer, Eric Kessel, who will also bring his years of experience and talents to make this book something fans will be very pleased with. Mo of Arabbox will also assist with layout, along with Terry Allan Bennett of The Messenger.

A challenge is coming up with funds to print the book. We will need to crowdsource to make this happen. Muslimgauze has a worldwide dedicated fanbase and community. Together we can make this long delayed project a reality; from layout, to print, to home delivery of every fan who wants this book. We aim to achieve this at a reasonable cost. Our team projects completion to be 2013, this year.

The completion of this book has gone through many delays and challenges, but with each one, it has only become better. It is now ready for completion and I am very honored and proud of supporters, fans, and the dedicated team I am blessed to work with. Get ready folks, it’s time.

Please stay tuned as we announce our crowdsourcing campaign, design progress, printing and shipping details.