LEAVE THE WITCHES ALONE

Diamanda Galas writes:

It has come to my attention over the last years that the stage reviews of many of my colleagues are prefaced by the words,”Although now 45, he is still a strong performer,” or “Looking older than we last saw him, he still manages to convince.” It is time now for me to say the following words to the anemic cretins who write these desktop reviews of virtuosos: “Stick to reviewing plant life and leave the Witches alone.”

A true performer, like Liszt, like Horowitz, like Birgit Nilsson, often has an extremely long career span—and will be performing long after your life is diminished from tripping over your child’s bicycle and impaling upon yourself upon the Christmas tree of your wife.

A great performer is a vampire. We have trained to be thus. We have trained to enter the Pantheon. Of course we are punished for this, but no longer by the Gods, who have retired forever in despair—so dim is their reflection upon the humans they once challenged—but by the tiny minds of paralyzed voyeurs, who are incapable of discussing our work on any level, never literal, and now not even figurative.

If a performer appears upon the stage bald or with white hair after you have not seen him for ten years, this is not commentary for a musical review. I will quote Gregory Sandow who wrote that whether or not Charlie Parker performed only in his underwear was immaterial to how he played.

Liszt performed with long white hair, the master of the piano, and not less so for his age. Vladimir Horowitz, Arthur Rubinstein and Mary Lou Williams were masters only days before they died. Sonny Rollins cannot be condemned to the grave which is inhabited by small minds who lurk like worms awaiting a fresh kill. It is to escape these worms that we choose to be cremated.

…The witch’s focus is upon the production of a new turn of phrase, a new twist of the song, a new fight, the immolation of a lie if it takes the creation of a masterpiece to do it. The great witch Maryanne Amacher,who was felled only by a freak accident,had a house filled to the rooftops of unparalleled work and she slept on the floors of every studio to which she was invited worldwide—and created more bizarre work through the years.

The vampire knows that only new blood will sustain her. New blood, new research, new language study, and willful deconstruction and reconstruction, new meter, new arrangements, new writing, difficult performances—which later become great ones—through perseverance.

You who wait for the ticking of the clock so that you might one day proclaim that one of us is approaching our dotage should imagine instead your own life, which is is fading behind you, like a reflection of your netherparts, wretched, hanging, like the flanks of a tethered animal, too long unfed,alone, and unloved…

Read on: diamandagalas.com

Diamanda Galas in Arthur Magazine No. 28

MUSIC IS NEVER WRONG: A visit with Josh Homme & John Paul Jones of Them Crooked Vultures (Oct 2009)

MUSIC IS NEVER WRONG
A visit with Them Crooked Vultures’ Josh Homme and John Paul Jones

Interview by Jay Babcock
Posted: October 15, 2009

Them Crooked Vultures is a new band comprised of guitarist-vocalist Joshua Homme (Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss), bassist John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), drummer Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana) and guitarist Alain Johannes (Eleven), with Jones and Johannes also playing other instruments. These guys really don’t need an introduction so you won’t be getting one here. What’s interesting is what they’re doing: Vultures have spent much of this year together, writing and recording music in a Los Angeles studio, and are now touring without having officially released a note of the music they’ve recorded. No album, no single, no YouTube video, no leak, no official photos, no nothing: the only way to hear Them Crooked Vultures, really, is to see them live.

In some ways, it’s an echo of the Eric Clapton-Steve Winwood-Ginger Baker supergroup Blind Faith, who did a similar thing in 1969, touring ahead of their album’s release, selling out tours on the strength of their collective pedigree. But unlike Blind Faith, who hedged their bets by including renditions of songs from their old bands, Vultures are performing 80 or so minutes of new Vultures music every night: no Zeppelin covers, no Queens jams, no standards. As Homme says onstage on the night I first see them play, it’s a “social experiment” as much as a musical one, and to the audience’s credit, there was not a single shouted request that I could hear for something other than what the band was playing: Vultures’ blind faith is being rewarded.

Perhaps this is down to a collective solidarity with the idea of the independent musician, or a real interest in simply unfamiliar music by trusted faves—or maybe it’s because most of the songs presented on Monday night were strong on first listen, and if listener’s fatigue inevitably set in at some point due to the continued ear-pummeling, then you could just stand there and behold the wonder of 63-year-old John Paul Jones, shoulders bobbing, at the helm of his instrument, smiling with pleasure at Dave Grohl as yet another propulsive, post-“Immigrant’ Song” (or “Achilles’ Last Stand,” or…) bassline locked in with Grohl’s powerhouse thumping and a distinctively Homme guitar riff. Interestingly, Grohl’s drumkit was not on the riser usually associated with big-time rock bands, which I’m sure disappointed some Foo Fighters fans, but it had the crucial benefit of placing the musicians nearer each other, allowing them to create a more cohesive sound in the midst of so much volume; as John Paul Jones said after the show, “I can feel Dave’s kick-drum that way,” and from his smile, you know that’s as much for his benefit as the audience’s.

Smiles. The amount of smiling between the Vultures onstage, as well as the sheer caliber of playing, reminded me of Shakti, the Indian-Western supergroup led by English master guitarist John McLaughlin and Indian tabla genius Zakir Hussain that fuses classical Indian music with Western jazz. I’m not talking about laughs between songs, or witty stage banter, although with Josh Homme at the microphone you’re always going to get that, but the smiles that occur in the midst of the music: the joy that emerges spontaneously in the midst of collective creativity, usually marking some new discovery or progress, or a new threshold being crossed, or something just feeling fundamentally good. In the last two decades of loud guitar music, this kind of uncontrived on-stage joy has been far too rare—outside of Ween shows, of course, and gee wasn’t that the Deaner himself backstage with the champagne on Monday night? Anyways. Josh, who I’ve interviewed before, and who headlined the second night of ArthurBall in 2006 as half of The 5:15ers (a duo he has with longtime collaborator Chris Goss), invited me to talk with him and John Paul Jones in the band’s dressing room just prior to their set at Philadelphia’s Electric Factory on October 12, 2009. Here’s how the conversation went…

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VENGEANCE IS HERS: a conversation with DIAMANDA GALAS


THE WOMAN WHO KNOWS TOO MUCH
A conversation with pianist-vocalist Diamanda Galas: Avenging queen of the damned, obvious musical genius and the only person alive who’s a fan of Doris Day and Vlad the Impaler

By John Payne
Photography by Susanna Howe
Make-up and styling by Kristofer Buckle

Originally published in Arthur No. 28 (March 2008)

“Get up off your knees, you weak bastard, and fight!”
—Katzanzakis

Diamanda Galas made her solo recording debut in 1982 with The Litanies of Satan, a bloodcurdling blast of screaming, sighing, sneering, spitting sonority based on texts by the poet Charles Baudelaire. Recorded in a freezing cold basement studio in London after she’d been awake for 24 hours, Litanies is a glossolalic galaxy further perverted by insane floods of reverb, spatial delay, complex signal processing and overdubbing. Twenty-six years later, it remains quite terrifying in effect.
That initial recorded outpouring established Galas as a troubling and troublesome singer of the avant-garde and beyond, one who boasted a multi-multi-octave voice of unparalleled power and technical command along with a contemporary-classical/new-thing piano style the equal to and great leap forward past the storied prowess of your baddest dudes of the modern jazzbo scene. But all that’s just the mechanics of it; her performances have combined these vocal acrobatics with electronics and triple- and quadruple-mike techniques that’d fling the voice around in horrific battles between the Devil, God and all us poor victims – sometimes with her back to the crowd. Her topics? AIDS, rape, torture, genocide.
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