Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Guest post – White Noise at DEAF 2008

One of the must-see gigs at DEAF 2008 will be White Noise playing their classic album “An Electric Storm” in full at the Sugar Club on Sunday night. Here’s White Noise’s Mark Jenkins talking about the project. I’ve been working …

Thu, Oct 23, 2008, 16:57


One of the must-see gigs at DEAF 2008 will be White Noise playing their classic album “An Electric Storm” in full at the Sugar Club on Sunday night. Here’s White Noise’s Mark Jenkins talking about the project.

I’ve been working for a few years now with David Vorhaus, who was a founder member of the band White Noise in the late 1960s. His original cohorts, Brian Hodgson (now retired) and Delia Derbyshire (who passed away recently), were both working at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The trio used the workshop’s facilities in the dead of night to create their strange hybrid of psychedelic pop and musique concrete until David was able to build a studio of his own. The debut album “An Electric Storm” was taken up by Island’s Chris Blackwell and become an underground hit thanks to its combination of Doctor Who-style sounds, catchy pop songs and extended sonic excursions.

David’s follow-ups were more along the lines of instrumental music and, though innovative, they took him far from the pop charts and into the area of TV and advertising music which he was very successfully inhabiting when I met him while writing for Melody Maker in the 1980s. My own musical ambitions were more along the lines of the multi-media live shows of Jean-Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream, so for a while we didn’t see how the two would mesh. While I performed in theatrical and odder venues like the London Planetarium, David was working towards developing a way of creating White Noise music live – the equivalent of cutting and splicing hundreds of yards of tape recorded from a roomful of esoteric audio equipment, but all live and in real time.

It’s only in the last couple of years that the latest laptop technology has made this possible, and we’ve been able to perform live, throwing together a combination of classic White Noise tracks with new material often created spontaneously on the spot. To some extent, we can even change the set according to the audience reaction – going for long explorations into experimental sounds, or stepping up the tempo to get everyone on their feet and dancing.

In all the recent shows – including planetarium venues and outdoor festivals in the UK and overseas as well as more conventional music venues – David has played the Kaleidophon, his custom-built electronic instrument which as a classically trained orchestral bass player he finds a lot more comfortable and flexible than the usual keyboard. From the Kaleidophon and its connected laptop streams a flow of loops, sampled sounds, human voices, rhythms and indescribable textures, while I run the drum parts, sonic filters, keyboard parts and psychedelic visuals.

Just as in the 1960s, White Noise music always has something unexpected to offer – you never know quite what the next sound will do. Recently we teamed up with Arthur Brown, the “Fire” singer from the 1960s, to create my own new album “The Ceremony Of Innocence”, appearing in monks’ garb on stage in Holland, combining Arthur’s soaring operatic voice with the rich electronic textures of White Noise. It was a fascinating experiment, of a type which we hope to repeat in the future, while aiming to keep a few sonic surprises in store for the audience at DEAF in Dublin…

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