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By mid-2001 I was becoming restless with my projects online. Radio KRMB had probably said everything about krautrock that could be said, the fictions on Narcotic Transmissions continued but with less of the urgency of the pre/post Y2K era, and my website often looked very pretty but was lacking in fresh content. In search of new directions I toyed with the idea of building a gallery site dedicated to the work of the illustrator Mal Dean, who died in the mid-70s. While trying to find his widow Libby Houston, I contacted various New Worlds writers from the period. Michael Moorcock put me in touch with M John Harrison.
As it turned out Mike Harrison couldn’t tell me how to contact Libby Houston but he did need help with building his website. In working on Mike’s site I came in contact with writers, editors and fans accumulating around The Third Alternative forums, where the originally discussions on the development of the New Weird took place. Amongst a host of people who I came into contact with on this period was the painter David Lloyd, whose covers appeared on the Night Shade books editions of two of Mike’s books. I visited David several times while he was living in Whitstable and one day he asked if I would like a cover for my next album.
The cover of p00 is an early iteration of one of his paintings. He sent me the photo, I scanned it and then pasted a photo from the grounds of the Milennium Dome into the background. By the time I was doing the cover, I had acquired my first laptop, a chunky refurbished Packard Bell, ostensibly for website work and writing.
However, while this machine wasn’t powerful enough for what we called at the time “hard disk recording”, it was powerful enough for sampling. I downloaded Madtracker, a PC descendent of the old Amiga tracker programs that I used in the 90s. There was something tentative about my early experiments with sampling on this scale. I could now sample whole riffs and loop them and process them to within an inch of their life. It didn’t feel quite legitimate. It was exciting but I was a little afraid of the apparent inauthenticity of the process. Making drum machine parts with Madtracker was fine but looping my guitar felt unmusicianly; it was a qualm that I would grow out of as time went on.
The two tracks that use extensive sampling and looping on this album, Upside Down (Inside Out) and Inside Out (Upside Down) are perhaps the least satisfactory pieces on this album. The playing on them is fine and the integration of the technology works but I forgot to record anything particularly interesting. Far better are the tracks that make use of Madtracker in more a tangential fashion: Massy Palaiseau, Baby p00 and The Media’s Darling II.
The Media’s Darling appears in three versions on this album. It is a cover version of a track by Zebulldada, a collective that Ian Price was involved with. I knew Ian from KRMB and we were also doing a transatlantic recording project together called The M00nm0ths. The Media’s Darling was actually a Joe Baker number. I changed one line from the original: “local boy makes good on this threats at you” becomes “Ian Price makes good on this threats at you”. The first version of the track is quite delirious and ethereal, while the second is harder and angrier. Joe liked the second version better. I used Madtracker to construct a drum machine part for this but found that it sounded too clean when recorded straight to the Fostex A8 reel-to-reel, so I dirtied up the sound by recording the laptop speakers directly with a microphone.
The long track on this album, The Analeptic Kings Play The Bistro Californium, was a direct reference to M John Harrison’s Viriconium novels. Amongst other sounds on this track, there are emulated Commodore 64 and Amiga synthesizer programs. One of the other things that the laptop was good for was software emulation of older computers. One of the Commodore 64 tape emulation formats was called “p00” which was the first of the reasons for the name of this album.
After Bozz Bozz had died the previous winter, we had adopted another cat, from Judy, a colleague and friend from the library where I was working. This large, neurotic black and white cat was originally called Shadow, but we decided to rename her Qwertyuiop Poltroon, but she was also addressed by other names such as Trimphone, on account of some of her strange noises, and Poo. The album ends with a close recording of the cat purring and making one of her strange noises.
p00 isn’t an altogether successful album. There are many new techniques on there, and there are individual tracks that I like; the blowsy melodic shoegaze pop of The Trees feels very much in the spirit of a David Lloyd painting. But maybe the album is uneven because I wasn’t quite comfortable with the new technology and its implications at the time. The album was mixed down in early 2002 and a few months later we were forced to move flat when the landlord decided to sell. We found another Warner flat, nearer to Blackhorse Road, but it wasn’t until 2003 that I managed to complete any satisfactory new material.
p00 can be streamed and downloaded from archive.org.
Next: Stella Maris.