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Members of Crass, the Pop Group, Killing Joke, PiL, and Current 93 are the New Banalists Orchestra


 
Mark Stewart titled the 2012 solo album he made with Kenneth Anger, Richard Hell, Tessa Pollitt, Keith Levene, Gina Birch, Factory Floor, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Youth, et al. The Politics of Envy. A proper dialectician, he prepared the way by singing about the “Envy of Politics” on 2011’s Mammon, a six-track digital album by London’s New Banalists Orchestra.

The orchestra appears to be the musical component of the New Banalists group founded by Stewart and the artist Rupert Goldsworthy. The Bandcamp page says only that the New Banalists “formed an orchestra to proclaim [their] manifesto”—which is refreshingly concise, as manifestos go, and seems to be slightly different in each iteration:

TASTE IS A FORM OF PERSONAL CENSORSHIP.
DENY THE POLITICS OF ENVY
TECHNIQUE IS A REFUGE OF THE INSECURE
SHADOW WAR

 

Rupert Goldsworthy and Mark Stewart’s beautiful logo for the New Banalists
 
On Mammon, Penny Rimbaud and Eve Libertine of Crass, John Sinclair of the White Panther Party and the MC5’s management, David Tibet of Current 93, and Zodiac Mindwarp (“The trick is to tough it out, sailor”) of the Love Reaction espouse a bohemian, psychedelic anticapitalism over music by Youth of Killing Joke and Michael Rendall, some of which will sound familiar to fans of Hypnopazūzu. Ex-PiL guitarist Keith Levene and the late cannabis kingpin Howard “Mr. Nice” Marks are on there, too.

After the jump, watch the ad for Mammon and then stream the whole thing…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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02.03.2017
08:40 am
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The Pop Group meet the Bomb Squad: Stream new album ‘Honeymoon on Mars’—a Dangerous Minds premiere
10.24.2016
10:53 am
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The Pop Group emerged from relatively out-of-the mix Bristol, England in 1977 with a devastating mix of noisy art-punk with straight funk and dub that underpinned strident and often just flat-out hectoring leftist lyrics. While both the music and singing were often pointedly tuneless, the band’s jagged rhythms and allegiance to dancefloor sounds set in motion a scene in Bristol that reached an apotheosis in Trip-Hop, and continues today with Grime and post-Grime. The band’s singer/polemicist/leader Mark Stewart has a kind of godfather/elder statesman status, and keeps closely engaged with those scenes’ developments, and the second new Pop Group album since their 2010 reconstitution, Honeymoon on Mars, reflects that continued engagement.

It’s DM’s pleasure today to debut the stream of that entire new album; digital and physical will be available for purchase on Friday. It shows a band completely reinvigorated by the new—contemporary underground beats and electronic experiments dominate the songs, and it’s a much more daring LP than its predecessor, their comeback Citizen Zombie. The lead-off single, “Zipperface,” has been out for a minute, and it’s already been remixed by Hanz, and an intense video was made by Bristol videographer Max Kelan Pearce. But to produce an album that pushes into new territory, the band recruited some old hands. Dub producer and Matumbi bassist Dennis Bovell, who produced the band’s first album Y, has returned to collaborate with TPG again, but perhaps the more exciting news is that they also worked with a producer for a very different band, which also combined energetic and noisy music with heavy politicking—the legendary Bomb Squad mainstay Hank Shocklee, who of course is best known for his dizzying and utterly groundbreaking work with Public Enemy. It was my extreme pleasure to talk to both Stewart and Shocklee about the collaboration’s origins and their creative process.

MARK STEWART: This is the story—the Pop Group, straight out of school, were flavor-of-the-month in New York, us and Gang of Four. We were out there all the time, playing in the No Wave scene with DNA, Bush Tetras. I was constantly trying to dig out things I was interested in in New York, and one of our roadies and I, we had these ghettoblaster radios and we were recording things, and suddenly we heard these huge piledriver noises—it was the first scratching I’d ever heard, and it completely blew my mind. It was DJ Red Alert, from Afrika Bambaataa’s Zulu Nation, doing an early hip-hop show. I’d heard rapping before—Bristol had a good import shop—but this was the first live scratching I’d ever heard by a proper DJ. We took those tapes back home—we’d recorded like 14 or 15 shows—and duplicate, duplicate, duplicate on our double-cassette machines, and that kickstarted the scene that was to become Bristol trip-hop.

For me, I was enabled by punk, but I was given a real shiver down my spine by deep roots dub music. That’s why we worked with Dennis Bovell when we were kids, and when we were trying to think of who could pull things together for us now, when we’re trying to pull in all these newer influences like post-grime, trap, Goth-Trad, The Bug—we’re getting all this kind of new rhythmic programming. And who could pull this together? And I remember what Dennis did for us when we were kids, all running off in different directions, and I thought he could help get these new songs together. Then, I thought some of the hard rhythmic stuff, was very hip-hop sort of stuff, and by chance, Dave Allen from Gang of Four was at South By Southwest when we were there and he asked if he could bring Hank Shocklee to one of our shows. I nearly wet my pants.

HANK SHOCKLEE: I saw the Pop Group at South By Southwest. I was introduced to them by Dave Allen, the bass player for Gang of Four. And it turned me on, man! They only played for like five minutes, because the sound wasn’t right, then they got cut off for cursing at the sound guy, then it got to be a fight with the sound people, and I was just like “WOW!” The energy was reminiscent of the early days of hip-hop. [laughs] The attitude was straight punk. Then I saw them another night, and they were really great musicians, it was an eclectic mix of dub, and punk, and funk, they can go into a little bit of jazz. They have that ability, like a traditional classic band from back in the days, when even though bands were into rock ’n’ roll, they’d have other disciplines like classical or jazz, so this way they could go into other variations. I thought that was interesting so I talked to Mark, and said “You know, if you guys ever want to do something, I’m interested.” And lo and behold, he reached out and said he wanted me to do something for the album.

STEWART: When Public Enemy broke in England, it was a sea change. For a place like Bristol, where it’s very multiracial, suddenly loads of people I knew, a couple years younger, had an identity. What Hank was doing with these kind of sheets of noise, when I first heard Public Enemy, I stepped back and nearly kind of gave up, because he was doing similar kind of experiments in a slightly different way that I had only dreamt of. But for this album, nobody was trying to reproduce anything from the past. This is the first time since we’ve re-formed that we’re really what we’ve wanted to be, sort of pulling on things and reacting, and feeding off the now, to try to occupy the future with my brain. Not the whole future, there’s room for other people. [laughs]

Since the beginning of the band, I’m kind of a hunter-gatherer. I just kind of collect bass lines and play with musique concrète, trying to throw loads of stuff into the pot, it’s always cut-and-paste and juxtaposition. Then things would evolve live, and then we’d twist them again. On our album Y, we suddenly started doing loads of editing, we’d have 80 pieces of tape up on the wall for these mad mushroom editing sessions. This kind of evolves again—I’m executive producer, it’s me pulling in all these things and trying to focus on different directions, but I find that you get the best out of people if you don’t tell them what to do too much. In the end, if you look at it like a prehistoric burial site, there’s bronze age things, iron age things, and I throw some dice into the procedure, then they pick up the dice and start doing something, while me and Gareth [Sager, guitarist] have always got our ears open for mistakes. If something interesting is happening, we’re not focusing too much on that. We’re aware of a machine breaking down.

SHOCKLEE: Once they got it all together, they sent me stuff they were working on where they didn’t have an idea where to put it, where it would fit, what it would be. They were ideas in development. I just said send me the stuff that you have, and it was over 40 tracks of ideas that they was trying to put together, but they couldn’t get it all together. I listened to most of the stuff, and I just said “Wow, they have something here,” so I organized it, stripped it back. I brought in my engineer Nick Sansano, who worked with me on all the Public Enemy records, and he partnered up with me in helping produce and shape the tracks and try to create a theme, try to create a story, and try to move it into an area where it becomes a little more cohesive.

I wasn’t able to be there in England to work with the band face to face, but it was very similar to the P.E. process, where I’m going through records and organizing them in terms of samples and arrangements in order to make it fit the agenda that I’m trying to get across. So I looked at the tracks like I had a bunch of samples and a bunch of records, and I just shaped them, and chopped them up, straighten out the bassline, emphasize the beats more, and arrange the tracks to they have, to me, a more consistent flow. I wanted to bridge the gap between what you would hear in electronic music and what you would hear on traditional pop records.

Listen to ‘Honeymoon on Mars’ after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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10.24.2016
10:53 am
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Never before seen live footage of the Pop Group in 1980
04.20.2016
08:57 am
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In the wake of significantly renewed activity from the politically-charged post-punk funk agitators The Pop Group, it seems like recordings of their early years, many once considered “lost,” are finding their way out of the woodwork with increasing frequency. Only a few months ago, DM shared the video for the band’s signature single, “We Are All Prostitutes,” which had been missing for decades, and which turned up in an amazingly timely manner—just before the song was released as an add-on to the reissued LP For How Much Longer do we Tolerate Mass Murder? (We expressed some cynicism about the timing of that coincidence when we posted the video, but we’ve been assured that its discovery at that time was a genuine fortuity.)

Given the increased interest in the reactivated band, the worthy material culled from all those basement tapes has naturally been compiled for releases—in 2014, Cabinet of Curiosities assembled unreleased live tracks, Peel sessions and alternate takes. This year, The Boys Whose Head Exploded will feature live tracks, mostly from 1980, recorded in Cologne, Milan, Sheffield, and Helsinki, with a video adjunct—footage shot by no less a notable punk archivist than filmmaker Don Letts of The Punk Rock Movie and Big Audio Dynamite fame. Letts shot segments of the band in performance at the Beat the Blues Festival, held on June 15, 1980 at London’s Alexandra Palace. A sound recording of that performance was released as part of the Japan-only live 2xCD comp Idealists In Distress From Bristol, but the video has never been seen before.
 
Keep reading after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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04.20.2016
08:57 am
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‘We Are All Prostitutes’: Lost Pop Group vid discovered days before the song’s reissue. Coincidence?
02.11.2016
11:21 am
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When it was released in 1980, Bristol funk terrorists the Pop Group’s second studio album For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? was pretty widely panned. Though the band’s disorientingly noisy No-Wave/punk/funk musical attack had become significantly tighter than on their debut LP Y, singer Mark Stewart cut the brake cables on his lyrical politicking, adopting an uncompromisingly agit-prop “no one is innocent” ethos that was really, REALLY easy to hear as self-righteous finger-pointing. And I get it—one could get ballpark-similar musical kicks from the Contortions or the Birthday Party without feeling like one was being scolded for merely having been born in the First World.

That album has been extremely difficult to obtain legitimately since its first issue in 1980, (further editions do exist, but they’re few, and were released only in Japan) but despite its scarcity, it’s gone on to become the band’s definitive work, along with its contemporary single, “We Are All Prostitutes.” That single had everything that was essential to a Pop Group song—Stewart’s accusations chanted in a terrifying warble, rubber-band bass that sounded like a blind-drunk Larry Graham, guitars so sharp they could cut your throat, and drumming that threatened to shove the rest of the band down a flight of stairs.
 

 
On February 19th, both Mass Murder and the “Prostitutes” single will finally be re-released, after 36 years. The LP is a straightforward re-issue with no bonus goodies save for the addition of “Prostitutes,” and the single contains a non-album track. (The band’s best unreleased material was already compiled on 2014’s Cabinet of Curiosities.) The album’s reputation has significantly grown, in part because the band’s influence has reverberated through the decades despite the difficulties encountered in actually procuring its work, and in part because oh my fucking god we’re seriously still struggling against everything Stewart was yelling about 35 years ago. An edifying exchange between Stewart and Simon Reynolds appears in the latter’s indispensable book Totally Wired:

Reynolds: After Y came “We Are All Prostitutes” and For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder… The lyrics went from being abstract-expressionist to propagandist. Pretty direct protest.

Stewart: The first album was written when I was sixteen or seventeen. But on Y there’s “Don’t Call Me Pain,” about torture, and “The Boys From Brazil,” about Nazis hiding out in South America. So yes, the first one is more mystical, but there’s songs about issues. “Don’t Sell Your Dreams” is one of my favorites of that period—it is poetic but it’s incredibly idealistic and it’s really out there, as pure as you can get.

Reynolds: Still, there was a period around that time…where it seemed like the Pop Group had decided that there was no room any more for music as sheer entertainment or art for art’s sake. That the political imperatives of the time were to urgent to allow for such decadence. In one interview [Pop Group guitarist] Gareth Sager even says it’s trivial to use interview time to talk about the music when they could be talking about serious political issues.

Stewart: It wasn’t really conscious, but there was a fire in our belly. The idea was that if there was a space to use in any kind of media, you had to use it to get out what you really wanted to talk about. It was connected to hanging out with all these radical groups, like People United in Southall, and Race Today. That was a really good magazine run by Linton Kwesi Johnson and Darcus Howe, based out of Brixton, and it was going on about the “Sus” laws—stop and search—which I sang about in “Justice” and “Forces of Oppression” on How Much Longer. Loads of black people were dying in custody. Demonstrations were getting broken up. Race Today was the only thing putting out that information at that time. For us, it was all part of the same thing—the fire, the music and the desire to get these things across. Nobody was talking about it really. It wasn’t party political; there was just this fire about different injustices. It wasn’t this worthy thing, you know. It wasn’t really preaching. The things that excite me—be it a musical form or a lyrical form—often the singing is buried inside the music. So it’s not like giving a fucking speech.

The use of torture is clearly far from a settled matter if you’ve suffered even one GOP presidential debate, and who could fail to see screamingly obvious parallels to the Black Lives Matter movement in that last response? Oh, how far Western Civilization hasn’t come. Stewart may have protested that singing a song is “not like giving a fucking speech,” but when his lyrics are clear, as in the pensively dubby j’accuse “There Are No Spectators,” and the completely fucking groovy indictment of authoritarian corruption “Justice,” um, yeah, it kind of IS like giving a speech.
 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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02.11.2016
11:21 am
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‘Citizen Zombie’: After 35 years, the Pop Group return in fine form
03.13.2015
09:41 am
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Gang of Four’s terminal descent into hitherto unexplored depths of laughable badness prompts questions about the meaning and value of “authenticity,” some of which that band’s stalwart guitarist Andy Gill addresses himself in this essay (caveat: while it contains some ideas seriously worth discussing, the post at that link is uncomfortably closer than I hoped I’d ever get to watching a 60-ish year old man jack off to his own reflection in a full-length mirror). And it raises eternally familiar questions about what it means to age as a rebellious or difficult artist, especially in as youth-obsessed a milieu as rock music. There’s hardly a shortage of exemplars in Go4’s cohort—Michael Gira is 61, and Swans are making their best music ever. Genesis P-Orridge, at 65, has lately released a wonderful LP called Snakes under the Psychic TV banner. And WIRE? That band seems to be completely unstoppable. And while a few of their edges are sanded over on their recent reunion album Citizen Zombie, the Pop Group have successfully contemporized their sound without even slightly debasing it.

Sample Citizen Zombie after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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03.13.2015
09:41 am
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‘Mad Truth’: Asia Argento directs new Pop Group video, their first single in 35 years
01.29.2015
03:25 pm
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Behold the new video for “Mad Truth,” the first single in 35 years from the reformed Pop Group, directed by Dangerous Minds pal Asia Argento. There’s a warning for all the stroboscopic effects, so beware of that before you press play.

The Pop Group’s new album, Citizen Zombie comes out on February 23rd. Argento’s most recent film, the autobiographical coming of age story Incompresa (Misunderstood in English) was the single best movie I saw last year.

See the Pop Group on their US tour:

March 11th San Francisco CA – Great American Music Hall
March 12th Seattle WA – Neumos Crystal Ball Reading Room
March 13th Chicago IL – Levitation Festival, Thalia Hall
March 17th New York NY – Bowery Ballroom
March 10th Los Angeles CA – Echoplex
March 14th Toronto ON – Lee’s Palace
March 16th Brooklyn NY – Rough Trade
March 19th – 22nd Austin TX – SXSW
 

 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Beyond Good & Evil: The Pop Group’s Mark Stewart, the Dangerous Minds interview

Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.29.2015
03:25 pm
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Beyond Good & Evil: The Pop Group’s Mark Stewart, the Dangerous Minds interview
09.12.2014
12:54 pm
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The Pop Group is unequivocally back. After reuniting four years ago for festival shows and limited UK and European tours, the band’s singer Mark Stewart has told Dangerous Minds that their long-promised album of new material is at last being recorded this month, and that wider tours are in the works. This news comes fairly quickly on the heels of the announcement that the band is reissuing their 1980 album We Are Time and a rarities collection called Cabinet of Curiosities this autumn.

The Pop Group began in Bristol, UK, in 1978, and established a niche all to themselves with an unabashedly abrasive ruckus of No Wave and free jazz noise, punk’s ethos of confrontation, and a rhythm section devoted to dub and straight-up funk. Atop all that, singer Stewart chanted far-left declamations in a voice that lurched without warning from warble to shriek. The effect of this melee could be caustic, disorienting, and exhilarating. The band became influential despite its volatility, and in 1981, it fractured, jettisoning its members into the bands Rip Rig + Panic, Glaxo Babies/Maximum Joy, Pigbag, and the Slits. For his part, Stewart has recorded solo and with his band the Maffia. The Pop Group’s albums Y, For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder, and We Are Time have, in the USA, at least, been only intermittently available and sometimes ridiculously expensive to obtain, so the news of impending reissues is most welcome. Because it’s 2014 and this is how it’s done now, there’s a pledge drive afoot for the releases, and some of the premiums are mighty cool. (I’m pretty sorely tempted by the Signed Ultimate Boxset Bundle.)

Earlier this week, Mark Stewart was kind enough to talk to DM at length about the band’s origins and future plans.
 

 
DM: Just this morning, I came across a news item that references The Pop Group, and I was wondering if you were aware of it— the Washington Post was reporting on a corrupt politician, and they posted a video of “We Are All Prostitutes.”

Mark Stewart: Yeah. I haven’t had a chance to check out all the details of the story yet, but a very important confidante of mine, who writes books about conspiracies in politics, says it’s the most important story the Washington Post has run since Watergate, is that true?

Possibly. The ex-governor of Virginia and his wife have been convicted of fraud and selling access. It’s pretty huge. He was a presidential hopeful once, and now this blatant corruption comes to light. But I wondered if you were aware of the Post using your song in that context, and whether you think that speaks to the Pop Group’s continued relevance?

The lyrics to that song are timeless. The second real album that we made, For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?, was a bit more time-sensitive. It was talking about things that were happening in real time in Indonesia, and coups that were happening with ITT and Allende in Chile, things that were happening in Cambodia. That was more a real time, newspapery kind of album. But the other stuff, like “We Are All Prostitutes” and Y and the stuff we’re re-releasing now, it’s weird, because for me, I’m looking at it that way as much as you, because it’s like listening to something that’s out there now.

It’s quite bizarre. Me and [Pop Group guitarist] Gareth Sager, we spent two years going through, trying to find the best stuff from that period—and I’m a fan, I’ve realized recently, with all the music I’ve made, I’m making it for myself because I have an idea of what I’d like to hear. Like mashing up a free-jazz saxophone against a funk beat with Arabic wailing or something, I’m doing it for myself, because I’m only hearing those things in my head, and making things up like a little kid, and I just want to make those things. I’m having to analyze this stuff and see it again and it’s weird. But the We Are Time album sounds like new bands I’m hearing out of London now.
 

 

 
Well in terms of the songs’ political content, over the last thirty years, I’m not sure so much has changed or gotten better…

Hold on! You’re like my girlfriend! I think a lot has got better! Are you a pessimist?

Ha, maybe! Some things have gotten better on the social front, sure, but in terms of the oligarchs’ takeover? At least in the United States, oh my GOD, they are winning.

Yes. And, as far as I can see some of the battles in the Middle East are between different factions in America, like an American proxy war going on there, oil companies acting like medieval dynasties, it’s bizarre. And they’re backing jealous militias.

So are you an optimist, then? What do you see getting better?

Generally I think people across the world are genuinely more aware. Right now I’m in this fishing village, and the guy who lives in a shed at the bottom of the garden knows as much about the world as I did in 1979. There’s access to more media, and people, as far as I can see, are seeing through the illusion. Back in the day they used to think politicians were correct, and they’d tip their caps in a kind of regal way. People are kind of owning and feeling the responsibility and making the connections, that the things that are happening aren’t so far away. There’s blowback, and the actions we make in everyday life are a result of these actions across the world, funding our avarice.

It’s easier to put these ideas into songs!

More with Mark Stewart after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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09.12.2014
12:54 pm
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The Pop Group: Beyond Good And Evil
06.28.2010
06:06 pm
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It feels like a Pop Group sort of day, so here we have a couple of vintage promo clips I’ve never stumbled upon before. Having long loved the records, the clips are a bit of shock. Such wholesome looking kids in their nice new wave gear making all that racket ! I never managed to see the doc that Mr Novicoff posted about here nearly a year ago and it doesn’t appear to be available anywhere. I both snooze and lose. Still, the shriek of vocalist Mark Stewart is a true force of nature, a sound like no other !

 

Posted by Brad Laner
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06.28.2010
06:06 pm
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On/Off: Mark Stewart from The Pop Group to The Maffia

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If not tomorrow night in Los Angeles, here’s a documentary I still very much plan on catching.  From Cinefamily:

This one’s a must for all post-punk junkies!  The name of singer/industrial hip-hop pioneer Mark Stewart may not be instantly familiar, but his influence is felt the world over.  From his early days with confrontational post-punk pioneers The Pop Group to his myriad collaborations with acts like Trent Reznor, Massive Attack and Primal Scream, Stewart has provided ghostly beats and haunting vocals for over thirty years, and shows no signs of stopping.  German filmmaker T?ɬ?ni Schifer, who followed Stewart with a camera for three years, has crafted a detailed, intimate portrait of the artist, supplemented by interviews with Stewart himself, his Pop Group co-horts Dan Catsis, Gareth Sager and John Waddington, Keith Levine (P.I.L.), Janine Rainforth (Maximum Joy), Douglas Hart (The Jesus & Mary Chain), Fritz Catlin (23 Skidoo), Daniel Miller (Mute Records), Nick Cave, Mick Harvey, Massive Attack and many others, plus some terrific never-before-seen vintage performance footage.

Well, as post-punk authority Simon Reynolds says, reading an interview with The Pop Group was like “having your brain set on fire.”  And If that’s not enough enticement, here’s the trailer for ON/OFF:

 
More On Mark Stewart/On-U Sound

Director T?ɬ?ni Schifer on MySpace

Posted by Bradley Novicoff
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08.19.2009
03:40 pm
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