Thursday, 15 March 2012

From the Archives: Chris and Cosey at ICA Interview

Chris and Cosey at the ICA (4th Feb) - Cosey Club

“we've always been advocates of the ‘you had to have been there’ experience.”

Mental liquidification is what you expect from a Chris and Cosey show and no less; so its no surprise that attendees of the Cosey Club at the ICA had their minds thoroughly melted to a stewing, wondrous pulp, not just by the sheer intensity of wall to wall bone-bending sound, but also by the deeply hypnotizing and eye-popping visuals that accompanied their convulsive ‘space shuttle’ noise. Taking it back to their infamous industrial best, the ex-Throbbing Gristle duo gave us a fine rendition of techno-based beats, overlaid with Cosey’s magnetic morphing vocals. As one boggled fan put it, it was akin to “the wettest, hardest, most dissociate shag of your life”, I would say no different myself. Having not played their material for over 10 years (!) keeping it locked down in the studio and taking care of their son Nicky, Chris and Cosey’s return to live performance was close to a moment of magic. They clearly were full of energy and enthusiasm to perform again, and the response proved the impact C&C still undoubtedly have on an audience eager to let themselves be flung into new dimensions. If it wasn’t already obvious, C&C continue to establish themselves as the UK’s electronic musical pioneers, (although a statement they won’t accept out of pure modesty) thanks to Chris’s diverse programming knowledge and their combined desire for experimentation, transcending of accepted norms, and elevation into mystical states. The tribal haunting rhythms that were present on Pagan Tango were back with fuller, thicker force, and the fascinating references to pagan states and esoteric knowledge shone through, along to projections of Dali’s surrealist film ‘Un Chein Andalou’ mixed in with crops of Chris Carter floating in an aura of light, and exploding pagan patterns. Of course Cosey Club, the offspring of Richard Clouston, were fine hosts, and having C&C play live certainly should go down as a historical occasion, almost like an affirmative point on Cosey’s ‘life calender’ - from her days in COUM Transmissions and the scandalous Prostitution show back in 1974.
Cosey: Previously we'd only DJ'd at CoseyClub so this night was very different.The atmosphere of a gig is, as you say, self explanatory - but there was definitely something very special about Friday night as far as our live performances go. Performing a music show in the ICA theatre was a different experience to the 'arts' based Cosey Complex event I did there last year. Context tends to define the atmosphere somewhat but the reception of both events was infused with enthusiasm and inspiring in equal measure. We hadn't played that particularly C&C material (showcased on the night) for over 10 years, and it felt very much open to us to play with the shape and structure of the songs as well as the performance, so we relished the opportunity a live situation provides to bring something extra to the works. That and the fact that we heard the works with fresher ears after being away from them for so long. It was a total joy to reconnect with them.
As somewhere significant to the display of radical contemporary art, ICA attendees would appear to be all ears for the ‘new’, but as Cosey points out, the material they played back in the 80’s had unconvincing reception at first. Yet, like all things, music is one of those elements most conditioned to ‘evolution’ either of public understanding or evolution in its own right from the artists change in taste, perception and interest. Like the most recent release from the duo - Feral Vapours of the Silver Ether (released back in 2008), a more ethereal approach to their sound was heard, and a toning down of techno-beats that could be acknowledged as a progress in their personal style, however as Cosey adds, “time is a strange beast.”
Cosey: The C&C material we played at the ICA came from our output 1982 to 1999. When we performed it live back
then the audiences were totally unfamiliar with our style so it was tough at times, but by the mid 80s we had a large and loyal fan base. At the ICA people came along to enjoy the tracks in their own right with the advantages that time offers, in that the style and sounds we created back then have been widely accepted and recognised now. I dare say the more experimental gigs we've done in the past few years had some influence on the sound being heavier, but we still kept the fundamental techno rhythms in place, we just added material that gave them a heavier driving force that we felt was essential to a live experience. We don't see any point in recreating the album on stage. A live performance is special and something to be shared with the people who come along, we've always been advocates of the "you had to have been there" experience.
The integral visual element is certainly a part of that full C&C ‘experience’ that only the participant can afford to boast about. Famous for their ‘subliminals’, both contained in the records themselves, and within the accompanying artwork and visuals, the C&C experience is that much-needed fusion of art meets life meets music meets entertainment, where there is no definitive boundary between what is considered on or off when viewing a show; “We've never advocated passivity in any aspect of our work either as individuals or our work together”. Even since the days of TG, the duo have been generating work that infuses both the body and mind, all at once or perhaps even separately, with something that simulates and evokes greater ‘sensations’ from the viewers, allowing simulated participation where the experience as a viewer is a ‘whole’ one, and not something you can get from just sticking a record in the stereo.
C&C: We’ve always had a visual element to our live shows, both as Chris & Cosey and Carter Tutti. It started out as a way of shifting the focus from us performing on stage to the music, and the people present. It's the music we like people to enjoy and get into, not us as individual performers. The visuals work on a number of levels, they can be seen as a representation of the sound we generate (which we do take into consideration when creating them) which then enhances the viewers experience or they can be subjectively evocative. We do like to think that the people who come to our shows take part in what we present to them.
And having that participation is crucial to any ‘band’ or live act. The most exciting part of the night was undoubtedly seeing enjoyment from the audience in mimicking Cosey’s movements and hand flying into the air in unison.
C&C: Naturally reception and response play a part in the live performance to a degree, because whatever feedback you get from the audience affects what and how you play, but because we don't score our work (either live or recorded) we're very responsive to the feel of the sound, the space and the people in it - including ourselves. So the process of performing live definitely adds an extra dimension that the studio can't offer. But we also like working in the studio because we can have fun experimenting at our own leisure. You can take things in directions and stretch time in a way that a live format doesn't allow.

The next step for Cosey is her ‘Confessions Projected’ edition, which we will see exhibited soon, alongside a number of sound-based Carter Tutti projects, both live and recorded in the pipeline for 2012. There is no stopping C&C, and as a fan pointed out, they’ve been making music longer than half of the audience had been alive. Their postivity of action is something to take a slice off, and live by. The enthusiasm for finding constant new inspiration, generating creative output and being active is a real gem to motivate any individual, and what makes C&C so constantly influential throughout their generation spanning career. For all those who weren’t there for the ‘experience’ this time around, fear
not, because they’ll be back towards the end of spring with more shows for all ears. In the meantime, catch C&C here: 

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