“SONG FOR EWE”
with CASPAR BRÖTZMANN of
CASPAR BRÖTZMANN MASSAKER
“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today is a guitar virtuoso and majestic noisenik whom I will forever associate with Velvet Sheep fanzine by dint of the fact that when his intrepid trio the Caspar Brötzmann Massaker were in session on John Peel in 1995, Peel mentioned Velvet Sheep (issue 17) too as I was running a Caspar Brötzmann interview as my headline feature.
I’d spent a fantastic afternoon in the intoxicating company of Caspar at a pub near the Gray’s Inn Road, Kings Cross at the behest of Paul Smith from Blast First and Peel recounted some of the lighter highlights from said interview: that Herr Brötzmann wasn’t a particularly big fan of football or of countryman F1 legend Michael Schumacher of whom he thought was “too clean and should be doing advertising”.
Peel also quoted from my review of a recent gig by the Massaker at Highbury Garage where I claimed my “mate’s wind problems were cured by the intense booming of the stacks”! And mein gott what a sound it was. An innovative and masterful guitarist from Berlin via the New York art scene, he’s re-releasing his first two band albums as the CBM, “The Tribe” and “Black Axis” via the astute Southern Lord Records (with more reissues to come), and new material is strongly rumoured too. With pleasing symmetry, it’s an absolute honour and feels only right to welcome back to the pages of VS (now virtual ones rather than xeroxed A4), Caspar Brötzmann!
First, here’s that Peel mention captured in slightly though aptly warped audio cassette transfer…
I’d first become a fan of Caspar Brötzmann when sent the brilliantly discordant Einheit Brötzmann record “Merry Christmas” (Caspar with F.M. Einheit of Einstürzende Neubauten on drums) by Wyndham Wallace, a plugger who later became a good friend. Wyndham was so impressed with what I’d written about the album he phoned me up on the Bakelite landline to quote me back part of the typically florid review and invited me into town to meet Caspar for a chat. I’d been nervous but needn’t have been, Caspar is a classy individual who oozes natural charm. Before forming the Massaker he had played solo supporting Nick Cave, but he could so easily have been a Bad Seed himself, such is his louche ease coupled with a surgical focus and ingrained effortless musicality.
Of course he was born to play with a father like free jazz legend Peter Brötzmann although story has it that his dad’s strictness and the snobbery of the scene meant that the Americanised music that Caspar was keen on were not encouraged. Caspar wasn’t formally trained but was shown the ropes by Hans Reichel – a family friend and an avant-garde guitarist who built his own instruments.
Hans taught Caspar “how to manipulate the workings and mechanics of the guitar” not as a self-conscious virtuoso but as a love affair with the instrument. You only have to hear the coruscating chords, the drop tuned disonance and left-handed guitar (Hendrix-like) spangling coupled with the tastefully abrupt drums and the ritualistic chanted vocals to be truly drawn into an enveloping world of axe-wielding mysticism. “The Tribe” and “Black Axis” are noisy as Dante’s infernal hell and yet they are no endurance test, this is a music that truly chimes with something internal and primal.
But what music chimes with Caspar Brötzmann? Without further ado, this is Caspar’s “song for ewe”…
“A long time ago, late at night on the streets of one of Berlin’s techno bars, Eduardo, the Bass player of Massaker gave me a bootleg cassette tape of Burundi Chant Avec Cithare. I’ve loved this song ever since. The sound of this instrument and the voice of the singer is wonderful. It cast a spell on me forever.
This song somehow articulates my dark visions about the planet, or should I say how we humans are destroying it and ourselves. When I listen this song, I sit down on the ground, in the dark, near the singer’s voice and feel at home. This song is like a protecting shield against all the human beings who destroy.
Thanks for this song.
Chant Avec Cithare – Burundi – Musiques Traditionnelles *Recorded by Michel Vuylsteke”
if you like see some more:
Burundi Half Whispered, Half Exhaled Chant Accompanied on Inanga
and this song is still so resonant…”
In the end, as befits a fantastic trio, Caspar chose a great hat-trick.
“The Tribe” and “Black Axis” are out on 19th Jan on Southern Lord…
And if you’re up for it, here’s that second mention of VS on Peel in conjunction with the CBM session…(1995)
THANKS SO MUCH TO CASPAR AND TO LAUREN BARLEY OF RARELY UNABLE PR