“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’s guest is an old mucker and ace musician from MTV. Duncan Goddard was a broadcast engineer and a huge ally to the MTV Europe Alternative Nation show which I begun working on as a wide-eyed college boy turned intern and later helped produce.
When head music programmer Peter Good was charged with launching a UK version of the MTV US M2 channel which we’d been casting our green eyes to on the internal ring main at the studios in Hawley Crescent, Camden, he assembled all the alternative types for a pow-wow of how to get the channel on air with surprisingly to some limited resources. This wasn’t a Carbis Bay G7 but perhaps the outsider equivalent upstairs at the Crown & Goose in Camden. I just had arty-farty production stuff to worry about but Duncan was charged with getting the whole shebang broadcast with no dedicated transmission suite. Not just that, but when it transpired Peter was also aiming to launch a parallel video streaming service (in 1998, way before that was really a thing) Duncan realised the enormity of the task, incredulously replying “so…. pete…. that’s TWO channels we’re launching, not one.”
If anyone was up for the task though it was Duncan (not to mention willing cohorts/co-conspirators Johnny Pembury and Tony Hodkginson). And to go with the audacious and somewhat DIY punk plan of co-opting an old Beta Cart machine and editing 200 or so hours of material onto actual tape to launch with, Duncan also had a load more wilfully stripped back ideas for the creative which put the spring in my step and were happily adopted – not least the idea that guests would be given a cart book and asked to choose an hour of videos each so that every hour of the channel was curated and non-playlisted. He also mooted the idea of their links being combined with an old school VT countdown clock (brought to life by “on-air” promo genius Paul Ayre) and pushed for us to credit the directors on the videos much like they had been recently featured on the American M2. I was especially keen and this led to me interviewing the likes of Chris Cunningham, Jonathan Glazer and Hammer & Tongs (and later directing a series of films on the new promo auteurs at the NFT).
Not only is Duncan a brilliantly pragmatic and creative broadcast engineer, he’s also one third of the prolific avant sonic expeditors Radio Massacre International.
The pic above is Duncan “on-stage in bethlehem PA in 2008” (as part of NEARfest) “we were on the same bill as Peter Hammill among others- , lots of european proggers. we were often a bit of a wild-card at these things, but we trotted out two mellotrons, rhodes, minimoog, massive drumkit… violin, sax, flute…. we tried to blend in!”
The experimental tendrils of RMI are far-reaching, sometimes into the stratosphere – they’ve given annual performances at the UK National Space Centre in Leicester, they’ve had artwork drawn by the legendary Daevid Allen of Gong, they’ve performed with Damo Suzuki of Can and they are the only act to ever appear live on MTV’s Party Zone without having played a discernible beat…(see below)
Welcome to Velvet Sheep, with as ever a brilliant anecdote and an expectedly great song pick, our good friend Duncan Goddard!
Duncan informs me that the band are “working on a new album for cuneiform (US prog label)” and recently I played an hour long Radio Massacre International mix that Duncan made for Velvet Sheep fanzine/blog in 2015 on the latest edition of the Velvet Sheep radio show on the Neon Hospice…titled for our purposes “Do Velvet Sheep Dream of Space-Rock” in a deft Philip K Dick nod. Check it out here…
Dunc quickly told me he’d be picking an epic tune by Sonic Youth for this feature, and I was thrilled, so without further ado here’s Duncan Goddard’s “song for ewe”…
“as for the SY- the song is one of their more moving & emotional, soulful numbers. it’s as near as they got to a love song, though the exact meaning of the lyrics escapes me even after dozens of listens. the german tv performance is my top-rated SY track, even above ‘daydream nation’. you can see what they were feeling, & the extended extemporisation, necessarily absent from the album version, really allows them freedom to express & reach out with the piece. I’ve followed SY closely since first hearing them on peel’s show early in 1983, & this song is them at the very top of their game.
I was telling someone in a Facebook thread that of course I can’t find now… I took john shaw down to drummond street during MTV’s first abortive attempts to catalogue its library & develop a MAM system to ease the transition to tapeless workflows. anyway, the trip was to show him the extent of the challenge- over half a million cassettes, with many of them (rushes & whatnot) completely uncatalogued. my plan was to scan the tape boxes & their contents, as well as digitising the actual tapes & having quicktimes of them sent to various lifers at Mtv to see what ‘metadata’ was in people’s heads, & whether it could be used to develop the business, offer the library to third-parties…. the jpegs of the boxes & bits of paper we found would help jog people’s memories. anyway, to demonstrate the idea, I picked up one of the thousands of cassettes: “here. ‘tape 1’, it says on the box, nothing else. no date, nothing. what the fuck are we meant to do with hundreds of tapes like this? let’s see what’s in here…” & I opened it. roskilde, 1986, a whole year before MTV europe even launched, here’s some backstage stuff from what became the news department, probably destined for new york as a ‘demo’ of what Mtv euope would be like. reporter/producer, brent hansen. this is all scribbled on a bit of paper with this ancient betacam tape. I took it back to hawley with us to see what sort of condition it was in; another big question clouding the whole idea was that the tapes were old & had been moved around a lot. & there’s brent, interviewing (ah, you’re way ahead of me) the yoot. steve shelley’s first european tour. 😮 I think I kept a copy… I hope I did!”
You can download the “Do Velvet Sheep Dream of Spacerock” mix here on the RMI Bandcamp…
and there’s loads and loads more releases here…