Ampatch DisPatch 1
The Little Tour That (Just About) Could
Do you have a yen to hear glitsch madrigals performed on an Elizabethan playstation, enjoy experimental folk songs about squid-shaped pieces of glass and large omelettes, and see a man singing speeded up T Rex covers while a pomaded Latino freestyles some sort of danced negotiation between Saturday Night Fever and L'Apres Midi D'Une Faune behind him? Of course you do. I bring you, therefore, the American Patchwork Tour. You'll get all that and some Momus stuff too -- songs about Borgias, Pierrots and sinister servants orchestrated with the pops and shrieks of Electro-Kabuki.
Against all the odds and supported only by puppet wire, my label tour is now wending its way across America. I'm writing this journal with my iBook jacked into the cigar lighter of one of our rental cars. A Gong is driving, explaining how we can break into his friend's house at Oberlin to do our laundry when we stay there. The Super Madrigal Brothers are sitting together on the back seat, talking about how they want to visit some sex shops when we get to Cleveland. John wants to buy some crotchless panties and stick them over his head 'like a sexual terrorist' when he goes onstage, but Adam thinks that if they do that they might have to change their name to Sado-Masochist Brothers. You have to be careful in the music business: Ozzy Osbourne once bit the head off a rat and now that's all anyone ever says about him.
This tour banter, with its semi-obligatory spinal tappery. almost never happened. Right from the get-go, the AmPatch tour has staggered perilously close to disaster. Only nerves of steel and a series of lucky last minute reprieves have saved us.
Frail Travelling Miracle
First of all, poor sales on Ampatch 001 and 002 made it look for a while as if we'd have to release the new records in flimsy ziplock sleeves. Then it seemed certain that I wouldn't get my work visa in time. I was only able to pick it up in Tokyo on the way to the airport thanks to the help of a friend of a friend who knew some people at the US Embassy. Then, renting the cars in New York, we had massive credit card failure and for a few agonising hours were ringing around all the waiting bands asking them if they could get to Massachusetts on a Greyhound. Finally a couple of calls to Japanese banks sorted it out. We got to Northampton MA at 11pm on the night of the show, and played stripped down sets to a patient, reverent and restrained crowd before crashing with friends in a college house (our $16.95 K-Mart sleeping bags are worth their weight in gold).
The next disaster loomed in Boston (musically the best show of the tour so far, crowned by a communal ceilidh). Phiiliip knew some people throwing a party and tried to convince us to come after the show. But some of us were tired, and our sleep was one hour down the road, an elegant clapboard house in Providence Rhode Island. So we split up, with one car going to the party and the other heading down to Providence. I woke up the next morning to find the Super Madrigals had returned without Phiiliip. 'He wouldn't come in the car, he wanted to stay longer and said he'd take the bus and meet us here.' Oh shit. Phiiliip doesn't have the address here, and he doesn't have a cell phone, and his friends are wasted after the parties (there were two, and apparently they weren't all that hot) and we have a six hour drive to Philly and have to leave at 11am.
After hours of trying to get through, we finally learn that Phiiliip did in fact take a bus of some sort from Boston at 9am. We manage to trace him by 2pm. He's been sitting for four hours in a terminal belonging to one of the bus lines, an isolated hangar just outside Providence coralled by highways. We feel like distraught parents who've finally found their lost little boy. We should shout at him and get promises that he'll never do anything like that again, but instead we ask if he met any interesting people in there. 'Yeah, there was a guy from Seattle,' he says in his soft staccato drawl.
A Thesis on Fischerspooner
For a while, everything goes back to normal. Peter Blasser of the Gongs recites Tennysonian poetry in his Pythonesque baritone (we decide he looks exactly like Graham Chapman). Shizu, tour mother and accountant, edits a piece she's written for Index magazine about the creator of A-POC, Dai Fujiwara. (In fact the car is a sort of mobile extension of the Index office on West 26th Street -- Phiiliip is also gathering impressions for a tour diary that may run in the magazine). John and Adam, the Supermads, discuss early 80s Australian synthpop, sequencers and pink noise. John's a sort of clean-cut, dirty-minded Buddy Holly character. Like the Gongs' Peter Blasser, he's an incredibly resourceful instrument-builder. Adam, whose Rock-Me-Amadeus gestures onstage get more charmingly zany every night, reminds me of Stan Laurel.
When we roll up to the club in Philly we get a little anxious. It's in a bad neighbourhood, with ladies I can only call crack hos flouncing up and down between boarded-up houses. The club itself is fine, though somewhat bereft of clientele, but a little contingent of downtown super-hipsters has arrived from New York to boost the Phiiliip performance: Kent William Albin, the former Fischerspooner CIO, hovers at the edge of the stage dressed like a yuppie bank manager in braces and 'casual Fridays' shirt. edging unctuously towards Phiiliip between songs with pieces of fake managerial advice, then joining the pomo Latino to vogue and throw shade. I jam with the Super Madrigal Brothers (I'm astonished to see that Adam is actually playing real computer games up on stage to get those authentic computer game sounds!) then everybody jams with me. A Gong adds glutin to the narrative spurts of my dirty old songs, a Supermad plays optical theremin with a torch.
Then we find ourselves locked down in the club again, as Phiiliip has been whisked off by the smart New York set to be given a copy of a thesis on Fischerspooner. While this is happening, Adam gets mugged right outside the club. He's pushed to the ground and gets lightly grazed on the head. His assailant (we've been keeping an eye on him all night, lurking around our hire cars) makes off with $15 and a cash card. We're completely horrified when Adam returns, shaking, with blood trickling from his head. I try to stop Stefan and the doorman chasing after the guy. The police arrive astonishingly quickly (three patrol cars, a van with mounted spotlights, and a fire truck!), and the Super Madrigal Brothers are taken on a little tour of the neighbourhood, trying to find the assailant with the help of a raking searchlight. Nobody is found, the police make a random arrest of a nearby suspect then quickly release him, a detective arrives and we decline to press charges, telling him we just need to get out of the area and get some sleep before tomorrow's nine hour drive to Cleveland. I hug Adam and give him back the cash he's lost, while Peter Gong calls his bank to cancel his card. This time, fortunately, Phiiliip arrives back on time and we crash on air beds at Gong Grisha's uncle's house out in the leafy suburbs. The bungalow's air of affluent, wholesome blandness suddenly seems totally utopian.
I hope to have fewer ripping yarns and a lot less swashbuckling for you in my next patchwork dispatch.
Part 2 is here
Catch AmPatch in the flesh, not just the odd news flash!
Check the tour schedule to see when we're coming to your town.