Sunday, February 1, 2015

Richard Youngs 13 Questions

Richard Youngs is a British musician who operating as a solo artist as well as in cooperation with an international network of independent artists, and who may point to a highly varied as well as successful output. Childhood in Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire emigrated to Glasgow, since the early 1990s. The list of his numerous publications begins with the album Advent, from 1990. While his main instrument is the guitar, he is also known for making use of a wide range of other instruments:including the shakuhachi, accordion, theremin, dulcimer, a home-made synthesizer (common on early recordings) and even a motorway bridge. He also released an album which was entirely a cappella. In a review of his CD Festival, from 1996, the journal Melody Maker characterized him as the
“grand-meister of contemporary British improv, spiritual son of Eddie Prevost and Maddy Prior; gentle manipulator of English hymn-notics and religious incantations; protege, challenger and radicaliser of folk, blues, rock, minimalism and improvisation; translator for the sea and the rain and the sky; ambassador to war and peace, to love and anguish.”

His music ranges from pure experimental, instrumental, minimal, and avant-garde through to folk-inspired songwriting and progressive rock, to electronics. In his more experimental projects with Simon Wickham-Smith and Brian Lavelle, the cacophonous roar is closer in style to '90s noise underground artists such as the Dead C, Sun City Girls, and White Winged Moth. Early works were characterized by a somewhat minimalist lo-fi production quality, with Youngs working mostly on a reel-to-reel 4-track machine or recording directly to minidisc. However, he has been using professional standard computer-based recording systems for over a decade.

For many years, live performances were very occasional and almost always in Glasgow; he has stated publicly that he finds live performance "incredibly nerve-racking: stomach cramps, tension headaches...". However, in recent years, he has performed more regularly (including a tour of New Zealand in 2010 and a UK tour in support of Damon and Naomi in 2011) and many of his recent shows have been predominantly vocal - he told The Wire (issue 284) "I went to a laptop concert and decided I was going to sing".

His music has been noted for its diversity, with Dusted saying that he had been "defying strict genre classifications since the early nineties, swapping labels, styles, partners, motifs, and recording techniques as the desire has struck him".  He has been recording for most of his life, telling Foxy Digitalis that "I've made music as long as I can remember - ever since I was a child - and recorded the stuff as long as I've had the technology - I began with a cheap cassette player. So, it's strange to think what it'd be like not to make or record music. It seems unnatural!".

A keen collaborator, he has released albums with Matthew Bower, Brian Lavelle, Neil Campbell, Stephen Todd, Makoto Kawabata, Alex Neilson, Andrew Paine (under their given names and under the group names Ilk and Urban Parable), Telstar Ponies, and his longest standing partner, Simon Wickham-Smith. He has performed live with Heather Leigh Murray, Vibracathedral Orchestra and also with Matthew Bower's groups Sunroof! and Skullflower. He was also a member of the collective A Band.

Youngs has also gained attention from his live performances for the notoriously reclusive American avant-folk/blues singer-songwriter Jandek. Youngs can be heard on the Glasgow Sunday, Newcastle Sunday and Glasgow Monday albums, which were recorded at Jandek's first 3 (known) live performances. He also appears on Glasgow Friday and Camber Sands Sunday.

He has recorded for over a dozen independent record labels, with VHF releasing much of his collaborative work and Jagjaguwar issuing many of his solo albums, their first being a reissue of Sapphie. Other labels have included Dekorder, Fourth Dimension, Freek, Fusetron, Majora, Table of the Elements, Volcanic Tongue and his own labels, beginning with Jabberwok in the 1980s, and then the self-deprecatingly named No Fans Records.
Richard founded No Fans Records 1990 and he releases only his own solo and collaborative work through the imprint with some items released in very small numbers. A number of No Fans releases have been reissued in larger editions by other labels.

Can you describe an experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a musician?

I was 7 or 8 and I heard See Emily Play by Pink Floyd. Syd Barrett's guitar solo blew my mind. I'd never heard anything like it, I hadn't really heard much electric music, not much outside of my parent's tastes aside from an occasional edition of Top of the Pops, which at the time - early 70s - was pretty bland. Here was music that had, on first listen, no discernible tune. I just couldn't work it out.

What do you recall about your guitar learning process?

I had classical guitar lessons for 5 or so years. I was a long time coming round to learning chords - years of plucking notes. I remember too as a teenager playing along to things like Public Image Ltd's Metal Box and early Cabaret Voltaire on a classical guitar.

Dream about your perfect work

It'd remain a puzzle to me. I like to be mystified by music. Is it good? Is it bad? I like the uncertainty. It comes back to the Syd Barrett solo - my inability to work it out.

What is your relationship with other disciplines such as painting, literature, dance, theater ...?

I'm pretty much music all the way, though I like to take photographs. I've a Holga - I enjoy the point and shoot aspect of it. No mind photography.

Where are your roots? What are your secret influences? 

I grew up in the Fens. It's very flat, not much happens for miles - a tree can be a major event. It's been suggested to me that this lack of drama translates to my music. I tend to avoid histrionics.

What quality do you admire most in an musician?

I'd like them to be a good person. I feel this is way more important than being a good musician.

If you could, what would you say to yourself 30 years ago, about your musical thinking?

Relax, have fun, enjoy life.

What memorable responses have you had to your music?

For many years, there was next to no response. Perhaps mild bewilderment. No Fans was a statement of fact. Then it all turned around, bizarrely. I remember the first reviews - they were in Forced Exposure. Things moved on to where I was polarizing audiences. Some got it, some didn't. Now I even play to fans.

Which living or dead artist would you like to collaborate with?

I'm very happy with what I've got. I regularly play with friends. Andrew Paine and I meet up most weeks, and Luke Fowler and I are pretty constant collaborators. Both I knew as friends long before we started making music together. It's often that way with me. Simon Wickham-Smith and I were good friends before we took the plunge and recorded 'Lake'.

What is some valuable advice that someone has given to you in the past?

I'm very poor at listening to advice, I tend to plough on my own way. I think experience has been more valuable than advice. Becoming a father has changed me the most. The experience has opened up so many possibilities for me.

What gear and tools do you use?

2015 is the year of going back to tape...I've a four track reel to reel, and I just love the sound of it, as well as how it forces me to focus on what the music actually needs - no spare tracks for frivolities. I'll mix to Logic Pro X. I prefer how it works to ProTools.

What do you like the most about being a musician?

It can be great fun. It can also be very social. You get to meet some wonderful people who become friends.

What projects are you working on now and what does the future hold?

I'm writing a choral piece called 'Experiment for Demolished Structures' for soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices. It's inspired by brutalist architecture and will be performed in April at the Counterflows 2015 festival. I've also just recorded a 33 minute song (that's one large reel of tape) called Parallel Winter - something I wrote for an event at Platform in Glasgow last November, and have since performed a few times. I'm very excited about both of these. I'm also enjoying carrying on collaborating with friends.

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Selected Discography
Solo recordings

Advent - LP (No Fans, 1990), CD (Table Of The Elements 1997), CD reissue (Jagjaguwar 2004), LP reissue (Jagjaguwar 2006)
Mundanity - cassette - one side only, other side by Neil Campbell (Cakehole 1993)
New Angloid Sound - LP (Forced Exposure/No Fans, 1993)
Motorway - cassette (Chocolate Monk 1995 - some copies run out during the final track)

Festival - CD (Table Of The Elements 1996)

Sapphie - CD (Oblique 1998) CD reissue (Jagjaguwar 2000), LP (Jagjaguwar 2006)
House Music - CD (Meme 1998)

Making Paper - CD (Jagjaguwar 2001)

May - CD (Jagjaguwar 2002)


Airs Of The Ear CD (Jagjaguwar 2003)
171 Used Train Tickets - one sided 10"; a spoken word piece from 1990 (Fusetron 2004)

River Through Howling Sky - CD (Jagjaguwar 2004)

The Naïve Shaman - LP/CD (Jagjaguwar 2005)
Nova Scotia Breakout CDR (No Fans 2005)

Summer Wanderer - CDR (private edition - No Fans 2005), CDR reissue (No Fans 2006), LP (Gipsy Sphinx 2007)
Garden Of Stones- CDR (No Fans 2005, reissued as a download by The Wire to coincide with their cover story on Youngs later the same year)

Multi-Tracked Shakuhachi - CDR (No Fans 2006)
(Untitled) - CDR (No Fans 2006)
No Home Like Place - CDR (No Fans 2006)

20th Century Jams - CDR (No Fans 2007)
21st Century Jams - CDR (No Fans 2007)
Somerled - CDR (No Fans 2007)

Autumn Response - LP/CD (Jagjaguwar 2007)
Three Handed Star - CDR (No Fans 2008)

Nerston Surface/First Voice To Earth - CDR (No Fans 2008)
Live In Salford - CDR (No Fans 2008)
High Sun Energy/States of Time - 7", limited to 300 (Dull Knife 2009)
Sleep Deprivation Single - lathe cut 7" in deluxe packaging, limited to 100 (Five Minute Association 2009)

Beyond the Valley of Ultrahits - CDR (2 editions, each of 100 numbered copies - Sonic Oyster Records 2009), LP (Jagjaguwar 2010)

Like A Neuron - LP (Dekorder 2009)

Under Stellar Stream - LP (Jagjaguwar 2009)
Fen Flowers - 7" - split with Valet, part of the 4 single "Tsuki No Seika" series (Root Strata 2010)
Inceptor - LP (300 copies, "art edition" of 10 with additional packaging and handwritten message from Richard - (Volcanic Tongue 2010)

Atlas of Hearts - LP (Apollolaan 2011)
Be Brave, This World - 10" (Split with Annelies Monseré - Three:four Records 2011)

I Dream Of Mezzanine/Cloudplanes - LP (The Spring Press 2011)

Amplifying Host - LP (Jagjaguwar 2011)
Long White Cloud - LP (Grapefruit 2011)

Amaranthine - LP (MIE Music, 2012)
Core to the Brave - LP (Root Strata, 2012)
Rurtain - LP (Alter, 2012 - original material by Youngs on Side 1, remixes by others on Side 2)

Chasing the Apocalypse/Quiet the Loud World- lathe cut 7", limited to 40. (MIE Music, 2013)

Barbed Wire Explosion In The Kingdom Of Atlantis - LP (Sonic Oyster Vinyl, 2013)

Summer Through My Mind - LP/CD (Ba Da Bing!, 2013)

No Retreat In Comfort CD (Ba Da Bing!, 2013 - sold on his 2013 US Tour)

Calmont Breakdown CD (Fourth Dimension Records, 2013)

Regions Of The Old School 2LP (MIE Music, 2013)

South Voyager LP (Atonal Industries, 2013)
S/T - 10" (The Spring Press 2014)

Red Alphabet in the Snow - LP (Preserved Sound, October 2014)

With Simon Wickham-Smith

Lake - credited to R!!!S!!! - 2-LP set (No Fans, 1990), CD (VHF, 2000)
Ceaucescu LP (Forced Exposure 1992)
Asthma And Diabetes LP (Majora 1994)
Kretinmuzak CD (Slask 1994)

Worried About Heaven 7" (Fourth Dimension 1994)
444D 10" (Fourth Dimension 1995)

Enedkeg LP (Majora 1996)
Knish LP (Ignivomous 1996)
Veil (For Greg) CD (Insignificant 1997), CD reissue (Jagjaguwar 2008)

Red And Blue Bear CD (VHF 1997 - credited to R!!!S!!! on CD spine) 
Pulse Of The Rooster CD (VHF 1998)

The Enigma Of Rotons - lathe cut 7", only 50 copies exist (Hell’s Half Halo 1998)

Metallic Sonatas - CD (VHF 1999)


5 Years CD (VHF 2006) 
20 Years 1 LP & 3-CD set (VHF 2010 - contained an LP reworking their first ever recording and 3 previously unreleased albums - see below)

With Andrew Paine

Zenith - as Ilk CD (No Fans 1998)

Canticle - as Ilk - CD (VHF 2005)
Mauve Dawn LP (Fusetron 2005)
The Wood Is Barren, My Mountain Is Lonely CDR (No Fans 2005)

Collodion Positives : Volume 1 CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2006)
Santos CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2006)
1958 CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2006)

Forest Of Swords CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2006)
The Memory Plain CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2006)
Roman Concrete - Volume 1 CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2007)
Rock Traveller CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2007)
Collodion Positives : Volume 2 CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2007)
Collodion Positives : Volume 3 CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2008)
The Language Of The Court - as Ilk CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2008)

Hot Canyon Butter CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2008)
Snapshots of Rural England CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2008)
English Channel CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2008)
Collodion Positives : Volume 4 CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2008)
Panegyric Territories : Volume 1 - as Ilk CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2009)

Tokyo Garden Suite CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2009)
The Great Level CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2009)
Earth Rod CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2009)

Collodion Error (Workbench Recordings)
Guide To Music CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2010)
The Horizon Project 3" CDR (La Station Radar 2010)
Robot CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2010)

4trackcassettemachine cassette (Sonic Oyster Cassettes 2010)
Urban Parable - as Urban Parable CDR (Sonic Oyster Records 2010)

Rotten Masters 7" EP (Sonic Oyster Vinyl 2012)
With the A Band
Untitled - 7" (Any Old Records 1991)

Anusol - cassette (1992) and CDR reissue (year unknown) (Chocolate Monk)
Artex/A Lot - LP, Youngs on Side 2 only (Siltbreeze 1993)
A Band - CD (private pressing- 1997. Hand-painted sleeves, Youngs part of the 18-piece line-up, recorded in Nottingham in 1991. 547 copies pressed.)
A Band - LP - some copies featured a bonus CDR entitled TV Set For Winter (note - the discs read "TV Sets From Winter" - the former title is correct), LP contains some material also found on the 1997 CD release. Youngs edited the music together for this edition (Qbico 2002)

With Neil Campbell

Durian Durian - with Simon Wickham-Smith, Neil Campbell and Stewart Walden - cassette (No Fans 1992), LP (Forced Exposure 1993)
Tape Hiss - with Tape Hiss - Youngs, Stewart Walden and Neil Campbell - cassette (No Fans 1994)
How The Garden Is - with Neil Campbell LP (HP Cycle 2001)
Astral Social Club #10: Live At Subcurrent - with Neil Campbell and Tirath Singh Nirmala as  

Astral Social Club - CD-R (Astral Social Club 2006). Documents a live Astral Social Club performance at Subcurrent 2006, Glasgow, Scotland, with Youngs guesting on sound effects and electronics.
Skelp/Ginnel - by Astral Social Club. A 7" by Neil Campbell coupled with a CDR of remixes including one by Youngs (Trensmat Records 2008)
Octuplex - by Astral Social Club - Youngs appears on Track 5 - CD (VHF 2009)

With Matthew Bower

Site/Realm - with Matthew Bower LP (VHF/Insample 1995) - has been listed as a split album with a side from each, in fact, all the music is collaborative.
Adieu, All You Judges - with Skullflower, CD is split with Ramleh (Broken Flag, 1995)
Sorties - with Skullflower cassette, Youngs appears on some tracks (Broken Flag 1996)
This is Skullflower - with Skullflower, Youngs plays guitar on The Pirate Ship Of Reality Is Moving Out CD (VHF 1996)

Delicate Autobahn Under Construction - with Sunroof!, Youngs appears on some tracks 2CD (VHF 1997)
Slipstream - with Sunroof!, Youngs appears on some tracks CDR (Rural Electrification Program 1999)
Mountain Tasting - with Total, Youngs appears on side one 7" (lathe-cut, edition of 50, self-released by Bower, circa 1999)
Bliss - with Sunroof! - Youngs plays guitar on Distoria CD (VHF 2001)
Relayer - with Youngsbower CD (VHF 2002)

With Brian Lavelle

Radios CD (Freek 1996)
Radios 2 CD (Freek 1997)

Radios 3,4,5 3-CD set (Freek 1997)
Radios 6 CDR (Bake Records 1998)
Radios 7 CDR (Bake Records 2000)
Radios 8 CDR (Bake Records 2000)

With Alex Neilson

Ourselves CD (VHF 2004)
Beating Stars LP (HP Cycle 2004)

Patrick Raindance CD (VHF 2005)

Belsayer Time - with Neilson and Alastair Galbraith - LP, numbered edition of 900 (Time-Lag 2006)
Road Is Open Life CD (Celebrate Psi Phenomenon 2006)
Electric Lotus/Lotus Edition - LP & CD set (VHF 2007)

With Jandek

Glasgow Sunday - CD and DVD (Corwood Industries 2005)
Newcastle Sunday - 2CD and DVD (Corwood Industries 2006)
Glasgow Monday: The Cell - 2CD (2006) and DVD (2007) (Corwood Industries)

Glasgow Friday - CD (2008) and DVD (2009) (Corwood Industries)
Camber Sands Sunday - CD (2010) (Corwood Industries)
Where Do You Go From Here - CD (2011) (Corwood Industries) (uncredited - see above)

Other collaborations

St Helena/Juniper - 7" single, Juniper with Stephen Todd (Insample 1994)

Denny/Twechar - with Leather Mole 7" (Crank Automotive 1995)

Georgians - with Stephen Todd CD (VHF 1996)

Big Band Xerox - with PD cassette (Chocolate Monk, 1996) - a ten piece live incarnation of Blackburn, West Lothian-based improv/noise group Prick Decay featuring Youngs, Neil Campbell, Dylan Nyoukis, Sticky Foster and Tim Moulder amongst others. Nyoukis is the co-founder of the Chocolate Monk imprint and runs it to this day.

Brewery Of Eggshells - with Telstar Ponies 12" single/CD (Fire 1996)
Voices From The New Music - with Telstar Ponies LP/CD (Fire 1996) - note that Youngs only appears on this Telstar Ponies album and the above tie-in single. He is credited throughout as a member of the band rather than as a guest artist.

Protection Spells - with Songs: Ohia CD (Secretly Canadian, 2000) - a limited edition album of improvised material recorded in various cities during a European tour in 1999. Youngs is one of the guest musicians.

eponymous - with Kawabata Makoto (of Acid Mothers Temple) CD (VHF 2001)

Bluster, Cragg, & Awe - with Tirath Singh Nirmala - Youngs appears on one track - CD (Digitalis 2006)

Richard Youngs & Tirath Singh Nirmala - with Tirath Singh Nirmala LP (HP Cycle 2007)

Yellow Gardens/Energy Pond - with Luke Fowler 7" (Fourth Dimension Records, 2012)

String Quartets, Loops, Garden Talk - by Neil Campbell - the 6-part track Garden Talk (for found tape and synthesizer) is credited as having been composed by Campbell and "assembled" by Youngs (self-released CDR - material from between 1994 and 1997).
Psychiatric Underground - by Ceramic Hobs - the track Meeting The Summertime has the credit "score by Richard Youngs" - he provided an 11 note handwritten score for the keyboard part, which spells out "ceramichobs" if you move the musical notation up the alphabet. Neil Campbell is one of 4 people credited as having provided tapes for the same track. (Pumf/Mental Guru CD, c. 1999)
Richard has also published a recipe book. Cook Vegan (Ashgrove Press) was printed in 1996 and reprinted in 2001, receiving favourable reviews.

Unreleased material

Youngs records prolifically and there are many unreleased projects.

    There were at least 5 unreleased albums recorded with Simon Wickham-Smith. Three of them - Songphase, Live!!! and SMIRR were eventually released on CD as part of the "20 Years" box set in 2010. Two further albums The Random Sailor and Parrots are known to exist: Parrots 4 was made available on the VHF website as an mp3 file and material from "The Random Sailor" was included in two special programmes by Californian radio station KFJC in May 2001 devoted to the duo which also featured music from Songphase, Live!!! and SMIRR.
    A 10" record split between Wickham-Smith and Youngs (contributing Papa Deo Bilong Mipela and Wynding Fall of Mind respectively) was announced but has yet to be released.
    Other items known to exist or to be in limited circulation include Festival Of Carols, a cassette of Christmas songs from around 1990/1, given to friends in lieu of Christmas cards (The Wire, issue 236 reports that a total of 11 copies were made). Tracks included readings of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen", "The Boar's Head Carol" and "Jesus Born Today". Four other tracks from this cassette were remastered and included on the A Glasgow Wassail CDR in 2007, a compilation of Christmas songs curated by Andrew Paine.

    In addition, there is an unreleased follow-up to Georgians recorded with Stephen Todd, a cassette of the music Richard composed for Niall Ashdown's play Hungarian Bird Festival, also featured in a later BBC radio adaption and a shelved Ilk album titled Herald, a track from which, "Carillon", was made available for download via the Sonic Oyster Records Myspace page over Christmas 2008 before appearing on the 2009 compilation The Continuing Saga Of The Visiting Kitten. In 2005, Richard recorded a session for Resonance FM entitled Chips And Curry Sauce which contained some previously unissued music alongside a recording of Richard cooking the titular meal, giving full instructions for those who wished to try his recipe for themselves. Richard also recorded a contribution for a Resonance FM series called No Place Like Home - this formed the basis of the very limited No Home Like Place album issued in 2006. There were 2 radio sessions with Brian Lavelle; one piece from four recorded for radiotuesday has been issued (see below) and a live recording for Radio 3 made at the Purcell Room in London in 1996 remains unreleased. The Mauve Dawn album with Andrew Paine is part of a proposed trilogy but the other 2 albums have yet to appear. The website of US label Siltbreeze sees them claiming to have rejected a Youngs album (catalogued as SB-74 [1]) but, as no title is listed, it is not known if this was released elsewhere.