Robin Storey/Rapoon – “I used to listen to films through the hi-fi and not watch the TV. I didn’t have one!”

So, here is the way this interview started…

Hi Matteo,
I have a feeling you might be disappointed.
I actually have very few CD’s and Vinyls. My collection(s) got stolen twice, and i don’t listen to much other things… a couple of these have never even been played, whereas others are old friends.
I have a ton of stuff that I have been given over the years but i haven’t included these.
Best regards,
Robin.

I’m not disappointed at all!! I will never stress enough the fact that Concrete Shelves is not about collecting, in fact I try to never use that term in the website and in the conversations, even if it jumps in naturally most of the times. I just love to have a look to people’s CDs, LPs or cassettes, and ask quesitons about, as I usually do each time I enter into any house, even if the guy has only a pair of Madonna’s greatest hits!

So, it’s nice to see the ones you saved… You say that these in the pictures are the records that somehow survived. “Some are old friends”, you say. Maybe you mean the late lamented Bryn Jones / Muslimgauze and/or someone in the Krautrock area? I know you worked with Joachim Roedelius of Cluster and Harmonia, and I see a lot of kraut stuff here…

I used to have on vinyl every Can record that you see here, plus the “missing” Harmonia and Cluster albums, and I believe, just about every Kraftwerk album up to “Electric Cafe” on vinyl too. The surviving vinyl are few: the “2001 soundtrack” I bought in 1969 or 1970 and I guess that is my oldest ”survivor”. I bought replacements, over the years, on CD but I miss the vinyl mostly for nostalgic reasons rather than a devotion to the vinyl “sound’. I did used to have more Muzlimgauze on vinyl and CD but they were also victims of the thefts… Funny how they left some things? Maybe even thieves don’t want the “Missa Luba” LP [see one of the picture at the end of this article]. This particular double LP was the only copy I could find which included the beautiful opening of the Congolese Mass which features on the Lindsay Anderson film “IF” starring Malcolm McDowell. I like his character in the film… I just like the opening and don’t play the rest, especially the second LP which is just a South American influenced version of the latin mass and is really quite terrible.

Speaking of Malcolm MacDowell and Lindsay Anderson, I also have great affection for “O Lucky Man”, another Anderson film which stars MacDowell and has a soundtrack by Alan Price (ex Animals). I have this on DVD along with “IF”

I guess the other categories of the ‘survival records’ are musics that explore the different faces of rhythms and beats, as you seems to have done with Rapoon over the years. I see African music, poly-rhythms… the Burundi LP or the “Kwaku Baah & Ganoua” one (that I really don’t know). Did you find some inspiration in that stuff, like Eno+Byrne did with “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts”, that I see here as well along with other from Talking Heads?

That Burundi LP was bought long, long ago in the 70’s because the collective drumming track on there also featured in a film (I forget which one) and I tracked down the source… (no easy matter pre- internet). It is the other tracks on there that had the most influence though… especially the female polyphonic acapella singing, which is both beautiful and otherworldly.

More of an influence was the Kwaku Baah and Ganoua LP: this has a track on it called “trance” which is long repeated cyclical rhythms. Someone gave me this (a dear friend from way back in art school days) and it struck a chord (ha ha!) because that was the way I played guitar and it was so good to hear someone else playing in this manner. All the contemporary people I played with, apart from this dear friend, thought I was pretty much useless on guitar as I didn’t play 4 bar blues or rock & roll tunes (not only did I not want to play like that: I couldn’t!). I still love this record, it’s timeless. Kaku Baah went on to play bass with Can for a while and although i saw Can with this line up a few times I think this might be his best work. That’s an awful thing to hear if you are the artist being spoken of “this was his best work”! I always think my best work is the one I am working on or the one that will come after, and I am sure most other artists do as well.

It seems that you also love soundtracks… I know you worked often in the field. But what’s that “Flaunt It” or “Sputnik” CD? Looks like a manga cartoon soundtrack!

I do love soundtracks, as you can see I talk about them all the time. I used to listen to films through the hi-fi and not watch the TV. I didn’t have one! There was a prototype cable company in the 70’s that had lille junction boxes in peoples houses. It was a pay for service and you plugged your ariel into the little box and got “streamed tv”. I think it was called “Redifusion”… anyway someone showed me how to open the little box and take an audio feed from it so I got free radio and tv services just without any pictures… I have “listened “ to many films like this. Most not good but some were great.

The Sigue Sigue Sputnik CD was given to me in the early/mid 80’s (actually by Ben [Ponton] of zoviet*france). They were supposed to be the next “post punk” phenomenon: they had some money behind them and like a lot of these things the idea was ok, but you can’t direct peoples tastes, so they did two singles, this album and then vanished. Funny though as they may well have been well ahead of their time with the Manga visuals and cheesy presentation. Also this CD is the one I sampled and manipulated to get some of the electronic rhythmic loops that are on Rapoon’s first CD “Dream circle”: something I have kept under my hat until now.

Wow! Sigue Sigue Sputnik… I remember they said in an interview somehting like “Usually moms tell their sons that the song they listen are all the same, but it’s not true. So we made a an album where all the songs are the same.” Geniuses!
By the way: I’ve always been so curious about the things you sampled over the years, but I guess most are secrets, right? Or maybe you even forgot. Anyway, discussing about trance and non-European music, I wonder what makes a ‘looped’ (repetitive) beat or melody sometimes so special, not boring. I mean: there’s something you can repeat hundreads of times and it’ll never get you bored (as in your compositions, in my opinion, and in a lot of non-EU music), and something that just doesn’t work. I think to Arvo Part, for instance, for me a master in that sense. Do you have any ‘rule’ in choosing the samples, or it’s just a matter of your sensibility, more a feeling?

Choosing samples is often a random process: putting seemingly disparate sounds and spoken words together sometimes works well, sometimes not so good, but I always try to incorporate an element of chance in every work.
An example of this is a release called “Andre on the Line”: I was in New York and looking around some music shops in Manhattan with a friend. The instruments were too expensive but outside the shop on the pavement there was a large cardboard box with old cassettes in it; they were priced at 25 cents each. Most were recordings of bands from the 70’s and 80’s but one stood out with the words “toxic algae” written on it. There was also a name: Susan Harris. I know someone called Susan Harris so I just bought that one cassette. It turned out to be a gold mine of serious and comedic (unintentional) vocal sources… poor Andre… I changed the actual timeline and made it so the poor guy never did get to say what he wanted on the radio and was thwarted at every turn.

Sometimes music loops are created by beginning with the space between the notes, or beats, ignoring the obvious loop points and trying to find new rhythms and structures within existing loops.
In the past I used to sample various ethnic sources (Indian, North African…). I still look for vocal samples but these days I play all the rhythmic structures myself so there is a never ending source.
I think the only way to tell if a rhythmic sample will work is to let it run a few times…generally you can tell straight away. You are right: it has to avoid becoming boring, so there must be something in there that continually engages you. Often it is only when various other elements are added and it’s the whole loop including rhythm and melody that works well. The elements on their own are not sufficient to retain interest.
Mixing with a delay that is at a counter rhythmic tempo and just catching the occasional transient also helps to keep a loop evolving and changing.
In the end, though it is down to instinct and although you can add various mixing techniques to add variety and interest to a loop, it is fruitless unless the loop itself works on its own.

So, let’s get back to the thieves: sad story. I think it might scare the hell out of most of the readers here, but… if isn’t too painful, could you tell a bit more about that? How did it happened twice? So they left part of the stuff… you guessed they had a sort of ‘good taste’?

The first time my record collection was stolen was down to some rather idiotic “painters and decorators” who had been employed by the landlord to decorate the flats in a house I lived in (actually the house on Wingrove Road where all the original zoviet*france members lived). I moved all my records away from the walls and covered them with sheets. They were just supposed to be painting the walls. I had to go out to work and when I came home almost all of the vinyl had gone. So I had my mate’s Peter Jensens said the painters had left the front door wide open all day and hadn’t challenged anyone who came in to “look around”, with the result that not just records, but many other pieces of equipment and possessions had been stolen!

The second time was in another flat in the same area of Newcastle (notoriously bad). This was just a simple break in. Kids I think. They left most things, took a few CD’s and Vinyl and left all of my recording equipment alone.
I moved to a much safer area and a flat with keypad entry shortly after that. I replaced some of the lost vinyl with CD copies, but I stopped actually “collecting” records after this. Now it’s more a case of accumulating them.


Brief Biography of Robin Storey aka Rapoon:
Born 1955 in Cumbria, England
1974-1977Studied Fine art at Sunderland art School
1979 Founding member of Post Industrial group Soviet France
!992 -to present day worked as Rapoon . Numerous solo albums/collaborations in Film/dance
1977- present day /Continuous artistic practice in visual media.last exhibition New York 2018

Robin Storey Rapoon - PHOTO.jpeg

Photo by David Hall.

One Comment Add yours

  1. I’m glad to see another Sigue Sigue Sputnik fan! Love Missile F1-11!

    Like

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