(Originally written in Bad Signal, 15 October 2007)
The Chemical Brothers do this thing that fascinates me, and so I’m going to bore you with it too.
When they start developing the sound for a new album, they release these things called Electronic Battle Weapons. These are 12-inches that they circulate to DJs containing experimental or work-in-progress pieces; the idea being that the sound can be tested on audiences and DJs both, to sonically prepare the way for the new album.
This fascinates me. The idea of freely distributing experimental pieces just to prime an audience for what may be coming next.
In a way, I suppose I might have done some of that, with the experimental short fiction I used to put on Livejournal, that was eventually folded into DOKTOR SLEEPLESS — much of that stuff, I saw as I was doing it, was starting to lock into each other and becoming the suggestion of a whole.
But it’s interesting to me to imagine doing that in a more structured way. All the Electronic Battle Weapons are numbered. (Which may play into a previously-mentioned half-drunk notion to start giving everything I do Factory-style catalogue numbers, for no other reason than that I found the idea amusing.)
Because theatre is only ever pointless when there’s only five people in the room. And Tony Wilson would rise from the grave to argue with me about that, even — his formative cultural influence being that Manchester Sex Pistols gig where there were only forty people or something in the room (though if you asked around in the 80s, you could find five thousand people who’d swear on a stack of Bibles and porn that they’d been there for it).
(Or the other old saw — only 500 people heard the first Velvet Underground album, but every single one of them went out and formed bands afterwards.)
(Wilson: “Archimedes was on his own in the bath.”)
Wow. That went off the rails fast, didn’t it?
(Additional, 29 December 2007: Tony Wilson, of course, died in poverty. Also, as a tangent of interest, comics artist P Craig Russell has been giving his work “Opus” numbers since, I think, the late 70s. The Chemicals are up to EBW 9, I believe. Tony Wilson’s excellent book 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE: WHAT THE SLEEVE NOTES NEVER TELL YOU is FAC 424. His coffin is FAC 501. Theatre, see?)
(It occurs to me, too, that Bill Gibson releasing snippets of SPOOK COUNTRY in his blog had a similar effect. Priming the audience for The New Sound.)