on life, music etc beyond mainstream


Gentleman of the Underground: David Toop

London time travel report, mid-90’s. During that week we (Olaf Saddeler, and me) made a lot of interviews for three 90-minute episodes for Michael Naura’s „Jazzlaboratorium“ including meetings and tea time with David Toop, Max Eastley, Robert Hampson a.o., at their homes or record companies. As these names may tell some of you, Naura let freedom rule and allowed us to leave well-defined jazz fields and dive into the experimental London „underground scene“ (not exclusively, we also talked to a street musician playing, well, „Heart of Gold“, which I think, is the no. 1 evergreen in London tubes and railway stations). Olaf says it was 1995, in my memory it was 1997. I’ve always loved long dark coats, and had been wearing one seven days – it was nearly always raining. When we came to David Toop’s place, there were thousand records, uncountable book shelves. Discreet sadness lingered in the living space – not long before his wife had died, and I’m quite sure writing and listening were essentials in his survival kit those days – we talked about „Ocean of Sound“ that broke so many frontiers between the ancient and the avantgarde. It was the time when coffee shops in big numbers seemed like being built over night. We had a knack for Indian restaurants, and finally, for the rain. We loved wet clothes, wet hair, even wet microphones. We loved walking through Hampsted Heath in the rain. We felt like living in two fucking genius John Fogerty rain songs. (m.e.)



David Toop, 17. März, 2023. Er erzählt von dem immensen Projekt der „Quartz Mirliton Cassettes“, von den extrem schwierigen Zeiten, in den Siebziger und Achtziger Jahren, mit radikalen Spielformen von experimenteller Musik und „free improv“ über die Runden zu kommen – spannende Einblicke in eine ferne alte englische  Musikszene. Manche Weggefährten bleiben auf der Strecke, David Toop wird zu einem „full time writer“, und schreibt Bücher wie „Ocean of Sound“ und andere, die sehr viel schneller Anerkennung erfahren als seine Musik. Mittlerweile hat seine radikale Musik von einst auf subtile und auch deutliche Art Wirkung gezeigt. Dokumente wie die beiden neuen Boxen von Vinyl-On-Demand entpuppen sich als wahre Schatztruhen. Als Improvisationskünstler ist David Toop seit vielen Jahren  ein vielgefragter Künstler auf internationalen Festivals. Vor Jahren erschien eine fesselnde Autobiographie. Wer dieses Gespräch des engkischen Gentleman mit Michael“45RPM“ und Stunty auf auf sich wirken lässt, wird sie vielleicht lesen wollen – auf jeden Fall aber Lust auf unverbrauchte Töne abseits des Mainstreams verspüren! Nehmen Sie sich Zeit, David spricht ein ruhiges klares Englisch, adagio und streut immer wieder wunderbare kleine Anekdoten ein. Wie Brian Eno beim Hören seiner Musik einschlief und das als Kompliment gerwertet haben wollte. Wie Derek Bailey im „Little Theatre Club“ vor zwei Zuhören spielte, die Dave Holland und John McLaughlin hiessen, und viele andere …


David Toop: The Witness of the Underground, an Interview


QuartzMirliton Cassettes has been among the most obscure of 1970s experimental music labels. This forthcoming VOD release, presented in two boxes, throws light on this mysterious cassette venture, its context and associated recordings. Closely associated with the London Musicians Collective, Quarz was launched by Paul Burwell and David Toop in 1977. Produced in tiny editions with handmade covers, the cassettes largely documented live sessions and field recordings made by a close network of improvising musicians, sound sculptors and sound poets then working with Burwell and Toop, including Bob Cobbing, Hugh Davies, Max Eastley, Evan Parker, Frank Perry, Steve Beresford and others. The manifesto of the label was uncompromising – recordings were mostly lo-fi and noises peripheral to the performance were left in because they affected the music when it was played and formed a part of its context.

Obscure as they were, these cassette releases from 1977 documented an intense burst of creative energy from within the London scene.

Since their launch shortly after the outset of the new millennium, few labels working within the territories of the vinyl reissue and archival release, have reached the heights charted by Vinyl On Demand. Beyond the greatest quality and care embedded within their efforts – redefining the idea of deluxe, they have elevated countless remarkable and overlooked creative gestures from the shadows of history, entirely recalibrating the legacies of music which exists outside of mainstream interest, placing the diverse actions of the underground in conversation with each other.

Of all the releases compiled by the label in the last few years, this one is by some distance their biggest coup. It almost seems impossible, but for this wonderful Quartz box-set they have managed to raise their own incredibly high bar again.


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