One Man Bands

Thursday November 6, 2008

Fate Norris - one man band from 1922

Last night I went to watch One Man in the Band, a wonderful film by Adam Clitheroe, at the Leeds Film Festival. The film looks at the music and the lives of a number of musicians who prefer to go it alone, and was itself made as a piece of one man band film-making.

If you’ve never seen a theremin played by a skeleton marionette, if you have ever tried to put a band together and become disillusioned with people not showing up, if you spend your days making strange Dr. Frankenstein musical instruments in your garage, if you’ve become fed up with listening to that Girls Aloud CD over and over again and want something just a mite more challenging, or if you simply have a taste for eccentricity laced with brilliance, then this is a film well worth catching. This is from the film’s website:

From the wheezing electronics of Man From Uranus to Two Tears’ beat-up guitar and cowering kick drum, from Duracell’s assault and battery to Honkeyfinger’s bestial howling, the music in One Man in the Band cuts across genres and celebrates the joys of noise with unrestrained glee. Witness Ninki V’s explosion in a Casio factory, quiver at Thomas Truax’s Hornicator, join Dennis Hopper Choppers’ trawl through the dark heart of psychobilly blues.

The film showing was followed by a performance by Thomas Truax, who performed live with the help of his home-made instruments: the Mother Superior (imagine a cross between a spinning wheel and a drum machine), the Stringaling (imagine a drumlike thing with an extendable string and bits of tubing all over the place) and the Hornicator (which, alas, defies easy description).

One of the greatest appeals of one man bands is that there is nothing at all to keep eccentricity in check. You just can’t imagine studio bosses sitting in boardrooms and approving any of this stuff. So much the worse for the studio bosses. To give a kind of Buddhish analogy (and readers of this blog have come to expect nothing less…): musically, these one man bands are the equivalent of those crazed, wandering yogis in the Buddhist tradition (see my review of The Life of Shabkar) or those forest renunciants that Reginald Ray talks about. The other side of this, perhaps, is that the settled monastics and scholars are the Girls Aloud of the Buddhist tradition: whatever else you say about them, it is hard to deny the high production values…

Tags:
 
#1 · Elee

6 November 2008

I don’t know whether to imagine Girls Aloud in saffron robes or Buddhist monks in sparkly hotpants!

Comments are turned off for this article.