Curious about Circuit blasting? Mark Pilkington breaks it down…OK, circuit blasting… this is quite a long story I’m afraid – the easy part is to explain what Circuit Blasting is.
It’s actually a project that I devised with Disinformation/Joe Banks, who I’ve been performing with for a couple of years now. Disinformation is a sound/art project that has actually been operating for about a decade now, performing live shows, DJ sets and creating installations that incorporate visual and sonic elements. There are a number of Disinformation albums available, most recently Sense, Data & Perception.
There’s some blurb about that here on the Iris Light label page here – Link.
When Joe and I work together, it’s Disinformation vs Strange Attractor (I edit and publish an anthology called Strange Attractor Journal, and organise events here in London under that monicker – more info here – Link.
We have two shows.
One is on quite a large scale. It’s called National Grid, because the basis of it is 50hz mains electricity converted into a monstrous, syncopated bass hum by running it though two delay pedals. This has been a Disinformation standby for some time now. On top of this we add layers of sound produced by a number of electronic tools: flash guns, spider antennae wired up to 12v power supplies, flourescent tubes, wimshurst machines, spark generators, violet ray devices – we wire the various violet ray tube attachments to 12v power supplies, making them glow nicely and actually we discovered that you can play them almost like a theremin to create interesting buzzing and humming sounds. The EM emissions from all this kit are picked up by a shortwave radio which converts them into sound.
We’ve performed National Grid at a number of locations around the UK: The Royal Institution, night clubs, a corrugated iron shed in Hull, with a 6000 Watt sound system (that was pretty spectacular – the metal barn doors were flapping like curtains in a breeze!).
Circuit Blasting emerged more recently – one of the contributors to the next Strange Attractor Journal, a chemist and artist names Richard Brown, told me how back in the early 80s he’d accidentally zapped a casio keyboard with a violet ray device to produce some interesting effects. In the spirit of scientific enquiry, Joe and I attacked an old Yamaha keyboard I have with one of the VRs and sure enough it triggered off a wild volley of random preset sounds, often at the same time. So we’ve now turned this into a performance. Our debut was at the London Dorkbot gathering in January. I was concerned that such hardened, jaded geeks would have seen it all before, but we got a fairly rapturous reception. One of the other speakers was the brilliant James Larson, who has contributed to Make.
This Sunday I’ll be doing CB solo as Joe is away, but it should work well. I’m going to create a seance room atmosphere, harking back to the way “spirits” would play musical instruments in traditional mediumistic settings. This is an electronic seance, you might say! I plan to enlarge it with other musical toys, though at the moment it’s just the two large casio keyboards. I tried it with a Casio PT-1 – a VL Tone sized keyboard – but the high frequency lightning blast was too much for it and it never recovered!
The photo you have up at the moment is one of Joe Banks with our set up at Cargo night club in London a year ago. We had to cut the gig short as one of my VR tubes was threatening to overload the very expensive speakers! A friend in the audience kept pointing up to the speaker hanging over my head, when I looked up I noticed that the overload lamp was going off every time I waved my glowing violet wand at it!
Here’s another shot of the set up – Link.
And here it is in Hull – Link.
Here are images of our show at The Royal Institution in May 2004. Our first show actually. That’s Michael Faraday’s desk you can see by the way!
There are recordings of National Grid live, but the extreme bass and wide frequency range don’t capture all that well, though I’d like to release something eventually. We are planning a CD release of the Circuit Blasting material, hopefully for later this year.
Cheers for your interest. Joe and I will be doing an installation based on Circuit Blasting in May of this year at The Foundry in London. I’ll put info about it on my blog – Link.