Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso UFO – Hebden Bridge Trades Club 20 October 2017

Acid Mothers Temple are nearing the end of their annual autumnal attack on broad-minded European gigging venues and once again played the Trades in Hebden Bridge, host over the years to numerous Gong-related musicians, if not yet Gong themselves.

acid mothersThe ‘Mothers’ are a Japanese collective with around 20 years history behind them, and Daevid Allen collaborated extensively with their guitarist and leader Kawabata Makoto in the Noughties (including the album ‘Acid Motherhood’ which went out under the Gong name in 2003.) Their style is an all-pervasive assault on the senses with an unbelievably loud and dense sound, smoke machines and a visual presence which is unparalleled – for starters you’re unlikely to see quite as much hair on one stage!

Whilst in particular guitarist Makoto and high-octane drummer Satoshima Nani  flail around like whirling dervishes, frontman Higashi Hiroshi, an extraordinarily striking figure with long white hair and beard, maintains a zen-like presence up front as he peddles sonic effects including a state of the art theremin .

The band are renowned for their wigged out appropriations of iconic musical anthems both psychedelic and beyond, and I remember when I saw them for the first time in 2015 spending the first 20 minutes of the gig with my jaw dropping to the floor as they performed a track which I assume was ‘Son of a Bitches Brew’. I wasn’t entirely sure I liked it, but it was clear enough I’d never heard anything quite like it before.

Tonight as they launched into their first track, I was delighted to realise that it was Black Sabbath’s ‘The Wizard’, here treated with cacophonous layer upon layer of sound as a backdrop, and punctuated with gusto by Hiroshi on harmonica.

Gong’s ‘Flying Teacup’ riff followed, an extended workout around a single bass-line, and later we had the Om Riff sandwiched in between renderings of long-time Acid Mothers’ centrepiece ‘Pink Lady Lemonade’.

I couldn’t tell you the couple of tracks beyond this, but to be honest, that helped, as without a recognisable theme to hook into, I succumbed to the frenzied trance most of the rest of the audience had been wound up into. The sound is messy, high-energy and all-encompassing – all musicians, particularly lead guitar, the brilliant bass of ‘S/T aka Wolf’ and drums rattling along at breakneck speed, but even this, (with additional layers provided by second guitarist Mitsuko Tabata and effects) is further backed up by sheets of sound from backing tapes. It’s an astonishing spectacle. I think the crowd were too stunned to holler for an encore, most repairing to outside for a recupatory fag as the band quietly packed up, shifted a few T-shirts, and were waved off at the door as they made tracks for their next gig north of the border.


Phil Miller

The very sad news emerged yesterday that guitarist Phil Miller had died after a long illness. I wanted to pay tribute here to Phil’s unique talents – both as a guitarist and a songwriter.

issue 15 cover copy

His CV almost reads like a wishlist of  seminal Canterbury bands: first Delivery (with, amongst others Roy Babbington, Pip Pyle and Lol Coxhill), then Matching Mole, followed by Hatfield and the North and National Health. He later spent 30 years fronting his own band In Cahoots, itself a stomping ground for many of the scene’s key players: Elton Dean, Pip Pyle, Richard Sinclair, Hugh Hopper amongst them. He also briefly co-led Short Wave with Pyle, Hopper and Didier Malherbe and had a unique duo with equally dextrous long term collaborator Fred Baker. He was an understated giant within the scene and whilst his trademark calling card was those tortured electric solos, he was a fine rhythm guitarist and a brilliant songwriter – two of the scene’s anthemic pieces, Matching Mole’s God Song and Hatfields’ Calyx were his.

I saw Phil perform on many occasions, and looking back at a feature which was published in the nascent Facelift website where I asked regular contributors  to identify their top 5 gigs, Phil Miller appeared in the nearly everyone’s lists in various guises (and three times in mine! ) in the Hatfields, National Health or most notably In Cahoots. My own favourite gigs included the ones below:

  • In Cahoots at the Band on the Wall – my first live exposure to ‘Canterbury scene’ musicians – I remember being astonished that his first solo album (‘Cutting Both Ways’) managed to garner so many of my heroes, but then to see them live with a line-up that also included so many of my heroes, hitherto just names on record sleeves or recognisable musical styles through my speakers completely blew my mind. The idea of seeing Phil Miller, Pip Pyle, Hugh Hopper and Elton Dean all on the same stage was almost incomprehensible as a Canterbury novice – I was sold for life.
  • In Cahoots again, this time as part of one of very many memorable Sonic Relief showcases at the Brixton Fridge. Sonic Relief tapped into a brief moment in time when progressive music, particularly at the psychedelic end, started to become an acceptable musical format again at the start of the 90s – billings included Gong, Caravan, Ozric Tentacles, The Orb and Tim Blake. In Cahoots were the support act for Caravan on one fine evening – was this their biggest ever audience? So heartwarming to see their music watched and appreciated by a large, lively crowd.
  • The Miller/Baker duo, not just for a gig we put on in Manchester (more below) in 1993, but as part of an extraordinary double header with Mark Hewins and Hugh Hopper at the Vortex in Islington.
  • And finally, with Short Wave, a Canterbury supergroup if ever there was one and whose album we reviewed here Having witnessed a superb gig down in Chester, we saw them in their element at Gong 25, where for us anorakked Canterbury aficionados, they represented an unofficial highlight.

Phil managed to combine an understated personality with a quite towering stage presence – I won’t be the only one who associates his meticulously constructed guitar lines with his pained expressions as he eked out another gut-twisting solo from a seemingly bottomless well. I must have met Phil on half a dozen occasions, but it’s probably testament to our mutual shyness and reserve that I couldn’t ever remember what we talked about… Nick Loebner got much further than I with an excellent interview for Facelift here

In the autumn of 1993 a few Manchester friends (Martin Wakeling, editor of the Kevin Ayers fanzine ‘Why Are We Sleeping’, regular Facelift scribe Nick Loebner and my long-term gigging partner ‘Long’ Dave Wragg) and I concocted a plan to bring Phil and In Cahoots bass player Fred Baker to Manchester for a duo gig – this on the back of their superb album Double Up which saw them perform Miller classics such ‘Calyx’ and ‘Underdub’ alongside many fabulous new compositions for double guitar or guitar/bass. We managed to procure a venue for nothing, got lots of free publicity in the arts/entertainment magazine Up Town I then worked for, got a preview in a rival magazine City life, listings in the Guardian and sold tickets in the legendary and supportive Manchester jazz/roots record shop Decoy. Phil and Fred had kindly agreed to bring their own PA.

miller & bakerWe then sat back and waited for the tickets to sell. It was a long wait. The venue, although on the circuit for rock music, was a bit off the beaten track, set back in the gloom from Piccadilly station. Charlie, who owned the Star and Garter, had given us the venue for nothing, no doubt intending to make his money back on drinks. His generosity didn’t extend to heating, because in his eyes the hordes of people we’d promised him would warm up the large room we were using with body heat.

I reckon we packed in about 50 punters. It was a magical night – I caught one chap crying in the toilets because he’d finally got to hear ‘Calyx’ live. Phil and Fred played beautifully with their almost telepathic understanding. A testament to Phil in that he offered to take a cut on his and Fred’s tiny appearance fee because of the low turn out.  We of course refused – it was a privilege to have him performing for a few select aficionados, but indicative of the everyday travails of innovatory British jazz musicians.

I can’t remember the last time I saw him – I don’t live in Manchester any more and have fewer opportunities to go to London, and I suspect gigs were getting thinner and thinner on the ground. ‘Conspiracy Theories’, admittedly a few years back, was right up there with the best of his output and showed him still in his element as a unique songwriter and guitar voice.

Phil was a colossus within the scene – he’ll be sorely missed.

Canterbury Sound Festival – Sat October 28th

Really excited to have been invited to take part in a day dedicated to the Canterbury ‘Sound’ at Augustine House, Canterbury – it’s a day and evening event of discussions dedicated to the music we’re all fans of, and featuring music from Canterbury both past and present.

Canterbury Sound image

Full ticket price details here: and full content details below:

As Aymeric Leroy, (who has run the Calyx website, What’s Rattlin forum group, and has also recently published a book ‘L’Ecole de Canterbury’), is bringing my old Canterbury archive (which extends to half a car boot load) back over the UK, I hope to be displaying some tasty snippets at the event, as well as selling some fanzines. Hope to see you there!

10:30-10:50 Welcome; health and safety notices; event concept and programme for the day to be presented by Asya Draganova
10:50 – 11:20 Coffee break and introducing the Archive, Music, and Book Stalls
11:20 – 12:50 Panel 1: “Canterbury Sound” myths and realities

Talks from: Professor Andy Bennett, Geoffrey Richardson, Brian Hopper, Jack Hues, Professor Murray Smith a discussion panel

12:50 – 13:00 Comfort break

13:00 – 13:45 Performance: Jack Hues and the Quartet

13:45 – 14:30 Lunch

14:30 – 16:00 Panel 2: Archives and futures of the online and offline “Canterbury Sound”

Talks from Aymeric Leroy, Phil Howitt, Asya Draganova and Shane Blackman, Matt Watkins, and Alan Payne + discussion panel

16:00 – 16:10 Comfort break

16:10 – 16:50 Performance by Koloto

16:50 – 17:00 Comfort break

17:00 – 18:00 Fan forum: mapping the spaces and places of the “Canterbury Sound” with the participation of audiences


19:00 – 22:00: Lapis Lazuli and SoupSongs performances: a musical dialogue within the “Canterbury Sound”