Some of you may remember that back in May of this year, I wrote a blog post on a new music night in Cork called Black Sun. I had high hopes for the success of the gig, which was organised by a dear friend of mine, Vicky Langan, a musician, mum, curator and artistic soul who had spent many months organising the event.
I was blown away on the night of the gig (which was held in the Granary Theatre) when it sold out within about 30 minutes, and I could really sense that something special was in the air when the assembled crowd gathered to watch First Blood Part II, Safe, Vomit Nest & Wölflinge, and Rest create their own individual, unique, ear-bending and eye-opening sounds. Then there was the huge response to the mail art exhibition, which featured all sorts of unusual entries, from a working lightbulb, to collages, to bryophytes; the distros run by guys who had travelled from around the country, lugging boxes via Bus Eireann to bring their wares to Corkonians; and the vegan cakes, supplied by Vicky and Paula, with a few rice krispie cakes made by myself (which required little to no skill compared to the culinary delights whipped up by the others!).
The second Black Sun will take place on 26th September – and I’m delighted to feature here an interview with Vicky to tell us all more about what Black Sun is; her thoughts about the Cork music scene, past and present; what inspired her to create the event and much, much more. It’s a really honest interview that is sure to give readers, no matter what their knowledge of ‘weirdo’ music, gig promoting or the Cork music scene, much food for thought. Above all, I feel it will strike a chord with anyone who believes that being passionate about music is more than just a hobby – it’s (and I realise this may sound clichéd, but it feels to me the truth) a way of life.
Vicky’s passion for Black Sun and above all for music and sharing the music she loves shines throughout the interview, and I hope it will encourage people to attend the gig, seek out the mentioned artists and listen and buy their music, or perhaps even be inspired to do what Vicky has done and bring their favourite musicians to perform in their city.
Black Sun – an interview with Vicky Langan
Hey Vicky – for those who haven’t heard of it, can you describe what Black Sun is?
Hi Aoife, Black Sun is a monthly weirdo music night that takes place in the Granary Theatre in Cork. It’s curated by myself and co-run with my friend and collaborator, Paul Hegarty. It aims to present exciting performers to an Irish audience and give local weirdos an opportunity to play in a really cool setting. I’ve invited friends who run distros and labels (Bold Lump, Rimbaud Records, and Noise Not Music) to set up and sell records, tapes and zines. It’s a chance to see some amazing performers do what they do, to fill your lugholes with strange and wonderful sounds, and it tries to shine a bit more light on what the ‘other’ volk are doing in the name of Music.
Why did you decide to set up Black Sun – and how much of a challenge was it to organise?
I would come back buzzing from festivals like Colour Out of Space (Brighton) and Instal (Glasgow) and talk the ear off Paul about who I’d seen and spoken to and how much I’d love to see similar stuff presented over here. Paul suggested that we approach the artistic director of the Granary Theatre, Tony McCleane Fay, and propose our idea of a monthly experimental music event. I was a technical assistant in the Granary for a few years and so the building itself feels like home to me every time I walk in the door. Tony loved the idea and I immediately felt excited about the possibilities of working with such a space. For the first event, I had decided to organise a mail art exhibition centered around the theme of ‘resonance’ to be shown in the upstairs studio space of the theatre. It had been 22 years since the previous (and first ever) mail art exhibition in Ireland, which had taken place in the Triskel Arts Centre in Cork. I was 22 at the time of organising the first Black Sun last May, and I found that to hold a very significant and personal resonance for me. The most challenging thing about Black Sun was the amount of time and energy spent promoting it. I was trying to balance emailing people interested (or half interested) in the mail art exhibition, submitting to listings, trying to get newspapers interested in it, stomping around town in the rain pushing a buggy and sticking up posters, anything and everything, with being a Full Time Mammy. My two and a half year old daughter got used to the sight of me frantically typing on our laptop for weeks on end. This time around, there will be no exhibition so there’s an awful lot less pressure. Organising gigs is easy, it’s getting people to show up that’s the difficult part. I was thrilled when I was told that we had reached our legal capacity within half an hour of doors opening back in May.
The first Black Sun sold out – how did you feel about its success?
I was blown away by the level of interest in the first Black Sun. It was the first time I had ever been involved with a local gig where I didn’t have a clue who more than half of the audience were! I feel that there’s a lot of potential for a really mixed audience at an event like this. You see it a lot at other shows at the Granary too, where fans of experimental music, theatre, live art and film all cross paths and practices. I think some people have negative preconceptions about anything calling itself ‘experimental’. The first Black Sun left a good few people scratching their heads saying to themselves, ” you can do that?”. I thought it was amazing. I came away from that gig feeling inspired and wanting to try new things out. Calling Black Sun a weirdo music night felt a whole lot better than dressing it up to be some ‘avant garde’ hoopla. It’s a fun get together for any open minded person, from any background, practice or point of view. Hearing back from the musicians I had invited for the Autumn/Winter programme had me screaming at my computer with shock. I’m pretty fucking proud of the programme so far. Costes, Ju Suk Reet Meate & Oblivia (Smegma) and Blood Stereo have all never played in Ireland before. To think that they will be playing in my second home a couple of weeks apart from one another makes me feel as though I might burst.
Do you think that Black Sun is something that could only have happened now in Cork, when there seems to be a growing awareness of noise and similar genres of music?
Well, there have been some really interesting shows here in the past. Unfortunately, they mostly happened just before I moved to Cork in 2003. From what I’ve heard, they often had quite small audience numbers. If I’m honest with myself, I’m quite aware that most people here might not have heard, perhaps not even heard of Costes, Smegma and Blood Stereo before, even though to me, they are household names. It’s a tricky thing as a promoter to be in the position where you are introducing people to these performers through a once off gig. How do you even begin to describe these artists? Their huge output? Their significance to modern music making? I feel like grabbing every person on Patrick Street, grabbing them by the collar and screaming in their face “JACKIE STEWART IS COMING!!!!!”. This stuff is just as new to people now as it was years ago when the dotdotdot boys were putting on gigs in Cork. The internet is a great auld tool indeed but I think for Cork, Plugd records has had a huge effect on things in Cork. When the Tombstone rolled into town, it was a new dawn. Now you’ve got the indie kids checking out Yellow Swans and Corsano shows, whereas you
look at the same attendance a few years back and laugh.
When it comes to music that is considered a bit ‘out there’, whether it’s experimental/weirdo/outsider, some people may feel that it’s a bit inscrutable or inaccessible to them – would you hope that Black Sun would help break down any barriers, real or imagined, around these genres of music?
Well, I’m not setting out to do that, but if people come to these gigs, and they start listening to things differently as a result of what they’ve seen… well, that would be pretty awesome. But, I want to make it clear that I don’t see myself as some sort of sonic Martin Luther kicking down walls in peoples brains and putting them on a diet of worms. Although, that does sound kind of awesome too.
Following the first Black Sun, there was some discussion on the People’s Republic of Cork message board about ‘noise’ and the idea ‘getting’ it or understanding it. Do you find it encouraging that Black Sun has spawned this type of debate in Cork?
For sure, it was cool to see people debating about it but if there’s one thing that makes me want to smack my fucking face against a wall, it’s that “that’s not music!” attitude.
Do you find Cork a welcoming and inclusive community for musicians and gig-goers?
I do of course. My partner and I have an attitude to supporting local gigs and events where if you see something and you hope the likes of it continues, you go along to support it. Even if it’s not totally your bag. I’ll never forget the night you organised a few years back Aoife. Your tribute to Elliott Smith in the Lobby bar. The city was biblically flooded, I remember wading through knee-deep freezing cold water across Cork to get there thinking, “Christ, I hope she’ll be okay, no-one is going to brave this weather…” and I was so moved when I arrived. The place was packed out the door. And that’s what it felt like, a community. That’s something I love about gigs in Fredz, there’s this overwhelming sense of warm community tied up in the gigs themselves.
You’re originally from Galway but moved to Cork a number of years ago – how has the landscape of Cork’s music scene/s changed in that time?
I moved to Cork in 2003 to study music in UCC. To me, Cork’s topography remains the same. I do have a strong pang for the things that were just before my time though. I would have like to have seen Cork shows of John Butcher, Whitehouse, V/Vm, to have danced at Rejuvenation, hung out at the Yumi Yuki Club etc. In the six years that I have been here, the biggest change I’ve noticed gig-wise, was when Albert Twomey moved back to Cork and shook the dust off. John Byrne is still playing wreckchords. The Quiet Club lads are continuing to vibrate the air. There used to be an amazing family who’d play in the Spalpin, there was four of them I think. A mother, father and their two youngish sons. Amazing old time music, all harmonising. It used to break me. Now you can get your old time fix up at Bradleys on a Thursday. Some things don’t change, I’d like to imagine that in 30 years, we’ll still see Emmett Bandicoot walking around town in the rain with his plastic bag.
Now I realise that I’m part of the cycle. Maybe when I stop doing gigs, a young girl will come along at the tail end and go “Whaat?! I missed all of this?” and she’ll go on to do stuff. Fuck it, it might even be my own kid who takes up the torch, furiously typing on her space-laptop while muggins here waits patiently for my nappy to be changed.
Your next Black Sun event will be headlined by Jean-Louis Costés, a musician, artist, actor and performer. In some ways he could be considered a challenging and very unique person – what can people expect from him at Black Sun?
I don’t want to make any promises as to what we’ll see, how much of it we’ll see, and if we can still see after he’s flung it in our face. Costes is a great artist. He’s been battering away for years now and has a really inspiring attitude to making art. For fans of Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, romantic keyboard pop songs, for those with a penchant for scatology and the ridiculous, opera, punk, screaming, sweat, taboos, voodoo… He is one hundred percent for real. I would urge anyone reading this innerview to return to this link when you’re done. It’s a interview my friend Philippe did with Costes for his Prism Escape zine. It’s pretty insightful. I haven’t a clue what to expect from Costes for Black Sun, other than this show will be both musical and performance based. Leave your circus expectations at the door folks and just enjoy the show! I don’t want anyone asking for their money back because they didn’t get to see any poo. If you’re offended by the sight of a cock, stay at home please. ((Think Serge Gainsbourg meets Suicide for those who are aching to bring a friend but don’t know how to go about describing him)) Oh yeah, I’ll also mention that we’re having a bit of an after party in the Quad after Black Sun on the 26th. We’ll have some weirdo music sets from Black Sun DJs and Brian Conniffe. I can’t wait.
Are you keen to bring performers such as Jean-Louis Costes to Cork – people who perhaps would not otherwise be given a platform to perform in the city?
Absolutely! I have a list as long as my arm of artists I’d love to see come over here. Now luckily, there’s myself, Mick O’ Shea and Danny McCarthy, Paul and Brian from Dotdotdot, The Black Mariah, Stet Lab, the Guesthouse, Art Trail, the Avant festival and the Quiet Music Ensemble doing our thing here in Cork. So for a city this size, that’s a lot of people who want to represent the ‘experimental’, whatever that may be. It’s a pretty amazing time to be in Cork as far as I’m concerned. Now with funding gone to shite, it’s a real labour of love for all of us involved in the ‘orts’. I think that that brings out the drive in people, big time. The people I find on my Black Sun fantasy list are the ones who continue who inspire and bewilder people today, as much now, as they did when they started out. The ones who are punks at heart.
Black Sun isn’t just a musical venture – it combines art, the sale of music (by independent distributors), and even vegan food. For me it feels like it breaks down the idea of what a ‘gig’ should be and shows that it can incorporate a number of different elements and bring them together in an open setting. Would you agree with this description?
I would, and I’m delighted that the Granary have been so accommodating towards us with Black Sun. For me, the setting is crucial to the night. I don’t for one second feel that this is how a gig ‘should’ be, rather, that since we have this space, why not represent some aspects of this DIY scene while we have the opportunity. Also, the setting gives the performers a certain amount of flexibility as to how best to represent themselves. In the new year, I’m hoping to use areas other than the main auditorium as performance spaces.
What sort of feedback have you received from both people who have played Black Sun and those who have attended it?
Great feedback. Just like the singing candle experiment.
Who or what inspires you when it comes to curating Black Sun?
My friends Dylan and Karen. The most inspiring pair of humans to have been spewed into this century. I’m thrilled to announce that they are headlining the last Black Sun of 2009 this December.
If you could have any artists perform at Black Sun – let’s make it interesting and say dead or alive! –who would you choose?
A Schimpfluch night would be incredible … Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock, Sudden Infant, Dave Phillips, G*Park, Raionbashi… if a Masonna collaboration could be worked in there, that’d be pretty mindblowing. Harry Pussy, Incapacitants, Ruth White, Anne Gillis, a New Blockaders and Organum collaboration, Brainbombs, Borbetomagus, William Burroughs, Henri Chopin, Florence Foster Jenkins, Ghedalia Tazartes, Pierre Andre Arcand, Coil, Usurper, Ludo Mich, Bolide Awkwardstra, Le Forte Four, Catholic Boys in Heavy Leather, Airway, Reynols, Gerogerigegege, Captain Beefheart, Caroliner Rainbow, Church Universal and Triumphant Inc. feat. Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Don Cherry, Dimmer, Dinosaurs With Horns, Points of Friction, Hair Stylistics/Violent Onsen Geisha, Consumer Electronics.CROM, Dio, Albert Ayler, Nihilist Spasm Band, Evan Parker, Moondog, the Wipers, Townes Van Zandt , C.C.C.C, Lungfish, Daniel Higgs solo, Negative Approach, Fushitsusha, Immortal … Damn, as soon as I stop I think of another one. I better leave it at that for now.
What are your hopes for Black Sun in the future?
Ultimately, the dream would be that one day, it will be a small festival. When the day comes that we can afford to invite a shtring of people over, I will be happy out. But for now, I’m pretty happy with how it’s going. Fangs for your time Aoife. x
Black Sun, Cork’s weirdo music night, takes place at the Granary Theatre on 26th September with the debut Irish performance of legendary experimental artist, Jean-Louis Costes.
Other artists on the night include KFDS and Over. A selection of Costes’ short films will be screened on the night. Vegan cakes and records/tapes/cds from distros Bold Lump (Dublin) and Rimbaud Records (Cork) will be available for purchase throughout the night. Tickets (€10) are on sale now in Plugd Records, Cork City.
Capacity is limited so it is advised to purchase tickets in advance to avoid disappointment on the night.
Due to the graphic nature of Costes’ live performances, this event is strictly over 18s.
On November 7th, Black Sun welcomes Oblivia and Ju Suk Reet Meate (Smegma) [USA], Jozef Van Wissem [NL] and Laura Sheeran [IE]
On December 5th, Black Sun celebrates our last show of 2009 with very special sonic ghouls Blood Stereo [UK], Hereharehere [UK], Gryn Brvs [UK] (more guests to be announced)
See www.myspace.com/solnigerire for more details.