Born from the fluid relationship between avant garde composition and rock 'n' roll, Can's discography remains deeply inspirational.
As Mute's three disc box set 'The Lost Tapes' demonstrated earlier this year, the ideas the German collective fostered can still put most young bands to shame. London venue the Village Underground are seemingly of a similar mindset, and recently decided to piece together an unusual collaboration.
One time Can vocalist Damo Suzuki is set to work with post-punk legends 23 Skidoo at a special show, with the two acts swapping ideas, inspiration for the VUzz project. The unique collaboration will be supported by Three Trapped Tigers, whose own blend of furious riffing and ear-melting electronics ain't doing too shabby on the innovation stakes.
By way of a preview, Clash asked 23 Skidoo percussionist Alex Turbull to pen a salute to Can's seminal output.
- - -
I first heard Can in 1980. The album was 'Tago Mago' and it changed my life as far as music was concerned. I started to listen to more of their music and was blown away by how different all their albums were.
There is a ‘sound’, which is instantly recognisable and yet not so easily definable. This partly stems from the unique movement and interplay between the drums and bass which for me forms the foundation, the intrinsic ‘thisness’ of Can.
I was already a drummer / percussionist at this point but when I first heard Jaki Liebezeit I thought, ‘this is how I want to play drums’. From then onwards I practiced playing along to Can records. I have never heard anyone play bass like Holger Czukay. His playing is hypnotic and tonal and fits perfectly with the drums. Schmidt (on keyboards) and Michael Karoli on guitar form the texture and soundscape for the band. It is probably a testament to both that you sometimes don’t know where one stops and the other begins.
Can are incredible musicians which gives them their ability to tear up the script. Just as with any other art, in order to be truly abstract, you have to have a technical, structural framework to work from before you throw it away. And this is one of the beautiful things about them - they can veer seamlessly between a sort of prog rock/pop sensibility ('Moonshake' / 'I’m So Green') through to rampant experimentalism ('Augm') touching every degree in between.
Then you have the vocals. There are many great Can tracks which feature Malcom Mooney but for me it has to be 'You Do Right' from the album Monster Movie which is the definitive vocal. Moonie was a fantastic vocalist who gave Can a weirdly soulful edge but it was really Damo Suzuki who sends their music out into the stratosphere.
It is hard to describe Damo Suzuki and really and do him justice. Perhaps the best compliment I can pay is that I’ve been singing along to his lyrics for over 30 years whilst only understanding about 30% of what he is saying. It just doesn’t matter. It’s a sound. Another instrument.
To be sharing the stage with Damo as part of VUzz will undoubtably be a great moment. I’ve taken so much from Can over the years that it will be perfect to see what he can add directly to 23 Skidoo’s music and beyond.
- - -
23 Skidoo with Damo Suzuki play VUzz on Sun 11 Nov.