Jono Podmore – Jaki Liebezeit: Life, Theory And Practice Of A Master Drummer (book, 2017)

Jaki Liebezeit, photo courtesy of Jono Podmore

Metamono‘s Jono Podmore (aka Kumo) has arguably done more than anyone else in recent years to keep the legacy of Can alive, whether in groups like Cyclopean with Can members Jaki Liebezeit and Irmin Schmidt, or remastering the Can back catalogue and sundry unreleased cuts with Holger Czukay and long-standing Can supporter Daniel Miller.

To those initiatives can be added a new book that Podmore has assembled with US music journalist John Payne, Jaki Liebezeit: Life, Theory & Practice Of A Master Drummer, which seeks to document the unique approach practiced by Can’s late drummer, who passed away in January of this year. The book is currently subject to a crowdfunding campaign via Unbound which can be found here.

I wrote a news piece for Clash which explains more about the book and which can be found here.

In the process of putting my news piece together I asked Podmore for his recollections of working with Liebezeit, and that insight can be found in the Clash piece. “While we were having dinner one night, I was putting on some music,” Podmore also recalled. “At one point I put on some Charles Mingus. Without looking up, Jaki said, with a mixture of confusion and disgust, ‘Jazz? Been there. Done that.’ With that in mind I asked him if there were any other drummers that interested him. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘808 and 909.'”

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Clash

Can – The Singles (Spoon / Mute compilation, 2017)

can_thesingles

Last week Spoon / Mute releasedĀ The Singles, a collection of all of Can‘s singles and selected B-sides, which serves as a great entry point into the musical genius of this band.

I reviewed the compilation forĀ Clash – read my thoughts here.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Clash

Can – Opener (Sunset / United Artists album, 1976)

Can 'Opener' LP artwork

sunset records / united artists | lp/c sls50400 | 1976

The title of this 1976 Sunset Records / Universal Artists compilation of Can tracks works on at least three levels – first, it suggests an accessible introduction to the music of this influential but often ignored or difficult-to-pigeonhole Cologne unit, formed as it is from their mid-period legacy; secondly, it’s an amusing pun on the band’s name (mercifully, in spite of being quite good-humoured chaps, this was the only time they – or their labels – saw fit to make lighthearted fun of their name); finally, when combined with designer Paul Henry and photographer Trevor Rogers’s sleeve image of an open Campbells condensed soup can, there’s an inextricable link to Warhol’s semi-ironic brand of pop-art. So there you have it – best of, joke or artistic statement; take your pick.

Opener was compiled by journalist and major Can fan Duncan Fallowell and Tim Read and features eleven classic cuts ranging from the impossible funk of ‘Moonshake’ to the screwy clank of ‘Spoon’. Fallowell offers gushing sleevenotes which I’ve provided below (he co-wrote ‘Dizzy Dizzy’, included here, and so represents a somewhat biased viewpoint) and the rear has that typically Seventies approach of turning the sleeve over to pictures of the band – ranging from Michael Karoli and Holger Czukay looking like extras from Easy Rider to Irmin Schmidt and Jaki Liebezeit looking like hippy professors; Damo Suzuki just looks suave – plus brief details of their respective roles. Among the facts quoted: Karoli was a pupil of Czukay and saw The Who play in Torquay; Schmidt studied under Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luciano Berio; Suzuki busked round Europe playing one chord on a guitar while improvising on top. Czukay is described functionally as the bassist and engineer, while Liebezeit’s multi-cyclical drumming is heralded as the defining factor in Can’s music. You can imagine how oddly compelling that sleeve might have been to someone flicking idly through the racks of LPs in an HMV in 1976.

So it was for me, albeit twenty years later, when I alighted upon this record in Time Records in Colchester. I bought this either just before or just after Sacrilege, and it served as my proper introduction to the music of Can. I’d been aware of them since I first read through the Mute Documentary Evidence brochure that inspired this site and my love of the label, but Opener offered the first real opportunity to get my head into their music; I fell in love with it instantly, and I used to play thus a lot, often late at night on a Sunday ahead of the following day’s lectures and classes.

I hadn’t listened to this probably since I left university in 1998 until I played it yesterday whilst selecting LPs to listen to with my youngest daughter (six). She described Opener as ‘weird but good’ and grooved along to ‘Moonshake’ like it had been recorded today.

Duncan Fallowell liner notes
Can was launched on an unsuspecting audience in autumn 1969, to a totally polarised critical reception. Their ability to arouse such strong confused feelings, for and against, was in itself a statement of their dynamism, confused because they were an enigma, could not be fitted to the current scheme of things, nothing was known of them as individuals. They are still the most unsettling of the German rock groups. Cologne is not Germany’s wildest city. This is why Can live there. Their studio, once a castle, now occupies an old cinema a few miles out of the city. Visitors are few – but never turned away, and in this easy practical atmosphere the band work. Can do not record numbers so much as discover songs or patterns in the process of recording. The timbre of their music, on record at least, has softened with their later albums from which this is compiled, and their music became more accessible. The key to Can’s music is not where it comes from or what the ingredients are, but how it works, how it moves and that’s to be discovered by listening.

Track listing:

lp/c:
A1. Dizzy Dizzy
A2. Moonshake
A3. Sing Swan Song
A4. Come Sta, La Luna
B1. Spoon
B2. I’m So Green
B3. Vitamin C
B4. Future Days

(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence