From Aural Innovations #9 (January 2000)
My first contacts with the folks at Stone Premonitions was early this Summer when I was inquiring about Mr. Quimby's Beard (see profile in AI #8). Stone Premonitions is run by Tim Jones and Terri~B who, in addition to Mr. Quimby's Beard, introduced me to their own bands The Rabbit's Hat and Body Full Of Stars, as well as a solo work by Terri~B. Having featured Stone Premonitions releases in the past two issues of Aural Innovations, and now having two new exciting releases by The Rabbit's Hat and Krom Lek, I decided it was time to feature this extraordinary label more prominently. What follows are reviews of the new CD's followed by an interview with Stone Premonitions.
The Rabbit's Hat - "The Magician"
(Stone Premonitions 1999, SPCD 017)
What do we have here!? If you recall my reviews of a previous Rabbit's Hat release and the related project, Body Full Of Stars (see AI #'s 7 & 8) you'll know that we've come to expect well played, song-oriented, progressive rock from these folks. My first inkling that something different was up was the cartoon cover depicting The Magician standing atop a mushroom capped house surrounded by surreal creatures with demonic smiles.
Though The Magician is stylistically far more suited to spacerocker's tastes than earlier Rabbit's Hat releases, this is not a different band. The impeccable musicianship and production values are still present, as are the well crafted songs, superior vocals, and that wonderful GROOVE this band is so adept at! On this release The Rabbit's Hat is still Tim Jones on vocals, guitars, fx, keyboards, and narration, Terri~B on vocals, programming, and fx, Steve Ellis on keyboards, Rabbit on bass, and Norm Emerson on drums, plus various guest musicians and narrators.
With The Magician, The Rabbit's Hat shifts deliberately into spacier realms. This is apparent right from the fantastic 11-minute opening track, "Ignorance Is Bliss". The song begins with an acidic guitar line and Terri belting out a frighteningly aggressive shouted bit. Tim then sets the pace of the tune with a crunchy rockin' guitar that shares the stage with the still-present solo guitar, and his unmistakable vocals take the lead. A great kick ass rocker with a cosmic edge. After a brief (and very freaky) monolog section we are blasted by the screaming guitar of "The Strangling Conversation". And if this isn't screaming enough, Jones goes totally Hendrix ballistic on "Emotivator".
Note that the credits include quite a bit of narration and indeed the narrated bits are interspersed throughout the album. The album rocks hard but there are moments when the listener is lulled into an easy chair, notably on "Come With Me", a beautiful duet between Tim and Terri backed only by acoustic guitar and light percussion. The title track, "The Magician", is one of my favorites featuring a dreamy spoken word segment accompanied by floating synths, bells, and percussion, distant angelic vocals, and bits of bluesy guitar. Tim is an impressive guitarist and attentive listening will reveal him covering a number of styles throughout the album. Overall, The Magician is a splendid collection of songs and sounds that will rock you, cradle you, and expand your mind for the better.
Krom Lek - "Inspirational Floatation Compilation"
(Stone Premonitions 1999, SPCD 016)
From Consett, in the NE of England, comes a new release from what should actually have been one of the first Stone Premonitions bands. (A Krom Lek is the stone which lies across two upright standing stones as in the ones at Stonehenge.) Krom Lek plays trippy spacerock with hints of jazz, very much in the tradition of Gong and festie bands like Nukli and Omnia Opera; maybe even a bit of Ozric Tentacles in their lighter moments. The vocals often sound remarkably like Daevid Allen. But make no mistake, this is no copy band. Krom Lek is a four piece consisting of Dave on guitars, keyboards, and vox, Tonksy on flutes, sax, and vox, Bazz on bass, bogeridoo, percussion, keyboard, and vox, and John on drums, percussion, keyboards, and vox. They are joined by various guests including the ubiquitous Tim and Terri~B.
There are lots of guitar and keys in Krom Lek's music, but the prominence of flute and the varied percussion is very much a part of the Krom Lek sound. Like Gong, the band excels at setting a cool groove that trips the cosmos fantastic. Jazz and Reggae influences give the music its head-bopping toe-tapping beat, much in the way these styles do for the Ozrics. The male and female vocal combos are part of what reminded me of Omnia Opera. On a couple songs we even hear some cool doot-doot-dootin' scat vocals. The space synths typically like to set sequenced patterns that have a direction rather than just bleeping and blurping. The electric guitar rarely solos but when it does it has a rockin' jam quality rather than being flashy. But overall, it's the rock solid rhythm section that gives a mighty anchor to the musical festivities throughout. And Krom Lek is happy to have fun and experiment as the various looped and collage segments attest. A must for fans of Gong at their trippiest and any of the festie bands. The music on this disc compiles tracks from Krom Lek mostly recorded between 1993-1995, but the band is now back in the Stone Premonitions stable and working on a new release.
Stone Premonitions took some time to let us into their musical world, telling us about the label and their various projects.
AI: Did Stone Premonitions begin as a vehicle for The Rabbit's Hat? Or was it the intention right from the beginning to feature other bands as well?
SP: Before Rabbit's Hat came into existence, we had all played in different bands who after being together for a while would decide that there was enough interest to warrant producing a record. They get enough financial resources together through playing loads of gigs etc. and before they know it, they have paid for 500 or 1000 CD's of their music to promote/sell or whatever. Problem is that they find that it isn't so easy making their money back or for that matter even breaking even. In fact, they only needed about 200 copies to cover all of their promotional activities and make their money back. Problem is that CD manufacturers only do print runs of at least 500. The result being that the band ends up with a bedroom full of CD's in the hope that they will one day have grandchildren who they can show all these boxes of old records to! "I say, Grandad did you have a record out, WOW!" (little do they know). Needless to say, the band would not make another record! This was long before the advent of the PC and being able to make your own CD's. The point being that any of these bands could have produced at least three different CD albums of their music for the same price as it cost them to produce 500/1000 copies of just one album and they would only have as many CD's as they would need. Then, when these three CD's have broken even because it is psychologically better for the band to keep the releases coming, thus keeping the listeners interested, the band can go on to release another album. In actual fact, if a few bands got together with the same philosophy... i.e. they want their music heard first and foremost, secondly that they want nothing to do with major corporations... i.e. mainstream record companies and thirdly, their prime aim in life isn't to put money before creativity it could be a huge success, ARTISTICALLY and this is more to the point! In a nutshell, this is what Stone Premonitions set out to achieve. You can have a kind of cooperative of bands under one banner who pool resources. You can then attempt to achieve credibility for that banner and introduce new talent through that credibility. You can start small and build as the interest grows in the whole project. You can print off as many CD's as you need on your PC. Likewise you can do all the artwork in the PC. When you have made enough money back, you can go to a manufacturer and order 500 CD's if you wish because it's worth it and would take you forever to do on your PC. You can keep producing albums and finding like minded musicians all the time. You can keep progressing and make more and more contacts but "staying power" is the key because it takes a long time. It's a process and it involves a lot of work. You have to be a "Jack Of All Trades" because there is no record company. It's not like you just got signed to a major record company who are ready to invest a million pounds in your project. Besides, most of the music certainly wouldn't appeal to them anyway. Your music might not be shallow, tedious and boring for example. Also, major record companies are not going to release music which may challenge the accepted order. Let's face it, you can't have indoctrination and free speech now can you?
AI: I understand Stone Premontions had advertised early on for spacerock bands, and I understand that's how you hooked up with Mr Quimby's Beard. But The Rabbit's Hat only now seems to be going in that direction itself.
SP: Rabbit's Hat has tended to evolve in a very organic way over the years without our knowing. It is "beyond our ken". We are but channellers of voices from other dimensions. We have been put here by "the dream" to instigate an awakening in the material world of mankind's mass illusion. "Oh shit, nearly let the cat out of the bag there!" No, forget what I just said, it was just the voices again. The truth is... WE'VE ALWAYS LOVED SPACEROCK since we were kids and we are well into our second childhood by now. Tim first saw Hawkwind at the Caird Hall in Dundee, Scotland in 1971 and they had a rather uncanny influence on his young life. Maybe it was the strobes, we don't know but only half the band could appear as the rest of them and Stacia were otherwise engaged down at the local police station through obscenity laws or something. It was the spacey aspect of Rabbit's Hat that attracted Dave Anderson but he always believed that the band had this weird natural tendency to drift off into lots of other styles. We want to be unique. As regards "The Magician" specifically, we have been listening to a lot of extremely interesting new music recently which has been a big factor in influencing the new Rabbit's Hat direction, for example AUM, THE MOOR, DARKSTAR, GIORGOS CHRISTIANAKIS, DOG AGE, STORMCLOUDS, CHARLES RICE GOFF III, HOLY RIVER FAMILY BAND, MICHAEL JAMES BOWMAN, MOOM, OZRICS, HALLOWEEN, MINIMUM VITAL, XII ALPHONSO, PORCUPINE TREE, PSEUDO SUN, THE SMELL OF INCENSE, FIT & LIMO, SPACIOUS MIND, STROBE, STANDARTE, ARCHITECTURAL METAPHOR, THE LAZILY SPUN, LAST JAMES, ZOOGZ DRIFT, ALIEN PLANETSCAPES, REEFUS MOONS, MELTING EUPHORIA, SUBARACHNOID SPACE, CARLO R. DE SHOUTEN, TRIP HILL, I.E.M., MUSHROOM, ZONE SIX, PURPLE OVERDOSE, WOBBLE JAGGLE JIGGLE, IN THE LABYRINTH, MOOSEHEART FAITH STELLAR GROOVE BAND, SPIRAL REALMS, RECENT DAEVID ALIEN/HILLAGE/GONG/HAWKWIND ETC. ETC. ETC AND MORE & MORE. SO, it's all their fault! We are entering an engineered new millennium through manipulation of the Gregorian calender soon. There is official history and the hidden history of the manipulators through which the "great work of ages" can continue. There are no conspiracy theories, just an agenda. The truth is a lie which must be revealed. We need to wake up before the New World Order takes over. 666 is just three digits in a central computer linked to a bar code on the back of your hand. You won't be able to buy or sell without this mark soon. There is so much deliberate misinformation around at the moment. We are trapped in a dense three dimensional material reality and I tell you what, as soon as that "official" alien steps on down, we believe in him at our peril! He's probably not so much extraterrestial as terrestial. Orthodox religion is dying, they need a replacement. Even the Romans realized the vital ingredient of entertainment! Mass mind manipulation through the media - aaaaaargh! Smash your T.V. set to pieces! We are ruled through fear and we need love in this God forsaken hell on Earth in order to negate the fear vibrations. The arseholes in charge of this planet don't care about people or human rights. Look at what has just happened in Seattle! GREED! That is all that matters. We are moving into a new age of light where they can't follow. Ghandi said that even if you are in a minority of one, the truth is still the truth and how can a few colonials rule India if 350 million Indians won't cooperate. These are a few of the themes and influences running through "The Magician".
AI: How did it happen that you're doing both Rabbit's Hat and Body Full Of Stars? How do you view the two separate projects musically? Any other projects we should know about?
SP: In days of old, there was a band called Neon who got signed to Sensible Records in Edinburgh. The company was run by a guy called Lenny Love and he told us at the time that the reason his surname was Love was due to the fact that his family were refugees in the war and the guy on the desk at immigration was very hassled and couldn't suss out Lenny's surname, so he looked at his ID and said "Mmm, looks like Love to me" and so it has been ever since, officially. Anyway, Sensible Records were a very small independent who also as a matter of interest signed the Rezillos and the Neon contract was for one single only. The Neon single did well, the band got some sessions on the John Peel Show and were due to be signed to United Artists along with another band that we did lots of gigs with and knew very well called Punishment Of Luxury. In fact, a few years later when Neon broke up, Tim joined Punilux and did a tour with them. Then, Martin Rushent who was the producer at UA who was dealing with Neon suggested that they would be better signing with his own new record label called Genetics because Neon would be treated with more concern on a smaller roster of artists. Martin Rushent had produced The Stranglers and later The Human League and had achieved much acclaim so doing, so Neon went with him. It didn't last long and after a single put out through Radar records, they parted company. Martin thought that the band were moving in a too much more jazz oriented direction. Neon disbanded but loads of other projects happened after that over the years with everybody moving in all sorts of directions. In fact, the neighbourhood vole and deluxe roadie Christopher Wade Evans (Wevans for short) ended up being the most successful and is now working full time on the roadcrew for The Rolling Stones. Anyway, I digress, name dropping again! Neon sort of metamorphosised into Body Full Of Stars, containing all four original members Paddi Addison, Mark Dunn, Martin Holder and Tim Jones, augmented by Terri~B, Paul Ellis and Yazuko Fukuoka. Tim Jones and Terri~B are in The Rabbit's Hat with stalwart Steve Ellis (no relation to Paul but to make it even more confusing, they are both keyboard players, ha ha!) and Paddi, Mark, Martin, Paul and Yazuko have all worked on Rabbit's Hat projects in varying capacities over the last eight albums. Rabbit's Hat involves lots of other musical associates such as Tony Morland who has provided much lyrical input, Norm Emerson, Hodge and Degsy amongst others. The Body Full Of Stars project is mainly the brainchild of Mark Dunn while Rabbit's Hat writing is principally by Tim, Terri~B, Steve Ellis and Tony Morland. There are similarities between both projects simply because of the crossover of musicians but there are major differences in the types of atmospheres, rhythms, lyrics and outlook between the two. Who is writing the music and lyrics for each band is the key to the differences in Rabbit's Hat and Body Full Of Stars. It would be true to say that Rabbit's Hat were the first band on Stone Premonitions, then Mr. Quimby's Beard, Krom Lek and Body Full Of Stars, then Spacehopper which is a guy called Davey Wright on guitar and another guy called Weeb on vocals, augmented by lots of sequencing but incorporating very rocky structures, spacey, punky, heavy and sometimes even pop! The last guy to get involved is called Paul Rose who is an amazing guitarist who won a competition in his youth for his virtuosity and was given a beautiful guitar by the late and great Rory Gallagher as a prize. He has produced an excellent CD of ambient guitar oriented music. His playing really has to be heard live to be believed. Amongst these various projects, there are the solo offerings from Terri~B, Tim Jones and Steve Ellis' Tribute To Nick Drake Project which we are very pleased with. We have about 20 CD's available of the above music up to now and we intend to bring out the full length Stone Premonitions CD sampler in the new year, so that people can get more of a grip on what everything sounds like.
AI: Beside these two bands, you also seem to appear on all other SP releases in some capacity, both technical and as musicians. So you are both clearly knee deep in every project.
SP: Tim and Terri~B pilot the Spaceship... i.e. Tim does most of the engine-earing and Terri~B does most of the digital editing, mastering, graphics and artwork. Basically, Tim runs all of the analogue gear and Terri~B runs the computer BUT Tim does most of the typing! Most of the music happens at The Stone Studio, where we are based and all Stone Premonitions projects are interactive with us. Knowing your own limitations in a realistic way, without losing a firm, positive attitude to what you are doing is a very important lesson to learn. For example, if you really can't do a particular aspect of a job yourself, get someone in who can! And the most positive aspect of doing this is exchange. The beauty of it is that it doesn't involve money. An exchange of good, competent skills can go a long way to making your ideas successful when you have no budget. We basically exchange musical skills and as a consequence of this, appear on each other's records. There are about 50 musicians involved with the Stone Premonitions project at the present time.
AI: You are cranking out a lot of releases! Are you aggressive live performers as well?
SP: Rabbit's Hat have recently completed a series of live radio sessions varying from Free Radio in Holland to the BBC. This is an excellent way of reaching far more people than at an average gig and in general you get a good sound without having to worry about PA and transport costs. Paul Rose has a fantastic three piece live band which is currently playing gigs in London and the North. Mr. Quimby's Beard are currently in intensive rehearsals for gigs in the UK in the new year and have been asked to play at the Strange Daze festival in the USA next year. There has been talk of a gig for The Classic Rock society, maybe along with Paul Rose. Krom Lek's next gig is New Years Eve in their home town of Consett, Co. Durham.
AI: The Stone Premonitions releases seem to be total DIY projects... from recording to all the artwork. How well has the indie ethic served you in terms of success?
SP: In all honesty, the indie ethic has served us very well. You see, we are not a business and we don't make a profit. Every penny we make goes back into running the cooperative. We manage to make our own records from start to finish without any outside investment from record companies. It is a wonderful thing to be able to make your own records these days. It has only been very recently that this has been possible with the advent of PCs. We have distribution through The Freak Emporium/Delerium Records in the UK who have been great, especially a guy called Kozmik Ken who has been very supportive and given us much encouragement. We also have other outlets for our music in the UK through Mick Magic's Music & Elsewhere, Kim Harten at Bliss Tapes and KAW in Scotland. In Holland, Belgium & Benelux, we have distribution through Bee & Bee Records in The Hague. In France, we have a couple of releases through Musea. We have tracks on compilations in Germany through Uwe Goller's Eclipsed Magazine/Sysphus Records and we are really looking forward to hearing a new compilation on which we are taking part from DURP in Germany called "Progressive DisDURPance Vol. 3". This is through the "Tales From The Progressive Ocean" Website which is the biggest of its kind in Germany. Also, our very good friend and mentor Lord Litter in Berlin has helped us enormously in finding new contacts through his radio shows broadcast on the Europe wide Radio Marabu network. In fact, we have just completed the theme tune and jingles for his new shows for 2000. There is also Texas Twister records in the USA who have put our stuff on compilations. That is run through another good friend called Elton "The Hawk" Houck. I've probably missed loads of people out but it gives you a basic idea. We are always looking for new outlets for our releases and making new contacts in the vast and truly wonderful United Underground Music Network. Bollocks to the mainstream, this is where the future lies for independent music, as far as we are concerned, through magazines with integrity such as Aural Innovations and all of the other magazines, radio stations and networkers who make up the movement. This includes such illuminated individuals as Danny Mathys in Belgium who puts lots of musicians in touch with each other through his tireless efforts and love of music. We have met so many amazing people out there, it's incredible!
AI: You had mentioned that some recording is still done at Dave Anderson's Foel Studios. Is Stone Premonitions working toward becoming completely self-sufficient even as far as all the recording goes?
SP: Stone Premonitions has always been self sufficient as far as recording goes but we have always had changes of scenery, whether it be Foel or recording in other parts of the country. Stone Premonitions is an idea. It's an ideal and we don't hasten to use that word lightly! We created it for sure through our human interaction but now it exists in its own right and we have to uphold that ideal. Like we've said, it's like a banner or a flag with a huge great Peace sign on it. It's what we believe in and in return it's a vehicle for all of our self expression. We are more sure over the months, then years that it will outlive us because it is timeless and music exists outside of time and space. Dave Anderson's Foel Studio is a wonderful place to go to set up a full band and blast away with the music at anytime of day or night. It is in a breathtakingly beautiful setting in North Wales and has this incredible atmosphere. The first time we went there, the control room was covered in fantastic drawings by people from The Ozrics and other bands. It was like a huge collage but since Dave had the studio completely refurbished, they are no longer there. Dave Anderson is a very fine studio engineer and musician who has a particular way of working in the studio which is very endearing to the people he is working with. His hospitality knows no bounds and Foel is a wonderful place to be for your state of mind.
AI: Please pass on any news you have.
SP: We certainly will and we want to take this opportunity to sincerely thank you for your interest. Also, thank you for rejuvenating a few memory cells through your questions!
For more information you can email Stone Premonitions at firstname.lastname@example.org.