Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Julian Cope, Copendium Book Launch. Mono, Glasgow 6.11.2012

Julian Cope, Copendium and GNOD live.

I wasn't sure what to expect at this event in Mono, Glasgow, ostensibly a book launch for Julian Cope's latest tome, Copendium. Like many people my age I first became aware of Julian Cope with his performances on Top of the Pops in his post-Teardrop Explodes days, twisting around the mic stand singing "World Shut Your Mouth". Since then he has developed a name for himself as a musicologist and chronicler of the forgotten backwaters of rock music. His previous books are pretty unique, such as the detailed cataloguing of the world of German psychedelic rock (Krautrocksampler) and Japanese experimental rock (Japanrocksampler which has over 300 pages of fascinating, detailed stuff in it). Although reading these you tend to feel he has OCD tendencies in his cataloguing, it was through the latter book that I first came across weird Japanese stuff like Acid Mothers Temple who were playing again in Glasgow only recently.

This latest book tries to, as he said in his introduction, "catalogue the underground". By this he means a history of underground music rather than subway trains.
Julian Cope at Mono
First on stage was Cope himself, wearing his trademark military cap and leather waistcoat. He talked about his other Faber books in the pipeline, a novel ('131' set in Sardinia during Italia '90) and a non-fiction book, Lives of the Prophets, about Jesus, Mohammad, Odin, etc. You know, the usual topics for a post-punk musician to tackle.

The Copendium book isn't as archival as it sounds and he says a lot of it describes contemporary musicians from the last 10 years, and writing it entailed investigative travels to Armenia amongst other places. It starts in the fifties and works through the decades from there. The eighties have a place in his mind as the worst decade for music (when he was performing at his peak).

Most mainstream musicians were suitably dismissed during his interview ("wankers and dickheads") and Eric Clapton in particular ("racist cunt"). He spoke of his love of contemporary rock'n'roll underground music and to make the point introduced "intuitive non-career movers", GNOD. The Salford four-piece shambled onstage to give us their echoey chanting and screeching over a squelchy backing track and stomping bass and drums which built and built into a perfect 40 minute, droning recipe for tinnitus. Absolutely fantastic stuff. Below is 90 seconds of their set which was one continuous piece along these lines.

After Mr Cope broke off from chatting to everyone outside during his fag break he introduced various YouTube videos of The Pretty Things making his point. Then we had a video he made whilst busking around historical UK sites (such as Highgate cemetery and Eddie Cochrane's grave) as the band Black Sheep and anecdotes of inspirational musicians (John Cale).

After that he retired to the shop to sign his book, a hefty brick of a thing, but I'd been persuaded that I needed it in my life. He was as nice a guy as you could meet. As I politely quipped about his Japanrocksampler book he gave me 10 minutes of chat about how it came together whilst the growing queue behind us politely drummed their fingers on their books.

I don't always agree with Julian Cope's musical tastes and he can be incredibly sincere at times and in love with paganism, but he was an entertaining curator of a fine evening and I agree whole-heartedly with his manifesto on the merits of underground music. Looking forward to reading his book.

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