Sir Richard Bishop
Over the past few years, Sir Richard Bishop has been mesmerizing audiences across North America, Europe and Australia, with his raga/jazz/rock-infused work for solo acoustic guitar. He has also released a string of magnificent solo recordings for both acoustic guitar and electronic experimentations. In the very near future the Locust label will be unleashing his latest effort entitled ďWhile My Guitar Gently BleedsĒ along with the DVD premier of his film ďGod Damn Religion.Ē He is currently on tour in North America with Animal Collective; catch him if you can.
I donít really consider myself one who ďwritesĒ for guitar. I have been playing acoustic since I was in high school and for most of that time; Iíve just played and didnít necessarily compose anything. There are a few exceptions, however, most of my material evolves over time from improvisational pieces. Even when I go into the recording studio I usually donít have any finished songs at the ready. I go in with a group of ideas and a lot of wishful thinking. With the exception of a couple of songs on my first solo record (Salvador Kali), all other studio recordings have been improvisations based on skeletal ideas that Iíve accumulated during live performances, or Iíll have a general notion of what type of mood or atmosphere I want in a song and work from there. That way the songs just kind of write themselves.
I hope to tour as much as possible until the end of time. I really enjoy doing it, especially playing solo. I know a lot of people get tired of the road after awhile and I think if I was touring with a band I would have a different outlook on the whole thing, in fact, I donít think I would enjoy it as much. If Iím by myself I donít have to contend with other peopleís agendas or schedules and Iím a lot more free to just go at my own pace and do exactly what I want, when I want. That's pretty important to me.
I donít know how much traveling actually affects my musical work. Perhaps a bit here and there, depending on where I am or what I hear along the way. It probably influences my film work more than anything else just because thatís where I collect the most footage. I just like to travel, plain and simple. Itís the best education money can buy and the most rewarding. For me there is nothing better than escaping the U.S. as often as possible in order to be among more interesting people and places. Things are kind of sterile over here. In India and countries in Southeast Asia, Iíve always felt very comfortable and much more alive than I ever have in the states. If I could balance my time between traveling in other countries and touring, I would be in hog heaven. Hell, I wouldnít even need a homeÖ now thereís an idea!
My first solo tour was in Australia in 2005, and the rest of my live shows have been split evenly between the US and Europe. Iíve had more fun in Europe and Australia as opposed to the U.S. probably because itís just a different environment and traveling from place to place is a lot more enjoyable. The train system in Europe is so easy to use and is relatively affordable. In the U.S. youíre usually on the interstates and living in that ďexit-rampĒ world where mindless zombies seem to roam aimlessly in their naturally dumbed-down state. That gets pretty sickening after one or two stops. If the U.S. had a decent train system that wasnít so god damned overpriced, I think touring here would be a lot more fun.
As for playing in Asia or Africa, I would love too, but I donít think there is much of a market in a lot of those places, except for Japan. Besides, Iím more used to just being in those areas without having to play and I enjoy that enough already. Thereís just so much more you can experience that way. I would like to play in Eastern Europe, from Romania and Hungary to Greece and Turkey. Iíve never been to any of those places so I am hoping to accomplish that soon.
In the simplest terms, the guys from Animal Collective asked me if I would like to do support for their tour. I said yes.
There are some similar elements here in relation to previous releases but they're different enough as well. There are 3 lengthy tracks, each song longer than the previous one. The pieces were all improvised, though, as I mentioned before, I had some general ideas of what I was hoping to accomplish and it worked out as planned. The first song is a solo acoustic number that starts out innocently enough and gradually picks up speed and creates its own theme along the way. The second track is a noisy feedback drone thing with electric guitars. Itís music for a cremation ceremony, or at least thatís what Iím saying it is. Can you smell the burning flesh? I can. This one is a bit different in relation to my previous solo work. It wouldnít seem out of place on any Sun City Girls record. The final piece is a long raga-type piece with acoustic guitar and tambora.
I know nothing about the artist; there just isn't any information anywhere. I chose to use this particular image within about three seconds of seeing it for the first time. There was just something about it that spoke to me. My original plan was to create a photographic image of my own guitar spurting blood out from the sound-hole to better suit the title of the record but the more I thought about it, the harder it became to accomplish it (over-thinking can kill a good idea). Plus, it would have made a huge mess, I would have lost a lot of blood and I probably would have destroyed one of my guitars in the process. Iím not sure if the Lucretia image connects with the record per se, but Iím sure some people can make a connection with the title if they try hard enough, you know, a guitar is like a woman and all that, right? So I hear.
In my opinion, most organized religion is a load of crap. When it comes to Judaism and the many denominations of Christianity, even Islam, everybody is fighting over whose god has the biggest dick, when in fact, they were all castrated centuries ago. Iím more attracted to certain elements within the Hindu Pantheon, the terrible deities of Tibet, animism, magic, voodoo, and other less-respected forms of so called 'religion'. They all offer much more in the ways of god or goddess-like experience. Nothing organized about any of it. All encourage pursuits by the individual and are not geared toward the masses. Hinduism is perhaps the most un-organized of all. There just isnít a filing system big enough in the galaxy to ever contain it, therefore ensuring its validity and power until the end of time. Ever since I can remember Iíve had a keen interest in the darker side of the mystical experience. I was exposed to it at an early age and I attribute that to my familyís relation to Freemasonry more than anything else. I did attend the local Methodist Church for a few weeks when I was 9 years old, at my parentsí request. No sir, didnít like it! It had absolutely no meaning and was the dullest thing and the biggest waste of time I had experienced in my life up to that point. When I told my folks I hated it they just shrugged their shoulders and said I didnít have to go anymore. They were the coolest! I then started attending the local Order of DeMolay, an organization for children of Freemasons. That was a little more interesting at first; meetings were inside the Masonic lodge with the skulls and the all-seeing eye, the checkered floor, the black and white pillars, and other odd symbols. I didnít understand it at all but there was a mystery about the whole ordeal. I eventually lost interest in it because, as a young teenager, there were plenty of vices awaiting me. Regardless, I think those Masonic connections, however short-lived they were, stayed within me and later encouraged me to begin my own studies into the mystery cults, the history of magic ritual, eastern mysticism, etc., a few years later.
I have a lot of film material at my disposal from years of shooting various things either while traveling or just messing around with my cameras no matter where I am. I do have a few short abstract film pieces lying around which havenít been released. Some of them are good, others not so good. Itís hard to say if any more film projects will really materialize. I don't want to make a career out of it. I do intend, however, to keep collecting footage and doing some editing from time to time. If I complete anything that I feel is good enough to release, then Iíll at least think about it. Weíll see what happens.
No, I relied solely on my own inexperience as a filmmaker. I used the cheapest cameras I could find and the simplest editing techniques and had no budget. Things were accidental and improvised. Thatís the only way I can do it. There is a short, fast-paced collage segment, included in GDR, that I put together a few years back and it was originally released in its embryonic form on a Sun City Girls video (Halcyon Days of Symmetry). The effect of the piece was indeed hypnotic. I found it very difficult to look away from the screen while it was showing, there was just too much to see, and every time you blinked you missed something. So I sort of used that idea as a foundation for what I wanted to accomplish. It took forever to record all the images for the film but it was worth the effort I think.
When I started to assemble the film, I was primarily working with the images and wasnít thinking a lot about the soundtrack. I knew that once I put the visuals together in a coherent way it would then be easier to tackle the music part all at once. Most of what is Elektronika DemonikaĒ was recorded years ago and I never thought of it as film music. When I revisited the recordings for the vinyl release I instantly knew that some of the sounds would work great for the film. I think the record can easily stand alone as the audio oddity that it is. I think the film, however, would have been less effective if other music was used, regardless of the barrage of demonic imagery. These two projects were destined to hook up in one way or another.
Ever since I first heard Djangoís playing I was completely transfixed by it. I stopped dead in my tracks and just couldnít stop listening. I had never heard anything quite like it before. I was, and still am, mostly impressed by his improvisations for solo guitar. Thatís his best material as far as Iím concerned. Others who have had an impact include Les Paul (his early experiments), Jimmy Page, Ali Akbar Khan, Ravi Shankar, Wes Montgomery, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Paredes, and the list goes on. I donít Ďplayí like any of them; that has never been my intention. I have, however, been able to shamelessly steal a number of ideas from each of them and have tried to forge those into my own unorthodox system of approach: so far so good.
Iíve never had any training from anyone, and never learned how to read music or anything. I donít know what the rules are. I like it that way.
I am no longer in the antiquarian book business. I had to make a choice between being a bookseller or a working musician. I was able to do both for a while but with the sudden burst in my musical activity over the last couple of years (touring, endless recording), I just had to give up my position in the book trade. I sold my entire inventory as well as my personal collection. I really donít miss it yet. I was a collector for many years starting with weird horror fiction (Lovecraft, Arkham House, etc.) and then I moved onto collecting serious occult works. Bookselling followed naturally. It made me a meager living for a few years, just enough to get by. I donít really think it had any great impact on my artistic work.
Iím still trying to come to terms with the fact that Charlie isnít around here anymore. It will take a while for it to really sink in. We have tons of material recorded with Charlie that hasnít been released yet. Iím sure a good portion of that will trickle out from time to time. The most recent recorded material was music used in Harmony Korineís new film called Mister Lonely. Iím hoping we can get that released at some point in the near future, mainly because the material is different from a lot of other stuff we've put out. Iím sure Alan and I will work on some new things in the near future, it just won't be as Sun City Girls. We just havenít had the time to discuss it yet. Iíll be traveling to India as soon as the Animal Collective tour is over, and I think Alan has some travel plans for later in the year. 2008 might see some new things happening.
Iíve been on a Chet Atkins kick latelyÖprimarily his recordings from the late 50s and early 60s and as always, music from India and Southeast Asia.
pictures by Joe Tunis
-- Cory Card (22 May, 2007)