December 3rd, 2009


My noughties 5: Ocky Milk, or getting your back scratched by a vampire

Planning for Ocky Milk -- codenamed, at that point, The Friendly Album -- begins in March 2005. I've just got back to Berlin Friedrichshain (and Hisae, and the rabbit) after two months as a sound artist in residence at the Future University in Hokkaido. Japanese ideas infuse the record's concept: "I want to make something as static, as friendly, as consensual, as self-effacing, as Japan itself. It will be a feminine record and a friendly record... The values of pleasure and friendliness, modesty and elegance seem more important than ever to me right now..."

By March 22nd I'm saying the album will be "a warm record all about social connectedness, with the sprightly, breezy gait of Charles Trenet, wearing a straw boater, singing Boum. It's an Asian-sounding record, a Brazilian-sounding record, it's pentatonic enka ticky-tocky dubbed by the 1970s King Tubby. And it sounds a bit like Misora Hibari." An art show in New York with Mai Ueda interrupts things, and in September I'm still cogitating. By now the concept has become to make "random thin bucolic selfish sociable pentatonic torch" music. At the end of September I announce that I'm flying New York producer Rusty Santos (Animal Collective, Black Dice, Boredoms) to Berlin in November to work on the record with me. I lay down some Dogme-like rules of chastity which are forgotten as soon as we get to work. The record is inspired by Ozu, Caetano Veloso's experimental Araça Azul album, Webern and Harry Partch, but mostly by the sensation of having your back scratched.

With Rusty hunched behind his laptop or cross-miking his Sennheisers, we soon get some songs in the bag. By the end of November 2005 Devil Mask, Buddha Mind, Dr Cat, Moop Bears, Bonsai Tree, Pleasantness, 7000 BC, Permagasm and Ex-Erotomane have been recorded (in that order). They're odd, stilted, experimental. Rusty returns to New York and I negotiate my first novel in Paris and announce that I'll spend three months of 2006 in New York, appearing at the Whitney Biennial. By the end of December I'm heading off to Osaka (Hisae has been temporarily barred from Germany), where I'll finish the album with a mic and a laptop running Garageband. At this point I'm a bit iffy: "Some days I think what I've done so far is utterly wonderful, other days I think it's rubbish." But Hisae's deportation has given me the record's most emotional songs: Hang Low, Zanzibar and Nervous Heartbeat.

In Osaka, slightly anxious about the lack of strong conventional pop songs on the record, I record Frilly Military and Dialtone (reworkings of songs I wrote for Kahimi Karie and Emi Necozawa), The Birdcatcher (an unrecorded song written in the mid-90s) and Count Ossie In China. Finally I add I Refuse To Die, an outtake from the Otto Spooky sessions. The record is done. James Goggin's sleeve -- a saga in itself -- gets finished in June, and the record comes out in October 2006.

So how does Ocky Milk sound to me now?

Collapse )