FEATURE: TUSK Festival | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Every year around this time we insist that THIS year’s Tusk Festival line-up is the best yet. And each year it proves to be true. 2015 doesn’t look any different.  But first, that move to Gateshead Old Town Hall while the Star & Shadow is temporarily dormant. As ever, Etherington is quietly enthused.

“I really like the space, it’s almost got a kind of Victorian music hall feel to it, the décor’s really lovely, it’s probably the closest we could get to the Star & Shadow in feel, I think, locally. It’s a similar size, slightly bigger, so that’s just right for us, and the Sage [who manage the venue] have been very supportive in helping use the place in various ways. We’re using the cells for some interactions with Ali Roberts and Malcy Duff. We’ve got the Old Police House next door that we’ve got various things going on in. All the films will be in the main room as well, so we’ll have the full gigantic cinema screen as a backdrop to the live shows.”

There was something of a panic a few weeks back when a couple of key acts pulled out. “It was a stressful few days, searching around trying to work out what we were going to do, because the line-up is really carefully balanced. Because it’s so diverse, we have to balance who plays each day really carefully. But it’s come together nicely and I’m really happy with what we’ve got in their place.”

That includes a trio that promises to be one of those truly great Tusk collaborations (think Ambarchi/Campbell/Flower back in 2013). Indeed Oren Ambarchi appears again, this time alongside guitar orchestra legend Rhys Chatham and Egyptian-Canadian artist Sam Shalabi, and the trio have never played together before. “Oren has played with Rhys before, but they’ve never played in a trio before, and Sam’s played with neither of them so it’s a brand new thing. Rhys tells me he’s got an interesting idea he’s going to talk to them about, that’s all I know! The other two are playing solo on the Friday but Oren is just doing the trio, he just happened to be free on the Sunday.”

Demdike Stare

Demdike Stare

“the line-up is really carefully balanced. Because it’s so diverse, we have to balance who plays each day really carefully”

For many, the biggest name on the bill is Stephen O’Malley, Sunn O))) mainman and doyen of the ‘Arts Council Metal’ scene. It was Etherington’s idea to pair him up with Richard Pinhas, another first.

“It was just one of those flashes of ideas late one night, you know? Steven and Richard seem an obvious pairing really, and they’ve never played together before. I just put it to them and they were into it. Two guitar monsters together, should be interesting.”

One of the best things about Tusk is that every year, it’s the lesser known acts that really tear the roof off (last year it was Islam Chipsy). Etherington has a few ideas about who it might be this year.

“Baba Commandant and the Mandingo Band are going to excite a lot of people, it’s just really sweaty hard African funk, their Sublime Frequencies album is great. Sam Shalabi does that pretty amazing stuff, his album’s all over the place. He’s using oud and electronics, it’s gonna go down very well. Robert Millis and Gilles Aubrey will be using field recordings of Indian funeral rites mixed with shellac and various records they’ve hunted out in India, from the early 20th Century. Robert’s also doing a film and talk presentation of his journey around the subcontinent. Maurice Luka is gonna go down great, more Egyptian stuff, it sounds like classic On-U Sound dub from Egypt. He normally plays solo but he’s going to bring a drummer and a bassist with him. And there’s Klara Lewis, another late addition, she processes field recordings into sounds, she’s got a great album on Editions Mego.”

The more cerebral but no less pounding end of techno is well represented this year with Demdike Stare and Sleep Archive. “Demdike Stare will be doing their live thing but maybe more in tune with those Test Pressing releases series they’ve been doing, that’ll late on Sunday, a raucous end to the weekend. And I’ve loved Sleep archive for years, but he’s not that well known. He’s done some really great stuff…dark techno with a hint of John Carpenter. ”

This year the Fringe programme is bigger than ever, thanks in part to the proximity of the Old Police House. “On Saturday afternoon, Louise Landes Levi is going to do a poetry reading there, and she’s got a wealth of American freaky underground connections throughout her life. Julie Meyers will do a talk about her Klangfarb project, then on Saturday evening it’s just a big blow out. The venue is kind of the stand-in Morden Tower, the stuff you would once have seen at the Tower you’d now see there. Fritz Welch is going to spend two or three days decorating a room, in his particular style, and perform in there as well. It’s nice that it’s right next door.”

And finally – after failing to secure it last year due to a scheduling clash with Café Oto – the Fringe programme has Adam Bohman’s collage exhibition (Etherington points out there are parallels between his work and that of Richard Dawson) which is being launched by a performance at New Bridge Books on Friday 2nd October.

Tusk Festival takes place between Friday 9th and Sunday 11th October at Gateshead Old Town Hall. 

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