THE XIII GHOSTS/CAMP BLACKFOOT/THE DARK ESTATE

From 1993-2001, my primary musical collaborator was Benjamin Hervé. We initially formed the XIII Ghosts (named after the 1960 William Castle film, before the advent of the 2001 remake), an improvising duo of me on clarinet/alto sax and Ben (under the name Switch) on electronics, which usually performed as a trio with different guest third members. We released two albums, "Giganti Reptilicus Destructo Beam" in 1995 (with Andrew Clare, Nick Couldry, Jim Denley, Tim HIll, Evan Thomas, and Pat Thomas) and "Legend Of The Blood Yeti" in 2007 (with Derek Bailey and Thurston Moore plus Andrew Clare), which deliberately reacted against the documentary approach of free improvised records through intensive editing/studio manipulation, fictionalised liner notes and recording credits, and unacknowledged incursions of non-improvised material. During this period, we were also writing rock music together, and in 1996 formed Camp Blackfoot to perform some of the material we'd been writing.

The original line-up of Camp Blackfoot was Benjamin Hervé (vocals/guitar/bass), Alex Ward (guitar/vocals/alto sax), Lex Fontaine (bass/guitar), Fiona Somerset (keyboards/violin), and Greig Stewart (drums). In late 2007, Fiona left and was replaced by Luke Barlow (keyboards). We toured France and Italy, performed shows in the UK with bands including Cardiacs and God Is My Co-Pilot, and released one album, "Critical Seed vs. The Spartan Society". In 2001, the band came to an end. By that time, I was living in London while the rest of the members were still in Oxford, which was logistically awkward, and I was also feeling that the increasing complexity of the band's material was limiting the possibilities for improvisation and spontaneity in live performance. In addition, during the last year of the band's existence we had neither a stable line-up, nor a consensus on working method in terms of writing new material - issues which were difficult to resolve concurrently and which slowed the band's momentum considerably.

Sice the dissolution of Camp Blackfoot, I have continued writing with Ben outside of a band situation, following up on some of the compositional ideas we'd worked with in Camp Blackfoot without the constraints imposed by writing material for live performance. (In the meantime, I turned to much simpler and looser song forms with my next rock band, Alex Ward And The Dead Ends, before resolving the issue of how to integrate complex composed material into a spontaneity-oriented performance style with the formation of Dead Days Beyond Help.) The material we have written (with lyrics by Ben) will appear on an album entitled "The Dark Estate", which should be completed sometime in 2012.



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