Oli Novadnieks with Val. Unused photo for “Raw Powder” album.
Okay, I thought I’d take this opportunity to explain my musical working methods for those who are interested in such things. First off why do the CDrs sound slightly crude? Well that is intentional! Call it Lo-Fi if you will. The thing is that the “Songs” are a reaction against the sterile surgically clean sound of modern recordings done in the digital format. I record on Fostex X.15 four track, using cassette tapes and an old PZM microphone. The four tracks work like this. Percussion (often sampled but sometimes played live) on track one. Then my good friend Oli (Olav Novadnieks) plays guitar on track two. This is very hard for him, as basically he has to make up a riff/tune spontaneously! I rarely allow him to re-do his first attempt; only if his efforts are very flawed, which is very rare, do I suggest a second take. Track three can be my keyboards, another Oli guitar track or my own backing vocal. Track four is almost always my lead vocal which I usually make-up on the spot. If the entire song is poor we discard it. We never really do re-takes; so an entire song takes about 10 to 15 minutes to create. We do an entire album’s worth of material in an afternoon. All the “pops”, faulty leads connecting equipment, mistakes and bum notes are left on the finished track. This results in a kind of rawness and purity of feeling which many people are really getting into crude, ironic, comic and somewhat tragic. I use a Woolworth’s cheapo guitar with a whammy bar that dates from 1972, which I bought off our kid for a tenner, when he gave up playing and left his punk rock band. I do have an expensive guitar that Oli sold to me, but I prefer the brutal sound of my old Woolworth’s special. I don’t know how to play a note, but when I strangle the little devil it comes out like Jimi Hendrix on Vodka Red Bull. Oli knows “chords”. I started making tapes when I became acquainted with the band Throbbing Gristle. I never thought that I could be in a band or make music on my own as I didn’t know the Punk “Three Cords” however as Sleazy of Throbbing Gristle said “Why so many chords?” Throbbing Gristle were living proof that making sound was instinctive or could be abstract or that it was possible to make up your own rules . so I did! The first band that I was ever in was at Bradford College of Art and was named “Normal Love” (not my idea). The lead singer was called Zodiac Mindwarp (yes! That Zodiac Mindwarp) who later went on to make proper records, even writing a song for Alice Cooper called “Feed My Frankenstein” from the film “Wayne’s World”. I was the “Stacia” (Hawkwind) dancer and focal point of the group wandering around the stage dressed in nothing more than baggy green underpants, caked in make up and eating crisps out of a human skull. I wanted to be the singer! Zodiac said “Stick to what you do best!” Bastard. Anyway I eventually joined “Counterdance” Bradford’s answer to Cabaret Voltaire (an electric band who were very good). We only did one gig in Bradford I was the vocalist and I ruined it big time! I was always drunk or out of my head on LSD. Before too long they sacked me and quite rightly so! I still made cassette tapes with Eli Vaselenko, Counterdance’s guitarist we called ourselves “Cowboy Ducks”, I still have a tape of “Cowboy Ducks”, now there’s rare!!! It was around this time in the late 1970’s that I started to do my own solo stuff, using cassette tape machines. I would pull the tape out of the cassette and just have a short strip of the tape going around both spools, fixing the two ends of tape together with sticky tape. The short tape loop made repetitive sounds of percussion or whatever. This was quite effective. I would play four of five tape recorders all at once, trying to synchronise them all and then tape the resulting wall of sound so to speak. What a bleedin’ racket! My last band in Bradford before I went to the Royal College of Art in London was actually called “The Sisters of Mercy” no not the group who had chart success however I do think it likely that they stole the name; hmmm.. very curious, coming up with the same name a few weeks after me. At the Royal College of Art I got together with Mike Wells who later found fame as “Greater Than One” the avant garde experimentalist duo and their off shoot band “Tricky Disco” who had chart success in the early nineties. Mike came up with the name “The Death and Beauty Foundation” and we recruited other like-minded weirdo’s into our musical performance art collective. The music was crap but the visuals were quite something. Don’t forget that this was the end of the 70’s and art schools were proper affairs then. After the Royal College I got friendly with Oli who had gone to the Hornsey Art College in London, we used to get drunk and make tapes on his second hand reel to reel in his basement flat. The thing that really impressed me about Oli was the fact that he had real instruments! Real guitars, electric and acoustic! As well as proper effect pedals! He had friends who also played real instruments and they could actually make proper tunes! I stopped banging on cardboard boxes, twanging egg cutters and fiddling with old radios, because now I knew people who could do music that sounded convincing to compliment my vocals! I was always welcome, as I was the only one who dared to sing! We eventually got the Fostex X- 15 four-track recorders. I bought mine after doing a record cover for Marc Almond. I remember that the Fostex was bloody expensive at he time! Anyway I am still using it over twenty years later. Oli and myself kept the name ” the Death and Beauty Foundation” for some time. We used to support bands such as Psychic TV, Einsturzende Neubauten and The Virgin Prunes etc. Actually “The Virgin Prunes” gig was at “The Fabulous Feast of Flowering Light” at the Hammersmith Palais in the mid 80’s. Eventually ” The Death and Beauty Foundation” became “Silverstar Amoeba”. That’s when I started getting big headed and the group became more like Val Denham and his backing group. Before too long, Oli and I became a duo simply called “Val and Oli”. However we did do one gig calling ourselves “Famous Monsters” with several new recruits but now it’s back to good old “Val and Oli”. So! Val Denham Musician and Artist I am a bit like Ronnie Wood with the sight exception that I can actually paint and I make interesting music. Did I say that I used to be a big head? So there you have it, I have done several releases on records etc. Namely a track on “Greater Than One’s” first album called “All the Masters Licked Me” My song was called “Bad Love”. I also did several things on a “Haffler Trio” album called “Protection”; my track was called “The Birthday”. I did several “Touch” tape and book releases; “Magnetic North”, which featured “Gilbert and George” and “The Residents” and one called “Feature Mist” on which I perform with Andrew McKenzie of “The Haffler Trio”, on a track called “Song of the House proud Ghost”. I’m also on the Sword Volcano Album “Phosphorescent” with a track called “Falling Cat”. I have 4 “Songs” on a compilation album on the Somnimage label called “Radio Interference from Unknown Orgasm” done with my son on keyboards and treatments by Bruce LaFountain of The Sword Volcano Complex. An album entirely of Val & Oli called “Raw Powder” is on the US label Blossoming Noise. I do sometimes sell very small edition CDRs on eBay, usually editions of around 20 only. I’ve done a few official albums with various collaborators such as Black Sun Productions from Switzerland. I did “The Death & Beauty Foundation” album with Andrew McKenzie and the forthcoming new album called “Transform Thyself” with Demian of O Paradis in Barcelona.
Beware, there is much more to come now that I’ve just bought a Boss digital studio.
May the Lord have mercy on you all………..
She’s a Witch (With O Paradis)
Move like a tiger (With Oli Novadnieks)
I want your sex (With Oli Novadnieks)
Onyx Rainbows Alternative Val version (With Wyrm)
GLOW (With O Paradis)
We are the BEES (With Testing Vault. Lyrics by Gail)
I Try To Kill the Man (With Black Sun Productions)
Go Home Dorothy (With Oli Novadnieks)
Harvest Day (With Bruce LaFountain)
How can you love someone ? (With Bruce LaFountain)
Mandy (With Farmacia)
The Milky Way (With Oli Novadnieks)
Mystery (With Oli Novadnieks)
Yorkshire Hills (With Oli Novadnieks)
All Change (With Oli Novadnieks)