Ed Ward (captward) Tue 13 Sep 11 07:01
Jon Langford (jon-langford) Tue 13 Sep 11 10:31
Skull Orchard Revisited is a reworking of a solo album called Skull Orchard I made in the late 90s. It was a bunch of songs that found no place with my bands the Mekons or Waco Brothers and became my first solo recordings. I'd been living in Chicago since 1992 and strangely enough all these homeless songs seemed to be about my thoughts and feelings about growing up (and leaving) my hometown Newport in South Wales. When I got the opportunity to work with the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus a few years ago this project was revived with this new book and CD being the result
Jon Langford (jon-langford) Tue 13 Sep 11 10:32
Newport is a sea-port town about 12 miles east of Cardiff. It's somewhere I go back to a lot.
Ed Ward (captward) Tue 13 Sep 11 10:47
Hang on! Hang on! Inkwell is proud to welcome Jon Langford, Renaissance man, who describes himself thusly: Jon Langford is a founder member of the Mekons and Waco Brothers, a visual artist, writer and broadcaster. His latest project is Skull Orchard Revisited; a reworking of his first solo album Skull Orchard which has been expanded into a book that features Jon's song paintings, a short story about the Death Of Moby Dick, a South Wales Alphabet by his brother David Langford and photographs by his father Denis Langford. The CD that accompanies the book contains several bonus tracks and vocal accompaniment from the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus.
Ed Ward (captward) Tue 13 Sep 11 14:05
And interviewing him is the Well's own Joe Hobaica. Joe Hobaica is a bon vivant, raconteur, and man about town. He had a small record label in the early 90s that put out small records, has smuggled computer equipment into Russia, read water meters, cleaned roadkill, and helped host a 24-hour Tom Waits party. He can be counted on to tell an engaging, and occasionally offensive, story. He lives in Brooklyn, NY and Black Rock City, NV.
X (joeyx) Tue 13 Sep 11 14:27
Thanks Ed, and welcome Jon, I'm looking foward to this. Jon, "Skull Orchard Reisited" really seems like a love letter both to, and with, your family and Wales. Is your family still in Newport?
X (joeyx) Tue 13 Sep 11 14:36
What made you want to come back to the Skull Orchard" album, and how did the collaboration with your brother, noted author, David, and your father Denis come about? Were there other family members who felt left out?
Jon Langford (jon-langford) Tue 13 Sep 11 15:19
Hello Joe My Mum still lives in Newport but she's currently packing her bags to fly over here tomorrow. The Burlington Welsh Male Chorus is performing with me at the Hideout Block Party in Chicago on Sept 24th (and the night before at Thomas Masters Gallery in front of all the S.O.R. art) and she wanted to be there. She's 86 this year but still game for a trans-atlantic flight on her own. She's being doing this ever since my Dad died in 2001; her only grandchildren live with me. I have a lot of family and friends in Newport and up the valleys in Cwmbran and Pontypool. I've been back three times this year already and did a nice concert & art show at Barnabas Art House in Newport in July. Two thing triggered the Skull Orchard Revisited project - the original album was sold out and unavailable and selling for silly amounts on e-bay AND the Mayor's office in Chicago asked me to get involved in their Celtic Fest which was really just an Irish Fest as they couldn't seem to find any other Celts. It was around that time I met the choirboys
X (joeyx) Wed 14 Sep 11 12:25
I believe that when speaking of any parent who is 86 and traveling to see children and grandhildren, you HAVE to say, "Bless her heart." Did you find that you didn't appreciate Newport until you left, or did you always want to spend time there, but had to go away, Leeds, London, Chicago to do art, music, interpretive dance? I like the idea of you being the First Union Celt on record with the Chicago Mayor's office, "We need a Celt! Call Langford and see if he has a mandolin!" Good luck on the Chicago shows, and I'm looking forward to the NY and Brooklyn shows in October. A Mekons show always seems to involve a fair amount of cat wrangling, as you guys live all over the globe. Were all of the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus able to make it? Did you have to tell Rico Bell he could come to the show but not get on stage?
Jon Langford (jon-langford) Wed 14 Sep 11 20:27
I may not have been the first Celt-ster but I was the first official welsh act if you don't count the sheep dogs & timid woolly flock they had running around Grant Park all weekend. I can't really remember what I thought of Newport when I left - I was desperate to get away and go to art school etc. I really thought I was going to be a painter but circumstance made me into a punk rocker instead and it was the punk rocking that took me back to Newport and introduced me to a bunch of people I didn't know when I was living there. Being a Mekon and getting played on John Peel gave me this thin veneer of cool I've been dining out on for the last 34 years and I've been going back to Newport and collaborating with a bunch of people there pretty consistently since the late 70s. It was a boom town when I was a kid. They shut down most of Llanwern steelworks in 1976, the year I went away to art college, and Thatcher shut all the mines in the 80s and after that came the economic decline and surprisingly defiant response I've been observing and documenting with the exile-eyes ever since. I remember going down to the docks with my Dad when I was really young and seeing the big Soviet ships and right there in my hometown at the very height of the Cold War there was commie sailors off drinking and scoring cheap baggies of weed in the West Indian dance clubs of Pill. Joe Strummer heard reggae for the first time down by Newport Docks and I was born the week the Sputnik went up and somehow it's all linked up - in my head at least...
Ed Ward (captward) Thu 15 Sep 11 02:17
So are you the first rockin' Newporter? Was there anyone back in Beatle days or some hoary psychedelico?
Jon Langford (jon-langford) Thu 15 Sep 11 08:59
Can't claim anything like that - Amen Corner were the Gwent Beatles (If Paradise was half as nice etc.) Green Gartside of Scritti Politti is my direct contemporary and lived a few hundred yards from me - we were in Leeds at the same time as well. Man were from South Wales and they were the hoariest psychedelicos about in the mid 70s when I was growing my hair.... My re-connection with Newport came about via Bob Last of Fast Product (the label that put out early Mekons, Gang Of Four, Human League etc.) who met a band of loonies from Newport called Ralph & The Ponytails while he was tour managing the Rezillos. They were a bunch of guys I didn't know from other parts of town but they got me to produce their debut 45 because I'd actually played on a record. It was my first stab at producing a band. Julian Murray was one of the 7 or 8 guitarists in the Ponytails and after they'd split up he moved to Canada and joined the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus and masterminded the current project. I also met my pal and collaborator Carlton B. Morgan (I did the Great Pop Things comic strip with CBM for over 10 years) via the Ponytails...
X (joeyx) Thu 15 Sep 11 09:12
Loved the compiled Great Pop Things! Seeing the Soviet ships, and being born the same week as Sputnik, how much did the Cold War influence you? It seems to be a theme in your artwork, or was at one point. A friend of mine once said that Gagarin was the first soviet that didn't seem part of the Big Evil that wanted to steal my TV and Cap't Crunch. And I love that you got to produce a record since you had already played on one.
Ed Ward (captward) Thu 15 Sep 11 09:13
Oooh, Man! "I like to eat bananas/Because they have no bone/I smoke marijuana/Because it gets me stoned..." They recorded that with a male choir, too, I remember!
Jon Langford (jon-langford) Thu 15 Sep 11 13:03
Ed just rumbled the whole premise of the album - getting the choir to do the oooooohs on Sentimental Marching Song is a complete steal from C'Mon on the final side of Man's breakthrough (chart-entering!) 1973 album Back Into The Future - live at the Roundhouse with the Gwalia Welsh Male Voice Choir - that huge anthemic Welsh choir sound permeates the stucyure and feel of the original Skull Orchard album; I just didn't have a choir at my disposal in 1997. Gagarin was a hero and the sailor's wandering around my town at night were just sailor's doing sailory things... they weren't blowing stuff up or stealing the children. The Aberfan Disaster (when a slag heap slid into a village school not far from Newport and killed 114 kids in 1966) is a big theme on the album and I think welsh school children felt they had as much or more to fear from the National Coal Board than from the Soviet nuclear arsenal.
My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Thu 15 Sep 11 13:41
Skull Orchard Revisited is fantastic. Right now, i have two questions: 1. in this era of digitization, when so much music only exists as a series of electronic charges, disembodied from any physical package, Skull Orchard Revisited seems almost defiantly artifactual--it's a CD, a book, a book full of reproductions of actual paintings. Was the choice to create a physical object a deliberate, artistic choice? What considerations were involved in creating a book/CD in today's climate? Where there any hesitations about it? 2. what is the relationhip between the creation of your paintings and your music? Are your paintings visual representations of the songs--or do your songs come from your visual ideas? Is there any sort of synesthesia going on--do you 'see' your songs? can you 'hear' your paintings?
Jon Langford (jon-langford) Thu 15 Sep 11 13:49
My mother arrived safely by the way... armed with Marmite and a bar of Cadbury's the size of Delaware
Jon Langford (jon-langford) Thu 15 Sep 11 13:57
I like to think the songs and paintings come from the same part of my brain - sometimes there's a chicken/egg element - When I came back to painting in the early 90s I had to use the toolbox I'd built up making music to rid myself of the formal art baggage I'd been carrying around that left me paralyzed. There was a big art school in Newport when I was a kid, just the other side of the river right downtown. Joe Strummer had mates who went there and that's how he ended up in Newport in the mid 70s. Around the time I was seriously thinking about painting again they moved it out of town to a campus and announced they wouldn't be teaching painting, sculture, printmaking anymore but only digital computer arts. Went to see their final shows and the art all seemed to be governed by whatever software was current and started thinking I should just try to make some rectangular painted objects that you could hang on a wall and see if there was any life left in the old dog
Jon Langford (jon-langford) Thu 15 Sep 11 14:01
I just like the presence of books in my life and it was amazingly cheap and easy to make the thing - mostly thanks to Steve Connell at VERSE CHORUS PRESS who did most of the design and helped me put my thoughts in (and out) of order.
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 15 Sep 11 14:42
Wow! For those of us who are soaking up the enthusiasm, but are still clueless about the sound, might there be a link to where we might hear a sample from Skull Orchard Revisited, beside being a physical CD?
Ed Ward (captward) Thu 15 Sep 11 15:11
Aaaaand, if you're not on the Well, but you want to ask a question here, just send an e-mail to inkwell [at] well [dot] com and one of our highly trained operatives will port it right over here with all due dispatch.
My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Thu 15 Sep 11 15:49
Here is a live performance of Tubby Brothers, one of my favorite songs from the CD: <http://youtu.be/ZDuQL-NFxGs> Live performance of Sentimental Marching Song: <http://youtu.be/09jP4jPZOMY> Live performance, with the Burlington Welsh Male Choir, of Pill Sailor: <http://youtu.be/ce4kjq5S9eA> Live performance, with the Burlington Welsh Male Choire, of Butter Song: <http://youtu.be/PTfaRyyopzg> Live performance, at the capital in wisconsin, of the Ballad of Solomon Jones: <http://youtu.be/OFsOU80xsSg>
My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Thu 15 Sep 11 15:56
This isn't from Skull Orchard Revisited, but it's an excellent, recent, live in studio performance of Getting Use to Uselessness: <http://youtu.be/kMowBoqy9UU> â
Gail (gail) Thu 15 Sep 11 16:23
Jon Langford (jon-langford) Thu 15 Sep 11 16:31
It'simportant to see how gorgeous the choir are as well http://sisson.smugmug.com/Documentary/Theater-Music-Dance/Jon-Langford-Celtic- Fest-2007/17982809_hXtxJB#1377436063_cJDKfkz
Jon Langford (jon-langford) Thu 15 Sep 11 16:36
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXqCnxoMvE0&feature=related R U An Entertainer? this isn't in the book or on the CD but it's a song of mine the choir demanded to perform
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