At Royal Festival Hall
2nd April 2000 – Cornucopea – Royal Festival Hall, South Bank, London England
01. Everything Keeps Dissolving
02. Queens of the Circulating Library
04. Sipping Birdsong Through Bedsprings
Sabine Waltz came to be involved with Coil at this point: “I am running a booking agency since 1987 and I meet them at a show in London where they played together w/ foetus, who I was working with. It was the Royal Festival Hall. We talked and some months later I booked a tour for them.”
Regarding gig cancellations and rearranging shows as a result of John’s eventual heart attack and alcoholism: “they never cancelled any tour I booked… We had to move some shows but this was more a logistic problem. John was fine then, until about a year before he died… Coil have never played more, as a London show, before I met them and I am very happy about the fact that we always had a good relationship. They never have let me down. Even when John was at his worse state of mind, they did the shows… John did not have a heart attack as far as I know… And again I had no cancellation of any shows and I was the only person who booked shows for them. They did not trust anyone else. I booked all the shows from 2001 until the end.”
Regarding what gigs she booked and her memories of the group: “I booked about three tours… We also went to Russia and did a show in New York. I was traveling with them to several shows. The band was unique, very special, great concerts if they had played at the right context. It was a piece of art rather when a rock show. Sleazy and John were very nice people, we became friends over the years.” She hired Coil’s sound mixers Andy Ray and Tim Sutherland as well.
The full event name was “Cornucopea (Two South Bank Evenings with Julian Cope).”
First gig of the new millennium. “Time Machines from the Heart of Darkness” phase, named after the live CD featuring this show, which was based on their studio albums Time Machines (released in January 1998) and Queens of the Circulating Library, released in April 2000. The band famously donned the fluffy white suits with hoodies during this phase, which were inspired by the outfits of jazz musician Sun Ra.
Debut performances of all songs, only performance of “Sipping Birdsong Through Bedsprings”
Merchandise sold at the gig: Queens of the Circulating Library (2000), Thighpaulsandra’s solo album Some Head (2000).
According to Phil Barrington in his book “The Golden Age of Bloodsports: The Collected Words, Lyrics, and Performed Songs of Jhonn Balance“, Coil’s first major live appearance for around 17 years was at Julian Cope’s Cornucopea event at London’s Royal Festival Hall, billed variously as ‘Coil Presents Time Machines,’ ‘Time Machines from the Heart of Darkness,’ and ‘The Industrial Use Of Semen Will Revolutionize The Human Race’ (the latter also apparently the proto-title of the ‘Circulating’ track). Balance appears with a black eye (the others soon to apply makeup to their faces to match his beaten look). Jhonn’s bruised eye is referred to only as a ‘drunken incident.’ Whether this was self-inflicted, a result of misadventure, or even a bar-room ‘disagreement’ is not publicly known.”
John Balance made his live vocal debut at this gig, though he kept his vocals minimal. Recollections from attendees indicate that the band were stony faced in concentration throughout. Every action from the band appeared carefully rehearsed.
Queens of the Circulating Library
I am the Queen of the Circulating Library
I have declared an amnesty
All books may be returned without a penalty
Return the books to me
Return the books
Don’t burn the books
You cut down the trees to make paper disease
It’s in the trees; it’s coming
Return the book of knowledge
Return the marble index
File under “Paradox”
The forest is a college
Each tree a university
I am the Queen of the circulated library
I’m here to answer your enquiry
All knowledge resides within me
Your membership has expired
You are way past expiry dates
Words, words, words, words!
You may as well listen to the birds
I am the Queen of the circulating library
The industrial use of semen will revolutionize the human race
The mothership and the fatherland
Coil manipulated Dorothy Lewis’ (mother of Thighpaulsandra) vocals during both performances of “Queens of the Circulating Library.” The line “It’s in the trees, it’s coming” is taken from the 1957 film Night of the Demon (aka Curse of the Demon). John would variantly sing the same or similar lyrics as Dorothy, along with the additional line “The industrial use of semen will revolutionize the human race” and “The mothership and the fatherland,” the latter being the name of a song off of 1999’s Astral Disaster. John would recycle the “It’s in the trees” line and some of its variants a few times later on, including on some performances of “Higher Beings Command,” the last performance of “Anarcadia: All Horned Animals,” and some performances of “Drip Drop.”
The only lyric to “Chasms” is John’s manipulated vocals singing “Every man and every woman is a star,” which is taken from Line 3, Chapter 1 of Liber AL vel Legis, or The Book of the Law, written in 1904 by Aleister Crowley under Thelema, his religion.
John Balance – vocals
Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson – Ableton sequence, Fenix Synthesizer
Thighpaulsandra – Fenix Synthesizer
Simon Norris (Ossian Brown) – synthesizers
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Royal Festival Hall
London SE1 8XX
AMT #1 + SBD #1a + SBD #1c Matrix Mix
The following is a review of the concert published at Compulsion Online.
“Coil Presents Time Machines. Julian Cope’s Cornucopea, Royal Festival Hall, London.”
For two nights Julian Cope, Ur Pagan, Krautrock devotee and author of the Modern Antiquarian, held court at the Royal Festival Hall, London, assembling a line-up that included Groundhogs, Skyray, Ash Ra Tempel and various members of the extended Cope family includingThighpaulsandra, Anal and the unveiling of Cope’s new bubblegum trio, Brain Donor. The most surprising and least expected addition to the bill was the inclusion of Coil, who were stepping out of the darkness to perform live as their hardcore minimalist alter-ego, Time Machines. Until April 2 2000CE Coil’s last live event was with Zos Kia in 1983. Coil’s inclusion was a real scoop for both Cope and the Festival Hall.
Tonight, Coil as Time Machines, which John has previously described as “hardcore La Monte Young” were to present a piece called “The Industrial Use of Semen Will Revolutionise the Human Race”. The nucleus of John Balance and Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson was extended to include new recruit Thighpaulsandra and Cyclobe’s Simon Norris. With a history of hermeticism, occultism and their overall dark demeanour no-one could have predicted that when the 4 members took to the stage they would be dressed in what has been described as virginal gonks, or pagan teletubbies (sans handbags). With spherical mirrors attached to their outfits and the glare of the fluorescent lights at times they appeared almost pink.
Perhaps the outrageous outfits were a reaction to the greyness of TG, the bleakness of post-industrialism, Thighpaulsandra’s love of fake fur, Sleazy’s latest fetish. Or perhaps it was the inevitable consequence of having four gay men on stage. Balance had warned about the energies they may create. It did cause universal smiling throughout the hall.
The keyboards were set in a semi circle placed in front of a backdrop of John Dee’s glyph. Symbols were emblazoned on sheets draped over tables where the keyboards sat. Each member stood behind a keyboard, Sleazy appeared to take the pivotal role whilst Balance veered between keyboards and microphone. When vocals did appear they would be phased and looped and fed back into the mix. The actual equipment looked like it could be packed and stored in suitcases.
The sounds produced were pure electronic. The keyboards buzzed, bleeped, droned and at times sounded almost ELpH like as they pounded the Festival Hall at a tremendous volume. Occasionally the vibrations were so intense it felt as thought the sounds were coming from within. More importantly it sounded alive. As Balance paced the stage, the others hunched over their consoles looking like fluffy astronauts on a lunar mission. While Sleazy and Thighpaulsandra continued to unleash their electronic drones, Balance and Norris flanked the side of the stages. Kneeling down each holding a spherical mirror the reflective glare of the lights was projected at the audience. As the lights were shone over the faces of the audience it appeared that everyone in the Festival Hall was part of a mass ritual. Magick was at work within the Royal Festival Hall. Towards the end of the hour-long set the electronic sounds dimmed and were replaced by the sounds of electronic twittering. It was the sound of birdcalls. The four now hooded, huddled together in a group hug. Balance then sloped off from the group towards one of the wings, ascended a speaker stack and lay in a foetal like position with one hand dangling over the speaker. Then, like a proud peacock, he sat upright chest thrust out and posing.
And then it was over, but not before all four members took a well deserved bow to rapturous applause. The crowd appeared to be stunned. Coil appeared to have loved it and so they should have. Earlier that evening Balance had quoted the famous Aleister Crowley maxim that “Every Man and Woman Is A Star”. Tonight Coil were by far the brightest.
It was a hard act to follow so it was hardly surprising that Julian Cope wanted to open the night. When Cope appeared on stage he was, as ever, decked out in fur patterned lycra leggings and tight fitting top. A hideous pair of platform boots and his unwieldy hair completed the image. Fashion never was one of Julian Cope’s strong points.
The previous night he’d launched his new bubblegum pop trio, Brain Donor. Tonight was to be Cope in solo mode. Opening with Pristeen, a lovely Mother Earth metaphor from the great Peggy Suicide album, things were evidently looking good but then Cope went weird on us. Julian Cope became George Clinton, the Festival Hall (Cope a fervent anti-Royalist ditched the Royal part earlier on) became a spaceship and we were off flying across London and transported to Wiltshire and the standing stones of Avebury. This was Julian Cope’s very own Journey To Avebury.
When Cope did return to earth he alternated between his ancient Mellotron keyboard, and a selection of guitars generally favouring a doublenecked guitar as it provided the necessary wah-wah sound most appropriate to the night. With his poetic tales and fearsome guitar Cope informed the audience that he was now the personification of the Viking God, Odin. And as this was Mothering Sunday all songs were dedicated to Mother Earth. As much as I love Julian’s books and enjoy his spoken word nights sometimes, like tonight, you just wish he’d shut the fuck-up and play.
On the whole this was a frustrating performance from Julian Cope but he managed to salvage his set with a selection of great songs including ‘Jerky Pop Perky Jean’, The Great Dominion’ and a revival of the Teardrop’s ‘Sleeping Gas’ with Skyray and ex -Teardrop’s Paul Simpson pumping the Festival Hall Organ and a casio keyboard. Cope for all his strangeness and love of Krautrock is basically a great pop (song) writer and it’s one of his main strengths. It’s something he should stick too.
Terv Terran attended this gig. He remembers: “The first time I saw Coil was with Foetus in 2000, ten years ago. Feels like several lifetimes. I went there to see Foetus, whom I love; I liked Coil, don’t get me wrong, but they weren’t a favourite band until I experienced them live. All in white, they were, and set about in a circle of inward-facing technology like they were conducting a scientific experiment of some great import. Then the sound started, the beautiful all-encompassing life-changing sound. Louder louder LOUDER; please God fuck my mind for good. Reckon it did, at that.” Paul Morton, in response, said, “I fuckin hated the Foetus performance.I wasn’t the only one, since Balance said “rock is dead” or something similar when he came onstage. Did I hallucinate that [sic]?” Terv further stated, “Can’t remember. Jim Thirlwell has always been hit and miss live. Coil blew him away, but my love of Foetus allowed me to view his ramshackle performance as idiosyncratic rather than shit.”
Steve Garlick attended this gig. He remembers: “That was the first and only time I got to see them (w/ foetus in 2000) – still the most intense performance I’ve ever seen any act give. I was lucky enough to meet them briefly afterwards and was blown away by how gracious they were.” Terv, in response, said: “Yes they happily mingled with their audience both before and after their performances. Shyness and the vague sense that I wanted to keep the audience/performer boundary intact meant I never said hello or complimented them. I regret that now, as I had numerous easy opportunities. I was always completely off my tits at Coil gigs though, it must be said. “Hi I’m tripping balls you guys are greeaaaaat…” Probably for the best as it is, eh? [sic]”
RileyELFuk attended and video-taped a portion of this gig. He remembers: “My first Coil gig. I took a video camera, but was worried that it may get taken from me, and I wanted to enjoy the gig and acid, so I filmed largely the backdrop and ceiling through the shoulders of those sat in front of me…They started as we entered the auditorium and headed to our seats, so I missed the beginning, especially as I was gauging whether I wanted to be obvious with the camera, and trying to see if it was getting any visuals beyond the back of the seat in front, with it sitting on my knee. All this with the acid kicking in…It didn’t look awfully camera friendly in the festival hall. I’d seen staff talking to someone with an obvious SLR, and as I was 4 seats from the aisle, with an attendant stood there. I chose not to risk getting my camera taken off me, or somehow worse, getting kicked out…[I]t was an analogue camera from the 90’s. I switched it to a slow shutter speed to increase the available light, which gives it that animated look…The switch to negative, and shutter speed adjustments, I did in camera at the time, as it added more detail, particularly in the smoke. You can always flip the negative in your editor…The one thing that does stand out as an additional reminder for me, is that you can hear certain frequencies causing sympathetic vibrations in both the auditorium, and my video camera. There’s a short clip of it posted on You Tube…” That footage, of “Queens of the Circulating Library,” was uploaded November 12, 2010. “The truth is that it was barely filmed at all, I decided to just capture the audio, but the footage is interesting to watch, a strangely odd view of the venue, rather than the gig. The interference fringe of it, where the edge of the show met the empty space of the venue. I still wish I’d got some good footage though. I didn’t actually attempt to record any others [gigs] sadly.”
Brian Conniffe attended this gig and remembers: “London, UK: Royal Festival Hall, 2000.04.02, Cornucopea. First Time Machines concert. It was good, but got a lukewarm / indifferent reaction from the Julian Rock / rock music fans who made up a lot of the audience. The stage set up was clearly meant to impart the sense of a performance of ceremonial magic rather than a music performance. It was great to hear the synth drones very loud through the PA: the Live One CD can’t quite capture that, and it is also unfortunately lacking the extended bird song track which closed the set. Met Balance, Sleazy, Ossian, Rose and Tibet in the foyer of the venue, all of whom were very pleasant. Balance seemed to be on a real high after the performance, but alcohol or other substances might have been a part of that. He tried to convince me to come back to his hotel room, however I declined and missed out on what was surely my groupie opportunity.”
Cormac Pentecost attended this concert and remembers: “…I only saw them twice but the two gigs tell a story about their trajectory at the time. The first one was at the Julian Cope Cornucopea festival at the Royal Festival Hall (2nd April, 2000). Before the gig (or perhaps in an interval between bands) I remember seeing the children’s poet Michael Rosen in the foyer area. Presumably he was giving a performance somewhere else within the building that day. I must have had no money at all because I didn’t buy any merchandise but I remember that the watches that ran backwards and the ‘Industrial use of semen’ T-shirts were on sale. Regarding the performance itself, the things I recall are John Balance reciting the phrase from Liber Al, “Every man and every woman is a star” and the lyric, “Words, words, words, you might as well listen to the birds.” The thing that stood out most though was John Balance shining a spotlight into the audience. (Having looked at the Coil Live Archive, it would appear that it was actually a mirror reflecting light. So be it.) I think that the light was shone at every member of the audience and my interpretation was that everyone was meant to be included in the performance, there’s no distinction between artist and spectator, every man and every woman is a star, etc. Another thing that I do recall is that Current 93 (or at least David Tibet and friends) occupied the royal box. They only sat there for Coil and were absent for the other acts. I still think that that seemed a little discourteous, or at least pointed. In any case, it was their loss because Julian Cope was excellent. I don’t remember anything about Ash Ra Tempel except that they were quite boring. I think that all ticket holders were given a copy of the Cornucopea CD (mine is long since sold: once poor, always poor). As Coil had not played live for so long it was difficult to know what to expect. Remember that in 2000 the internet wasn’t at all what it is now so there was no sense of collective expectation. I think that I had maybe expected the performance to be more song based and that John Balance would be more of a ‘front man’…As addenda, I also saw John Balance perform with Current 93 a couple of times. The first was in Walthamstow in 1992 or 1993, around the time of Thunder Perfect Mind. He was stood in the audience for the support act and he was wearing a T-shirt with a crude, graffiti-type picture of a smiling penis with the slogan, ‘More Protein’. His trousers had the work ‘FUCK’ printed multiple times all over them. He sang backing vocals during ‘All the Stars are Dead Now’ – “Jesus kills Hitler.” As the song came to an end he shouted, “Fuck Jesus, fuck Hitler!” He certainly made an impression and it may have been because of this performance that I expected him to be more of a ‘presence’ when I saw Coil live. I saw Current 93 again in 1997 in a London church (Union Chapel??). It must have been the day after the general election because David Tibet came on stage and said, “New Labour, new Current 93.” You had to be there. I’m sketchy on this but I think Balance recited, “Why can’t we all just walk away?” from ‘The Long Shadow Falls’. I do remember him performing in ‘Twilight, Twilight, Nihil, Nihil’ – “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” He was one amongst several people reciting the various parts from that track. I don’t remember who the others were. As an intensely shy person I never managed to pluck up the courage to speak with any of the people I saw perform, something I regret. I’ve been reacquainting myself with Coil’s music over the past few months (after having sold all of it years ago- including a vinyl LSD) and this group has been very helpful in this. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to share these fallible memories.”
SBD #1c – Andrew Lahman
AMT #1 – RileyELFuk