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Onomatopoeia Interview

Back in July 1990, Onomatopoeia's debut LP was reviewed by Audion. It was described as an 'echoey noisy soundscape album', which at once drew my attention. At the same time I was also introduced to the music of Contrastate. Both are groups who confront the listener and are working in the darker side of sound manipulation and creation. Since 1990 I have been corresponding with Steve Fricker, and this unusual interview is a result of my interest in his music and thought.

Can you give me some background information as to how you came to record your debut LP, It's Onomatopoeia, and what music or other activities you had been involved in prior to this?

It was never a question of whether to record an album, but when. What gave me the initial inspiration to record was being sexually abused at the age of about seven. My parents used to strip me naked, tie me to a wall and throw hedgehogs at me. Fortunately, I'm not the sort of person to seek sympathy from such harrowing experiences. I managed to carry on with my life knowing that I had the privilege of experiencing such scenarios that most people hadn't even dreamt of. In fact, I'm pleased that my parents gave me the chance to encounter extreme possibilities of normal family life. I am forever indebted to them and ever since those heady days of enforced sadism I've looked beyond the parameters of normality.

About five or six years ago, I spent a lot of time going to clubs, etc. to see local bands and was apalled by all of them. Their attitude to the audience was completely wrong. They had come across this idea that they owed something to the audience. I think their theory was, if it wasn't for the audience they wouldn't be there. I prefer the attitude, if it wasn't for the band, the audience wouldn't be there. At about this time I was scurrilously debased, looked upon with enmity, belittled and derided, misunderstood, consciously ignored, spat upon, thumped, kicked, beaten, clubbed, kicked but also venerated by a few.

One review compared your LP to Nurse With Wound. How do you react to this? There seems to be a similarity with the poetic choice of song titles and you yourself are an illustrator.

Who am I to comment on other people's misconceptions?

How do you want your music to develop? On It's Onomatopoeia you used metal percussion and bowed bass / guitar. Will you continue in this direction or have you intentions to explore other territories (e.g. harsh electronics)?

Onomatopoeia is a vehicle which I use to create aural possibilities for certain scenarios. For example, This Is A Lingerie Shop Sir is a situation where a man walks into a lingerie shop to purchase a packet of cigarettes, which they obviously don't sell, and the shop assistant can only reply "Manufactured paper underwear!" Whilst this is going on there is another man in another part of the shop feeling the gussets of the silk knickers. This type of individual is abundant in modern society. There's at least one in every town, especially Redditch. Onomatopoeia will continue with this productive theory but with differing results.

Onomatopoeia is essentially you alone, although you have worked with Simon Monaghan. Why is this?

Onomatopoeia is an extension of my imagination. How can I expect anyone to comprehend the intricacies of my imagination? I have worked with friends locally but I always insist on complete control of the final product. As for collaborations, this is more of an amalgamation of two beasts.

Your artwork, song titles and short stories seem to reflect the world of the surreal. How important is this in relation to the realisation of your work and why are you so interested in this area?

Surreal? Poppycock! Generally, my pieces can vary from indecorous to just plain preposterous. But surreal? No, I don't think so.

If you don't believe that your work is surreal, would you then agree that it is dadaesque?

Definitely not! I'd like to disassociate myself from all art movements, past or present. I am not an artists, I never have been and I'll never be one. I am just a 'normal' bloke doing a 'normal' job. You wouldn't call a bricklayer building a wall an artist? Would you? If so, then I think you should reconsider your definition of the word 'artist'! I'm merely doing a dirty job that someone has got to do, so it might as well be me.

I am not a surrealist, dadaist, neoist, modernist, post-modernist, minimalist or any other moniker for that matter. I'm simply an enthusiastic person for recordings that make most people leave the room!

Why do you choose to produce music that you describe as 'indecorous' and 'preposterous'?

I used those words as you were quite insistent on me using some sort of adjectives to describe my material and they were the ones that came to mind at the time. I could list some more if you like: inelegant, disparaging, and unhealthy.

What was the purpose behind the publication of your 'art magazine', Printed Matter? Do you intend to publish further issues?

The elves in the title.

How did the involvement with Mike Dando [of Con-Dom, see interview in EST 4] come about?

I'm afraid my memory isn't that good to go that far back, but one of us got in touch with the other about the idea of doing the mag. So we did.

Any plans to work together?

Well, it's food for thought!

Why did you establish your mail order company, Cheeses International, and what influences your decision as to what you carry?

Initially, for my caseous fetish, but as the market for mail order cheese is very small, if at all, I decided to stock LPs, CDs, cassettes etc. that aren't easily obtained in this country.

You have plans to collaborate with both Smell and Quim, MOHR and Pain. What significance do you attach to collaborations? Do you plan in each case to work personally with each artist or will it be by post?

All collaborations are by mail, this being unnegotiable. I have had the experience of meeting Smell and Quim, which involved the consumption of large amounts of alcohol, none of which was lager, which I find tantamount to homosexuality or vegetarianism, and the viewing of a video featuring two women giving each other red wine enemas. Fun for the whole family!

As for the significance of collaborations, I think they're pointless and I don't know why I bothered.

Have you ever performed live? How do you regard the live performance? Is it important, and should it have more than just music per se?

I've never played live publicly. I did do a live appearance in my front room with an almost chosen audience. For visual accompaniment, I chose two men who went by the moniker 'The Fabulous Flame Brothers' which involved pouring lighter fluid over each other and setting fire to it. But apart from that episode, nothing.

There have been several reviews of your work. Has this stimulated any interest in Onomatopoeia? Given that there is little publicity for experimental music in the UK, how can artists' work be appreciated? Why should this be the case still, especially as there is a lot of activity at present?

The majority of interest in Onomatopoeia has been through reviews and radio airplay. About 90% of interest has come from abroad. The UK is more or less a lost cause, that's why I've treated this problem internationally. Otherwise I would probably be sitting in a squalid bedsit with 500 Onomatopoeia LPs, thinking, "What a bunch of wankers people called Wayne are!" As for activity, there's a lot of bowel activity for sure!

When will your second LP, 29% Up Over 600 Feet But It's A Little Bit Soft Around (the) Edges, be released? Are you again issuing it yourself, or have you secured a release elsewhere?

That LP has suffered a temporary setback. I had recorded about half of this album at one point but decided to destroy all the tapes because the material wasn't strong enough for release. So this project has been put on the back boiler for a while. I will finish the work on the collaborations I'm involved with and then I'll approach it afresh.

The second vinyl release on your own label is the Continuum LP. What encouraged you to release this?

When I started Cheeses International, Frans [de Waard, of Kapotte Muziek] put a mention of my activities in a copy of Vital which included the fact that I was interested in releasing material by other people, and the Continuum LP was the first tape that I received that I liked enough to release.

What do you like about the music of Merzbow and Kapotte Muziek?

I hope you're not wanting another list of adjectives again, for this question. Haven't you heard their material before? If you have then I don't have to waste time trying to explain them, if not then why not? It's about time you have. Breaks the ice at parties!

What present and future plans do you have for Onomatopoeia and your label?

Apart from the items listed below, there's several things I'm working on. A 30 minute piece called Blancmange and a collaboration with Macronympha called What Sort of Shape is Red? Other plans include a mini-CD with Mangled on a hospitalisation theme, a CD by The Auditory Hallucination Choir, and a few other things too. These will see the light of day as and when they're ready.

Interview with Steve Fricker by Phil Taylor. Contact: Cheeses International, 783a Christchurch Road, Bournemouth, Dorset BH7 6AW.