Monday, May 18, 2009
Threshold House Boy’s Choir
Threshold House Boy’s Choir is the solo post-Coil project by Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson, which is heavily influenced by the time he has spent in Thailand in the last few years. Spotting a gig listing in Monorail, the Glasgow record shop in the café/bar Mono, suggesting that he was playing in the sister venue Stereo, was something of a surprise. I bought a ticket straight away. I was offered a ticket which already had a date in March scored out and replaced with a date in April. Before I could pay for the ticket, the phone went, the date was scored out in response to the phone call and replaced with the 3rd of May. Not reassuring that a member of Coil/Throbbing Gristle is going to turn up in Glasgow, of all places, especially given all recent gigs he has done seemed to have been in Russia.
But March goes, April passes, and the bank holiday weekend in May comes round, as does the Euro-exclusive gig by The Threshold House Boys Choir. Having seen different start times listed, I turn up at 7, enthusiastic and admittedly more nervous with anticipation for a gig than I’ve been in a long time. The sound check is still going on downstairs, they estimate more likely another half hour before they are ready to open. But Stereo is café/bar, so its cool to sit upstairs with a drink and wait for the gig to start. As the half hour or so passes the place starts to fill up, though the upstairs isn’t that big anyway. Strangely I find myself sitting on a stool by the bar, with Peter Christopherson standing beside me, looking at the menu, before ordering food from the waitress. A few people can’t resist, and soon there are people wandering over for a chat. Friends arrive and tell me that downstairs is open, CDs are on sale, including the particularly limited THBC Amulet edition release. Heading down with them, I manage to get the second last copy of the Amulets that they have with them, along with some other bits and pieces (the Soisong album, tour CD by Throbbing Gristle). The guy selling the CDs tells me that Sleazy is about and will be happy to sign stuff, and as if on cue Sleazy comes down the stairs, and shouts “Let me get a pen!” Before he knows it a crowd of people forms, I get my Amulet signed and shake his hand - Coil are one of my favourite bands and it is so good to have Sleazy here and to find him to be so amiable and easy going.
Popular Glasgow DJ and musician DJ Twitch plays a set of records by way of opener, the same as he did when Neubauten had played their only Glasgow appearance a couple of years before. As 9pm approaches anticipation grows, hoping he’ll go on then, standing by the stage, looking at a screen that says “Up Next! Threshold House Boys Choir”. In the end it is closer to 9.30pm by the time he does go on. He pulls on his ceremonial robes, tells us that we start the night with some film appreciation, and plays us a clip from the film “The Thief of Baghdad.” He tells us how the clip relates to his thoughts about the “sacred and profane” and how much those things have been in his thoughts, have affected his work of late.
From here he starts his set, a mixture of projected video and sound. With each piece he tells us the story of the music and the film. Even sometimes during the music, he will turn to the audience and make comments - sometimes about a piece of software, about his intent for the piece, or just a thought. The night is quiet, downbeat, moody and atmospheric. In some ways it’s a strangely intimate evening, like watching home movies with your favourite gay uncle who is just back from his trip to Thailand - this is the bit I filmed down the temple, I made some music to go with it, I think I’ll make it into a documentary, shrug, you know. Or its comments about his boyfriend, and how he is made to feel so terribly Western in his attitudes, making it sound as though he is so hard done by, while its clear on another level how happy he is.
A lot of the pieces are works in progress, some included on the Amulet. The first is a piece he did on street boys, and how they prostitute themselves. He couples the images of them with a prayer, with his music, and tells us how he hopes that by doing so he is doing something sacred, something that will in some way improve the lives of these boys. The next piece is inspired by one of his particular themes for the documentary, temple tattooing in Thailand. How gangsters have monks tattoo them, and that the tattoo they get is protection against evil. The video he uses for this piece is from one particular day every year where one of the most famous, and oldest, monks appears in public. Hundreds of tattooed gangsters gather and sit in front of the temple, soldiers line up between them and the monk. As the gangsters sit they become possessed by the spirit of their tattoos and run at the temple. The soldiers catch them, and as Sleazy observes, instead of doing anything negative, the soldiers restrain them, make sure they don’t hurt themselves, talk them down. It’s a sight to see, watching the video of these men running, crawling, hurling themselves, seemingly unaware of their actions.
Apparently in Thailand people buy and sell mobile phones according to how much they can afford any particular week. With mobile phones being popular for making home made sex tapes, and people frequently neglecting to delete them when they sell the phone on. In turn there is then a trade of exchanging these by blue tooth, with the impression that I got that there is even a channel on TV that shows these clips. Sleazy, living up to his nickname, has started to collect these, and showed some on screen, layered through effects to give a strange psychedelic feel while he played his music to go with it. From the topic of sex, the next piece is about death , Sleazy tells us how his dog died while he was in Bangkok, and how it was the first real death to touch him since the death of Geoff (John Balance, other half of Coil). The piece which results was inspired by those feelings, is included on the Amulet, and while being about death he didn’t want it to be too serious, so he contrasted the topic with footage of Liberace. To continue the cycle he plays his next track to footage of a decapitation, then plays a happy song, with dancers dressed as demons at a ceremony. Before improvising a last piece a bit to act as an encore finishing number, the noisiest piece of the night, and having not planned it, he goes back to the sex tapes.
At the end of the show he thanks everyone, for coming, and how much he enjoyed sitting watching home videos with friends. The music for the most part is the atmospheric stuff, the more droney layered kind of stuff, mixed with Thai influences, voices and sounds, encompassing and pleasing. He waves, leaves the stage, and tells people he’ll be hanging around for awhile, if anyone wants to have a drink with him. And somewhere in conversations he lets drops that he will be back with Throbbing Gristle in June, and the mind boggles at the chances of these two events happening so close together.
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