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UM is an experimental musician/ performer based in Cambridge. Described as a "psychedelic avant-pop karaoke experimental entertainer", Um’s music is both unique, bizarre and essential. Go buy some of it.
Interview by Jonny Scurfield.
Your live performances are unique and hugely entertaining. Which
performers do you look up to?
"These kind of questions bring out the knob in a musician, as it were,
but.... I admire tons of performers, lots of obvious people like James
Brown/Iggy Pop/Ian Curtis...anybody who doesn't look really like
they're faking something or doing dot-to-dot performance or whatever.
Anyone who's got a bit of poison in them. I rate Steve Adams'
stage banter very highly."
You're exceedingly prolific , with thousands of songs to your name.
What gets the creative juices flowing? Which songs and releases are
you most proud of and why?
"I just do Um whenever I'm not doing something I have to do, like work.
It's my idea of fun. Um is my escape pod from real life too.
Giraffe is probably the most consistently decent thing I've done that you could put on your strereo, but The New Album and The Old Album are pretty good I suppose."
Explain what your bumskipper project is about?
"The info on the bumskipper project is here.
Basically I've just ripped off AFX's Analord idea but with 3" CDs
instead of 12"s."
I bumped into you at Strawberry Fair one year. You had a supremely
retro looking ghetto blaster with a tape of your stuff playing and a
microphone plugged in. Any plans to take this idea any further? Say on
"That box (Sharp GF-777) is apparently the Holy Grail of boombox
collectors. I've always had the idea to do random live performances
with it, and then the year before last I didn't get asked to do
something at Strawberry Fair, so I thought I'd make some stupid
statement by inviting myself to play. There's a diary entry about it
somewhere on www.umbusiness.co.uk. It was pretty hardcore. I got a lot
of abuse and I wasn't in the best of shape cos my girlfriend had just
had a miscarriage. It certainly made a lot of people's mouths drop
open, but I wouldn't do it again lightly...then again I've always
wanted to do it on Mill Road..."
What do you think is special about the music scene in cambridge? Which
artists do you most enjoy and respect?
"I'm often asked about this so I have a bit of a stock answer, which
is basically to say that in my opinion Cambridge was pretty dead
scene-wise for many years, at least in terms of the fact that there
was no one venue/band/group of bands/whatever that a scene could grow out of. I used to think that people who slagged Cambridge off for
this, saying you had to move to London/Brighton/Manchester, were not looking within themselves enough, or not being ambitious enough, or
were just cock-monkeys, but gradually it dawned on me that the
transient student population and the way the Uni has things sewn up in
town has made for a pretty arid rock and roll local culture. Plus it's
Cambridge, and that's in East Anglia. However, thanks to the good
efforts of local promoters, in particular Bad Timing, and the changing
nature of the whole touring game, where bands are taking advantage of
cheap planet-fucking airfares to move around under the radar blah
blah. Yeah, in the last few years things are looking up for Cambridge,
but I think it's part of something that's happening all over. It's
cool though, because in Cambridge you can see some quality American or
European or Japanese underground act, but stand 18 inches from their face. Local artists I respect: There's quite a few but it would just be a
list of my mates. I admire Dave (Ascoltare) because he's always on
some kind of quest, and Phil (Man From Uranus) because he's got that
daft American openness that makes him think that he can do a new set
every gig or jam with some mad person he met before the show.
He puts me to shame in this respect, actually. "
What's next for Um?
"More of the fucking same. Finish the bumskippers, then think about a
CD album, I think. There's been talk of a DVD because I have many,
many hours of stuff I've filmed going way back."
What is the meaning of life?
"Take care of yourselves, and each other, and don't be a fascist."