A POTTED HISTORY
1996 February, Reading UK.
After a bout of food poisoning and a consequent dream concerning a telepathic alliance between Tory Health Minister, Stephen Dorrell and a tapeworm sect, The Sonic Catering Band formed, striving to pursue a new working practice in electronic music whilst not having to worry about where their next meal would be coming from.
The notion of the Band was/is to employ a similar approach to electronic music as to (vegetarian) food; taking the raw sounds recorded from the cooking and preparing of a meal and treating them through processing, cutting, mixing and layering. No source sounds other than those coming from the cooking of the dish are used and as a commitment to artistic integrity, every dish is consumed by all members of the Band. The Sonic Catering Band was specifically conceived as a project and not a band as such. The aim of the project being to plough and furrow as meticulously as possible every possibility inherent in the cooking process, both aurally and conceptually, within a shelf-life of around five years. In terms of personnel, The Sonic Catering Band would be an anonymous unit of whoever happened to be around. For the first year, it definitely had the feel of a loose collective with various characters drifting in and out.
Most of the year saw the Band masterminding their various projects and setting-up their Canteens of Atlantis studio. With a 4-track recorder and some antiquated analogue effects units, the Band set about cooking/recording their first dish – Tofu Royale. The resulting tracks, Dada Cuisine and Gastric Serenade were constructed in one night with the former making it onto The First Supper: Edition 3 single in its original form.
Work began on the concept of a box-set of singles, in which one could collect courses of a meal on 10″ singles the size of plates. More cooking/recording followed in the Canteens of Atlantis to produce demos of all five First Supper courses, (some tracks in very different form to what they are now). The demos were used for an art installation at Reading University’s Fine Art Department in June in which the very dishes from The First Supper were laid out on a table and wired-up to bakelite headphones on plates. One could literally sit down, put the headphones on and listen to the meal, as the wires and electrics crawled through the pasta and literally into the soup. On the wall by the table, hung a lifesize 5ft gingerbread man with headphones on, listening to the sound of himself being cooked.
Late Summer saw the Band embarking on a Xmas split-single project with sound scientist, Michael Prime, (of Morphogenesis and Organum). Both parties were to apply their sonic alchemy to a festive object which resulted in the Band cooking/recording Christmas Pudding several months too early and Michael Prime waiting until the time was right to climb an appropriate Mistletoe-plagued tree to record the bioelectrical signals it emits. By this stage, the Band was reduced to two people.
Late Fall and the Band headed for Tollerton, York to do some additional production work on The First Supper with Colin Potter (Nurse with Wound), applying his mixing magic to four tracks; Peristaltic, Metabolica, A Sedimental Journey and (I Hear a) Cookie Monster.
With the addition of a third member, the Band began to incorporate more sample-based methods into their work with a view to performing live. On 16th June, the Band were invited to a makeshift studio in The Royal Festival Hall to perform a live popcorn session for the London Musician’s Collective’s own radio station, Resonance FM which was launched to coincide with John Peel’s South Bank Meltdown Festival. Bringing one of their mothers along for cooking duties, the Band performed a four minute piece whilst staying just the right side of the smoke alarms.
The Band’s first gig proper was at the 333 club in Hoxton, London, 27th September. From existing in the nowhereland of electro-acoustic experimentalism, the Band suddenly found themselves championed in the style pages of publications such as Sleaze Nation, NME and Time Out. More gigs followed at Reading’s Rising Sun Arts Centre in October which culminated in a blender-trashing encore and then, for Christmas, a performance at Brixton’s Orange Two put on by the Kosmiche team was recorded and subsequently broadcast on Radio One.
The Band started approaching artists to remix the source sounds from The First Supper sessions and then add their own distinctive instrumentation for a future release, entitled, ‘Artificial Additives.’ One of these artists; Clare Connors who used to play violin in The Balanescu Quartet, Michael Nyman Band and Spiritualised suggested a further collaboration of some sort. The Band took all their utensils to her place in North London and set about improvising from a very loose idea – one simple phrase from a very famous blaxpoitation soundtrack to be repeated again and again on the violin and run through the Band’s various effects until it became something else. The resulting track, ‘Icing Tone’ was performed live in July at The Lux Cinema in Hoxton Square, London.
Along with The Lux, the Band performed another gig at Bracknell’s South Hill Park in June as part of the annual music festival. Come August, the Band’s first single on their own Peripheral label, (meet … The Sonic Catering Band aka The First Supper: Edition 1 – Appetiser) was released to equal amounts of derision, bewilderment and praise from the press. Record Collector went as far as hailing it ‘the most innovative record of the year’ whilst the Melody Maker simply enquired ‘can you believe these c**ts?’.
More split-single projects were embarked upon with electronic pop band, Saloon and the infamous, They Came from the Stars … I Saw Them. One Sonic Catering member moonlighted for the latter band, playing kazoo and popcorn for a gig they did as part of Satellite’s 1977 event in the Fall.
The second (Soup) Edition of The First Supper (‘The Sonic Catering Band … report from an Alimentary Zone’) followed in October and for Christmas, the Band finally released their festive double A-Side single with Michael Prime on the cult Netherlands label, Rund Um Den Watzmann. The snow-white single came wrapped in 60’s Eastern European wrapping paper with a greaseproof paper insert with Christmas Pudding silk screened onto it.
A quiet start to the year, especially as the Band were busy relocating away from Reading with the three members split between London, Bristol and a boat somewhere near Oxford. Most of the year was spent cooking/recording new material for the projects with Saloon, They Came from the Stars … I Saw Them and Clare Connors.
In October, the Band performed at Notting Hill’s Tabernacle Arts Centre for the London Food Film Fiesta. Kitchen appliance maestros, Morphy Richards sponsored the performance which was a first for both parties. Following on from the gig, the Band finally got round to manufacturing the remaining editions from The First Supper ..
After a quiet year, The Sonic Catering Band jump-started the first three months with the remaining three editions of ‘The First Supper’, not forgetting the customised pizza box to house the collection in. A split single, ‘Bodypop‘ with Saloon followed in May, which saw the two bands performing together in Brighton and London. The single made it to number twelve in John Peel’s Festive Fifty, though undoubtedly on the strength of the Saloon track, ‘Impact’ which got played heavily on the show. There was some critical praise left over for The Sonic Catering Band, courtesy of some very favourable reviews in both May’s Wire Magazine and September’s New Musical Express. The long-cherished First Supper remix project, ‘Artificial Additives’ appeared only to disappear again due to sample trouble. More gigs followed in London. London Arts funded a Food Art event c/o of the OMSK collective. Enough money and kitchen supplies filtered down from both London Arts and Morphy Richards respectively for the Band to undertake a live soundtrack project to Luis Buñuel’s ‘Exterminating Angel.’ Sonic Catering gigs were known for being somewhat ramshackle, only given the lack of money paid to the band by many promoters along with the rapidly widening geographical divide between members, it was mutually decided to call it a day on the live front. The Sonic Catering Band said their farewells at Geneva’s Forde Gallery and Moloko Restaurant. To make the event extra special, the Band recorded and pressed-up a track called ‘Frostbite’ which came out as a gallery edition 7”, meaning that you got art as well as catering, what with 57 individually designed labels on the records. Come Christmas, the Band contributed two specially recorded tracks, ‘Kitchen Utensil Ploy’ and ‘Interculinary Dimension’ to accompany or not accompany a short story by Hildi Hawkins for her magazine, Things.
After a busy year, the (no longer anonymous) Band took some time out from Sonic Catering duties. Colin did some essential repairs on his boat in Banbury before sinking from the world; Tim’s wife Emmanuelle gave birth to their first child, Stephanie in Bristol and Peter left London for Budapest. With very little opportunity to get together, the Band decided upon releasing other peoples’ material on the Peripheral Conserve label, despite the fact that distribution was suddenly reduced to just Anomalous in America. A repressing of ‘Artificial Additives’ appeared along with a split single, (‘Disco Brunch’) between The Sonic Catering Band and They Came from the Stars; I Saw Them in the Spring. Late summer saw the release of the first non-Sonic Catering record. ‘Purely Practical’ by The Bohman Brothers was a confounding spoken word tour de force, which despite its limited run of 150 copies, did a very good job of circulating. The Wire Magazine in October praised ‘Purely Practical’ as ‘one of the best sound poetry jukebox records since Henri Chopin stopped cutting them.’ On the strength of the single and their debut album, ‘A Twist for all Pockets’ for the Italian label, Rossbin, The Bohmans found themselves touring round the UK, America’s East Coast and Budapest. The Sonic Catering Band paid tribute to the Rossbin label by contributing a track, ‘Sugar Nocturne’ for a compilation album to commemorate the wedding of the label’s founders. By this time, quite a few additional band members were cropping up in London, Preston and Budapest. Dan Hayhurst who formerly played bass with Echoboy, Electric Sound of Joy and They Came from the Stars; I Saw Them, (not to mention his new project, Sculpture) played a prominent role in recordings as did Colin Potter of Monos, Nurse with Wound and Ora. Back in Budapest, several other members joined; Zsolt Sőrés from SKY and Budapastis and Pál Tóth from én, along with Ádám Csenger and Jozef Cseres. In September, sessions began for the first Sonic Catering album at Budapest’s Arion Hangstúdió on a Danube island. As a warm-up, a ‘trial’ debut album, ‘1093 Budapest IX., Lónyay u. 7., Magyarország (22.09.2002.19.45 – 20.52)’ was recorded at a friend’s apartment at the above location, date and time. Each of the 10 CDRs came with a CD-sized cake from the recording session. Whilst recording and mixing on the debut album proper continued in Budapest, material was sent back and forth between the aforementioned and Banbury, Bristol, London and Preston. To be continued ..
A bootleg white-label 12″ of ‘Bodypop’ remixes appeared at the beginning of the year. The Sonic Catering track that originally appeared on a split-single with Saloon in 2001 underwent various makeovers courtesy of Shintaro Taketani, Sculpture, Order of Zarg and The Boy Lucas.
In February, our Peripheral Conserve label released the 10″ ‘Rehearsal Tapes 1999/2000’ by Clare Connors. The ex-Balanescu Quartet violinist got together with sonic caterers, Tim Kirby and Colin Fletcher at both her place and Peter Strickland’s in London to rehearse for a show at the now defunct Lux Cinema. Despite the rudimentary quality of the tapes, the overall music and feel of the rehearsals were far superior to the final performance at The Lux and were aptly described by Byron Coley in July’s Wire Magazine as ‘shimmering, ghostly, filled with both action and stillness … a lovely piece of work.’ 2002’s Sonic Catering split 12″ with They Came from the Stars, I Saw Them (‘Disco Brunch’/ ‘The Holy Mountain’) also garnered some posthumous praise from Muzik magazine when it made ‘Leftfield Single of the Month’ in February.
A momentary influx of attention came about in the spring with Sonic Catering interviews appearing in the Italian magazine, ‘Miele’; the Greek fanzine, ‘Overdub’ (which came with an exclusive Sonic Catering track ‘White Light from an Oven Above’ on the accompanying compilation CD) and England’s magazine, ‘Record Collector.’ The latter interview was to promote the Groove exhibition at England’s Huddersfield Art Gallery. The exhibition apparently featured a cornucopia of vinyl-related oddities and artefacts by The Sonic Catering Band, Project DARK, Matt Wand, Cornelia Parker, John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, Philip Jeck and others. We should also add that we were never asked to participate in this event nor were we informed or sent anything such as a catalogue once it opened to the public. If Record Collector hadn’t contacted us, we would never have known. Two raised fingers then in the direction of Huddersfield Gallery
On March 3rd, The Sonic Catering Band recorded a special 90 minute show for London’s Resonance FM. Culinary field recordings from Italy to Bosnia, dietary comment, food science machinery and pre-S. Catering workouts were all thrown into the Resonance broth by Colin Fletcher, Tim Kirby and Peter Strickland.
Another non-Sonic Catering release appeared on our label in the spring. To coincide with their emergence from hibernation, we put out a 7″ single of mole cricket field recordings by D.R. Ragge and W.J. Reynolds, entitled ‘Entomological Acoustics (European Gryllotalpidae)’. The single came packed with information along with two out-of-this-world illustrations by Denys Ovenden. We can also proudly announce that unlike other recording artistes in the world of art and entertainment, you can hear mole crickets live every spring/summer in the appropriate habitats outside the UK without having to get frisked by a doorman.
Whilst work continued on our Sonic Catering studio album in Budapest, the ever- dependable Nicolas Malevitsis took it upon himself to release some live material of ours on his Greek label, Absurd. The two volume live opus ‘Live from the Canteens of Atlantis’ appeared in the summer featuring two hours of material. The first CD was a whistle-stop tour of our finest and hardest moments, edited into a whirlwind 60 minutes of culinary overdrive. The second CD featured our last quasi-Zen performance at Geneva’s Forde Gallery in 2001 in its entirety.
Contrary to the sleeve notes on the aforementioned release, we reformed gig-wise and opted for a small performance at one of The Bohman Brothers’ Bonnington nights in early October. Featuring just Peter Strickland and Dan Hayhurst with some extra-culinary input from The Bohman Brothers, we pulled off a discreet yet highly enjoyable 20 minutes of Transdanubian glide in anticipation of the forthcoming album.
And come November, The Sonic Catering Band’s most ambitious project to date appeared in the form of ‘Seven Transdanubian Recipes.’ The usual beats and sizzles were eschewed in favour of a more austere, gothic flavour in the grand tradition of Eastern European folklore. Tracks such as ‘Greed’ and the 17 minute oven opera ‘The Lamb is the Light Thereof’ are way beyond anything we’ve done or will be capable of doing, probably. The print job on the CD left a lot to be desired. But quibbles aside, the whole experience of making and listening to the album with the extended Eastern European line-up over the past year has been a total wonder.
Through the process of making ‘Seven Transdanubian Recipes’ the final Peripheral Conserve release inadvertently came to fruition. ‘Continental Drift (Eastern & Middle European Movements in 2003)’ features pretty much all the characters who populated the Sonic Catering album and then some. Though all the tracks on the album have been completed and compiled, it won’t be released until 2004. Though this is a fairly representative dose of what goes on in those Great Plains and valleys, the album is far from comprehensive and acts more as a thank you to all the musically-inclined folk who put Peter Strickland up for the night throughout his sojourns, rather than some curatorial voyage of discovery. There are plenty of painful omissions for one reason or another but what you get is wayward electronics c/o Zsolt Sorés, Zsolt Kovács, György Galántai, S.K.?, R.R. Habarc, Kopott, én, Abstract Monarchy Trio, Alergische Platze, The Lazy Anarchists; Slovakian post-modernism c/o Lengow & Heyermears, József R. Juhász; Hungarian folk c/o Kata Peto; Romanian choralscapes c/o Vox Turturis; Viennese percolators c/o Institut für Transakustische Forschung and a fraction of British and French colonialism c/o The Bohman Brothers and Dragibus.
‘Continental Drift (Eastern & Middle European Movements in 2003)’ is the fourteenth and final Peripheral Conserve release. It has become financially impossible to continue the label and some of us are sick of tripping over cardboard boxes at night. The scars on Strickland’s shins convey more about running a record label than any nonsense spouted by A&R types. Running the label over the past four or so years has been incredibly rewarding despite the fact that each release threw some obstacle or other at us. We’re incredibly proud of all fourteen releases on the label, yet we are glad it’s all over too. The Sonic Catering Band will continue beyond the Peripheral Conserve grave in some zombie form.
What of 2004? No releases, no recording, no fun. The Sonic Catering Band had to make do with some left over praise from the previous year’s ‘Seven Transdanubian Recipes’, courtesy of The Wire magazine and BBC Radio 3. The oft-promised two releases, ‘ImperialMetric’ by The Sonic Catering Band/The Bohman Brothers and the Eastern European compilation CD, ‘Continental Drift’ fell under a dark bureaucratic spell and won’t see the light of day before the year rests. The only Sonic Catering activity to speak of, occurred in the so-called ‘Old Europe’ of Germany and Austria. Coaxed back from the grave, The Sonic Catering Band decided to love the capitalist within its festering corpse and rise. The live S. Catering machine offered something of its food, chaos and frustration to bewildered, hungry and occasionally bored audiences in Hamburg, Berlin, Linz and Vienna.
‘Continental Drift: Eastern and Middle European Movements in 2003’ finally appeared in May after an excruciating 10-month wait at the pressing plant in Hungary. The CD gained favourable reviews and attention courtesy of The Wire Magazine in the UK and the Slovak National Radio. Peter Strickland performed solo as The Sonic Catering Band in a cellar in East Transylvania and the Hungarian branch of the S. Caterers performed in Paris.
The SCB’s Tim Kirby set up smallPRINT Records in August releasing a collaborative work with Zambian born Miselo Kangwa entitled ‘Walk Together’. He is currently working on the label’s next album length release ‘tREEshutdown’, joining forces with SCB’s Colin Fletcher for The Casio Consortium’s first release, as well as an array of Bristol’s finest.
Our tenth year as caterers of the sonic; too much celebration and hoo-ha resulting in no work, and in no time whatsoever, Manfred and Geert’s dinner guests adeptly steered the conversation towards the intricate subject of aural hygiene practice.
A hectic year for Sonic Catering. One live shift in Budapest and the posthumous release of our Bohman Brothers measurement mix; ImperialMetric.
Sonic Caterer, Tim Kirby, produces a limited edition mini-CD featuring a rare live SCB recording on his smallPRINT Records label.
As part of the ‘Bodypop’ exhibition curated by Austrian artist Silvia Sun, this performance featured the core three members (Fletcher/Kirby/Strickland) joined by Dan Hayhurst (They came from the stars/Sculpture/Electric Sound of Joy)
The design features real popcorn kernels, and genuine popcorn packaging. Thanks go to Capital Catering Services for their contributions.
For more info or to order a copy visit the smallPRINT Records site.
A quiet year for The Sonic Catering Band due to the fact that the three core members have been busy doing other things. Peter Strickland has received numerous awards for his feature film ‘Katalin Varga’ including ‘Best sound design’ at the Berlinale , whilst Colin Fletcher has been gigging and touring with BBC 3 favourite Tim Van Eyke aswell as the Psychedelic Folk outfit ‘Telling the Bees’, and Tim Kirby has released an album tREEshutdown on his label smallPRINT Records, and together with Caroline Pringle recorded material with the help of Massive Attack’s producer Neil Davidge.
Peter and Tim did appear together in the 2009 School of Sound festival discussing how the Sonic Catering ‘sound’ led to the styling of some of Peter’s film Katalin Varga. Peter has since toured the world with the film and has another in the pipeline.
A new release for The Sonic Catering Band this year called, Food Science – a mini-album of fairly immersive culinary recordings featuring several recordists including Sonic Catering stalwarts, Colin Fletcher, Tim Kirby and Peter Strickland. We’re also joined by Jonathan Coleclough, Andrew Liles, Colin Potter and Pal Toth.
Our Peripheral Conserve label also released The Bohman Brothers’ second album, Back on the Streets. This is a very welcome return for Adam and Jonathan Bohman after their stellar album, A Twist for All Pockets on the Rossbin label and their brilliant toolbox mantra, Purely Practical single on our label, both way back in 2002.
As part of John Cage’s centenary celebrations, we were invited to perform some of his macrobiotic recipes in front of audiences in Brno, Ostrava, Opava, and Bratislava. Menu specials were Zucchini with Sesame Butter and Dill, followed by Miso Soup.
The Sonic Catering Band’s ‘A Gourmet’s Slumber’ compilation CD is finally available.
Ten rare Sonic Catering tracks culled from split-singles, gallery oddities, contributions to compilations and so on from the years 1996 – 2011. All tracks have been remastered for that full spatial-culinary effect. Released in CD digipak format with a 16-page booklet crammed with track info, recipes, photos, artwork from earlier releases and some murmurings from Peter Strickland about our fifteen years together. Running time is just over 70 minutes.
A rare UK gig for The Sonic Catering Band – they performed, with the help of Felicity Ford on cooking duties, at the Audiograft 2014 Festival in Oxford on March 12th at the Ovado Gallery.
A quick trip to Basel, Switzerland in May for ‘the caterers’ to perform at the House of Electronic Arts joined by sonic sculptor Dan Hayhurst. All four members teamed up again in July for the Manchester International Festival.
2016 – present
With all members busy on their various individual projects, The Sonic Catering Band set their snooze alarm for 2021.