From the late 80′s through to 1999, I was leader and percussionist of the trio TUU, playing a music which became part of the UK’s then emerging post-Rave Ambient scene.
Originating from my duo with actor and flautist, Richard Clare of the mid-80′s, I met Mykl O at a point where I was looking to expand the palette of wind/percussion and electronic drones of the duo. Mykl’s intuitive approach to electronics and musical experimentation led us straight into a number of performance and multi-speaker installation projects together, which we themed around Mykl’s phrase “music from the edge of dreams”.
Bringing these two strands of work with Richard and Mykl together, formed the first incarnation of TUU.
I had been running a cassette label called SoundImage for a few years, mainly producing compilation tapes of underground electronic music.
It was the exchange of work with numerous artists around the World which led to my first contacts with the enigmatic Dusseldorf musicians, Konrad Kraft & Dino Oon, who also ran the label, SDV Tontrager.
Before our music had been identified with any particular musical scene, TUU were operating in a genre-limbo, though one which to our minds mixed equal parts ECM with Popol Vuh, Brian Eno and Indonesian Gamelan. SDV’s altruistic offer to release our first recording, “One Thousand Years” was the boost we were waiting for. The CD duly appeared in 1993 as a limited wood & aluminium edition and a regular jewel box version, both designed by SDV’s house designer, Jorg Willich, who at that time was studying at the Royal College of Art in London.
1994 was the year when the word Ambient was rehabilitated and became used to describe the work of many artists whose output previously inhabited this vague territory outside of a conveniently defined genre. Suddenly we were part of a scene ! Our circle of performance venues revolved around The Big Chill at Union Chapel, Islington, the parachute sets at Whirl-Y-Gig‘s deluxe Shoreditch venue, Club Dog and our “home” venue of Windsor Arts Centre.
Our CD release had yet to gain overground distribution, so I had built a circle of independent music shops that I would supply directly on a monthly “paper round” around London. It was while dropping off a new box of CD’s at Rocket Ron’s, Ambient Soho in Berwick St. that I began chatting to another supplier with a bag of CD’s even larger than mine. This turned out to be none other than Mike Barnett of Beyond Records, who at that time was most definately owner of the label with “the vibe”. Beyond’s “Ambient Dub” series had established the label as being bang in tune with the early 90′s Zeitgeist.
Beyond had just set up a sister label, Waveform to release it’s catalogue in the USA, so “Ancestors” gained it’s stateside release the following year. Sales across both labels went beyond anything we could have imagined.
By this time, Richard Clare had left to pursue his acting career and Rebecca Lublinski joined us playing a variety of flutes, bansuri and pipes. We began working with booking agency Chain Reaction in Brussels and had a stream of performances at home and now also around Europe. Our idylic Sunday afternoon set in the Whirl-Y-Gig tent at that year’s WOMAD, playing to 1000 people all laying flat on their backs, was surely a defining moment for us.
Whilst working on our third album, Rebecca became less available for our recordings, so we called in Nick Parkin, who I’d recently met while working on the Stillpoint project with Lights In A Fat City’s Eddy Sayer. With Beyond reeling from the impact of the way independent labels are treated by the music business machine, we signed that year with HOS/Fathom Records who released “Mesh” in the USA in late 1996.
Although our most short lived line up, memorable performances included supporting Daevid Allen’s Gong in Belgium, where the man himself sat at the side of stage while we played, commenting afterwards “You’ve created a continuum”. Looking back now, I can see how rich his concise comment was.
We had been invited to do some performances in Italy, organised by Stefano Musso/Alio Die over the Summer. The duo material that we generated during our performances in Italy and Belgium became the second Fathom Records release, ”Terma”.
I’d written a number of solo compositions using the gongs and metal instruments in my TUU set up, which I developed further while working on a commission to produce the soundfield for ceramic artist, Nikki Coe’s “Calls From The Rock” exhibition. Mykl had just left the UK for what was to become his new home in New Zealand, and so these final recordings of the TUU era came to be released by the Italian, Amplexus label in 1999 as “The Frozen Lands“.
I’ve just looked out some old scans of our original black & white photo session, taken by photographer, Val Rylands which feature, our flautist, Rebecca Lublinski.
These images must have been taken some time around 1994, during rehearsals for “All Our Ancestors”. I recall we were doing quite a lot of performances during that time, and we set up all of our gear in the small Theatre space at Windsor Arts Centre one Sunday, and played whilst Val stalked around us looking for the angles.
I’m not going to put these in a page gallery, but if anyone wants to have a look at them, they’re 1600×1200 just uploaded to the server here.