dj ordeal: interview with a vamper
(february 2006)

Contrary to what seems to be the accepted wisdom, I find that one becomes more open minded the older one gets. Way back when I were a mere whippersnapper I would have dismissed the work of DJ Ordeal as not being "proper" music, you know - with guitars and that sort of thing.

DJ Ordeal, Maureen (Johnny Kane) 7" How Scott Walker would've made Mathilda if he'd lost his voice, had access to a vast film library to scour for samples and was in the mood for gloom-laden breakbeats.

DJ Ordeal, John (Sparticus Stargazer) LP Inside, there's a handy crib sheet of the records that were manipulated into the montage but you'll do well to spot them in slowed down, speeded up, overlaid, underlaid, unmade and backwards versions.

Thankfully, preconceptions and the need to put everything in pre-determined pigeon holes tend to be lost as experience leaves its mark. Now I think the good Mister Ordeal is right there on the edge, the furthest edge of the known galaxy; boldly going where none has gone before and bringing us back strange unlikely tales of all that he's seen and heard.

DJ Ordeal, Magic Trick CDR DJ Ordeal lives in a dank, dark and smelly bedsit where he spends his days asleep and his nights chiselling out unlistenable tracks from his 80s pop and electro record collection.

DJ Ordeal, Song 4 U (Sparticus Stargazer) 7" He, dishevelled naturally, has one elbow raised high above his head, the better to angle his index finger onto the pause button of the 4-track. The other arm conducts the symphony inside his head, the symphony he is building with the invisible orchestra locked into the grooves of the records he has scattered around the room. This is Ordeal's genius. Liberally layering records one atop another, he creates.

I would suggest that most readers of this journal are of an adventurous ilk (when it comes to music at least) and therefore should have room for a DJ Ordeal release somewhere in their music collection. I'd also say that the Ordeal's Big Band 7" would be the best place for a novice to start, but that's just my opinion - I thought it was one of the best records of all that came out that year (2003) in the whole wide world.

DJ Ordeal, Ordeal's Big Band (Sparticus Stargazer) 7" Wow! The magical DJ painstakingly weaves a tapestry of big band samples into his own quite wonderful big band, an orchestra like no other. And what does he do for the other side? Why, he produces a half-century spanning collage of telephone ring tones that predate the horrible tinny ones that people have nowadays. This may not be a work of genius but if it isn't it comes close and is way out on its own for individuality.

DJ Ordeal/vb12, Usher/Usherette (Sparticus Stargazer) 12" A touch of blues is played by half a dozen mechanical pianists whose batteries are running out and there's a big crowd, a very big crowd. You swim through them and down, deeper into ocean until the seabed itself rises up and it's really a flying saucer; the chattering gnomes inside don't mind dropping you off as they're going your way and soon you're back in your comfy old chair again.

Never an ordeal, we sat down with the man and a few questions.

How long have you been making music under the DJ Ordeal marque?

It all started around 1997.

Was there any specific inspiration or influence that drove you to create?

I shall have to blame my good friend Jason Williams, a noisecian who has been a band member of I'm Being Good as well as his Deepkiss 720 persona. You see, I love all types of music, but this was of a more straight variety, like jazz/soul/country. Jase introduced me to albums of people recording preparation of meals, or a variety of squeaking doors, or strange squiggly sounds, or immensely thudding ones. I enjoyed this because it's funny. So, I wanted to marry the straight with the attitude of fun & see what happens when you sample this music with this attitude.

What is your usual method when composing new recordings?

I get immersed in sounds I hear on records, old tapes (the more mangled the better!) and then I go thru this fairly intense process of taping little bits & pieces, and fading these in & out thru a four track. It takes hours (maybe 12 per minute!) & you get loopy making the loop with a constant stop-start. So things come out never exactly as planned, but I like spontaneity & changing, & mistakes when the tape machines are burning out or failing - it's the surprises that make it come alive!

Are you seeking to arouse any particular response in listeners?

I have to think it worth presenting to people but I know it's not commercial & people may think its absolute shite to their ears! But it is not my intention to upset anyone. It's like making an unusual cake, where you invest ingredients that would not normally go together. So it has an odd flavour, an acquired taste, but you might dig it. If people are hearing something, that's as much as I can ask!

You use an impressive library of source recordings, do you have an awful lot of records at home?

I have a lot of awful records! Financing the pressing of records costs & I have had to sell my best (or at least most sellable) records to feed the habit.

Is there any types/genres of source recordings that you favour?

I think I'll listen to pretty much anything! Audio is audio to me, listening to my little World radio, some ancient tapes, records. Ray Charles is a favourite, always real & making, writing, arranging great records merging a lot of different styles. I love singers, those who can really express & phrase standards that have been done to death & make them sound fresh. I'm thinking Jimmy Scott, Nancy Wilson, Johnny Cash, and I'm mad for vocal groups - harmonies amaze me. I have a soft spot for Captain Beefheart, his music is very enjoyable.

You've done soundtracks for art exhibitions haven't you?

Well I've been DJ at a couple, but it's the artwork I've been more involved with. I love painting, & art is my biggest thing really. This is what really inspired making records - so I could create the art for sleeves & labels!

So is there anywhere we can see your work, apart from your record sleeves?

The last art display I was part of was at this new bar in Eastbourne where an eclectic mix of art was exhibited. So I just fit some art in where I can, either as groups, or as a split with one other artist, or solo exhibitions. Over the years there have been quite a few and this has all been in South East England so far.

You're also the mastermind behind the wonderful Sparticus Stargazer label, is there any label credo?

If its something that I believe would be interesting to share with listeners then I feel I'd like to release it. And I want to present it lavishly, on vinyl with a good sleeve - and definitely less is more!

There's been quite a few DJ Ordeal releases, what's your favourite?

Too many releases some would say! My favourite has to be Wild Orgy because it was the first one. I did this one version & then made another one version which became the first Ordeal record. It's a fun track, & I think the almighty Leopard, Jeff or their other pseudonym Ginger Tom / FelixHelix may create a monster mix. And the Big Band / Phone single was the one that fared best so perhaps that is the highlight.

Are there any plans for the future?

Always having ideas! But to be honest, I don't think there will be much more record wise. Kind of winding down, but enjoying some collaborations. There is this one gentleman known as Stream Angel who does a great record exchange catalogue has kindly asked me to be a part of a split ep of Punk Style, so this may be the next offering.

I certainly hope so, and I'm most dismayed by any suggestion that we won't be hearing too much more from the wonderful Mister Ordeal in the future. The man dares to try things his own way and always comes up with something that's worth a listen. Maybe now the introduction has been done you should think about becoming better acquainted? i.cordell@bton.ac.uk (Laurence)


The Ordeal DISCOGRAPHY

7" Singles

1999 Wild Orgy/ Magic Trick (Sparty 001)
2000 Spook/ Delicious (Sparty 002)
2001 Maureen/Left Alone (Kane 007)
2002 You Win 4 I E.P. (Sparty 003)
2003 Ordeals Big Band/ Phone Or Deal (Sparty 004)
2004 Song 4 U/ Przecuzie (Sparty 005)

LPs (or CDRs*)

1999 Peels (with Gordon Jenkins)* (Quick Latin Handful)
2000 Organistics (2000 SS)
2001 Magic Trick (2001 SS)
2002 John (2002 SS)
2003 Eezee! (2003 SS)
2005 Odds & Sods (PTB07)*
2005 Usher/Guitango (with VB12) (Star 002)

Miscellaneous

2004 Remix Moi 7" - Guitare Bros (1 track) (Recipe 6)
2004 Robots CD - Various Artists (2 tracks) (Herbie 6)


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