from the Ontodungeon by The Duds on their own Eeriephone label was
one of my records of last year. Lyrically weird, vocally weird,
musically weird, you could say it was weird. But it was pop. Not
lyrically, vocally or musically. But in spirit. There's never been
a pop record rhyming "perineum" and "Liam" or containing the line
"chowing down on a Bakewell Tart."
now. Eeriephone were immediately asked to be on the compilation
CD with Robots.. #11. They immediately agreed. The Myriad Contortions
of Yolonde Mahwengwe was immediately my favourite song of all time.
I immediately asked to interview The Duds. Nothing else happened
immediately after that. We tossed ideas back and forth about how
we could make a suitably weird interview.
eventually settled on Making Tracts, a documentary tour of the places
that inspired the EP. They were supposed to go to locations of import,
ask each other questions, record the results and send them to me.
Instead, after a stack of "we're working on it.." emails, an orange
floppy disk containing the following interview (in a weird file
format) turned up in the post. It is immediately my favourite ever
interview. The tracks on Tracts are (We Are) Horrid Little Men,
The Likes of You, Theme From The Ontodungeon and Vermiform Convergence.
The Duds, ladies and gentlemen. Get to know them immediately. (Jim)
order to offer some insight into the people and their experiences
that have combined to give humanity "the Duds - 'Tracts from the
Ontodungeon'", I decide to conduct an interview in my car with Dan
Cray and Ku Sun-Tzu (aka the Duds) which will take us to some odd,
offensive and grim but ultimately beautiful sites in their home
town of Exeter, Devon.
first stop will be St Michaels Church, just off St Davids Hill,
where, whilst doing some voluntary work as a gardener on a rainy
Wednesday in 2002, Dan spawned the most part of "We are Horrid Little
Men". I ask who they might be. "Just really insecure blokes" Dan
replies, "of which there seem to be many". "Last year sometime,
on a Wednesday, it was just me, a trowel, pissing rain and a lot
of repressed sexual rage.... and I processed a lot of emotion and
imagery whilst kneeling in a puddle".
transpires that much of Dan's disdain is born of his time in Bristol
in recent years, St Pauls to be more precise, where he observed
many young men lose their swagger when it turned out not to be such
a cool place to live after all. " It may sound strange, but Bristol
left me with a lot of issues to deal with, and I guess it could
have been anywhere, but I think I dealt with a lot of them whilst
ripping weeds out right here, although they've grown back a bit,
as you can see.". So maybe "....Horrid Little Men" is the resting
place for many of Dan's demons, and it all began here. Talk turns
to perhaps improving the ambience of the garden for the benefit
of the numerous intravenous drug users, drunks and horny couples
that pass through here after dark. "Perhaps a dartboard for the
syringes, and a nice overhanging rhododendron for the lovers."
so to the inspiration behind "The Myriad Contortions of Yolonde
Mahwengwe"; a song which appeared on the last Robots.... CD. Luckily
it's just round the corner at the community centre on St Davids
Hill. Life in this case imitates art, as Yolande Mahwengwe is a
fictional character born out of some comical yoga sessions Dan had
here, but who turned out to be a real person he met later up north
somewhere. "I was at a party or something, and there she was. It
was her! Initially she was just an imaginary archetypal yoga instructor,
all arms and no grace, all misinformed and alternative, overpowering
but ridiculous and fat." The real Ms Mahwengwe was slightly diluted,
but it was her, for sure.". Dan asks me to point out that fat chicks
really do it for him.
in 2002 Dan and Ku were out and about with a tape recorder looking
for ambient sounds when they decided to stalk a netball team. In
view of the fact that they were all wearing skirts and had powerful
legs, and in sufficient numbers to not get worried about two odd
looking fellows behind them, Dan and Ku saw fit to follow them across
town to the Mud Dock, a club on Exeter's waterfront. They caught
one of the larger ladies on tape, referring to the establishment
as "... a fucking shitehole" with such venom and sexiness, that
they both feel compelled to establish if it's true (This expression
appears at the end of "The Likes Of You"). I point out that I can
confirm it's status as a shitehole without having to go anywhere
near it, esp. on a Fri night, but that's where we're headed.
buy some inferior quality drinks for silly money. Paying more for
piss does not make it taste any nicer, but we sit down and take
in the ambience. Blank boys with spikey hair sit around looking...
blank. Ché Guevera stencils adorn the walls. Ku wonders how
many people in here know more about him than that he's "cool on
t-shirts". He then concludes that this is nevertheless Duds country.
If hair wasn't already standing up it sure would if Messrs Cray
and Sun-Tzu unleashed their creation in here. As I peel my notepad
off the table, we conclude that it doesn't really matter what you
present to Exeter's youth in terms of style and culture, they will
carry on fighting and vomiting regardless. There's Horrid Little
Men in here and the venomous young lady in a netball skirt was right.
directs us to the industrial estate of Marsh Barton to visit the
municipal tip and experience the smell from the glue factory whilst
we're parked under a buzzing pylon. "What we got here then? Pylons,
barbed wire, weeds, wheely bins, seagulls, portacabins, dumpsters.
People round here don't value books so you can buy great literary
works for 10p." says Ku, "....we both bought Chambers 1901 dictionaries
here." It's the barrenness of the place that pleases Dan. Last time
he was here a fat bloke tried to sell Dan a bike. Dan doesn't ride
bikes and you can tell that by looking at him or talking to him.
He says he would feel safe here at night simply because it's "totally
devoid of humanity."
reminds them both of Robocop. The pylon becomes a focal point. "It's
fucking beautiful" says Dan. "Just pause and take it in!" It reminds
me of the Public Information Film in which poor Jimmy flies his
kite into one and ends up in a dead smouldering heap in the grass.
There is certainly something awesome about the sinister presence
of these ugly power carriers. They're hugely representative of some
of the ugly constants of modern life that 'Tracts from the Ontodungeon'
identifies and portrays so well.
light fades we opt for a trip back "up town" to chow down on Bakewell
tart at Dan's home near the prison. We pass a three legged Spaniel.
This wouldn't happen to me without Duds on board. Talk turns to
the wormery at St Sidwells Centre, somewhere else in Exeter, that
Dan monitors and draws solace and inspiration from (listen to "Vermiform
Convergence"). "You can feel the heat from their underground activity,"
he says, "and they're really elastic. I cut a few in half once while
I was planting some raspberries.". I ask what draws them out of
the soil. "Formaldehyde," replies Ku. "According to an expert, neither
half lives if you cut them in half. It's a myth." says Dan. We nearly
crash on Exe Bridge Roundabout.
9.20pm we arrive at Dan's house. To get into his main room, loosely
known as the Ontodungeon itself, I have to negotiate the most dangerous
electric bar fire I've ever seen. I'm greeted by a sea of empty
biscuit wrappers, cutlery with fluff attached, and swelling bin
liners. Voivod comes out of the stereo. This is a band very close
to Dan's heart for many years. We commence Bakewell tart intake.
It's in Dan's other room that he wrote "Cold Extremities". As if
it wasn't obvious, this is about the cooling effect of a chilled
Bakewell tart binge on a summers day with the electric fire on full
power. These brilliant tarts are fairly central to Dan's life, it
seems. We opt out of a trip to the wormery as it's dark and their
relevance to "Vermiform Convergence" is already established. They
were intended to star in a video for the song. This idea was scrapped
when it became clear that they put on a show for nobody and merely
give off warmth through their secretive activities.
as Rocket from the Crypt plays us out, and Ku and Dan wrestle with
a recently crashed computer on the floor, I drink my tea and finish
another tart. Suffice to say this has been one strange but beautiful
journey. It's refreshing that these Duds are in no way trying to
be clever. Neither had a plan, it just came out this way and it
is genius beyond their knowing. They just go about their odd, slightly
defeatist but wholly endearing ways of life and fortunately express
themselves in "stinking bitch-core electro-folk" ways. It's totally
bullshit free, at times with tongue firmly in cheek, and it rocks
as long as you don't want it to. (Interview: George Caveney, Pictures:
Dick Vabsland, Ricardus Magnus Exon Imperator, Dr. Tegwyn Harris).
PO Box 208, Exeter EX4 7WD