This was always going to be a strange one. As Matt has said, it can often be difficult to experience Coil’s music on its own without delving into the underlying philosophy. These days I’m somewhat distant from both, though I recognise they had a tremendous influence on me in the past.
When I was seriously into Coil (roughly from Horse Rotorvator to Love’s Secret Domain) there was no hope in hell of seeing them live. You’d get newsletters through which promised everything from film soundtracks, to books of photographs, to editions of Scatology on coloured “skidmark” vinyl, which never materialised, but certainly added to the fetishistic appreciation of the package. And there’d be references to playing live… in Belgium… which were cancelled because the organisers wouldn’t provide a herd of sheep to roam the stage…
We missed the support (Githead, a supergroup featuring Scanner, members of Wire, etc) due to cheaper beer across the road. Ocean was packed out, and as expected I wasn’t able to get up the stairs without bumping into old faces and catching up. The amount of people who stayed on my sofa in the 80s beggars belief! People had varying amounts of cynicism and enthusiasm for “the scene”, but it was great to be somewhere with a critical mass of people with a shared history.
Also another opportunity to mix up social circles. There have been a few occasions in the past where I’ve been dashing round trying to see everyone and I’ve casually introduced two people who happened to be standing next to each other and later found out that they went on to collaborate on some project for years. Same thing has happened to me – that’s the best thing about “scenes” – drawing people together and pooling resources and creativity – finding someone who can be the missing bit in the jigsaw.
Coil came on at 9:00, as promised by the soundman, who one of our posse had found in the pub across the road. Full marks for presentation. Mainly black stage, with orange lightbulbs suspended by single wires just above head height. Sleazy and Simon Norris (I think) on synths, surrounded by very tall narrow, shower curtains cum mosquito nets (one black, one white) Jhon Balance bearded in a white straight jacket type thing with his arse crack visible. Plus a smallish square screen with ambient minimal imagery.
Balance is a great frontman – the occasional banter with the audience was very funny and his persona was on the right side of controlled mania. When I interviewed Coil, they said that if they did perform live, they’d be more into doing beat-driven stuff than the pastoral numbers. However tonight was a bit more of a mixture. I liked the more ambient pieces, but did find myself drifting off (which perhaps was the point, I dunno).
It’s a bit prog all this, no? Warbling synths with a bearded bloke in a straightjacket exorcising his inner demons…
It was all “new” stuff (by which I mean “from the last 10 years”!) with the exception of Teenage Lightning, so I can’t make any comment about the merits of live vs living room. It was quite “heady” rather than full on libidinal madness, for the most part. And treated quite reverently. Me and Gyrus were utterly bemused when the bloke standing behind us TOLD US OFF for talking during a quiet bit! For fuck’s sake – this is the dark side of consciousness, the ultimate fusion of magick and technology, sexual deviance and libertarian philosophy – but don’t have a chat when there’s not much happening on stage! Tut Tut!
There was a build up – more filmic material at the end, and more thrashy full on headfuck strobe madness at the end. This was very effective – they know what they’re doing, this lot. I wanted to get lost in it, get completely involved and I did there get there in places. One of the blokes I was talking to beforehand said he preferred the droney experimental performances over the vocal ones and I can see his point – I’ll certainly be checking Coil out again and it would be great to see them perform in a different context, or show a different aspect of their work like that.
My overriding memory of the gig is thinking about the use of children as imagery in industrial culture. When Balance did “All the pretty little horses” it was a tender moment made all the better because of reading nursery rhymes at bedtime.
But often children are used in (post)industrial music as a code for innocence, or sinister danger, or more usually as a way of illustrating your personal neuroses. I can’t see this in the same way now as when I was a single bloke in my twenties. When Balance bellowed “Where Is Your Child Now?” I didn’t think about how parents mess you up, or what I’ve become, or all the alienation business, but “She’s at home in bed, mate!”