Friday, 1 April 2016
Gerry and the Holograms interview taken from Feral Debris issue 5.
CP Lee was one of the fragments involved in the creation of this record, not to mention a member of Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias and is now a renowned author and filmmaker amongst other things.
Who was involved in Gerry and the Holograms and how did you meet and decide to form the group?
There were two of us, John Scott and me. We were in the Albertos together and when we were touring we would fantasize about doing different forms of music than we were playing with the Berts.
What were your intentions behind the band, what were your influences? I know a couple of the reviews of the record mention the Residents as a possible influence- any truth in that?
One intention was to be incognito, not linked to the Albertos - hence the cover ...
We'd heard of the Residents because we were friends of Phil and I had been for years before but Red Crayola and 13th floor Elevators were as much in the mix of influences as were others in a more pop vein, if you can call Zappa pop.
Increased Resistance took its percussive riff from the master musicians of Jajouka. The harmony basses idea was from Andy McCullouch who played with Free who occasionally double-tracked his bass in harmony - this idea had been borrowed by Martin Hannet for John Cooper Clarke's 'Sleepwalk'. We took the same idea and put one bass in one speaker and the other bass in the other speaker. The seagull guitar came from an idea of Syd Barrett's that was from a story told to us by our manager Andrew King. Instead of a slide we rolled marbles up and down the fretboard by tilting the guitar. The studio engineer, a guy called Andy Mac, thought we were mad when we told him what we wanted to do but after about half an hour of experimenting he would say things like, "wow that's fantastic, let's put it through a flanger".
Gerry and the Holograms was musically composed, originally for bass. Guitars weren't going to figure at all, but when we got to the studio there was I think it was a Korg synthesiser, one of the first, and John, being a master musician started plinking around on it. We immediately realized that the electronica noises perfectly matched the theme of the lyrics' modernity and we dropped all other ideas of musical accompaniment.
Do you have any overriding memories of recording the first single? And how did Absurd Records come to release the 7”?
John and I started at 10 in the morning and finished at 6 at night with a one-hour gap for the pub. It was completely finished that day the cover had been done before we had even written the song because we just knew that Gerry and the Holograms had to exist. We knew Lawrence who ran Absurd and he was up for putting out anything we did. As we were signed with the Albertos to Logo Records we probably weren't supposed to record for other labels and so the Gerry persona incognito seemed perfect...
There’s a real Philip K Dick feel to the lyrics… 'Did I say there were 16 of me? / I'm sorry, there's only 1 / The others are just fragments / Of Gerry and The Holograms...' was that the kind of effect you were going for/interested in?
Moorcock, Dick, Sheldon, loved them all but no influences there - when we were doing Sleak the stage show, the Pink Floyd's special effects man lent us a laser and a hologram. He explained that if you smashed a hologram, all the fragments would contain the same image. A few months later I was in Edinburgh discussing a project with a tv company and when wandering around I found myself in a hologram shop ... I bought a bunch of pendant-sized holograms - pyramids, eyes, etc. That night I was telling Paul Davis of the Crystal Theatre that if you smashed one the image would be in all the fragments and we decided to try it - it was true! So came the idea of Gerry- you could never get rid of him - no matter how many pieces you smashed him into, he'd always be there!
All these years on it’s a strange and unique record so what was the reaction locally at the time? Were you aware of Zappa championing your record on the radio?
John Peel championed it - presume Absurd Records sent it to him. It was also used on a BBC2 documentary at the time but there were only 5 thousand pressed and they went very quickly and it was always Absurd’s idea to delete upon sellout and never repress - everything was a limited edition (in order to enhance their mystique).
I was sat at home in Manchester listening to Frank Zappa's personal top twenty on Radio 1 when up came Gerry and the Holograms. It would be about 4 on a Sunday afternoon and we couldn't believe it - it was like being blessed by the pope. Up until last year 2009 I had no idea that Zappa had championed it beyond that ...wow!
Did you ever play live?
Does any unreleased Gerry and The Holograms material exist?
No but we went to America and.... One was Gerry meets Charlie the Cheeseplant - apparently the book Super Nature said you could rig up a device to a plant to hear its emotions. We thought we'd record a cheese plant with Gerry backing it. We even took a photograph of a cheese plant with sunglasses in the back of a car being driven to a gig.
Another undone project was "a day in the life of a house". We were going to put microphones in every room and record for 24 hours then we were going to mix it all together and speed it up to 3 and a half minutes long. Gerry was going to introduce it.
The reason these never got made was simply the Berts went to America, all other plans were shelved, and when we came back we were busy doing the tv series Gibberish and that was that ...
Can you tell us a bit about your second single? Was it really a blank 7” glued to a random sleeve? Dare I ask what the concept was behind this and how did it go down?
Yeah. When John Lydon and PIL made whatever that came in a metal box we decided that exclusivity was going a step too far! We decided to release the Emperor's New Music which would be so exclusive that it would be unplayable - the idea being that someone would say, "this is fantastic, even though it was obvious they could not even ever hear it" - we did 500 and they went overnight. By an oversight to this very day I have never had a copy if it, not that it would be of much use! PS they weren't blanks they were returned 45s.
Can you tell us what your previous bands Jacko Ogg and The Head People (1967) and Greasy Bear (1968) were like? I expect they were quite different from the Holograms?
Jacko Ogg was fairly straightforward until the last 20 minutes of the set when it exploded into a freeform psychedelic massacre ... Greasy Bear on the other hand was 4-part harmonies and twanging 12-strings, one in a sense was imagining what drugs were like and the other one was drugs. The Holograms were fully fledged experimenteurs who never lost their sense of humour.