Tae the Poets! tells the story of how Orcadian writer GEORGE MACKAY BROWN was coaxed out of his shell to join the “clamjamfray of poets” (so-called by Stanley Roger Green) who congregated at the Abbotsford Bar on Rose Street in Edinburgh, while also being a rousing toast to all Scottish writers.
Just yesterday, Spill Magazine premiered the video, and we were honored by their words: “This track has a feel good rating of 10, while actually capturing a point in Scottish history that few know about. Who are these personalities that inspired this album? Track by track, Queen and Connelly shall unveil why this story is so captivating and motivating. What we can say for now is that this track is brilliant and a delightful surprise. It has us eager to hear more from this duo, willing to learn as the reveal these highly relevant personalities in Scotland’s recent history.”
The video is an amazing creation by Sons of the Silent Age collaborator, MATT WALKER, and photographer DERICK SMITH. It was filmed at GMan Tavern in Chicago and the handcrafted glasses which Chris sports in the video were provided by State Optical Co.
What are you waiting for? Grab a pint or a wee dram, start the video or song, and raise your glass tae the poets! Slainte!
One year ago we said goodbye to Bill Rieflin. Since then, with your support, the CC community has raised nearly $1,200 for the Floyd & Delores Jones Cancer Institute, which provided care and support for Bill. Today we have another opportunity to raise more funds, to further support their good work.
Back in September, on what would have been Bill’s 60th birthday, Chris and Jessica Gallo released an arrangement of Bill’s song Prayer, from the album Largo.
Largo is long out of print — but Chris has managed to find six copies of the CD and some promo photos to make available to fans as a fundraiser. Here’s how you can get one of these items and support the cancer institute:
Silent auction: Three copies of the CD are up for auction to the highest bidders. Winners in the US and Canada will have the option to make their donation directly to the foundation in order to qualify for a tax deduction.
Raffle: The other three copies of the CD will be raffled off — “tickets” are just $5 each.
Bandcamp: The promo photo sheets (see photo below) will sell for $10 on Friday, April 2nd (the next Bandcamp Friday). Look for them around 7 AM CDT!
Auction bids must be received by 12:01 AM CDT on April 1st, 2021. Raffle tickets will be available through April 1st, 2021 with the raffle taking place on April 2nd. Winners/buyers will be notified on April 2nd by email; they will have the option to have their CDs or promo photos autographed (alas, by Chris only). Our aim is to share the love (or Largo) as widely as possible, so we’ll only accept the highest bid from each bidder, and regardless of how many raffle chances purchased, you can only win one copy of the CD. Use the buttons below to bid or buy your raffle ticket!
Update: The silent auction has now closed. Thank you to everyone who submitted a bid!
Update: Raffle tickets are no longer available. Thank you to everyone who purchased a ticket!
If you wish to make your own tax-deductible donation, please visit the Virginia Mason Foundation Donate Page and select “Floyd & Delores Jones Cancer Institute” from the Designation drop-down. After clicking the button, complete your personal and payment details, and indicate that the gift is in memory of Bill Rieflin in the Tribute section.
It’s the final First Friday of 2020, one of the most unkind years on record for the majority of the world. Musicians have had it particularly hard this year — but thanks to Bandcamp for their Bandcamp Fridays program, many artists have had an opportunity to receive a greater part of the revenue on the sale of their music and merch. Chris thanks everyone who has supported him and his fellow artists via this program.
In case you missed it, Chris created a number of Bandcamp-only releases this year:
And today comes A Many Acted Play, which includes unreleased demos from The Ultimate Seaside Companion, Blonde Exodus, The Episodes, and more. (Note: some of these tracks used to be available in the Downloads section of an earlier iteration of this website but have been unavailable for over 5 years.) You can stream the tracks on Bandcamp (and support, if you wish) now!
Meanwhile, Chris has been busy speaking with the world about his latest full album, Graveyard Sex, releases earlier this year, and about the year that was 2020… (sorry we’re a bit late posting some of these — you know, 2020 and all that)
Today, Chris officially announces the upcoming release of his next album, Graveyard Sex. The album is available for pre-order on CD and digital formats today and will be released on November 11, 2020 by Armalyte Records.
This marks the fourth year in a row that Chris will celebrate his birthday with a new album. Preview the track “The Hypnotic Stand-by” now.
I started writing what would become GRAVEYARD SEX in the autumn of 2019. I had been talking to a very ill Bill Rieflin, who had very recently lost his wife. We talked as we always talked, but he brought up the idea of my coming out to Seattle to work on some new music. I told him I would start getting some loose frameworks to perhaps work from, and we could start with a long weekend and see where we got and move on from there. At that time, there was a sadness in his voice and a fatigue from his illness, but the talk was very much of forward motion.
Sadly, it never happened; he became more tired and more ill, it quickly became apparent that we would not be able to get together and play music again. I continued to work on the music, and gradually the album became loosely based on Bill’s plight, his fight. Not literally, but for the most part figuratively and impressionistically.
The album is rich with musical references from things with which Bill and I shared a love — including the cover, which is a gallows humour homage to ROXY MUSIC’S “COUNTRY LIFE”, an album Bill told me was his favourite in one of our very frequent conversations about Roxy Music. The inclusion of a version of NICO’S “YOU FORGET TO ANSWER” was also a nod toward Bill, in that he introduced me to the song via a mixtape he made me just after we met in the late 80s.
The album’s title came from a joke I shared with Bill in my head. Very often, when I am writing, I use Bill as a sounding board or yardstick in my head to gauge the veracity or validity of what I am doing. (“Would Bill put a solo here? Would Bill think this was funny?”) GRAVEYARD SEX was me coming up with the most goth album title I could… I heard it being hissed through fangs in my head and I almost choked on my whisky, I laughed so hard. But after that, it became an image representing the meeting of death and life: graveyard and sex; and at the same time, it became a noun, a gender, a checkbox on a form? SEX: GRAVEYARD. It is all within the walls of this album.
One of the saddest parts of this record for me is the song “Lindsay Cooper”. Lindsay was musician we both admired, the beautiful bassoon player in the band HENRY COW, who suffered and eventually died from multiple sclerosis, like the tragedy of JAQUELINE DU PRE, the cellist who died from the same affliction. Both fought to keep playing, as did my friend Bill. They wanted to keep playing, and eventually, their efforts were thwarted.
This album is about facing death with life, inviting death into your life and trying hard to accommodate this unlikely guest.
Infinite Last Wish
The Hypnotic Stand-By
The Heart Has To Ache Before It Learns To Beat
For The Love Of The Tension
You Forget To Answer
Looking For A Coda
Album photography and artwork by Derick Smith. Album cover layout by Vlad McNeally.
Video for “The Hypnotic Stand-by” by Kimberly Blessing; shot on location all around Scotland.
CHRIS CONNELLY & JESSICA GALLO “PRAYER”
FOR BILL RIEFLIN’S BIRTHDAY
On Wednesday September 30th 2020, my beloved friend Bill Rieflin would have turned 60 years old. The journey for his loved ones after his passing has been a predictably hard and solitary one, but not exclusively so — despite the ugly cloud of COVID that prevented us from being with each other before and after his death, there have been glimmers of brilliant light that have helped all of us move forward and live with what has happened.
A short while ago, after his passing, a mutual friend introduced me to JESSICA GALLO, a harpist, and a certified music practitioner who became close with Bill, played for him during his long, painful struggle , and ended up collaborating with him, notably on “21ST CENTURY SCHIZOID MAN” by Toyah & The Humans, which was to be Bill’s last recording, and what a recording it is!
In an early conversation, Jessica told me that part of her grieving process was working on an arrangement for harp of the song “PRAYER” that Bill wrote for our 1996 collaboration “LARGO”. The piece is instrumental and I have some hazy memories of trying to come up with lyrics and deciding mutually that it should remain an instrumental for the album. The idea struck me that I should try and write lyrics now, and record them with Jessica and do something that would have absolutely delighted Bill (if only because of our valiant struggle through his labyrinthian chord changes!!!). And of course, what better way to celebrate his life than to issue it with all proceeds going to the clinic that treated and helped Bill during his illness.
So with very special thanks to the incredible engineer DON GUNN, we have two recordings: “PRAYER” – an instrumental for Harp , and “PRAYER” – with new lyrics and vocals by myself.
If you wish to make your own tax-deductible donation, please visit the Virginia Mason Foundation Donate Page and select “Floyd & Delores Jones Cancer Institute” from the Designation drop-down. After clicking the button, complete your personal and payment details, and indicate that the gift is in memory of Bill Rieflin in the Tribute section. Thank you.
The Sun Is A Maze (M-Descent Remix by Dan Milligan)
Also soon to be available is Chris’s book of lyrics and poems, The Heart Has to Ache Before It Learns to Beat, in paperback and digital download formats from Shipwrecked Industries. The book will include lyrics including those for Sleeping Partner, and other collaborative works of 2019.
“Five tracks inspired by artists or artwork I have seen in the last year,” is how Chris explains his latest digital and limited-edition cassette release. “There are a lot of sounds recorded on location in Scotland, including a piano I recorded at the Museum of Transport in Glasgow.”
Out today, 4 July 2019, is a special project to benefit Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), which works to ensure that unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children in the United States have legal representation in their deportation proceedings.
Chris has contributed an original song called “Waiting for Clouds” to this album, on which Chris Bruce also performs.
For the second year in a row, Chris celebrates his birthday by releasing a new album! BLOODHOUNDS is available today, November 11, 2018, through Armalyte Industries. The double album is being released on CD, limited to 200 copies with a fold-out poster and lyrics sheet, as well via digital download formats.
A video for the track “Ascension”, created by Gabriel Edvy, premiered yesterday on the ReGen Magazine website, along with an interview by Ilker Yücel. Check it out!
In addition, Chris has again been interviewed by Megan Walters about his latest release. Let us know what you think of Chris’s latest release, the video, and the interviews in the comments section below.
By Megan Walters
Double album, double fun? Chris and I once again sat down to talk about his new album—this one, his first ever double album BLOODHOUNDS—and all of the emotions, surprises and learning experiences captured within…
Megan Walters: So the album is named BLOODHOUNDS and there are multiple references to the name in several songs. What does the bloodhound represent to you? Did you deliberately include the term several times in the lyrics or did it just happen to be on your mind?
Chris Connelly: The title track, “Bloodhounds”, was actually the last song written for the album, and it was one of these strange afterthoughts that sometimes I suppose artists get when they think they might be done and then something else happens: something gets created and it changes the entire shape of the album or work — like if you are done with a painting and you are about to leave it to dry and you turn back and paint a black stripe or something on it, almost instinctively, and it changes everything. I wrote the song after experiencing a huge panic attack, it came pouring out of me, and it connected to other pieces on the album — it connected a paranoia, a fear of being found out, a fear of being pursued relentlessly and exposed. The bloodhounds are also around in “The Encyclopedia of Haunted Lovers” and “Ascension” to varying degrees. Although to look at, bloodhounds are adorable! One thing that sticks in my mind as a sort of reference is Ian McEwan’s Black Dogs, in that I am just referencing them in those songs, so as to suggest, along with all of the other things going on in these verses, the bloodhounds are lurking and sniffing.
MW: Do your lyrics ever surprise you—as they are being written or afterwards? Do you find your meaning or intent changes with lyrics as you go?
CC: Yes, emphatically. First and foremost because when I am writing, that state of mind is so far removed from any other state of mind I have that I find it very hard to recall actually writing anything. It’s usually a fragmented blur — I honestly can’t explain the process, which I am sure is tiresome for an interviewer! I can say that it’s usually frenzied, then still, then frenzied, then still, then sometimes I might have to come back to it if life interferes.
I think that a creative process certainly exists out of the norm of other processes — or at least it can exist, it’s not necessarily exclusive — but the best stuff, in my opinion, defies any normal trajectory. It exists in its own time relative to the universe, and I also think it can involve some kind of intuitive, empathetic telepathy – and I use that word hesitantly – but I have certainly written lyrics that have in time revealed themselves, almost like a manifest destiny. So, you ask, can the meaning change? I think not so much as they reveal themselves in time, and I think it’s personal to a great extent — or it perhaps casts its light on the people I am very close to, but I might not realize that in my conscious mind at the time.
MW: There are two songs on BLOODHOUNDS that are covers of your own songs—”AAISW” and “F-birds” were originally on Pentland Firth Howl. I noticed that the emotions in these songs are very different from the original, for instance, “AAISW” on Pentland sounds almost apologetic, whereas the new version sounds almost defiant. Did you think about this difference as you were recording? Do you feel differently about songs you wrote many years ago?
CC: I actually rerecorded all of Pentland [Firth Howl] as an exercise. I have been doing that recently for the sole purpose of perhaps — as you suggest — viewing the song, or let’s say the object, from a different perspective. “AAISW” is “An Accident in Scottish Wilderness” and the inspiration, the idea of a car accident in a remote moor, on a winding road, something so incredibly violent happening in this void where no one will be aware of it, it is surrounded by layers and layers of stillness and silence. I remember when I was young, spending much of my time in the Scottish wilderness, I would play this game in my mind where I would look at whatever huge hill was in front of me, and see a thing of amazing beauty and peace, then I could flip it to become something so forbidding and terrifying. (You may remember one of the pivotal scenes in Ed Royal suggests this, and also in the poetry of my beloved STANLEY ROGER GREEN.)
So, in “Accident” (the one that’s on Pentland), you have the stillness, the suggestion of a threat — it’s daytime, and the space in the music suggests the openness. On the BLOODHOUNDS version, it becomes a lot more tribal, a lot more angry. Some of the perspective is from maybe a person close to the accident victim — “I could kill you for driving, but you thought of that first” — anger that they may have been warned not to drive, but did it anyway. I also wanted to reverse the openness and bring a frenzied anxiety to the song. I deliberately tried to use sounds that were almost shrill and dissonant to suggest what the tires might sound like, etc. at the point of impact.
The other song I chose was “The Fidra Birds”, which originally opened Pentland. The song was inspired originally by the traditional “Sinner Man” (Nina Simone version) where the protagonist might “run to the rocks, the rocks won’t hide you”, etc. So, being the party guy I am, I wrote a narrative about the double suicide of a particularly dour (fictitious) Scottish couple, around the time of Ed Royal, when I wanted to start writing narrative songs (which I did not continue with, I am too cryptic). The new version has the same lyric of course, but the music (informed slightly by “Bau Dachong” by the VIRGIN PRUNES) has a similar tribalism to it, like it’s partner “AAISW”. I also wanted to introduce the sound of mourning which is in the backing vocals. In my mind, I was thinking about these images of Scottish widows on the shore mourning a lost fishing boat — all half-remembered images, but I do find I have this amazing glossary up there and I love trying to match sounds to images, or my voice to images, or to feelings or textures. Again, I know I have talked before about my musicianship being the result of being a crap painter!
MW: How has your writing process changed over the years?
CC: I think there are certain things I do that I learned early on that I still use. I have a box of tricks, a box of tools, but the canvas always changes because I am more interested in trying something kind of preposterous rather than writing another song. I am very much inside myself now: there is a lot more spontaneity to my work these days because I trust myself and I don’t go to anyone to ask if what I am doing is good — it’s unimportant. There is a song on the album called “Farewell to Athens”, which is almost completely written spontaneously, and then it was done — I could not go back and change it, it would have been wrong. It is so much instinct these days, I have made so many fucking records at this point, and it’s always an adventure. Things also really changed for me when I started recording in my own studio, total autonomy.
MW: What do you think sets BLOODHOUNDS apart from other albums you have written?
CC: First of all, BLOODHOUNDS is a very deliberate double album. I had 80 minutes of material and it made sense, I was not going to prune it down and save 40 minutes for next year. This album is sequenced to be listened to in that order as well — I didn’t agonize over the order, but it was a eureka moment when I had “Bloodhounds” at the beginning and “Brush Stroke Blues” at the tail end, everything made sense to me. I also think that it’s the zenith of my lyric writing, I felt extremely motivated and inspired. I also found myself in this absolute treasure trove of imagery up in my own mind, I kept hearing things, and seeing things and feeling things and my pen kept moving. I think maybe it’s the end of an era for me that started with NEW TOWN NOCTURNES. When I say end, I can only hope that things will change and go in another strange direction.
MW: Tell me about the really cool, dark cover art. I think you look like a demonic Bond villain! Does the image have a meaning to you?
CC: That was DERICK SMITH and makeup by KAREN BRODY. We were doing a shoot and I wanted to have a cigarette in the shot — as an ex-smoker, I miss them so much, they were such a huge part of my make up! When Derick showed me the shots, we were not planning an album, but I said, “That’s my next album cover, BAM!!!!” I think it’s strong, I LIKE being a 54 year-old man who wears make up because I think it looks cool, it looks sexy and I think cigarettes are really fucking sexy and I miss them and know that’s not a great thing to say, but I love the charade. Derick is very good at capturing what we all LOVE about rock ‘n roll that just isn’t there anymore for the most part. I think the cover is defiantly rock ‘n roll and I love it.
MW: One of the persistent themes in your work over the years seems to be that of being a stranger in a strange land, a sense of not belonging or searching for a “home” that maybe doesn’t exist. How do you feel about this and how strongly do these feelings affect your writing? Does your writing give you a sense of “home”?
CC: Writing does give me a sense of home because it is my home. Unfortunately I don’t feel at home anywhere else. This is simply an observation — I am a very lucky man, I have not been booted out of Syria or run for asylum from a dictatorship. It’s just that I feel like I left Scotland and should have probably gone back and now it’s too late, I feel like I betrayed it, and I just don’t feel at home in America at all. I think that has a lot to do with why I am a bit introverted and hermetic, I have a very small circle I feel very comfortable with, but that’s just fine. I think this keeps coming up in the writing though, a yearning. The song “A Farewell to Athens” exemplifies this perfectly. (Edinburgh is sometimes referred to as the “Athens of the north”.) It was written spontaneously during a particularly bad bout of homesickness (I get it a lot) and it kind of explores the dilemma: do you miss EDINBURGH or do you miss being a YOUNG MAN in Edinburgh? Are you really homesick or just nostalgic? It’s a conversation I should have with my friends who stayed there. Sometimes I’ll drink a few whiskys and blurt out, “I SHOULD HAVE NEVER FUCKING LEFT THE FINI TRIBE!!!” and I MEAN it, I really should have stayed, and I know it’s ridiculous to say, but it was a perfect storm of ideas, experience, sex, hedonism, and learning that I never really got again — I suppose like someone who misses college or something. However, if the six original Finis could find some common ground, I would do it in a heartbeat — I love them all and cherish what we learned together.
MW: I pick up on a sense of passion and/or urgency on a lot of these songs. Although it’s not as stripped down as some of your other work, there is a real feeling of emotion in these songs. How do you balance letting these emotions show without covering them up with the power of the music?
CC: Well, like I said earlier, part of the FUN of what I do is trying to find sounds and notes and chords that reflect what I am saying. I have used this before in an interview but years ago, someone gave me a cassette of the album “AGUAS DE MARCO” by Antonio Carlos Jobim and — I think it was right when I was doing SHIPWRECK — I felt such an amazing emotion from a song that was being sung in a language I did not understand. Actually BOWIE pointed out the emotion expressed in music YEARS before voices and words were being used in classical composition.
BLOODHOUNDS is an emotional album, and it explores, I think, emotions that are on the level of a person my age as well, using a body of experience to contextualize the feelings, which because of that experience are more subtle and maybe more urgent. I am so much more aware of mortality, because of my age, priorities are different, I cling to youth, try to stay healthy — stuff many people my age do — but at the same time, I keep getting these inexplicable waves of vitality. I live in the moment, or at least I try to.
MW: What is your favourite song on the album and why?
CC: That’s hard: I will say “Bloodhounds” because it was born out of a bad, bad situation. I created something very positive out of something very negative, and realizing I COULD do that made me feel that all was not lost.