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.
As the state of the world makes a real book tour impossible at present, Chris announces a virtual book tour for THE HEART HAS TO ACHE BEFORE IT LEARNS TO BEAT. Look for videos to be posted to Chris’s various social media accounts and elsewhere on the web!
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I will get to the title in a wee bit, it’s worth the wait (sort of). I first met Bill Rieflin very briefly at Southern Studios in 1987, the day I also met Al Jourgenson and Paul Barker. But it was not until later that year, in the summer when I was staying at Julia Nash’s apartment in rehearsals for the (Rieflin-titled) “YOU GODDAM SON OF A BITCH” double live album by the Revolting Cocks that our friendship began. He was at the kitchen table, and though we did not know each other, we started talking as if we were picking up a conversation we had finished earlier. It was about, of all things, the experimental band THIS HEAT. I just blithely assumed that everyone knew this band that I adored, and, well, it seems I was right. We even discussed THIS HEAT bootlegs, then moved on to more general matters, like JOHN GREAVES, bass player from HENRY COW, like you do…
I cannot say that I had no idea we would have a musical relationship that would stretch over three decades—I knew right then that we would. A deep, close friendship that was as easy as it was fun, goofy and inspiring.
In the context of Ministry and Revolting Cocks, Bill was vital: not only as a calm voice of reason, but as an innovator, a catalyst during impasse and a calming presence in the eye of a frequent storm. If it was not for him, I probably would have become a drug addict. He reminded me, without ever saying anything, that the CREATIVE part was always the FUN part, and if it did not seem like fun, we could make it fun. And he did, and we did. Bill taught me how to look at the creative process not as a lateral story with a beginning middle and end; he taught me to ask questions OF the process, he taught me dynamic, when to make it loud, and when to remain silent. He also knew how to bring humour into any given situation.
When we were in rehearsals for “THE MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING TO TASTE” in 1989, we were sitting at Paul Barker’s living room table as he patiently taught me the keyboards to the song “DEITY” which was part of the live set. Rewinding the cassette over and over, we became very curious about the opening line Al sings in the song (which is, in fact, “eyes open, empty as halos”, but we didn’t know that, and Al was not there to ask). We decided that the opening line was, in fact, “TOM & DONNY, HEAD FOR POTATOES”, thus, the creation of our alter egos: TOM & DONNY. We never really decided who was Tom and who was Donny; they were kind of a singular entity for any and all hi jinx that may ensue.
As time passed, it became clear that our musical partnership could not be contained simply within the confines of Ministry, The Cocks and the numerous other projects it spawned. Things started to gain more of a shape for us with my first solo album in 1990, “WHIPLASH BOYCHILD”, on which Bill contributed so much, but I think the defining moment was the song “THE LAST OF JOY” which started as a beautiful piano melody he had written, to which I wrote some words. It was Bill’s idea to put some “crackles” on it: scratchy record crackles… so we went to the local Salvation Army (on Halsted Street), bought the first 78 record we saw (polkas!) and took it back to the studio, playing this record that looked like it had been dragged across a construction site by a dog on the studio’s own VERY high-end turntable, all in the name of art, it sounded perfect. It was at this time that I introduced Bill to the music of SCOTT WALKER when I asked him to learn “The Amorous Humphrey Plugg” (from the album SCOTT 2) with a view to putting it on “Whiplash”. This would become an obsession for the two of us.
Bill was there to coach me through relationships, hardships and breakups; he never judged, he listened, his patience with me immeasurable. He taught me things about music theory to help me compose, he gave me more eureka moments than I can remember, he taught me to own what I did, be proud of how I created, and he also took ideas and cast them in his own brilliant light, yielding some of my proudest compositional co-writes.
The two works that stand out to me are SHIPWRECK and LARGO. Both very different records, but both an amazing adventure in creativity from beginning to end. SHIPWRECK was a band effort, though most of the compositions were mine, we booked two straight weeks for rehearsals and preproduction before setting foot in the studio. The work was hard, but it was not like a Ministry record; it never got frustrating. The days were long, but they were filled with what you wanted to be doing, and everyone walked out of that studio so proud of what we had done. That record still stands up today, and I still get amazing compliments about it.
LARGO was born out of SHIPWRECK in a way, if circuitously, after a disastrous tour for SHIPWRECK (not because of the band or the music, just stupid record company and booking agency crap, the usual). We scurried home to lick our wounds and I was at an impasse, the music business was changing, my record company was in decline because of the heartbreaking demise of its founder, Jim Nash. Bill invited me out to Seattle to write, and LARGO was born. Hilariously though, his intention, and ergo mine, was to make this brilliantly polished pop record… if you have heard LARGO, you will understand that whatever our intentions at the outset, this is not what happened. The title track clocks in at about 50 BPM and is around 8 minutes long, a sedate meditation of disquiet on guitar and piano. It was almost as if we were determined to anger any Ministry fans with no attention span as much as we could. But, as with everything, we had no intentions of anything; if we had set off to write a slapstick comedy script for a movie, then, LARGO would have come out the other end as it was: stoic, austere, challenging and beautiful.
We spent weeks in Bill’s parents’ house with an upright piano and my guitar. We made exquisite corpses with chords and with words: there were days when it was harder, there were days of ferocious creativity, but all these sounds seemed to grow organically through us from this absolute silence. We wrote the album and we would not record it for a while: I left it to Bill to mix, because it’s not my thing, and I KNEW that he KNEW that it would be incredible.
During the composition and the recording of this, I stayed with him and his wife, Francesca. These were wonderful times, games, talks, long dinners, long walks that almost persuaded me to move to Seattle.
Things changed for us: we both became involved in other projects, our friendship remained strong and involved. He would continue to help me out with my records here and there, and he would come passing through with bands he was playing with: KMFDM and then R.E.M. and eventually KING CRIMSON.
The hardest thing for me was how his illness made it progressively harder for him to play until he could not do it. We resolved, some time last year, that I would come out and we would write, unfortunately his fatigue from fighting and from chemo and his pain made this impossible. But we talked when he was up for it: we talked about the records we loved, we talked about MOTT THE HOOPLE and ROXY MUSIC. He still laughed, he still put on his silly voices and made me laugh, his sarcasm and cynicism were, as always, on point as was his love for me, and mine for him.
Bill recognized something in me and not only did he bring it out, but he embellished it, as I think I saw in him too. I LOVE that we got to make this beautiful music together, and I am so grateful that this happened in my life. I am heartbroken that I will not get to do it with him again, but I still have the gifts he gave me that I use in my creative process every day. What a beautiful, kindhearted soul.
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.
Coming November 11 2019, the publication of THE HEART HAS TO ACHE BEFORE IT LEARNS TO BEAT from Shipwrecked Industries, a four-decade retrospective of lyrics and poetry by Chris Connelly.
This book comes two decades after Chris’s last volume of poetry, Confessions of the Highest Bidder, was published, and brings together more early works, collaborations, and obscure, long-hidden gems, as well as his work with Ministry, The Revolting Cocks, Cocksure… and, of course, every solo album.
The book has a beautifully written foreword by Shirley Manson, one of Chris’s oldest and closest friends, and cover photography by Michael Begg.
ISBN and pre-order links will be available in early November — watch this space for more information.
“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.”