First of all, a sincere word of gratitude to those of you who listen and read what I write! I do not take it for granted, and I am privileged, so THANK YOU!
Also, thank you to everyone who participated in the Largo fundraiser. This year, we raised over $1,350 for the Floyd & Delores Jones Cancer Institute in memory of Bill Rieflin.
2021 was a remarkable year for me. It saw the release of THE BIRTHDAY POEMS, which was the realization of two years of research for what I wanted to be a book originally, but organically and alchemically and spiritually became an album, which was written and recorded during lockdown of 2020. Being able to work remotely in isolation but so closely with CHRIS BRUCE and MONICA QUEEN proved that indeed, distance was just a number (and a bit of a time difference) yet we were so connected. THE BIRTHDAY POEMS is work I am proud of, the “if I pop my clogs today, I am satisfied” kind of proud (though I want to stay around!!). The videos created by MATT WALKER & DERICK SMITH (Tae the Poets), IAIN MUTCH (My Father Took Me Everywhere), and KIMBERLY BLESSING (Let Us Be Hushed) were amazing, beautiful, and humorous foils to the album, as was GILLIAN WHISKER’s evocative photography of Edinburgh.
In June, I played three nights at the GMAN TAVERN in Chicago, highlighting THE BIRTHDAY POEMS and my recent book, THE HEART HAS TO ACHE BEFORE IT LEARNS TO BEAT. It was a wonderful experience before an appreciative audience; it felt amazing to play live again, to share stories, sing and read aloud that which I had written, again, a privilege.
The year also brought AMERICAN PARASITE by THE JOY THIEVES, for which I provided all the vocals. Born out of political frustration, humanitarian panic and anger, I could not censor myself or “nice up” the vitriol against the wave of enraged and powerful music I was given to sing on whilst soaking up CNN to a soundtrack of CRASS. The album was born screaming and fighting, and I am very bloody proud of that, too.
In September, I teamed up again with PAUL BARKER, this time to mine the LUXA/PAN treasures of the earlier WaxTrax days. As a duo, we played COLD WAVES in Chicago and LA as well as playing Brooklyn with our old pals FRONT 242. It was nostalgic and a lot of fun.
I feel fortunate to be able to move forward creatively and still be able to acknowledge what I did decades ago. I am looking forward to 2022 as I busy myself with SONS OF THE SILENT AGE, as well as a number of writing projects. Keep an eye on Bandcamp — there is new music on the way as well as some reissues/resurrections from the past.
(…and here is my top 10 for the year!!)
1: CIRCUIT DES YEUX “-io”
2: LINGUA IGNOTA “SINNER GET READY”
3: NICK CAVE & WARREN ELLIS “CARNAGE”
4: AROOJ AFTAB “VULTURE PRINCE”
5: L’RAIN “FATIGUE”
6: PASTOR T.L. BARRETT “I SHALL WEAR A CROWN” (REISSUE)
7: ADAM GEOFFREY COLE “FALLOWING”
8: JESSICA GALLO “WALK TO THE SUN”
9: ABBA “VOYAGE”
10: NICO “DRAMA OF EXILE” (REISSUE)
Chris’s new album, THE BIRTHDAY POEMS, will be released on Tuesday, June 15, 2021 by Jnana Records. The album draws on Chris’s Scottish origins and interest in Scottish literary history by presenting a fictionalized account of the romance between STELLA CARTWRIGHT and GEORGE MACKAY BROWN, and their friendship with STANLEY ROGER GREEN.
The album is performed by Chris Connelly and singer Monica Queen and features Levon Henry, Dave Eggar, Blake Collins, and Phil Faconti. Long-time collaborator Chris Bruce has produced the album.
To celebrate the release of this new album (and an easing of lockdown measures), Chris will perform to a limited audience on Saturday, June 26 at GMan Tavern in Chicago. More information and tickets are available here.
This very special release has its own website to support the unveiling of this story. Please visit The Birthday Poems for full information and stay tuned…
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.
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:
- A Good Cheap High (live 1992)
- Live Episodes
- Shipwreck Live
- Prayer (A Birthday Tribute to Bill Rieflin)
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)
- In the Loop: Interview: Chris Connelly: Despite Global Pandemic, Releases New Book, Music and Art For Summer of 2020
- ReGen Magazine: ReGen Premiere: industrial supergroup NUKES unveils music video for “Death Sky”
- Chicago Reader: Chris Connelly and Jessica Gallo release a tribute single for late drummer Bill Rieflin
- RTL.de: Die emotionale Geschichte hinter dem Album
- Car Con Carne: ‘Graveyard Sex’ takes the prolific Chris Connelly down a deeply personal road
Wishing everyone a happy and more importantly a HEALTHY holiday season.
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.
Chris’s statement on the album:
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.
- Graveyard Sex
- Infinite Last Wish
- Silk Balune
- Lindsay Cooper
- 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.
This, plus an exclusive video (also made by DON GUNN) will be available on SEPTEMBER 30TH 2020 with ALL PROCEEDS going to the VIRGINIA MASON FOUNDATION, specifically the FLOYD AND DELORES JONES CANCER INSTITUTE.
This will all be available through my Bandcamp page.
I cannot think of a better way to celebrate Bill’s birthday!
Chris Connelly, September 2020
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.
Thank you to everyone for following along, commenting, sharing and reposting… we hope you enjoyed the videos (see the full list below) and hope you will enjoy the book!
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!
Follow Chris’s official accounts on these social media platforms:
THE HEART HAS TO ACHE BEFORE IT LEARNS TO BEAT is available now. It is published by Shipwrecked Industries, ISBN 978-0-9664065-7-3.
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.
Chris is happy to announce that THE HEART HAS TO ACHE BEFORE IT LEARNS TO BEAT will finally be available on March 31, 2020.
Forty years, twenty solo albums, numerous musical collaborations — this book contains the lyrics and poems to over 350 works, with a foreword by Shirley Manson.
To celebrate, Chris will autograph copies of the book for a limited time. Orders are being taken at Bandcamp, and books will start shipping before the retail sale date at the end of the month.
Paperback, 456 pages, published by Shipwrecked Industries.