The Story So Far

 

This project, taken altogether, is a ridiculously ambitious effort. It started in the summer of 2007 as a series of songs to be inspired by Alfred Jarry's "Ubu Roi." One early goal was to approach the space between songs in a new way, using connective dialog and ambient noise as bridges, while remaining true to Jarry's anti-theatrical methods. This led directly to the notion of a live "radio play" that would unify the concert set. The motivation was not so much a "concept" performance but a way to manage the "silence" between songs so that the spoken word is manipulated with a jazz sensibility.


[Sorry... what we wanted to do is only what we have always tried to do, which is nothing more than to make a cool mess. Lots of people don't understand this concept and so we feel obliged to tart up the language.]


David Thomas planned to sing all the cast characters himself. With the encouragement of Glenn Max, musical director of London's Southbank Centre, the project evolved into a theatrical production. Still, Thomas determined that the band itself should not only play the music but also take on all cast roles, all production duties and design/perform all the choreography. Serendipitous meetings modified the plan. "Bring Me The Head Of Ubu Roi" premiered over two days at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, April 25 and 26, 2008. Sarah Jane Morris (ex-Communards, Happy End) had been recruited to sing the role of Mère Ubu. The band's soundman, Gagarin, an ambient electronica recording artist himself, augmented the live sound. Unique film-makers, The Brothers Quay, produced a series of animations - projected wide screen these framed the anti-naturalistic staging dictated by Jarry.


An on-going effort to turn the theatrical production into a film, directed by The Brothers Quay, prompted Thomas to assemble an audio storyboard. At the same time the script was revised and improved into Version 2 of "Bring Me The Head Of Ubu Roi" and was incorporated into a recording known as The Radio Play, which includes all dialog, songs, and ambient sound, and achieves the original vision for the project.


"Long Live Père Ubu!" is the album of songs that was the genesis of the entire mess. It is a great leap forward in our pursuit of hyper-naturalistic recording techniques by which we replace microphones in the studio with wooden boxes, junked radio speakers, metal horns, and electrically charged window panes. Sound itself becomes the narrative. Everyone is going to hate it. We know that. The story, though satiric and comedic, is utterly bleak, lacking charm (the usual counter-weight to the band's noire tendencies) and devoid of redemption. Few people have ever read Ubu Roi, fewer heard of it. Wonderful. Altogether two years of work. Père Ubu, the character, ruined Jarry's life. And now he's ruined our career. This thing is our Waterloo, our Bridge Too Far, our Pickett's Charge.

Well, somebody had to do it.