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A View From Saturn
Despite mankind’s best efforts to explore the monolithic vacuum that engulfs our Mother Earth, only a fistful of rigorously trained astronauts and a few confused animals have been successful in breaching our earthy stratosphere – and what’s more, they required trillion dollar spaceflight technology in order to do so. Failing Richard Branson’s hair-brain commercialisation of space travel, A Culture Less Ordinary has assumed mission control of a project that aims to prove that deep space travel is more than just mere scientific speculation, but a state of mind.
The theme – Space Is The Place [trailer above] – is an homage to the cult film of the same name created by the late prodigal son of Saturn, Sun Ra: an esteemed polymath of musicianship, poetry, philosophy and interplanetary funk. Blazing a trail as a progenitor of electronically synthesised jazz during a glittering career that spans across five decades (1956-1993) and over 200 albums, he devised a pseudo space-age persona claiming his was of the ‘Angel Race’ – the native species of Saturn – and assumed the title Sun Ra.
On Saturday 3st August, the Kazimier will host Space Is The Place: a visually and musically immersive tributary celebration of Sun Ra’s body of work and on-going influence on popular culture. The event will be rocket powered by Liverpool Psych Fest Psound Psystem with guest space cadets including United Vibrations, Spaceheads, We The Undersigned and The Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band amongst others. Bido Lito! spoke to Paddy Steer – one of the founding members of the verbosely named The Part Time Heliocentric Cosmo Drama After School Club – ahead of his performance at Space Is The Place to discuss the Cosmic Pharaoh and the formation of his 12 piece tribute act.
Bido Lito!: The event – Space Is The Place – is named for Sun Ra’s 1987 cult film of the same title. Can you tell us about the film’s legacy and how it’s influenced you creatively for this project?
Paddy Steer: The 1974 film Space is the Place, Is a hugely optimistic work at a time amongst a backdrop of serious prejudice and social problems facing blacks all over the USA. The riots in Watts and later in Chicago after the assignation of Martin Luther King had happened a few of years before. It's a humorous film despite all the misogyny and darkness of several key characters – redemption though space travel is even and finally offered to the junkie-pimp woman beater – because he has no sense of his worth living in a repressive USA.
I love the period ‘70s colour of the film, the hammy 'acting' – especially of Sun Ra – you get an idea that he was hiding nothing; it was a vehicle for education and positive thinking through music. Basically… try not to treat other folks like shit and make music that doesn't just opt for the lowest common denominator, music that reaches out. There's also lots of great partial big group performances.
BL!: You’re one of the 12 members that comprises of The Part Time Heliocentric Cosmo Drama After School Club – one of the acts performing at Space Is The Place – how would you describe your musical style and performance?
PS: The style is in the name, we're bowing our heads to the genuine article, interpreting the spirit of Sun Ra and his many musicians, performances and records and daubing it with a Saturn/Lancashire postcode. The performance will be joyous, chaotic light and dense and slightly am-dram. All the music we play is by Ra.
BL!: What was the impetuous behind the formation of band?
PS: We formed this group especially for this event, I completely misheard the script and decided I heard Rory and Ken [from A Culture Less Ordinary] tell me to get a big band together just to play Sun Ra music. We should be 13 strong on Saturday.
BL!: How did you come to decide upon such a verbose and extravagant name?
PS: Graham Massey the Waspist/Clarinettist/Bass Clarinettist came up with the name, along with another 20 or so - enough to keep us in posters and vinyl releases for four decades (or about one year in Ra time).
BL!: Can we expect to find any cosmic and otherworldly installations and happenings at the Kazimier in coordination with the theme and your performance?
PS: Well, erm, I don't know really. BUT, we'll have 12 tabards made from 12 serendipitous pieces of sequinned cloth found in a bin bag that had lain in a cellar for 12 years in the house of a bee keeper in Whalley Range. Also, some two way stretch purple velvet sequinned TYPE-A cosmo hats and optional stretch sequinned head bands.
BL!: Can you tell us a little bit about why you think Sun Ra is such an influential figure and worthy of such a homage?
PS: It's the vast amount of music Sun Ra that released: his humility, humour, great leadership at the expense of commercial gain, the fact that he kept a core of dedicated musicians for four decades in sometimes huge groups, he remained calm against ridicule from jazz critics and cynics. He could clear out the chafe with a good 'space chord'. Sun Ra stood for the underdog. His records are generally anything but glossy (although to me, that's sometimes a good thing). Most of all, he could write a good tune.
BL!: And finally, is space really the place?
Space Is The Place takes place on Saturday 31st August at The Kazimier with a limited amount of earlybird tickets available from The Kazimier or Mello Mello.
Alternatively, you can purchase tickets from the Bido Lito! Ticket Shop here.