MYSTERY DICK
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Mystery Dick

Mystery Dick and Pestrepeller are improvising drone rock noise bands based in the UK.

Personnel - History


Personnel

Mystery Dick are Ed Pinsent and Harley Richardson, two artist/musicians from London.

Ed Pinsent is an archivist by day, by night the editor of The Sound Projector, an articulate and imaginative magazine covering unusual and visionary music as well as other noise ignored by the mainstream press. Ed presents a weekly radio show on Resonance FM. Ed is also a cartoonist, creator of surreal, whimsical and avant garde comic strips featuring characters such as Windy Wilberforce and Drake Ullingsworth. Some of his long out-of-print comic strips are now available electronically on his website. In the 80's Ed was a small press publisher, putting out many of his own titles as well as the influential Fast Fiction anthology - he also found time to run the small press distribution service of the same name.

Harley Richardson is a musician, writer, artist and a prolific doodler - see his blog. He contributes reviews and illustrations to The Sound Projector and used to run the TSP website. In days far gone he edited Ugly Mug, an anthology of British underground comic strips. Having failed to ferret his way into The Fall, he plays musical improvisations with various impromptu gatherings of friends from Walthamstow and is a guest musician on several recordings by North London songsters The Original Beekeepers.

From time-to-time Mystery Dick hook up with renowned punk cartoonist and musical agitant Savage Pencil to form Attack Wave Pestrepeller.


THE MUSICAL HISTORY OF MYSTERY DICK

Ed Pinsent (b Liverpool, 1960) had been playing clarinet ever since he was 9 years old, but his more avant musical leanings started in 1977-1978 when at art college. He bought 2 guitars and learned Led Zeppelin songs from tab charts. Dave Pickett, fellow art student at Liverpool and briefly drummer with The Teardrop Explodes, made an offer of forming a band called The Occasional Tables. Nothing came of it.

Ed started to produce solo improvisations at home using his Kay electric guitar and a cheap practice amp. Frustration, pain and bitterness were poured into unlistenable solo excursions. Typical teenage angst. Some were taped onto cassettes, none have survived.

During 1981-1982, Ed met Peter Woodin and Hilary Thompson. Pete Woodin was running a DIY tape label called Erasehead Cassettes for his own musical endeavours, including art pranks like Anyone Can be Eno, and Hilary and The Hummingbirds - a showcase for Hilary’s Lesley Gore songstress aspirations. Hilary and The Hummingbirds produced a live tape What’s Ed Doing? for which Ed contributed a short live guitar solo recorded at a Coventry art school gig. Later Ed, Pete and Hilary (joined by Tone the Bone) recorded a set of bedroom songs as The Donnington Self-Caterers, and Ed made a solo tape September Songs in 1982. By this time Ed was mostly inspired by the songs and sound of This Heat, the Art Bears and Elvis Costello.

Back home at Liverpool 1983-86, Ed learned more chords and songs for the acoustic 12-string, including versions of blues songs by Mississippi John Hurt. He developed methods of improvising solo. Using the family piano, he also learned rudimentary piano methods, copying tunes by The Residents and developing them into extended improvisations. Soon after moving to London, Ed met Harley Richardson - then a young cartoonist in his teens. Ed shared his many musical interests with Harley, and by the mid 1990s they started playing jams together using guitars and keyboards. These early jams were not very original - mostly copies of tunes by Link Wray, Kenny and The Kasuals, The Residents - even Blue Oyster Cult tunes were attempted. But the duo found they had a certain musical sympathy and could produce pleasant two-chord improvisations not far removed from Popol Vuh.

THE MYSTERY DICK IS FORMED

One evening Ed arrived at Harley’s house filled with tension and hate. Without another word, the pair launched into a 30 minute noisy free-form improvisation, with Ed leaning on the keyboards with his shoes and Harley (somewhat bewildered) letting his guitar feed back into the amp. The distorted tape which resulted - known affectionately as The Volcano Tape - effectively began the career of Mystery Dick.

Savage Pencil took an interest as soon as he heard that noisy free-form jams were happening somewhere in London. He joined rehearsals, by now taking place in rented practice studios, and the trio Attack Wave Pestrepeller was born. By now Harley had mastered feedback and learned how to control it with a battery of effects pedals, half the time sounding like a demented 1960s US garage band. Ed had bought a vintage Vox Continental organ and began to drone with strange mixed chords in an eerie way. Savage, the least tutored of any of the band, made an ungodly racket on his overamped guitar or by pumping found recordings through his CD-player.

Wherever Attack Wave Pestrepeller performed, strong men would blanch at the hideous wall of noise, and stare in disbelief at the band’s total musical incompetence.

THE MYSTERY DICK MADRIGAL CHOIR

Savage Pencil conceived the idea of combining the fearsome noise of Attack Wave Pestrepeller with the voices of madrigal singers. The idea was to combine two different sounds, but also two different approaches to making music; the singers, who could sight-read music, would be forced to improvise and sing without sheet music to guide them. The idea was tested in Ed’s London kitchen, causing maximum distress to the neighbours for long, painful hours. The 5 singers struggled to be heard over a cacophony of feedback, organ drones and bitter grunts from Sav’s Rogue Moog synth, although the handheld tape recordings of the sessions magically extracted the true essence of the event.

To realise this idea more successfully, AWP booked time at a studio in Islington. This time three singers turned up and Sav X dropped out. It became a Mystery Dick session, the droning noise somewhat gentler and more dynamic in approach, and thanks to recording technology it was possible to hear the singers. The results (since edited by Harley) are utterly unique music, an uncanny combination of elements the like of which has never been heard. All improvised live in the studio and (apart from a single clarinet solo) with zero overdubs. Ed added semi-religious titles to the long tunes, inspired by an ecstatic holy vision he had received through the stained glass windows of Fairford Church.

THE DICK IS RISING

Mystery Dick have now, through countless bedroom recordings and occasional live gigs, evolved an extremely limited but effective musical language. Harley tapes everything they produce like a compulsive anal-retentive. As they produce diary-mode drawings in sound, the emotionally immature Ed Pinsent is still rarely able to control his feelings and everything comes tumbling out. Sometimes he even falls asleep over the keyboard, hypnotised by the interminable Mystery Dick drone. Harley continues to master the electric snakes of feedback noise, and instinctively knows where the right notes are without knowing what they’re called. He used to use too many effects pedals, but now he’s learning to limit himself.

At worst, their sound lacks any musical foundation, since neither of them really understand how to use chords or notes effectively. Neither do they practice sufficiently to hone their improvisational abilities, so that successful results are not always guaranteed. At best, they produce an extremely coherent and closely woven sound, based entirely on intuition and chemistry arising between the sympatico personalities of the duo. They are thus rather unique. They are more than the music they consume. They can communicate.

THE PATH OF UNKNOWN MYSTERY

Although Harley first approached improvisation with total scepticism, he has since become a convert to the method and has since formed impromptu groups based around talented friends visiting his house. Once, he succeeded in a musical direction that was so unbearably beautiful that a visiting stranger had to come down to the living room to hear. She was a classical musician who had devoted years to learning how to play the trumpet properly. Improvisation was totally outside her frame of reference. When she learned that music could be made so easily and by people with no ‘proper’ musical skills, she burst into tears.

Ed Pinsent continues to sink deeper into insanity and brooding, bitter emotions. At each Mystery Dick live gig, he now starts proceedings by invoking the Ka symbol in order to gain mastery of the cosmic forces. However, the gesture never seems to work. The music seems to work best (like Ed’s old 1970s improvisations) when propelled by anger - taking revenge on incompetent organisers or other egocentric performers who have the audacity to presume they are more important than Mystery Dick.