I AM DAMO SUZUKI was The Fall’s delirious 1985 homage to Can’s fabled frontman, who these days travels the world on a never-ending tour of improvised music. On May 12, at an event entitled the All Day Ordeal, Damo Suzuki completed the circle when he sang with Imperial Wax, AKA the last line-up of The Fall, making their first public appearance since the death of Mark E Smith in January.
Their once-only live meeting took place at Salford’s White Hotel, a cool loading bay-type dive sited on an industrial estate near Strangeways prison. The unrehearsed show was a balance of havoc, discipline and the shamanistic gate-opening abilities of a master extemporiser. Stationary within dry ice clouds and lit by LED strobes, Suzuki could be seen in silhouette as he gripped his microphone and growled, howled and babbled wordlessly, adding rhythm and eerie texture to Imperial Wax’s psychedelic northern funk (and just as Can’s Halleluwah bled into Happy Mondays’ Hallelujah, were they echoes of prime Ryder and co. blowing in from up the road?). After an hour and a bit of bludgeoning/elevating sonic assault – keyboardist Simon ‘Ding’ Archer added electric noise and insectoid chirping throughout - the gracious singer saluted the group and departed smiling.
It’s striking evidence of Suzuki’s vigour, astonishing considering that the singer has recently received treatment for colon cancer. The story of his fight will be told in filmmaker Michelle Heighway’s docu-portrait Energy: A Documentary About Damo Suzuki, which is crowdfunding now. He’s also collaborating on a memoir, I Am Damo Suzuki, with writer Paul Woods, to be published by Omnibus in September. “I’ve been sick for three years, quite hard times,” Damo told MOJO. “But I’m now slowly getting better.”
As for Imperial Wax, they’re also looking forward. Guitarist Pete Greenway, bassist Dave ‘The Eagle’ Spurr and drummer Keiron Melling will go in the studio for ten days in Colne on June 25, recording an album with vocalist Sam Curran, of Leeds-based garage punks Black Pudding. “It’ll never be The Fall,” Greenway told filmmaker Heighway. “We lost an arm and another arm and a leg, but we’re going to still do something, and make it strong and carry on, in the spirit of Mark. It’s ingrained in us now.”
Greenway also remembered “great times” listening to such Damo-featuring Can records as Ege Bamyasi and Tago Mago at home with the late MES. “He said Can saved his life, back in the day,” he says. “So it sort of seemed fitting that we would play with someone that Mark respected.”
And/or read Damo Suzuki’s MOJO Interview in the next issue of MOJO magazine.