Revenu talk about Hull past and present, collaboration and the creative process

We asked Revenu (Liam van Rijn and Joseph Bird) to talk to us about the new piece we’ve commissioned them to create as part of Hull Jazz Festival’s 25th birthday celebrations this November…

What’s your approach to a commission like this, that combines audio and visual elements?

We started by obtaining a variety of field recordings from places all over the city, the plan being to manipulate the sounds and weave them into the performance. As the premise of  the project concerns the ‘sound of Hull’ it made sense to start on the streets, collecting the genuine article. Incidentally this has gotten us thinking about the city whilst also providing a few locations that have been useful for filming.

We’re both quite tune orientated, but for this project it feels more appropriate for the music to drift so as not to intrude on the imagery. When writing parts we try to keep it quite loose, with emphasis on the spaces between the notes.

The accompanying video has a loose narrative, a journey through Hull over the course of a day, and one of the things we’re thinking about is how much the music should/could reflect the changes that are happening on screen; time of day, weather, subject matter etc…

We’re not trying to be genuine; we just see the piece as being an alternate soundtrack to the city.

Liam van Rijn and Joseph Bird

Revenu – Liam van Rijn & Joseph Bird (c) Jamie Akrill

Your new piece draws on Hull’s historical heritage and its contemporary culture. What elements of the city’s history have you found yourselves most drawn to, and why do you think they resonate with you?

Wandering around the wasteland of St. Andrew’s dock the other day, its deep locks all silted up, there’s still a sense of scale and the economic prowess the fishing trade once commanded in the city when confronted by the colossal ‘Lordline’ and ‘Bullnose’ buildings, long since abandoned and vandalised.

It’s quite a melancholy place, and I’m strangely attracted to these ghostly shells that are the only remnants of an area once teeming with activity.

Like any other city, Hull is built on the bones of an older one; its functions and purpose vastly differing from the one that stands today. There’s still a dialogue between these two eras and it’s present in things like faded signs on the ends of terraces, former warehouses now converted into flats, (some with winches still attached) and on roads where cobbles peek out from crumbly tarmac.

The local Flashback newspaper, which shows pictures of Hull’s past, is great to see how the landscape of the city has changed over the last century.

The visual part of the piece tells the story of the city through things that are everywhere and overlooked. Why was it important for you to focus on the things that people might pass by every day without noticing?

Sometimes there is just as much drama going on in disused streets and quiet residential areas than outside clubs and on busy junctions. It’s a drama of a different sort. For some reason it made sense to show the unnoticed and inconsequential things to best illustrate ‘business as usual’; the million acts of normality that occur daily in a city.

Taking these things out of context and seeing them isolated and enlarged, they take on a different persona and the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

When filming I try to avoid anything that has been deliberately placed to draw the eye, (fountains, statues etc.) not out of any system, but because it’s difficult to get an interesting/original shot out of them. So no sunsets over the Humber bridge I’m afraid…

I’m finding that the bits that are embedded in the background often allude to the genuine history of the place, be that industrial, cultural or natural.

People don’t really feature in the film, which gives the impression that Hull is a bit of a ghost town, but the thinking behind it is that we tend to emote more if other humans are involved and I wanted it to come from a more dispassionate place.

The performance of the piece in November will feature a variety of electronic and acoustic instruments. Can you give us a sneak preview of the instruments and musicians you’ll be working with? And what’s your approach to collaborating with other musicians?

We’ll be working with a group of dignitaries who we’ve collaborated with previously, and all happen to be from Hull: James Rushworth (percussion), Pete Minns (saxophone) and Will Blake (bass).

The piece will also feature a smattering of synths, samplers and drum machines.

We improvise quite a bit when we play together, which churns out lots of potential material. Playing in a group, things invariably happen in the moment that can be missed at the time or can never seem to be recreated when you have another go at it, so recording everything is a pretty integral part of our process as it means we can sift through and extract the interesting bits later.

We’ll sketch out a part if we have something particular in mind for a musician and they’ll usually play around with it until they find a version of it that works for them, this keeps the music from feeling less rigid too.

It’s a constant back and forth trying to refine ideas and arrangements.

You can see the premiere of Revenu’s new work at Hull Truck Theatre on Friday 17 November at 7pm, along with the world premiere of a new piece by guitarist Stuart McCallum. You can find more information and booking details here.

The new work has been commissioned with the support of the PRS Foundation.

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Friday Studio Saver deal – two great gigs for £15

Make the most of our Friday Studio Saver deal and see two great shows for £15.

On Friday 17 November we’re taking over the studio at Hull Truck Theatre with a storming line-up of new music.

First up, at 7pm, a double bill of new music from the Cinematic Orchestra’s Stuart McCallum and Hull’s Revenu. Stuart’s creating a new surround-sound piece that’s a love song to the guitar, drawing on his recent work in ambisonics. And Revenu (Liam van Rijn & Joseph Bird) have created a haunting and vivid audio-visual work, inspired by the shapes and sounds of Hull. This is the world premiere of both pieces.

Bill Laurance

Bill Laurance

Then at 9pm we’ve got a solo show from Snarky Puppy’s Bill Laurance. The Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist, producer and composer will be exploring his first love, the piano, enhanced with the subtle addition of electronics. A rare chance to hear Bill play in such an intimate venue.

This ticket offer isn’t available online – you need to call the Hull Truck box office on 01482 323638 or pop by in person and ask for the Jazz Festival Friday Studio Saver deal.

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A Brief History of the Coolest Instrument in the World comes to Hull!

We asked our friends at Serious to tell us a bit more about A Brief History of the Coolest Instrument in the World, heading to Hull Jazz Festival this November:

Throughout 2017, live music producer Serious has been programming multiple events in the UK City of Culture including Favourite Sounds of Hull and the Mind on the Run: The Basil Kirchin Story. Now, we’re bringing our mass participation project A Brief History of the Coolest Instrument in the World to Hull as part of the Hull Jazz Festival, giving you a chance to get involved and play as part of a newly formed guitar ensemble!

A Brief History of the Coolest Instrument in the World is a performance which marks the milestones of the electric guitar’s prolific role through 80 years of popular culture, from Charlie Christian to Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix and beyond.  The performance is led by one of the UK’s most innovative guitarists, founding member of Troyka, Chris Montague, who is joined for this concert by Conor Chaplin (bass), Tim Giles (drums), and Michael L Roberts (vocals/piano).

Chris Montague

Chris Montague

Chris Montague has had a soft spot for the stringed instrument since his pre-teen years. He recalls being enthralled by Jimmie Hendrix’s sounds on his father’s car stereo as a boy and subsequently pleading to be gifted a guitar for Christmas. Since this point, Chris has grown into a professional musician, touring internationally to share his music. Having been selected for Serious’ renowned talent development programme Take Five, Chris worked with the team to develop A Brief History of the Coolest Instrument in the World as a participation initiative– initially piloted with 40 children from THAMES Music Hub in London.

For Chris, picking a selection of the world’s most influential guitar players to include in the show was no mean feat.  He notes he turned to fellow guitarists to take in not just the famous players, but those who had added something important, unique and powerful to the cannon of the instrument. Throughout the concert, Montague looks to move the audience through a mixture of performance and speech, celebrating the versatility of the instrument. The participation element includes base lines, melodies and chords to enable both young people and adults to have fun while taking part.

Performers on stage at London Jazz Festival

A Brief History of the Coolest Instrument of the World at the EFG London Jazz Festival

Both Serious and Chris are delighted to be bringing the project to Hull.

Claire Whitaker, Director of Serious noted:

“Having built up a close and fond relationship with Hull, particularly through our work in the City of Culture this year, we are delighted to be welcoming our friends from the city to take part in one of our most successful mass participation performances, as a partner project to that running as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival 2017. We hope participants will enjoy and learn from the project as much as we enjoy programming it in this special city.”

The project will give 20 children and 20 adults from Hull a chance to play their guitars in unison alongside learning about the musicians who have shaped the course of the music they play from day to day. Taking part is free of charge and open to all guitar players, from beginners to advanced level. The ensemble will rehearse and play music uniquely composed by Chris Montague, and will be able to choose their part based on the level they feel most comfortable with.

We are also welcoming an audience for the performance at the Albemarle Music Centre. Tickets can be purchased here.

If you are interested in taking part in the project, please register your interest by clicking here.

We can’t wait to welcome you!