Monday, January 17, 2011

Bye Trish

I've just returned from a weekend trip across Europe which took me to Barcelona, a well loved city which evokes a great many memories from over the years. One which I remember particularly fondly, was a B-Music event where I DJ'ed alongside Dom Thomas, a younger Gaslamp Killer and Trish and Jam from our mutually favourite band Broadcast. The event was a great success and remains one of my favourite memories of spending quality time with some really exciting musical minds. A right old knees up! Sadly, in contrast, this weekends trip to the same city was interrupted early on Friday with the unfathomable news that Trish had lost her life to pneumonia a few hours earlier. My reactionary call home was met with floods of tears from my distressed wife and from this point the only place I really wanted to be was at home with Jane and the kids... and my Broadcast records.

In simple terms, I could not believe my ears when I heard the first Trish Keenan record. Today, I find it equally unbelievable that I probably won't hear the next one. There's never a correct time for birth or death, which is why the news this Friday came as such a shock for so many people and the potential personal loss of something as abstract as art and music is also, for some people, somehow hard to emotionally quantify. I've taken Broadcast for granted for most of my adult life and now I'm confused and genuinely devastated.

The release of the first Broadcast record marked an unannounced significance in my life as a quasi professional spectator. Broadcast marked my coming of age like the meeting of a special new friend. Which is exactly what it was for many people.

The faceless voice I met on record came to represent a ghostly sister or brother that I never had, sharing lonely and intimate talks about realistic car parks, believable libraries and totally plausible classrooms. At times, the voice came in the form of a lost primary school supply teacher or your seldom seen youngest auntie who then disappeared. This might explain why when I was first introduced to Trish Keenan in person by Rob Mitchell at Bowlie weekender I was utterly terrified, then, within a matter of friendly uttered syllables, was sweetly normalised. She was, of course, human, and probably more human than most of my music making friends.

I'll never forget the moment I heard Friday's inconceivable news. Amongst many other brilliant memories of the woman who I still consider to be the most important voice in modern British pop music, it's the private mementos that are the most profound. When I first heard 'Echoes Answer' I felt like somebody was telling me a deep secret. When I first heard 'Distant Call' I felt like I was finally being forgiven after some lengthy family dispute. I honestly never knew that this was possible via pop music.

Trish was far from the jamming front man, as popularised by the macho music UNdustry, who would simply throw rhyming buzzwords at a dry wall of guitars until something stuck... for Trish, not one syllable went unpondered and her wordplay was expertly interwoven using Letterist influences and hard earned poetic license.

It's becoming hard to talk about Trish in the past tense because to me she has always represented the possibilities of the future and a heightened creative process that people within pop music rarely achieve. The common limitations of human perception, patience and perseverance means it could take a life time for some people reach the Keenan degree. I won't call her superhuman, but unlike Trish, I’m not poetic enough to find a better description.

While donning the unconvincing A&R man disguise over the years I would regularly piss-off my own artists, on a label primarily influenced by Wurlitzer Jukebox, constantly and casually referring to the Broadcast benchmark like John Peels Fall tick box system.

Even with long gaps between records Broadcast's albums would never outstay their welcome, evoking unwaning poignancy until the next rewarding chapter, more like good films than pop records. Broadcast were entitled to be perfectionists because in this rare case perfection was achievable. And I adored and admired the fact that it didn't come easy.

From where I stood and waited, the rewarding painstaking process of Broadcast songs were like the work of an eastern European animator with the most assiduous of working methods, that would, for lesser pop stars prove unsustainable and out-of-synch with the whinging industry. But Broadcast were a rare example of genuine hard working fine artists who made sacrifices to communicate craft with everyday people. I've never seen eye to eye with perfectionists...but Trish has never made an imperfect record...not one blot on a 15 year old copybook.

While transcending pop whims Trish's growing passions had recently found her moving into creative writing, fiction and sound poetry. Any single piece of Broadcast's 15 year legacy is omni-relevant and as a constantly evolving and challenging voice. It's devastating to think that she had barely even begun her creative journey. She was one of the only people to persuade me to release a financially doomed spoken word record, she emailed me her own personal review of the record when it came out which made it totally worthwhile.

Without delving too deeply I feel it's important to make a small reference to Trish's own very physical song writing process which unconsciously resembled an Ester Krumbachová backdrop or something from an alternative Canadian school room. Without knowing it she was also a conceptual visual expert working and arranging her words in Sister Corita Kent's doppelganger print workshop.

A few times over the years, Trish sent me demos of new album tracks asking for a critical opinion. Naturally they ticked all the right boxes but also put all sorts of new boxes on the matrix. Personally I was flattered that she valued my taste in records although I felt totally unworthy to judge the mighty Broadcast (I felt the same way when I remixed The Booklovers in 1999 - mission impossible) I suppose I'm trying to illustrate her humble nature towards their own music. The fact that they were probably the ONLY band I've ever known to sound even better than their vintage influences is maybe something I should have told her, but she was never digging for compliments.

While trying not to gush-a-lot the music of Broadcast means the world to me. After absorbing the expanding songbook of Trish Keenan the disposable language of pop music soon reached such a high benchmark that I accidentally stopped listening to English language music out of frustration. It's a big world out there so why accept anything less than the best. Trish Keenan, for example, wouldn't.

This is why Broadcast in many ways act as a clearly annotated instruction manual to my own otherwise nonsensical record collection. Losing Trish Keenan is potentially like losing the bag of Swedish screws. But her legacy represents the glue in my misinformed musical penchants. Her varied sonic mood board of Czech cinema, random Indian and Malaysian charity shop finds, Italian library music and French sound poetry - when added to her inimitable kitchen sink optimism - proved how an open mind goes hand-in-hand with super-creative communication. Again Trish, unknowingly, wrote the rule book. For selfish reasons alone I'm absolutely heartbroken to have lost her.

The fact that she also looked like a stunning Godard extra in plimsoles and parker coat became a small immaculate detail in her beguiling and utterly enigmatic personality. I don't know if I’m quite ready to hear her voice just yet. 

Jam Cargill, is of course, and always will be, the other zen master, and my eternal respect for him is, at this moment, accompanied by all my love and strength. I hope a sense of eternal family pride will go some way to confounding your heartbreak. Whether you know it or not Broadcast are indestructible and occupy a genuinely special and private place in the hearts of a generation. A place where you are warmly welcomed. To Tim and Julian, as well as the other past members of Broadcast who I never met, my heart goes out to you - as well as the zillions of global Broadcast torch carriers who feel a huge loss of which we'll sadly never learn the true depth. It's a huge privilege for us all to have shared such a precious legacy. The wall of words will never tumble. Bye Trish.




Thank you for those words and for sharing your link to Trish. She was our guideline, and my bandmates and I have talked about her every singleday for years. We are shocked and devastated and we feel empty, as if there is noone left to show us the way. She introduced us to a multitude of worlds. She taught us how to listen and her voice will carry us forever. We share your pain and we also share this legacy now.

JulesLt said...

There have been many tributes, but only one that has brought a tear to me eye. Thank you.

Paul Bareham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fernanda obregon said...

as tricot rouge said, thanks for sharing your words about trish.

i'm devastated as well. she was very very special for me.

i wish us all strenght to overcome this loss.

Karel said...

Mr. Andy Votel, I have long considered you the best DJ (mixmaker, collagist, etc.) in the world. Your sonic journeys have accompanied me on (and amplified) my own journeys, you are a fantastic radio station of your own on the road. Your words about the greatest band in the world... wow. There are only so many special artists in a lifetime who send you on a quest, to seek out their influences, to hear what they hear, to hear music in a whole new way, and without doubt Broadcast have been prime among those. Such a truth I won't forget, to quote this insight you make: "The fact that they were probably the ONLY band I've ever known to sound even better than their vintage influences..."

Bless you.

carl robin said...

thank you for this. it's sad news. i met trish only a month ago when they toured in australia, she was the most friendly and humble person. her music and creativity will continue to delight and inspire generations to come. i take solace in knowing that through her music she will always be with me and others for many years.

SC said...

Beautiful tribute. Thanks a lot.

Keith Seatman said...

What a wonderful tribute. Having been drifting in and out of what I think are my favorite Broadcast songs. At the moment I have settled on Papercuts. This gives me goosebumps and Trish Keenans voice absolutely haunting. Again what a great tribute. Thankyou.
Don’t be so afraid
You’re bound to make mistakes
No matter who or where you are
You’ve got to be willing

Unknown said...

Thank you.

twiggy said...

thank you for articulating so much about music as beautiful and elusive as trish's. a fitting tribute for such a giant.