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Tuesday 13 February 2024

Damo Suzuki R.I.P.

Damo Suzuki, Can's vocalist and front presence, died a few days ago on 9th February. It's fair to say he was a distinctive and unique person, discovered busking in Munich by Can's bassist Holger Czukay and drummer Jaki Liebezeit as they wandered through the streets of the city. He joined them for Soundtracks, released in 1970, and then their run of groundbreaking and massively influential early 70s albums- Tago Mago, Ege Bamyesi and Future Days. His vocals were a singular sound in themselves, freeform and freestyle, switching between English, Japanese and a language all of his own. The singing on those records sometimes seem to bear little relation to the music Can were playing, their own distinctive take on rock fused with jazz/ musique concrete/ avant garde/ whatever, but it's impossible to imagine the songs without him and his stream of consciousness words and non- sequiturs.

After leaving Can he spent a decade out of music before returning in the mid- 80s and in recent decades has toured the world as his own Damo Suzuki Network, playing with bands recruited locally, that he called his sound carriers. When he played Leicester a few years ago, my brother in law Harvey and members of his band had the chance to become sound carriers for one night. At the soundcheck Harvey asked Damo what he wanted them to play. 'Whatever you like', was the reply. So they did just that. 

Scrolling through my social media timeline at the weekend it turns out quite a few people I am friends with or follow have been sound carriers, all of them part of the Damo Suzuki Network, an improvisational, amorphous, ad hoc clan of guitarists, bassist, drummers, synth and keys players bound together by one man, Damo Suzuki. He is of those people of whom it seems very apt to say, we shall not see their like again.

Damo Suzuki R.I.P.

Some music to celebrate the man and his life. First Mother Sky, a Can song from 1970, recorded for the film Deep End and released on Can's album Soundtracks. Mother Sky is a fifteen minute long song, that jumps straight in, one of those grooves that only Liebezeit and Czukay could muster, with a Michael Karoli guitar solo and Damo pondering the relationship between madness and mother sky. 

Mother Sky

In 1985 The Fall, another group with a singular and unique talent at the microphone, paid their own tribute to Damo with the song I Am Damo Suzuki (the entry point for many people into Can in the mid- 80s). The song is from This Nation's Saving Grace, a Fall highlight and one from the Brix period. Mark's opening lines, 'Generous of lyric / Jehovah's Witness / Stands in Cologne Marktplatz / drums come in / When the drums come in fast / Drums to shock, into brass evil', summoning both Damo and Jaki into The Fall's unholy racket. 

I Am Damo Suzuki

In October 2022 I put together a half hour mix of Can songs for my Sunday series, seven slices of pioneering West German krautrock with Damo Suzuki's voice running through it, starting out with some funky Can disco- kraut and ending with a 2007 edit by French producer/ DJ Pilooksi. 

Thirty Minutes Of Can

  • ... And More
  • Moonshake
  • Vitamin C
  • Oh Yeah
  • Future Days
  • Mushroom
  • Mother Sky (Pilooski Edit)


George said...

The idea of sound carriers is great, so they played what they wanted and he did his thing? I suppose there would have been quite a variety of music. Playing the fantastic Mother Sky right now. Can, a groupp not for the faint-hearted!

Swiss Adam said...

I think a lot of the sound carriers would have been quite Can/ Fall adjacent in terms of sounds but he must have played with a good variety of bands.

Swanditch said...

I learned about Can via the JAMC's cover of Mushroom