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The Toppibots

Laptops, like horses, alter the credo of time
Ed Baxter – Figaro/Pravda

The Toppibots meet up to plan our next move. After the last shambles I’m taking no chances and will be telling everyone what to do. Dierdra argues with me that in order to make the music of free electronic laptop improvisation there can be no leaders. I have a simple two part answer for her. First, I inform her that if she doesn’t shut up I will have her thrown out of the band, even though I’d really really hate to have to do that. Then I tell her how much money she’s going to get paid on our upcoming Japan tour. On hearing this she shuts her fat mouth and starts eagerly agreeing with everything I say. She’s such a squirming sycophant!

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The Toppibots. Left to right – Tixie, Kaffe, Mitsuka. Andrea

The Toppibots band:
Andrea Neumann ~ ever since she went crazy and turned on her partner Annette Krebs like a demented rotweiler, I’ve wanted to work with Andrea. It was under my prodding that she gave up twanging that stupid piano frame and took up a proper instrument – the laptop. Based in Leipzig, Germany when she’s let out of the fruit and nutcase farm.

Mitsuka Yoshida ~ international bukkake artiste extraordinaire, she works exclusively with female puppets – a gesture which has scandalised the traditionally male bukkake community. Even though she’s a vital part of our group in funding terms, I can’t help but feel there’s something creepy about people who spend their lives among puppets. It’s like working for the Arts Council. Mitsuka is also the mother of 6 abandoned brats so either she is very fond of screwing or else Japanese contraception isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Her base – Xinjing, Manchukuo

Kaffe Matthews ~ performing micro-conceptual works, injecting loud corpuscles into quiet bodies, dreaming up outdoor sonic projects that generate blissfully huge funding, proposing steam driven aleatory systems encased in musical concrete ‘n’ diamante cyborg exoskeletons. I am also an international catwalk style icon beloved by millions. Crush, kill, destroy! Base – Essex and The Isle of Unst, UK.

Dierdra Radigue ~ composing for missing instruments, blagging, rock band arranging. Base, Paris, France.
Two weeks into rehearsals, Andrea decides to stop taking her medication and we have to return her to the asylum in Germany under armed guard. Quite out of the blue, she has embraced radical Islamic fundamentalism and is arrested trying to buy large quantities of acetone and nails. If only she’d told me she wanted to re-do her nails. I have warehouses full of nail varnish remover stored in Essex – along with several tons of Mac make up – just in case the economy collapses.

Short of a member, I take a huge risk and promote my companion tree sprite Tixie Pow Wow Golly Nosh to the band. This causes some consternation among the other band members who can neither see nor hear Tixie. Even that dyed-in-the-wool animist Mitsuka insists that there is no such thing as tree sprites. After I pull the heads off a few of her dolls and mutilate them she generously agrees with the other band members that I am best placed to judge ‘sprite’ issues.

Reconformed, the plan is to drive forward the Toppibot’s new post-tedium project – a generously funded five month long residency in Japan, January 2021. Joy in new lackey Omorashi Yagai brought on board to facilitate this.
E’er, I will gaze upon Mount Fuji Corporation. PING!

Tree Sprites

In a post-financial age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairies, eldils and tree sprites should be respected.
Will Hutton, The Economist.

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All too many of my friends and admirers find it disconcerting to discover that I, Kaffe, one who has a naturally incredulous, fiercely rational spirit should believe in tree sprites. Tree sprites are a phenomena reported by many improvisers who utilize wooden instruments. Contrary to common opinion, when the tree inhabited by a tree sprite is cut down, the sprite neither dies nor moves on to a new forest. The sprites become trapped in the wood, which is why you’ll never find a tree sprite in a saxophone even though many a puffy-cheeked improviser will tell you otherwise. Violins and cellos are entirely another matter. I often come across expensive instruments whose stupid owners have no inkling are home to a bushy-tailed garrulous tree sprite.

It is still the custom in many parts of Europe to cut down a tree and bring it into the city. People cut branches and fasten them on every crib and pied a terre. The intention of these customs is to bring home to each dwelling the blessings which the tree sprite has in its power to bestow.
J.G. Frazer – The Golden Bough

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I remember being in the middle of a long conversation with a violin a few years ago when its owner – an obnoxious Scandinavian lady called Charlotte Hug – frog marched over like a toad and demanded I explain why I was talking to her violin. Apart from giving her my filthiest Kaffe look (rumour has it that it can spilt a rock in half) I ignored the rude cow completely, made my apologies to the noble, gentle sprite and took my leave gracefully.
I do feel dreadfully sorry for tree sprites doomed to a life of almost solitary confinement but the plain fact is that many people and in particular improvisers are just too plain stupid to see what’s in front of their fat faces!

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You will hear many contradictory things about tree sprites. How they are described though depends on who has witnessed them. Smart insightful gifted people such as I, Kaffe, know that they excel in demonstrating such abilities as agility, knitting, IT skills and pandemonium. Some regard them as agents of Satan or the Conservative Party while others see them as a nuisance to be terminated by throwing the offending tree sprites wooden base of operations onto a crackling fire. Like the vampires in Buffy or Blade III, once their homes are burnt the poor sprites burst into flames and are utterly liquidated for all time.

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Kaffe and her first sprite experience

She is the fairies’ midwife,
Her wagon spokes made of long spinners’ legs,
The cover, of the wings of grasshoppers;
Her traces, of the smallest spider’s web;
Her collars, of the moonshine’s watery beams;
Her whip, of cricket’s bone; the lash, of film.
Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, Act I, scene IV

My first encounter with one occured when I was eleven. During summer hols, I was out camping with a group of boys who adored and worshipped me. We had a gigantic fire burning and the boys were working frantically to ensure I remained warm and dry and cosy as a miserable persistent rain was falling. As I sat there eating the Ambrosia creamed rice, hot chestnuts and strawberry jam that Edwin had rustled up for me, some fast moving creature came down from a nearby tree, whacked me on the head, and flew back up the tree while laughing an eerie cackling kind of noise. Thinking about it now, the sprite sounded a lot like Maggie Nichols, although I didn’t know this at the time.
At first, I was very angry. Very angry indeed! I was just slowly eating my pudding demonstrating my superior ladylike manners to the boys, minding my own business, when this beastly being bashed me on the head, even though I was the last person it should have hit. There were five typically dumb members of the male species to hand, all of whom one would have thought made far more sensible targets than myself.

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But then I realized that I was the only one who perceived the sprite. Hitting me very hard on the head was the sprite’s way of making contact with the only special and extrasensorily gifted person in our little group – moi, Kaffe. I had been chosen!

How I met my companion sprite – Tixie Pow Wow Golly Nosh.

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Everyone who is familiar with my amazing work assumes that my companion tree sprite – Tixie Pow Wow Golly Nosh (to give its full name) – must live in one of my violins. This is rubbish and a lazy assumption.

Here is the story of how I befriended Tixie. I was performing in Brussels with a bunch of idiot musicians and, fed up with their inability to listen to my excellent suggestions, decided to get some fresh air. ‘Fresh’ and ‘Air’ are not two words that come together readily in Belgium so let’s simply say that I took myself off for a wander around the flea market at Place Jeu de Balle and around Rue Blaestraat.

As I wandered past a dusty smelly antiques shop I distinctly heard a thin little voice call out, ‘Kaffe. Can you come in here please’. The voice sounded so small and desperate that instantly my heart went out to it. I imagined a defenseless child in parlous circumstance. Once in the shop, however, the only thing that greeted my eyes apart from the mound of overpriced junk was the shabby proprietor – a dirty grubby old man who was probably born masturbating to animal pornography.

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Again, I heard the little voice. ‘Kaffe, can you buy me please. I’m trapped in this old 30’s wooden tennis racket’. The voice did indeed seem to be coming from an old tennis racket.
‘What are you doing trapped inside of a tennis racket?’ I asked.
‘Shut up, you idiot’, shouted the little voice. If the shopkeeper sees you talking to a tennis racket he’ll have you locked up in the asylum with Andrea Neumann faster than you can say “John Wall”.
‘Can’t the proprietor hear you speaking?’, I asked the tennis racket.
‘Look. I told you once. Just shut up and do as you are told. Pay whatever the shopkeeper demands for the tennis racket. He hates you stupid English and if you haggle he’ll tell you to fuck off’.

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So it was I ended up giving the shabby disgusting proprietor the equivalent price of a Mulberry Jody shoulder bag for a ridiculous old tennis racket. The grip tape was frayed to nothing, the hoop was warped, the handle was bent and the string face had very little to commend it. Put it this way. Throughout my life, men have described me as fit. As a young girl I excelled at many athletic disciplines and still do. Indeed, I have chased many a male opponent from the court with my backhand. I simply couldn’t see myself hitting an ace with such a useless racket.

Once we were out of earshot I began questioning the racket. The answers came thick and fast and were satisfactory.

‘I am a tree sprite’, said the little voice. ‘My name is Tixie Pow Wow Golly Nosh and I lived in an ash tree until the bad men of the British Lawn Tennis Association came and chopped down my home. Relocation, relocation, relocation. They took me to a saw mill and divided me into a thirty seven superior quality tennis rackets but naturally my consciousness could only live in one individual racket so I chose this one. I’ve sat in that shop waiting thirty eight years for someone raving mad enough to hear my voice to come along’.
‘What happens when they come along’, I asked, not realizing the tree sprite was talking about me.
‘You are the raving nutter who came along. I’m talking about you, Kaffe, ya dumb Essex munter’, said Tixie.

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At that point I propped Tixie the tree sprite who lived in a tennis racket up against a pharmacists and calmly walked into a tobacconists. I was gone for fifty minutes as I also decided to have a latte in Café Nero.
When I returned, Tixie was furious.
‘Where the hell were you and what were you doing? You’ve been ages!’, screamed the little tree sprite.
‘I was shopping followed by a leisurely quest for latte if you must ask’.
‘What do you mean by leaving me in the street, you slag. I might have been nicked by the Brussels version of a gang of Essex chavs. What the fuck were you thinking, woman?!!’
‘It’s easier if I demonstrate, Tixie’, I replied. ‘In my left hand is a can of lighter fluid and in my right is a powerful cigarette lighter’.
‘What are you going to do with them’, said the sprite, whose voice shot up by and octave and two semitones. Tixie seemed to have lost all its arrogance in one fell swoop and was now sounding extremely nervous and frightened.
‘Simple. I’m going to burn your disrespectful little tree sprite ass into a pile of gilded splinters. And then I’m going to incinerate those splinters until there’s nothing left of you but a pile of fine ash ash. Then I’m going to cremate the ash ash until each particle is as burnt as a hashish addict’s fingers. How does that sound?’

The results were as I expected. Nobody – I repeat – nobody defies Kaffe and gets away with it. Tixie was terrified and straight away promised to obey my every whim, no matter how imperious and demeaning, until the end of time and never to be rude to me again let alone speak out of turn in my presence. Tree sprites are very very unlike people in that when they make a promise they have to keep to it for life. My very own tree sprite – called Tixie no less – how cool is that??!!!

Laptop Sprites

An artificial-intelligence program called the Electronic Judge is dispensing justice on the Brazilian streets. The program is installed on a laptop and methodically witnesses reports and gathers forensic evidence at the scene of an incident. It then issues on-the-spot fines and can even recommend death sentences.New Scientist, May 2010

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Despite becoming accustomed to Tixie the tree sprite who lives in an old 30’s tennis racket, no-one was as surprised as me to discover that laptop sprites exist as well. Many is the time I have been in the middle of a laptop concert when the laptop sprites intervene. This is delightful! No sooner do the Laptop sprites take possession of a laptop than they carry one’s improvisation off into unexpected territories. Often, I am reduced to mere spectator, which is excellent. It gives me a chance to catch up on my emails in the one place I can escape the paparazzo, the needy, clinging fans and my battalion of fawning lackeys – onstage. PING!

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The Chopped Nuts and Fruit Case

An 83 channel composition but only 62 of the channels seemed to work at a time.

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As I read my latest copy of Heat magazine I decided that strategies of human competitiveness needed rounding out and investigating. Humans have survived on this planet for longer than I care to remember, even though in the Jurassic Park Ages we were almost wiped out by a big dinosaur. Not that I’d ever eat dinosaur meat but it’s not as though I could anyway because dinosaurs died long ago from too much climate change. Is this the fate that awaits us?

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Even so, I can’t help feeling that had the dinosaurs invented Pret a Manger they would still be among us. Can you imagine what a dinosaur Pret would be like? Racks stacked with puffy tacos packed with small mucky mammals.

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The Chopped Nuts and Fruit Case is more than just a site specific performance – it is effectively an initiative to detrivialise and duplicate certain imitative tendencies within synchronical human structures e.g. the art of the rip-off in traditional Western opera, Eastern westerns, Northern rock and Southern Rail. The soundtrack is simulated laptop music with lots of funny snackles, crackles, pops and plagiarism in it.
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The piece is realised through a close inspection of Chinese DVD piracy, emangungu masks as used in the initiation rites of young men among the Bembe and Vivien Leigh’s portrayal of The Queen of the Borg in the original Star Trek series – the image as other. Director Elia Kazan (who like the actor Sterling Hayden cravenly capitulated at the HUAC hearings) said of Vivien’s acting – ‘She’d have crawled over broken glass if she thought it would help her performance’.
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I have often thought I would crawl over broken glass to heighten one of my performances. But, naturally, being me and being brilliant, I’d dress up first in a thick Kevlar catsuit so I didn’t get scratched. PING!

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Conceived by Kaffe Matthews
Concept by Kaffe Matthews
All suggestions by Kaffe Matthews
Directed (as per Kaffe’s instructions) by chua gim teck
Visiting Artist/Tea Maid (invited by Kaffe) – Nobo Kwamk
Text (all original ideas by Kaffe) by Con Malto
What meek staff!

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Con Malto and Nobo Kwamk @ Palais de Tokyo Weds 2018 – photo by William Bradford

After a weeks tortuous workshop in Scunthorpe Royal Infirmary the work will open at at the Nancy Reagan Theatre Festival, Los Angeles, October 02st 2014.

chopped-just-a-gross-faerie

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DVD C: DEATH IMPROV
Long overdue and much anticipated – here it comes, here it comes, the ninteenth release from sonic Borg queen, her amazingness Kaffe Matthews.
DVD 983 minutes worth plus bonus video tour of Kaffe’s crib (18+ only). Special offer €1,752

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Delayed five years due to a flat tyre and a complete re-think as her violin floated off up the Rhine in a tulle-lined little oak coffin. Seeing as everyone else has given up using instruments and taken up sound processing with laptops, Kaffe decides to make a play for the field and in the event, wrests the laptop crown from the great Austrian pretenders. Revamped and revitalized, working in ways like you’ve never heard like in your life like, Kaffe samples the sound of air circulating in an old lead acid battery factory and recontextualises it for a sleeping audience using 351 speakers sewn into their sleeping bags. The commitment is evident, the effect is obvious. The homologous chips simply must fall at some point – and bring everything clashing down when they do.

‘Kaffe Matthews might well be the only living improviser capable of combining the glitz of Alexis Bittar and the conflated catwalk cataclysm of Proenza Schouler with the dire dishwater-dull dead end dirge of the laptop paradigm. A significant departure’ – Ed Baxter, Music Monthly

FEATURING:
Who stole a whole bowl of my chopped nuts? – Crazy Horse Club, Singapore.
Inadequate rider – 115th LMC festival, London, UK
Prosecco Fountain – The Vice Rock Club, Swansea
The Bidet that exploded and ate half of Paris – White Lady, Tokyo.

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1903-domenico_de_bertiol_prosecco

The mixers are connected in feedback by connecting outputs to inputs, back out to the outputs, out of the outputs into the inputs, in through the outputs by way of the inputs and out of the auxiliary sends to the inputs. These inputs are then outputted in through outputs and inserted into inputs whose outputs are not in the least put out. The resulting feedbacks are fed with another feedback produced by feeding feedback back into a feeding trough. The feedback produced is fed back into the feedback circuit not by blowing but by feeding. However, by the time the feedback is fed back into the back of the feed trough, everyone is fed up and tries to go home.
The result is a terse conflation of chairs slamming, feet stepping and angry people asking for their money back but they won’t get their money back, only feedback. I order the back doors locked so they can’t leave.

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Towards the end of the evening, when I’ve wrung the last perspiration-inhibiting underarm blast out of my dinky Dior déodorant vaporisateur – L’essence de Cyborg, – the projectionist shows the last 23 minutes of Yasuzo Masamura’s ‘Blind Beast’ – accompanied by 9 hours of static and feedback.

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It is an odd film. Inside the artists studio, a disturbing tale of cruelty, sexism and mutilation is acted out… by actors.
The movie is given soundtracked identity by professional laptop artists – ME i.e. the amazing Kaffe Maffews – and my so-so backing band, the abrogative Mattin, Yoshio Mashida, Gundra Gottschalk, Phil ‘Headblock’ Niblock and his dopey hoverfly girlfriend Astrid. Why hasn’t he got shot of that fawning bitch is a mystery to all…. (Phil, hunni… you’re better than that!! xx)

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Each participant generates 6 hours worth of dense top drawer sonics. It is hilarious watching the Visual artists doing their level best to keep up.

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Audience = ill formed under informed pernicious amateurs, an ideal ‘take the money and run’ show. I am mindful of my justly famous Kaffe quote:

‘No longer are we homo sapiens. We now are promo sapiens’.

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By the end of the evening I can’t stand to talk to anyone. Leaving precise directions for how I expect my equipment to be packed away by the dopey engineers, I depart in a taxi for my five star hotel. As to how it earned those five stars is a complete mystery to me.

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Kaffe Matthews
Interview by Ron Shubberfull

Issue 3. SoundTrafficker Ezine 2015

When glamorous laptop artist Kaffe Matthews talks about sound, she mentions vegetables ratting around in an old cart, the importance of oil, about drivel, about her fans, about radios strapped to veiled old men – geriatric suicide bombers hobbling to their appointment with death on Zimmer frames. She is the embodiment of contradiction, spouting on about the virtues of recycling and lo-fi while wreathed in a stunning pale lime Roksanda Ilincic dress, an outlandish raspberry Mulberry tote dangling from her armpit.

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In her attitude to creating music, we find no clues about anything. But what is so daring and original about Kaffe’s sound today? Not hymns, but homes; not notes, but notepads; not old cheese, but empty sandwiches – their fillings expunged. Kaffe’s artistry references the piebald history of sound art, from curious ends such as the gay indeterminacy pioneered by John Cage to Nicolas Collins’s and Ryoji Ikeda’s experiments with copying wholesale other peoples ideas and regurgitating them as their own. Her pieces saliently combine market stall aesthetics with the atmospheres of galactic movement while simultaneously departing from old articulations.

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In that famously unreadable lump of hackwork, Please Mr. Rogan Ghost, Stop The Weather, David Toop attempts to ironically employ the title’s metaphor to suggest the ghosts and squalls that run baboon-like through the machicolated playgrounds of contemporary sound art. Using laptops and bargain basement software, Kaffe sculpts inedible bastions of gas, error, domination, buffness and flatulent paradises that wrench the ugliness out of life and present it as stage naked as an unadorned brick.

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Through the confused bewilderment that is performance, she lays minefields of exquisite tedium that jar her fans into the awareness that she is the cat, they the mice, she the panther, they the rodent. Her witless audiences become captives to her insuperable potency and lose themselves in the nest of her will.

It matters not if she gets lost in an Austrian branch of Debenhams, a London River Island or a Berlin ‘everything for one Euro’ shop. Whether on the fifth floor of Macys tasting a Frube or krunked out of her mind on an icy Scottish island, Kaffe takes exactly what she needs from her surroundings and dominates the acoustic perspective. Unlike most improvisers – who are a dull incredulous lot – Matthews collaborates with the ineffable nature of magical happening and even believes in the existence of tree sprites.

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Kaffe Matthews setting up at her mansion prior to setting out on tour in Texas. September 2014. – Photo by Abel Terrera.

Ron Shubberfull Let’s kick off this great interview with your estrangement from working with wood, bows, horsehair and strings and your sudden adoption of the laptop as your primary motif. Was this because everyone else was doing it and you felt you needed to jump on the laptop bandwagon so to speak?

Kaffe Matthews Actually, I think if you check your facts you’ll see that I kick-started the whole laptop thing. I was using laptops before they were invented.

RS Excuse me for asking but how is that possible?

KM I took one of those large old computers apart and placed the pieces in a large laptop shaped bag.

RS Did you make any recordings with this so called ‘laptop’? Did any evidencing occur?

KM It didn’t need to. I am Kaffe. Anyway, it was a word processor.

RS Thinking again of the violin. Did you find you’d exhausted the sonic possibilities of…?

KM Look, Don or whatever your stupid name is..

RS Er.. Ron. Ron Shubberfull..

KM Listen, Donny my sweet. Frankly, you can sit there asking about my past till the cows come home. You won’t be any the wiser at the end. If you didn’t LIVE it, then how can you expect to re-live it. Vicariously? Like a masturbating plumhead who gets off on watching others do it?

RS Do what?

KM This job. This vital job.

RS What job?

KM Look. In this acid house world they’ve built for ourselves the thing that is, yes, over and over, without having to fuss over it twenty four seven, which is something I’m not fond of to doing. All the same, you understand, I might snap at a MIDI trigger, but simply material or any moment the machines can turn around and start running the show, Skynet, robot lovers and the whole caboodle, yes?

RS Er.. I’m a bit lost. Are you referring to those damn supercomputers we’re hearing so much about these days.

KM Yes, obviously..

RS So discovering the laptop made it seem.. as if.. er..

KM No, there’s no mystery here, Don. The best part of playing live was when the laptop would crash, or start printing out instructions for me such as:
‘Stop playing this junk and go catch a number 23 bus’
or
‘After the concert, take the 10.06 Express Coach to Swindon and buy a Domino’s margherita pizza from the High Street’.
Crazy things I would never have thought of on my own.

RS So, did you go to Swindon and buy that pizza, Kaffe?

KS Well, obviously, the computer itself doesn’t eat pizza; I mean, it has no taste. No olifactory/nutritive sensory system to speak of. Have you ever poured coca cola into a laptop, Don?

RS I poured half a can into my girlfriend’s Dell during an argument about me not feeding her goldfish. It blew up.

KS Exactly.

RS Dell replaced it. Free of charge. Luckily, it was still under warranty.

KS Shut up about Dell. I’m speaking so listen. A computer can’t eat soft drinks but it can be programmed to drive the coach. But it’s more about the computer deciding things for itself. Thinking up the really big ideas. A second and quite delicious consciousness.

RH Hold on a second. You’re not seriously suggesting that a computer can have ideas? This sounds like more of your tree sprite fantasizing.

KM Shut up about my tree sprites! You scum! You filthy rag sucking scum! You journalists can’t help bringing it up. Every bloody time. Just because I happened to mention that I might have talked to a tree sprite once upon a time, ages ago. Maybe I was joking. I can make a joke , can’t I? But no. You scum slurping testicle licking journalists. You simply couldn’t resist blowing the whole stupid affair up out of all proportion. ‘Ha ha ha. Let’s all laugh at Kaffe. She talks to a tree sprite called Tixie who lives in an old wooden tennis racket.’

RS Sorry, Kaffe. Can we get back to your trail-blazingly amazing work.

KM Any more tree sprite bullshit and I walk. Comprendo, cabron?!

RS Understood. I wanted to ask. Is it possible to work with sound down to almost nothing, or even actually down to nothing?

KM Yes, and the amazing thing is the audience doesn’t notice. The air is full of buzzing and ticking noises.. and then there’s the listless roar of traffic. It’s similar to what Vaneigem said about poetry. ‘Poetry rarely involves poems these days’. I feel the same can be said for music.

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Kaffe outside Domino’s Pizza, Swansea Tuesday July 2014 – Photo Kathleen Finnegan

RS Is there a relationship between the size of your wave-forms and the amount of noise they make? I mean, are we seeing a scale effect?

KM At times. But when I repeat wave-forms I invariably increase the amplitude pressure.

RS You mean – everything gets louder. The volume ramping up?

KM Shut up when I’m talking! Hence African music. Even a one armed brilliant drummer couldn’t play a bass drum traveling at 1,000 kilometres an hour. I’m thinking if you shot a drummer and bass drum simultaneously out of a cannon like human cannonballs at the circus. The Big Top if you like. If you want to approach music in high velocity terms, you have to be moving as fast as the instrument. Maybe riding a jet. I’ve always liked the idea that when musicians die we might Fed-Ex their instruments to Baikonur Cosmodrome and blast them up into a geosynchronous orbit. To be able to circle the earth and yet never again sound a note. Imagine that!

RS You mean a sort of cosmic space memorial commemorating free sonic achievements made on the soil?

KM Don. You speak such rubbish. That wasn’t what I was thinking of at all. 

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Kaffe Matthews backstage with devoted fans at Santos Party House, NY, June 2012. Photo by Lady Ladezlas Czweikowstoki.

RS Tell us a little about your set up and software?

KM Really, I’m walking in between the extremely sketchy human need for culpability and the aimless pot pourri of cyberspace and conflating the two. Conflation, in it’s French root, suggests breathing. At times I feel my breath is animating both success and failure.

RS So, this is what ties you to tradition. To the gravity of previous works and recordings.

KM No, Don. That isn’t actually how I make my music. I treat the past as a bigger version of the NOW. After all, the NOW is all we have. We can ‘think’ past but we can’t ‘live’ past.

RS I’m reminded of that incredible project of yours. The one on the remote Scottish Island..

KM Unst. You mean Climate Changer.

RS Yes, Climate Changer. The interesting part was where all your equipment was washed away in the storm.

KM That wasn’t me. It was those idiot technicians provided by the Scottish Arts Council. And that stupid girl with the cheap Superdrug French nails. That’s where penny pinching lands you up. With all your data blown out to sea. This can happen in the shifting framework that makes music happen. I also vocally supported the fishermen. They have a hard life, you know.

RS If so, why did they refuse to carry you back to the mainland?

KM They had fish to catch.

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RS So did this disaster prompt you never to work with nature again?

KM Yes. But against my better judgment I was talked into assuming control over a failing project in New Zealand.

RS This was in 2008?

KM No, Don. In 2016. Basically, I had to go out there and sack all the other sound artists but I don’t have a problem with that. I’ve always been brilliant at analyzing a situation and taking remedial action. I ended up on my own with a 6,708-meter-long tube. All day and night I waited for the wind to blow hard enough up the other end so I could record the noise at my end. I waited for as long as the funding lasted which was three months. The wait was awe inspiring – was like waiting for some incredible electronic bus that never comes. This marked the end of my environmental career. The main work is done. Anyone who follows on is engaged merely in mopping up. I guess somebody has to clean up once the party’s over.

RS I’d venture to suggest that this is what drove your work indoors, into site-specific projects. The projects you excel at. Do you find the need to be in a certain place at a certain time inhibiting?

KM No, Don. You’re totally off the mark. I think you read far too many e-zines. I take no notice of places, people or clocks. Why would I? Take the other week. I was in a bright attic twenty nine floors up in an abandoned drug factory on the outskirts of Zurich, playing five sets a night to the flakiest audience I’ve ever encountered. It made me think the factory owners had accidentally left a vat of Valium powder behind and the audience were taking turns to snort it all. There were piss puddles on the ground, holes in the roof and stormy clouds overhead chasing all the cats from the place. There were enough cobwebs to construct a full scale model of the Twin Towers and in one corner, a pair of human skulls with lumps of scalp still attached. I loved every moment. Noreen, my tour manager practically wet herself when she saw the cause of death. The skulls had been smashed in with a blunt laptop. She was so freaked out and begged me to be allowed to leave. I couldn’t stop laughing.

RS Did you introduce yourself? Each time I’ve seen you perform, you have avoided making contact with the audience. I presume this is your way of establishing a really close contact with the audience – by ignoring them.

KM Naturally, as true adoring fans of mine I want to reach out to them. But you have to be careful not to pamper your audience. It’s better to maintain that divide between performer and hungry consumer, Otherwise, the world would be clogged with faux performers and then where would I be?
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Kaffe soundcheck in Ljubianka, 2018. Unknown backing band. Photo by Grokky 99.

RS Ah, that’s not so surprising. I’ve listened to some of the recordings I have of your live shows and always end up thinking – ‘Kaffe wasn’t there’.

KM Essentially a DVD has to stand up on its hind legs and walk across the room. Performing has nothing do with titillating with people and much more to do with shocking them into waking up by sending them to sleep. My software engineers are currently devising a workable 3D avatar so I can be beamed anywhere around the globe instantly.

RS But how would you keep an eye on your audience? After all, an avatar is just a glorified projection, smoke and memoirs. What if they decided to go down the road and buy a doner kebab in the middle of your performance? I say this because you have a reputation for locking the doors when people try to leave your concerts without your permission. There was that unfortunate episode in Dundee with the guys who got burnt when..

KM Shut up about Dundee, Don. What you don’t seem to get is how linked I am with my audience. They gaze up my at face, tears rolling down their cheeks. They watch me fend off the paparazzo, jump into a cab after drinking three bottles of prosecco, slap some sense into an an uncooperative sound engineer and waiting on stage for my nails to dry while the feedback drones on and on and on. They hear me scratch my leg and a trickle of delight runs down their spine cords. They stand at my feet like tame hamsters while I sonically tickle their underdeveloped psychic bellies. I’m the only thing that makes their sad drab featureless little lives liveable.

RS Let’s talk sound installations. The sonic bidet.

KM A bidet is very much a physical appliance for me. I actually need to get a hold of it with both hands. The bidet actually has an extremely long provenance. You have to go back to just after the war days..

RS The what? The Iraqi war?

KM No, idiot! The war days. V sign day, the atomic bomb, Winston Mandela, Hiroshima mon amour..

RS Oh, I’m with you now. You mean after the Second World War..

KM After the war days, Italian critic Germano Celant called for artists to throw off the chichés that society had attached to them. The temporal linky thingy, flash in the gas pan.

RS Meaning?

KM Memory – a bowl of chopped nuts, a catflap banging in Rhyl on a Monday afternoon. The epistemological congruence of woman, machine and music. The where and how that dirty old tramp got into the room in the middle of my performance.

RS I’m afraid you’ve lost me again.

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Kaffe gracing the cover of Danish ‘HEAT’ magazine shortly after winning the 2016 Jury Prize for her installation ‘Buff Sonics’ at Catford Library. Used by kind permission – Glazbeen Venceri Magazine

KM Something I used to do a lot was to erase what I was writing in order to understand life. But then I saw it made more sense to erase it before I wrote it. That way I saved on using needless paper..

RS So less trees chopped down..?

KM I presume so..

RS Less forests hacked to pieces..?

KM One presumes so.. Where are you going with this?

RS Less tree sprites evicted from their homes.

KM Bastard! Shitpack! Elephant-turd-painting faced second hand hack regurgitating rip-off yellow press filth peddlar! Fungus-growth-licking journalistic scum-lined newspaper arse wanking internet bastard!

RS Sorry, Kaffe. Sorry. I am. Really, I’m sorry. I promise I won’t mention tree sprites again. Ever. Back to your amazing inspiring work. Did it work?

KM Did what work?

RS Your work.

KM It always works.

RS The work is about the work.

KM It’s nonchalantly about the blank verses the mark.

RS The blank verses?

KM No! Not ‘the blank verses’. The blank – comma – verses – comma – the mark. Idiot! In fact, thank you.

RS Thank you? For what?

KM For deciding me. I’ve decided I’m going to start stopping talking to idiots who start talking to me before they start talking.

RS Kaffe! Where are you going? Come back! We haven’t finished with the interview yet. I haven’t asked you about the tree sprites..

KM It’s my laptop. I forgot to buy the pizza. It’s still going round. My laptop will kill me. Ciao, babes..

RS But Kaffe, please. Please don’t go. Ed, my editor, will murder me if I don’t come back with a/

KM Oh.. and start looking for a new career, pen wanker! You’re finished in this town!

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Kaffe practicing attaching a makeshift tracking antenna to an escaped tree sprite. Photo by Nobby Turgidson’s boy.

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