International Women's Day 2024

This International Women's Day I'd like to highlight a few musicians who have had a huge influence on my own evolution either as a person or a musician or both.

While we've still a long way to go before we can achieve anything like equality, I think the role of women in the music industry – both as musicians and producers / engineers – is in a much MUCH better place than it was than in the 60s & 70s. If the conventional role of women music at that time was to stand at the front being and sounding pretty, then the people I'd like to highlight were an antithesis to this stereotype – weird, confronting, strong and intellectual.

Gilli Smyth

Gilli Smyth Gilli Smyth of Gong & MotherGong was a pioneering vocal experimenter, poet, feminist and philosopher. Gilli pioneered a vocal technique which came to be known as Space Whisper, which she developed with Ziska Baum in Paris during the late 60s. Sometimes atonal sometimes beautiful vocal tones fed through immense reverb & delay, her vocals could have been mistaken for synthesizers, had not synths been comparatively primitive at the time.

An intellectual, feminist & anti-authoritarian, she rubbed shoulders with the likes of Simone de Beauvoir, Robert Graves, Yoko Ono & Jimi Hendrix. I was fortunate to consider her a good friend, and worked with her on several musical and creative projects, including her last album entitled “Paradise”, as well as the unfinished project “Do Birds Dream in Song”.

I will always deeply miss Gilli – the many long evenings on the balcony discussing art / philosophy / science over an endless succession of glasses of red wine and spliffs.

Renate Knaup

Renate Knaup Vocalist of the German Kosmische Musik band Amon Düül II as well as regularly appearing on Popol Vuh albums, I would suggest Renate Knaup's vocal style is a direct reaction to Schlager and Western popular music in the 60s and 70s. With little consideration of conventional singing style, her singing in Amon Düül II was a cosmic rocket into the heart of an alternate dimension. While the later Amon Düül II albums become a little patchy in places, her work with Popol Vuh is consistently amazing – a textural compliment as well as contrast to the ambient psychedelic drone of the band.

Cosey Fanni Tutti

Cosey Fanni Tutti Cosey Fanni Tutti's work as an experimental electronic musician in bands Throbbing Gristle and Chris & Cosey & as a performance artist, push boundaries that don't even exist yet, let alone exist currently. At a time when “twiddling knobs” was exclusively the domain of men, Cosey's voyages into extreme noise at one end of the spectrum to synthpop in the other, stand as a direct provocation of the notion that “music is a men's game”.