Section 25: Jams From The Bardo
CD | DL | Streaming
Section 25, the post-punk legends, have just released the album Jams From The Bardo on Klanggalerie. Iain Key reviews the album for Louder Than War and sits down with Paul Wiggin and Vincent Cassidy to find out how it came about and take a look at the group’s legacy.
Jams From The Bardo isn’t technically a ‘new’ album, nor is it a ‘lost’ album from their early days, but a collection of previously unreleased rehearsal room recordings made between 1979 to 1981 as well as a version of Human Puppets recorded at Cargo Studios in Rochdale. All tracks were composed and performed by Paul Wiggin, Vincent Cassidy alongside the late Lawrence Cassidy. The collection offers an insight into a young band taking their first steps. It’s important to note at this point that although a later incarnation of the band would later become electro pioneers, releasing the seminal album From The Hip and celebrated single Looking From A Hilltop, at this stage in their development they were pretty much exclusively a traditional guitar/bass and drums set up.
Despite being from Blackpool there aren’t any sounds of the fairgrounds or big dippers here; over 14 tracks clocking in at just under an hour we’re treated to a couple of short pieces (The Attic and Mirage) alongside longer Krautrock influenced, improvised, driving workouts which could easily provide a soundtrack for a film charting life in the North West during a time of industrial decline, strikes and riots. I may be contradicting myself here, but much of it sounds quite contemporary too. Timeless almost.
There are a few hints at what the band may have been listening to; Form Is Void for example feels very influenced by PIL and the brooding bass-led Pubs, Clubs and Drugs has an early-Fall feel. My favourite track on the album is the thoroughly hypnotic Rose Apple Island, a 9 1/2 minute instrumental which sees the trio completely in-sync and feeding off one another and a feel of the sound that Section 25 would champion a few years later.
Jams From The Bardo is something of a curio, and a most welcome one at that.
Section 25 Interview
LTW: I guess the first question must be what/where was ‘the Bardo’?
Paul: Larry and I were both interested in Tibetan Buddhism, and this is where the term Bardo comes from. In the context of ‘Jams’ it refers to a sort of intermediate space when one life has ended and the next one hasn’t begun, and I think that is what the deeper creative space can be like.
LTW: Where were these recordings found? Were they something recently found or were you aware of them being at the back of a drawer?
Paul: The recordings came from different sources. I knew that there was early Section 25 material out there, and through a few people that were into the band, I managed to get some recordings. Vin had found a box of tapes that Larry had from our studio space and I started going through them. I always felt that there were two versions of the band. When you go into the studio or you do a gig, there is a certain pressure to have a product which is structured and consistently represents the band. We always made space at gigs to be free to improvise, and this is something much closer to my heart. There is nothing neurotic about it, it either does something for you or it doesn’t, there is no point in being critical or judgmental.
LTW: How did this release come about?
Vin: Initially, Paul contacted me about this during deepest darkest lockdown in early summer 2020. It was Paul’s idea and I was really taken with it. I suggested we work on a rehearsal room CD first and then work on a live album. Walter Robotka at our label Klanggalerie was very keen on the project and it just naturally grew from there.
LTW: Listening to the album, which includes pre and post the initial Factory releases, it’s like a time capsule of the era. I can hear elements of PIL and The Fall in some of the lengthy hypnotic pieces but it definitely paves the way to Always Now and The Key of Dreams. Were you conscious of what other groups were doing at the time?
Paul: Well speaking for myself, we were very aware of what other bands were doing. We were in a very rich culture, with many bands we were not only fans of but also friends with. I think one thing I was aware of was the unique individuality of the bands we were into, and that integrity was a big part of being credible. Genre-defying.
LTW: What are your memories of those early years in the band?
Vin. It was a curious juxtaposition of myself, Paul and Larry being so driven, enthusiastic and passionate about the music we were making. In the local area, Blackpool, we were completely ignored. We knew we were playing in a kind of cultural vacuum but we still needed to carry on. It wasn’t until we started to do gigs with Joy Division that Rob, their manager, said we should do a demo for Factory. When Factory said they liked it and wanted to do our first release we were amazed that somebody else besides us thought we were worth listening to.
LTW: How did it feel being taken under the wing of Rob Gretton and Ian Curtis and signing to Factory?
Paul. It was a very meaningful connection with Ian and Rob. We were playing around Blackpool trying to nurture the scene and share that with other bands who were starting out. So to have Ian and Rob’s support and enthusiasm opened everything up, and not just for us. That time had a very special feeling, very supportive and encouraging. Signing to Factory wasn’t really like signing, it was more like an understanding that you would be part of something and on the label; not being in DIY obscurity.
LTW: Do you have any particular memories of recording Always Now with Martin Hannett at Britannia Row? This was at the same time Joy Division were recording Closer?
Vin: I loved it at Britannia Row, they had cold chocs in the fridge, a pool table and Martin was so good to work with. One time, I remember I was having a nose around in the upper storage floors and found the old mixing desk that Floyd had mixed Ummagumma on in 1969….that was a brilliant moment.
LTW: Paul, you left the band in 1981 reportedly due to a fear of flying. Is that something you’d have changed if you could?
Paul: Leaving the band because of my fear of flying was just a way of making the whole thing easier. There was no more to it than that really. I still find it hard to describe what was happening. But at the core was my changing relationship with Larry. We weren’t as close so not collaborating creatively. Ian’s death had a profound effect on everyone and I suppose there was a parallel with the Joy Division / New Order change of direction which I couldn’t share. The music was changing.
LTW: Famously Kayne West sampled the Section 25 track Hit, from Always Now, in 2016. Did this have an impact on you?
Vin: Yeah it did. I remember the day I found out and I was told it was a sample they wanted. To me a sample would be a bit of snare or some tiny guitar loop etc, so when his management sent the full track for my approval, I could not believe it when halfway through it was basically myself Paul and Larry playing the last half of the song with Kanye singing over the top. The only thing that pissed me off was that they had done some weird stuff to my brother’s voice, kind of speeded it up so he sounded like a chipmunk. Other than that I was happy.
To be honest Kanye’s work is not something I was exactly aware of in any detail. I am pretty sure he was not aware of us before this but I like the mix of the two genres. We had a few negative comments from so-called ‘post-punk experts’ but Section 25 is and was always about experimenting so for me it was all really in line with our values.
LTW: Paul, what were you doing in years before you played on the 2018 Elektra album?
Paul: Kanye West had sampled one of our tracks and the band decided to do a cover version of it for the Elektra album. Vin invited me to put the guitar down on that track, and a couple of others. Vin and I hadn’t seen each other for a long time and doing the track brought us back together. So I am very grateful to him for that. Before that, I had been working in the woods and on farms. I still play guitar and record but mostly just for myself.
LTW: Obviously this was after the sad passing of Larry Cassidy? How did you find rejoining the band at the time.
Paul: The meeting up for the Elektra tracks wasn’t a band thing, it was just me and Vin, as the tracks were already laid and it was just a case of hearing them and plugging in. Once we were together in that environment it was like time hadn’t passed.
LTW: I don’t believe that Section 25 have ever had never got the recognition they deserved as electronic pioneers. Do you think this is still the case? I’m thinking the lavish Always Now boxset must have brought in some new listeners?
Vin: It’s very nice of you to say that, but I long ago stopped being concerned about recognition. For me, the music stands for itself; it’s what I love doing. I would play if nobody else was listening. The fact that there are people out there that are into the music is a bonus for me. I suppose what I am trying to say, and I really don’t mean this to sound arrogant, is that we don’t need other people’s approval for what we do. If we get it that is great and welcomed but it ain’t a requirement.
LTW: You’ve been playing gigs with Steve Stringer and there are dates lined up for later this year and 2022. Will Paul be rejoining the band?
Vin: We have shows that have now been put back to Spring 2022. Steve caught Covid, and has still the effects of long Covid, so we took the decision to put things back to next year. I would love for Paul to join us on stage.
LTW. Are there any more ‘lost tapes’ out there?
Vin. There are more lost tapes. I would like to do an album of live jams, I have done most of the work, it’s just a case of choosing the tracks.
Thanks for the questions and giving us the opportunity to talk about it all.