CAN legend / rhythmic alchemist Jaki Liebezeit comes to Dublin for the first time this century, with Secret Rhythms collaborator Burnt Friedman
Also on the bill, Liebezeit’s rhythm laboratory Drums Off Chaos. Unmissable.
When John Lydon was setting up PiL, one of the last few decades truly important acts, he wanted a drummer who was all double beats, like Can’s drummer. I read that in a book, as a young punk, and needed to know what Can was. From there a world opened up, one that dealt with the known, rock forms, and the unknown, fucking up the rock form. And beneath was this drummer Lydon spoke so highly of. He didn’t come close to high enough. Liebezeit’s grove could last a week, and you’d never get bored. Next week Jaki is in town, but unfortunately it’s for only one night.
Liebezeit and Friedman bring their show to Dublin for a one off gig in the Grand Social, on March 28th. This gig will not be repeated, in that every performance is by its nature different to the last. It being the first time this century that Liebeziet is playing Ireland, and with there being no guarantees in this game, it may very well be the last time he plays here til next century. This may very well be the only opportunity you have to see this show. Do yourself a favour.
Liebezeit’s playing is revered, of course. Back in the Can days he sounded like two drummers, simultaneously going off in different tangents. The jazz knowledge and technique he brought to rock music pushed the genre in a different direction. Jaki decided free jazz killed the genre and founded, in his own words “a quite well know German group, Can. A kind of rock, pop group. I don’t know the exact phrase.” That’s the thing, no one ever did. Can’s freedom to genre hop is well documented, as is the unique background to all that happened in Germany in the late sixties: a society intent on reinvention. Perhaps even a certain denial. Denying all that was the past seemed crucial for the young artists on the time. No one wanted dwell on the war, and the rock musicians eschewed the nefarious influence of American blues rock to forge their own identity. At this stage Jaki was obsessed with repetition of beat, in a way that attracted criticism. Jaki has no ideas, they said, it’s the same beat for the whole song. They said that Van Gogh was shite too. Finger painting. Mind you, I think that might be a quote from Titanic. Shut up, Zane.
Let’s be fair though, Liebzeit could straight-up drum with the best of them, if needs be. But he could do so much more. Jaki is crucial to the development of all good music that we listen to now. You probably can’t hear his influence in Oasis, which sums them up. It’s fair, I think, to say that if the drummer of the band you are currently listening to does not adore Liebezeit, then that band is shite. It’s a kind of common law. We all feel it, we all know it. We embrace it.
Post Can, Jaki has played with a plethora of influential artists, from The Eurythmics to Brian Eno, Jah Wobble to Philip Jeck, David Sylvain to Depeche Mode. The list has a literal end, but for all intents and purposes, it’s endless.
Since then he’s been in the business of subtraction, the superfluous stuff, as he calls is it, is removed, leaving just the visceral truth of the rhythm. To this end Jaki has developed his own drum language, notation and philosophy. Some of his notions are revelatory. The idea that subtraction of beats creates rhythm by creating imbalance. It’s something Dub artists have know for years, but can be conspicuously absent in straight up rock drumming. That rhythm is this lurching between spaces, rhythm is as human and as understood, as variable, as walking.
The collaboration with Burnt Friedman involves Jaki’s patterns, sometimes as simple as the kind of paradiddle you practiced endlessly on every available surface, being augmented in various ways: percussion, delays, rhythmic guitars, melodic analogue synths, dubby basses, even occasionally vocals. Burnt’s schtick has been building his own instruments, and his output is prodigious. Between them they are masters at removing beats, and subtly inflecting the rhythm, making changes that are barely perceptible but have you suddenly dancing on the other leg without even noticing. Burnt creates the ambient and polyrhythmic sauce for Jaki’s drum pie. It’s good pie.
As Jaki himself says, “drums is a very unchristian instrument.” We live in unchristian times. Embrace it.