ADAM MORRIS – MY WORDS
I got to know Adam Morris around 1987 when I would visit him at his day job, working at Shigaku at the Metrostore in Acton, a company that was punting out the finest export records to shops and mail order companies (like my own small record and tape distribution service – King Penguin Distribution).
Along with meeting Adam I also met with, and remain friends with, his colleagues Pete K who was running the What Goes On record label, and Simon K, Adam’s eventual replacement after Adam went to live in Sheffield.
Many a time those chaps helped sort me out on some of the best imported records, and for for several years. Many of the newly released imported records would be freshly delivered to their workplace, and then placed into a makeshift ‘pigeonhole’ with ‘PENGUIN’ written on, for me to take away the stock within on my next visit to Acton. From there I would sell my newly acquired and newly released imported records via my own King Penguin Distribution company. The chaps had saved me three or four Nirvana debut 7″ singles, ‘Love Buzz’ on one visit – now worth a small fortune – because they thought I would like the band. I did!
Adam was involved with Killing Joke, being there at the very start of the bands career in the late seventies. Adam quickly went on to be the bands tour manager, when by 1980, invitations for concerts and tours were flooding in to one of the hottest bands of that year.
Adam at BBC Maida Vale studios looking on while Youth and the band are recording the John Peel session.
“I read an article Martin Youth Glover wrote that Louder Than War published and in that he wrote “when I was putting my band “Killing Joke” together. The band had been in existence at least six months before he joined it, perhaps even more. The band was put together by Paul Ferguson, Jaz Coleman, Brian Taylor and myself, Adam Morris. I borrowed the money we needed to get the first record pressed off of my parents, three grand I think it was they lent us. If it hadn’t been for them, the band would never have got started”.
Towards the end of the eighties Adam was also the ‘Mr Modo’ part of WAU/Mr Modo record label. That record label was responsible for releasing the very first 12″ records by The Orb. Adam became the manager of The Orb for several years until around the mid-nineties.
“The Orb. Alec started that with Jimi Cauty. They had a track on a WAU compilation LP that John (?) Gee Street issued. ‘Tripping on Sunshine’. They did that before I got involved, but pretty soon after that, I became the manager of that band, given a ‘job for life’. That was the plan in any case. I was sacked eight years later on my 40th birthday”.
Adam was always very kind to me, and always put me onto guest lists for the half a dozen concerts that I attended by The Orb from 1991 to 1993.
I attended the concerts, with a couple of doves or mitsubishi’s in my pocket, at Brixton (a couple of times), Kilburn, Sheffield, Brighton, and a weird gig at Hatfield Poly Students Union!
The Hatfield Poly concert had me rocking up to the entry table, and proudly state; “Mickey Penguin plus eight” to which the student girl behind the table, without even looking at the list, handed me a backstage pass and stated, “Oh we were waiting for you to come, go through”. The ‘plus eight’ were also with me, so we all went through. Thank you, Adam, for the weirdest guest list placing I have ever had, and I have had several hundred guest list placings over the years – “Mickey Penguin plus one” – Boring!
Adam has had his ‘fictional’ novel: ‘Losing It’ published late last year. The book was mostly written in 1996, but due to concentrating on a final re-write completed during lockdown, twenty six years later it can be picked up and read!
“The original idea for the book when I first started writing it in 1995, during the first year after I lost my job for life, it was going to be a multimedia project, book, music, movie. So, I started making music which was supposed to be a soundtrack that you could listen to whilst reading the novel. I made a demo of an album and pressed two 12” records”.
The book is loosely based on true events and follows Harry Viderci’s music business career from the late seventies, living and working alongside the Ladbroke Grove based band Pederasti.
Ahem…could this band possibly be Killing Joke? *
* YES (probably / or could it?)
As further years pass and towards the end of the eighties Harry Viderci is now managing an A-list multi-platinum and award-winning dub-techno-ambient duo called Cloud Bass.
Ahem… well, could this duo possibly be The Orb? *
* YES (probably / or could it?)
In the book of course, all names have been changed to protect the guilty… allegedly.
This book is a rollercoaster ride of a book, the story based on true events.
In between chapters of Harry’s early life, upbringing, hopes and dreams, there are chapters of bizarre hedonistic trips not only through the squats and clubs of the UK, but also through the five star hotels, mega clubs in Europe and Japan, and huge festivals in the USA. Pretty much all of the chapters featuring Pederasti and Cloud Bass have references to mountains of grade A’s sniffed or swallowed, and huge weights of grade B’s for smoking.
But remember kids; This is a fictional book. *
* Kind of (probably / or could it?)
From the latter years of the seventies throughout the eighties and into the early nineties, the daily lives of the protagonists throughout those years would make some of the characters in Irvine Welsh’s books blush.
Harry not only experiences the glories of the music business, but also, and more often, the backstabbing of the people around him and within the music business. The backstabbing side of the coin eventually helps to start Harry’s downward spiral.
Ultimately though, the book whether fictional or loosely factual, is rather saddening, far more troughs than peaks, and the book does not have a happy ending, and with that specific ending you CAN blame the drugs.
I knew Adam throughout these late eighties to mid-nineties Orb years, and I hope he does not mind me stating this, but he was almost completely destroyed in the mid-nineties when being sacked as the Orbs manager on the day of his 40th birthday. A couple of decades later and Adam is finally recovering from that experience.
This book finally being published has helped Adam immensely all these years later, so it is worth getting hold of if you possibly can.
THE BOOK CAN BE ORDERED HERE
ADAM MORRIS – THE FACTS
Adam Morris spent more than twenty years at the coal face of the music industry.
In 1979, he co-founded the DIY label Malicious Damage Records, releasing post-punk classics by Killing Joke as well as the highly rated John Peel favourite, “Agent Orange” by Ski Patrol.
He worked for two years as an unpaid tour manager for Killing Joke, an experience that later led him to tour manage the reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry, who paid him.
He moved from the label into distribution, working in imports and exports where he bought and sold thousands of records from labels like Beggar’s Banquet, 4AD and Alternative Tentacles.
He distributed On-U Sounds for Adrian Sherwood, called at Dr Alimantado’s house for breakfast and represented Big Black and Sub Pop Records in Europe.
In 1988 he founded Mr Modo Records, which collaborated with many of the new MIDI based electronic music producers evolving on the scene at that time. This included Coldcut, 808 State and A Guy Called Gerald.
He formed the alliance WAU! Mr Modo with Youth and Dr LX Paterson and became manager of The Orb when that group formed.
At one point he was known as the “Peter Grant of Ambient House”.
Ambient house (or chill out music) was a highly influential genre of the new electronic dance culture that achieved global domination from the end of the 1980’s. Chill Out was a forerunner for what is now known as EDM.
Adam became the first manager to take a MIDI based act on a coast to coast tour of North America. At the time, the mainstream music industry saw no long term future in MIDI. They could not see how you could play EDM live or tour it globally. In doing their sell out American tours, The Orb pioneered the way forward and proved most of the music industry wrong.
In 1994, Adam lost his “job for life” on his 40th birthday and was ostracised by most of the biz. At that point, he began the first draft of “Losing It,” a fictional account of some of his working experiences inspired by the film ‘Spinal Tap’ and the novel ‘Trainspotting.’
He described his effort as “Spinal Tap for ravers.” He completed that in 1996.
Little did he know then that it would take another twenty six years before his stories made it into print. But it did. It’s a trip, a mad ride to oblivion, but also a warning to us all.
ADAM MORRIS – PERSONAL HISTORY AND REFLECTIONS ON THE NOVEL
I grew up in Wigan, Lancashire, at the height of Beatlemania. At school, whenever The Beatles released a new single, we would compete to see who would be first to learn the lyrics of their latest number one. The winners became the Fab Four for a brief moment and would perform on the steps that led into the classroom. I played air guitar in the Pretend Beatles. We’d shake our heads like the real Beatles did and the girls would scream hysterically. I fell in love with popular music in those days.
In 1965 I went to see a Rolling Stones live show at the ABC cinema. I saw them but could not hear. There were no PA systems as we know them today, just a vocal set up for public address. The music came out of the band’s amplifiers (professionally known as “backline”). These were small practise amps placed at the back of the stage. There were no mics on the drums. Consequently, the music was drowned out by the screams of the audience. I heard the first three notes of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and it was then swamped by the high pitched sound of hysteria. It was mostly girls doing the screaming, but plenty of boys squealed too. They created a loud shrill noise that was like standing next to an airplane jet engine. Not that I have ever stood next to a revving jet engine, but I suspect that is what it would sound like. Kids swooned and fainted, and I guess the girls probably wet themselves with the excitement of it all.
Shortly after this life changing event, The Beatles released “Paperback Writer”. It was a dirty story of a dirty man who needs a job but wants to be a paperback writer. He’s so desperate for this to happen that he even suggests that “if you really like it you can have the rights. It could make a million for you overnight”. It was a different world then, I suppose. Money was not his God.
When I was very young, I wanted to be a footballer. When I realised that wasn’t going to happen, I wanted to be in a band like Jimi Hendrix. I never did anything practical to achieve this, such as learning how to play a guitar, or anything like that. I did start DJing when I was fifteen, but back then I was definitely a room-emptier – aka a turntable fascist – and I didn’t get any invitations to play at weddings, parties, or funerals. I did write a lot; short pieces, essays, and other materials I needed to pass exams. The longest piece I ever wrote was the thesis for my degree. Sometimes I did dream of becoming a writer. That came partially from living in Wigan and its association with George Orwell. I passed Wigan Pier every week, my school’s sports fields were just down the road from that world famous landmark. Orwell stayed in digs in Darlington Street when he was in Wigan. That was the street where my grandad worked in an engineering factory. Later, when I moved to London, I lived in Highbury and Islington and in Ladbroke Grove. Both of these locations had blue plaque memorials to the times when George Orwell lived there. It was a kind of literary haunting.
Writing a book was a recurring theme in my family. My father had ambitions to do it. He wrote reams every day and he did actually get a book published. It was a scholarly tome about how to solve the food crisis in Africa. I found it on Amazon many years later, for sale for £1. So, no valuable copyright to inherit there, then. I liked to write about popular music. I studied Politics and Sociology at university and one module I told him I was planning to write a novel based on my experiences. Harry Viderci (arrivederci in Italian = goodbye). I thought that name was brilliant, and it set me off on a character naming trail that only really ended when I ran out of time and the manuscript was finally sent off for publication.
I found that once I started writing the original version of my novel, it came relatively easily. On reflection I was lucky that I did have enough financial buffer to spend a year locked away doing nothing but type. That was fine; the financial problems came later. I had the structure, the chapter titles and the stories, so initially it was a case of sitting down and typing it all up.
My stepfather was an unsung war hero, like many people of his generation. He was also incredibly modest, as most war heroes are. When I asked him the standard, “what did you do in the war?” question, he’d say that he had spent time in the fire brigade putting a few fires out. What that actually meant was that he was stationed in Sheffield, and he fought the Sheffield Blitz. There is a photograph in one of the city centre pubs of the Sheffield Blitz. It captures the sight of these massive buildings burning in raging torrents and there’s one tiny man with a hose trying to put the fires out. I always think “that’s him” when I see that photo. That’s him putting a few fires out. When that was over, they sent him to Burma (now known as Myanmar) where he drove a tank transporter. He was sent on a mission impossible, transporting a load of tanks from what was then called Rangoon (Yangon) to Mandalay, or somewhere in that area, hundreds of miles to the north. That sounds fairly simple, only back then, 1941/42, World War Two was raging and Myanmar was mostly jungle. There was no road for moving tanks on, so my stepfather and his crew had to build that as they went along. They hacked their way through the jungle, moving the tank transporter forward a few yards at a time, with Japanese snipers pinging bullets at them from out of the undergrowth. A lot of people thought they’d never make it, but they didn’t know how tough and stubborn my stepdad and his crew were.
When I asked him how he managed it, he replied that if you want to get somewhere, before you start, you have to work out the best route to get there. But, more importantly, in the case of doing Mission Impossible for real, it’s not the getting there that is important, it’s the getting back again. If you plot your route from that perspective, things become relatively straight forward. I think it’s the same with a book, any book, but particularly with a novel. If you know how it is going to end, then it becomes easier to write, because you are writing towards a specific point. I knew my ending, so in that sense I was lucky. I had all of the pieces of the literary jigsaw before I began. So, I sat down, and I started typing.
I also had a few techniques that I applied to my writing. I recalled reading something Graham Greene had said about characterisation and how he gave his characters an identifying trait which he always repeated when he re-introduced them into a plot. So, if they smoked, they would always do something smoking related, they would light a cigarette, or inhale deeply, or stub out their smoke. I tried to emulate that. In my case, I decided that if people took drugs, they would consume extraordinary amounts of drugs. So, I tried to get excessive drug taking on every page. Everyone is ripped to the tits on drink and drugs almost all of the time. I wasn’t trying to glorify this behaviour, quite the opposite in the end in fact; but I was trying to saturate the plot so deeply with the drug taking habit that the drugs became irrelevant. The drugs don’t work, they just make it worse, as it says in the song.
This did cause me a few crises of conscience management. It was after all fiction, but some people would read it and think it was all real. Which leads to the question, if you took so many drugs, how come you aren’t all dead? Answer: because its fiction and as Anthony H Wilson once said, if fiction is more entertaining than fact, print the fiction.
I also knew that the strongest structures are triangular, so whatever the sentence was, it should have three elements – John entered the room, he removed his wet raincoat and smiled when he saw Jennie sitting there. That kind of thing. I think triplicates and repetition are the best writing structures, along with complex sentences. For example – Jimmy stared out of the window, he was looking at the barge moving slowly down the river when the doorbell rang – is a complex sentence. It is also structurally triangular. He stares out of the window, the barge moves down the river, the doorbell rings.
Repetition is also crucial. You can see that best in stand-up comedy. “Garlic bread!? Garlic bread? Garlic. And bread? Am I hearing you right? Garlic bread. No thank you I’ve got some milk roll int’ case”. Or, “Twenty years ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope, and no Jobs”. That kind of thing. Mix these elements together and you should get “a good read”. That’s the theory anyway.
This can cause you problems later on when it comes to proof reading. In my case, the novel was originally finished in 1996. The government were running a scheme called “Arts For Everyone” at that time and I managed to win an award of £10,000 to get my novel proofread and finalised for publication. This was brilliant news, except that I had to form a partnership with someone else in order to get the grant. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong partner. The first thing they did was give the novel to an editor for proof reading and the so called “professional” editor decided to change the ending I had written towards. They also re-wrote certain sections of the novel. They did this without any discussion or agreement from me and I got very upset about this. Things then went downhill and for one reason and another, the whole deal went horribly wrong, and the novel was shelved.
By then my money had run out and I had to get myself a day job. I moved into teaching and went to work at a music college in Sheffield’s east end. The novel got forgotten about. It stayed that way until the arrival of the Coronavirus and lockdown two decades later. At that point I pondered what I was going to do with myself, and I decided to revive my novel. I’d met Alfred Boland by then. He’s a Dutch record dealer and graphic designer who I had become friendly with through my record collecting habits on the website Discogs. I told Alfred about the novel one day and the next thing I knew he had introduced me to his colleague Frans de Waard, a record label owner and music book publisher.
One thing led to another and before I knew it, we had done a deal for Frans to publish my book, his first novel, via his company Korm Plastics. Frans brought in a professional proofreader and editor. The first thing he did was take my manuscript apart and analyse it. This was a very useful exercise as it highlighted the overuse of repetition. Where I thought I had used the same phrase three times or more, the analysis showed I had actually used the same phrase dozens of times. I’d done this a lot, which meant I needed a re-write and an expansion of my thinking. I had to come up with many more variations on certain words and phrases. It was tough, but also inspiring and it caused me to do a very extensive re-write that expanded the original manuscript by about hundred pages.
These difficulties and amendments were very time consuming; so much so that the original aim, which was to have published copies available for Christmas 2021 was knocked back by a year. The book finally made it into print November 2022, twenty six years after I first started it. Some of the problems we had were down to placement – where certain sections appeared in the overall text. This was something that has influenced my thinking going back to university days. In those days I used to hand write all of my essays (and thesis). This proved arduous as I would write out an essay, then start cutting and pasting it, which meant re-writing the whole thing by hand in a new order.
Sometimes I’d do these three or four times until I got the paragraphs in the sequence that I felt worked best. Imagine how delighted I was when the home computer was born, and I could actually type out a document and save it. This made editing so much easier, in the sense that I did not have to keep writing out the same thing. But it also made life more complex as it meant I could analyse every single word in a document, and I could also re-arrange and replace same. That meant I could spend a day on writing a piece and a week on editing it if I allowed myself to do that. Nothing ever got finished. Only, in the case of Harry1 as it has become code named, it did get finished. I finally reached the cutoff point where I decided that any more alterations would be saved and used in the sequel to “Losing It”. That story is, of course, the story of what happened after 1996, which is where Harry1 ends. However, I have a problem with writing Harry2. Although I have enough material to make another novel, I do not know how it ends yet.
All that I have left to do with Harry1 is the marketing and promotion. I say “all” but in fact this might prove to be the biggest task of all. I recently had a meeting in a Waterstones cafe. It was the first time I had been in a book shop since I knew my own book was at the printers. For the first time ever, I was struck by how many books there are out there. There’s millions of them. So, the question becomes how do I persuade people to read mine? In other words, how do I market the thing? Well, it’s not I for starters, its “we”. It’s a collaboration between the author and the publisher. We have many ideas on this front, and I am not giving them away here. We are going to instigate them in the months that follow and if they work then perhaps, I will write another blog about how we did it. All I will say here is that we come from music industry backgrounds and what we know is how to market records on a DIY level. Word of mouth plays a big part in this, and immersive marketing also plays a role.
My original idea for “Losing It”, which is about two bands, was to produce some soundtrack albums to go with the text. That way you would end up with music to listen to whilst you are reading. I did actually start doing this and I released two twelve inch singles by one of the bands in the novel – Cloud Bass. However, breaking bands and music is a long hard expensive road, and I did not have the cash-flow I needed to keep this method going until something broke.
In the years that have passed, the way people consume music has changed and from my point of view this has done me a favour. Nowadays I don’t need to produce my own albums. I can exploit the streaming services instead. One idea I am going to activate is to set up Harry Viderci’s Spotify page. On there I am going to post play lists. There’s twenty three chapters spanning different musical eras, so I am going to post twenty three playlists named after the chapter titles in the novel. Each list will have music you can listen to whilst reading that chapter. If this works, I can develop this idea by making these playlists open ended, so other people can post their own playlists. In this way, the audience can interact with the author and eventually there will be multiple choice playlists to enjoy for a multi-dimensional cultural experience.
Finally, I have to say that I do not have any particular ambitions left for this novel. I am not sitting here thinking that it deserves to be a best seller and if it does not become one, I have failed. Nothing like that. My ambition was in getting the book published without resorting to vanity publishing. Thanks to Alfred and Frans I have achieved that. If it sells one copy it will have been a success in my eyes. It has already done that, so from a personal point of view it’s been successful (though not in the eyes of Korm Publishing whose minimal return is in recouping their investment).
CLOUD BASS – THE STORY
I first discovered Cloud Bass in March 1995 when I was contacted by a psychic messenger! I was walking in the South Derbyshire Peak District at the time, at a secret spot near Robin Hood’s Stride where druids congregate at the inn, woodlands yield Fly Agaric and, until recently, a hermit lived in a hidden cave near Rowtor Rocks. There is a spot close to that cave where a stone circle has been aligned with a two-fingered granite outcrop, which space cadets have surmised to be the crystallised fossil of an ancient galactic spacecraft. Although the stone circle is one hundred yards from these mysterious rocks, it is said that voices sending messages could be heard if one stands serenely at strategic points within the stone circle.
Initially dismissing this as mumbo jumbo (like ninety-nine per cent of the population) caused by excessive ingestion of the mystical fungi of the area, I was extremely surprised when one day, I received a message while ambling across the stone circle. “Go to the cave,” it said, and I did so without hesitation. When I reached the raw and hostile spot, I found a computer disc lying under the carved igneous rock where strange drawings have adorned the cave walls for several centuries. I was intrigued.
When I got home, I ran the disc through an unzip programme I’d downloaded from Netscape and examined the messages within. One was music from the sweary programmer Flashington Bunce and was embedded with metadata that read: “I was very depressed when we didn’t go to Mars. I couldn’t speak for long periods of time. Once in a while, I just mumbled out the words “Mars, Mars,” and sometimes I’d be sleeping in a dead state and I would just snap awake in the middle of the night and I would say, “Let’s Go!” There was also a much larger file on the disc. It was labelled Spinal Tap for the E Generation.
This file had a manuscript called Losing It (or How I Fell Off My Bicycle). It was the mythical story of Harry Viderci, a fabled impresario of ill repute. It claimed to be true, but was it? It recounted his adventures in the music industry, spanning the eighties and beyond. It starred the post-punk rock band The Pederasti, a glorious fusion of doom metal anti-music, and Cloud Bass, an electronic dance music MIDI-craft, beaming ambient house and chill-out vibes across the fabric of time.
‘The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.’ – Hunter S. Thompson.
‘The same dudes you misuse on your way up you might meet up on your way down.’ – Lowell George (Little Feat).
All the incidents in this novel are inspired by true events. All characters are fictitious and any resemblance to anyone anywhere, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
This book is dedicated to Brian Valentine Taylor, original inventor of Harry Viderci, and inspiration for so much more. Hasta La Vista, baby.
Special thanks to the following for their help and inspiration:
Mick Landman (first proofread) / Frans and Alfred Anne Beverley Ward / Mick, Dick, Liam and Mick / Chris Madden / Mickey Penguin / Kill Your Pet Puppy / Harry Russell / Yvonne
And everyone else who helped me or encouraged me to keep going when the going got tough.
“The greatest enemy of the truth is not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” – John F Kennedy.
Big Paul of Killing Joke, Alex Paterson several years later to form The Orb, and Adam Morris – Berlin 1980