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Cut It Up Paul Hawkins meets Joe Ambrose, Islamic Digger and says,

Cut It Up

Paul Hawkins meets Joe Ambrose, Islamic Digger and says, "Cut It Up and Start Again, Joe..."

by Paul Hawkins,
first published: January, 2008

approximate reading time: minutes

Thom Yorke for the Radiohead album Kid A wrote one liners, put them into a hat and drew them out at random while the rest of the band rehearsed and recorded the albums songs.

Tristan Tzara (Sami Rosenstock aka Samuel Rosenstock), a Romanian poet, essayist, Dadaist & collaborator with the painter and originator of the anti-art Dada movement, Marcel Janco, unknowingly used Cut-Up at a Surrealist rally in the 1920`s when he offered to create a poem from words pulled at random from a hat. Although he later fell out with Andre Breton, who is generally accepted as the founder of the Surrealist movement, undeterred Tzara went on to spread the Dadaist word far and wide throughout Europe and beyond. Dada began around 1914 as politically-driven, protest anti-art. Embracing chaos and irrationality in defiance of the predominance of what they saw as the obsolete art and cultural aesthetics, they opposed the virulent rise of world war as an anti-cultural and anti-intellectual conformity movement. George Grosz later recalled that his Dadaist art was intended as a protest "against this world of mutual destruction". Dada is a cited influence and reference point of various anti-art, political and cultural movements including the Situationists and culture jamming groups like abrupt, the eec and the cacophony society.

Cut-Up techniques were improvised with and further developed by French artist Gil Wolman as part of his letterist technique. By the 1950`s painter and writer Brion Gysin was credited as discovering Cut Up. He began to use Cut Up after he placed a pile of newspapers on a table to prevent damage as he cut papers with a razor blade. He noticed that his sliced layers, when randomly laid out, created some memorable and lucid meanings. The beat poet Sinclair Beiles, who would later co-author the Cut-Up text, Minutes To Go, with Gysin, Gregory Corso and WS Burroughs, and the writer Julio Cortazar made regular use of this method. Gysin introduced it to WS Burroughs at the Beat hotel and they worked on searching for the potentialn real or true significance of a text. Burroughs and Gysin published The Third Mind, a collection of their Cut-Up collaborations, though not until 1977. The process has then been used most notably by David Bowie in his lyric writing, and later by Kurt Cobain. Many emergent musical genres including dub, hip-hop and electronica all extensively use this method by cutting and pasting beats, samples and sound. Jeff Noon developed his cobralingus word remixing technique based upon the Cut-Up method and Thom Yorke took it right back old skool stylee when constructing lyrics for the Radiohead album Kid A. He wrote one liners, put them into a hat and drew them out at random while the rest of the band rehearsed and recorded the albums songs.

There is now a huge proliferation world wide of recognised sound art and its performance that has built on a long-standing tradition of diverse art practices that focus upon the interactions between sound and image. Spoken word, sound poetry, site specific sound installations and found or enviromental sound have experienced a rapid growth as forms of artistic practice. A burgeoning avant garde electronic/acoustic movement within popular and unpopular cultures of music has been made partly possible by digital laptop recording technology. Sound Art is created without the excess baggage and cost of recording studios and has certainly combined creatively with a wide range of accessible free image and sound manipulation software.

The Karriere (top) is a cafe/restaurant/bar that puts on DJs, concerts, conversations with artists, sound art, performances, film and video screenings. It is situated in Flaesketorvet in Copenhagen, Denmark and has been running a Sound Art project from December last year (until January `08) with the Cut Up as its central theme and a collaboration with the Museum for Contemporary Art at Roskilde, which has Denmark's largest collection of sound.

Having an interest in this method of working myself (currently as applied to the manipulation of sound), as well as a long held fascination with the Beat Scene; WS Burroughs, Gysin, Hamri, Kerouac et al, I canvassed opinion from art terrorist, writer and film maker Joe Ambrose. I 1992 he co-organized the Here To Go Show in Dublin with musician, writer and cultural historian Frank Rynne. This mixed media art show was both a celebratory observance and an affirmation of the cultural impact and significance of the work of Brion Gysin and William Burroughs; both individually and collaboratively. The event was filmed extensively and the movie Destroy All Rational Thought documented many aspects of this week long arts show. It was initially released on video and then later, a year ago, as an enhanced DVD. Joe and Frank formed the anarcho Islamic influenced collaborative cultural vehicle, Islamic Diggers. They toured extensively throughout europe, carried out Cultural Intifadas, recorded and curated a double album called 10% File Under Burroughs. Islamic Diggers track Hashishin is currently being used as part of the sound art project at the Karriere Bar.

Joe ambroseI asked Joe (pictured right above Marrakesh Dec.'07) how this all came about...
Islamic Diggers did a gig at the university in Copenhagen. We showed the unseen Antony Balch footage of Brion Gysin and William Burroughs over a live soundscape which we generated on the night. No two shows were the same.

What else do you remember of that tour?
I think I was recruited onto an anarchist soccer team the night of that Copenhagen gig we did, which was one of the good ones on that tour. I think Copenhagen and Ljubljana were the best, and best attended, shows. I found that we were operating on the same level and within the same parameters as a lot of people in northern and Mittel Europe, in Scandinavia and Germany.

The new film on WS Burroughs involved Islamic Diggers didn't it?
We'd already met with Lars Movin in London and he came along to the Copenhagen show. Lars just used a piece of Islamic Diggers music on his and Steen Møller Rasmussen's new documentary Words of Advice - William S. Burroughs On The Road, which concerns itself with a reading tour of Denmark which Burroughs undertook. We're honoured to be on there with Patti Smith and Bill Laswell and other fellow travellers. It was previewed a few months ago at the Danish Film Institute.

Through December 07 and Jan 08, the following tracks are played every hour at the Karriere Bar;

08.00 Walter Ruthmann: Weekend, 1930 (11:30)
09.00 Pierre Schaeffer: Etude aux Chemins de Fer, 1948 (2:50)
10.00 Karlheinz Stockhausen: Etude, 1952 (3:15)
11.00 Steven Reich: Come Out 1966 (12:48)
12.00 Brion Gysin: Cut Up, 1992 (1:45)
13.00 Islamic Diggers: Hashishin 1996(3:45)
14.00 Scanner: Disclosure, 1984 (5:18)
15.00 Christian Marclay: Maria Callas, 1988 (3:03)
16.00 Christian Marclay: Johann Strauss, 1998 (2:28)
17.00 Kenn Ishii: Come out - remix, 1998 (7:18)
18.00 Hans Sydow: Dada 3, 2000 (2:56)
19.00 Johan Olsen: MCIC ANASYS, 2000 (5:03)

Tell me more about the Islamic Diggers track...whats it about?
The lyrics of Hashishin, the track chosen for the Karriere program, are a kind of a Cut Up. We took slivers of text at random from a book of the same name which we've written concerning Hassan I Sabbah, the Old Man of the Mountain. Hassan is something of a hero or anti-hero in the writings of Burroughs, Gysin, Robert Anton Wilson and Hakim Bey. I guess that's where there was originally a strong connection with Islamic Diggers. Then we have other shared interests with Gysin like Joujouka, Dreamachines and a certain style of social subversion. Gysin was an avatar for so many things in the areas of sound poetry, performance art, electronic music, dance music, plus a variety of areas of investigation which've come into their own via digital or online spheres.

The track is very hard hitting and was taken from the 10% File Under Burroughs album which drew together a lot of music and text from the Here To Go Show; Burroughs and Gysin sound Cut-Ups, Brion Gysin and Terry Wilson's Here to Go tapes, as well as contributions from Herbert Huncke, Paul Bowles, Islamic Diggers, Terry Wilson, Ira Cohen, Scanner, Chuck Prophet, John Cale, Marianne Faithfull, Stanley Booth, The Gnoua Brotherhood of Marrakesh, Bomb the Bass, The Master Musicians of Joujouka and Bill Laswell's Divination and Material.

Joe, in what other ways has Gysin influenced you and Islamic Diggers?
Islamic Diggers wrote the track Gazelle of the Desert with Robin [Robin Rimbaud, AKA Scanner] using some Brion Gysin samples, we've shared aural space with Scanner and Brion Gysin a lot of course. He didn't investigate other areas which interest me, such as drugs or love, and he certainly wasn't, as they like to say in Morocco, my cup of tea. For a man with such radical ideas in art, he had unbelievably right wing ideas in politics. And the Islamic Diggers agenda, as I see it, is one of the left. So while admiring Gysin's panache in certain regards - he was clearly a brave and gutsy artist - I would hope that the Diggers have brought something additional to the table.

What was your reaction when you were asked to contribute to the project?
It's principally an honour, of course, to be included in any cultural dispensation which includes Stockhausen. I remember the time he was supposed to do a performance in Dublin when I was a student. I had plans to go see him but there was the biggest snow-in in twenty years and the show got cancelled. Seeing Islamic Diggers included alongside him is some kind of compensation for being thwarted all those years ago.

Thats good then....

I notice that Karriere contains in its collection of artworks a piece by Carl Michael Von Haussfolff who was pals with Gysin. (pictured left - photo by Von Hausswolff) Von Hausswolff contributed his group Phauss's footage of Alamut to our movie Destroy All Rational Thought. I once entertained him in my London apartment along with his rather exhilarating wife Annika and that dude Andrew from the Hafler Trio. I thought he was going to explode in outrage but he survived the night. So it's a small world in many ways. And an endless frontier in another.

You mentioned a book earlier on that you and Frank spent time working on, when do you expect that to see the light of day?
The book Hashishin is due to be published this year by Side Cartel and is exciting because, in addition to a main text by myself and Frank Rynne, it contains commentaries by Aleister Crowley, Howard Marks, Gerard de Nerval, and other notorious Hashishin.

The Cut Up`s powerful impact has deeply infiltrated art within the manipulation of sound and image. Performances such as this at the Karriere Bar keep the Cut Up method lodged firmly in the heart of popular and unpopular culture.


joe has recently had his extreme travel writing book Hotel Chelsea Manhattan published on headpress. He has been published widely and this includes work of fiction and non fiction, short stories, essays, pamphlets and polemics.

The film destroy all rational thought is available through screenedge

hashishin is due to be published in 2008 by the sidecartel

there are many sources of information on culture jamming, sound art, cut up, here are some;

sonic arts network

try the cut-up software at the lazarus corporation

the decapitator


the eec


the church of the subgenius

Paul Hawkins

Paul Hawkins has been interested in popular culture and music, protest and survival for as long as we can remember. He began writing about things, making music and other noise at an early age. Paul has interviewed musicians, writers, poets, protestors and artists.
about Paul Hawkins »»



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